Category: Uncategorized


Facebook and web sites and Twitter, oh my. The intarwebs feature a lot of channels of information these days, and it seems that in recent years the web has been sort of polarizing around a few of them. I tend to overwhelmingly use four of these channels, and in so doing have come to see the strengths and weaknesses in them. I mention this not to promote my new internet marketing seminar (I’m not, because I just made that up), but because I spatter this web site with links to my Facebook page and Twitter feed, and you might want to know why they’re relevant. And also because I’ve just started working as the internet voice for my very good friends at Super Genius Games, for which I’ll be using largely the same tools.

So let’s start with me. Cause, you know, it’s me.

  • This web site is a great place for me to tell you stuff. I own the space, and can go into as much detail as I like. I love your comments—seriously, I await them breathlessly every day—but conversations on a web site tend to be short and not too immediate. Mostly, I talk to you.
  • On the other hand, Twitter is a conversation tool. It’s the place for people to talk to each other live and in (virtual) person. If you talk to me here, or on Facebook, or a message board, I might answer in an hour or a day. But if we’re talking on Twitter it’s a live chat. Twitter is fine for shooting out announcements, but they’re mostly just directing you to other places (like this). So mostly, on Twitter, I talk with you. (In fact, in the time I’ve written the above few paragraphs, I’ve chatted with three or four friends on Twitter.) Did I mention you can reach me at @charlesmryan?
  • Facebook is kind of like the web, but, having its roots in a social network, even business-oriented pages need to have a more casual, less corporate feel to them. And the nature of Facebook posts make them shorter and more immediate than a web site. I use my Facebook page as a sort of writer’s journal: Whereas I post on this site a few times a week (when things are ticking along), choosing Topics of Grave Import, I usually post about the writing process on my Facebook page just about every time I write. Posts tend to be brief, spontaneous, and a bit more personal than the web site—but more in-depth than Twitter. And you can find them on Facebook at Charles M Ryan (no dot after the M).
  • The honorable mention goes to message boards, the internet grandaddy of all this social media stuff. Message boards are a great place for in-depth discussion and back-and-forth. I love me some message boards, and I’m active on a lot of them. But they’re someone else’s turf, so their relevance to any given user can ebb and flow. My ENworld handle is CharlesRyan; you can also find me on the WotC Community and I still drop in on UK Roleplayers.

So there you have it: It all makes sense now. These communication channels aren’t bewildering and redundant after all—they all have their own, wonderful strengths and uses!

That’s how I use these things for my own purposes, and probably how we’ll be using them at Super Genius as well. (You can hit us on Twitter at @SuperGeniusRPG. We’re also on Facebook and the web at the obvious addresses.) I find that a clear understanding of each channels helps me get the most out of them, both as a general-purpose user and a guy with a message to get out. Are you active across all of these channels, or do you keep a limit on it—and if so, why?

Comment below; you know you wanna! And receive an email notification of every update to this site by subscribing (see the link to the right). Converse with me on Twitter at @charlesmryan, or follow my writing diary on Facebook at Charles M Ryan.

After a terrific November, I more or less took the month of December off from writing. Not deliberately, but I find it hard to make the time when the kids are around, and we had so much snow that, between that and the holidays, the kids only went to school for four full days out of the month.

The Great December Blizzard of 2010. Actually, one of four Great December Blizzards of 2010.

January is a new month, and I’m back into it. Not a lot of progress so far, but then the kids still haven’t returned to school. (C’mon, Monday!) I’ve put a nifty progress chart over on the right, but because I have to update it by hand every day, it’s probably not going to be very accurate.

Anyway, you don’t care about all that. What you might care about is that we’re closing in on the posting of more of The Mason of New Orleans. (For those of you not keeping up, that’s a working title, so don’t get too caught up on it one way or the other.) Just a few more downloads, and we’ll have met my goal and I’ll start posting chapters. With a tiny push, we should be able to make that happen in time for a return of Martin’s Monday Medieval Madness on, well, Monday.

What’s that, you say? You haven’t read this stunning work of literary genius yet? OK, don’t panic—I’ve got you covered. You can download and give it a read right here. You won’t be sorry.*

Click through for PDF.

