The Voice of Free Planet X

What We Talk About When We Talk About

Been a busy summer, already. A little exhausting. How are you?

Before I talk about what has happened, let me go into some detail about what WILL happen. Namely, . I will be a guest at Science Fiction Association of Bergen County’s meeting on July 14th  at 7:30pm. It will be at the Barnes & Noble in Paramus, New Jersey, there will be copies of my book, The Battle of Blood & Ink, for sale and I’ll have some freebies to give away, too. I’ll be reading some stuff, talking about myself, basically having a great time. So if you’re in the area, you should come.

I will also have the great honor of inducting Dr. Pamela Gay of the Astronomy Cast into the Podcast Hall of Fame on July 24th. Pamela is an old friend from back in the early days of podcasting when most of us were still trying to figure this whole thing out. Not Pamela, of course. She knew what she was doing from the get-go. I’ve always been a huge admirer of Pamela’s intelligence and compassion, and the way she makes often-opaque ideas beautifully clear. She absolutely deserves this, and I am thrilled to pieces that I get to be a part of it.

But that’s enough of the future. Let’s talk about the past.

What We Talk About When We Talk About was a live episode recorded at Balticon, the first since Rap Battle Beyond The Stars. It was an attempt to distill the meta-narrative of the past 26 episodes of VFPX, to put everything important in one place, for easy reference, and set the stage for Season 3. Which was a crazy idea, honestly. Just look at all these plot touchstones in the fiction of the show:

  • I’m a reporter for Galactic Public Radio
  • An alternate-reality conquering alien called the Pan-Reality Deiator has taken over Earth
  • This has happened hundreds of years before it was “supposed” to, thanks to an agent of the Deiator a point in time and space that allows you to reach any other point in time in space, creating an alternate timeline
  • One side-effect of the altered timeline is that I am now a woman (I know, right?)
  • On all the alternate Earths, there’s not another version of me.
  • J.R., my wife, is not human, but part of an ancient race of world-devourers.
  • She also works in Hell.
  • We had a son, Hartley, who was murdered in a still unexplained ritual.
  • Hart continues to appear on the show as a ghostly, silent kid wearing a baseball helmet with antlers.
  • In addition to helping Kicks the Kung-fu Clown stop the first Deitator incursion into Earth, Hart has also saved my life at the end of the universe, and given me a mask so I could compete in a rap battle that once again stymied the Deiator.
  • Despite manipulations to the timeline, Hart still exists, implying a greater cosmic significance to his existence.
  • I looked into an almanac of the future, and saw that I would be “remembered for my violence.”
  • I still don’t know what that means.
I added a few new wrinkles as well, because this list clearly wasn’t apeshit enough. The book I wrote about a murder similar to Hart’s, Shattered Mirror, is now being used as a guide book for similar crimes by a group called “The Gibbering Demiurge.” Oh, and the reason it’s been so long between episodes is that I’ve been in prison.I think that’s everything.

The joy of Balticon shows is being in the same room with old friends that I normally have to record remotely. I went a little nutgalls giving people roles this time, which is why the episode has the largest cast yet. Christiana Ellis does most of the heavy lifting, but she’s amazing, so she handled it with aplomb. And if you’re going to stack a crowd, how can you not include Jason Gregory Banks, Dave RobisonA. F. Grappin, Erin Kazmark, John Walker, Tee Morris, J.R. Blackwell, and Allie Press? We had literally no time to rehearse, and everyone still knocked it out of the park.

There’s a rather nice Q&A session at the end of the recording, too, where I talk a little about my process writing the show and the future of VFPX. There’s people at Balticon who have been following VFPX since the beging–in 2005! Podcasting often feels like tossing out messages in bottles, so it’s nice to be in place were so many people uncorked them for nice read.

Speaking of nice reads, I’ve got a few of them for you. First off, there’s “The ‘Sense8’ Finale Movie Is A Desperately Needed Trans Fairy Tale & A Fitting Ending For The Show”which I wrote for Bustle. It’s a very personal essay about how powerful representation in media truly is.

While Sense8 is not without its flaws, even those flaws help create the glorious, wildly entertaining, utterly human celebration that is the show. It’s a superhero show where the main power on display is pure empathy, where problems are solved not by destruction, but connection. It is not for everyone. But for those it is for, it is for them very much indeed. It’s a fairy tale disguised as a television show.

We, collectively, do not deserve Sense8

Bustle asked for a take on the Queer Eye show, so I wrote ‘Queer Eye’ Season 2 Exposes The Fab Five’s Flaws — But That’s The Point, about, well, Queer Eye‘s flaws. And how that’s a good thing.

