Saturday, June 28, 2014

Secrets of Aetherium

For the past few months, I've been writing Secrets of Aetherium, the Weird Science sourcebook for Ravaged Earth.

Secrets of Aetherium is unlike anything else I've written. Focusing specifically on scientific developments in the early 20th Century after mankind discovers the Martian Metal known as Aetherium, the book chronicles technological developments as they might have been. Creating alternate history is fun, if not challenging. You have to plan where your altered timeline deviates from the actual one, and develop any after-effects caused by monkeying around with history.

What would have happened if, after the War of the Worlds, the world's governments found an extraterrestrial element capable of almost miraculous feats? Our technological development would rocket lightyears ahead. Coupled with the futuristic vision of early 20th Century dreamers (when futurism wasn't a whimsical fantasy of anticipating ahead), technology would bequeath the 1930s orbital rockets, rayguns and levitating cars.

Dieselpunk, in all its oily, rivet-covered glory, would be ours.

This is the world of Ravaged Earth; a grimy, yet optimistic world of dashing sky pirates in massive airships, jetpacks and clunky robots, all anchored by the sensibilities of the 1930s.

Secrets of Aetherium will explore the social and ethical ramifications of exploiting the New Science. As scientists and inventors push the boundaries of what can be done, how far is too far? With these boundless vistas ahead, where mankind is limited only by imagination and resources, what's stopping a megalomaniac from creating death rays or a squadron of killer robots?

The answer is, the heroes.

Though I don't like discussing specifics of a product while in development, I can say Secrets of Aetherium will contain everything you need to play a pulpy scientist and inventor. Plumb the depths of Aetherium in your own private lab, or join the Institute for Modern Scientific Research, a consortium of like-minded, altruistic gadgeteers. Be one of three new races (Hybrid-Martian, Robot or Super Simian). Select from new Edges and Hindrances, vehicles and over 40 Weird Science gadgets and gizmos. The book also has rules for constructing robots and rocket ships, and a Plot-Point campaign.

Needless to say, it's an abundant amount of material to create and edit. My ultimate goal is to have the book completely written before summer's end, say in August. Most likely, writing will be placed on a temporary hiatus while I move in late July. Once I finally settle into my new digs, I'll continue working on Secrets of Aetherium.

Other Ravaged Earth news: I completed work on four one-sheet adventures which are winging their way through the editing process. There's also a New York City guidebook and Ravaged Tale also going through edits.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Faustian Pact

Hunched over my laptop staring at the blinking cursor on the blank page. The whiteness on the glowing screen taunts me, an incessant "neener-neener" of a schoolyard bully. Will my words matter to anyone? Is writing just a cosmic joke, a colossal time suck, a delusion I've persisted under for 20 years?

Will I be anything but a rank amateur in a bloody clown circus of amateurs, sniffing the big top for peanuts and stepping in mountains of elephant shit? Can I finally cast off these shackles of anonymity and find sweet success?

Are my words making others happy? Am I fulfilled and complete?

Just as I extricate a large block of text with a swift movement of the cursor, flicking pixels on the screen like an axe murderer dismantling torsos in a Jacuzzi, a chilly wind blew through the room.

The unmistakable aroma of brimstone hit my nostrils and I spun around in my chair.

A gaunt gentleman in a Victorian frock and tophat stands behind me, stroking his tightly cropped and oiled goatee. Flashing me a Cheshire cat grin, the man introduces himself, his voice oily like a tin of sardines.

"Greetings, mortal. I am Mephistopheles. Some call me by other names. Beelzebub. Lucifer. Prince of Lies. Satan. The Great Deceiver. You can call me Blaine."

"Get the fuck out of my house, Blaine," I said, pointing at the door.

"Is that any way to treat a guest?" Blaine said, and sat on a nearby chair, first pushing a pile of books from the chair to the floor, where they crashed in a great heap. "Have writer's block, do you? Can't get those stubborn words from your beloved brainpan?"

"Seriously, I'm calling the cops if you don't leave."

"Ah, the writer's temperament. Frustrated because your inability to release those brilliant word nuggets onto the page, eh?" Blaine said, producing a red silk handkerchief from his vest pocket and dabbing his lips. "It's positively infernal, isn't it?"

"I'm dialing 9-1-1," I said, reaching for the phone.

Before I knew it the iPhone transformed into a block of Bavarian chocolate an started melting in the stifling humidity.

"What the hell?"

"Exactly!" Blaine said, tittering like a foppish dandy. "Hell is full of surprises, you know."

"Where's my fucking phone, Blaine?"

"You don't need to get the authorities involved. I can make your wildest dreams and desires come true," Blaine said.

"So you're some kind of Victorian gay rent boy? Sorry, Blaine, I don't swing that way. I jut want to finish writing my story. Peddle your forbidden love candy somewhere else, ya freak."

Blaine wrinkled his brow.

"That's no way to treat a guest. I'm here because you need my help. You're a writer, but self-doubt and self-loathing plagues you. Nothing you try seems to work. None of your stories connects. You squeeze the trigger, but the bullets don't fire. You're not hitting your targets. Am I correct?"

"What's it to you?" I said. "How did you get in here, anyway?"

"I can assist your writing career. I can make people love your work. The ideas will flow under my tutelage. Let me guide you. Why be a miserable hack when I can nourish your budding talents? Don't you want to be one of the most successful writers who's ever lived?"

For a solid minute, I sat in silence, thinking about Blaine's offer. Does he really possess the ability to lift me from my torpor and jumpstart my career?

Then it dawned on me.

"You're a literary agent, aren't you, Blaine?"

Blaine looked offended.

"No, I'm not."

"You are. You're totally a literary agent. Or maybe one of those con artists who trick writers into paying for a writing seminar and then dispense trite advice on preparing manuscripts and query letters," I said.

"All you have to do is sign this contract, pledging your immortal soul to me in exchange for success. You'll be prolific and witty. Your books will sell like hotcakes. You'll ride the gravy train to Beverly Hills and beyond."

"I'll bet there's a fee. There's always a fee with you people. Or a membership. I'll have to buy a membership to your writing club, right? Maybe you're from a self-publishing business, ready to hook a few egotistical suckers."

"No! There are no seminars, no dues. No weekend writing getaways at a hotel in Woodbridge, New Jersey. Just sign your name in blood and that's it," Blaine said, rising to his cloven feet. He waved the contract at me, a brittle document with lavish, flowing script. "I'm the devil! All I want is your soul in exchange for something paltry and temporary you crave. That's it!"

"So what's in it for me?"

"Fame. Prosperity. A horde of loyal readers. I can give you an audience hanging on your every word. Your name will be on books from now until forever."

I thought about it.

"Fuck you. I'm calling the cops," I said, and moved towards the door.

Blaine stamped his foot and a thunder clap sounded, shaking the house.

"Deny me this, son of man, and you'll be forced to slog indefinitely. Your words will be ignored, your name forfeit. Madness and insecurity will hound you for the rest of your days," Blaine said, his eyes glowing red.

"You're trespassing, Blaine. Fuck off," I said.

Blaine dissolved in a wisp of foul mist which smelled like rattlesnake farts and roadkill skunk guts. The gibbering moron was finally gone.

I sat back down at the computer and stared at the blank screen. Something brilliant was on the verge of being created, a future masterpiece ready to be born, yet the stubborn words would not come.