Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

What Space Opera Means to Me

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 19, 2017

I’m part of the Star Wars generation. One of the first big movies I ever saw as a kid was Star Wars. Not “Episode IV” or “A New Hope” – at the time, it was just “Star Wars.”  I think I was still in 2nd grade at the time it hit the theaters. But … wow. It was weeks before I could see it, but everyone was talking about it. It was a phenomenon. It was on the news, the kids at school were all talking about it. I was one of the last kids to see it as it was “held over” for several weeks at the movie theaters… meaning it was still showing at first-run theaters for weeks after it was supposed to have faded into obscurity.

This was before the days when theaters were divided into tiny subsections. When I finally got to the theater, we were early. The previous show was still running through the final battle. From the lobby, I heard the roar of the TIE Fighters and thought they sounded like a dragon’s roar. Since I’d seen the images of Luke Skywalker with the light saber, I imagined an epic battle between the dude with the sci-fi sword and some dragon taking place.

There were no dragons, but I was not at all disappointed. I left the theater wanting to be Luke Skywalker flying an X-Wing down a metal canyon, shooting down enemy fighters and blowing up enemy space stations as big as a moon. The movie was explosively larger than life, and that the wonderful thing about it. You can call it out for its faults today all you want, but it won’t change the feeling I remember when the orchestra started blaring John Williams’ now-famous fanfare, or when the colossal Imperial Star Destroyer took forever to pass the camera while chasing down the little corvette. I still won’t lose my amusement seeing all the weird creatures on that alien desert world of Tatooine, especially in the cantina. And no terrible revisionist updates will lessen the thrill I felt at Han Solo’s badassery shooting Greedo (first AND last) as Greedo sat there making threats.

Of course, Star Wars wasn’t the end of it. But from that point on, I was hooked on the idea of Space Opera. I devoured the reruns (that’s what they were called back then when they weren’t being broadcast new) of Star Trek, Lost in Space, Doctor Who, and Space: 1999. New shows came in riding on the Star Wars coattails… Battlestar: Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, etc. And I read… from children’s books like Spaceship Under the Apple Tree, A Wrinkle in Time, and Enchantress From the Stars, working my way up through to Heinlein’s “juveniles” like Space Cadet. Or the more grown-up fair, like Keith Laumer’s A Plague of Demons (a book my father had left behind after the divorce… I was fascinated by that cover). Within three years, around the time The Empire Strikes Back was released, I was trying to wrap my brain around Dune.

While Star Wars was the catalyst for me, I later discovered that it worked because it tapped into a much greater mythology, which could be found through innumerable stories, shows, and even ancient legend. While it may not even be the epitome of space opera, what I got out of it as a kid is what I crave from space opera (and science fiction & fantasy in general) today:

#1 – A sense of wonder. It’s easy to lose this as we grow older. But one of the constants of human existence has been our ability to look up at the starry night sky, and wonder what’s out there in the “final frontier.” Stories set in that infinite realm of possibilities above us can’t help but resonate, and tap into that sense of wonder… even if the logical and educated part of our brains keeps saying, “Fiddlesticks! Space doesn’t work that way!” We can get lost in a story, and believe. Because starfaring (or really even planet-faring) remains far enough removed from modern life, we can also enjoy magical technology, and explore its potential.

#2 – Adventure. In reality, space is filled with a whole lot of nothing, punctuated by tiny specks of rocks. In space opera, every planet could be as rich and diverse a landscape as our own earth, but as foreign as an author’s imagination. These worlds are ripe with adventure and the discovery of the unknown. Space is inherently deadly and dangerous to human life, but in the space opera it is also ripe with potential rewards of all kind for the bold.

#3 – Larger-Than-Life Everything. Once you get beyond the confines of our planet, there are no limits to what could be out there. The space ships and space stations can be impossibly big. Super-weapons can take out entire planets. Characters should be big and exciting and interesting enough to match. The vastness of space means you make no apologies for cranking everything up to 11. Or Warp Factor Seven.

#4 – Action. A good space opera starts with a bang, and ends with a bigger bang. In the case of Star Wars, this is literally the case. Every step of the way, the heroes are charging ahead, shooting at bad guys, swinging across chasms,  slicing off arms with lightsabers, sneaking behind enemy lines, making thrilling escapes, and getting into crazy dogfights. The universe of the space opera is a universe of action. The people (and bizarre aliens or even robots are people, too!) are the ones that make the action happen.