The original Fab Five were nearly identical Ken dolls who left their identities at the door of whatever pigsty apartment they were tasked with fixing. Only the tamest of sexual innuendos were allowed; no talk of boyfriends, of politics, of how the men they are helping sometimes represented the very people that kept queer people unmarried, unemployed, and fearing for their lives was included.For context, 2003 was the year the body of Richie Phillips was found in a suitcase in Rough River Lake. It was the year Glen Kopitske was stabbed to death by an Eagle Scout. It was the year Gwen Araujo was brutally beaten and strangled by three men because she was transgender. It was the year 15-year-old Sakia Gunn was murdered at a bus stop when she said she was a lesbian. Given that, it can almost be forgiven how intent the original

Queer Eye was on showing how harmless its gay men are.

I also wanted to point your attention to the Anthony Bourdain obituary I wrote for Legacy. He was one of the good ‘uns, and there’s a tremendous void left by his passing.

There’s a scene in the 2015 Miami episode of Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown where, having tucked into barbecued shrimp and roast pork with Iggy Pop, these two older men who first epitomized and then somehow survived the rock-and-roll lifestyle size each other up on the beach. It’s an oddly moving moment, and very strange to watch now. Bourdain drops his ever-present smirk to try to understand how man who wrestled with so many similar demons has found a strange sort of peace.“You seem like a curious person,” Iggy Pop tells Bourdain, with a weight that reveals how much a compliment this is.

“It’s my only virtue,” Bourdain snaps back, suddenly uncomfortable, a self-depreciating smile on his face.

On a far less serious note, over at Quirk you can read What’s Inside The Handbook for the Recently Deceased from ‘BeetleJuice,’ which I had far too much fun writing.
Honing In On Your Haunt-Style

It is incumbent on every dead person to choose the style of haunting they are most comfortable with. While the more imaginative practitioners of the poltergeist arts may look down their rotting noses upon those prefer to emulate how they looked in life, it should be noted that there is no “best” way to be a ghost. There are merely those who find comfort in mediocrity, and those who wish to push themselves. All you have to do is find out who you are, and be that.

Continuing this humorously morbid streak, feast your eyes on Kill Your Darlings, 101 Pieces of Advice for Writers and Serial Killers. It’s the only guide to writing/murdering you’ll ever need!

54. Get to the juicy parts quickly.

55. It’s good to struggle.

56. Eliminate all interruptions.

57. Detach yourself from the outcome. It’s about the doing, not the result.

58. Let your imagination go wild.

59. Flaws are sexy.

60. Remember, everyone has a reason to live.

For some reason, I did a Frankenstein’s Support Group For Misunderstood Monsters that was mainly crowd scenes. I thought it came out quite well.

There’s a lot of cool stuff coming down the pike: at least one more VFPX episode, more articles, more comics. Busy summer. But then, I suppose that’s better than the alternative.

I’ve Been Busy

The Voice of Free Planet X is currently on hiatus as JR and I prepare for the arrival of the third member of our party. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing things! For example, I’ve recently appeared on Chris Lester’s The Raven & The Writing Desk (episode already on the VFPX feed!), talking all about VFPX. We dig into how the stories come together, how I record, and what’s coming in Season 3.You’re going to want to listen.

A staple of my wardrobe recently has been this fantastic fox-eared hat. I’m currently involved in a DnD campaign run by none other than Christiana Ellis, playing a charming, con-artist rogue, Muugen the Magnificent, who got cursed to look like strange fox/monkey creature. One of my fellow adventurers is Starla Hutchton (Beyond The Wallers Chooch & Vivid Muse round out the party), and she gave me this hat for X-Mas. I’ve been wearing it on the regular ever since.

Now, if you read the above paragraph and thought “Jared playing DnD with Christiana, Starla, Chooch and Viv sounds great! I wish I could listen!” have I got news for you! You can! Christiana has been releasing our game as a podcast called “So Many Levels.” I think it’s a hoot, and I’ve got some great plans for Muugen’s journey going forward.

Additionally, I’ve been writing humor pieces for Quirk Books. I really should have shown you to these earlier, since more than a few of them are VFPX ideas that never quite developed into full episodes. Here’s the full list, up to today:

Frankenstein’s Support Group For Misunderstood Monsters
An Interview with Kilgore Trout
What if The X-Men Was A Gothic Novel
Narnia Real Estate Listings
Louisa May Alcott’s “The Fast & The Furious”
Jane Austen’s Birthday Haul
The Hundred-Acre Games
Jane Austen’s 21st Birthday Haul
A Christmas Caper
25 More Laws of Robotics
The Hobbit Inspired by Cormac McCarthy
Frankenstein’s Support Group For Misunderstood Monsters, Friday the 13th Edition
Quoth The Tweety Bird
Presenting “Mirrer,” The Wonderland Dating App
The Latest Headlines From OzFeed
“2 Great 2 Expectations” and Other Charles Dickens Sequels That Never Were
Time Machines, Ranked By Accuracy
Forgotten Fairy Tales
Ode to a Venusian Flurn
What If Les Miserables Was A DnD Game?
The Future of Celebrity Gossip
Dr. Seuss-Inspired Books About Modern Technology
St. Patrick Contemplates Driving Out The Snakes

I realize that’s a heaping helping of links to throw at you all at once. I’m going to attempt to make this blog a more regular thing, so that you’re alerted by where to experience my bits of weirdness in a more timely fashion.

