Monday, April 30, 2012

Mysterious Tales Of Mystery

So here's the thing: I spend a lot of time thinking of stories. Some people like to sing in the shower, I like to plot out scenes. Usually, that's all I get. One scene, one encounter, with a handful of characters.

But when I come to write them out, I often second guess myself and start to see the flaws in the story, or the simplicity of the writing. Or maybe I just don't like how it flows on the page. But for whatever reason, the story gets scrapped and I move on.

The thing is, I really like to write. I've posted some stuff here in the past, from an idea to reboot Batman to a collection of opening paragraphs. Some of my tales come from playing in RPGs with friends, while others evolve from my desire to have an enjoyable back-story for my character. Once, I even posted a story that was inspired as a reply to a friends email!

So I'll stay writing. I'll stay scrapping works and getting frustrated. I'll stay world-building and character generating. And maybe, some day, I'll have something I really like, and I can go back to that world for a few more pages, a few chapters or even, just maybe, a few books.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Untitled Short Story

I'm asleep at my desk with my hat down and my feet up when she walks in. My assistant likes to let clients through unannounced. He says it's to remind me that he's not a secretary. I remind him that I don't need an assistant either, but we both know that's a lie.

I try to right myself a little too quickly and end up on my back behind the desk. I hear her stifle a laugh, but, to give her credit, by the time I'm on my feet, she has her serious face on again. Pity. I imagine she looks much nicer smiling. I imagine a lot of things in that first second.

She's got a trenchcoat on, soaked through from the afternoon rain. The curves of her body are mostly hidden, but the hints at what sits out of sight makes my mind, and other things, run wild. The hat covers most of her hair, but a few red strands lie on her shoulder, stuck to the coat.

I hit her with my best opening line.

"How can I help, ma'am?" Hey, this is a business, not a bar.

"It's my husband..." (My heart sinks) "He's missing." (That's better).

I offer Curves a chair and some water.

"Got anything stronger?" she asks.

I shake my head. "I run a legitimate business here. I uphold the law, not break it."

"That's okay. We don't have time for drinks. We need to get to my husbands office, where he was last seen." Curves turns from the desk and heads for the door, holding it open while I grab my coat. We step out into the gloom of the afternoon. I look up at the glow of traffic, shielding my eyes from the unending rain, popping my collar against the wind. Far above I can make out the murky shape of the dome, sickly rays of sunlight bleeding through.

"My car is this way," I say as I point her toward the garage. "Tell me about your husband."

"He runs the xenogenetics division for BioDiversity, developing new strains of XNA for clients. His office is at Maginus Base. That's where we're heading, Mr. Walsh."

"Wait." I grab her by the arm and spin her around. "Maginus Base? Isn't that...?"

"On the moon. Yes. I have two tickets to Jansen Base, the nearest civilian habitat, leaving in six hours. Can I count on your assistance? As you can imagine, I can pay you for your services, and expenses. I hear you're the best, Mr. Walsh. I need you."

My heart skips a beat before my brain reminds me that she's a married woman. I unlock my beat-up old Ford and yank the door open. It's not pretty, but it gets me places.

"Thank god you got those tickets, ma'am. I don't think this thing could handle the mileage."

She cracks a smile, and I'm lost in the movie theater of my imagination all over again.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fan Expo Vancouver: From One Rocketeer To Another

If you know me or follow my blog for long enough, you may have gotten the slight impression that I have a favourite genre. I've long been a fan of the pulp era. I love the Indiana Jones heroism, the lost cities, the deep jungles, the mysteries and marvels. I adore the fashion and wish some of it would swing back into fashion while I can still enjoy it! I just love the pulp era novels, the action, adventure and thrilling tales of daring-do! It's even been the genre of my most successful RPG campaign,  and it all started in 1991.

Now, admittedly, I had already been a fan of Indiana Jones at this point, but in the summer of 1991, I learned about the word "pulp", and what it meant. I saw, and fell completely into the world of, The Rocketeer!

The movie adaptation of Dave Stevens comic book stayed with me for years, taking up residence in the back of my brain, slipping out in dreams. When I got to college I discovered role-playing and found a hobby and friends where I could live out my adventures. Eventually I tracked down a copy of the DVD online and watched it for the first time in years.

And it was even better than I had remembered! It was subtle and witty, romantic and action-packed. It was four-colour action-adventure at it's finest. I watched it twice in two days, and both times were magical. I would watch it again and again, whenever I felt bored or lonely, or just to relive that excitement of childhood.

I wanted to be the Rocketeer, and thanks to the most incredible wife ever, I got to be, just a little. I got the jacket for Christmas, and with the help of the best group of friends in the world, she got me the helmet for my 30th birthday (link includes the video of me receiving the gift).

One of my long-term dreams was to meet Billy Campbell. I wanted to just meet him and tell him how much I enjoyed his portrayal of Cliff Secord. I know that any motion picture is a collaborative effort, with directors, writers and other actors all contributing to the experience, but Billy was Cliff. He was the Rocketeer. So in some small way, he influenced who I am today.

Billy Campbell was a guest at the recent opening year of the Fan Expo Vancouver. Even before I found this out, it had been my intention to attend in costume as The Rocketeer. I mean, really, who else? But once I saw his named added to the official list, my excitement went from "Happy to support a new comics convention" to "Oh. Emm. GEE. *high pitched squeal only dogs can hear*". Claire, once she got her hearing back, agreed to attend too, especially now that she had the opportunity to watch me go speechless.

So last Saturday we got up early, had a shower (a must if ever attending conventions, thank you very much), put on my costume and got into Downtown Vancouver early. The convention opened at 10am, and by 10:15 there was a significant line-up. As we reached the head of the line, one of the staff stopped me and said "You'll be wanting the Electric Playground booth. That's where Bill will be." "Thanks", I responded, grabbed my ticket and headed in.

As it turned out, Billy wasn't due to be at the signing booth until noon, so Claire and I wandered the floor, taking in some of the other attractions available. As noon approached we headed for the booth and joined the queue. I was a bit of a nervous wreck, but was delighted with how many people recognised the costume, both males and females, of all different ages. At one point I glanced across the booth and spotted Billy chatting to some fans. Rather than wait in the queue, I asked Claire to hold my spot, dashed around the area and said "Hi".

I chatted to him briefly, but really just wanted to know if we'd have a chance to get a photo at the booth. He assure me he would be delighted to do so, and I excused myself, returning to Claire.

We stood in line for a few minutes. We were near the head, but there were a few others in front of us waiting to meet other people at the booth. Then the staff called "Hey! Hey, Rocketeer! You just want to see Billy?" "Yeah!" "Come on forward."

First off, Billy is tall! Like, 6'4" tall! You can see the difference in the photos. He wasn't standing on anything. Secondly, every last inch of that 6'4" frame is pure, genuine kindness and decency. He was just incredible to talk to. He was so delighted to see someone wearing the costume, and even asked if he could try on the helmet! Billy "The Rocketeer" Campbell asked if he could try on my helmet that my wife and friends got for me! Now, there may be some vicious rumors going around online that I started crying, but it was just something stuck in my eye. The convention center was very warn with all us nerds in one place...

I had my Rocketeer DVD with me, one of only two DVDs I brought with me from Ireland, and he signed the cover. He even signed my sketch/autograph book too! We talked about the movie, and Dave Stevens, and a bit about the new comics from IDW, a company that really should update its own website with its own licenses. We briefly discussed the new Captain America movie and what a great job Joe Johnson did on it (the connection, for those of you lost on the apparent non-sequitur, is that Joe also directed The Rocketeer), though we both expressed dismay that there was no Billy Campbell cameo!

At the end of the few short minutes we spent talking at the booth, Claire and I whole-heartedly thanked Billy for his time and stepped aside to allow others to meet him. Without Fan Expo Vancouver, I and many other fans of his work would never have gotten to meet him. So thank you to everyone that helped make this event happen, and here's to many more to come!

But as I walked away through the crowds, I turned to my wife and kissed her, thanking her for being who she is and knowing me so well. Without her I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't have the costume I have and I would never have met Billy Campbell.

With Number One crossed off the "People I Most Want To Meet In The World", it's on to Numbers Two and Three, Sigourney Weaver and Dennis Quaid, in that order! Shouldn't be that hard.

Post Script: Two things before I go:

1) While standing in line someone asked to take my photo, then told me he was sending it to a friend. That friend had been one of the producers on The Rocketeer!

2) After signing the DVD, Billy commented that he should have written "From one Rocketeer to another". Don't worry Billy. I'll be back next year, and I'll have something for you to sign that on!

Fan Expo Vancouver: Stuart Immonen

As mentioned in my previous post, last weekend my wonderful wife and I attended the first day of the inaugural Fan Expo Vancouver. We met many wonderful people, and I talked about a broad selection of them before. Now I'd like to focus on one of two that were particularly special for me.

Stuart Immonen has long been a favourite artist of mine. I think I learned his name during his work on Nextwave with Warren Ellis, but I've been enjoying his work long before that. Superman: Secret Identity, written by Kurt Busiek is particularly memorable and beautiful, deserving of more acclaim than it has ever gotten. Of course, Stuart also had the unenviable task of taking over Ultimate Spider-Man after Mark Bagley's record shattering run of 111 continuous issues. But while Stuart has long been an incredible artist, he has been an incredible person for much, much longer. And I have a story to prove it.

In 2007 Mike Wieringo passed away. I wrote about it at the time, and it's something that came up when I was in San Diego Comic Con a year later, and over and over again in the last few years. The entire industry seemed to have been shaken by his loss and mention of his very name is still enough to bring a hushed reverence over any crowd of comic fans.

In June of 2008 Marvel released the What If... comic Mike was working on at the time of his passing, a comic that was completed by a whole host of triple-A names in the comics industry in his honor, and all proceeds went to charity. At HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina, that year, a bunch of those people involved got together to sign copies of the comic for fans. I wasn't able to attend, but desperately wanted a copy, so, in a move that was incredibly forward and bold of me, I emailed one of the people that would be there to ask if he'd pick me up a copy. The worst he could say was "no".

