Friday, November 14, 2008

Budget Geekery, World-Building and a Quantum of Solace

Being poor can really be a drag for anyone. And geeks are no exception. We recently purchased the 4E D&D books for a nice little penny (thank GOD for my employee discount!), and that’s pretty much going to be it for a long time. The newest expansion for WoW came out yesterday for a whopping $40 or so, depending on where you get it. That’s really not a whole lot…unless you don’t have it.

This is nothing new for me. It’s been about six years since I could afford to actually support my gaming habits without worrying. Now, I have to look at my finances closely, and when there needs to be cuts, entertainment seems to be the first thing on the chopping block.

I’m just glad I have the internets.

So, over at Scott Oden’s blog, he recently vented his frustration about how to go about writing a book that focuses on orcs. For those who don’t know, Scott is a writer of historical/adventure fiction. I’ve read his first book, Men of Bronze, and found it to be highly enjoyable, and I plan on reading the rest of them as well. But what drew me to strike up a dialogue of sorts was a mutual near-obsession with orcs. And even though our views of them differ (he’s a Tolkien-esque person, while I tend to be more Warcraftian), we both agree that our favorite fantasy race needs to be in the spotlight as protagonists. Anyways, to that end, he was debating on whether to create an original world for them, or to place them within ancient mythology. He’s leaning towards mythology, since he professes that world-building is a skill he just doesn’t have. And that got me to thinking about world-building, as it relates to fantasy.

In 1996 TSR (Now WotC) put out a book called The Worldbuilder’s Guidebook. I still have my copy, and reference it often. I even created an Excel spreadsheet that randomizes a lot of that book, and with a push of your F9 key, you can “create” an entire world. One of the complaints Scott had was that any of his attempts seemed like rehashes of other people’s worlds. And while I can sympathize, I don’t necessarily view that as a bad thing. Most modern fantasy worlds are very similar, and many are based on either Tolkien’s Middle Earth (high fantasy) or Howard’s Hyborian Age (sword & sorcery). These in turn are based largely on real-world civilizations and cultures. So, in the end, is there really anything “original” in world-building? I don’t really think so. I think the best you can do is take a concept that is old and put new elements in it. For instance, taking a Tolkien-esque world and making the orcs the dominant race. Maybe they’re aren’t inherently evil, and without a “Sauron” to misguide them, they could be a major force for good in the world.

Nice how I went full-circle with all of that nonsense, wasn’t it?

And now to arc things back to an even bigger full circle, the latest James Bond movie opens today. Quantum of Solace is Daniel Craig’s second outing as Bond, and it promises to be a fun time again. A couple of people on the Mack Bolan forums have seen it already (dang Brits!), and they say that it falls a bit short of Casino Royale in “Bond-ness” but it delivers in spades as an action movie. I’ll reserve judgment for myself, as always. But one thing that bothers me is that they said the director uses the “shaky-cam” technique too much. I have to say, that filming style gives me a headache. And it’s the main reason I stopped watching SciFi Channel’s Battlestar Galactica. But, it didn’t seem to bother me so much on the big-screen with The Bourne Ultimatum, so maybe this won’t be so bad. All I know is that it’s James Bond, and that’s enough for me. Hopefully we’ll be able to spare some change to see it on Sunday morning. Otherwise, I’m going to be squirming in my seat until we can.

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