Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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Friday, 31 December 2021

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


Here's hoping 2022 is an improvement on 2021!

Okay, I Have to Confess, The Asylum's Megaboa Looks Like A Lot of Fun...


Released today and starring Eric Roberts (aka The Master from the Doctor Who TV movie with Paul McGann), Megaboa - from The Asylum - looks like a surprisingly fun creature feature.
On a trip to Colombia, a group of college students head into the rainforest to look for cave drawings. But a once thought to be extinct fifty-foot boa constrictor is out lurking in brush, hungry for blood.

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Let Yesterday's Excesses Subside and Spend An Hour Relaxing In Middle-Earth...

Enjoy the beautiful and serene sights of Middle Earth. From the forests of Rivendale to the sweeping landscapes of The Shire, there are plenty of places to unwind, take a nap, or eat a feast made for a Hobbit. So sit back, relax, and let the marvelous world of The Lord of the Rings suck you in.

Saturday, 25 December 2021

A Quartet Of Geeky Yule Logs...


Pour yourself a mulled wine or some nice Scotch, then sit back as you review your Christmas present haul for 2021 and chill out in front of a genre-themed yule log video!

Torn From The Headlines: Unwrap This Bumper Gift Basket of Gaming Inspiration...

Given the positive feedback I got for the previous curated list of links to interesting stories and historical personalities, I've compiled another as a Christmas present to HeroPress readers.  These could all make great adventure hooks for sundry roleplaying games (with a particular emphasis on Cubicle 7's The Doctor Who RPG).

INTERESTING OBJECTS:

NOT YOUR STEREOTYPICAL CHRISTMAS: Four centuries ago, the early Puritan settlers of America railed against the excesses of Christmas celebrations - making it the perfect backdrop to a time travel story.

UFO RELGIONS: How would your Time Lord and their companions react to becoming entangled in the machinations of a cult that worshipped an alien race or was preparing for some prophesied "ascension" or "apocalypse"?

AN ADVERTISER'S DREAM: Technology designed to help cope with conditions such as PTSD could be used by advertisers to project their products directly into the dreams of sleeping people.

SPACE STATIONS: NASA has signed agreements with three companies to develop low-Earth orbit space stations, as commercial replacements for the International Space Station.

TOUCH THE SUN: While it brings back memories of the Doctor Who story 42, NASA's Parker Solar Probe has flown through the outer atmosphere of our Sun, seeking useful information about the workings of our star.

VENUSIAN AIKIDO, ANYONE? Scientists suggest that ammonia detected on Venus could be due to the presence of alien lifeforms "unlike anything we've seen".

LOOKING FOR ALIENS: Four scientists at an isolated base scanning the skies for signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence? Sounds like the perfect set-up for a Doctor Who RPG scenario.


THIS IS GOING TO END WELL: Having developed 'living' robots last year (made with frog stem cells), scientists have revealed that these 'xenobots' can now reproduce "in a way that is completely different from any plant or animal known to science".

WHAT COULD POSSBLY GO WRONG? An experimental nuclear fusion reactor is operating on an industrial estate in Didcot, generating temperatures hotter than the Sun, as part of an experiment to create low-carbon energy.

IRON PLANET: A dense exoplanet, believed to consist primarily of iron, with a year equal to about eight hours on Earth, and surface temperate of around 1400°C, has been discovered. Orbiting a red dwarf star 31 light-years from here, GJ 367b is uninhabitable to humans, but who's to say what kind of aliens might call such a 'hell world' home?

THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET: A massive gas giant, 10 times heavier than Jupiter, has also been discovered orbiting (at a distance of 52 billion miles) the b Centauri binary system (which, itself, has a mass approximately equal to 10 Suns), 325 light-years from Earth. This is the first planet yet found orbiting a system weighing more than three solar masses. 

MONSTER FACTORY: Two supermassive black holes have been spotted 'merging' into a single monster black hole. 

THE SIZE OF THE UNIVERSE:

MARTIAN REBELS: Studies of simulated Martian colonies have found that the participants tend to become less communicative with mission control - and more rebellious - over time.