Until then, good luck with the dragon.

Even In Arcadia/A Good Guy With A Magic Sword

Been busy with my new gig outfitting the ghouls and monsters haunting Eastern State Penitentiary as part of Terror Behind The Walls’s costume team. Making sure the 200 or so actors all have the right pants took some doing, which lead to Even In Arcadia being later than I would have liked. But the show’s up properly, now, and A Good Guy With A Magic Sword came out on schedule, so all is right with the world.Sadly, podcasting does not yet pay the bills. You could help with that, if you’re so inclined.It’s fitting to talk about these two together. After the format-breaking shenanigans of The Wake Of The Lacuna, Parable Of The Leopard, Just Around Supervillian Corner, Court of the Crimson Queen and Rap Battle Beyond The Stars, it’s kind of nice to get back into the groove of fake interviews again.

Episode 25 (also Episode 200, if you’re counting the old way), breaks with the format yet again—if you’ve finished A Good Guy With A Magic Sword, you may have some guesses on how—because I’m never satisfied with boxes, even those I build myself.

Even In Arcadia started life back in the old version of VFPX, where it was just prose that I read. Part of the plan for redoing it for the new version was to add the scenes I never got a chance to do back then. But once all the parts of the old version were written up as dialogue, it was clear that the bulk of the episode was already written.

Those other scenes may see the light of day sometime, in another version. “Alien refugees hide out as Edwardian servants” does seem to be an idea I can’t get enough of, ever since it occurred to me watching PBS’s Manor House.

In addition to that fine bit of programming, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia is also an influence, if the title wasn’t clear enough indication. I first saw that play as teenager, and it’s never left me. I don’t think about it often, but when I do, I remember with a crystal clarity I wish I had for, you know, actual things that have happened to me. I always pull out Rosencratz & Guilderstern Are Dead as a favorite Stoppard piece—certainly several characters in VFPX tip their hat to the Player King—but I may be lying to myself.

With the exception of the wondrous Jennifer Sommerfield, all of the actors were recorded over Skype—a necessary evil when you realize that all of your cast needs to have UK accents. The only one accent is natural; everyone else is faking it, and doing a cracking good job of it, too. Proper accents meant going to trained theater types, which means the performances are all top-notch, even if I had to direct them over the phone.

Nick did his over a cell phone in the midst of theater festival, and it is still fantastic. That’s why I work with professionals.

It’s kind of a low-key episode. The humor is gentler, the stakes are purposely misleading, and when the ending is so at odds with the rest of the story the violence is amplified ten-fold. Which, again, was on purpose.

(Pretty much all of VFPX is on purpose, by the by. I’ve had people ask me about references in titles and characters misspeaking idioms and the like, and yes, all of it is on purpose. Even the things the actors bring to the show that I didn’t plan for is kept in the edit for specific reasons.)

Still, the ending aside, a low-key episode. Which I like. Despite my love of pulp velocity, I’m a bit of a ponderous writer by nature. Sometimes it’s nice to just hang out in a place, before it’s gone for good…

Speaking of hanging out in a place, how much fun is Cyriania? I’d just finished Lev Grossman’s The Magicians when I was pulling this episode together, and watching him grind his axes against Narnia, Oz, Hogwarts and Dungeons & Dragons certainly affected this episode. While it’s interesting to peer into Grossman’s “what if magic wasn’t any fun” worldview, even he couldn’t help enjoying himself when that bear waddled into frame. Talking animals are great, even when they’re used to nakedly explore gun control.

Like every queer person, I was deeply affected by the Pulse nightclub massacre. So much so, this episode kicked another idea out of the Episode 24 slot I had been thinking about longer (don’t worry; Players Of Games will show up in Season 3). I needed to talk about it, and this episode became the vessel for that, the result of my irritations with the facile arguments about assault weapons that bobbed up and down in the wake of the tragedy.

One thing I noticed when bringing this episode together: it’s really easy to be racist in a fantasy context. Half this episode is improv, and without any prompting from me, each and everyone of the actors said something disparaging about ogres, or trolls, or elves, as group. That sort of casual fantastical racism mirrored nicely the casual real-life racism that accompanies any discussion about gun control, so it was put in the scripted portions, too.

There will probably be a return to Cyriania to dig into the weird racist attitudes that prop up fantasy worlds. There’s a lot to dig into, there. Plus, we never talk to a Tanuki! After watching The Eccentric Family, I’ve got a lot of Tanuki ideas…

Ellen Kushner returned for this episode, because I can’t have a story about swords and not include the author of Swordspoint. I’m considering putting an unedited version of the improve we did, because over half of it was edited out, and it was all so good!

