Category Archives: Journal of the Emerald Specter

Journal of the Emerald Specter 89: The Rook Disaster

Wait, another Journal entry so soon? I told you I was going to be writing a few entries while I looked for time to record the Specter Show.

Content is king. This content is another “tale from the past” that was about something other than eWrestling… this one is about SIMming.

A SIM, for the uninitiated, is a simulation. I’ve tagged Obsidian Fleet more than once, but that is really what SIMming is (and has turned into) and I can summarize it as a “collaborative writing effort to tell a story guided by the Captain.”

My first SIM was the USS Sovereign, based on the Enterprise E from Star Trek: Insurrection. I played the role of a medical officer (Allison Blair) and added a little twist of having a witchcraft heritage in her family. I was slowly expanding that story until a change in command (a new, or rather returning, story leader came in… someone I’d never met) shifted how the SIM ran to the point I wasn’t really enjoying myself. I was also told to nix the witchcraft and I did by deciding to leave.

I found a couple of other SIMs, learned the ropes of how to really do things both as a player and even as a storyteller. That’s when I started in on being a captain of my own ship.

This isn’t about that first ship. It’s not even about the second ship. It’s about the third ship, the USS Rook (a ship that was created at my request, though I hadn’t realized I made a request at the time).

I’ve run my fair share of roleplaying games throughout the years. I was good enough to run Werewolf: The Apocalypse without the books, I’ve run lots of Vampire: The Masquerade AND Vampire: The Requiem games, and my old favorite of Wraith: The Oblivion got some play as I ran some games, too. All that table top RPG experience led me to believe that some of my techniques in RPGs would work well in SIMming.

When Obsidian Fleet has a new captain, they run them through a sort of boot camp to teach them the ins and outs of how to run a SIM. I had been through their boot camp and since I was returning, I got to go through the refresher version for the Rook. Once you finish the prep work, you run an “episode 0” as a sort of a “take the ship out to test it” game so that all the players can get used to the ship. Once I got through with that, the “fun” began.

Each and every player had written up a background for their characters, as they are supposed to, and I noticed a pattern when I was reading through them. Almost every single character had a person in their backstory with a past that was either shady, undeveloped, or otherwise attached to some sort of crime. While we were still in episode 0, I began heavy duty development of episode 1.

The story was ingenious. I patted myself on the back so hard and I thought that there would be record posts recorded on the Rook because of how deeply I’d developed this single story!

I took every single one of my characters from old SIMs and introduced them, coyly, into the Rook roster. Each one of them was introduced into their different departments as “advisors” without a rank. I’d had a variety of characters in different departments (because I wanted to play different roles through the years) and them all coming on the ship at once was to invest the players in their presence.

How? Well, I purposely held everyone’s rank to Lieutenant JG or lower, except for the XO. The mission that this advisor crew were brought on for was to investigate a ship that was lost in the line of duty. While we traveled there, though, that was where things were going to really take root for the actual mission (the lost ship was going to be episode 2).

The advisor crew were tipped off by a father/uncle/cousin figure from the crew’s past, who was working with others of similarly shady repute from other species than human, to the presence of a roboticist who was wanted by the Federation for (banned) eugenics experimentation to create an alternative to the Borg threat (basically creating an anti-Borg). The “advisors” were brought on because only the newly commissioned Rook had the technological advancements available to help this sinister roboticist complete the final stages of the first anti-Borg, which meant they were going to mutiny and take the ship straight there.

When the transmissions from a ship shadowing the Rook were detected by the crew, it was revealed that this father/uncle/cousin figure, along with his cohorts of other species, were involved in a nefarious plot (as was suspected by their histories). The mutiny was initiated and the movement towards getting everyone super invested into the story I’d weaved was underway! The posts were destined to start flooding in!

Posting dropped by more than 50%.

I was so confused. As a captain should, I put out a plea that we needed to keep active and get the posting up… and I had several players transfer off the ship without any notice. Posting continued to diminish and some people just flaked (which means they didn’t respond, didn’t post, and just generally stopped playing without notice).

My Task Group CO, the person I reported to as the captain, contacted me and told me that there were some complaints that I’d overstepped a little. Overstepped? I was told that I had messed with some backgrounds that players were upset over, and rather than them coming to me about what I’d tried to do.

Episode one was dead. A whitewash story was made up over the story that had been used as a reason the Rook had been brought back to dry dock. I’d contacted the TFCO and let them know I was stepping down as the captain, and someone else stepped in to keep the ship from disappearing completely.

I was completely blindsided. Absolutely none of the players who complained said anything to me. None of them bothered to mention that they had plans for anything, none of them seemed to think to say something to me about this plan I thought was magnificent… I could have recovered from someone giving me direct feedback, but I didn’t get any.

A tactic I use as a GM in a table top RPG is to take the character’s backstories and weave them into the story. I thought that by using everyone’s backstory in the SIM I’d get everyone interested in the SIM and want to move forward as one of the highest posting SIMs in the fleet. Instead, I was crapped on and left out in the cold.

I don’t actually know what the true issue was. I know that I haven’t SIMmed since on a Star Trek based SIM and I haven’t done anything more than lurk on the Obsidian Fleet site.

Just like the last story, my memory may not be as solid as I thought. Memoir over biography.

I don’t run great ideas by the people who would experience those things. That would be akin to an author running their story idea by you, their reader, before writing the book. Things like that don’t work. What’s the point of playing a game where you already know what’s going to happen?

Someone will refute my claims above. Honestly, it probably wasn’t as dramatic as I made it out to be… but it wasn’t that far off, either.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 88: The Rise and Fall of the DWO

In an effort to keep content flowing with some updates now and then, I am going to be writing a few Journals to have that information flowing out regularly. This means that I am going to be covering some topics that don’t require timeliness, so here’s the first one that is me recounting “the good old days.”

I’m old.

Who knew I was going to utilize this banner again?

In order to talk about the title of this Journal entry, you need to understand a meager amount of history. The history is in the “eWrestling” era and before that era really began.

Way back in the 80s, professional wrestling was a big deal. Simulating that among friends without intense amounts of work was also a big deal. That spawned the Allied Wrestling Federation (AWF), which we had loads of fun with for about a year… then it died and we moved on. That led me to create another federation, less collaboratively run, and more me acting as the owner and others entering in their characters. That was the Further Wrestling Federation (FWF, and Further is the parent company I created to control things).

The FWF lasted for almost five years, with people drifting in and out of interest and a wide array of characters coming and going. That allowed for awesome story arcs and a hoot and a half. When it went away, I was sad, but I had also moved past doing most of the work.

When I joined the Navy, a fellow wrestling fan introduced me to “wrestling by mail,” essentially the same thing I did with FWF but via the Post Office. I did participate, but man alive was it slow. Participation lasted all of six months before I stopped playing because it was just too slow for my taste.

After the Navy, and during the rise of the Internet, I was introduced to “play by email” wrestling, or eWrestling… the early days, at least. I was in and out of a few federations before I decided that no one was doing it right, so I gathered some work friends together (all wrestling fans) and created another federation for us… thus the Dark Wrestling Organization (DWO) was born.

The DWO started in August of 1998 with only six handlers, those are the actual humans who control the characters, controlling six characters. Those six characters turned into 12, which also enticed several other coworkers into joining, and things got big from there… when I opened the DWO up to the Internet.

Originally, the DWO was a collaborative effort to get characters doing interesting things and have interesting storylines. One of the Internet players showed me the types of federations he was used to participating in and I decided to move a little bit in that direction.

The standard means of the Internet eFederations of the time was to create a post about your character, known as a “role play” or RP, and judge the two character’s RPs against each other and that’s how winners were decided. Unlike real pro wrestling, the storylines are determined less by interesting things the two players would do and became more about who could write some epic craziness more than their opponent. Thus, the better writers rose to the top while the rest lingered in the middle or eventually got better over time.

Not the way I really enjoy running the show. My preferred choice is known now as an “angle fed,” which means that the two players come up with their story arc, play it out collaboratively, and then move on to bigger and better opponents. Angle feds don’t allow the snappy one liners to flow out and players can’t openly insult each other, so it’s not really that popular. Imagine that.

The DWO attracted a whole new crowd once I introduced the RP element. Almost the entirety of the fed’s roster turned over as the coworkers slowly went away and the Internet players came out in droves. There were so many players at one point that there was serious talk of breaking the fed into two so that spotlights weren’t being hogged by the same few people at the top.

As more people came and went, more and more RP elements were pushed in while there were less and less of the angle elements. When the RP took completely over, I ended up announcing I wanted to “retire” from running the DWO… but didn’t want the fed to just end, so I turned control over to a pair of Australian friends who wanted to take the fed to new heights. I moved all my characters to a new, and smaller, federation that was more akin to the FWF and played there.

About two months after I openly left the DWO in the hands of others I received an email asking if I’d be willing to come back. When I was poking around the forums and the website, I uncovered a mass exodus about six weeks after I left because the rules had been shifted slightly to be a little more structured… and players didn’t like that.

