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Posts from September 2009

The concert was great fun! I also decided to look at U2 with appraising sci-fi eye as an Examiner article.

The set list from the show was:

  • "Breathe"
  • "Magnificent"
  • "Get On Your boots"
  • "Mysterious Ways"
  • "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
  • "She's the One" excerpt - a Bruce Springsteen tribute, on account of his 60th birthday
  • "Desire" (excerpt)
  • "Elevation"
  • "Your Blue Room" (from Original Soundtracks I) - very unexpected, and very cool, that they played a song from this little-known album
  • "Beautiful Day"
  • "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" excerpt - since Quincy Jones was in attendance
  • "No Line On the Horizon"
  • "New Year's Day"
  • "Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of"
  • "The Unforgettable Fire" - a serious highlight of the show for me
  • "City of Blinding Lights"
  • "Vertigo"
  • "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" - a strange techno version of the song which lost something performed live
  • "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
  • "MLK" - "an Irish lullaby" according to Bono
  • "Walk On"

Encore:

  • "One"
  • "Amazing Grace"
  • "Where the Streets Have No Name"
  • "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" - another high point
  • "With or Without You"
  • "Moment of Surrender"
posted on 09.27.2009

This coming Wednesday, I'll have the pleasure of seeing U2 live at the Meadowlands (NJ) with my wife and with my parents.

The only rock concert I've been to with both my mother and father was for America (the "Horse With No Name" band), and the last time I saw U2 my wife had selflessly given up her ticket so my dad could join me. So I'm really looking forward to going with all three of them.

I consider myself late in becoming a U2 fan. Not until Achtung Baby came out (1991) did they hit my radar—notably with "One." Although Rush has always been the best band in the universe to me, for a good 2 or 3 years starting at age 16 they took a backseat to U2 in sheer air time.

Much of this is nostalgia. Achtung Baby, Boy, War, The Unforgettable Fire, and The Joshua Tree are irrevocably linked to my memories of living in Newport, Rhode Island when I was a sophomore in high school, while most of the rest filled in the rest of my high school years nicely. There was a time when I sought out every b-side and single and bootleg I could get my hands on. And not just U2. I'd chase down things like Bono's version of the Leonard Cohen song "Halleluliah" or the soundtrack to the obscure movie The Captive because the Edge was involved.

In high school, and with Josh Wentz's musical accompaniment, I even sang a couple of U2 songs for some talent shows—like, in front of a full auditorium. Looking back, I absolutely cannot believe I did that. My memory of the experience is probably way better than the reality of it, but I'm still rather glad I dared. We did "October" and "Running to Stand Still."

While I don't seek out each song with Gollum-like obsession anymore, I'm still a big fan. I saw U2 on their Popmart tour (from very far away in a stadium with terrible acoustics) and then again on the Vertigo tour at Madison Square Garden (a very memorable show). And after subjecting my father to U2 for many years, somewhere along the way, Bono took hold. And now I'm proud to say that he (my father, not Bono) is a rabid fan, too.

Everyone knows the big hits: "Where the Streets Have No Name," "With or Without You," "Mysterious Ways," "Pride (In the Name of Love", and so on... But I'd like to share some of the aforementioned obscurities or at least lesser-knowns.

"Rowena's Theme" (from The Captive soundtrack, by the Edge)

"Drowning Man" (from War)

If I'm able to snap some pictures at the concert, you can expect them to appear here. You ever been to a U2 show?

posted on 09.22.2009

In stores now, as previously mentioned, is the Hero's Handbook: Tieflings, which I co-authored with Aeryn Rudel (and even had some help from my brother). I wanted to talk a little bit about this book because from the outset it presented a strange admixture of ideas in me.

Tieflings first appeared in the Planescape setting back in the 2nd Edition of the D&D game; they were essentially humans with demonic, devilish, or some other sort of fiendish ancestry. In their 4th Edition incarnation, tieflings are the descendants of humans who made bargains with devils (specifically) and in time begot a new race (complete with horns, tails, and and all-around diabolical appearance). In D&D, devils and demons are not synonymous as they usually are in real-world religion or mythology. In D&D, devils are soul-craving corrupters, denizens of the Nine Hells who garnish their evil with a kind of infernal law (as opposed to chaos).

