Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Let's Bring in Some New People

Heads up folks. Here at Jimbo's Science Fiction and Fantasy Reviews we don't generally do commercials as such. I am more than happy to review something I've read or watched but this is a bit different. Today I'm doing an advert for a product that I flat out wouldn't know how to use if I had it. So needless to say, I don't have any personal experience with this. I just wanted to throw my weight behind it because I thought it was a really good idea.

Yes, you read that right. No, it's not a typo. See, here at Jimbo's we (all one of us) like to promote true inclusiveness into our hobbies. No, I don't mean fake inclusiveness that comes from excluding certain people in the style of K. Tempest Teacup or the last couple years or the Nebula Awards where "inclusiveness" means freezing out large segments of the population. I'm talking about inclusiveness where you actually bring new people into a hobby without finding it necessary to remove others that you happen to not like.  That's the right way to expand interest in something you love. You do it without spreading hate.

Anyway, what I came across in my journeys across the Magical Book of Faces was a product that promotes TRUE inclusion. It's something that I had never thought about but that makes a ton of sense once you have your face rubbed in it. (And yes my friends, sometimes face rubbing is what it takes.) Apparently, blind people have trouble reading dice. Yeah, I guess I should have realized that off rip, but since I had never gamed with a blind person before, the obviousness of this never dawned on me.

What the DOTS RPG Project has done is to make braille dice. Now blind people have a way to read their own dice at the table. Now they can join in on the fun. Now they can have the whole group in suspense about what a die roll comes out to instead of the group having them in suspense. I love this idea. I also know that with my sick sense of humor, I'd sit there laughing at important points in the adventure/campaign and INTENTIONALLY keep people in suspense because that's just me.

There is some stuff on their page about how to read these. Something about orientations and corresponding letters and probably something else that someone who actually knows how to read braille would probably understand. I don't read braille though, so it may as well have been Chinese as far as I'm concerned. I'd probably do better with Chinese. I don't read that either but at least I know a hanzi when I see it. If you put something in braille in front of me, I'm just as likely to think it's Morse Code or something.

The post I read also said that DOTS was planning on doing braille rulebook(s) at some point. I totally love that idea but if they exist at this point in time I was not able to find a link and so I couldn't include one. If someone who has a link to the rulebook(s) in question please drop a link in the comments. Also, please understand that I'm not leaving them out intentionally, but through ignorance.

Somewhere out there someone is reading this and thinking "Hey Jimbo, why are you putting this here? This blog does Science Fiction and Fiction. These dice aren't specfic. They actually exist." If that's you, then you have a point, sort of. I mean, these dice are real but they're intended (at least in part) for SF/F purposes. Seriously. Other than being pen and paper RPGs, what do all of the following having in common?

Heroes Unlimited
Dungeons and Dragons
GURPS (most settings anyway) and

They're all set in SF/F universes. They are SF/F. Pen and paper role players are us and we are them. It's time to bring more people into the club. Let's help them learn about Science Fiction and Fantasy. Dice (and I know this from experience) are a gateway drug. This way folks. A good GM/DM might as well be a good author when it comes to generating interest into things.

While I'm on the subject, I'm going to ask a couple of questions here that I honestly don't know the answers to. If you do, please leave the answers below because I'm interested, but I work sixty-five hours a week and I don't really have the time to research answers.

1.) Are popular SF/F books available in braille? Seriously? I mean, I know it's got to be more expensive to produce a braille brook than a printed one. I don't have the figures available at my fingertips but I can't see how it wouldn't. I would imagine that most independent authors (and I love indy authors, you're the lifeblood of my blog) can't really afford to offer braille printouts. But what about companies like Tor or Baen? They both sell lots of books and it should be possible I would think. If they don't I think they should. If they do, then good on them. I'm not insinuating that they don't. I'm flat out stating my ignorance in the matter. That's a totally different thing.

2.) Do SF/F authors/publishers (or any other author/publisher for that matter) donate free downloads of their audio books to charities for the blind? You know, like the Lions clubs or something. If not, they should. Again, if they do, then good on them. I'm not really sure how this would work with an Audible contract either. Speaking of which, does Audible do donations? There has to be a tax deduction here somewhere if it's a charity. Again, I'm not trying to make it look like they don't. I just don't know if they do.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for legislation to force anyone to do anything. I happen to believe that we have too many laws in this country already. I just think it would be something nice and something that could possibly bring economic benefits long term. No, I don't have statistics available. I haven't done the research and I don't have the chops to generate that kind of a study myself if I had. It just occurs to me that a person who gets a free book (like, oh say the first book in a series) might want to read/hear more from the same author.

Getting back on topic, the dice are now available for sale. There is also another site where you can download the directions to make your own. Er, actually it's a 3D printer program but close enough. I put the purchase link at the beginning of the post and I'm going to put it at the bottom as well. I decided not to include a link to the download page for the simple fact that I want to see the proprietors of the DOTS program rewarded with money. Not only do they deserve it, but their continued existence as a company is going to depend on an income stream. If you want to see more products added in the future and support what their doing, support them from your pocket book. If you want the programs you can Google them I guess, but I would urge anyone who has a need for braille dice or a spot in their collection for something they can't get anywhere else to drop a few bucks on some of these dice.