#5 – Thrilling Heroics. People may be flawed and won’t always get along with each other. Even galaxies far, far away may not be happy or peaceful. Sometimes the bad guys win, temporarily, and entire planets full of innocent people get destroyed. But ultimately, it came down to poor farm boys and smug rogues with hearts of gold doing the right thing against impossible odds, and somehow prevailing. These are aspirational stories, reminding us of who we want to be and who we ought to be.

These things are what I expect to one degree or another from space opera. It’s not like I use these as a purity test for space opera. These features are more of what I’d say are “necessary but not sufficient” for a good space opera. They are the reasons I love it, and why it resonates with me.

It’s been fun seeing other people running with the whole #SpaceOperaWeek thing, especially with all the #PulpRevolution folks chiming in. But then, it’s always fun to see passionate fans of something you love letting their freak flag fly. I hope you’ve found these blog posts at least somewhat entertaining.

As always, have fun!

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Space Opera Week – Links to Cool Operatic Spacey Thingies!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 18, 2017

Okay – still hitting the space opera theme (I started this week with a review of a space opera novel quite by accident… but hey, let’s keep rolling with it).

Here is a very nice essay of what Space Opera is and what it should be: Wonder and the Soul’s Desire by Dominika Lein. It’s more inspirational than educational, but I like what Dominika is saying.

Brian Niehmeier joins with Yakov Merkin to discuss the art of writing non-human characters. You can listen in here, or check out Yakov’s older post about the subject here.

Barnes & Noble has a list of 55 “Essential” Space Operas of the Last 70 Years. There are some decent ones on the list.  The older ones resonate with me better, because they have managed to stand the test of time, whereas some of the newer ones (at least the ones I have read) didn’t always thrill me. Although… really, some of the older classics didn’t thrill me as much as others, either. So hopefully there’ll be books on the list for all tastes. 🙂 They also have a list of six comedy space opera novels. Because nobody said space operas have to be serious. Personally, I think they just ought to be fun!

Oh, and if you want a lot of Military SF eBooks for cheap… StoryBundle.com is running a Military SF bundle for the next 21 days, curated by Kevin J. Anderson!   StoryBundle.com Military Science Fiction Bundle.  I have a few of these already (some in paperback), and I’ve enjoyed them.

On the video game front, Everspace, the roguelike space combat game by Rockfish Games, is  finally being released in its full 1.0 glory next week. I’ve played the earlier releases a little, and I like it. Even if I die a lot. I look forward to giving the full version some play-time.


The teaser for the new Star Trek series dropped this week: Star Trek Discovery. If you haven’t seen it… it’s promising. Maybe not promising enough for me to sign up for another subscription-based streaming video channel, but it’s promising.


On the flip side, there’s a new space opera comedy / spoof that’s … well, hopeful. It ain’t Galaxy Quest. Sadly. But maybe it can aspire to such lofty heights. It’s called The Orville.


And one more! The new Honest Trailer for one of the all-time best SF / Space Opera movies OF ALL time… No, not Star Wars. ALIENS!

Anyway, enjoy your space adventures (or any other adventures) this week! Have fun!

Filed Under: Books, Links & Tidbits, Movies, Space Sims - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

Leigh Brackett on Space Opera

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 16, 2017

Tor.com and Barnes & Noble are calling this “Space Opera Week,” and several other blogs are following suit. Why not? Guardians of the Galaxy 2 recently came out, there’s a new teaser out for the next movie in the Star Wars saga, the harder-SF TV show “The Expanse” seems to be a huge success for SyFy, and it’s a popular little niche genre for indie books. Space opera appears to be doing just fine.

The term was originally coined in 1941 in SF fanzine “Le Zombie,” where Wilson Tucker wrote, “In these hectic days of phrase-coining, we offer one. Westerns are called ‘horse operas,’ the morning housewife tear-jerkers are called ‘soap operas.’ For the hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn space-ship yarn, or world-saving for that matter, we offer ‘space opera.’” As fans do, they took this derogatory appellation and ran with it, turning it into a badge of honor.