I discussed the situation with the two guys, who miraculously turned into just a single guy because his buddy also left, and came to the conclusion that I had actually missed the DWO. We plotted out a “big comeback” and talked about what needed to happen in order to facilitate moving the rules less what they’d become and more what they needed to be in order to attract new players (or get the old ones back).

When I burst back into the DWO, without any formal announcements, things turned around almost immediately. Old handlers started coming back and re-apply for entry back into the DWO. Players were interested in restructuring the RP element back to what it was… which is where the beginning of the end really started.

The plan wasn’t just to return things to the way they were just before I left, but to return them to almost the point where RP was barely a factor again… when I had first introduced it. This was met with mixed results.

There was a big boom in player activity, storylines were running all over the place, and there was a level of excitement to the point where several of the other feds who experienced an uptick in activity started closing down because everyone left.

Those who were killer RP writers were having a field day early in the revival but started realizing their skills weren’t going to be in there for the long term. The players who were good storyline creators started seeing that their chance in the spotlight was on the rise and that the tide was about to change. The influx of returns and new players lasted about two months before the RP hardcore group started filtering out.

My Australian co-owner (because I never really took full control away from him) decided he wasn’t happy with the RP elements being phased out so fully. I actually discovered in the months after the DWO died that he was being talked to by the RP hardcores and was being influenced to start his own fed to bring the RP back to the forefront… to each their own. When he left, though, the fed did shrink to critical mass.

The legend of the DWO was far larger than the DWO actually was. My tag line had always been “once you’ve been in the DWO, no other fed is as good.” People ate that up and I used that in the declining months to bolster the storylines back to where interesting things were happening and the solidification of the DWO came down to a core group of about eleven people (including myself).

In the final 30 days of the DWO, we were finishing up some of the biggest storylines we’d ever run and players were having a blast… or so I thought. Three of the eleven were “humoring me” until I “realized” that RP was vital to survival. They left when they realized that wasn’t going to happen. Two of the remaining eight were lured to the “hanger on” fed that didn’t dry up when their mass exodus of former DWO players left, and thus began rebuilding. When three of the remaining six of us decided they wanted someplace with more activity and were worried about leaving me “high and dry.” I held an impromptu meeting with everyone and we decided, mutually, to dissolve the DWO officially in May 1999.

Yes, the fed only lasted a short time but is still remembered as one of the better eFeds on the Internet by those who participated in it. When the DWO ended, I’d started up a new fed with the intent of bringing in an amalgamation of RP and angle… it lasted only four months and it was because someone posted an RP after I’d already written up and posted the results, decided I’d done that out of spite for the RP he’d posted.

People took sides, things were said, and the fed died at the end of that week. Completely dead.

All in all, the DWO was fun and if I had the free time I did way back in the day, I might even be interested in running another fed. I don’t have that free time, though, and I haven’t watched professional wrestling in some time (years).

This was a little trip down memory lane, something to put out content without needing to do tons of research. I’m also happy that I can retell something that I haven’t talked about in a long time.

Those who were part of the DWO may not remember the whole story. Some of them might say that things didn’t last as long or things didn’t go the way I said they did. Maybe things didn’t go exactly that way, but since I lived it that’s the way I remember it.

Memoir may be more fun than biography anyway.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 87: Fixing Chess

The title is really a misnomer, sort of… I really mean “how to fix chess to be closer to a spectator sport than it currently is” and you can already see that title is too long. So, I shortened it.

I’ve got a story to tell, it’ll be less about just that sixth grade chess club (though that will definitely be included) and be more rounded to my entire chess experience. Come take a walk down memory lane as I lead up to the meaty part of the column.

I learned to play chess in the sixth grade and was part of, for lack of a better term, a chess club that ran itself like the WWE of the 80s. I call this the 6CC (Sixth Grade Chess Club). We had a World Championship for the top tier, an Intercontinental Championship for the second tier, and we had ourselves a really good time. Some of us got better as time went on and some of us didn’t.

I was a someone who got better.

Without getting into the minutia of how everything went down, I personally ended up as the club’s final World Champion before the end of the year. I took that championship into the “next wave” of the club, which was smaller and operated slightly different, but held on to the excitement we had all experienced. The new club went forward with everyone on the same level, and those who weren’t quite up to snuff for a championship run were helped to get better so they could have their own runs as champions.

We were an all inclusive and collaborative bunch.

The next wave club lasted twice as long as the first one but still suffered a pseudo-death. I wasn’t the one to end up with the championship for this transition but the guy who did wouldn’t last long into the newest club before I was once again the champion.

This newest club, which I’ll call the last club, was really composed of a hard core group from the first and second groups (because a few from each group joined) and we ran closer to what an actual chess club with a champion would run like… we had a couple of tournaments, we had some championships among the best few players good enough to hold it (I was one of them), and we ended when all but one player (yup, me) left the group.

Instead of thinking that no one was interested, you should be aware that the others left school (all of these clubs were based in my small home town) and some moved to different towns to go to different schools.

My final year of high school, I helped form the World Chess Organization (WCO), and the WCO decided that there would be a two player match for the WCO World Championship. I won’t embarrass the runner up with publicizing his name, but I won a “best of 13” by winning all 7 games.

I won the WCO World Championship on April 24, 1994 and defended it almost 10 ten times in three countries (Puerto Rico, Japan, and the United States) with contenders from over five nationalities (Greece, England, Philippines, Mexico, and Canada). The reign was not unbroken, I did lose the championship to the Filipino (and regained it). Except for three months, I was the WCO World Champion from April 24, 1994 until July 24, 2004… when I retired the championship and ended the WCO.

Now, I’d love to continue the WCO but I’m not a 2800 rated player. I’m not even a 2000 rated player. I have, though, been trying to figure out how to recapture that exciting feeling when I was back in that first chess club.

There have been many attempts to exactly recreate the chess club but each and every attempt has failed. Some times the failure was due to a misunderstanding about what the “club” was about, sometimes there was a lack of participation, and there have also been disruptors that basically sought to undermine the entire effort because they didn’t believe in it. (To that last point, why did they bother joining? I cannot answer that.

There have been a few different variations of the club attempt: straight up WWE style (again), something more akin to how boxing operates, a tournament series (akin to NASCAR), and some other options too numerous to list.

Then I made a connection with something I love that seems to have taken hold.

Merging sumo and chess, putting a time control on this that puts a little pressure on the participants, seems to have made an impact. The Emerald Specter Chess Club on Chess.com hasn’t gotten a full roster of players yet, but we’re only three events in and things are working.

The time control is a 1 day per move and if I had the time, I believe running an even shorter time control for a single day 12 times a year would probably get more steady attention.

The concept is to give an interesting competition for players who may never have a chance at a Master, International Master, or Grandmaster title in their lives. I’d like to see this go through as a bigger “organization,” modeled to have our own versions of Yokozunas (Diamond Adepts) headlining and hopefully eventually going on to do something more than they thought possible.

I’ve been evaluating what I’ve done so far and seeing what else might be able to be done with this format. Would it be popular enough to get a sponsor and maybe some modest prize money for the winners? Ideally, that would be great and then transitioning into more of a known entity… like the PRO Chess League.

The PRO Chess League took rapid chess and put a team play spin on it. Basically, this is the NFL of chess.

This doesn’t necessarily make chess a spectator sport. So, isn’t that what I told you I was going to talk about? Yes, and I needed all that to start talking about it now.

Every one of the clubs I was a part of in school had an audience for the chess matches. Every time I defended the WCO World Championship there was an audience for the chess matches. Every game played in the Chess Basho system in the ESCC has an audience for the matches.

Do you know who the audience was for each and every one of those? Chess players.

You’re probably thinking to yourself “of course, who else would be interested?”

THAT’S THE POINT.

I have been evaluating what I have been trying to do and how to make that fit into the vision of what I ultimately have been working towards.

The biggest obstacle is figuring out how to get the average joe interested in watching chess. I do not have the answer to this question and I know that is an unsatisfying ending to this column but I have learned something from all of this: if you want to build something for the masses, you need to start building for the players first.

Chess PLAYERS want some expert analysis while events are going on. Spectators that aren’t well versed in chess may not understand the analysis and are more just looking for a “what’s happening” type recap.

What else would the common person want from chess? This is what stumps me.

Part of the problem is over saturation. Magnus Carlsen, current World Champion, playing Fabiano Caruana, current next contender for the championship, isn’t big news in and of itself. Why? They’ve both played each other, I’m guessing, over a hundred times. Where’s the excitement in that?

Every active player in the top 100 of FIDE is similar. You have played everyone you’re ranked with at several tournaments already, you’ll probably play them a couple of hundred more times before your stint in the top 100 is done, and the only thing that matters is “how did that particular day go?”

The other killer for chess as a spectator sport is the time control. There is no reason to play a single game for 8 hours. Not a single reason. The PRO Chess League went with a much shorter time control and it makes the games more exciting because you know you aren’t going to be sitting around for 6 more hours waiting for a result.