CHINESE WEATHER MANIPULATION: Using cloud seeding technology, the weather over Beijing was successfully altered for the Chinese Communist Party's centennial celebrations in Tiananmen Square, resulting in clear skies and lower pollution for the assembled crowds, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.  

LIFE WILL FIND A WAY: The perfectly preserved embryo of an oviraptorosaur, inside a 6.7 inch egg, has been found in the Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum, in Xiamen, China, where it had been in storage for a decade since it was unearthed in Ganzhou, southern China.

MONKEY BUSINESS: The last Sunday of November is traditionally the date of the Lopburi Monkey Festival when natives of this Thai city leave out banquet tables laden with food for the vast colonies of monkeys they share the city with.

FLYING CARS: The Paris 2024 summer Olympic games is planning to use flying cars to ferry visitors around. The Doctor Who episode Fear Her featured the 2012 London Olympics, so there's a precedent for using these events as the backdrop for adventures.

HAUNTED PRIME MINISTERS: The official residence of the Japanese Prime Minister is rumoured to be haunted and the last two incumbents have refused to live there. The country's latest Prime Minster has just moved in... and has yet to see any ghosts!

ART GALLERIES IN STRANGE PLACES: The Doctor is well known for their fondness of art and art galleries, so these six unusual gallery spaces are most definitely inspirational locations for RPG scenarios.

EXTINCTION EVENT: The human race is a "dead species walking" and heading towards population shrinkage by the end of the century, and inevitable extinction, according to palaeontologist Henry Gee. 

WHO'S NEXT? Should the human go extinct, which animals are in the running to become the next dominant species on planet Earth?

SLEEPING SICKNESS: The cause of the 'sleeping sickness' (see below) that plagued New York in the 1920s remains a mystery.


WEEPING ANGEL MUMMY: An 800-year-old, pre-Incan mummy has been discovered by archaeologists working outside of Lima, Peru. The corpse was buried with its hands over its face in a very familiar fashion!   

WHO WAS HERE FIRST? New evidence suggests that the remote Faroe Islands, in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Norway, were settled centuries before the arrival of the Vikings in the 800s, but by whom? Possibly travellers from Britain or Ireland.

CITY OF CANALS: Around 2,300 BCE an advanced Stone Age civilization inhabiting a city of canals, near the East China Sea, is believed to have been wiped out by severe flooding. Or was it?

UNKNOWN RELATIONS: Footprints in Tanzania, dating back around 3.66 million years, may belong to a previously unknown human ancestor.

ABANDONED TO THE SEA: Due to climate change, the Welsh community of Fairbourne is to be abandoned by its population and left to the rising sea levels.

MEDIEVAL SUPERWEAPONS: From the mysterious 'Greek fire' to turtle ships, warwagons, and Chinese 'fire lances', all these fascinating contraptions make for possible plot devices if the player-characters get tangled up in schemes to either steal or protect the knowledge required for their creation.


GO WEST, YOUNG MAN: Inspired by the classic Doctor Who story Marco Polo, I got to thinking about a time traveller and her companions being similarly swept up in the great 19th Century migration of American settlers to Oregon. There's a three-part feature about such a journey here, here, and here.

THE DONNER BUSINESS: Of course, your time travellers could also find themselves snowbound in the Sierra Nevada in 1846 with the Donner party. Perhaps this scenario could also involve a wendigo?

REMEMBER THE ALAMO: I know Timeless and The Time Tunnel had episodes set at The Battle of The Alamo, in 1836, but that doesn't mean to say you can't use it as a setting in your own campaign.

THANKSGIVING: This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first "Thanksgiving" feast, but what would it have been like to attend? 

ALNWICK POISON GARDEN: Akin to the one seen in No Time To Die, but real. The "deadliest garden in the world" is an ominously fenced off area of the stately Alnwick Garden in Northumberland, UK. It is home to around 100 toxic and narcotic plants, which visitors are forbidden to smell, touch, or taste.

