My Favorite RiffTrax Movies for Halloween

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of RiffTrax, the team (including some former members of Mystery Science Theater 3000) who turn bad movies good by making fun of them. I watch RiffTrax movies just about weekly. But today I want to tell you about my favorite Halloween-themed RiffTrax movies!

In no particular order, they are:

Tourist Trap. I find this one genuinely scary, and with a few actual actors, including Chuck Connors! Having said that, it definitely deserves some teasing, and RiffTrax has that covered.

Troll 2. It’s not a sequel to “Troll,” the creatures in the movie aren’t trolls (they’re goblins), and nobody in this thing is an actor. I came to appreciate this stinker after seeing Best Worst Movie, an excellent documentary about Troll 2’s cult following. Though the writing is bad and the acting is bad, Troll 2 is never boring.

Plan 9 From Outer Space. This is possibly my favorite riffed movie of all. Plan 9 is so entertainingly, over-the-top bad on its own that it’s fun to watch, but the RiffTrax crew adds another dimension. I watch this one several times a year. It’s also the first “RiffTrax Live” presentation, where the gang riffs films live in front of an audience and transmits it at the same time to theaters all over the US.

Night of the Living Dead. OK, I’ll admit it. As much of a fan as I am of the classic Night of the Living Dead, I prefer the RiffTrax Live version. I never feel that the Riffers are mean-spirited, so it doesn’t offend me when they riff actual good films like this one.

House on Haunted Hill. I love the RiffTrax Live presentation of this, the Vincent Price version of House on Haunted Hill. This, for me, is one of the things movie riffing is best at—taking a movie that on its own is charming but a little slow, and adding some more interest to it. Some of the effects in this film are amusingly bad, but Vincent Price is perfect as always.

Manos: the Hands of Fate. This was riffed before on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and then on RiffTrax, but my favorite is the RiffTrax Live presentation. I would fall asleep trying to watch this film on its own, but in the hands of RiffTrax, it’s wonderful. (Dance, Torgo, dance!)

Birdemic. This one is special in the same way Plan 9 is; it’s enjoyably horrible on its own, but the RiffTrax Live riffing takes it to a new level of fun. Bad (or should we say “non”) actors, bad story, and visual effects that will make your eyes bleed add up to a lot of laughs.

I’d love to hear YOUR favorite Halloween films, too—RiffTrax or otherwise!

Gen Con 2018

Another Gen Con is behind us, and I’ve finally caught my breath enough to present some highlights of what I did and saw this year.

System Mastery Seminar

I’m a fan of the System Mastery podcast, but this is the first time I had a chance to see the hosts in person. Better yet, it was at a live recording of the podcast. I bet I can hear myself laughing on the recording! I really wished I could have stayed to meet Jef and Jon, but had to rush off to another event before this one even ended because it was a 10 minute walk away. Such is Gen Con!

Plot Points Seminar

The Plot Points crew: Ben, Sarah, and Brad

Remember what I just said about System Mastery? Same deal. I’m a big fan, but never attended a recording before. (Though I was lucky enough to meet Ben last year and hang out for a while.) This year I got Sarah’s business card and chatted with Brad for a few minutes. Wanna know who my favorite is? I’M NOT TELLING!

Monte Cook Games Seminar

This year Monte Cook Games tried something new for their seminar. Instead of sitting on stage and telling us what’s coming up, they divided the attendees into small groups and let us talk to pairs of Monte Cook Games folks about whatever we liked. It was pretty cool, and I learned from Monte that they’ve got Invisible Sun books in the works covering more details about Satyrine as well as more creatures.

Invisible Sun Session

The only game I played at Gen Con this year was a session of Invisible Sun. I’ve been preparing to run the game for my home group, so I was looking forward to seeing what it’s like to play the game. It was fun, though it was strange that none of us ever used our signature character-type abilities. The best thing about the session for me was that it demonstrated that this seemingly-bizarre and outside-the-box RPG is still just an RPG, and plays like one.