Braille Dice
DOTS RPG Project, 2018

DOTS dice are available at the following link:

Edit: Per the requst of the DOTS staff, I am also including the link to download the 3D printing instructions for the dice.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One

(Author's note: I am honor bound to pre-acknowledge the fact that none of what I'm about to reference in the following paragraph has any historical value whatsoever. Ok, with the possible exceptions of two WW II Flicks, those being Tora, Tora, Tora and Midway.)  

I never thought we'd reach this point. I grew up watching movies and TV shows set in the past. You may think you know a fan of westerns but until you've met my grandpa and my dad, you really haven't met one. You may think you know someone who likes World War II flicks but until you've sat down on a weekend with myself, my father and some popcorn popped in a pan on the stove, you really don't. I'm still wondering why guys like my Uncle Bob who served in Korea never got their movies, but different blog/different day. Later came the Vietnam flicks. For some reason though, I never though my generation would get their chance. I thought that 80s nostalgia would never happen. Well, I guess I need to apologize. Ernest Cline's Ready Player One had me soaking in my childhood. It felt great.

Something I've noticed a lot of lately is the inclusion of the internet in stories. I'm a big fan of this. I don't mean just for googling or checking Facebook. I mean epic battles online, like in Nick Coles CTRL, ALT, Revolt! reviewed here,(and I really need to review Soda Pop Soldier too.) or in Cline's Ready Player One. Not only is it entertaining as all get out, but it makes business sense too. There are legions of gamers out there and this is something that's perfect for them. Seriously. I'm neither a fan nor a supporter of identity politics but I can't deny that it's cool to read a story about someone like me. I'm a gamer. When I read about other gamers, it makes me happy. It entertains me. That's the whole point of escapism right?

The kids in the book are after a prize; the world's most immense forturn.  The greatest game designer in history (James Halliday) has designed an alternative environment online, the Oasis. He charges only a quarter to buy into the environment and does not charge a subscription fee. He does, however charge for certain things online (online goods and space for people who want to create separate environments within his environment for example). When he passes due to old age, he leaves his fortune including control of his shares in the company that controls the Oasis to the person who can solve his puzzle and complete the accompanying requirements. It's not easy but many people become enthralled with the search. 

The Oasis eventually takes more and more of the time of the world to the point that many people only participate in society through the Oasis. Some (but not all) schools are conducted there. There are stores and a currency, which is listed as being the most stable currency in use. It goes so far that our hero, Wade Watts votes in the elections in the Oasis, but skips voting on real world politicians because the real world politics don't effect his life as much as the representatives that are in charge of the Oasis. In the context of the story that actually makes sense.

The part about this book that really makes it fun is the nostalgia though. Ready Player One is a celebration of all of the stuff I remember from when I was a kid. The early video games are here. (Ok, maybe just maybe it would have been more fun with more Intellivision because that's what I owned but  I didn't write it so it makes sense that it wasn't going to be perfect for me personally) Eighties music is here. Eighties movies are here. I don't want to reveal too much because a lot of the nostalgia is essential to the plot but dude.. it's everywhere. The kids in the book (and this is a Young Adult novel) are experts in Eighties culture because they have to be. The clues left to solving the mystery are based on Halliday's 80s pop culture obsession. A lot of the time in the book is kids discussing the same stuff I grew up loving. They're honestly better than me at most of the games I grew up playing, but then again nobody ever gave me a fortune for my performance either.
Ultra sensitive right wing readers may not enjoy this book. The Big Bad is a corporation bent on taking over the Oasis and increasing their profits. There is a surprise gender/race bend at one point in the book. It makes sense in a way, but if you're a right winger that is as easy to offend as the average social justice bully, you're going to get all butthurt over this one. I personally won't feel any sympathy for you, especially since the socjus entry in the book makes sense in context, adds to the story and isn't overly preachy. Your mileage may vary but don't come whining to me if it does. This is a good story with a lot of action and entertaining characters. What little bit of leftism is included in the book does nothing to diminish it to anyone other than the whiner type.
Ready Player One is a celebration. It is a celebration of the Eighties. It is a celebration of gaming. It is a celebration of the courage of a small group of people set against a huge opponent. It is a celebration of the indomitable human spirit. It is a celebration of people who are willing to come together to fight the establishment. It is a celebration of asskickery. That is fitting because Ready Player One kicks ass.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Stars

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
Dark All Day, Inc, 2011

Ready Player One is available for purchase at the following link:

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

How this Author Got his Co- Warren Hammond

(I'm really excited here everybody and let me tell you why:

I received an email one day from Sarah Craft, publicist for Hex Publishers. She offered me a chance to review some work in a new franchise they've got cooking over there called Denver Moon. I read a little bit about the book and it's got me stoked. Not only is it Science Fiction, and this is an SF blog, but it's a detective story. I got my start reading detective stories with the Hardy Boys and, even if my current consumption of mystery is mainly through police procedurals on TV, I still love them. But it gets better.