Next episode is the Halloween special and the last episode of Season 2 as well as being the 25th and 200th episode. It’s also shaping up to be one of my favorite episodes of the show. I can’t wait to share it with you.

Good luck with the dragon.

The Wake Of The Lacuna

Well, this was certainly a normal episode.

Okay, that’s a joke, since all I seem to say is how strange these episodes are. But there is some truth to it. Length aside, this episode has so many Jared Quirks it could open a Jared Quirks Shop.

Let’s go down the list, shall we? There’s coping with loss, detectives as metaphor, the mutability of the human body, queerness, Anglophillia, the meaning of heroism, the power of community, the limits of control, and most tellingly, superheroes. There’s a character who manages to simultaneously be a reference the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alex Raymond and Jorge Luis Borges, another who has no patience for me or my shenanigans, and a third who has several lines in an almost impenetrable slang favored by British gay men in 30s.

Also, jokes at the expense of eugenics and Nazis. Because, obviously.

Beyond the absolute joy of writing such a thing, I was able to work with an absolutely astound collection of talented actors: Len Webb of The Black Tribbles, Isa St. Clair, Phil Thomas and Andy Holman of West Phillians, and Sonia Williams all gave their A-Game to this bizarre script, which, quite frankly, asked a lot of them as performers. They had to be comfortable playing cartoons in the beginning only to have their characters slowly gain three dimensions by the show’s end. Not easy to do, and the fact that they are so successful is a tribute to their amazing talent.

Also? Because it was a live show, we had to rehearse with everyone together, which was an absolute dream for me. I can’t do every episode that way—for scheduling reasons and because some of my favorite actors are not in this city—but did I start to have fantasies of every episode of VFPX being a live show with those five performers?

Yes. yes I did.

There’s a lot to unpack in this script (Jared Quirk Shop, remember) so I might as well break it down. Skip this part if you haven’t listened to episode yet, you can pick back up when you see the photo of the cast:

The Wake Of The Lacuna – You have no idea how overjoyed I was when Erin, a friend and a fan of VFPX who came to live show, told me she got all the wordplay in this title.

A lacuna is a missing element, and the fact that The Lacuna as her “nom de magnifying glass” puts her in the same category of detectives as that faceless wonder, The Question. But a lacuna is also an underwater cave, and it can have a wake of its own that is dangerously difficult to get caught in. The End of Time Club are at the Lacuna’s wake, but are also caught in the current her movement created.

The End of Time Club – The End of Time Club gets its name from “The End of the Earth Club,” a group of amateur and professional explorers who included in their ranks Mark Twain and Robert Peary, and was presided over by Rudyard Kipling (another thing they had in common? An astounding amount of racism). Also an influence is Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Justice League of pulp heroes from PLANETARY, which has analogues of Doc Savage, The Shadow, James Bond and an all-purpose “aviator,” just as the End of Time Club does.

But a far more direct origin is a Saturday morning cartoon “Defenders of the Earth,” which has Flash Gordon lead a group of other newspaper comics action heroes, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician and Lothar. I loved this show as child—had the Phantom and the Mandrake action figures, as well as a Ming the Merciless for them to fight. I’ve watched it recently and, well, let’s be charitable and say it does not hold up well. Though there is considerably more gay subtext between Mandrake and Lothar than I thought.

Tom Brayve – Tom Brayve is Flash Gordon and John Carter of Mars, the man from earth who got taken to space and became a hero. Due to the influence of Defenders of the Earth at a young age, it was natural for a Flash Gordon analogue to lead the team, and to be the fountain of wisdom. Flash Gordon and John Carter succeed due to their unique perspective, their distance from the conflicts at hand. So, then, is Tom Brayve able to distance himself.

Tom Brayve traveled to the other side of the galaxy via an Aleph, which is stolen…I mean, is an homage to Borges’s story “The Aleph.” Borges’s Aleph was a point in which you could see every moment throughout space and time—in typical Borges fashion, it was in a shitty poet’s basement—while mine is one you can actually step through. Is a portal to anywhere going to show up again? You better believe it.

Doc Cosmos – A blatant Doc Savage rip, with a little of PLANETARY’s version, Axel Brass, for good measure. One thing about Doc Savage that stuck with me was that he always seemed incredibly lonely; raised from birth to be a crime-fighting adventurer, Savage was always trying to cobble a makeshift family around himself. So that became Cosmos’s defining trait.

Well, that and his hamminess. What’s the point of having pulp heroes if you can’t have them make bold pronouncements about being “The Ultimate Man” and thundering “By science!”