Which leads me to a favorite quote from Leigh Brackett, and author I didn’t really know existed until about three years ago, although I’ve loved movies she’d co-written screenplays for (The Empire Strikes Back and The Big Sleep). I’ve since been on a delightful adventure discovering her classic science fiction. In the introduction to The Best of Planet Stories 1, published in 1975, she wrote:

“Space opera, as every reader doubtless knows, is a pejorative term often applied to a story that has an element of adventure. Over the decades, brilliant and talented new writers appear, receiving great acclaim, and each and every one of them can be expected to write at least one article stating flatly that the day of space opera is over and done, thank goodness, and that henceforth these crude tales of interplanetary nonsense will be replaced by whatever type of story that writer happens to favor — closet dramas, psychological dramas, sex dramas, etc., but by God important dramas, containing nothing but Big Thinks. Ten years later, the writer in question may or may not still be around, but the space opera can be found right where it always was, sturdily driving its dark trade in heroes.”

The struggle was real, even back then. Space opera got no respect. But 75 years after the snobbish invention of the term and generations of detractors, Leigh Brackett is still proven right.

Filed Under: Books, Geek Life, Short Fiction - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

Book Impressions: Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 15, 2017

I’ve read a few books / stories lately that I figure I ought to actually devote a blog post to. My time for anything outside of work, sleep, and spending time with my family has been at a premium lately due to day job schedule fun. There’s only 168 hours in a week BTW… I’m coming to see that as a limitation lately.

Anyway – I’m still usually able to spend a few minutes reading and playing some kind of game each night. It makes it slow going for a novel, but I do what I can. One of my recent reads was Lindsay Buroker’s Star Nomad.

I liked it.

Lindsay Buroker is a fan of the TV series Firefly. Even if she hadn’t admitted it in her afterword (and her love of many other SF shows which also inspired the book), I figured this one out within the first three or four chapters of Star Nomad. The author has clearly put a lot of care into creating her own universe and characters, and setting up her own interesting spin on things, but the intended market is clearly readers who were fans of the TV series. Which really ought to be EVERYBODY, so that’s an easy market to hit.

It works. She mostly captures the style and feel of the show, while still keeping things mostly fresh. Granted, after only one quick-paced book, it’s hard to have nearly the handle on the characters when it’s sort of the “ensemble cast” kind of situation. Until I’ve read more of the series, I’m just going to say, “It’s got potential.”

It’s only a couple of years after a big interstellar war where the Rebellion managed to topple the tyrannical Empire. Yay! Only Alisa, a fighter pilot and pre-war freighter pilot who had been recovering from battle injuries for months after the war ended, finds herself stranded on a planet in the middle of nowhere, and discovers that in the wake of the Empires fall, there’s an awful lot of anarchy and other powers filling the vacuum. She works with an engineer to steal back her old freighter from the junkyard and get it flying again. But of course, nothing “goes smooth.” They have to deal with an imperial cyborg squatter on the ship, the powerful local mafia, space pirates, alien bears set loose on a station, and more.

It’s high-action, high-adventure space-opera type stuff that’s all about the story and the characters… not so much the science. Which suits me just fine. It’s a quick, fun read. Good ‘n pulpy.

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Spring into Books 2017

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 12, 2017

I’ll be signing books on Saturday May 20th at Spring Into Books at the Viridian Event Center in West Jordan, Utah.  A week from tomorrow. Best of all? It’s FREE!

There will be a lot of awesome local authors there. Utah has a surprisingly large number of authors in general considering the population, and the joke is that there’s something in the water that produces an incredibly high per capita of speculative fiction writers. We’re also the nerdiest state of the nation, followed closely by neighboring states Idaho and Wyoming, so I expect that’s all related. My table-mate will be 2016 Writers of the Future winner Julie Frost, author of Pack Dynamics. But there’ll be plenty of popular writers there, as well as plenty of new ones to discover.

There will also be some brief workshops, readings, and presentations throughout the afternoon by the authors, door prizes, and a children’s activity area. There is also a charity drive going on, if you have any used children’s books you wish to donate to a great cause for children in Ghana: Empower Playgrounds.

If you can make it, come by the table and say hi!