For me (and I do indeed speak only for myself), the first challenges in writing an entire book dedicated to tieflings and the devils that influence them is the fact that (1) as a Christian, I do believe in a real devil (or something very like it) and (2) since the early 80s, D&D has been fallaciously accused of involving devil worship and other occult involvement. As a longtime player of the game, I know this to be a ridiculously stupid notion, but when you want to defend the truth of the game, are you really helping dispel the idea by putting out a book about devils? Well, the way I see it, there's no harm in broaching the subject itself. Just do it right.

First things first. You want to separate reality from fiction. Tieflings, and the specific devils discussed in this book, are pure fiction. But that doesn't mean there aren't some comparisons to be made to reality.

A lot of books out there like to glorify the bad guys. It's even become trendy to do so in some areas of fantasy fiction. Many people seem to be sick of the good guys always winning and the bad guys always being soundly defeated. I think that's a little bit sad. Not that fiction shouldn't get a breath of fresh air, or have morals realistically blurred (as they are in real life)—see Eberron for some good examples of this—but the trend of wanting to see the villains win is a little disheartening.

In light of this, in the Hero's Handbook: Tieflings, I wanted to polarize tieflings and devils a little bit more. Devils are unquestionably evil, interested only in self-gain and the souls of mortals; while tieflings, a hybrid of human and devil, have the free will to decide which way to go. I wanted to stress the latter.

In the Player's Handbook, it says...

It's that first bullet point I latched onto. When it came out that tieflings would be one of the core races of 4th Edition, Wizards of the Coast emphasized the "bad boy" angle: "It's cool to be bad." So in our book, I wanted to be sure to talk about the culture, and everyday challenges, of a race that has a constant, uphill battle against evil.

Goodman Games writer and editor Aeryn Rudel also added his vision to the project; chiefly, to six of the eight "legacies" described in the book, along with six archdevils. I can honestly say he sure did make them vivid, and the "Breaking the Chains" section of each legacy entry was his idea, which fit perfectly with my vision for tieflings, which is: Tieflings are bad-asses, and have a hell of a chip on their shoulder, but each can choose his own path. They're talented, crafty, capable of very great evil...and very great good. Most of the time they're a mix of both.

Sounds familiar, to me. I've always loved the idea of using fantasy to better illustrate humanity, to put our own reality in a different context for a fresh perspective. As I said in my Examiner interview a while back: "I’ve always believed that science fiction and fantasy both offer another world from which to better view our own. Get someone’s attention because you’ve got a good story going and you can use that to talk about life, science, and the human condition. Yes, even with robots, dragons, and zombies. And to readers unreceptive to such things (which is perfectly fine), these genres at least offers a dose of escapism and sheer entertainment."

And as for devils? In referring to the devil and his job of tempting humans away from the Christian life, C.S. Lewis wrote: He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, 'Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil—hoofs and horns and all?' Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is 'Yes, I do.' I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, 'Don't worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you'll like it when you do is another question.'

A little bit more information about this book will be talked about in an interview I had with a popular RPG website, coming soon. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here's a free preview of the book which Goodman Games has made available.

Sorry, one more C.S. Lewis quote, which I take to heart:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.

That said, I'd happily choose to play a tiefling who challenges the evil inside himself, and the devils that put it there.

posted on 09.20.2009

So the Scribe Awards previously mentioned have come and gone, and though The Darkwood Mask was a nominee, it didn't take the win. Congratulations go to WARHAMMER: Elfslayer by Nathan Long, which did.

But I have to say, it was very cool to be nominated. Especially since TDM was my first novel ever. The IAMTW (International Association of Media Tie-In Writers) and Wizards of the Coast were kind enough to send me a physical representation of my nomination, though. I think that's pretty neat, too.

Click here for a larger image.

How appropriate, then, that this comes just before I begin my next post for Savant and other writing discussions.

So this is certainly the end of one chapter of my writing career and the beginning of another. I wish there hadn't been a lost chapter between them, but such is life.

I raise a glass to more metaphors to come.

posted on 09.03.2009
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