Rachnae – Rachnae comes from a whole host of dark vigilantes—she lists them, in fact—but the primary sources are The Spider, The Shadow, The Phantom and The Avenger. The Spider is where she get’s her name, the Avenger was a man whom people thought was a walking corpse due to his paralyzed face and deathly pallor, the Phantom is “the Ghost Who Walks,” and the Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

The best Shadow stories always gave him some gallows humor to match his omnipresent laugh, and so Rachnae gets some of the best jokes in the show.

Can you believe I’ve been doing audio dramas for over ten years and this is the first time I’ve done a Shadow riff? How did I miss that?

Operative 7 – Equal parts James Bond and Dashiel Hamnet’s Continental Op. Only, you know, queer.

Op. 7 speaks in Polari, a British gay slang used from the 30s through the 70s. Back when being gay could get you arrested, having a code to not only talk about your life with no one being the wiser, but also have a recognition point for anyone nearby who was in the know.

The idea of making a James Bond pastiche a closeted gay man was something that was too good to let go of. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Honestly, it  maybe the only way to reconcile Bond’s rampant misogyny: he either treats women that way because he hates them or treats women that way because he’s overcompensating to hide his true desires. Which would you prefer?

Andy wanted to do the whole show in a Sean Connery impression, but I didn’t want the reference to be that direct. He did get to slip it in when he quotes MACBETH, though, so we all win.

“Night’s black agents,” by the by, is a reference to literal predators. One of the fascinating things about the pulps is that while the characters are heroic, they are also often horrible people.

Abigail Airheart – The aviator is a classic pulp trope, as is the excitable kid, and Abigail gets to be both. She’s essentially the Rocketeer. As much as I fancy myself a detached spaceman like Tom Brayve, Abigail is probably the character who is the closest to who I am. I take in a lot at once, and sometimes miss the details until it’s too late.

It’s Abigail who reveals the most about the Lacuna, due to their relationship. Abigail isn’t closeted like Op. 7, she’s a free spirit. I’ve said in the past that whenever I need characters to reference a relationship, I make it queer one, because if I don’t explicitly state the characters are queer they will be assumed to be straight. Eventually, we’re going to reach the point where everyone just assumes everyone in my show is queer.

What a great day that will be.

Anyway, Abigail knows the Lacuna’s secret identity, Ximena Kondo, and that she came from a line of Chilean poets and Japanese shrine maidens. Ximena was just a great name to use, but Kondo is a direct reference to Marie Kondo, former shrine maiden turned tidying-up guru. Kondo believes if something does not give you joy when you hold it, you should get rid of it. A lesson most of the End of Timers should take to heart.

Let’s see….anything else? A lot of the themes—and the title!—of this episode where taken wholesale from Barbra Kingslover’s The Lacuna. Its a fantastic book and you should read it.

It’s nothing like this episode.

I asked the cast to show up in full costume for the performance, and as you can see, they did not disappoint. I made some Pinterest boards to guide them. You can look at them here:

Tom Brayve
Abigail Airheart
Doc Cosmos
Operative 7

And here’s a gallery of all the amazing photos my wife J.R. Blackwell took of the cast and the show.

If you’re a Patreon backer, you can watch a video of the performance. Which, as you can see from these clips, was pretty incredible.

The other day, a cashier wished me “Good luck with the dragon” as I walked away.

I’m going to start using that as a farewell.  I know I’ve got the “I’ll think of something” sign-off, here. But I think this is better. After all, we could all use a little luck with the dragon, right? Whatever your dragon may be.

Good luck with the dragon.

Parable Of The Leopard

Almost a year ago, when I asked Strix to be a part of the Voice of Free Planet X, I warned her of two things: 1) her character was integral to the metaplot, so she would be on a lot of episodes, and 2) one of those episodes would be essentially a monologue. Neither of those bothered her, and when I finally delivered this script to her, she dug into it with both hands. Not everyone can handle a 2nd-person future-tense speech delivered to themselves in the past, but Strix took it all in stride. She’s an astounding performer, and this is one of the greatest performances I’ve had the pleasure to record.

It’s an odd show–I know I say that about every episode; it’s always true–but it’s doesn’t feel odd. Strix grounds the more fantastic parts of the script in real tangible, emotion. Which could not have been easy when you have a story about a someone violently interacting with their doubles from alternate earths.

When I listen to this episode, I think about that conversation we had back then. And I am so grateful that she agreed then, so that you can hear this now.

Speaking of Strix, have you seen her roleplaying game show “Weekly Affirmations?” It’s part of the HyperRPG Twitch channel and if you like freeform/indie RPGs, its well worth your time. They’re all on YouTube if you want catch up. The most recent episode has Ajit George, who played the pacifist Jedi Knight in the newsletter exclusive episode. They’re great together.

You should watch the show. It’s pretty decent.