Fixing these things is exactly as easy and changing the situation to elicit the results that you want. Sounds simple, right?

Do you want shorter chess games with vastly more activity? Make the time controls 15 minutes or shorter.

Do you want less drawn games? Score wins much larger than draws, maybe even going so far as to reward losses more than draws to cut them down.

Do you want to see games less frequently between the same people to make their meeting far more anticipated? That is something that would need to be figured out…

I made lots of references to the WWE style organization we used for the 6CC. When people hear or read “WWE” all they can think about is predetermined results and chair shots. There are two better references that can be made this two decades later that would be better analogies: UFC and poker.

I’ll start with poker.

Professional poker is a series of tournaments leading to a final tournament to determine the winner of the year. It’s kind of like NASCAR in the respect you have to win your way to the end, then win again at the end. The problem with poker is that you have multiple organizations claiming dominance and running their own tournaments irregardless of what the others are doing. ESPN shows the World Series of Poker, which some regard as THE championship, while Travel Channel as the World Poker Tour, which I believe is presented far more interestingly than what ESPN does. Personal preference, really.

If you’re interested in keeping the format a series of tournaments and running through to crown an ultimate winner at the end, this is definitely the scenario for you. In fact, don’t even limit the field of competitors… start the cycle out a hundred “qualification” tournaments all over the world, open to anyone. If you qualify from those, you get to then enter the next level and try to keep going from there. The field gets smaller and smaller as the year progresses until you reach a final tournament at the end to crown your champion. The later stages of the cycle are also where you’ll see the top players hang out as they’re really good at chess.

You could also use a point system to allow for advancement. Wins could be 5 points, losses could be 2 points, and draws could be 1 point. This encourages the players to actually play to win because right now “draw” is the word that you hear most often in results. The top 1024 point earners from the qualification rounds to advance into the heat of the competitions? Use the points.

Now, let’s talk about the UFC.

The UFC signs players to contracts, the best of the best in the world, to offer them a series of fights that heightens the excitement of the company as well as enriches the status of the fighters. Due to the fact that this is a combat sport, scarcity is a necessity… but the UFC doesn’t limit those who want to be really active and are healthy (see Donald Cerrone). They have multiple divisions for fighters to compete in based on their weight and they promoted the bejesus out of events to make sure they draw in the crowds.

Personally, I love the UFC and the way they do things. They get fighters scheduled to fight and let them smack talk each other the whole process, leading to the eventual fight to resolve the matter. WWE used to do this type of thing but their model is vastly different now.

This model, like the 6CC, would rely on some scarcity. In this scenario, ratings don’t matter… in fact, don’t even publicize the ratings of any of the players that sign on to this scenario. Group players in different categories so that super strong players aren’t taking on less competitive players. Behind the scenes, use the ratings to group them up… maybe in 200-300 rating point increments. Ideally, you’d allow for a little overlap per “division” so that someone who is getting better can opt up rather than be stuck in a division because they can’t find the competition to help them excel.

Yes, I’m saying keep ratings behind the scenes but don’t let the public know them. If John Doe is rated 1753 and Bill Fold is rated 1562, the potential spectators would know that Bill Fold’s chances are very low. If Art Work is the Gold Division Champion and his opponent, Jim Shoe, has played his way through some exciting games for a shot at the title, this is a scenario that would garner more interest because you aren’t focusing on the number. Sure, Art Work could be 1612 and Jim Shoe could be 1599… that could even be a selling point under normal circumstances, but keeping those numbers unpublicized makes the potential much greater (and if the players don’t know the exact strengths of their opponents, that eliminates them mentally beating themselves if their rating is lower).

Arrange matches (two game matches, one with white and one with black) to determine winners and losers. Use the point system from the poker example to keep draws almost non-existent (or use points per winning with white and black pieces specifically, same thing with draws… that would also be a winning combination to keep the draw counts down and allow for players to play for the win). Get players to “sign” for the organization to compete in so many matches, like the UFC, so that if the player wants to go on and do something else (or more traditional), they aren’t locked in for an indeterminate amount of time (but do have to participate a minimum number of games).

Hype the matches. Have the players do some smack talking about their opponents right up until the match. Even UFC fighters hug after the fight, showing their opponent respect. Chess players can do that, too. Really drive up the potential value of a, let’s say, blitz match between two championship contenders. Yes, they’d be ranked, which is another way to get them interested in smack talking and competing for ranking. The ranking and opponent’s rank could determine the prize fund (a #1 vs an unranked player might draw $100, whereas a #4 vs #7 would draw $300 because ranked players playing would be more interesting).

There is something I haven’t said in this column that would affect almost all of these ideas. Ratings are that subject.

Nothing I’ve talked about up to this point involves anyone rated higher than 2200. I’d even go so far as to say that you’re probably looking at a rating cap of 1800. The reasons for that may not be entirely obvious but they’re completely valid.

A player with a 2200 rating has a more “traditional” view of chess and would be less interested in the showmanship of what I’ve talked about. Players with 1800 ratings and up are more interested in studying games, figuring out how to improve their games, and are interested in competing for traditional prizes in traditional tournaments against other traditionally minded players.

On the lower end, players rated 1000 to 1300 seem to be more open to some shenanigans during their play. I have a regular game against a 1300-ish player that results in some fun back and forth while we play. We haven’t gone overboard with straight up smack talk but the potential is there. I’m also under the belief that players in the 1400 and 1500 range might also be willing to participate, as they’re in that “I’m not good enough for top ranked play but I’m better than casual games.”

The reason for the rating limit is to encourage those who aren’t really in any danger of winning any prizes to participate in something that will draw some attention to the game for someone who doesn’t necessarily play. I’m willing to lay money down on the bet that if you have an event (a single player v single player match, or maybe a couple of those) played at a faster time control with a whole bunch of smack talk leading up the actual games, on top of the event being promoted like a UFC fight, that you’d get non-chess players at least moderately interested. This draws attention to the game, allows players who are interested in doing something a little more on the “fun” side of the game to participate, and gives those interested in learning chess a platform to jump onto that isn’t a traditional “stuffy chess scene.”

I believe these ideas have merit. I believe that with the right group of people that a successful organization could rise up to bring chess to a wider audience. I believe that if some effort was put into these ideas that, if nothing else, could be a way for lower rated players to feel like their accomplishing something great, even though they may never reach a 2000 rating.

Isn’t that worth giving a shot?

Journal of the Emerald Specter 86: Friendship

I’m sure you’re wondering about the title. Well, the whole point of a title is to draw you in a bit, and unlike my normal columns, I’m going to do some dwelling on things that aren’t necessarily “fun, lighthearted,” or site related.

I’ve gone through life knowing a certain kind of person. There have been plenty who haven’t fit that mold, so I’ll start with the good before I hit the bad.

In high school, I was best friends with two others that made getting through life bearable. When I was in the Navy, I had a group that would also fit that mold… actually, lots of buddies for all kinds of occasions. Since that point, though, I’ve really only been able to rely on one super friend for all things: my wife.

Here’s where we go with WHY.

I’ve known a plethora of people who would use the word “friend” to describe their interactions with me but I can’t really reciprocate that word in the same way. The reason for that is because what they call friend is more accurately called an acquaintance.

Here’s a little bit of a “normal” interaction. Forgive the dramatics, I’m sort of merging a bunch of first hand experiences into one so that I don’t single out anyone who might be reading this.

“Hey, Joe Q. Public, I’m having a get together at my house on Friday and we’ll have ourselves some drinks and we can watch some quirky movie,” I say.

“That sounds good,” said Joe Q. Public, “But I’m waiting to hear from John Doe about going to Far Town. I’m also thinking about going to Nearsville on Friday with Ron Random.”

So… what you witnessed there is the “friend” of Joe Q. Public literally told me (paraphrased): “I’ll be happy to show up if absolutely nothing else comes up that interests me in the slightest.” I have run into this response many, many, many times. People who claim to be a friend but would rather do anything else than hang out with me.

Now, before you say something like “these people have lives, too,” I want to let you know that these same people expect to be able to show up on my doorstep unannounced, wishing to have me literally drop everything to do something on a whim.

Why should I drop things and take off on a whim? I have a life and I have things that need to be done. I also have a desire to do things on MY schedule once in a while and never getting that reciprocated at least occasionally and that almost never happened. In some cases, it never happened.

I was listening to a podcast today that brought this type of thing up, people who want to hang out with you but never actually do that on your schedule. They want you to adapt. They want you to do all the work. They want you to be irresponsible and just not do things to hang out. Those people are also interested in mainly entertaining themselves and in the above example, those people really aren’t interested in hanging out with you… they’re interested in you because you’re 37th on their list and you’re the first one to answer “yes.”

These people bother me. They bother me to the point that I have to actually relate to you a story about a specific person and how that friendship ended.

The age difference between myself and this other person wasn’t so drastic as to be unable to understand each other’s point of view. I’ll call this other person, for the sake of ease, Ray. Ray and I met before I married my current wife. We hung out occasionally, mostly in the company of others, but came to understand that our own aspirations were lofty and were mostly pointed in the same direction.

