Category Archives: geeking out

Kubo and the Two Strings

Okay folks. I just needed to share this with you. I’m guessing a lot of you haven’t seen it yet.

It is not possible for me to be more excited about this movie than I already am. I couldn’t be more excited if they announced they were bringing Firefly back.

I love Laika (the studio making the movie). Nobody does what they do. It’s entirely stopmotion animation. They are absolutely insane, and I love them for the depth and breadth of their insanity.

I got to visit their studio last year, and got to see them doing work on this movie before they’d made an announcement about it. It’s going to be so good. Everything they do is so good.

Please watch it. Come be excited with me.

pat

Also posted in cool things | By Pat30 Responses

Tak: A Beautiful Game

Today we have some exciting news….

CgbaD78UYAAedhF

Here’s the short version: We’ve just launched the kickstarter for Tak.

If that’s enough for you, you can head right over here and check it out.

For the rest of you, a story….

    *     *     *

Long ago, James Ernest and I were working on the Pairs kickstarter, brainstorming new stretch goals we could add to the campaign.

“We could agree to make Tak at some point in the future,” James said. (Note, I’m paraphrasing here.)

I didn’t want to do that.

“How about a stretch goal where if we hit it, the two of us agree to work out the rules?” He asked.

I didn’t want to do that either.

“How about we agree to do a live google chat where we just talk about the game in general?” he said.

And I agreed that fine. FINE. We could do that. We could talk about it. And we did. It was okay.

Later, James told me he wanted to make Tak. He wanted to invent it. He wanted to build the whole thing from the ground up based on my descriptions from the book, and the unwritten stuff he knew I had hidden in my head.

Again, I said no.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Tak is supposed to be my world’s version of Chess or Go or Mancala,” I said. “I can’t ask you to make a game like that. It’s like saying, ‘you know those games that have stood the test of time for hundreds or thousands of years? The best games ever? Do that, but in my world.’ So first off, it’s unreasonable for me to ask. Secondly, you can’t do it. No one can. And thirdly, if you did somehow manage to pull if off, nobody would give a shit. We’re living in the golden age of board games right now. Nobody cares about strategy games like chess anymore.”

(If you haven’t already noticed, I can be a curmudgeonly fucker at times.)

“Just let me try,” James said. “Let me take a run at it. If you hate what I come up with, we’ll never speak of it again.”

So I told him, fine. Fine! Do it. Whatever. Jeez.

So he asked me a bunch of questions. Then he went off and made a game. Then he brought it to me….

Now you should know that I’m telling you this story so that you know where I was coming from on the subject of Tak. Simply said, I wasn’t eager to pursue it. I was the opposite of eager.

And it wasn’t because I don’t like James Ernest. James Ernest is fucking brilliant. I’ve been playing his games for twenty years. I loved Pairs and was delighted to incorporate it into my world….

Pairs_Faen_Card_Art_1024x1024(Actual footage.)

But I knew that Tak was a purely mythical game. And while James was great, I knew that nobody could just sit down and create a game on par with chess or Go. I was going to politely look at whatever he brought me, smile kindly, and try to let him down as gently as possible.

Then James brought me his game. And I played it.

And it was amazing.

I was stunned by the game. Stunned that anyone could make something like this. It’s more elegant than chess. It’s more enjoyable than Go.

I learned to play it in about five minutes and had a blast. More than a year later, the game is still unfurling for me like a flower, as I understand more and more about the play of it.

It is, in brief, a beautiful game.

*    *     *

TakFPBanner1

(Is that enough gushing? If so, here’s a link to the kickstarter.)

*     *     *

For a while now, I’ve been working with James on the production of the game.

If you’ve ever bought anything from our online store, you know I’m obsessively careful about merchandise. I never want to sell you anything I’m not proud of. This is doubly true with Tak. It’s such a lovely game, the last thing I wanted was for it to be some crappy thing made out of pasteboard and plastic.