This weekend is the beginning of the Philadelphia Podcast Festival, and this afternoon is the VFPX component of said festival, “The Wake Of The Lacuna.” I’m so excited for this, folks! We had a rehearsal last night, and it was absolutely amazing. It’s more of an actual play than an audio play–the actors are doing all sort of reaction stuff that will delight the live audience but will be lost on the audio. If you’re in the area, there’s no reason you shouldn’t come. It’s free, it’s at 4pm today at the Art Church of West Philadelphia.

If you’re not in the area, there might be a video for Patreon backers. So if you’re not a Patreon backer, maybe you should consider it? There’s some nice bonus stuff there.

Backer or not, you will get to hear “The Wake Of The Lacuna” on the podcast feed in September. I’m really proud of this show, it’s great script, the cast is superb, and I honestly don’t know if I’m ever going to top it.

‘Course, that’s how I felt about “Rap Battle Beyond The Stars,” too.

I’ll think of something.

Just Around Supervillian Corner

A crossover with Chris Morse’s excellent Supervillain Corner! The return of Comrade Cockroach! A small cast (for once)! What could possibly go wrong?

For those who have listened to the episode already, you know what half of it is in Russian, talked over by disaffected BBC translators. Now, I flirted with the idea of taking some Russian audio from some YouTube video, and just laying Graham and Alasdair’s brilliantly bored readings over top. But, I wanted it to be real Russian, so I asked if anyone could translate the script for me.

Mildred Cady and Marnen Laibow Kaiser volunteered and did some amazing work. But, translating one of my weird scripts into another language is big job, and it took more time than any of us was expecting. And so, the episode that was scheduled for March hits your ears in August.

Worth the wait, though. While it took long than expected, this episode came together wonderfully well, from Chris’s fantastic Brainfever to John Davis’s amazing Ursa Major. It was ambitious, and the whole episode might be too meta for some tastes, but I adore it.

Speaking of supervillains, I saw SUICIDE SQUAD recently. A few days before, I watched this video about BATMAN V SUPERMAN and the idea of scenes and moments. Quick version (though you should really watch the video) moments are bits of visual splendor that stick with you, scenes move plot and character development forward.In movies, you can have great moments in a great scene, or they can be split a part. Moments are good for montages, pauses for emotional depth, and dream sequences. Scenes are good for, well, everything else.

Say what you want about Zack Snyder and David Ayer’s directing skills, they are, clearly comicbook fans. Both worked very hard to get particular visuals from the superhero comics they love on to the screen. They are dedicated to recreating their favorite comics on the big screen.

Trouble is, comics are nothing but moments. The elasticity of time in comics means that giant word-balloons can be crammed into panels, allowing whole conversations to occur during an action that takes half a second. But time is not elastic in movies–though Snyder, with his love of slow-motion, is certainly trying his best. Movie moments cannot contain scenes, which is why, no matter how great the cinematic moment is, it stops the film momentum. Great directors can use that to powerful emotional effect. Snyder and Ayer just seem to be tracing their favorite panels.

There’s also a flip-side to this, where creators raised on TV and movies make comics that mainly scenes, but hardly any moments.

I’m not going to name names, but you’ve read them. And you’ve instantly forgot about them.

The Philadelphia Podcast Festival is almost upon us! Is the Voice of Free Planet X involved? You have to ask?

We’ll be transforming the West Philadelphia Art Church into the headquarters of the End of Time Club, a collection of pulp-style heroes. Yep, there’s nothing these daring explorers, daredevil pilots and dark viliglantes can’t face!

Except perhaps, the loss of one of their own.

When the brilliant detective known as the Lacuna goes missing, its up the remaining End of Timers to make sense of the mystery!

Starting VFPX stalwarts Len ‘Cruze’ Webb as Tom Brayve, Phil Thomas as Doc Cosmos, Andy Holman as Operative 7, Sonia Lorraine as Rachnae and newcomer to the podcast Isa St. Clair as Abigail Airheart!

It all goes down at 4pm August 20. Be there if you can, it’s going to be something else. I don’t know how I’m going to top this one.

I’ll think of something.

The Court Of The Crimson Queen

Love this episode so much.

The whole idea was really just to take advantage of Kenendy’s delightful Eartha Kitt impression, to have her place the ill-tempered cosmic monarch. I was originally planning to go full-tilt space opera, get my Flash Gordon on. I suppose it says something about both me and this weird show I’ve created that when the opportunity to Buck Rogers the whole business appears, I decide to focus on conversations that I explicitly put in my own living room.

That milk gag, though. Still makes me giggle

My actual brother, Joel, an accomplished improv performer, riffed with me for the bulk of this episode. It’s fantastic to do this sort of thing with him, and if he had the time, I’d do a podcast where we just ramble about things every week. He’s a lot of fun to talk to, and there was so much that was said that didn’t make it into the episode. Joel’s got a ton of talent, and I love what the fictional version of him brings out in the fictional version of me (…this podcast is difficult to explain sometimes). So expect to hear more of him in the future.

