This Time Next Week

We're launching the Planet Mercenary RPG Kickstarter on April 14th, 2015. That's just a week away.

Here's a wallpaper featuring one of Planet Mercenary's best-selling brands, Strohl Munitions, makers of the iconic BH-209 Plasgun.


Don't let that weathered metal texture fool you! Strohl products are shiny and durable*.

(*Not bulletproof. Do not pour alcohol into the reaction chamber. Illegal where non-legal.)

At Long Last: An Unofficial Anecdotal History of Challenge Coins

Kickstarter backers got the first alert, which is only fair because they're the ones who funded this two years ago. Our original delivery deadline was set for around six months after the Kickstarter closed. We only missed that by 18 months! Fortunately, the "how late are you?" clock can finally be stopped.

Available Now!

An Unofficial Anecdotal History of Challenge Coins is a free PDF full of challenge coin stories. It is not an authoritative attempt to codify the rules of coin challenges, nor is it a scholarly treatise creating an historical narrative. It is a collection of stories that are similar to the sorts of stories you might hear if a bunch of people were sitting around at the bar one night draining pints and talking about challenge coins. We've done our best to present these stories in a way that respects the various challenge coin traditions, and pays appropriate tribute to those who have served.

Hosting

The document is currently hosted in two places:

If you would like to host this document yourself, you may!

Licensing

This document was released under the terms of Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 International, which means that you are allowed to share the document freely, and you may remix, transform, and re-distribute the document provided you notify us, credit us in your document, and create a publicly accessible change-log.

Life-Cycle

The life-cycle of this document is an open question. It is possible that we will be able to update and maintain it regularly (semi-annually?) incorporating new content from the widely varied challenge coin communities.  It is also possible for us to hand the whole project, source files and all, to someone else for maintenance. For the time being, however, we, Sandra and I, own this, and will endeavor to correct anything that's wrong with it.

We do not yet have this in eBook format. We lack expertise with those file formats. Volunteers? See "Contact Information" below.

There are no plans for a print edition, but the CC BY-SA license allows anyone to upload this to a Print-On-Demand service and create just that sort of thing.

As of this writing the document is version 0.99. We expect a rash of edits (rash, red, get it?) to come in during the next few weeks, at which point the document will be updated to Version 1. The version number goes up by hundredths and tenths when small edits are made, and whole numbers when content is added. The edition number changes in whole numbers only, and only when new content is added. The cover and title page will be updated to reflect this.

Our journey—Sandra's and mine—with this document has been drawn out a bit further than anyone would have liked, and has induced exhilaration, guilt, anxiety attacks, and spurts of creative fury in various turns. At some point we may tell that story, but this page and this book are not the place for it.

Contact Information

Please direct all inquiries to schlockmercenary@gmail.com, and include the unpronounceable acronym "UAHCC" in the subject line. We welcome submissions, hosting updates, suggested changes, and requests for source.  

(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)

Furious 7

Let me preface this by saying that I was saddened by Paul Walker's passing, more than a little conflicted at the tragic irony of the manner of his death, and that I haven't really been following the whole Fast, Furious, and Franchised story.

This means that despite the over-the-top action and comic book physics of Furious 7, things that should aim it straight at me, I'm only a peripheral member of the film's target audience.

With that out of the way: Ugh.

Furious 7 spent far too much time wallowing in manufactured drama that it did not bother to earn. The film seemed to assume that I had been passionately tracking the various F&F character arcs, and was eager to be dropped straight into the kind of moist-eyed, conflicted navel-gazing that most films take an act and a half to set up.

My viewing experience can be summed up as follows.

  1. They are talking a LOT. I'll try to care.
  2. Nope. Caring isn't going to work for me. GET BACK IN THE CARS.
  3. Yay cars! And fighting! Why is there shaky cam? I can't see what's going on!
  4. Go to 1.

 

This went on for two hours and ten minutes, followed by a weird meander into a tribute to Paul Walker which, had it been any more thinly veiled would have been a documentary. And then the credits rolled, and 140 minutes felt far too long for what was basically a set-piece superhero-heist where all of the super powers are indistinguishable flavors of "make cars do absurd things" and "walk away from a rollover that any highway patrolman can tell you is not survivable."

I'm glad that Paul Walker's friends got to turn the end of the movie into a farewell, because that's a nice thing, and I believe more people should be nice, but it felt like it belonged at the end of a different movie.

Furious 7 committed a couple of unforgivable sins: It jumbled up Jason Statham's fight scenes with jitter-cam, and then did the same thing to Rhonda Rousey's fight. These are both top-notch physical performers, and their appearances were squandered. That's sin #1 (though it should count as two.) Sin #2 is that the film took itself very seriously while still expecting me to believe in parachuting cars that can hit a remote mountain highway.

The good news is that I finally have a 2015 film that drops below my threshold of disappointment, providing  the beginnings of symmetry to this year's list.

(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)

The Planet Mercenary RPG Kickstarter will launch on April 14th

Alan and I met with Sandra on Friday and checked on the alignment of the ducks. There were several duck-vectors to be scrutinized, but in our assessment, those ducks will all be in a row by April 14th.

So that's when we're launching the Kickstarter.

For more information on the Planet Mercenary RPG, check our development blog at schlocktroops.com. The image above is available over there as a wallpaper.

(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)

The Border Between Books

Schlock Mercenary is a long form comic strip in which the fifteen years of daily updates are all part of the same continuity. That continuity is broken up into books, in large measure because I don't expect anybody (not even me) to keep track of all the things that happened in the last 15 years of strips in order to enjoy the things happening this week.
 
When I start a new book, I reset some of the narrative "rules." "New story" things start happening. We begin an all new set of dramatic and character arcs. If you're blazing through the archives one click at a time, you're going to miss this. With the current site design that can't really be helped. If you're reading the books in print, your arrival at the last page is a very strong signal that we've finished a story.
 
Today we sit at the boundary between Book 15 and book 16, and I created a "THE END" graphic and a "NEW BOOK STARTS HERE" graphic to try to communicate that. But what does the boundary mean? Here are the implications, with bullets:
 
  • Questions I left hanging in the last book are not on the front burner right now. Before I can answer them, I would have to ask them again.
  • Characters from previous books who are going to be important in this story will be introduced, or at least mentioned, fairly early on. This holds true for ships, locations, technologies, and events, as well.
  • The previous book's themes are a closed matter. Delegates and Delegation is done saying what it had to say. Big Dumb Objects will open its own thematic discussion. If themes from previous books are going to be echoed, they'll be reintroduced in order to prevent confusion.

You don't have to read Schlock Mercenary in any particular way, and you certainly aren't required to get out of it what I put into it (something I honestly don't expect to happen very much.) Your reaction to a story--any story--is yours, and is based as much on who you are as on what's in between the first and last pages of the story.

If, however, you want some clues as to how a story will unfold, it's helpful to understand the form in which the creator is working. For Schlock Mercenary, that means observing the border between the books, and knowing that while the rules of the universe remain the same, each of these books has its own beginning, middle, and end.
 
As much as I'd love to start filling page after page with commentary about the stories I write, I'm going to leave that project for another day. For now, if you've got questions about the story, you're supposed to. You're on Page One. Everything is a question, including "what are the questions?"
 
I'll do my very best to entertain you with the questions, the answers, and all the misery, misdirection, and mayhem that fall between them. This is my job, after all. And speaking of that, I need to get back to work...
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