So we’re using wood pieces, even though it’s harder. And we’re getting everything ethically sourced, because that’s important. And we’re getting as much of the work done here in the US as possible, because while it’s tons cheaper to get things done in China… well… I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you why it’s nice that your friends and neighbors have jobs….

I’m really pleased with what we have here. I’m excited for you guys to play it. I want to show you how it fits into my world.

(Have I mentioned the kickstarter is over here?)

*     *     *

I’ll be honest with y’all. The first couple days of a kickstarter are really important. If we have a strong start with a bunch of backers, it’s a hundred times easier to run a successful campaign. And here’s the key, the more successful we are, the more raw awesome we’ll be able to pour into the game and the book we’re making.

Did I mention the companion book yet? We’re doing a book, too. It will talk about strategy, delve into the history of Tak, and explain in some detail the difference between courtly Tak and Tak as it’s played among… rougher elements of society.

If the campaign takes off, we’ll be able to add more stuff to the kickstarter, too. More levels. A high-end set with metal pieces and a wooden board. Custom capstone pieces. Maybe alternate boards. Maybe even stone pieces. If we get enough interest, cool things like that will be forthcoming.

With that in mind, if you’re interested in this, please consider jumping on board early. As I’ve said, these first couple days really shape the performance of the kickstarter. Most importantly, if you sign up now, you’ll get our updates when we *do* to roll out some of the new coolness. So if you’re hoping to grab one of the specialty sets, signing up now is the easiest way for you to stay in the loop. That way you’ll be the first to know when they come out.

So… yeah. That’s all. There’s a lot more information on the kickstarter. I’ll let you read it there.

If you have any burning questions that aren’t answered over there. You can ask them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to either find answers for you. Barring that, we will at the very least create some amusing lies to ease the sting of your not-knowing.

And, one final time, the link.

pat

Also posted in cool news, gaming | By Pat88 Responses

NerdCon: Why Stories Matter

So let me tell you a story.

Years ago, I met someone named Hank Green in an accidental way through social media. I’d watched a couple of his videos and liked them. He’d read my book and enjoyed it. He offered to help out with my charity. I offered to help out with his.

I didn’t know him very well, but he struck me as a cool person who was working to make the world a better place. Best of all, he had a fine-tuned sense of the ridiculous, as shown in the Stretch Goal he did for Worldbuilders, where he shot a video of himself seducing a tree.

When I saw that, I knew he was my kind of crazy.

A couple months after we’d met, Hank dropped me an e-mail. It went kinda like this.

Hey Pat,

I do a thing called Vidcon, and I was wondering if there’s a convention where authors and people who love books would get together and… y’know… talk about books and stuff.

If there isn’t, there really should be. And I’d like to make it happen.

You seem to know the book world and a lot of book-type people. What do you think?

Hank

Now, before I go any further, I need to point out that I’m paraphrasing a lot here. This was about two years ago, and I can easily forget what I had for breakfast any given day.

That said, I remember the first thing that came to mind, reading this e-mail. I thought, “Wow. That’s adorable.”

I’m not proud of that thought, but it’s what popped into my head. The second thing was, “Science fiction fandom is where the whole convention thing started. We’ve been doing conventions for, like, 50 years. There’s a ton of book-type conventions.”

My third thought was, “I should give him a call. Planning a convention is a nightmare. He doesn’t want to go down that rabbit hole.”

Did I mention that I’d only known Hank for a little bit at that point? And that sometimes I can be unutterably dim? My only real excuse is that my youngest boy had been born just a couple weeks before that, so I wasn’t really performing at optimum efficiency.

Luckily, my assistant Amanda e-mailed me before I could make a total ass of myself.

He’s serious,” Amanda told me. “He does this sort of thing all the time. He’s good at it.

Amanda explained that Hank wasn’t just a guy that sometimes made videos and did a charity thing. She explained about the Nerdfighters. She explained to me that Hank was one of the people who had founded Vidcon.

“What’s a Vidcon?” I asked, dimly remembering the term from somewhere in my distant past.