Speaking of talented folks, all of the space-law in the episode was improvised on the spot by Wesley Fenza, an actual lawyer as well as being a top-notch improvisor. Like the conversation I had with Joel, Wesley’s stuff was hard to edit. There was a whole bit with a third-eye that sadly is on the cutting-room…space…on my hard drive?

We need to update ourclichés.

Next week sees the release of the long-awaited VFPX/Supervillain Corner crossover, starring none other than Comrade Cockroach. I’ve had an idea for this episode for years, ever since Chris started his show, so it was nice to finally bring it to fruition. It was a complex piece, but I’m very pleased with the result. I think you folks will dig it.

Here’s a trailer to wet your whistle.

Short newsletter this time, as I am off to NC to be the Best Man in Joel’s wedding this weekend. You better believe I’m bringing the recorder just in case he has a spare moment. My sister, Kate, who played my long-suffering manager Opal Magestrix in Pledge Drives, will also be at the wedding, so hopefully we’ll get some sort of Axelrod-family scene. I don’t know about what.

I’ll think of something.

An Awfully Big Adventure/City of Sleep

Long time, no post. No wonder the show has gone on hiatus. All I want to do is talk about the just-released Rap Battle Beyond the Stars, and the Balticon that surrounded it, but we gotta do a little house cleaning. First, An Awfully Big Adventure!

This was a strange episode, written in a rush because P.J, Matt and Kennedy were all going to be at my house at the same time, and I couldn’t let that go without recording something. We recorded it in one night, and most of the what you hear is a single performance, like a play. It was incredibly thrilling to do an episode this way. I’d like to do more full-cast recordings like this, but scheduling voice actors is hard enough as it is. Still, it’d be nice to do it occasionally. The way the actors played off each other was worth the stress of pulling the story together in time for them to record.

The story is a odd duck, whimsical with a very, very dark undercurrent I’m not sure everyone caught. Or maybe you did. I mean, Peter Pan and the Lost Boys as a suicide cult, that makes sense, right? Not a stretch?

It might be a stretch. Still, heck of a great time making it.

If An Awfully Big Adventure was all about being quick, City of Sleep was the opposite. Took awhile to get all the voice actors together to record. It’s not the most complex story of the new season–that dubious honor belongs to the upcoming Supervillain Corner crossover–but it’s on up there.

Luckily, I have some of the best voice actors around to call upon to make it work. Hillary, PJ., Len, Fred, J.R., and Jennifer all knock it out of the park.

It is without a doubt my favorite episode so far. There’s that weird, layered storytelling I like to do, and there’s a moment where you’re listening to a recording of people listening to a recording of people listening to a recording of a person listening to a recording, which makes me chuckle every time I think about it. Neil Gaiman once did an issue of The Sandman that had three layers of people telling stories within stories, and I’ve been wanting to do the found-audio equivalent for awhile now. And this story, which plays with the concepts of trust, deceit and recordings replacing memories (hi, Facebook), was perfect for that sort of rabbit hole.

Also, Genevieve‘s art for the episode is just fantastic.

So, about the hiatus.

Back when I started this new season of the show, I did not have the full-time job I do now. Which means that I haven’t had the time to write new scripts for the show. Hence the break.

Which turned out to be good timing, because not long after the hiatus started, my computer broke. When it rains, it pours, so the saying goes.

I should be getting my laptop back from the shop today, so I imagine we’ll still be on schedule for the return. Here’s hoping.

Until then, there’s the “Rap Battle Beyond The Stars,” and I’ve got a reading an some other odds and ends from Balticon to tide you over.

I don’t know how I’m going to sum up everything that happened at Balticon.

I’ll think of something.

Pledge Drives

If you follow me on social media, you probably remember me talking about how “Pledge Drives” was supposed to go up before “Welcome to the Hidden Almanac,” but was pushed back due to technical difficulties. At the time, I was little upset about it, but now, I’m actually kind of glad this episode ended up where it did. It felt right to open the new season with the Hidden Almanac crossover, and this episode does it’s job as a welcoming to the world of the show.

And what a world, that has such people in it! Listeners will recognize my sister Kate, reprising her role from “How’s It Gonna End?” as my GPR supervisor. Phil Thomas, who also put in a voice for “How’s It Gonna End?” shows up with his West Phillians partner Andy Holman. Jennifer Steen, of the much-missed podcast Jennisodes, is someone I’ve wanted to be on the show since I started looking for other people to voice it.

The real coup of this episode about fake public radio shows is two real public radio people. Edison Carter (not his real name) is an award-winning NPR journalist has done NPR’s Morning Edition in, like, three states now. And Ellen Kushner, in addition to being a beloved fantasy novelist (she wrote the delightful Swordspoint) and a subject for one of J.R. Blackwell’s In Their Own Worlds photos, also did a wonderful show called Sound & Spirit. An archive of over 90 episodes of Sound & Spirit are available online for your listening pleasure, and you and your ears (or whatever you use to listen; I don’t judge) should really take advantage of that. I recommend “Dreams” and “Tricksters,” but every one I’ve listened to so far has been great, so I imagine you can’t go wrong.

I recently saw Alexandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, and it has quickly become one of my favorite films. It’s not for everyone–certainly not for anyone who has problems with plots that are barely there and weirdness for weirdness’s sake–and for all it’s dizzying heights, there are some pretty dismal lows. But it does have a scene where some meticulously-costumed iguanas and toads reinact the Spanish Conquest of Mexico (you can watch it here, with film’s score replaced by Apocalyptica’s cover of “Fade to Black”) and if you can’t see the brilliance in that, I’ve got nothing for you.

Yes, this is going to be referenced in an upcoming episode.

No, not in the way you think.

Actually, maybe in the way you think. You folks are pretty smart. You’ve probably got a lot of what I’m setting up already figured out.

New episodes mean a new Shirt of the Month! And for March, for your sartorial pleasure, we have none other than the glaring visage of Reverend Mord!

Who wouldn’t want that on your chest?

I’m taking votes on what the Shirt of the Month should be for April. Make your voice heard! I’m curious as which one of these shirts you folks like the most.

There is, of course, a possibility of a three-way tie. I don’t know what I’m going to do if that happens.

I’ll think of something.

Welcome To The Hidden Alamanac

And so we begin Season 2, offering very little explanation for what happened at the end of Episode 12. Instead, here is a crossover with one of my favorite podcasts, The Hidden Almanac, done by my good friends Ursula Vernon and Kevin Sonney of Dark Canvas Media.

I’ve been itching to a crossover for awhile—the conceit of VFPX means that me plopping down in someone else’s world and talking to them is a matter of course—and it was only natural that I show up on the door step of Reverend Mord and Pastor Drom. The Hidden Almanac is a show where an eccentric radio host goes through the fantastic by way of the mundane. Really, the only differences are that The Hidden Almanac comes out three times a week, and I use more sound effects.

I cannot thank Ursula and Kevin enough to allowing me to play around in their world. The whole process, from when I first sat down to write the script to when we all gathered together the day after Christmas to record, was like a dream. I’ve never had an episode come together so smoothly before. When I sent Ursula the script, I was worried that she might not like it, and would request serious changes. She did have one change, which was the addition of a gardener’s joke.

And she was right to put that in. Wouldn’t be The Hidden Almanac without gardening jokes.

You can, of course, purchase a print or card of Ursula Vernon’s amazing work of Reverend Mord glaring over a microphone, just as you can for all the other episode artwork. Because who doesn’t want a adorable demon on their wall?

That’s just classy, that’s what that is.

I’ve seen the DEADPOOL film, as I assume most people on the planet have. It is, without a doubt, not only the best film based on the X-Men franchise, but also the one that is the truest to its source material. While you and I would think that this would lead to a shift in the way these funnybook adaptations are made, where more attention is paid to properly delivering to the big screen the characters and concepts that made these corporate trademarks worth filming in the first place, it looks like the only real change is going to be more “R” rated superhero films.

Conventional wisdom dictated that anything over a “PG-13” meant a huge chunk of the potential audience for a cape flick wouldn’t be able to buy tickets, but if the litany of babies in the theater when I saw the film is any indication, that’s not really a problem.

(They all hated the strip-club scene, by the by)

I don’t have a problem with “R” rated superhero movies. Wolverine would certainly benefit from being able to use his knife-hands on screen as opposed to just out of frame, and Lexi Alexander’s PUNISHER WAR ZONE is a hoot and a half. And if you were curious as to what an “R” rated Batman film would look like, look no further than ICHI THE KILLER. ICHI THE KILLER is directed by Takashi Miike, and it’s exactly as wonderfully horrible and horribly wonderful as you might expect an “R”-rated Batman film to be.

But part of the reason I like ICHI THE KILLER is that it isn’t a Batman film. Some characters have too much symbolic weight as figures in children’s literature to truly be enjoyed engaging in the sex and violence that Deadpool wallowed it. And you don’t need either thing to tell an adult story.

DEADPOOL for all its flashbacks and swearing, is still a pretty simple and direct tale. Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT film is one of the few truly sophisticated superhero stories—and it’s rated PG-13.

I’ve got a new day job, as the lead editor at Drexel University’s Communication Department, which both awesome and and incredibly busy. I’m confident I can keep up the usual every-two-weeks schedule on the podcast, It’s also been a long time since I had a regular job, so I couldn’t tell exactly how I plan to make that happen.

I’ll think of something.