Ray had his own best friend, Mike, and they hung out a ton. Mike’s aspirations also fit ours, loosely, but Mike’s seemed to be more oriented towards moving away from others. The pairing of Ray and I seemed to be merging more as Mike wasn’t around as often. Then came the offerings of hanging out and that’s when things started to skew in the direction I gave in the example above.

I would call and try to arrange some hangouts and Ray did come periodically. Then things slowly started working away from the automatic yes and less hanging out was done on my terms. I tried to hang out on his terms as often as possible but as time went on, I got less amiable to working outside of my comfort zone.

My wife and I used to have an annual Super Bowl party where we’d invite a butt ton of people over to eat and watch the game (or commercials). The party started out large and as the years went on, people started making excuses for not showing up. Hell, some people didn’t even make an excuse, they said they’d show up and just wouldn’t. This type of thing is a good example of what I’d been dealing with.

I invited Ray to some sort of party, I don’t remember the details. It was likely an outing or a New Year’s Eve thing… something that would have been just hanging out and drinking like the old days. The response that I was given boiled down to “if nothing else comes up, sure.”

If nothing else comes up. Not like the example above because I was told yes… “except.” Then it was “except if this” and then “except if that” and finally “except of this other thing.” In the end, there was no plan made because I’m not going to base my plans off of a “only if I have nothing else going on” answer.

I picked on Ray because it’s the best example of what I have to detail my dislike.

I understand that people have their own lives but this isn’t having their own lives, this is claiming to be one thing and ending up being just a “in case I get bored, can I count on you?” No, no you can’t.

If you want to be a friend, friendship is a give and take. Friendship is a “I’ll help you move because someday I will need help moving.” Friendship is hanging out both when its convenient for you and when it’s convenient for the friend.

I hope other people read this, identify their own similar “friends,” and kick them to the curb because that isn’t what you need in life. I’ve got better things to do than work twice as hard at a friendship as the friend the friendship is with.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 85: Projects, Projects, Projects

There has been a question about what the hell is all the stuff I’m working on in the background and how much time is actually being put into each of these projects. I have a hierarchy of what needs to be done before other things that come on board and I decided to write a little bit about everything I’ve been working on, have previously worked on that is still being considered, what projects have been added as future fillers, and what this all means for all the talking about doing things and seemingly not doing things that I’ve done on this site.

THE top of the pile, THE main project, THE thing that I’m interested in finishing is the BuJourneyRPG basic ruleset. The link there is the category, which is everything that has been tagged with BuJourneyRPG specifically. If you haven’t been paying attention, I invented BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG is the next step in that evolution. If you have been paying attention and you’re waiting for me to drop that ruleset, I’m not ready to release it. With another, related, project involved, I have to make sure that I’ve got all my ducks in a row rather than release with a headache of fixing things in post-release.

What’s that related project? Physical bullet journal items that I’ll be selling. Time is money, folks, and if I can’t make money off this then I have to work to make a living and work on this as a side deal. I’d like to have some BuJoRPG-related income (including BuJourneyRPG), which means I could cut some hours at work and put most of my free time into working on the two systems and physical items. The physical items project is being done in small bits. Progress is being made and when I have something to release, I’ll probably announce that with links and such when the time comes, but know that I’m not stalling for the sake of stalling, I only have so much time to work on stuff at the moment.

In the last column, I announced I’m considering revisiting the ESPL. That is a distant thing, really looking for a 2019 restart of that. How can I add this into the mix without having the above two items taken care of? The key is: I haven’t added anything. Once the ruleset and accompanying physical products are out there, I’ll have “fiddle around time” to work on logos again. Read the post if you want more information, but just know that I have this on the list but not on the “active” list.

Something that is going to be happening more regularly is the Specter Show. On episode 50, I mentioned that I’m interested in “catching up” with my releases and get back to where I actually SHOULD BE with the episode/date. Having said that, I rolled back my lofty goal to look at more of a “two per week” or “three per week” option, instead of going for the original three to five per week I’d mentioned. The readings that I tested have ate up WAY more time on my end and I’m hoping that I get better at that for future releases. What readings? Listen to the episode.

Speaking of podcasting, let’s look at the Greatest Show. I attempted to turn the show into more of a seasonal offering, not overtaxing the hosting troupe with a show per week (meaning 52 shows a year), or running like we used to with a “if anyone else can be on, we’re having a show.” I stopped updating that schedule and haven’t decided how long that page will remain up… the idea now being different with what I’m trying to do. I have wanted to have more guests on and that will allow us to move the recording times/days to whenever necessary. We will still broadcast on a Saturday night now and then, while having an episode in the middle of the week with a special guest or whatnot.

The bullet journaling and the podcasting is at the top of my active list. I just wanted to drop a note here to say that.

There is another podcast that is coming, for sure, that is tied to another project that I’ve been leaving stale for about eight months now. The project can go forward because I’m ready to fill you in about what I’m wanting to do… this deserves a banner to change gears (the first of two banners you’ll see before the end of the column).

The project’s working title (like an OS codename, so less a working title and more codename) is Stellaris. There are several components to this particular project, and I’ll detail each one a little here before moving on to the next one. But first, a little history… brief history.

I’ve written short stories in the past (if you visit the way back machine, I’m talking my school aged years around 1989 to 1994). One of the most prolific “series” I wrote was my version of Star Trek, which would be more relatable as a version of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica or a combination of the two. (Keep in mind the reimagined series didn’t air until 2003, so I’m not claiming credit for that… but I am stating that my idea was much like it.) I wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of two million words (at best guess). There were several “crews” that basically crewed a line of starships with the same name, creating a universe around their adventures. I did have a “revival” of my writing late in my Naval career (let’s say 1996 or 1997), but those never really went anywhere.

Using that as the basis, I have sort of been building up a mythology and background for new fiction. I’d also like to have a SIM fleet, like I’ve mentioned in the past like Obsidian Fleet, running in this universe. That’s a “further down the road” segment of this project, let me get back on track.

The podcast that will be born of this project is that of the history of the planet of origin for Stellaris. There are multiple species, almost 10,000 years of “recorded” history, and a wealth of background that can be translated via voice to the listeners interested in the “how the hell did we get here” portion of the fiction that I’ll be eventually writing. The podcast will be formatted much like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, with the obvious change that I’m relating fictional events from a fictional location to the listener. I haven’t decided on how often the podcast would happen, but know that it is unlikely to be weekly.

When the history gets to a certain point, I’d start writing the fiction because you’d have enough background to know why certain characters are the way they are. The fiction would be serial fiction, with an intention to release in a novel format. The serial version of the fiction would be run as if the website was HBO and there would be a goal of 13 episodes per “season,” which means 13 installments within the book.

Speaking of serial fiction… 

I’ve talked about writing serial fiction in the past and I’ve decided to start writing it. I’ve got lots of “series” that I’d like to write and they’re all literally sitting in a file somewhere not getting done. So, I’m going to go ahead and start writing.

Will the series fit the above mentioned format? I’d like to believe so, but I’m not going to tie myself entirely down. I’m going to start writing a series based off of a short story I wrote for a college project, and I’m going to “revamp” the mythology behind that as I start writing. There will be installments, they’ll be released as they get completed, and I plan on working the mythological rework as I write.

That means NO “big write up” before writing. I’ll just keep track of things as I go.

Once I get a few installments released, I will consider doing other series. I may even try doing some background informational write ups for those before hand, but no so detailed I never get moving forward on the stories themselves.

The other big thing I wanted to move towards is… 

My goal of creating a comic book from start to finish before the end of the year is looking like that isn’t going to happen. I’m not done with the year, obviously, but I’m a realist. So, that leads me to giving a little bit of background with what I’d like to turn this into.

Yes, Specterverse.

So, when I started collecting comics in 1988 (beginning with Amazing Spider-Man #303 and branching out to many Marvel titles from there, as well as adding DC titles after that and I jumped in with both feet to Image when they launched), I had created my own superheroes and many of them, I’ll admit, were thinly skinned versions of some of my favorite heroes.

Since their initial conception, I’ve worked on my heroes to fit more of an original bent rather than be skins of other heroes. I’m basically telling you that I’ve been working on my own comic book universe for the better part of 25 years.

Yes, for real.

Since I’m unlikely to be a comic book writer, since I can’t even get seem to follow through with my goal of producing a comic book in a full calendar year, I’m going to aim to work towards JUST writing scripts. I’m intending to write them as Graphic Novels, so that there is no presence of a “monthly” release.

Using Marvel’s Cinematic Universe as a template, I’d love to write a graphic novel, or two, annually. My art is what I feel is holding my progress on this particular project back.

This is not high on the active list, but I wanted to detail it here.

I have announced in some form or another doing things that have less intense involvement on my part. These include Specter of the Galaxy, Specter of the Octagon, and Final Fantasy XV SpecterQuest where I play these games (No Man’s Sky, UFC 3, and Final Fantasy XV) and release the gameplay in installments. None of these are high priority and neither my wife have the time to play these at the moment.