It’s a convention,” Amanda said. “For people who make videos on YouTube. Hank mentioned it in the e-mail he sent, remember?

“No,” I said.

*     *     *

CKuzM1VUEAA2XLN(Since then, I’ve been to Vidcon. And a good time was had by all.)

Thanks to Amanda, my vast ignorance wasn’t the stumbling block it might have been. I called Hank and told him that there were bookish conventions, many of them quite well-established (Worldcon has been happening since 1939, for example.)

But I also talked about other conventions that I’d been to over the last several years. About how the ones that felt the most electric and alive were the newer cons. The comic-cons and Game cons like PAX. While I loved meeting up with other authors and readers, a lot of the book-centered conventions felt kinda…. well… stuffy by comparison.

Hank talked about building community, about making a place where we could celebrate stories, about making a place where everyone would feel welcome.

I talked about a lot of the people I’d come to know over the years, authors who were smart and funny and full of enthusiasm. People who were good on panels.

Hank talked about bringing people in who were performers. Musicians and storytellers. Podcasters. Actors. He talked about doing programming that was more dynamic. He talked about people singing and playing games and having fun.

At first I was just chatting with Hank about general ideas. What the convention could be. What it shouldn’t be. This was easy for me, as I’ve probably hit more than a hundred conventions in recent years. Then I recommended some authors who were funny and smart and articulate. Then I was contacting the authors to see if they were interested, and to sell them on the idea of the convention.

Before I knew it I was helping plan the programming and enjoying the hell out of myself.

*     *     *

Fast forward to now. Nerd Con: Stories is happening in just a month or so. It’s October 9-10th in Minneapolis.

1959518_361338327387266_6310880623690526705_n

I’m really ridiculously excited about this convention.

It’s going to be different than any convention I’ve ever been to, and I can say that with some authority because I’ve been helping plan it. I’ve invited some of my favorite people to attend, and helped put together some of the best programming I’ve ever seen.

It’s going to be fun, folks. There will be singing and signing. There will be bad poetry and puppets. We will talk about the shape of stories. I will have a serious geek out because the folks from Nightvale are going to be there….

wtnv

Cecil Baldwin, Jeffrey Cranor, Joseph Fink, and many others will be there, speaking on panels and playing games like, “Guess what’s in my mouth” on stage.

authors

(Just a few of the cool people we have coming to the convention.)

A week ago, Amanda and I went out to Minneapolis with the rest of the team to check out the convention center, and honestly? I was stunned.

conventioncenter

I’ve been to a lot of conventions where the events spaces are composed pretty much entirely of a bunch of stacking chairs in hotel conference rooms. And while that isn’t necessarily bad. This… well… it’s something completely different. It’s beautiful there.

Mpls Convention Center 4

Nice theater seating, comfortable chairs, good acoustics….

We’ll be talking about why stories matter. And we’ll be talking about the craft of writing. I’ll be leading an improvisational story game called The Adventures of Baron Von Munchhausen, and leading a team as Captain in a game of Artemis as well.

There’s going to be an open mic session every night. There will be book signings and a dealer’s room for you to go buy nerdy goodness in. The Worldbuilders Team will be there. Harry and the Potters will be there. Paul & Storm will be there….

Author crop2

(A lot of people will be there….)

Here’s the deal: It’s only a month away, and the con is selling out pretty quickly. What’s more, the block of rooms we have reserved at the nearby hotel is going to be gone pretty soon. So if you’d like to come (or if you want to get a cheap room for your stay) you’ll need to decide soon.

And you want to come. Trust me on this. Imagine what it would be like getting to go to the very first Worldcon back in the day. The first PAX. The first Comic-Con.

If you want to be at the first NerdCon, you can register here.

I hope to see many of you there….

pat

Also posted in conventions, cool things, signing books | By Pat42 Responses

PAX 2014

So what did I do at PAX this year?

Many things, but most notably this:

DD-Acquisitions-Inc.-V

And by that, I mean this.

