The Game Is On

Last night, Laura and I caught the first installment of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ modernized take on the Holmes canon — the BBC’s Sherlock. The show will air on Masterpiece sometime later this year, although (ahem) other methods exist for viewing the show before then. It is well worth your time: The show is gobsmackingly BRILLIANT, managing to update Holmes and Watson to 21st Century London flawlessly.

Holmes was one of my first bits of fan-geekery. My shelves are full of complete editions, additional editions, pastiches, retrospectives, and more. It was through Holmes that I developed my love of Victoriana. When this show was first announced, I cringed. The thought of a modernized take on Holmes brought to mind such atrocities as the 1987 CBS TV movie The Return of Sherlock Holmes or 1993’s Sherlock Holmes Returns. A friend of mine quipped: “A modern take on Holmes? Is that already on, and called HOUSE?” But despite my misgivings, there was a factor that prevented me from dismissing it entirely. That factor was Steven Moffat.

My fellow geeks are by now well converted to the church of Moffat, having seen his brilliant work on the revived Doctor Who, including his current role as the showrunner. I have long been impressed by his writing — especially the intricacy of his plotting and how he plays with structure, evident in even his sitcom work like Coupling. The work that convinced me that he might just be able to pull off a relaunch of Holmes, though, was his modernization of another seminal Victorian work — Jekyll, which he did for the BBC 3 years ago. (If you haven’t seen this, get thee to Netflix hence.)

So I gave it a shot, and was rewarded for my faith.

Sherlock is damn near perfect. I would say 100% perfect, if not for one thing. There will only be 3 episodes. Of course, these episodes are essentially 90-minute films, but still, I want MORE. Much more. Here’s hoping that the BBC commission more episodes (and in batches of more than 3, hopefully), but as of today, there’s been no official statement — apart from a “source claims” quote in the notoriously dodgy tabloid, The Sun.

Benedict Cumberbatch is wonderful as Holmes — manic, obsessive, odd, intense: everything Holmes should be. Martin Freeman thankfully dispels the bumbling Watson stereotype, playing a British Army doctor recently back from Afghanistan, and feeling the effects. The plot of the first episode, is a modernized riff on elements from “A Study in Scarlet”, and enthralled me all the way through, despite the fact that at this point, I could probably recite the original story verbatim from memory.

The biggest praise I have for Sherlock is that I wanted more of it, immediately — and that my brain started hammering out ways that the tales of the classic canon could be updated for the 21st century (somewhat problematic, as I have plenty of my own efforts that I should be working on!). More of this, Mr. Moffat. Much more, please.

Update Post Is Updatey

So, um… yeah. Pretty much an entire month with no posts from me.

In my defense, it’s been a busy month. But yeah, I should try to do better. Twitter takes care of most of my “hey, check out this thing” needs, which formed a large part of my past posting habits, but I do have longer-form things to say, and I should be making more of an effort to say them here.

Work-wise, ICONS hit stores this month, and while I’m still waiting to hear initial distributor orders from my print partners, indications on the PDF side of things seem to point toward the game being a fairly solid hit for us. We released the first adventure, The Skeletron Key, and a nifty Java-based character generator application, The ICONS Character Folio. I had planned on having at least one more adventure out by now, but we’ve hit some slight delays (and really, perhaps my schedule was a bit too ambitious). We should have at least one more adventure out before GENCON next week though.

Yes, GENCON — looms large on the horizon this time of year. Slightly bummed this time around, as only 2 of my 5 friends from Cubicle 7 will be in attendance, but I’m sure that it will be a good time, as it is every year. Definitely time to top off the enthusiasm tanks.

Of course, every year, our industry manages to generate a big piece of controversial news which always seems to hit just in time to dominate bar talk at the show — and it looks like this year’s entry is the rumor that Wizards of the Coast will be letting the core 4E D&D books go out of print, in favor of pushing the new “Essentials” boxed games. I’ve got a bunch to say about this, but as the news has just hit (and really, isn’t really confirmed news at this point), I’m going to put my thoughts in order and post about this in greater length tomorrow. If true, it really does deserve its own post.

In other work-related news, releases for MARS and THRILLING TALES continued to move towards completion and release, although not fast enough for anyone’s liking, least of all mine. I really do need to hire more production help. Once the art and manuscripts are done, everything bottlenecks through me for graphic design and layout.