So that is a rough rundown of some of the projects I have in the making. Some are nothing more than an announcement, a planning stage, etc… others are, as listed, active and noted, in the column.

There are some that weren’t mentioned at all and those are not on the active list but are under consideration. One thing I can do is talk, those things are podcasts, and that means I could just talk more… but I would need to be able to keep up with what I’m already doing, first.

Anyway… I’ll type at you next week.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 83: Building Bigger

The title of this blog doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to be changing a bunch of things up. I wanted to leave the title vague enough to be able to accommodate a lot of options, while I’m not necessarily going to be speaking about making anything actually larger, the idea is that I’m going to be talking about what I’m doing and where things will be going.

If you haven’t listened to the Specter Show (episode 49), then maybe you want to… I explain a little bit about things.

Since this is a readable blog post, though, I’m more interested in where I’m going to be pointing for the majority of the topics here. I’ll be covering a lot of stuff here, so why don’t I go ahead and get things rolling.

I tried something new with the naming scheme of the Specter Show but it didn’t take when I downloaded the episode myself. The next time I’ll have to rename the entire post to see if that works, which means the graphics identifying the episode will need to be spot on for the download. The idea is to remove the show name from the title and just have the episode number and episode title.

This isn’t the only thing I want to talk about with this particular section.

The Specter Show has long not really had a focus. I’m going to be catching up on the numbering of where I should be after more than a year of recording and to do that I’m going to be doing some different types of episodes. There will be a little bit of BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG updates, which have become the centerpiece of the podcast, but there will also be some fiction read by myself (which fulfills the hope that I might someday get to record audiobooks).

Those will start as short story readings of public domain properties and possibly morph into (hopefully) writing and reading my own fiction.

Will the fiction reading take over the podcast completely? No. If things go well enough, or if there is enough interest in me continuing, then I’d spin the podcast off into its own thing.

Included with those above things, I’ve got two other projects that I’m looking to include into the rotation that I’m super interested in developing. The first one is a “funny news” podcast that I’ve written a script for (the first episode only), and as long as the news still isn’t out of date, I’ll be including that one real soon. Assuming that there is interest in continuing that, it would also eventually get its own podcast feed.

The second one is a little bit more complicated. Rather than having a weekly feed for this particular idea, I’m angling at more of a monthly show release schedule instead. What I’m talking about will require a somewhat in depth explanation… so here it is:

The Freemasons have a slogan that has always interested me: “We take good men and make them better.” In order to accomplish this, they have a set of lessons wrapped in allegory to teach those men how to be more well rounded. They call it “finding more light,” but whatever you call it, they’re teaching people about ideals and virtues that everyone should generally have. I’d like to research these allegorical lessons and turn them into a long form informational podcast.

Before you roll your eyes and start thinking about baby sacrifices, Illuminati plots, butt sex rituals, or any of the other conspiratorial things you associate with the Freemasons. None of that is true and believing it without proof makes you silly and ridiculous for believing things without proof. If you want to believe in conspiracies, then what I just laid out isn’t going to be for you, anyways. Just 15 minutes of research on Freemasonry without paying any attention to the Satan linking idiots out there taught me a hell of a lot, maybe others wouldn’t be so taken with conspiracies if there was some common sense involved in the research.

What I’ve laid out are items that I’d like to include JUST in the Specter Show, and if they’re interesting enough to folks, spin them out into their own podcasts.

I’m also going to talk about the Greatest Show. With all the hosts but myself, my wife, and Metal Jesus showing up on a regular basis, I’m trying to figure out how to adapt the show into the future. This means the infrequency of the podcast will continue until I figure that out.

The guest rotation thing, including people that I want to interview of just generally have a conversation with will be on the show at irregular times while I try to figure out what’s next.

I play the Sumo Game, where you pick who will win and lose each day of the 15 day sumo tournament (or basho). I’ve only competed in three bashos so far and I’ve managed to have a kachikoshi (more wins than losses) each time. The goal is to eventually become a Yokozuna (Grand Champion), just like real sumo.

I’d like to get more people playing, more people interested in sumo, and more attention to the sport that is far more nuanced than most people understand. Personally, I’ve only really followed THE true sumo in the Japanese Sumo Association, where the best of the best compete.

Much like Kintamayama, where I catch most of my “digest” style recaps of each day’s action, I’d like to have my own little sumo competition going on like he does on his own site. He was a Yokozuna for a time on the Sumo Game site, I don’t think he needed to start his own but it always helps to have a system for building up something from a common source.

Speaking about bashos, the Emerald Specter Chess Club on chess.com is the place for a merger of sumo and chess.

The first basho was a hit, the second basho was a hit… there have only been two people to sign up to be a part of the “permanent” rotation, so the cycle will continue to happen with the two other members, myself, and a slew of random folks.

The goal, of course, is to have a steady group of “top division players” to then start expanding out in order to build up a regular competition and maybe even get some attention of some big time players to want to compete (and by “big time,” I’m talking about titled players who aren’t in the top 100 but want to do something that is a little different than “normal.”

I’ve been jotting a few things down in the last few weeks. Some of those jottings have been about things to include into the website, and of course, some of those jottings have been about fiction. I’m not going to do a lot of talking about the things to include on the website, so this will be more about the fiction.

The “Journal of the Emerald Specter” that is currently on it’s 83rd iteration, has formed out of the original “Emerald Specter” column that I was writing and has evolved over the years that I’ve been writing it… what it currently is and where it appears to be going doesn’t really seem to fit with what things were way back when. If you went back to read the original column, then you’d see that there was more of a commentary going on than anything informational. I also had some legacy things going on from other columns I had written in the past (see: Think on it.).

With writing fiction, I’d like to have some of that see the light of day. Serial fiction is a big deal these days, see SerialTeller and SerialBox for examples, and if I wrote some short stories, I could release that on the site. I’m going to start by writing short stories and include those into a column rather than releasing them separately (or maybe separately AND inside another column).

I’m rambling a little on this because I’ve contemplated either renaming this column with a focus or, in the fashion of both Marvel and DC, relaunch the new column in a “new #1 issue.” I still like that idea, but we’ll see if that catches any traction with me over the next week.

I’m going to be hiring someone to work on this website. It’s going to remain a WordPress site but I’m going to be getting a custom framework built that I can update the graphics on periodically to keep things fresh. While what I have going on right now isn’t terrible or in need of updating, I am looking into the future for the next version of this site.

The thing you do as a web designer (which I can’t technically say I am anymore since I haven’t physically coded one in over a decade) is change things and that normally involves planning ahead. I’m simply talking about planning ahead.

See you.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 81: Audio from Written Word

Plans, plans, and more plans. Things start up, things fall through. Things don’t get started and life tends to get in the way.

“If something is important to you, you make time.” ~ Captain Montgomery Scott to Captain James Kirk in Generations.

I guess I have to start making time for the things that are important.

I’ve been talking about writing and completely producing a 22-page comic book before the end of the year. If I don’t actually start doing that I won’t ever get it done. By this time, I should have had a full script written and working on the layout for the book.

Have I done that? Nope. I have a script started but it hasn’t progressed.

There are tons of other writing projects I want to be knee deep in right now, too, but that falls into the “time isn’t happening” category. that’s also going to be grinding to a halt.

I produced a story for a writing class when I went to college back in 2005. The story was just the beginning of a much bigger venture and I’ve often thought about where that story goes. There are details within that story that I’ve long forgotten about and if I dig the story up to freshen the whole thing up. With a rewrite and some additives with the new details, I think it’s ready to be brought out to the world.

I am going to accomplish these things because I have a lot of stories I want to tell and I’m going to tell them.

I’ve been lax with getting out the Specter Show lately. Not that I’ve really meant to not record or to release shows, with the last episode being on the pathetic end of the scale, I’ve just allowed life to push me around.

Yep, there it is again… life pushing me around.

I’m going to start doing some experimental things with the Specter Show. There is another podcasting idea I’ve had that I wanted to try out and while I will definitely be producing at least one full episode of that idea WITHIN the confines of the Specter Show and if I enjoy it but don’t want to fully make a new feed that is also not going to be getting a ton of attention, I’ll produce a few more.

There is also a “research project” that I’ve been meaning to write up and produce into a podcast. Once again, I don’t want to produce a podcast that gets left to flap in the wind on it’s own feed while I struggle to keep up with what I’m already doing. What’s the idea? It’s going to be me producing long form content about a series of subjects all related to self improvement. That’s as far as I’ll go with the reveal so far and just like above, I’ll probably release the stuff WITHIN the confines of the Specter Show once, maybe twice.

Why within? Well, the Specter Show intro and outro would still be in the episode, and with these two ideas I would basically have a “this isn’t a normal episode” warning. If the content is popular or interesting enough, I’ll break it out into it’s own feed and release the episode sans Specter Show bookends.

I am stating right now that I am going to be getting back on the Specter Show wagon and producing content again, and really working to make content that doesn’t suck.

Moving along to the Greatest Show, I don’t see the group sticking to a “season” format… mainly because only one person outside of everyone in my house shows up regularly. This opens up the Greatest Show format changing into two different format options: a roleplaying session that only Metal and I are part of or me running an interview style show at irregular times with the guests I’ve been unable to work on getting on the show due to (you guessed it) life.

Both of those things are going to be a thing and that is where I’m trying to take the show. Unless the old crew comes back together, or Bob is able to make a regular appearance with me to have a reunion to the “old school Greatest Show.”

I said all that in the writing section to get to the meat of this column. The title, so far, hasn’t made a ton of sense in this column and that is about to change.

Let’s say I’m writing a serial fiction series about a school of wizards… and let’s say that the series gets a little attention from readers who would like more. Let’s also say that the series gets some feedback about people who like the premise but don’t have the time to read all that to get the information.

Well, here is where we come in with the title: Audio from Written Word.

I have software that will combine mp3 files into a large m4b file. If you don’t know what an m4b file is, that’s what an audiobook file is (at least through Apple). I am saying that I’d record the serial fiction into an audiobook format.

There are several things that I need to state about this before I go on. First, my time is not free and I’d be asking for a fee. If you consume even a fraction of the audio that I consume (because constant movement at work allows me to hear things but not really to sit and read things), then you’ll appreciate that paying someone to listen to a reading of fiction isn’t a terrible thing. Second, the audiobook files would be complete “seasons,” like the entirety of the series (season 1, season 2, etc) as one single file… this keeps me from seeing to basically having to produce a podcast release schedule to keep up and I can provide a bigger “hoopla” if I just do the bigger release. Third, I could also start writing the serial fiction as just written word and produce an “audiobook” to compile the season… or after a certain number of seasons I can simply produce and release the audiobook “seasons” after a free launch.

The idea is that if I want to start doing things I want to do instead of just doing things I have to do in order to kinda do the things I want to do then I won’t get 50% of what I want to do done.

My wife is a fantastic business woman. She takes an idea, develops the idea, and starts producing product for sale. In a few months, tops, that idea is now a viable business process that works and earns her a living. These ideas also keep her busy and doing things she enjoys.

I’d like to take my ideas and do the same thing.

The funny thing is that I just showed my wife those last two “paragraphs” and she said it would be nice if I did any of my ideas. Like, for example, my bullet journal ideas (I said I’d like to make stickers for the BuJoRPG… primarily the templates for the first version and the templates for the second version, too). That is first on the list.

I deleted Facebook and Google+ from my phone recently and I’ve been less consumed with anger and frustration as a result. I’ve also had a ton more free time to do other things and I know that is a better thing.

I am also going to be removing one of my two regular games from my phone because I’ve progressed to a point where I don’t think I’ll be getting much farther any time soon. Without progress, I don’t really want to keep grinding because the game isn’t that important AND is getting in the way of doing what I want to do.

See, things are getting better already.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 80: Star Trek

I’ve been listening to a lot of Star Trek based podcasting recently and decided to try another “what would I do” thing.

My DCEU experiment wasn’t as popular as I had hoped, though I hope that it will gain some more views and interest in what I’d do (exactly) with a phase two or three or four.

This experiment? I traveled back in time and discover that there was no Star Trek… at all. Thankfully I have some Star Trek reference material with me and I’m going to bring the world Star Trek… the way it should have been done.

There is no Gene Roddenberry, which initially worries me, but the world must have their Star Trek. Things will be a bit different, though.

The year is 1958, and I heavily invest in the stock market… some well placed investments make me billions by 1961, independently wealthy and ready to make something fantastic.

I present the script for a feature film called Star Trek to be released in 1963. What’s the script? Well, a crew of exceptional people are needed to intercept a phenomenon headed towards the center of the United Federation of Planets: Earth.

If you think you’ve heard of that before, you have. I’m setting the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the very first slot… but I made some casting and character changes. This is long before the Kirk and Spock you’re familiar with, so I decided to add something from the history that we’re all familiar with.

The captain of the Enterprise is Robert April, with a few other little sprinkles of interesting around him. Captain Robert April is played by Gregory Peck, who was drawn to the project after the success of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962, Star Trek being a progressive outlook on humanity’s future. Leonard Nimoy does appear as Spock, and in the role he plays in TMP… but he is a Vulcan who is trying to figure out his place in the universe (as a new Lieutenant in Starfleet). We see V-Ger, all out special effects, and the crew of the Enterprise seems to fly off happily after the film ends.

Part of the deal with this film, which does gangbusters at the box office, is to create a series after the film to further develop the universe. Gregory Peck wasn’t signed to do a series and I didn’t want to have him beyond the movie… because I signed the original crew of the Enterprise (starring Jeffrey Hunter with Leonard Nimoy as a Lieutenant Commander several years later) in the “pilot” called The Cage.

The pilot airs in late 1965, unlike in our reality, and just as expected, Jeffrey Hunter doesn’t want to do more… so we get to advance Spock once again to First Officer/Science Officer under William Shatner as Captain James Tiberius Kirk in early 1966 for the first season of the new series.

Since the network (NBC) isn’t paying for this series, they allow this to run for a guaranteed five years… we actually get our Five Year Mission.

Season One goes off as before, not including episodes Miri, Catspaw, or Shore Leave and the Menagerie is moved later in the season (to the season finale). Season Two also goes off as before, not including episodes The Ultimate Computer or Assignment: Earth. Season Three goes off as before, not including the episode Spock’s Brain.

This leaves us with a gap to fill, which I had planned for already… that is now Season Four, where the stories told in the Animated Series but are reworked to be more adult (less “cartoony”) in nature and be a solid 22 episode season. That leaves nothing for Season Five, though, right?

After working under my guidance for over five years, the writers would be tasked with original stories (I use the word original, only because I know the future here) for Season Five. This would also be a 22 episode season and would be oriented towards exposing the world to the first serialized version of Star Trek, with a few “mini-arcs” present without a “part 1, part 2” scenario.

Then, in spring of 1971, Star Trek leaves the air as a cult favorite. Fandom grows around the concepts and a clamoring for more is put out into the world. Hints of a movie are released in magazines and newspapers and work begins on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. As final touches were being added for the 1982 release, work on Star Trek III began behind the scenes in secret. Since I’m paying for the special effects, I spare no expense to ensure that the version I (we) remember doesn’t look decidedly less awesome than TWOK.

As Star Trek II was a hit, rumors about the ending were running amok and the revelation that there was another Star Trek movie deep in production was released to the population, drumming up hype early. Since the special effects were going to be far better than the original versions, I had high hopes for this installment.

In 1984, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock hit screens and received a positive series of reviews, not nearly the showing I had hoped but better than the one in the original timeline.

Did I already start work on the fourth installment of the series and the end to the “trilogy” of post-series Trek? Yep.

In 1986, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home hit screens and was lauded as being the best Star Trek movie by non-fans. Fans still looked toward TWOK as the granddaddy of movies, but the reception allowed everyone to come and enjoy a wonderful movie. Behind the scenes, the next version of Star Trek was already being worked on.

Once again, since I’m paying for the whole thing, I sit down with some television executives to work up the next Star Trek for public consumption. The series would be shown on ABC this time, with Patrick Stewart in the lead role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I set up Star Trek: The Next Generation with the idea that I’m fixing what I know didn’t work in the original timeline. The show debuts in 1987 on ABC and becomes a hit.

Only side notes about this series. Uniform designs are from the original third season to completely avoid the spandex design. Special effects were spared no cost and the plan of seven seasons was followed through. The cast was informed when they came on board that they would be expected to do a few feature films after the show’s run, which they had no issues with. The final note is that Season Two’s introduction of Polaski as a replacement for Crusher was scrapped, instead adding Polaski as an additional character in the medical department. This altered the show’s timeline a bit as she became a part of the remainder of the show’s events rather than just up and disappearing.

While the Next Generation is on the air, 1991 sees the release of Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country into theaters. Our original timeline makes this the sixth movie, but since that story had some issues, I opted to remove it from the timeline. This sees the retirement of the main cast of characters but also gives us Captain Hikaru Sulu, who was optioned for the sixth installment of the film series as the lead.

Before I go into that, though, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiers in 1993 with a new cast and runs at the same time as Next Generation. The series starts off with a positive outlook and runs as remembered in the original timeline. There was a rider in the contracts in this version, though, that required theatrical appearances of the cast (if not as a whole, then in other productions).

In 1993, George Takei and the on screen crew of the Excelsior (to include Tim Russ as an ensign science officer) in Star Trek VI: Lions of the Night, where the crew is forced to fend of a Kzinti invasion of Federation space. If you know about failed projects, then you’ve heard of the concept here (see Memory Alpha, scroll down for this project).