Wait for it….

pat

P.S. Even if you don’t care about D&D, you should really watch the intro. That’s worth the price of admission all by itself….

Also posted in gaming, videos | By Pat23 Responses

Sophie’s Choice

I just had an unexpectedly harrowing experience on the internet.

While I like to think that I’m immune to clickbait, occasionally I leave the high road and tumble gracelessly down into the muddy ditch where I roll around with all the giddy enthusiasm of a dog who’s just found a particularly feculent turd.

(Pat pauses for a moment, looking up at the sentence he just wrote, and thinks that sometimes, just maybe, he should dial the vividity of his phraseologer down from 11.)

Anyway, I stumbled onto the following webpage the other day. I can’t even remember how.

Vote for the best Geek Celebrity Ever.

So I think, Okay, sure. I’ll vote in your little poll. I am wise in the ways of the geek. I have opinions.

The thing is set up as a series of X vs. Y pairings, and you have to vote for one or the other.

The first couple were easy. Obviously Felicia Day beats Peter Jackson. Obviously Johnathan Coulton beats out JJ Abrams. Tina Fey trumps Shatner.

You also have the option to skip voting on a particular pairing. This was first useful when I was given two people I’d never heard of before, a cosplayer and a voice actor. Rather than vote blind, you’re able to just shrug and get a completely new random pairing.

But I didn’t realize how essential the skip button was until this happened:

Don't make me choose!

I saw this, and a gear slipped in my brain. How could I possibly pick? The author of the second comic I’d ever read as an adult (Watchmen). The guy who Promethia. Top Ten. Tom Strong. V for Vendetta. Someone whose work has honesty changed my perception of comic art if not storytelling as a whole. Plus, y’know, wizard.

On the other hand we have Wil: creator of Tabletop, which is a force for good in the world. Co-founder of Wootstock, a source of persistent joy in my life. The actor that played Westley Crusher, a character that made my life suck a little less as a kid. Someone who regularly speaks truth to power, and a damn fine author in his own right….

It was a flabbergasting choice. It’s not like comparing apples and oranges. It’s like comparing sex and videogames. I had to skip that matchup.

Then this happened:

Don't make me choose 2When I saw this, my soul made the sound of ultimate suffering. I think I actually shouted at the screen. “Don’t make me choose!”

As the poll continues, it winnows out the people you don’t know pretty quickly. Then it gets rid of the people you don’t care for. With a little more difficulty you leave behind geek celebs you are merely fond of.

Then it starts to become excruciating. You are forced to make choices no sane person would ever willingly make.

Still the grindstone turns until you are finally confronted with something like this.

Don't make me choose 4

Don’t. Just don’t.

So. If you want to plumb the depths of your  own personal geeky faith, go ahead and check it out. I think the voting ends today.

pat

Edit: Monday July 21st. I just googled “Sophie’s Choice” because while I knew what it meant, I didn’t know the actual etymology of the phrase.

I don’t think I would have used it as the title of this post if I’d known the original referent.

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat57 Responses

“What Ho!”- A Belated Conclusion to an Adventure.

So I was at C2E2 last weekend, walking around the main hall with a friend, nodding and occationally fist-bumping readers who recognised me. (Too much hand-shaking leads to contagion at a convention.)

Eventually my friend asked, “What’s this Acquisiations Incorporated video people keep talking about?”

“I did a D&D thing with the guys from Penny Arcade and PVP last year,” I said. “We played a game at PAX Prime on stage. They taped it and put it online.”

“Why didn’t you put it up on your blog?” she said.

“I did,” I said.

“I’m pretty sure you didn’t,” she said.

I started to insist that I had, because I *remembered* doing it. I had a blast playing with them, and I even got Nate to do up some art for that blog post:

whatHo

But then I closed my mouth because over the last two years I’ve come to realize that I *intend* to write about a lot of stuff on the blog. But in reality, I don’t actually get around to finishing about 80% of the blogs I mean to.

