Monday, September 28, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons, Satan's Game

I don't know if this will be an entertaining post or not.  I'm really tempted to do an audio version of it (those are way easier), since the tone of my voice might convey my feelings better than some hastily-typed words while glancing at the clock.  But ah well.

So, I went to a comic convention over the weekend.  It was the same one I first took my nephew to two years ago, only to discover the basement had flooded quite terribly when we came home.  I took both of my nephews this year, one on each day, and ended up getting vomited on my the older one Friday night.  I spent quite a while cleaning up chunder, and discovered that I smelled pretty strongly of regurgitant for the rest of the evening.

What's worse, my buddy Merrill told me about arugula yesterday, and said his wife likes it (or claims to).  It made me feel not dissimilar to how I felt seeing my sister's kid upchucking beans and enchilada onto the floor and himself.

But the reason I wanted to write this up is that today at work, I kept thinking about the D&D panel I went to yesterday.  It was a very disappointing panel, yet I couldn't stop dwelling on it, to the point that I thought it might be amusing to talk about how unamusing it was.  So, I went out and did a little Rish Outcast about it you can listen to here, if you like (or download it here).

It wasn't very amusing, though, and I thought I'd try again here in the blog to talk about it.

So, my pal Jeff has been into Dungeons & Dragons all his life, and his mother is one of those types who believes the worst about anything, and constantly tried to keep him away from that devilish pastime.  He's told me many amusing stories about the moms in his community gasping and shuddering at the revelation that he spent his Fridays rolling multi-sided dice in oblation to the Beastmaster.

So when I heard there was a panel at this weekend's comic-con entitled Satanism, Insanity, and Dungeons & Dragons, I made it a priority to go to it.

But save for one brief shining moment, it was absolutely no fun.  You see, apparently religious nuts and paranoid politicians can do a great deal of damage, and the panel talked about people who were persecuted, arrested, boycotted, shunned, and small businesses that went under due to the anti-D&D hysteria.  Sure, it's kind of hilarious to play that Tom Hanks phone booth scene from MAZES & MONSTERS, but when you find out the actual story behind that, and how role-playing games were the scapegoat for an unhappy individual that lost his mind and eventually his life at his own hand, well . . .

On the panel were people who sold role playing games, people who loved (and were harassed for loving) Dungeons & Dragons, and Michael Stackpole, who was (and remains) head of a gaming coalition who comes to the aid of those who are sued, threatened, defamed, or strong-armed by multi-millionaire televangelists and backwoods politicians in places like Virginia Beach, VA.  Stackpole told story after story of people trying to stamp out the new and vulnerable RPG industry in the Eighties and it never--not a single time--ended with the outraged parents or church groups admitting they'd been wrong.

I went to the panel to chuckle at how naive folks were just a few years ago (and there was a chuckle here and there, like when some of the religious tracts were quoted, helping parishioners identify those who might be "under the influence" of these wicked, destructive games), but when you hear first-hand witnesses of book-burnings in church parking lots, the laughter tends to dry up.

It's all too easy to make comparisons to recent panics and blame games, such as the post-Columbine video game/movie violence paranoia, the Heavy Metal Equals Satanism movement, and the anti-Harry Potter bullshit of the last decade.  And that's not totally fun either.

EXCEPT for this.  Early on, a guy came in and sat in the corner.  And he was dressed in an elaborate devil costume* he'd made himself, and he sat silently throughout the panel, which seemed really bizarre to me (I took a picture as he sipped his drink through a straw early on).  Then they opened it up for questions, and he stood and went to the microphone.

Several people laughed, gasped, or cheered when they noticed him approach the front of the line, and when he started to ask his question in a timid, nerdy regular voice, the entire meeting room exploded with laughter.  I now think, a day later, that it was useful in deflating the nervous tension that had been building up with all the unpleasantness they were talking about (there was a panel later about Ted Bundy the serial killer, and I imagine there would be a similar reaction of someone dressed as Pokey the orange horse stood up and said, "Bundy?  Oh, I thought this was a discussion about Gumby.  My mistake.").

So, when the guy asked his question the second time, he put on a gravely death-metal Satan voice, and the crowd laughed and applauded him.  Certainly the highpoint of that hour, if not the whole day.