In my very first post I wrote of how comic books/graphic novels are totally SF. I've loved comics since I was a wee little Jimbo and my neighbor gave me a bunch of older books that his nephew was done with. AND NOW I GET TO REVIEW A GRAPHIC NOVEL!!!! YAY!!!!! It'll be my first review of a comic.  I'm geeked. So thanks to Sarah and Hex for that opportunity. I have the first two comics of Metamorphosis, the graphic novel. They're entitled Murder on Mars and Rafe's Revenge. I also have a copy of the novella, Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars. I haven't reviewed them yet because they haven't been released and I'm not sure what the legalities are regarding publishing a review for something that hasn't been released.

I was also offered the chance to host a guest post by one of the authors and I jumped at the chance. JABAMR is a place where authors are encouraged to share their thoughts with the public. So without further ado, here are the thoughts of Warren Hammond about co-authoring a piece. Oh, and thank you for the opportunity to host a guest post and review some really cool stuff!)

It was about two years ago when Josh Viola sent me an email. “Let me buy you a beer,” he said. “I have a project I hope will interest you.”

Sold by the first part, I met him on the north side of Denver. We’d gotten to know each other a bit over the preceding year or two. Josh is the owner of Hex Publishers, and I’d written a short story for his company’s very first book, Nightmares Unhinged. Then came book signings and more short story anthologies, and dare I say, we became friends.

Then came his offer of a free beer and a mysterious project. “I have this great idea,” Josh said. “A detective on Mars, and her name is Denver Moon. We can write it together.”

I wouldn’t say I was immediately taken with the idea of co-authoring, but I wasn’t opposed to it either. Lots of writers collaborate, especially in movies and television, where much of the content we see is produced by committee. Co-authoring is rarer in the book world but certainly not unheard of.

“Tell me more,” I said.

Josh elaborated on the story concept. “Denver Moon is a PI. Her sidekick is an artificial intelligence that’s been installed in her gun. Oh, and she’s colorblind.”


“Yes, but somehow that gives her an advantage.”

“How would that work?”

“I have no idea. What do you think?”

And that’s how it started. The sharing of ideas. The shaping and honing of those ideas. The creation of story.

Like most creative projects, you don’t know where to start, until you start. A short story seemed as good a place as any. Josh took the first stab by writing the first draft. Then I went in for the second crack. We were just starting to learn how to work together, and we passed the story back and forth a few times, each time making the story stronger and more complete, until finally, both of us were happy. That story, Metamorphosis, then became the basis for our graphic novel.

Enter a third collaborator, Aaron Lovett. Aaron is an artist, and I’d been plenty impressed by what I’d seen of his work. He’d done the cover art for Nightmares Unhinged, and I’d seen early versions of a comic book that became Tooth and Claw. Truth be told, Aaron was a huge reason I got involved in the Denver Moon project. Josh had been clear from the beginning that he wanted to do a three-issue comic, and I knew right then, I might never get an opportunity like this again. It’s a common dream amongst authors—especially those who write SF and fantasy—to see a story you wrote turned into a graphic novel. So how could I pass up the opportunity to see a story I co-wrote through the lens of an artist as talented as Aaron?

As I write this, Aaron is working on the third and final issue, and I can’t wait to see it. To me, this is the exciting part of collaborating. We all bring our own talents and perspectives, and the ultimate beneficiary is the work itself. Like the short story and the graphic novel, I couldn’t have written our next project, a novella, on my own. And neither could Josh. The novella, Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars, was product of the two of us.

This time we changed our process, and I was the one who wrote the first draft. We’d meet after every two or three chapters to discuss what was going to happen next, and only after I’d gotten to the end did Josh go in to clean it up, flesh it out, and add his personal touch.

Some co-authors use a different method. One author might write all the scenes from the point of view of one character, while the other author takes responsibility for a second character’s POV chapters. A friend of mine co-authored an urban fantasy series, where one author took the action scenes, and the other took the romantic scenes. I’ve also seen co-authors who simply break up the responsibility for chapters into odds and evens. In the end it doesn’t really matter as long as the reader can’t tell who wrote what. In fact, as my memory fades, it gets hard for even me to tell.

Our next novella (for now titled the unimaginative Denver Moon: Book Two) is currently under way. The first 9,000 words are written, and Josh and I met over beers just a couple nights ago to discuss what’s coming next in Denver’s world. We both had a ton of ideas. Some we’ll keep. Some we’ll have to toss. And some will stew in our collective mind until they morph into something new and unexpected.

After this next novella, we don’t know what’s next. We’ve thrown around some ideas, but to this point no decisions have been made. We’ll work that out later. Anything for an excuse to have a beer with a friend.

Some of the Hex Publishers products listed above are available for sale at the links below: