Joining the Pacific Rim RPG Team for a Cinematic Adventure

Heya, I wanted to give you an update that I’m writing a cinematic adventure set in the world of Pacific Rim for Evil Genius Games! The Pacific Rim franchise is something I am having fun re-watching for inspiration. One of the reasons why I love Pacific Rim is because, at its core, it sends a strong message that in order to defeat a mysterious and world-ending threat, we need to overcome our differences and stand together.

From the Legendary Series Kong and Pacific Rim Kickstarter:

The Evil Genius Games team is back with a Double Feature tabletop rpg you won’t want to miss! For our second project, we are releasing two brand new officially licensed cinematic tabletop adventures, utilizing our signature modernized d20 roleplaying system, set in two of our favorite universes — Kong and Pacific Rim. Our Cinematic Adventures were just the beginning. Now, we’re introducing Cinematic Adventure Paths (CAPs) — long-form adventure campaigns using the Everyday Heroes™ system that take your characters from Level 1 to Level 10 across dozens of hours of exhilarating gameplay. CAPs are more than just a guided role-playing experience. In both of these scenarios, you’ll dive into the lore of each world and see places you didn’t see in the films as we introduce new canon into these beloved franchises! Insert yourself into the stories you’re familiar with. With our CAPs, it’s like you’re living the movies.

In Pacific Rim, it’s clear to me “standing together” isn’t just about immense, co-piloted Jaegers tackling Kaiju. It’s also about the Jaeger co-pilots meshing seamlessly, the politicians trying to decide where to allocate funds for the Jaeger program, the diplomats figuring out how to best ally with other countries, the engineers and construction workers building the Jaegers, the scientists and mathematicians studying Kaiju—the list goes on and on. I’m excited to write in this narratively-rich, near-world setting flush with fantastic and memorable characters and heart-thumping fight scenes. Can’t wait to see how my piece of the adventure comes to life!

Updates regarding the adventure path will be provided by Evil Genius Games. If you missed the Kickstarter, you’ll want to read this update about what happens next.

Dystopia and Deprivation

You're An Idiot, Starscream

Week number four of my social media hiatus begins, and I’m very happy with how this month has been shaping up. Perhaps the biggest benefit I’ve seen, once again, is that deprivation does help clear out my headspace, and helps me focus. I had a friend mention recently that I seemed more relaxed–and this is true, after a fashion. The less attention-grabbing headlines pop into my brainpan, the stronger my focus is on my own work. Mind you, I don’t feel this is an issue of time, necessarily, but emotion. A lot of what’s happening online these days is very upsetting, because fights are now public and sides/factions/what-have-you form around issues. Politics is a fantastic example of this, for example, as individuals jockey for votes slashing and burning public health programs–like Planned Parenthood(1)–along the way, touting cries of someone else‘s immorality, to make themselves appear as virtuous beacons of light(2) to gain power.

To me, these hot button issues have an impact on our creativity, but they always have to varying degrees. I feel the trick is knowing when to throw your hands up and walk away. I thrive on positivity when working, not negativity, which means I have different pressure points than you might have. Sometimes the issues-of-the-day have been couched in allegorical or symbolic terms to represent meaning without being direct about it, but that requires Deep ThoughtsTM. It is always safer, it seems, to introduce a new idea in an old way–through a story. For example, The Blob (1958) is about the spread of Communism, and was probably terrifying to audiences at the time. Now? Communism doesn’t hold the same meaning in today’s society, so the allegory is lost on us, and we think it’s a movie about a pink blob that consumes everything in its path. Thus, that story has since evolved into something safer, more digestible(3), and more palatable for audiences who hold diverse viewpoints, because we are different. The message is still there for those who want to see it, however, and thank the stars. People are infinitely more complex than a simplified perspective or -ist/-ism, and allegories like these facilitate critical thinking, of which I’m a huge fan.

The movie Advantageous (2015) is an example of a movie where the message is more overt than subtle, and it is a very cynical look at our future. It is also a great example of a dystopian film, for the story is small enough to give us a sense of what it’s like to live in this world, as opposed to tearing down the dystopia. I feel the reason why this film has gotten mixed reviews, is because people might be uncomfortable with the idea that some of these issues already exist in our own reality, and they weren’t expecting its slower pace a la Melancholia (2011). The pressure for women to be young is amped up to 11, here, but it absolutely exists in our reality. Hollywood, for all its glitz and glamour, often pairs older men/younger women together, and there is a thought that once you turn 30 your career is over. While, of course, much of that is conventional wisdom based on perceptions about that magical land of California, it’s become part of our zeitgeist, that women over a certain age/weight are unwanted (4). And, we’re only desirable for our ability to have children. Once that happens, who cares?(5)

Add overpopulation, social and religious morays, megacorporations, and a high cost of living to the mix. This is what Advantageous explores, and I thought the film was extraordinarily realistic. There is one bit in the movie I wanted to comment on. I’m not giving anything away by mentioning that there’s a line about how people thought it’d be less risky to have homeless young women than homeless young men. Now, there’s a thought that women either cannot be violent or aren’t so(6), thus it is safer for society to put women out on the streets than men. The causality of wars aside, what I noticed in this film was that the director, Jennifer Phang, did not film certain age groups of women in a state of homelessness. I felt that this was a nice touch, because it put the emphasis on the value of a young girl–e.g. as opposed to showing gangs of teenage girls. Which, to me, is probably what would happen. Desperation makes people do funny/crazy things, and that’s part of what this movie is all about.

(1) Forgive me for saying this, but since when does anyone else but me have a right to tell me what I do with my vagina?
(2) Yes, this is my cynical side showing.
(3) *rim crash*
(4) Kyle Buchanan has written a bunch on this topic for Here’s one such article–with graphs!
(5) Oh, I could say a lot of things about that in particular, which pretty much ends and begins with a flipped middle finger.
(6) Here’s a link for you regarding Women and the Crusades. Since social norms suggested that women remain at home, their time in battle wasn’t covered by the historians on the invading side of the equation. So yes, telling women to stay in the kitchen is positively medieval. And, you can see how well that worked out for the status quo, even back then.

    Mood: Hungry. I am consumed by the thought of making a mole sauce.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Let there be coffee.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Brisk walk, and celebratory booty dance for making headway on my office.
    In My Ears: Nameless dubstep beats.
    Game Last Played: Ugh. This jewel-addicting monstrosity.
    Book Last Read: The Silmarillion by Tolkien
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Hunger Games
    Latest Artistic Project: Thinking about it.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.

3 of 365 Squees: Puppets!

Fizgig Avatar

There’s a lot of artistry that goes into putting on puppet shows, and I’m fascinated by a puppeteer’s ability to create props, to bring a lifeless doll or sock or what-have-you into a state of being. Now, that said I’m pretty specific about my squee’ing for puppetry in general, because I don’t like many forms of ventriloquism or stories about reanimated dolls like Chucky and the like. For me, it’s about the immersion into a world of wonder or a strong character via the hands of a talented artist or troupe. At some point, I’ll post my thoughts on this topic a little more clearly, but that segues from squeeing and goes into how I feel about American horror.

I have fond memories of The Muppets, and when I eventually got around to watching E.T., Gremlins, The Dark Crystal, and (my personal favorite) Labyrinth? Well, I was in love. The thing about The Muppets, though, is that this show is how my family realized I had a musical aptitude. Their grand musical numbers? I picked out the melody line and played them by ear. Many, MANY hours and lessons and performances later…

Anyway… I’m in awe of puppetry and the work that goes onto recreating an experience whether that’s through the use of modern dance, shadow puppets, or building set props or using (what my limited hindbrain thinks is puppetry, but is likely not) stop motion photography to recreate a story. For live performances, I used to go to more when I was a student because of the discount I got to go see shows–and I remember specifically and still have feelings about the art-as-educational performance put on by a troupe of Brazilian dancers that told the story of kids living on the streets of Brazil and the fantastical legends they believed. Another one, was a Japanese tale I responded to about a couple, a pot of gold, and the morals about greed therein.

So yes, this does mean I’m not a fan of green/blue screen technology when I can “see” the seams as a viewer. Flash and shock and awe don’t create wonder for me; it’s about pulling me deeper into the story as opposed to yanking me into it and giving me mental whiplash. It’s not because I’m against technology, mind you, or that those artists don’t have mad, impressive skills in their own right—I’m exactly the opposite when it comes to video games because there I can sit back and immerse myself into a longer story on my own schedule without feeling like I’m on a rollercoaster ride. Pacing is everything to me, and an art form like puppetry really focuses on the minutia, small details to bring that character or world to life.

I feel like one of the reasons why I appreciate physical set design more for performances specifically, is because I can imagine an empty stage. I’ve been on them before and after shows I’ve been in. Logically, I can “see” the elements required and wonder at how much time it took to put those pieces together. That said, movies like “9,” mini-scenes illustrated in movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Snow White (the Julia Roberts version) and whatnot… I really dig using all kinds of methods to tell stories as opposed to being married to one style.

So that’s today’s squee! To “get your puppet” on, here’s a nifty little site called “Short of the Week” that shares loads of short films in all kinds of genres. For puppetry, check out the haunting Cicada Princess. Thanks to the site, the films are free to play!


    Mood: Well, I’m rested NOW!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: On my second cup.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Had to unpack boxes. Erg.
    In My Ears: “Crossing the Goon Sea” by Eric Serra from the Lucy soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Age of Reckoning: Kingdoms of Amalur
    Book Last Read: Re-reading His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman
    Movie Last Viewed: Lucy
    Latest Artistic Project: Um…
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing. See also: need to write more flipping comics and exercise my art skillz again. Feh.
    Latest Game Release: Hunter the Vigil: Mortal Remains
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, and novels.

The Lowdown on Stuff I Like. Starting with 9.

Last week, I decided I’m going to blog on occasion about stuff I like. It’s the censored version, in the sense that there won’t be a lot of swear-y bits, but at the same time it’s not the “I’m kissing butt” or the “I’m boasting about stuff I’ve worked on” variety. (If you haven’t met me, well…I’m very bad at those two things. HAH!) I think of this more as a window into my world: how I research, what I respond to, why I’m analyzing a piece of work. And in the effort of FULL disclosure, yes the links will likely be affiliate-related — but as I am not in the top tier of wealthy writers yet? So it goes.

PLUS, there’s a mega-ton of negativity out there, and really…less of that please. I mean, the entire reason why I wanted to write in genre is because it was fun — not because it felt like a chore or made me want to cry. Eesh. I’m also of the belief that if you (or I) love a work that much, it can be inspiring to apply the lessons learned to works of our own. Fans are the reason why I write, but the inspiration and the creativity I have doesn’t come out of thin air. It originates from everything around me: exhibits I go to, paintings I like — even books I consume or movies I inhale. Now, I might bore you with some of my comments about art or music in general, but I got the movies, comics, books, and games thing down.

So today, I start with a movie that came out nine years ago: 9. There might be some spoilers here, but as it’s been NINE YEARS (she says, unironically), anything I say is in service to my overall point. This didn’t air nine minutes ago (*coughs* Game of Thrones)!

9 Cover

9 was a problematic movie for me when I first saw it, because it debuted with a lot of hype. When I go into a film, thinking it’s going to be the next what-have-you, then I have a certain set of expectations. Here, this wasn’t a Tim Burton film persay. Not in the same way I was already expecting, mind. Not in that Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, or Beetlejuice operandus modi.

This movie begins with a short film by the creator, Shane Acker. The long form version originated out of a short form film by the same name, and you can find the original movie at the publisher’s website. 9 was groundbreaking animation at the time, and those visuals can dazzle me, but as I am married to story? There was a part of me that got suckered in to how great the film would be based on the chugga-chugga of the marketing train. When I saw it, I did enjoy it, but the experience was lessened by the hype.

Fast forward to today, where this movie was translated into Blu-Ray. I watched it again, this time paying attention to story. Animation has dramatically and significantly increased in production value since 2005, so the SFX and the hype are long gone for me. The story, to me, was about alchemy. That field, in an allegorical sense when applied to Western alchemists, as alchemy can be found in many different cultures, has elements of the Corn King or Christ myth. Sacrificing oneself to be resurrected later is a powerful theme, and here the scientist takes an action that allows that to happen.

In some ways, the main scientist’s character arc parallels Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. Here’s where they are different: the Scientist created something new and wondrous, and that science was co-opted by those who’d abuse it. Voldemort, on the other hand, has been presented as a boy/man unable to escape his fate, because of his lineage, his family. He never fights what he is, and he gets aggressive, manipulating other Hogwarts professors to split his soul *wink, wink* into Horcruxes.

That said, there are similarities between the two that I see. Voldemort’s pieces of soul both were and weren’t sentient. Contained in objects, each Horcrux had a kind of survival instinct. They chittered. And, when opened, the full brunt of his nasty soul came to bear. The journal, too, is possibly the best example of a sentient part of Voldemort’s soul, for when it was opened, a “shade” of his personality came out. How those shades manifested did vary somewhat, but they were all evil. In part, because the Horcruxes were made by committing acts of murder so that he could survive.

The Scientist in 9, for purposes of comparison, did something similar. Instead of acting on malice, his self-preservation was bound to his desire for redemption and to restore humanity to the world. When the Scientist split his soul, it was with the intent to save humanity. Each of his “Horcruxes” were rag dolls, with their own unique personalities, shapes, and — more importantly — motives. The conflict in 9 isn’t just an outward one, between the Matrix-like robots and the rag dolls, it’s also inward, too. The Scientist, in some respects, is fighting himself to survive.

What I liked about the film now, was the layers of storytelling present in the visual effects. Color, for example, is very important to this movie, as is texture and light and the shape of the rag doll’s eyes. There is a very specific attention to detail here, and I’m appreciative of that. I also really love the way that the alchemy was presented, because the whole point of this film is that the Scientist didn’t know if he was going to be successful. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know where I’m coming from if you watch the ending again. Too, that ending scene? Hugely important. Even the shape used — which forms a pentagram — is important in the overall scheme of things. (e.g. Fibonacci sequence, five wounds for the Christ figure on the cross, etc.)

For all these reasons and more, I feel that 9 is one of those movies where it’s worth watching again. If you see it on the first time, sure there’s a story there. But watch it on the second or third time, and more details come to light. The main plot IS clear; it’s not reinforced over and over and over again like some movies today are. I will say that if you’re watching on the first time, though, put down your phones, tables, and instruments of distraction. It’s a movie with an interesting message, and I’m glad I’ve added it to my collection.

Keanu’s The Man from Tai Chi

Big Giant Sword Fighting Avatar

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I popped in The Man from Tai Chi this past weekend. I really love watching martial arts movies — the good, the bad, and the ugly. ‘Course, it should be said I watch a lot of these for fun. I’m so clueless I can’t recognize what’s kung fu and what’s not; it’s a touch embarrassing as I’ve always admired the art. But, as a writer myself, I do like a good story and a tightly shot one at that. Having seen so many of these films, I have certain expectations when I watch these movies–especially if they’re being shot by an American director.

The Man From Tai Chi surprised me in a lot of ways because I felt it was a solid movie that played with (and expanded) certain tropes in a great blend of East-meets-West. To me, Keanu Reeves seemed more confident acting on screen than he had been in years. The casting was great, the costuming was flawless, and many of the screen shots were extremely subtle. There was a marked balance of opposites throughout the film to further the point of the story. Rich versus poor. Passion versus stillness. Power versus control. And, of course, the main character was aptly named Tiger.

Other than the movie’s title, I liked this conspiratorial film. It’s a very tightly woven narrative and I feel the story/theme was respectful of what’s preceded it in the genre. I also really appreciate seeing female characters in roles that aren’t marginalized and overly romanticized as well.

Overall, I think this was a solid directorial debut and I’m curious to see if Reeves is going to take the plunge again. Dare I say… I’d love to see him direct a version of Blood that’s more in line with the original? Or The Last Airbender? It’s nice to see an American director “get” the genre and translate it appropriately.

Official Trailer below.

    Mood: Obsessing about words
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: A few.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: 30. What. Again?!?!
    In My Ears: Nuts and honey.
    Game Last Played: Sonic All Star Racing Transformed
    Book Last Read: Lovecraft’s Monsters anthology
    Movie Last Viewed: Game of Thrones Season 3
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.

Next Posts

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


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