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FYRECON – Last Day for Early Bird Prices

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 10, 2017

Today is the LAST DAY to sign up for early-bird prices with Fyrecon registration. Seriously, if you are a Utah author / artist / scriptwriter / filmmaker with an interest in fantasy & science fiction, you should consider going. Actually, even if you are not local, you should consider it. It’s cheap, there will be fantastic talent there, and it has an emphasis on training–from master classes by industry leaders, to hands-on workshops. And of course, the usual panels and classes.

Master classes are offered by David Farland, Larry Correia, Philo Barnhart, Michael Collings, Heather Thuerer, Toni Weisskopf, and several others. This will be a great opportunity to learn from industry leaders, and ask them questions in a small-class setting.


As for me… when I’m not going to master classes, I’m going to be on a couple of panels, and I will be running a 2-hour workshop with David J. West on Writing Pulp Fiction for Fun and Profit. If you went to the presentation we did last time, this is going to cover some of the same material, but it’ll be a lot more hands-on with the process. Bring a notebook with blank sheets of paper (or your laptop or preferred writing device), because we’ll be building short stories right there in the workshop.

It’ll be fun.

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StoryHack and DragonComet…

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 9, 2017

As I announced several days ago, I have a story published in a brand-new magazine that emphasizes PULP STORIES!  “Storyhack Action & Adventure” is launching, and it’s pretty awesome. My story is called “Dead Last.” It’s an urban fantasy of secret societies and magic-wielding agents. And guns. And a necromancer.

And it’s out NOW!

Issue #0 is currently free for digital versions… and you can get them at the Storyhack Website. This is the “proof of concept” issue, paid for out-of-pocket by the editor. The author list is pretty impressive. There are some seriously fun stories here. Check it out!

If you like what you see, the Kickstarter for Issue #1 has started! You can pre-order a copy that way and prepare for more pulp adventures.  The projected delivery date for this one is in September, which gives you plenty of time to read the stories in the launch issue. 🙂  Oh, and the ones in Cirsova #4 and #5. You’ve already read those, right? 🙂

Next up… as long as this is a literary post… my story was chosen as a finalist for the 2017 DragonComet Short Story Competition. If you’ve been following my forays into yarn-spinning territory for a while, you may remember that I was the first-place winner of the award last year. I was reminded that there was no restrictions preventing past winners from entering again, and I was encouraged to do so.

So I did. And …. yay! I made the finals. Actually, I submitted for two triads, but the first story wasn’t strong enough to make it to the finals. I’m calling that a good thing… my second story was stronger and has a better chance of placing.  I know a few of the finalists (we’ve got a pretty awesome writer community in Utah), and so I’ll have people to cheer and hopefully congratulate even if I don’t place at all this year.

The awards will be announced at a ceremony at FyreCon in Layton, Utah on June 8th.

Filed Under: Short Fiction, Writing - Comments: Be the First to Comment

“Who Ya Gonna Call?” My evening as a Ghostbuster at The Void.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 8, 2017

Friday night, my wife and I went to The Void here in Utah to try out the VR Ghostbusters experience. The Void has locations currently open in New York and Dubai, but they’ve finally opened it up at a temporary facility here in Utah while their new center is under construction.

I’ve posted about it before… The Void is a mixed-reality (they brand it “Hyper-Reality”) experience where you gear up with custom VR equipment and make your way through a map… a maze of simple real-life props with a VR overlay on top of it. If you know the Dream Park series by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, or the Holodeck from Star Trek, this is as close as we can get given current technology.

It’s been a year and a half since that demo, and now the hardware is… well, “final” may not be exactly the right term, because I expect they’ll keep updating the hardware as long as they want to stay in business. The location has changed, the hardware has changed… and I’ve become more jaded. I work with mixed reality as part (sadly, too small of a part) of my day job now. I still think VR is one of the coolest technologies of my lifetime, and I love being at the point where it’s finally becoming commercially viable. (Of course, part of me says, “It took long enough! Sheesh!”). But simply being “in” VR is less of a novelty to me now.

The lobby area reminded both of us of the old “Virtual World Entertainment” centers we visited back in the 1990s… AKA the “Battletech Centers.” The facility here was still a bit more stripped down and sedate by comparison… and maybe that’s not entirely what they are going for… but we were both struck with the similarities. Of course, part of what happened to the Battletech Centers was simply that technology for home systems outpaced what they could keep up with. There’s a lesson to be learned for The Void.