Since I’m the one developing this and paying for the whole thing, I’m saying that my attempt to bring a large solution to Star Trek’s movie future utilizing the original cast has hit it’s first bump. While the reception of critics was poor, fan reception wasn’t great (but fairly positive). My attempt to make a sequel with George was met with resistance from George himself, thus I moved on with the next idea…

As Star Trek: The Next Generation wrapped in 1994, plans for their first foray into movies was at hand. While filming the finale of the series, the crew was also filming their first movie: Star Trek: Generations. Unlike the original timeline version, less emphasis was put on Picard’s family, the “space ribbon” is a little more defined, and time inside the ribbon progresses to avoid the weird situations we saw inside it originally. Shatner does appear as Kirk but isn’t pulled out by Picard, rather feels the need to help on his own and joins Picard in saving the day (ending in his certain death).

More well received than Lions of the Night, Generations was given more leeway with production because of the previous installment. Little did the world know the next movie was under development!

On the TV side, Star Trek: Voyager was placed onto TV screens in 1995 and would run for seven seasons. There would be continuity ruining episodes removed from the series as a whole and as with DS9’s cast, the rider for feature films was in place to guarantee a Star Trek feature film future.

In 1996, Star Trek: First Contact was released and was definitely better received than Generations. In 1998, Star Trek: Insurrection was released with far better special effects and notes on how this is a “return to Star Trek’s message” roots. This movie, my version, was much better received than the original due to more action being added to the script and a deeper mystery element to draw in the audience. Was it considered the greatest movie? No, but it was more popular.

As Deep Space Nine was wrapping in 1999, the cast didn’t want to do a “DS9” movie series. The “appears in other films” contingent was enacted and some plans were made for the next two movies. Yes, TWO movies. Voyager wrapped in 2001.

Directly on the heels of the ending of Voyager came the new series Star Trek: Enterprise, featuring Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap fame leading a new crew of an experimental Enterprise on missions exploring the galaxy. The Xindi storyline would be introduced much earlier than the  original timeline and the series would run for six seasons, since I am paying for the whole thing. There would be riders for movies as well, as would be the standard since DS9. The show would end in 2007 with the formation of the Federation.

In 2002, Star Trek: Nemesis hit the screens and before you roll your eyes at me… this one was much different. Shinzon, a Reman warlord and scavenger, returns to Romulus with a new ally: a rebuilt Lore. Lore aids Shinzon in taking down the Roman government, a hostile takeover, and then takes a fleet to Federation space for the first salvo in a planned war. The Enterprise-E is forced to fend off the attacks by leading a counter-attack (joined by the Defiant with Colonel Kira, Lieutenant Ezri Dax, Chief O’Brien, Dr. Bashir, Lieutenant Nog, and the commanding officer Captain Worf). When hope looks lost, Data sacrifices himself to blow up the lead ship with Lore on it, leaving an unprepared Shinzon to die and the rest of the hijacked ships to retreat. The Federation and the Roman Empire begin peace talks in the wake of the “old guard” being wiped out.

In 2004, an extragalactic threat would arrive to test the Federation. In Star Trek: Revelations, the Enterprise-E is commanded by Admiral Picard, who leads the fleet to take on what they discover to be machines… the machines, in fact, that created V-Ger. Enterprise is joined by Defiant (Worf commanded as before), Voyager (commanded by Chakotay and filled with the rest of the Voyager crew), and Titan (Riker’s new command). A fundamental “man vs machine” theme would run through this one and man would win… at a high cost. Defiant wouldn’t make it out of the conflict, Voyager would be severely damaged and several crew members would have died, as well as Enterprise suffering greatly in the results. Deaths of characters would include Kira, O’Brien, Nog, Paris, Chakotay, and Neelix. Picard and Admiral Janeway would have Riker seek out any remnants of the invasion, gaining the crew of Dax, Harry Kim, Seven of Nine, and a newly promoted Captain LaForge.

This movie, while not hated, wasn’t the blockbuster I was hoping for. Critics gave it generally favorable reviews but fans panned it stating “too many characters died” in the melee. Taking that under consideration, I put into production one more movie before my time in this timeline ends (due to being very old and in poor health by this point). I also opted to delay the release of this movie by an extra two years to ensure the highest quality.

In the summer of 2008, Star Trek Beyond hit the screens to thunderous applause. Unlike the original timeline version, which was part of the reboot franchise, my Beyond was a continuation of the timeline I’d already started. Audiences were stunned when the Enterprise NX made it’s way towards the planet Kismet, where they are forced to battle a fleet of ships that act in coordination with each other. The ship crashes on the surface of the planet as most of the escape pods are sent safely away. Those who did not make it were T’Pol, Trip, and Reed who learn that there is a species of cyborgs mutating the inhabitants for an impending invasion. Fast forward to the 24th Century, Captain Riker in command of the Titan comes upon Kismet while investigating and discovers that there is a large station in orbit of Kismet sending signals out of the galaxy. Some spy work from the crew and a battle cripples the Titan, forcing it to crash onto Kismet’s surface. They manage to disable the cyborg and mutant populations, as well as send a signal that this galaxy cannot be conquered to prevent another invasion. We discover that this was the “advanced party” for the machine invasion and mutants were being used as slave labor.  The film ends with a goodbye to all the franchises we adored along the way and the reigns of Star Trek were turned over to Paramount for future plans.

That’s a hell of a ride. I’d love to hear some feedback on my non-original timeline versions of movies and I’ll be back again in the near future.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 79: 13 Reasons Why… I Reflect on My Own Past

There have been multiple times I have wanted to write about the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why but I wasn’t done watching the show then. As I write these words, I’m watching the last episode and I’m far enough through the show where I can comment on the aspects of the show that I am going to end up commenting on.

So, there will definitely be spoilers in my column, so if you don’t want to be spoiled in any way, shape, or form then you shouldn’t read further. The point isn’t to talk endlessly about JUST the show, the show sort of sparked a thought in me to write about my experience growing up. This may also involve some current events, but I’m not promising anything.

If you have been under a rock, there is a Netflix show called 13 Reasons Why, which is about a teenage girl who committed suicide and left a series of tapes to the 13 people who basically caused her to go through with the act.

There is a central theme of the suicide, and while I’ve had my own personal tragedy in this area, that isn’t what I want to talk about. My primary concern here is really not going to talk about the suicide at all, but to talk about what the culture of the school is like and how that relates to what I experienced.

I may talk about more of the show, too, but that is why I’m putting words out there into the world. This goes under “Storytelling” because I used the show to launch into this and this is a story about my experience.

When people on TV talk about a “small town,” they’re talking about something in excess of 50,000 residents. I am from a small town, the population was roughly 3,100 residents. SMALL. If you did something, the “trope” of everyone finding out about it actually happens in a small town. A TRUE small town.

I graduated from high school before 1995, and that’s about as specific as I’m going to get in an open forum like this. My high school, which I’ll just call “Smalltown High School,” or SHS… there were 63 people who graduated in my class. There would have been more but some didn’t make the grade and ended up getting alternate diplomas after the fact.

When watching 13 Reasons Why, I see a class of kids interacting with each other in a large groups (whether or not they were really close or not) and I look at what I experienced. In the show, there were the tight-nit jocks hob knobbing with the cheerleaders and both groups would  routinely mistreat the nerds (or the “nerd-like”). Everyone generally treats everyone somewhat respectfully in the flashbacks, though things tend to be a little less so after the tapes start getting circulated.

How is this relevant to me?

When I was in high school, there were better than 75% of the class that I’d been in kindergarten with, so we basically grew up together. After we got into high school, we segregated into the social groups that existed with the rest the high school. At the time, those groups were jocks, preps, nerds, and “loads.”

The jocks were, predictably, the ones who participated in multiple sports throughout their high school years. Some were track, basketball, cross country, football, hockey… there may have been a few other sports back then that I can’t really recall, but they were primarily involved in the sporting events (often as many as they could be a part of).

The preps were the socially active members of the school, participating in all kinds of clubs, cheerleading, and they almost exclusively held the top slots in the “grade point average” race to be valedictorian. While not exclusively, this group was largely populated by the girls of the class… they were the ones who spent the most time concentrating on their studies and social interactions. I wasn’t ever part of this group so I only have an “outside looking in” perspective on them.

The nerds were the socially awkward group, very often only interacting within their own group and often being left out of the clubs and sports. Nerds were picked on relentlessly, depending on who they were and how much they would resist. Interests here revolved around things that have nothing to do with school and being at school very rarely played any part other than being a distraction.

Lastly, there were the loads. This was originally a derogatory term for the rebellious kids who participated in partying with drugs and openly with alcohol. I say “openly” because the jocks drank almost as much as the loads but their offenses were often looked past, looked over, and generally considered “too good to touch” when it comes to partying. Jocks and loads rarely, if ever, commingled. Jocks couldn’t afford the “bad press.”

I was part of three of these groups. The first two years of school, I fit tangentially into the jocks because of my participation in cross country. I say tangentially because I would really have called myself a nerd for the totality of my freshman year. That changed my sophomore year when I became a load, full force.