INTERESTING PEOPLE:

Margaret Brown

"UNSINKABLE" MAGGIE BROWN: Socialite and Titanic survivor, Margaret Brown helped with the evacuation of the doomed liner and tried - unsuccessfully - to encourage the lifeboat she was in to go back and rescue more survivors. She used her fame as a platform to promote progressive rights issues, as well as helping with the restoration of France after The Great War.

THE GREAT BEAST: Occultist and world-traveller Aleister Crowley (see video above) seems the perfect NPC (not just because he attended - possibly briefly - Tonbridge School, down the road from where I now live) because his life can be interpreted in numerous ways, depending on how you view his claims and supposed deeds.

Clara Barton

CLARA BARTON: A frontline Union nurse in the American Civil War, Clara Barton would go on to found the Red Cross in 1881.

CATHERINE AND PETRUS GONSALVUS: The tragic 16th Century couple who inspired he enduring fairy tale (see below), as well as The Witcher short story A Grain of Truth, included in The Last Wish anthology.

CHRISTMAS BONUS:

SEASONAL SPECIALS: From Big Finish, just tap the gif to generate your own Christmas Special episode title (then craft a story to match).

Jolly (Christmas Horror Film Short)

An animatronic Santa head has a different kind of present to give.

Friday, 24 December 2021

Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong Narrates The Night Before Christmas...


Jazz legend Louis Armstrong recorded this famous poem in 1971, shortly before he died.

You read more about the history of this little-known recording over at the Smithsonian Magazine website.

For contrast, here's comedienne Jennifer Coolidge, from Netflix Christmas rom-com Single All The Way, reading the same poem:

Ginny Di Sings: A TPK Carol (D&D Parody)

Seasonal Stat's Entertainment!

Ahead of next month's 15th anniversary of this 'ere blog, I thought I'd get in early with my review of the Top Ten most popular topics tackled on HeroPress.

As usual, I have tallied up the total ongoing number of post tags in the top ten most popular subjects, thus creating an easily digestible percentage - allowing us to see what I'm (subconsciously) seeing as the most "important" areas to write about.

Here's the breakdown for this year, with last year's underneath for comparison:

Top Ten Topics on HeroPress for 2021

Top Ten Topics on HeroPress for 2020

It should come as a surprise to no one who actually reads this blog for any length of time to discover that the subject matter has settled into a recognisable breakdown year-on-year.

While it isn't reflected in the Top Ten (yet), I found my interest in both comics and RPGs waning a bit towards the end of this year. 

I do wonder if my feelings about RPGs are connected with the COVID-induced irregularity of our Tuesday Knights sessions (although I suspect other factors are at play as well), while my comic book 'apathy' is an extension of that long period over the summer where - due to eye-related issues - I was unable to read much.

I now have an alarmingly large - and ever-increasing - "to be read" pile that's going to take some concerted effort and a lot of time to catch up with.

There was a period, many years ago, when Doctor Who would have featured in that Top Ten, but the double-whammy of disappointment with Steven Moffat's and then Chris Chibnall's governance of the show saw me withdraw from writing so much about it (rather than turning into "one of those" so-called fans).

However, in recent months I have returned to my old love, with more tempered expectations and a joyous optimism about the return of Russell T Davies as showrunner.

I know I griped a bit about some aspects of RTD's initial run on the show, but I've adored so much of what he has written since (such as the surprisingly Who-adjacent Years and Years, and It's A Sin) that I'm as fired up for his return as I was for the relaunch of Doctor Who back in 2005.

Hopefully, then, this time next year the topic of Doctor Who might have found its way back into the HeroPress Top Ten (it's currently knocking on the door at number 11, so shouldn't take too much to work its way back in).

However, I shall address this further in an upcoming article on my plans for the site going forward.

You're a Mean One Mister Grinch, Performed by Steampunk Rockers Abney Park...

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Mortal Engines Author Making His Own Low-Budget Arthurian Movie...