Right now, for example, I have over 200 blogs that are in their “Draft” form here on WordPress. I am the king of broken promises.

When I got home, I looked online and saw I *had* posted a blog announcing my attendance at PAX, then another blog with more details about Acquisitions Inc….

But no blog with a follow-up link to the video itself.

So, for those of you who are reluctant to go clicking around all higgledy piggledy, here’s the 8-part audio podcast that leads up to the on-stage event.

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7 / Part 8

In my opinion, a lot of these are even better than what happens later in the video. The video is about 2 hours, but the podcasts all together are 4-5 hours of solid geeky fun. I’ve been role playing for more than 25 years at this point, and Mike, Jerry, and Scott are the best sort of folks to tabletop with. So funny and quick on their feet. And Chris Perkins as DM is absolutely brilliant….

For those of you who aren’t into the whole podcast thing, here’s a vastly abridged, somewhat bowdlerized animated version of the podcast.

And here’s the video of the PAX game itself.

[Warning: I sing.]

If you want to see *all* the delightful, shiny geekery, you can head over to the D&D website. Acquisitions Inc has been going strong for several seasons, and it’s all archived over there. So there’s plenty to keep you busy until May 15th when the next episode of Nightvale comes out….

pat

Also posted in Beautiful Games, gaming, Tales from the Con, videos | By Pat26 Responses

The News: The Slow Regard of Silent Things

So here’s the news:

I have a book coming out around November-ish.

Slow Regard - Front

It’s not book three. It’s not a mammoth tome that you can use to threaten people and hold open doors.

It’s a short, sweet story about one of my favorite characters.

It’s a book about Auri.

That’s the news. The short version. If you’d like the long version, I’ll give that below….

*     *     *

I didn’t set out to write a book about Auri. I really didn’t.

What happened was this: a while back, I was invited to contribute something to George Martin’s Rogues anthology. I mentioned it a while back on the blog…

Wow. I just went looking for the blog post where I mentioned the Rogues anthology, only to discover that I kinda never wrote it.

Well. Okay. I guess y’all get a little side order of news with your news today:

rouges cover 2

I’m in this book too. It’s coming out in June.

What happened was this: a couple years back, George Martin and Gardner Dozois invited me to be in an anthology called Rogues. I said yes, because back in 2009, when I was working on The Wise Man’s Fear, they’d invited me to participate in a different anthology: Star Crossed Lovers.

But in 2009 I was behind deadline and freaked out about it. So I said “No” and went back to struggling with WMF. It broke my heart a little. Because it’s one of those anthologies you dream about being invited to. It was the anthology equivalent of getting invited to the cool-kid party back in high-school.

Anyway, when they asked me to contribute a story to Rogues back in 2012, I said yes for two reasons.

1. Because how fucking cool is it to be in this anthology? Look at my name up there, right next to Neil Gaiman’s. Seriously. Look at that. My name is almost touching Neil Gaiman’s name….

I know I should be cooler about this. I should pretend that I’m a professional and a grown-up and everything. But I’m really not. I’m still the same person who read Neverwhere back in the late 90’s and went, “What? Seriously? You can do that?”

And now I’m anthology-buddies with him. In fact, Gaiman’s story is “How the Marquis Got his Coat Back.” It’s about the Marquis De Carabas from Neverwhere.

The other reason I said yes was…

2. I’d had a story idea about Auri tickling around my head for a while. What’s more, I thought she would make a nice counterpoint to some of the other  classic rogue-type characters in the anthology. Sort of a trickster rogue, as opposed to a thief, swashbuckler, or a con man.

“Besides,” I thought to myself. “It’s just a short story. Three or four thousand words. Maybe 6 or 7 thousand if I run long. That’s about two week’s writing, tops.”

So I started writing about Auri. But as it unfolded, it went in directions I hadn’t expected. The story was… strange. I hit 3000 words and I was barely started. Writing about the Underthing was more complicated than I’d anticipated.

So the story got longer. I hit 7ooo words without even realizing it. I kept going, unearthing more secrets about Auri and the Underthing.

Eventually I hit about 15,000 words and forced myself to stop. It wasn’t going to work for the anthology, it was too long, and it wasn’t a trickster tale of the sort I initially expected it to be. Honestly didn’t know what the hell kind of story it was, but it wasn’t going to work for the anthology.

I e-mailed George and Gardner and begged for an extension on my deadline. They were very kind and understanding. I tried a few different things that failed miserably, then I realized who *really* belonged in an anthology about Rogues: Bast. Once I figured that out, I wrote “The Lightning Tree” for the anthology, and it worked out really well.

But I was stuck with half a story. Half a strange story. Half a strange, too-long story that wasn’t doing the things a story is supposed to do.

Reluctantly, I walked away from it and went back to working on book three. I love Auri, and the story had an odd sweetness to it. But I had work to do.

But the Auri story kept tickling at me. And let me tell you this, having a half-finished story stuck in your head is ten times worse than having a song stuck in there.

And there’s only one way to get it out. So when I came to a good stopping point in my revisions, I went back to the Auri story. It just wouldn’t leave me alone.

It ended up over 30,000 words long. An odd length for me. Much too long for a short story. Much shorter than my usual novels. (For a frame of reference, 30,000 words is about the same length as Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.)

What’s more, the story had unfurled into something full of secrets and mysteries. Something sweet and strange. Not a normal sort of story at all. I suppose it was silly of me to assume a story about Auri would be usual in any way.

The problem was, I had no idea what to do with it. I liked the story, but I like strange things. And I’m fond of Auri. And most importantly, I’m the author. Asking me if I like my story is like asking a mom if she likes her baby….

I showed it to a few people, and they seemed to like it pretty well. But they were friends, you can only trust them to be so honest with you.

I revised it a couple times, then showed it to a few authors. They liked it, but they agreed, it was an odd story.

Then I took a big risk and showed it to Vi Hart. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog where she put some of my lyrics to music, we are now Best Friends.

So I knew her, and respected her opinion, but since we haven’t known each other very long, I trusted her to tell me the truth.

She read it, and we talked about the story. She pointed out some things she thought were problematic. I agreed. She pointed out some things she liked, and I was flattered.

We were in a bar in San Fransisco at this point. The Casanova. We’d spent a lovely evening together, and I was drinking a little bit, which is unusual for me. And it might be because of that that I started to lament the fact that the story was kind of a hot mess. Good stories are supposed to contain certain elements, I explained, and my story didn’t have those things.

Vi said she liked it.

I told her I liked it too, but that didn’t change the fact that people expect certain things from a story. If people read this story looking for those things, they wouldn’t get them, they’d be dissatisfied. Disappointed.

And Vi said something I hope she’ll forgive me for paraphrasing here without asking her first. She said, “Fuck those people. Those people get all the other stories in the world. Everyone writes stories for them. This story is for people like me. We deserve stories too.”

That shut me up. Because she’s right. It might not be for everyone. But not every story has to be for everyone. Maybe this was just a story for people like me and Vi. People who are curious about Auri and the life she leads. People who are, perhaps, not entirely normal.

Vi said a few other things that gave me enough confidence to send the story to my agent. He liked it, and said we should show it to Betsy, my editor at DAW. Betsy liked it. Really liked it. The people in her office liked it.

That made me think that maybe it *was* a story for everyone. Or maybe there are more people like me and Vi in the world than either of us expected.

Anyway, the end result is this:

Slow Regard - Front

I’ll have more details about it later. Exact dates. If and when I’m touring. Those things are still up in the air a bit right now.

But today’s the day we’re officially announcing the cover, showing it off to people at C2E2 and letting it out onto the internet. I’ve been holding off on this post so y’all could be some of the very first people to see it.

I think a lot of you are going to like it.

Fondly,

pat

Also posted in book covers, cool news, Neil Gaiman, Stories about stories., the business of writing | By Pat156 Responses
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