The “Strangest Things” Burger

A restaurant called Burger Study ran a Gen Con promotion where they were serving a monstrosity they called the Strangest Things burger. it was a burger with American cheese, peanut butter, and blueberry jam between two Eggo waffles. I am by no means an adventurous eater, but I wanted to try this thing.

Going in…
It was partially edible! I didn’t like the blueberry jam (at all), and it rendered the meat inedible, but I STRANGEly liked the mix of cheese, peanut butter, and Eggo waffle.

Costume Parade

The costume parade on Saturday was an excellent showcase of costumes, as usual. Here I’m sharing my favorite costume of all because I’ve never seen it done before: Firestorm. He even had simulated flame hair, thanks to a lighted fan blowing a piece of flame-shaped gauzy cloth.

Dungeon Master Interactive Stage Adventure

This was pretty cool…a group of performers acted out a semi-improvised fantasy adventure with the help of volunteers from the audience.

Almost everyone on the right is a volunteer!

Goodman Games Seminar

Some of the things Joseph Goodman and crew talked about at this seminar were the upcoming DCC Lankhmar, the soon-to-launch DCC Dying Earth (now led by the excellent Marc Bruner), DCC module #100 by the also-excellent Harley Stroh, and the upcoming Cthulhu Alphabet book.

After-Hours DCC Gaming

This is the first year I caught a glimpse of the semi-organized off-the-books gaming hosted by Doug Kovacs and some of the other Goodman Games crew. I didn’t have time to join a game (because it was late and I value sleep too much), but I loved the atmosphere here, and I hereby vow to game with this gang next year.

A sighting of the famous Judge Evie!

Exhibit Hall

As usual, I spent most of my time in the Exhibit Hall, though still didn’t get to see it all. But I did see Ken & Robin at the Pelgrane booth, saw a lot of my game designer (and editor) friends, and bought too much stuff.

Speaking of buying too much stuff, I was proud to grab the latest Star Trek Adventures sourcebooks by Modiphius and, right next to them, the new Vampire 5th Edition.

That’s It

If you’d like to see more of my Gen Con photos, go check out Gnome Stew’s Gen Con 2018 roundup, featuring some of my many pictures. (My wife and son make fun of me for taking so many pictures–many of them things I already got pictures of in previous years–but I don’t care! It’s fun!)

Product Release: “Mutants in Toylands” for Mutant Crawl Classics

My first Mutant Crawl Classics adventure is now on sale! It’s a zero-level funnel published by Purple Duck Games. Here’s the sales pitch:

Well hey there, kids! I’m Sammy Squirrel! Gosh, it feels like I’ve slept for ages! Now that I’m awake again, I hope you’ll come on down and check out Sammy Squirrel’s Smart Toys! And by “down” I mean underground, through this mysterious hole! Because my toy store has been buried for centuries, and all the fun down here is just aching to get out again! We’ve got toys that talk, and toys that hug, and toys that sound so pleasant that you’ll want to do whatever they say! We’ve even got toys that fight! Ha ha!

My Smart Toys are fun for kids of all ages. Why, you might even run into our youngest customer! And here at Sammy’s, we don’t mind at all if you have an extra arm or two or you have roots for feet or you’re not quite housebroken. All kids are welcome, so long as you like having fun!

Sure, I’ll admit that my store has seen better days. Some of the lights flicker, and a few walls have fallen down, and then there’s that problem we have with some of the toys trying to murder people. But better days are coming, and lately we’ve been attracting customers from far away. Far away indeed.

So come on down. You know you want to. Come see the place where Sammy brings toys to life…

Buy Mutants in Toyland from RPGNow in print or PDF.

Midsouthcon 2018: Day 3

Midsouthcon 2018 continues! If you missed the previous posts, here they are:

Kaffeeklatsch with Mike Resnick

(A smart blogger would have thought to take a photo of this event.)