The advantage of The Void is that what they provide must be location-based, unlike some of the VR arcades popping up in a few places. Which is why I think of it more like “Dream Park” than the Holodeck.  There’s something called “the virtuality spectrum,” with unadulterated real life on one end, and a completely virtual, illusion-based experience on the other. Obviously, we exist on one end of the spectrum, so that’s easy. We’re finally solving the other side of the spectrum, creating an immersive illusion around us. But the stuff in the middle of that spectrum… augmented reality and augmented virtual reality… AKA “Mixed Reality” – it turns out that this can be really, really hard.

That’s what The Void is all about. Their adventure lay somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. There are props you can handle, sets you can traverse, and lots of real-world special effects to make the virtual reality experience as immersive as possible. You carry your computer on your back, so you aren’t tethered. The system will track you anywhere within their maze of walls and doors. The backpack makes a lot of sense for Ghostbusters, actually, and adds rather than subtracts from the experience, as you are supposed to be carrying a proton pack on your back. The vest and the weapon / toll are haptic feedback devices, so you get some nice feelings of impact to match what’s happening in the simulation.

The trick is, of course, knowing what is solid and what is phantom. This means testing things with your hand or with your proton-pack discharge nozzle (the gun) before you, say, sit down in a chair. But very simple props can turn into elaborate and fantastic elements with the VR overlay.  They don’t rely exclusively on this, though. The Void tries to be a tactile experience as well. The walls may have different textures depending on the style. There are real buttons on an elevator that you can press. Not that I could tell if they did anything, but at least it wasn’t a flat panel. They add some small amounts of motion to give you the feeling of being in an elevator or on scaffolding, blow air on you when you are out in the open, and even add smells to enhance the experience. And when you get slimed… well, you will know it.

All this stuff going on increases risk to yourself and to the equipment, because it is inherently multiplayer. For this, The Void has a guide go with you. She helped us get out equipment set up, but was otherwise silent through the whole experience. I didn’t even know she was with us, but she stop my wife from running into me at one point.

Which points out a limitation (one I fight here at the day job, too) – calibration between the real world and the virtual one. That’s one of those hard things I mentioned. Something as simple as tightening the fit of the head-mounted display will subtly change your field of view. So even if things were perfectly calibrated a moment ago, one adjustment and things will be “off” by a tiny distance.  So you are still spending a bit of time feeling about half-blindly to touch the wall. Things are a bit better with the gun, as it has its own trackers and maps into the VR world better.

The “Ghostbusters” experience has you playing a junior team from the company featured in the Ghostbusters movies.  You’re busting ghosts. And causing plenty of damage in the process. The experience is a new story, borrowing elements from both the original film and the new reboot. From the “proton packs” you carry on your backs, to the fact that the ghosts are supposed to be insubstantial and are only “felt” through the haptic feedback when they pass through you, this is perhaps the perfect license for The Void’s technology.

The adventure takes place inside a run-down apartment building.  The graphics are a little bit more stylized than what we experienced last time… which isn’t a bad thing. While it still errs on the side of realism, the more “cinematic reality” makes it easier to forgive the inevitable distortions that appear. Like when the tracker tries to interpret your companion’s pose in something not quite humanly possible. Or when things in the virtual world get really, explosively wild in the virtual world. Naturally, that happens a lot, as it should.

I wish I could tell you about the differences in the display between The Void and the HTC Vive, but honestly, I wasn’t paying that much attention. I was too busy having fun. Which probably tells you all you need to know right there.

Bottom line… it’s the best VR experience out there. Maybe that’s not as big a gulf as it was a couple of years ago, but its definitely worth experiencing it for yourself if you find yourself near one of The Void’s centers. If you are a seasoned VR vet, it’s really cool. If you are fairly new to VR, it’s pretty much mind-blowing (but it may spoil you for other, simpler VR experiences…)

This is the Dream Park I envisioned when I first read Niven and Barnes’ book as a teenager… at least the little mini-adventures in the park that they talked about. While there is room for plenty of refinement, the technology is clearly here, now. I love it that I’m getting jaded enough that I can talk about it analytically without frothing at the mouth about how WE ARE LIVING IN THE FUTURE, PEOPLE!