Let me step back a minute.

Everyone in my graduating class, for the most part, got along until we reached high school. Things really took a turn when we were full fledged high schoolers. Many of them got worse as the years went on.

On 13 Reasons Why, the class was far more intertwined than my own experience. I am not without a point of reference for the camaraderie the show displayed. The grade just below mine  were almost completely united in their caring about being friendly with each other. Watching them, honestly, made me a little ill… the show would be what they were dialed down and a bit closer to my own experience.

The group of people that I was hanging out with in the first year of high school with the nerds because I hadn’t really managed to be interested in many other things. One thing I was, though, was lazy and nerdy… so I wanted to get out of taking PhyEd and there were four classes one could take as well as two years of a sport. So, here I come cross country!

Did I suck? Yep, but I did my two years (and the four classes, by the way) to avoid PhyEd as I wanted. But during that whole time, I was picked on… though I’ll say that I was picked on by the worst possible people to be picked on by, so at least I was choosing the best… worst?

In the show, Tyler receives LESS torture than I had for the first year of high school. Then, something wonderful happened. A random person in algebra asked me what I was doing one Friday night. I’ll call him Smith, because it’s a generic last name and because it was his last name. That Friday night had me hanging out with the loads and I loved it.

And the bullies left me alone. Completely.

Did I do drugs? No. I did enjoy the hell out of some alcohol, though, and invented Dr. Peppermint (between one to two ounces of peppermint schnapps per 20 ounces of Dr. Pepper… and before you say “that sounds gross,” try it. I’ve introduced no less than 100 lifelong Dr. Peppermint lovers to my wonderful concoction who swear by it… and I discovered it by accident).

In the show, the class seems to be broken down into only two real groups: the jocks and the not-jocks. Granted, we don’t get to see a large cross section of the class, as I am sure there are more than 63 students in that class. We get to see the jocks (Bryce, Justin, Zach, Montgomery, Jeff, Marcus) interacting with some cheerleaders (Jessica, Sheri), some outcast types (Skye, Tyler,  Ryan), and a few people who fit into other categories of “not-jocks” (Sheri, Courtney, Alex), most of which end up working with each other in some form or fashion to keep the tapes a secret.

There wasn’t much diversity portrayed on the show. Real life was more broken down than that, as I explained.

What I wanted to cover, I have. I didn’t have an experience in high school that was portrayed in the show. I don’t have friends from high school I still talk to (the last one turning out to be a social justice extremist who doesn’t listen to reason)… the ones that I still talk to, mainly those of the “load” social group I belonged to, all have their own things going on and we are cordial.

The closest experience I have to relate to what I witnessed in the show was the Navy. Even though I fundamentally disagree with some of the views of my brothers and sisters in the Navy, I would still rather hang out with and talk to them than some of those people I was in high school with.

This was a longer post and didn’t really fully explore what I had on my mind. Honestly, I could write a book on what I had on my mind and unfortunately I know that I won’t really get that done, either.

Hopefully someone gets something out of this, though.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 78: My Version of the DCEU

Many moons ago, I posted an article stating reasons why the DC cinematic universe would fail (now known as the DC Extended Universe). I mention something along these lines a couple other times on this website, but I wanted to address what I’d have done with the DCEU if I were the one running things…

So, why don’t I write about it?

Rather than storytelling, this one really deserves to be under “movies,” since I’m talking about building up the DCEU on the big screen.

First, the rules. I am proceeding as if the DCEU has failed, meaning the releases of the already slated movies after Justice League are no longer going to be released… or already have been and have had little success. Since I’m not worrying about release dates, I’m just going to list them in the order I’d release them, with a little explanation here and there.

So, without further ado… the first movie.

Superman: Man of Tomorrow

This is not exactly an origin story, since we don’t need to worry about origin stories. Why? Well, with Superman: The Movie and Man of Steel, I think another origin, “proper” origin, is unnecessary. The tale of this movie would be Lex Luthor fighting to rid Earth of the last Kryptonian. His new mechanized suit of armor, in conjunction with aid from Brainiac, would be an epic team up against Supes on screen. There would be easter eggs galore in this one, mentioning Wayne Enterprises, the Lantern Corps (plural), Themyscira, Mars, and more. One of the most important hints will be that there is more going on in Earth’s history than we know.

Stinger at the end of the credits? You bet… this is a big plan, and that means setting things up properly. The end credits scene is the planet Apokalips moving out of orbit.

Wonder Woman: Warrior

Not a period piece like Wonder Woman was, this one is all about Diana coming back to Themyscira to fight off an assault on the once hidden island… led by Giganta, or so we all are led to believe. The real brain behind the assault is actually Gorilla Grodd, who is after a very specific artifact hidden in the island’s vault (the Cosmic Rod). Giganta doesn’t manage to escape but Grodd obtains the item and absconds with it to places unknown.

Our stinger shows Grodd passing the Cosmic Rod over to Devilance, who takes it through a portal.

The Fastest Man Alive

Barry Allen… AND Wally West (the Flash and Kid Flash) are pitted against Reverse Flash, who came from the future in order to stop “something terrible” from happening. The terrible thing is the Earth splitting in two from an attack, but Reverse Flash’s solution is to remove the “Speed Force users” from the equation, including himself. On top of this bombshell future villain, Captain Cold is busy trying to steal a special key… which would unlock Mr. Freeze’s prison cell in Arkham Asylum, but he fails when Jesse Quick and Bart Allen (Impulse) foil the attempt.

The stinger on this one reveals to us that Granny Goodness turning from a spaceship monitor showing Apokalips and states that “he’s coming.”

In Brightest Day: Green Lantern

Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner convene on OA to plan a reunion on Earth but are forced to deal with a direct threat to OA when Atrocitus and Sinestro lead the Red and Yellow Lantern Corps on an assault, where the main focus is trying to get into OA’s vault to liberate the Book of the Black. The attack doesn’t succeed… but while Sinestro makes a second, more intense “last ditch” run at the vault, he cracks open a cell holding Larfleeze, who wreaks havoc in the aftermath (escaping, eventually, with the Book). Jordan decides to stay on OA to help fortify the planet, Stewart heads towards Earth to investigate the other oddities happening, and Guy Gardner tries to follow Larfleeze to wherever he’s heading.

We have two stingers in this one, the first one is “mid credits” revealing Saint Walker (the Blue Lantern) is also headed towards Earth after Sinestro, who received a message from Earth. The second stinger, at our traditional end again, is Larfleeze towing a trapped Guy Gardner towards Apokalips.

Shadow of the Bat

Batman is plagued by a new threat, the Court of Owls, terrorizing Gotham and trying to rid the city of their self proclaimed Dark Knight. When Bruce Wayne can’t handle the onslaught of the sheer number of Owls, he enlists the help of Robin, Nightwing, and the Birds of Prey… together, they rid Gotham of the Court but unfortunately releases some Arkham prisoners (Scarecrow, Solomon Grundy, and Mr. Freeze among them).

The stinger? Yeah, it’s got just one… and it’s Lex Luthor on the phone saying “I think we need to form a Legion.”

Justice League United

Well… we got to this one in a similar fashion to Marvel, but the point isn’t to do something different, the point is to do something big. Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Cyborg are enlisted by Flash to help stop the future disaster from happening, one step which occurs “now.” The Legion of Doom (Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy, Brainiac, Captain Cold, Cheetah, Sinestro, Gorilla Grodd, Black Manta, Scarecrow, and Riddler) unleashes their fury on the world, which causes the Justice League to fully form (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Green Lantern John Stewart) to fight them back into submission. The fight causes a tear in spacetime, which unleashes Bizarro, allows Sinestro to flee through it, and shows the League the impending threat of a fiery world heading towards the Solar System.

There are three stingers in this one… the early credits scene stinger has the League giving the “watch” over to Martian Manhunter while the rest of them go to deal with the repercussions of the Legion of Doom. The mid credits scene gives us Nightwing and Robin talking about heading to deal with a new threat, hinting at the “Titans” coming soon. The end credits scene gives us a full on view of Darkseid demanding that he deal with the threat personally… that threat being the Justice league.

From here, I’d introduce the Titans as a team, head back for some sequels (Wonder Woman darling with Cheetah and Giganta, Batman figuring out his legacy by recruiting Terry McGinnis as a trainee against Riddler, Flash going up against Captain Cold or Savitar, Green Lantern Corps dealing with the Blackest Night and Black Hand, Superman facing off against Bizarro, Aquaman and Black Manta going at it, and introducing characters that really need to be introduced to blow the doors off the DCEU like Shazam, John Constantine, Green Arrow, and Doctor Fate… just to scratch the surface).

And Darkseid hasn’t even gotten to Earth yet! He’d be the Justice League sequel villain, or maybe even the third one.

In just my tiny little run of movies, though, I’ve introduced a slew of characters that can either be expanded upon in other movies or ignored for other introductions all together. Hell, “mini-DCEUs” could spring up following each character (a-la Sony’s Spider-Verse).

What do you think of what I would have done?