These informal breakfasts with individual guests of honor are common at Midsouthcon, though this is the first time I went to one. It was great, and I’ll be going to more in the future. The six of us eating with Mike grilled him about his career, how he got started editing (it was tabloids), his interest in Africa, the other places he’s visited, the ups and downs of dealing with Hollywood, and his working hours (he’s pretty much a night shift worker).

Panel: Short Story vs. Novel

with Bill Webb, Juanita Houston, Herica Raymer, Allan Gilbreath, and Mike Resnick.

This panel explored the differences between writing short stories and writing novels. A few of the items discussed:

  • Mike prefers short stories (having written about 300, compared to about 70 novels). One reason is that he likes writing humor, and finds it hard to extend that into novel length without becoming unfunny.
  • Bill writes novels by starting with the scenes he knows will happen, putting them in order later and adding the rest. He says he “writes the cool stuff first.” He also doesn’t edit until the writing is done, and likes using writing sprints.
  • Juanita starts in the middle. She and Herica are pantsers rather than plotters. Herica says she visualizes her novel and “transcribes what she sees.”
  • Bill sells short story collections on Amazon, and figures he earns more there than he would if he sold them traditionally.
  • Mike said that when you read a bad story, one that makes you say “No, you idiot,” sit down and show that you can do it better. He says that some of his stories were efforts to do just that.
  • Mike suggests being careful and clear with transitions between viewpoint characters. “Never make the reader work unless you want him to.”
  • Regarding the need to target a reading level or age limit when writing, Mike said he never worries about that. “I assume I’m writing for grown-ups, and if they can’t understand it they probably shouldn’t be reading literature.”
  • When asked about his work schedule, Mike said, “I write, and every now and then I sleep.” (He did elaborate that he writes every day.)
  • Mike says he only takes a few days to write a story. “I’m running out of time.” He then admitted that “the mechanics come a little easier” now, after decades of practice.
  • Mike talked about writing softcore porn when he was younger, as did plenty of other science fiction writers at the time, including Marion Zimmer Bradley. He said a book would take him 4 or 5 days and earn $700 to $1000, for an annual salary of $24,000 if he wrote 25—higher than the average salary of the day. This taught him to meet deadlines and how to differentiate characters, because the ones in these stories looked similar and did similar activities!
  • Mike’s final advice: “Writers write, and those who aren’t gonna write talk about it.”

As a side note unrelated to writing: if you’re on a panel at a con, I recommend you remember what year you’re living in before describing the state of California as “the land of fruits and nuts.” Not cool.

Gaming: New York Slice

How could a pizza-lover not try this game? I saw a lot of people playing it, and eventually got a few minutes to give it a shot. The challenge in this game is to divide up the randomized pizza in such a way that other players can’t get too many of the slices they need to complete sets. The most exciting thing is that my friend Jenny ended up winning a copy in the raffle!

Gaming: KnitWit

I didn’t know what to expect from this one, but it turned out to combine spools and loops of thread with a word game. It was pretty clever. I didn’t win this one either, but I blame the noise level in the game room around raffle time. (If you think you see a pattern where I make excuses for not winning games, you are totally imagining things.)

Panel: Comic Book Scripting: From Plot to Page

with John Jackson Miller

John lived in Memphis when he was younger (like me) and has come to every Midsouthcon since the mid 80s (also like me), so it’s strange to me that I didn’t meet him until this year! I knew of him mostly as a novelist, so didn’t learn until this panel that he got his start in comics, in around 2003. John said that most kids’ mothers threw their comics away, but his mom—a librarian—made him put his in order.

John’s panel was a good one, demonstrating the basics of comic scripts. He talked about Marvel style vs full script, and what kind of things he likes to leave up to the artist, and how he breaks down what goes on which pages and different ways of dividing that into panels.

Final Costumes!

Let’s end this with one last duo of cool costumes:

Did you go to Midsouthcon too? I want to hear about your adventures in the comments!