I wasn't planning to do a newsletter this week, and then Marvel dropped the first internal previews of Fall of the House of X and Rise of the Powers of X, which meant that if I waited until next week, it'd be overloaded with stuff. So I'm writing now, so you can have a timely drool.
This is what's going on ten years in the future of the X-men and two months in ours.
Both are out in January, which is worryingly close now, right? Hmm. Lucky I don't have about 6 or so scripts to write before then, eh?
They've also dropped the solicitations for February...
Rasputin IV having a whack of some sentinels. She's having a nice time, that Rasputin IV.
Crowdfunding at the mo is Star-crossed: Love letters is an expansion for Star-crossed, the two player RPG of forbidden romance. Basically, you play as two people who really want to get together, but can't, and you tell their story. It doesn't use dice. Like horror game Dread, it uses a Jenga tower to determine the game's progress. When the tower falls, you act on your feelings, for better or worse.
It's by Alex Roberts (whose For the Queen I've plugged a lot, and you'll know from the DIE backmatter where I interviewed her) and I like it a lot, so was especially delighted when Alex asked me if I wanted to do something.
It's called A Love Most Uncanny.
Here's Mye Bi's illustration...
It's about a runaway Variant born with strange gifts and the Orion hunter-robots that a prejudiced society has made to police them. But what happens is an impossible, uncanny love blooms?
Where do I get my ideas from?
Here's a couple of examples of the picklists, specifically why the two can't get together.
For the Orion...
Why can’t I act on my feelings? (circle one) - I am programmed to attack and even kill the Variants. I don’t know how long I could resist it. - I am part of a networked Orion pack. Sooner or later, one of my peers will notice and come for us. - If I engage intimately with a target-class being, my safeguards will be engaged. I will return to my factory state. - Something else: _____
For the variant...
Why can’t I act on my feelings? (circle one) - I’ve seen Orions kill a friend. I can’t betray their memory. - No matter what it says or does, I can’t believe it. The AI is clever. It’s a trap. - Because a robot can’t love. It’s just a malfunction. It’s not real. - Something else: _____
So yeah, you get the vibe.
Back here. You can also get the original game as part of your backing. I especially love how the expansion is designed to slip inside the main box.
Among the Thought Bubble pleasures was being one of the DJs at the Thought Bubble party again – it ended up being a relatively back-to-basics evening. The room was one of the hotels smaller ones, the sound system was a little bit wedding-reception but (thankfully) the crowd was fully committed. It was properly bacchanalian by the final hour, which is how we like it.
Which made me think it would be fun to talk through how we did that final hour, as from the DJ side, it was one of the more fun parts. The way we do the evenings is each DJ gets a set (likely half an hour) and after that, it's a free for all, where we throw around throw ideas, and we try and build a track ahead of the careening train. I did the majority of the physical DJing (i.e. putting the records on) but it was very much hive mind.
It worked like this.
Al had the set leading up to 11. Over dinner we has chatted about songs we don't normally play which we think would be large, and Born Slippy was mentioned (by Chrissy, I think). Al had the bright idea that its ending would segue pretty well with Blue Monday. We all thought that was a good idea, so thought we'd open with it, and then build from there.
Now, we basically had a selection of things we knew were true – landmarks, to head towards. I knew I wanted to play Sandstorm and knew we had to have something a little rockier in the mix. Sarah wanted to play Barbie Girl going into Firestarter, as she'd done it at our last club night, and it had worked great. We also knew that the evening ended with Total Eclipse, as that's the Tbubz classic.
So... how to connect all of this?
I just threw on Sandstorm after New Order (it was a shortened version of both – we weren't doing the 12”), as it felt at least tonally connected, and knew would go off large (It did). Then everyone panicked, as we needed to get from that to Barbie Girl – the sound of one gleeful annoyance into another, somehow.
We think Sarah suggested Love Machine, but she decided it was too high tempo and Barbie Girl would be a step down. This makes Al realise we want another Girls Aloud – specifically, Sound of the Underground , which is actually perfect and weirdly mid-way between the two. We throw it on, then prepare go to Barbie Girl and Firestarter..8 minutes of breathing space or so.
Girls Aloud prompts Mikey to come over – who was the first person to play music at a Thought Bubble when he plugged his Laptop into the room by the bar and we all danced as quietly as we can, as footstomps may overpower the noise. He says that the first song he ever played was actually Sound of the Underground, which I'd forgotten, which delights me. As he heads away, he says we should play Sabotage. I realise he's right.