*Disclaimer: You may actually be sorry. But you probably won’t be very sorry, because it only takes a moment to download and a few seconds to open and less than a half-meg of hard-drive space, and you can quickly delete if you don’t like it. But you’ll probably like it.

As always, I live for your comments. My very existence hangs upon them. Say something, dammit!

Comment below. And receive an email notification of every update to this site by subscribing (see the link to the right). Follow me on Twitter at @charlesmryan or find me on Facebook at Charles M Ryan.

Oglaf (not entirely safe for work)

If you are a gamer, and you are not a puritan, and you like funny things, you should be reading the web comic Oglaf. Oglaf will make your Mondays worth getting out of bed for.

One of my favorite strips

(That whole “not a puritan” bit: there’s the rub. Oglaf is Not Safe For Work. Not every episode is about sex, but this is definitely one of the cleaner ones. And even it has boobies.)

Oglaf is, apparently, the brainchild of Trudy Cooper, who also pens Platinum Grit. I say “apparently” because the web site gives nothing away. Oglaf.com is a lesson in web simplicity: there’s a new comic weekly, and an archive (which kindly lets you know exactly how NSFW each strip is), and a link to a very limited web store. And nothing else.

But that’s not why I love this comic. Nor are the boobs, though they don’t hurt. What I really love is how Cooper captures a style of fantasy I’ve fallen away from but still remember from my youth. It sits somewhere between Conan the Barbarian and the Chronicles of Gor, and taps into the imagery of Vallejo, Frazetta, and Brom. (To be fair, the strip I’ve pasted in above doesn’t do that justice; try this one instead. Just keep my warnings in mind.) Although the comic bounces between a multitude of short, disconnected plotlines, with just a few recurring characters, it nonetheless evokes a distinct setting. I’m tempted to run a game in this world–though I’d need a tolerant set of players.

The artwork is, without exception, fantastic. I really like Cooper’s use of color; check out the palette in this strip. The occasional forays into the realm of fairytales give it a satirical edge. She also sometimes lets us see that she’s a gamer herself, letting a few D&D tropes slip in. And the tenuous storylines that do exist keep me coming back for more.

So go ahead. Click on the archive and start reading. And bookmark it for Monday mornings. Just make sure your boss isn’t looking.

Receive an email notification of every update to this site by subscribing (see the link to the right). Follow me on Twitter at @charlesmryan or find me on Facebook at Charles M Ryan.

Illo-a-Week: Miami Speed

I’ve been remiss with Illo-a-Week. I have a number of excuses of varying validity, but mostly it’s just been laziness. Since the last one was tall and skinny, how about a long skinny one this time?

From the Miami Sourcebook for Millennium's End

This is another one from the Miami Sourcebook for Millennium’s End, which, judging from this column, apparently got a lot of my best work. (Although, like the cop from a couple of months back, this might have been a reuse of artwork that originally appeared in the Nightwalker/The Villee Affair adventure book.)

Fixing The War of the Worlds

[I originally posted this to my personal blog on the Wizards Community about a year ago. It turned out to be the one and only post I ever made there, and it’s unlikely I’ll start using it again now that I’m keeping this one up. Such as it is. In any event, I’m reposting here in an effort to consolidate my online universe. And to save myself the effort of putting together a real post today. No, just joking about that last point; I’m going to try to get another post up later today. Or tomorrow. Or the next day.]

I have opinions on many things, and am generally pretty good about sharing them (if “good” is really the right term). One opinion I’ve held for a long time, but I don’t recall really sharing, relates to The War of the Worlds. I walked Horsell Common just outside Woking yesterday (the site at which H.G. Wells had the first martian spacecraft land, thereby making it the site of the first alien invasion ever publicly imagined by mankind), and my kids’ curiosity has led me to put on the Jeff Wayne version this afternoon. So no better time than the present to share this thought.

8e3a9eafa8579216f457583aa311b3a8.jpg?v=91500

There has never been a good movie version of The War of the Worlds. OK, so that part is hardly revolutionary. But I know why, and I can pin it down to three specific reasons.