Dartmoor's Arthurian Landscape, picture by Philip Reeve

Inspired in part by his recent series of reviews of Arthurian movies on his blog, Mortal Engines and Railhead author Philip Reeve is planning to produce his own - ultra low-budget - film about King Arthur next year.

He is currently working on a script for about five actors, with one interior set, and making plentiful use of the gorgeous, atmospheric Dartmoor landscapes around the area where he lives.

On his blog this week, Philip wrote of his Untitled Arthurian Film:
"It will mostly be a film about these landscapes, but films about landscapes are always more fun if there’s dressing up involved, and a bit of a story."

He added:
"I think my story will focus on women, because a) that will make a nice change and b) frocks are cheaper than armour."
Philip aims to shoot the film over a couple of weeks in the Autumn and is inviting anyone who is willing to help (and lives within reach of the shooting location) to contact him through his blog, Station Zero.

Now The Hidden Secrets Of The Witcher's World Will Be Revealed...

Every story has a beginning. Witness the untold history of the Continent with The Witcher: Blood Origin, a new prequel series set in an elven world 1200 years before the events of The Witcher.

Blood Origin will tell a story lost to time - exploring the creation of the first prototype Witcher, and the events that lead to the pivotal “Conjunction of the Spheres,” when the worlds of monsters, men, and elves merged to become one.

The Witcher: Blood Origin will release in 2022, only on Netflix.

DVD Of The Week: No Time To Die (2021)


Five years after spectacularly evading a Spectre ambush, James Bond (Daniel Craig) has retired from the MI6 and is living the life of a bachelor in Jamaica.

But this doesn't last long as he's enlisted by the CIA's Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to track down a kidnapped scientist, who - it turns out - has created a sci-fi superweapon that selects its victims via their DNA.

Unsurprisingly this escalates fast, eventually teaming up Bond with his MI6 replacement, the new 007 aka Nomi (Lashana Lynch), on an assignment that sees him also reuniting with Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), from Spectre, and tying in a lot of elements from earlier entries in the current iteration of the James Bond franchise.

This certainly feels like an "end of an era"/"passing the baton" piece, as it definitely gives off an "anything can happen" vibe from the get-go, while focusing more on Bond's character and motivations than you might expect.

Initially I was slightly worried by the two hour and 45 minute run time, but these concerns were soon forgotten once the chases and gun battles begun.

After a deceptively slow and almost soap operatic opening for Bond, events suddenly kick up a gear and kudos to director Cary Joji Fukunaga for keeping the pace quite breathless from then on, whisking us up in the latest chaotic machinations threatening global security.

The plot rambles all over the place and Lyutsifer Safin (Mr Robot's Rami Malek) is a pretty bland villain, whose nebulous stratagem - while employing an interesting and gimmicky delivery system - is more window dressing than anything else.

Ultimately his supervillain scheme for world domination (or something... I'm not entirely sure it was made 100 per cent clear) is just an excuse to put Bond through the wringer and get him where the story needed him to be for the grand finale.

And that ending! So ballsy. Especially given the words that appear right at the tale end of the credits. You know, I might even have had something in my eye.

  • No Time To Die was released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK this week.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Celebrate The Solstice...

A Lovecraftian parody of a classic holiday duet, conceived by Doug Smith.

Little Rare Book Room lyrics by Sean Branney and Andrew Leman.
Hell on Earth lyrics by Doug Smith.
Featuring Matt Foyer as Robert Olmstead and Mike Dalager as Ogham Waite.
Mixing by Bryan Davis and Sean Branney.
Produced by HPLHS Inc. and Platform West.

Credit to the HP Lovecraft Historical Society for this latest slice of lyrical Lovecraftian fun.

HAPPY DALEK DAY!!!

The large "radio controlled" dalek that could patrol the gamesroom if it wanted to

Fifty-eight years ago to the day The Doctor first encountered the daleks (in the 1963 serial entitled simply The Daleks)... and Doctor Who was changed forever, from its initial "educational" remit to a "sci-fi monster" show.

Pop culture in the '60s also saw the birth of "dalekmania", the craze for anything dalek-related.