I pitch we play it after the Prodigy, to segue to a little rock. I think earlier we asked Alistair Kennedy what My Chemical Romance we should play – he said I'm Not Okay (I Promise) so that follows Sabotage. After that, we're on the back straight, and are interrupted by someone who's been dancing near the front of the stage, quietly by herself. She requests Taylor Swift.
Honestly? She was so phonogram-y music-as-church sincere that there's no way I could say no, but Shake It Off absolutely bridges back towards pop stuff. Jazzlyn suggested Perry's Firework – the sort of anathematic shouting record that really is reliant on an audience buying in, and we figured the audience was perhaps primed for that. They were.
Then it was a tumble of Tbubz classic connections – Call Me Maybe to Call your Girlfriend into 212, 212 into I Love It. Much like Shake It Off, I love It has been dropped in the last few years , but had showed up a lot circa WicDiv. The increasing amount of hardness to songs is the thing I like about this flow – Call me Maybe to Call your Girlfriend or vice versa is one of my favourite basic connections, for obvious reasons – the pun, and the switch from two forms of pop, both of which connect to a lot of things.
By then, we knew time was running out – the plan was to go from a Florence – either Dog Days Are Over or Raise it Up – then Mr Brightside, climaxing with Total Eclipse. Glancing at the time, I made an executive decision to drop Florence rather than Mr Brightside, as it kind of is in a similar space to Total Eclipse in its specific form of scale.
(To give an idea of how the sound system wasn't quite there, the shouts for ONE MORE were drowning out about thew first minute of Total Eclipse. )
Anyway – that's the thought pattern behind all of this, as best as I remember it. So much in this newsletter is about telling a story and the creative decisions made which shape that. This is just that, with a conversation between a blob of DJs and a dancefloor.
To get the length more right, I used the 88 Blue Monday here – it was the 12 inch with the drum intro by itself we played, then cut short.
I'll likely write more properly about Thought Bubble next time, but until then, here's Bleeding Cool's write up of the live DIE RPG game I ran for Al Ewing, Becky Cloonan, Ram V and Michael W Conrad. It includes some Tiktok videos as well, to capture the (er) chaos. The high concept is basically everyone on stage are playing fictional comic book creators and the audience were playing fans of the fictional comic, and the whole thing structured around being a panel. I was incredibly pleased with how well this went. The audience were absolute stars.
And a few days before, I grabbed lunch with Jimmy Aquino to record a Comic Book Insider, to talk about what's been going on. You want a casual chat about a lot of things comics, here's where to go. I think the mike was on when I was talking about a Spider-man/Uranos scene I wanted to do, which I don't think I mentioned before.
Polygon does an oral history or the period when Games Workshop had a record label. This whole period of GW when they're transitioning from weirdo hobbyist metalheads to the Disney With Chainswords is fascinating.
Cannibal Halfling review Shared Fantasy: Roleplay Games As Social Worlds, the 1981-era academic text, which was the first sociological academic treatsie on the RPG scene. I read this as part of DIE's research (you'll see me turn up in the comments here) but if you don't want to, this review is a great overview of a really interesting artifact which captures gaming in a transitional state. Which seems to be a theme of the links this time.
That Musk was going “Right on, mate” to pretty clear unvarinised anti-Semitism conspiracy theory last night means this essay may be too light in tone, but it's a methodical examination of what we've learned from having a year of him shitting the bed while being shat on by shitposters.
My historical pop hit this, and I have to share James Brown and the Famous Flames on the T.A.M.I. Show. This is how you do it.
Tbubz was great. Iris was sleeping as bad as she ever has, so I was somewhat feverish, but it was amazing on almost every level. I'll write more next time, I'm sure.
I started scripting TPF on Friday, pulling together the notes on the opening scene, which ended up long. In fact, so long that I realised the solution was to actually make it even longer. It's the right size for what it's trying to do.
That's been the main thing I've been chipping away when I've had time. In fact, for today, I was planning to do a bit of TPF and polish this non-comics thing I'm doing, but I was on such a roll that I just pressed on with TPF, and wrapped up a zero draft of it. It's 34 pages, including the title page, which is better than I feared. I suspect I'll add 1-3 pages, but may also drop the final scene, which would gain back a page. It feels like in a pretty good shape – I was always happy with the basic idea of the first issue, and it's executed as I'd hoped for (as well as some surprises, which is also good). First issues are both the hardest and easiest part of an endeavour, and it's good to have something which feels like the first draft of what I want.
I'll probably leave it for a week to simmer in my head, and start on something else – probably one of the scripts for the other project, as I think I'm still ahead of both X-artists to not have to do that yet.
And now I'm going to go and get a mars bar (or something similar).
p.s. I actually got a Boost.