If you are in Utah, you may want to act fast… I’m not sure how long this center will be open, or how big of a gap there’ll be between closing this one and opening the new one.


Filed Under: Virtual Reality - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

May the Fourth Be With You! Happy Star Wars Day!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 4, 2017

Yes, I’m still a big geeky fan.

And this is about the BEST THING EVER!


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PC Game Development Rulebook Rule Violation #7

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 3, 2017

There ought to be Okay, here’s one for the PC Game Development rulebook (Which isn’t really a thing, but it ought to be. Let’s get that going):

Rule #7: Thou shalt not take input from the game input device without authorization!

Meaning: Just because there’s a device (or especially a virtual device) is plugged into the PC that you think is a game controller, you MUST allow it to be disabled or ignored. Because sometimes, the device isn’t the kind of device you think it is. It is not guaranteed to be an XBox Controller! When they start trying to play your game and immediately start spinning in a circle and can’t stop, it’s not going to go a long way to giving them a positive first impression.

And even if they do have a game controller plugged in, the user may prefer to use a keyboard and mouse. This is often the case for First-Person Shooters, where a keyboard and mouse is THE SUPERIOR CONTROL SCHEME THE WAY THE GAMING GODS INTENDED IT!

Forcing the user to crawl under their desk and detach the device JUST to play your game, and then crawl back in there and re-attach it when the game is done is bad.  It makes them avoid playing your game. Then they’ll either demand a refund, or they’ll let the pain and frustration fester until they hate your game, hate you, hate your publisher, and hate PC gaming in general.

Now, I know you grew up playing Nintendo, and you think players should never have to touch the keyboard or mouse ever, but I’d seriously question even making that controller the default control device. Because what’s going to happen is me the gamer will have something other than an XBox controller plugged in, and they aren’t going to be able to navigate your console-wannabe or crappy port menu screen and have no idea where the “A” button is on their USB potato clock. They will be forced to exit with ALT-F4 and never want to touch any game you have ever or will ever make for the rest of forever.

Seriously, PC gamers are playing on a PC. They are probably used to using the keyboard and mouse, at least enough to click on the option that says use their game controller.


Filed Under: Design - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

Star Wars PC Game Sale

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 2, 2017

GOG.COM is running a sale on all Star Wars games in their library.

IMO, the best games on the list are the Knights of the Old Republic RPGs, and the X-Wing / TIE Fighter series.

I personally wasn’t a huge fan of X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter… it seemed to lose a lot in the effort to make it multiplayer, and the few times I played it multiplayer I wasn’t really impressed But YMMV. It may also depend on whether or not you are a fan of space combat sims. These games haven’t aged super-well, but they are still fun.

For the next day or so, both of the KotOR games for less than $2.50 each — so more than 75% off. It sounds like they’ll raise the price (a whole whopping $0.20) in a couple of days. If you haven’t played these games yet, and you are in any way a CRPG and Star Wars fan, this is what I’d consider one of those blindingly easy purchase decisions. Just sayin’.

Anyway, I thought I’d pass this along.

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Deadlines, Dialog, Strategy, and Stuff.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 1, 2017

Hey folks. I’ve been in the midst of crunch with tight deadlines the last three weeks, and the blog is suffering from the squeeze. I apologize. I would say that gaming has suffered from the squeeze, but it’s about my one outlet right now… the unfortunate part being that I’m relying upon old and familiar, short games (like an RTS) to get my fix. Hopefully things will lighten up within a few days (that’s the dream, right?) and we hit the deadline in three weeks, which should be an improvement.

In the meantime (for today)… here’s an article at PC Gamer about the future of dialog in games.

Julian Gollop, creator of the original X-COM games, has a crowdfunding campaign for a game in a similar vein, but with its own flavor…  Phoenix Point. As of this moment, it looks like it will be fully funded any hour now, with over a month to go. And… based on what I’m seeing… it looks REALLY AWESOME. It looks like it’s falling somewhere between the original X-Com and the reboots in style (hopefully the best of both worlds), plus some really cool procedural alien generation and strategy worldscape meta-game that will be better than either. It looks like funding is all but guaranteed at this point, so here’s hoping they deliver.