I felt a little sad having dragged my niece to the panel, since it was my idea and it turned out to be so unpleasant.  However, it must be said that she dragged me to a "Carrie: The Musical" presentation, which was really hard to sit through (yeah, it's the Eighties Stephen King musical, back in kitschy revival form), so turnabout is fair play.  It was such an awkward, odd choice for a musical, that I started to wish I hadn't abandoned my "Pulp Fiction: The Musical" project earlier this year.**

The Dead Alewives had this comedy sketch about D&D that began, "Dungeons & Dragons: Satan's Game," and it never failed to amuse me.  It's introduced as an actual peek into the sinful debauchery of that evilest of all games, and then presents a pretty realistic depiction of game-play, where nerdy teens snort and giggle and pretend to be elves and wizards while drinking Mountain Dew.  I stole the title from that, but boy, I would've enjoyed the panel more if they had only talked about how funny that sketch was.

Rish Outfield, Dungeon Bater

*Okay, in the spirit of full disclosure (kiss my pudgy arse, by the way), his costume was actually that of Tim Curry's demonic character from LEGEND, The Darkness.  But hey, if the cloven-hooves fit...

**This is no joke.  I really started work on a Pulp Fiction musical intended for the my podcast, but only got as far as writing a Samuel L. Jackson Ezekiel 25:17 song.  Yeah.  The first part goes:
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides,
By evil men’s tyranny, and selfishness he hides.
But blessed is he who shepherds the weaker,
Through darkness, as his brother’s keeper.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rish's Voice in "Night Delivery" on Campfire Radio Theater

Years ago, I was watching David Letterman when he had Lance Henriksen on as a guest.  Henriksen was talking about his FOX show "Millennium," and he was really excited about the project because the producers had actually written the show with him in mind.  Dave could not have cared less, but it struck me how thrilled with the idea Lance Henriksen was.

Cut to 2015.  I got approached to be the voice of the main character in John Ballentine's new episode of Campfire Radio Theater "Night Delivery," and having so enjoyed voicing Old Jim on "R.I.P." last year, I was happy to sign on.  As I performed the character, I started to think of it less and less of a character and more and more like me.  Twas then that John told me that he wrote the part with me in mind.

It's surely not a big deal to you, and it's nothing compared to a TV show being made for you, but it was quite an honor for me to hear.  And the funny thing is, maybe I remembered the conversation wrong . . . deliberately.

I play Dustin James, who gets a job as a radio DJ in the 1980's, when he discovers there might be something weird going on with his late night shift, or maybe the radio station itself.  He meets a beautiful young woman, and at one point gets a stack of records with a warning on them: Do not play backwards.   Three guesses as to what he does next.

Check it out at this here LINK, or go to Campfireradiotheater dot Podbean and listen to them all.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Podcast That Dares Not Speak Its Name 12: Dracula's Guest

Back before there was a Rish Outcast, I recorded this and another story that never saw the light of day.  Well, here's one of those long-lost episodes, wherein I present "Dracula's Guest," by Bram Stoker.

Afterward, find out if this truly was the first chapter of Stoker's "Dracula," and who owns the original manuscript.  Or don't, I'll never find out if you listened or not.

If you wanna download this episode, why not Right-Click this link here?

Monday, September 07, 2015

An Honor Just To Be Nominated (2015)

So, last year, the Dunesteef got no Parsec nominations.  Or heck, maybe we did, but we weren't finalists, you know what I mean?

This year was different.  I really made an effort to at least get us a chance to win one of the podcasting awards given out at DragonCon each year.  Big Anklevich too jumped through the requisite hoops.

And when the (finalist) nominations were announced, our show got two, both for stories written by me.  "Last Contact," and "Say Uncle."*

That felt good.  So I typed up this little blog post, to drop when the winners were announced.  "Do I care if I lose?" I wrote.  "Nope."

So, DragonCon happened, and immediately, people were sending messages to let me know we'd won.  Category was  Speculative Fiction Story (Large Cast), and the story that won was "Last Contact," which Big was especially proud of (since it wasn't just for a piece we'd performed or produced, but also written).