Instead, Stuart assured me that, if he had the time, he'd be delighted to do so. A few days after the convention, Stuart emailed me again to tell me that it was a crazy busy time, and he unfortunately could not get me a copy. I thanked him and thought nothing more of it until a week or two later when I got another email from Stuart telling me that he had received a copy as a memento of the event and, I quote, "I certainly don't need a signed book, and in fact INSIST on forwarding it to you." He insisted! How could I turn that down? By way of a "thank you", I donated $100 to the Hero Initiative, a charity for people in the comics industry that need assistance. Stuart had even kindly added "To Denis" in one corner, much to my eternal joy*.

I never believed I would ever get to meet Stuart to thank him in person for such an awesome gesture, but thanks to the first ever Fan Expo Vancouver, I got to stand in front of him, hold back a rising flood of tears and recount my amazing tale. His wonderful and hilarious wife Kathryn was by his side and told me that she remembered the correspondence, and was delighted to meet me.

I live in an amazing world where amazing things happen every day. I'd grateful that I get to be a part of a surprising number of them on an annual basis**.

*- I would love to include a photo of the comic in question, but one of the disadvantages of moving to Vancouver was that I left a lot of prized possessions at home in the care of my mother, and I don't seem to have a photo posted on my Flickr account or elsewhere. Oh well.
**- This was so amazing I forgot to ask if I could get a photo with Stuart. To say that I was a little star-struck is an understatement.

Related Posts
Mike Wieringo
A Story From Two Years Ago

Fan Expo Vancouver: Year One

Last weekend my wonderful wife and I attended the first day of the inaugural Fan Expo Vancouver in sunny Downtown Vancouver! Every word in that sentence is true, even the "sunny" bit. It was a beautiful day, not too hot for those of us in costume, but more importantly, not raining.

For a "Year One" event, the organizers did a fantastic job lining up some incredible guests. Claire was thrilled to be able to say "hello" to Marina Sirtis, the actress that played Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as voicing Matriarch Benezia in the first Mass Effect game. I got to chat to one of Star Trek's supreme beings, Q, in his form of actor John de Lancie, possibly my favourite Star Trek... erm... antagonist? Enemy or villain sounds too strong. Mostly he ended up just being hilarious and annoying. I also said "Hi" to Aaron Douglas, who, had I known in advance that I'd get to meet him, I would have asked to sign my BattleStar Galactica: The Board Game piece*! I missed out getting to meet David Hayter and Jennifer Hale (I even had my steel case copy of Mass Effect 3 in my bag) due to a hungry, hungry tummy, and I regret not saying "hello" to Michael Dorn (who you can currently catch in the latest season of Castle, folks!**) when I had the chance.

Most of the guests I was interested in meeting had a table covered in glossy, high quality images on sale that they would sign for you. This usually ranged from $20 to $30. Unfortunately, what with the whole "between work permits" thing that we're on right now, we couldn't afford to buy any, so we didn't really get any autographs. We felt a little embarrassed talking to some of the celebrities, knowing that we wouldn't be buying their merchandise, but we made sure not to take up much of their time. There's always next year.

The Fan Expo once again also gave me the opportunity to show off the amazing gift my amazing wife and amazing friends bestowed upon me, and dress up in costume as The Rocketeer! This is the second time I've had the joy of appearing as my number one all-time favourite movie hero, the first being back in August of last year at PAX Prime. I never did get around to uploading photos of that event, so I'll see about rectifying that soon.

I was delighted at how many people of all ages recognised the costume, and spent all day getting stopped for photos. Once Claire and I had decided to head out for food, it took us over 30 minutes to cross the main floor, as I couldn't move ten feet without getting stopped. Of course, I loved it, and delighted in letting people hold and even try on the helmet. It's great to be able to make someone's dream come true, and there were a lot of Rocketeer fans at the Fan Expo, but only one Rocketeer. Actually, there were two, but I'll get to that in another post.

The first Fan Expo Vancouver was, as far as this convention attendee is concerned, a roaring success. I have no doubt it will be back, bigger and better, next year, and I'll be there.

Post Script: But that's not all, dear Reader! There are two very special guests I haven't mentioned here and want to talk about, but each deserves their own post, and so they shall get it. In both cases, it was a chance to meet someone I never thought I would ever have the chance to meet. In one of those cases it was the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream, in the other, the chance to say "Thank you". Coming soon!

*- Admittedly I'd have needed to know far in advance, as it's still back in Ireland with friends. 
**- "Who", or "Whom"?!? Usually I know, but this instance has me stumped.

Some more photos from the convention floor:

Some photos were more enjoyable to pose for than others...
It's Matt Wagner's Mage! It's like he stepped off the comic page into real life!
Two of the greatest pulp heroes, together at last! This guy was hilarious and great to meet.
I got some amazing and treasured photos with incredible people, but this is probably my favourite photo of the convention. I didn't know he was doing this, as my vision is severely restricted in that helmet. Hilarious!

I asked to get a photo with these guys, as Joe Johnson directed both The Rocketeer and the recent Captain America movie. Very cool.
This was an entirely homemade costume! It was beautiful! Fantastic job. He had the mask, but it was getting too stuffy to wear, which I could sympathize with.