I turned in edits on two short stories last week… one very pulpy, which you know about. The other one is somewhat less pulpy, and it’s a secret for now. Hopefully I will be able to announce something about it soon.

So… there’s a short shot of news.


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STORYHACK 0! Extra pulpy!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 27, 2017

My story, “Dead Last,” will be appearing in the inaugural issue of StoryHack magazine… issue zero! Hopefully the first of many, many, many issues, StoryHack is a magazine of action & adventure stories across multiple genres. In fact, in the tradition of the early pulps that predate genre definitions, it sounds like it’s deliberately turning a blind eye to genre and just publishing action and adventure stories that “feel” pulp… fun, action, and thrills.

On top of that, I’m familiar with several of the authors, and they write really good stuff. I’m honored share the same issue with them! Well, okay, honored and puzzled, because I feel like I’m out of my league. 🙂  This is going to be a hell of a fun issue.


I was lucky enough to meet Bryce at a writing conference a few weeks ago, where he gave me the good news that he’d accepted my urban-fantasy-meets-espionage short story. We had a great conversation, and he is the real deal–a writer and pulp aficionado with perhaps a slight bias towards the classic detective stories. This initial issue is a labor of love that he’s using as proof of concept for a crowdfunding campaign for future issues (coming soon!).

If you are like me, you probably find it impossible to keep track of all the new books and authors coming out of this brave, new world of publishing where there is more good stuff than ever before… and more awfulness than ever before. Anthologies and magazines of short stories are a great way to find new authors you might like, and they are entertaining in their own right. I’ve been slammed by the day job again, so short stories are a great way to go with limited reading time at night.

And of course, I am thrilled by this resurgence of interest in “pulp-style”  stories. Again, when I’m exhausted from a twelve-hour workday and only have a few minutes of R&R time,  I want something full of action, thrills, and escapism. I enjoy having a steady stream of these kinds of stories that satisfy the craving. 🙂

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A Bundle of Books on Writing

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 26, 2017

Storybundle.com has a bunch o’ books about the craft and profession of writing. The only ones I’m familiar with are Dean Wesley Smith’s book and his video lecture series on the Lester Dent Master Plot Formula. I paid full price for the latter (about $50, IIRC), and thought it was very worth the money. So if you are an aspiring / beginning writer, I’d say this bundle is worth the price with that alone!

Hopefully the rest of the books (most of them seem pretty short and to-the-point) will prove similarly worthwhile.

Storybundle “Write Stuff” Bundle


Filed Under: Books, Deals, Writing - Comments: Comments are off for this article

Sun Powered!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 25, 2017

For years, the power company has hounded us about our power usage. We use more than the neighborhood average, they said. They charged us a premium for our “above average” usage. You know, because we actually run gaming computers and stuff, and didn’t switch to those horrible CFL bulbs when they became available. They kept inviting us to install air conditioning units that THEY control remotely, so they could turn it off whenever they wanted to help manage the power load in the valley. Which, most likely, would happen when we are entertaining a house full of guests. Because we do that quite often.

The power company complained that they couldn’t keep up with the growth in the valley. They threatened rolling blackouts and brownouts during peak hours, and of course used all this to push for higher and higher rates.

Since clearly they are in such dire straits keeping up with demand, today we have officially flipped the switch to help ’em out. Our house is now powered by the sun.

Alas, we’re still on the grid and paying for the privilege … and any power we consume in excess of what we generate. But hey, since most of our food storage is in the freezer, at least it’ll stay powered half the time during an extended power outage. And I can run my A/C during those blazingly hot, bright summer days as much as I want, free of guilt or worry about the power bill.

So I guess we’re good (and financially committed) until something significantly better comes along…


Filed Under: Geek Life - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

Scott Cole Interviews Me

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 24, 2017

Over at the Castalia House Blog, Scott Cole interviews me about … oh, just about everything. We start talking about my story in the latest issue of Cirsova Magazine, but we quickly go off the rails and talk about game development, problems in the games industry, my getting stuck in lockdown during Bangladesh protests, and more.

I can’t imagine anyone being as entertained as Scott and I were having this discussion, but I hope you at least find it interesting. You can check it out here:

A Conversation with Jay Barnson (Cirsova Author Series)

Have fun!

Filed Under: Interviews, Rampant Games - Comments: Comments are off for this article

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