Since I first encountered Doctor Who as a little kid in the mid-70s I've been fascinated by the daleks, I loved to read their "annuals" (imagining I was a member of the Anti-Dalek Force, fighting alongside the android Mark Seven) when I could get my hands on them.

These days I try to grab as many different designs of Character Options action figure daleks as I can find. I'm sure I'm missing some, but the hunt is a large part of the thrill of collecting.

Rachel is well aware of the fact that I dream of owning a full-size dalek but, thankfully for her, we have nowhere to display (or store) one... even if we could somehow afford it!

My 5.5" scale Character Option action figure Dalek collection
The rug in our office leaves no doubt as to where our loyalties lie

Anya Taylor-Joy Goes A-Viking!!!

From visionary director Robert Eggers comes The Northman, an action-filled epic that follows a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father’s murder. With an all-star cast that includes Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk, and Willem Dafoe.

#RPG Tuesday Knights: To Game or Not To Game In The Age Of COVID-19...

In The Flesh: Pete, Kevin, Clare, and I 

After the great fanfare of the Tuesday Knights' return to "in-person" gaming in September, a succession of real life hic-cups and illness has meant, as we head into 2022, we won't now haven't actually gamed for the better part of four months!

A cocktail of booster side effects, actual COVID, real life/work happenings, and sundry other coughs and sniffles has systematically dismantled our carefully planned calendar from that joyous day in September - when we thought there was light at the end of the tunnel - through a largely game-free final quarter for 2021.

Pete, Clare, Kevin, and I managed to snatch an hour online (to "catch up") a couple of weeks ago, but Pete was still reeling from the aftereffects of his booster shot and so wasn't in the right head space to pick up his GURPS Atomic Horror campaign from where we left it all those months ago.

Simon wasn't able to make the date of this short Zoom get-together, but as far as I know he's still filling his evenings with a host of other online gaming.

However, I'm pretty sure the rest of us haven't slung a die since that last GURPS session, and I fear a lot of momentum may have been lost.

I don't know if Pete has a planned denouement for his game, but it would be nice to actually finish a campaign satisfactorily (a rarity in our dozen plus years as a group), rather than just stopping to play something different.

As much as I relished the theory of gaming twice a month (instead of our traditional once a month routine), and having always clamoured for more gaming with The Tuesday Knights, online sessions just lacked the engagement and immediacy of in-person gaming

However, it wasn't until we managed to squeeze in that one game after 18 months online that I truly appreciated how hollow gaming over Zoom was compared to being "at the table".

We lost Erica from our numbers this year, due to pressures on her time, and I can't help wondering what shape the Tuesday Knights will be in when we finally - properly - emerge from under this COVID-shaped cloud.

Hopefully, come the new year, we'll be back on track for regular gaming, at least, although it currently looks as though it'll be a return to our fortnightly online schedule until things settle down.

Sunday, 19 December 2021

PERFECTION!

After a second shitty year in succession, the joyous positivity of Strictly Come Dancing (and The Great British Bake Off earlier in the year) were just the fillip the nation needed.

Last Night, The Glitterball Trophy went to the amazing Rose Ayling-Ellis, the competition's first deaf contestant (and her professional partner Giovanni Pernice), after winning the audience vote ahead of John Whaite and his partner Johannes Radebe, the competition's first all-male pairing.

It was a well-deserved win, and while either pair could have claimed the trophy, both Rachel and I felt that Rose and Giovanni had the edge in the last dance (of three) during the grand final.

I wrote last year about my unironic love of both Strictly and Bake Off and continue to echo those sentiments to this day, perhaps even more so as our real world nightmare persists.

Gangs Of London Is Back For Seconds...


I'm not usually that interested in crime thrillers - particularly British ones - unless they sport a clever twist on the clichéd format.

Gangs of London did it in epic, Shakespearean, style and was one of my - if not the - strongest new shows of 2020.

Now, I'm delighted to hear that it's a returning for a second, no doubt even more brutal, second season in 2022.

Thor: Love & Thunder (2022) + Dr Who (2022)

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