The first is not insurmountable, but it does lead to the others. The film tradition for this story is to retell it as a modern tale–the martians invade today. But guess what: the concept of alien invasion is so cliched now that this diminishes the classic into the same category as Independence Day or a thousand other action-adventure SF tales. A turn-of-the-century setting would help this story stand out from the crowd and let it stand on its own merits, insulating it from inevitable comparison to other films that might frankly do the alien invasion action thriller thing better. WotW isn’t really an action thriller, despite many thrilling scenes, and setting it in its proper time and place would let it better be what it really is. Plus it would just be really cool to see the alien invasion theme juxtaposed on Wells’s Victorian England instead of the usual modern America.

The second mistake is the most egregious, and it follows from the first: In pitting the martians against the modern military, filmmakers lack the vision to make them threatening without making them invulnerable. So it’s invulnerable they are, and nothing we can throw at them does any good.

This is a serious flaw. Wells’s aliens were distinctly NOT invulnerable, even to the military technology of 1889. Humanity was seriously outmatched, and every battle was won easily by the martians. But the Thunderchild destroyed multiple tripods before the martians melted her valiant heart, and in doing so achieved a level of drama the films have never matched. When Spielberg’s military continues to throw itself at the martians despite knowing that nothing works, well, that’s just futility. When the Thunderchild charges the tripods in the Thames estuary, taking two of them down so the refugee steamers can escape, that’s heroism of the highest order. The tripods are just killable enough that heroism makes a difference, but their victory is just certain enough that the heroism is true heroism. Wells walks the line perfectly. It doesn’t seem like that’s rocket science, but no filmmaker has managed to follow him along that line.

The third issue relates to a serious flaw in the original story, one that a careful scriptwriter ought to be able to address, but none ever has. Wells explores all of humanity’s countermeasures to the invasion: military action, science, human endeavor, heroism, and God, and finds them all lacking; in the end it’s the common cold that kills off the martians. This is basically a deus-ex-machina ending, but Wells at least foreshadows it in the early passages of the novel. I don’t think any of the film versions even bother to foreshadow, let alone improve the storytelling. I posit that setting the film in its native 1898 would make it easier to do so; at least in that context the study of bacteria was as cutting-edge as many other of the story’s concepts, so there’d be some reason to spend a little time on it.

So there you go: my thoughts on how to fix the film woes of War of the Worlds. Sure would like to see such a version in my lifetime. How would you fix it?

 

Aaaand, we’re back!

I have been terribly remiss in website-updating duties. To be fair, I went about six weeks without any real internet access, only able to see into the net via a cell-phone window or by hauling the laptop 10 miles to McDonalds for use of their free wifi. But I’ve now had real net access for about a week, and I’m only now just getting something posted here–and even this is just a note to say I’m alive and will, very soon, start updating regularly again. Like you care.

Look forward to exciting, real content in the days to come. Well, real anyway. Like you care.

I’m incommunicado. We’ve moved into short-term lodgings here in the US, but getting anything connected has been a nightmare. No phone installed yet. No cable. We don’t have cell phone reception. And internet? They’re saying two to four weeks for installation. So I’m driving to the local McDonalds (10 miles away) to use their free wifi once every couple of days. Kinda puts a dent in one’s online life.

Not everything in complete suckage though: some things are just surreal. Ever hear of one of those cases where a plane makes an emergency landing on a highway? So have I. Ever been witness to the spectacle? Now I have. And not just any plane: a vintage 1930s plane that would have been a thrill to see under any circumstances. The stretch of road it landed on is curved on a fairly steep uphill. And crossed at several points with overhead wires. Kudos to the pilot for a hell of a landing. Not so much for his keeping-the-eyes-on-the-fuel-guage skill.

Here’s a pic of the plane where it ended up. Hard to make out in this shot, cause it’s about 200 yards from where the road is blocked off. And this was taken with my camera phone.

It's that little white line surrounded by approximately 16 million emergency vehicles. Which is odd, since apparently nobody was hurt and nothing was damaged.

Here’s a closer shot. They’ve taxied the plane up to the interchange and turned it around to face back downhill.

Ready for takeoff, sir!

And here’s a clip of it setting off again. For those who’ve ever wondered what I sound like, that’s not me whooping and cheering as it sets off. You can hear me commenting on taxiing vs. taking off near the end of the clip.

Twister!

What the? Mid August already? I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I’ve updated this supposedly-three-posts-a-week-site! I guess the nomadic life isn’t too conducive to keeping up with the intarwebs.