I'm not really a competitive person, at least not in a deriving-pleasure-from-defeating-others sort of way (or even a "I don't want the world, I just want your half" kind of attitude).  Winning means . . . well, not a lot.  But having my name on the ballot, well, that's pretty great.

Oh, and the irony is, I wrote "John Hughes's Last Contact" with entering it in a contest in mind, coming up with a story I probably never would have written without that particular competition.

I should give credit where credit is due: Big made sure not only to send our samples in by the deadline, but even insisted we film an acceptance video, on the off-chance we won an award.  He took a Parsec trophy up to the mountains with us last week and shot it, then got them the video within twenty-four hours.


*The former co-written with Big, and produced by Clay Dugger, the latter written and produced by me.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Wes Craven R.I.P.

It was 1986.  Somehow, I'd gotten my mother to rent us a horror film from the local market (a tiny family-owned store on Main Street that sold candy, dry goods, a few groceries, and had, by then, converted one wall into a makeshift video store--as all markets did in those days) to watch on a Friday night.  My friend Steven had come over to spend the night, and I assumed that he was as into scary movies as I was.  The film for the evening was A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

We made it about halfway through.

Steven did not enjoy the movie, and when I suggested we finish it up the next morning, was less than enthusiastic.  He probably never watched a horror movie with me again.

But I was really impressed with it.  Like every unbalanced child of my generation, I became somewhat fixated on Freddy Krueger and his seemingly-endless series of slasher films (I had a big "Freddy's Revenge" poster on my bedroom wall that I would always avoid looking at late at night).  That was my first exposure to a Wes Craven film, though I vaguely recall wanting to see SWAMP THING when it came out.

I was disturbed watching SERPENT & THE RAINBOW at my Uncle George's place, and rolled my eyes at the end of THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS in the same house.  He directed my favorite episode of the Eighties version of "The Twilight Zone," the one where Melinda Dillon could stop time by saying "Shut up."  My friend Dennis recorded SHOCKER off of HBO and we watched the tape, only to discover the recording ended before the movie did.  And I laughed my head off when Anne Ramsay was beheaded by a basketball in DEADLY FRIEND.

In 1996, I saw SCREAM with my roommate John.    It took a while for me to embrace it like the people around me did, but when I did, I recognized it as a love letter to my favorite genre, and I thought, "This is what I should be/could be writing."  I probably loved SCREAM 2 more than the first one, also seeing that with John (on opening night).

Well, Wes Craven died this week, of brain cancer.  He was seventy-six, which sort of amazes me.

I only met Wes once, though I actually saw him speak at one of those Horror conventions I always felt out of place in for not having a tattoo of the Tall Man on my inner thigh.  He was a very patient, well-spoken man, and he signed my copy of SCREAM after a screening one night.

Unfortunately, that and most of my DVDs were stolen by a neighbor who, upon discovering a way to let himself into my apartment, came over from time to time, waiting, of course, until I'd gone to work.

But hey, I still have my memories.  And I never saw MY SOUL TO TAKE.  Maybe I'll do that this week.  

Thanks for the bad dreams, Wes.  Rest well.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Rish Performs "The Wood of Ephraim" On Far-Fetched Fables

Gary Dowell over at "Far-Fetched Fables" keeps handing me projects to narrate.  I don't know if a lot of people listen to his show, but I'm sure it's significantly more than those listening to mine.  I told him I would do any story as long as it was as good as "The Secret To Catching Rabbits," and he sent me this one, called "The Wood of Ephraim" by Edward M. Erdelac.

Erdelac wrote something that, in my experience, is totally unique.  It is a Biblical horror story.  I remember, a few years back, Big and I got to work on what I believe was an episode of "The Way of the Buffalo" which was basically a horror tale about a malevolent Jesus Christ (like the one in Carrie White's little prayer/punishment room).  That's the closest thing I can think of to "Woods of Ephraim."

It's a scary tale with a bunch of Biblical names about the death of Absalom, the son of King David, and the army that is pursuing him.  The tale begins with the ominous scripture 2 Samuel 18:8: "For the battle was there spread over the face of all the country, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword."  That's pretty fitting, actually.

The names were a challenge, and I really might have done a better job separating the characters into different voices, but what are you gonna do?

Anyway, I dug it, and here's the link.