On the transmedia front, I was invited to participate in a web panel held by Digital Book World along with several other RPG industry folks — the panel was nominally going to be about “Learning from RPG Publishers” (as early adopters of electronic publishing, we have some insight into the challenges currently being faced by mainstream publishing operations), but unfortunately, we never really got to that topic. Instead we spent a lot of time talking about our industry, which is fine — but I was really chomping at the bit to get to the original topic. I pitched the idea of an article for DBW on the subject, which they’re interested in, so I may end up writing it for this site, and giving them reprint rights.

Development work continues on FAR WEST and VESPER NOVA. It’s so hard — I do a ton of work, but none of it is yet public, so I can’t help to feel like I’m not getting anything done, despite the hours that I’m putting in. Dedicated websites for both properties will be launched this Fall, though, so I’ll finally be able to “show my work.”

On the personal front, I took a week’s vacation to visit my family in coastal Maine, during my son’s summer visit to his grandparents. It was great to see him, and the whole family again — although the weather in Maine was horrendous: Temps and humidity both in the high 80s. Extremely unusual for the area, as would be noted by the lack of AC in the house. UGH. On the same trip, I also took the opportunity to visit The Minion at her first apartment (a summer sublease in Boston, while she interns for the Governor) — which made me feel simultaneously proud and OLD. How did I end up with a kid who’s turning 21 this fall?

Lastly, this past Sunday I got to experience a dream: I saw my team, Manchester United, play here. I’ve been a fan of United ever since I lived in NYC 10 years ago, and one of the local cable networks (YES, the channel owned by the Yankees) would show tape-delayed matches. They’re the reason I get up early to watch live football from England on the weekends, and I finally had the opportunity to see them as they were playing a “friendly” (read here: exhibition) against the local club, The Kansas City Wizards.

They played at Arrowhead Stadium, the local NFL site, which was the only area stadium large enough for the 52,000 people who attended (the largest soccer attendance in the city’s history). As cool as it was to see Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nani and other United players — perhaps even cooler was the fact that my local club (whom I’m also a fan of) played a scrappy, hard-fought game against the best team in the world, and — despite playing outnumbered for most of the game due to a Red Card late in the first half — managed to win, 2-1. Helluva game.

So yeah — busy month. I’ll get back into the habit of more regular posts, I promise. I the meantime, I leave you with a view of the pre-game warm-ups from our seats at the KC-ManU game:

Henry Rollins

Laura and I went to Liberty Hall here in Lawrence last night to catch Henry Rollins on his latest spoken-word tour (is it even really necessary to qualify “tour” with “spoken-word” for Rollins any longer? He’s pretty much stopped doing music, right?)

At 8pm, he strode out on stage, far grayer than either the tour posters or his recent stint on “Sons of Anarchy” would have you expect, wrapped the mike cord around his hand a few times, took up his familiar one-foot-forward coiled-energy pose, and proceeded to talk, non-stop, for three hours straight. Without so much as a pause or a single sip of water.

He bounced from topic to topic, largely sticking to his recent experiences in filming “Sons of Anarchy” and then the 3-month travel stint that followed the filming and immediately preceded this tour, which took him around the world, from Saudi Arabia to India to Sri Lanka to Mali and more. He briefly touched on current events (Not to expect BP to have to pay any real consequence for the Gulf disaster because, as he pointed out, Union Carbide pretty much got away with killing 12,000 Indians in the 80s), American politics (“Barack Obama speaks in perfect 12-point Helvetica.”), and even our local shame, the funeral-picketing “God Hates Fags” Phelps clan (“The best way to defeat them is to give their kids a Ramones album.”).

All the while, he spoke of “staring down the barrel of 50” — Rollins is 8 years my senior, and I found a lot of his commentary around aging particularly topical for me (“I was creaking and popping in places that I will now creak and pop for the rest of my life — because at this age, those injuries? You get to keep those.”).

The night was fascinating, not just for the narrative (I mean, who doesn’t love a story of flipping off Burmese dictator Than Shwey to his face?), but for a look at the mental processes of a fellow creative who thrives when he’s busy and gets bored and depressed when he’s not.

Really excellent show — if you get a chance, go see him.