And eventful that nomadic life has been. But instead of the boring details, here’s a picture of the funnel cloud that formed just offshore from us Sunday morning:

A waterspout tries to organize itself just off Hilton Head. But ultimately fails. Pic taken from our patio.

Despite living in heavy thunderstorm zones most of my life, I’d never before seen a funnel cloud (let alone a tornado). As a bonus, we saw a second one later that day, though it was much further offshore. Neither managed to develop beyond what you see here.

Here’s a bit of fun for you: Rowan, my 4-year-old, shows us all how to play Zombie Dice. It may not seem to go well for him, but look out: He’s a shark. He wins more than he loses.

And We’re Outta Here!

Well, not quite yet. But word was just officially posted on the D&D UK group blog, so I can finally spill the beans.

My time with Esdevium Games has come to an end, and with it my tenure as the Marketing Manager for D&D in the UK, and my (and my family’s) time Over Here. I have been, as we say in England, “made redundant,” and the loss of my job also means the end of our visa to remain here. So we’re saying goodbye to the terrific home we’ve made in the UK and returning to the land of our origin–probably sooner rather than later.

This is not the first time I’ve been laid off, and when it’s happened before we’ve always ended up someplace even better than the circumstances we left behind. So in the long run, I’m quite optimistic. We’re also looking at settling, events allowing, on the southern East Coast of the US, because that will put us within a few hours’ drive of most of our extended family, who are spread out over that region. (We haven’t lived within 2500 miles of family since our children were born, so that will be a nice change.) It doesn’t hurt that that region tends to be sunny and warm, and after 10 years in Seattle and England, we kinda miss the sun and the warm.

Also, couldn’t ask for a better time to be on gardening leave. Bit cool and cloudy today, but the past few weeks have seen the finest weather we’ve experienced in four years in the UK. And it will be nice to join the family on holiday in August, and maybe even make it to Gen Con with my wife and without a diary stuffed full of business meetings.

All that said, the timing is a bit awkward. You may have heard they got this recession going on, so jobs are a bit thin on the ground. The specifics of our transAtlantic relocation are paid for, but on top of the usual difficulties of unemployment and moving, we’ll hit the ground with no car, no internet access, no phone, and worst of all no home. All surmountable problems, but they’ll put a dent in the job-seeking efforts. And it’s looking like the average time to land a job in the US is currently 35 weeks, during which, having not been employed in the US for years, Tam and I won’t be eligible for any form of job-seekers benefits. Yikes!

So if it’s not too cheeky, I’d like to ask you for a bit of help. Here are a few things you could do that would really help us out:

  1. If you don’t already, please follow me on Twitter (@charlesmryan) and check this site out regularly. I don’t know if I’ll stick with marketing or return to other aspects of my professional experience, but in this day and age a marketer’s social network is part and parcel of his CV. Also, who knows: It might occasionally be edifying. Or witty. Someday.
  2. We have to clear out a lot of stuff before we relocate–for example, almost none of our electrical or electronic gadgets can thrive on US electricity. (And there’s lots of other stuff that it’s not practical to take.) Please have a look at our eBay auctions–maybe you can grab a bargain on something you want or need. No games up as of this writing, but I’ll probably add some, including some unique and collector’s items. This is a moving feast, with new items going up daily, so please check regularly over the next week or two.
  3. You might know that some of my older published works are available in PDF format. Check them out and see if there’s anything you like. There’s a bundle that gets you the lot for a terrific price. (Even if you have one or two of these titles, you could still save money on the rest with this option.) Or if you prefer to cherrypick, while Millennium’s End might be a bit dated (dated but COOL!), the Operatives Kit, GM’s Companion, and Ultramodern Firearms d20 are all pretty universal, as are Psychosis: Ship of Fools and Psychosis: Solitary Confinement. You might notice that I’ve conveniently linked these titles directly to their DriveThruRPG pages, so you’re just one click away from gaming bliss.
  4. Shoot me your comments or thoughts, on this site or via Twitter or whatever. Cause, you know, it just helps to hear from people.
  5. Spread the word on all of the above. Far and wide.

If you can spare a moment for one or two of the above points, you’ll help ease this transition for us a bit. And hopefully you’ll find it worth the effort.

In the mean time, I’ll keep this site up to date and let you know how things get on!

%d bloggers like this: