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Monthly Archives: June 2010
Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual: a Call to Arms!

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

The Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual Kickstarter drive is almost down to its last two weeks. After a sluggish fortnight, yesterday saw a big surge that pushed us up to 70% of the funding goal.

That’s thanks first to Laughing Squid, and then to a big, big retweet of the Laughing Squid post by the ever-awesome Felicia Day. She’s my heeeeero.

I don’t want to get all melodramatic, or hit you with some kind of hard sell. But that Kickstarter drive is going to mean a lot to the Thrilling Tales, and to me. If we don’t make the fundraising goal, though… nothing happens.

So if you like the idea of multiple-choicing your way through the retro future in The Toaster With TWO BRAINS, or just sitting back and enjoying the non-interactive illustrated adventures of the Clockwork Book stories….

Help launch the Thrilling Tales!Well, you can really help out. Either by becoming a Kickstarter backer, or by spreading the word about the Thrilling Tales and the funding drive.

If you’ve missed the trailer, view it here.

As I write, there’s less than $1000 of the $3200 goal left to go. That’s just ten backers at the $100 level (either the "Space Pirate" or "Space Patrolperson" levels, with prints or T-shirts, and books as rewards), or just twenty-two "Rocket Pilots" at $45, with signed copies of Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves.

Or, you know, some other number of the other levels. I’ve kind of used up my arithmetic for the week.

The upshot is that there’s not that far to go – it’s just that there’s not a lot of time, either. So pledge if you can, and if you can’t, accost strangers on the street and get them to pledge. That’s what I do. And as soon as I make my bail, I’ll do it again!

Please consider helping me to continue my creative work and deal with the financial aftermath of cancer
 
 
Memory Lane: Lots of Robots

Filed under Computer Graphics, Hodgepodge

My friend Glenn Price just showed me something he’s working on, and that reminded me of Andy Murdock‘s Lots of Robots. I hadn’t watched it in awhile, and before I knew it, well, that’s what I did. Now you should too.

Andy’s been pretty busy recently with his work for the National Geographic Channel but I hope he gets back to this one day.

Sadly it looks like you can’t buy the DVDs at the moment. You can’t have mine.

 
 
In Which My Arithmetic Astounds All Who See It

Filed under Hodgepodge

Math is hard in the retro futureI’m complimented on my math so seldom that whenever it happens, I link to the place. In fact it’s happened only once. This is it.

Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading had her doubts about Kickstarter as a way to fund projects outside the traditional models of publication, and she expressed those doubts here; conversation ensued; and somehow my math skills came into play.

Normally that means that I count out the wrong change while a lot of people are standing in line behind me. This time, it was different.

 
 
The 14 Posts I Should be Writing: Mad Scientists, Sky Pirates, and Giant Robots

Filed under Hodgepodge

Giant Robots!

From the amazing Link Bait Generator:

  • 6 Mad Scientists that almost destroyed the world
  • 8 ways Mad Scientists can help you survive a plane crash
  • 10 reasons why Mad Scientists should give you nightmares
  • Are Mad Scientists treated unfairly in the USA?
  • Top 10 secrets of Mad Scientists
  • 8 horrible lessons about Mad Scientists that Hollywood teaches kids

  • 7 important things we can learn from Sky Pirates
  • 10 ways Sky Pirates can help you get a date
  • 8 reasons to fear Sky Pirates

  • 10 well kept secrets about Giant Robots
  • Why Giant Robots suck: myth vs. reality
  • 7 bizarre ways Giant Robots can kill you suddenly
  • 7 health problems associated with Giant Robots
  • 8 pictures of hot chicks and Giant Robots
  •  
     
    Tallie’s Adventures in Pre-Productionland, Continued

    Filed under Computer Graphics, Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

    Tallie's a changeable girlOkay, I got that out of my system. I finished up Tallie’s brown hair, which will end up on somebody’s head someday, but then I wheeled her back into the shop.

    As I textured her I started with the fabrics, which led to the complexion, which led to the hair; and when I’d reached the end of that road she wasn’t quite who I thought she’d be when I started. Sometimes that’s good – characters often know themselves better than we know them – but this time, I think, I’d just put the cart before the horse.

    So here’s much more the Tallie I thought I was making when I started her. I had an interesting time with her skin tones – it’s so easy for pale skin materials to end up looking dead – but eventually I came up with something that I like (again!) using very much the same techniques as the earlier version. The paler areas have a surprising amount of blue in them, to suggest that translucency you need in skin that’s not undead. So today… this is what I like :).

    One other thing I know about Tallie is that she’s quite fond of hats. Happily this hair will adapt to headgear a lot better than the other.

     
     
    Character Update on Tallie – Hair, Freckles, Vertex Colors and Me

    Filed under Computer Graphics, Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

    Vertex colors for skin tonesHere’s an update on Tallie, that new character I’ll be using in the Clockwork Book stories. I had some adventures with her hair, which I now sort of like – it’s sculpted with Mudbox, which is something I haven’t done with hair before. I just about always do some retouching on my characters’ hair, so my goal was to come up with something that’d nearly work.

    Which might be a larger lifetime goal than I realized when I started to type that sentence.

    Anyway, one of the things I like best about Tallie is the way I constructed her skin material. It’s based on two copies of a SymbiontMax material ("Human"). The first skin material’s pale, while the second one’s freckled.

    I’m masking between those materials using vertex colors. You can see Tallie’s vertex colors in the lower left image.

    All the heavy lifting for the vertex colors was done by baking in the lighting from an overhead light source. (In Max, that’s done with the Assign Vertex Colors Utility.) I positioned a directional light so that it cast light where sunlight would. That way Tallie’s more tanned, freckled skin tones show up just where more tanned, freckled skin tones really happen. I touched up the vertex colors around her throat and on her hands, but other than that it’s a pretty simple simulation of the way her skin would really be affected by the Sun. Neat!

    Then a painted material gets masked on to affect her lips and eyebrows. But apart from those details her skin’s completely procedural.

    Tallie, the assistant to the Clockwork Book

    Now, I regret to say, I have to skin her to a skeleton. That’s the part of character work that I always dread. But first… the lawn! I dread yardwork slightly less than character skinning.

    Tallie's hair - another versionUpdate:

    This comment interested me enough that instead of skinning the character (which I know sounds awful; that’s just what it’s called) I’ve been modifying her ridiculously complex hair material to see what kind of brunette Tallie would make. I find that I also sort of like this version, and maybe more than I sort of like the original one.

    I also established that the best example of a brunette (brunet?) in Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves is wearing aviator’s headgear, so you never actually see his hair.

    [tags]thrilling tales of the downright unusual, clockwork book, 3d character, vertex colors, materials, hair, mudbox[/tags]

     
     
    Clockwork Book Update; Kickstarter Update; and a New Character

    Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

    The Steampunk Clockwork Book

    As thunderstorms, ice cream trucks and even earthquakes (in Ohio?) do their will outside the Secret Laboratory I’ve been working away on the Clockwork Book and its room – you can click the picture above to embiggify it.

    It’s come quite a ways, with its potted mushrooms, its beaded curtains, its palatial carpet and more pulleys and gizmos than ever before. I still have to work on the opposite end of the room, but I’ve been diverted by working on the Book’s assistant. Because even though it doesn’t strictly Help launch the Thrilling Tales!need one, the Book has always had an assistant. She’s not what you might expect given the Book’s ominous face and alarming reputation. Life’s just like that. There’s a work in progress shot of Tallie below.

    But first, a reminder that the Clockwork Book and his room are relying on my Kickstarter fund drive to launch the next stage of Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual… more than ever, in fact, since I’ve now had to replace my ailing monitor. That wasn’t something I’d planned on, and it’s left me on that side of the ledger that is more red than not. It’s sort of flashing, too, which I think must be a bad sign.

    I resolved not to worry too much about the Kickstarter drive as we neared the halfway mark. Although the pace of new backers had dropped off a bit I could see that we were running about even when I compared the percentage of funding with the percentage of time.

    That’s no longer quite the case and so I will soon Actually Be Worried. The Kickstarter fund drive stands to make a big difference to the success of the Thrilling Tales (not to mention the success of my refrigerator) and since I haven’t sold actual hundreds of books (yet!) that fundraiser is likely to be a big part of how I take the project through the months ahead.

    So if you might become a backer, please do! And if you can’t, or if you already have (thanks!) I’d sure appreciate anything that you and your tweets and your Facebook pages might do to spread the word about Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual and its Kickstarter drive. It, by which I mean I, could sure use the help.

    Tallie WIP

    Anyway, here’s that work in progress image of Tallie, the Clockwork Book’s assistant. If you think she’s charming and cute… remember what you shouldn’t judge by its cover. Tallie is not to be trifled with.

    I’ve rendered her hair as a strange ghostly mass not because that’s neat, although I think it is, but because so far I’ve just roughed in the mass of her hair and that’s what I’ll be working on next. I thought I’d give it a shot with some sculpting software this time.

    So thats it for now. Remember Kickstarter!

    [tags]thrilling tales of the downright unusual, retropolis, interactive story, clockwork book, ray gun gothic, steampunk[/tags]

     
     
    Wired’s Video Tour of the Raygun Gothic Rocketship

    Filed under Found on the Web


    Remember the Raygun Gothic Rocket Ship from last year’s Burning Man? Wired has posted this video tour of the completed installation – with its engine room, life sciences lab, and pilot’s station. According to its rocketeers the rocket is headed for San Francisco where it’ll get a new “bus stop” entry (or maybe that’s an observation area: I can’t quite tell from the description).

    [tags]raygun gothic rocketship, retro future, rocket ship, science fiction, life size, art, prop, installation[/tags]

     
     
    Turn Vintage Typewriters into USB Keyboards!

    Filed under Found on the Web

    An idea whose time has gone! Just what I was looking for.

    The USB typewriter is a non-destructive mod for a mechanical typewriter that converts it into a keyboard that can be used with any Mac or PC – it’s shown here being used with an iPad, which is the only productive use I’ve heard of for one of those.

    The conversion does require some sanding of the typewriter’s crossbar which makes contact with the keys’ arms.

    You can purchase complete USB typewriters (current offerings are $400 or $450), a prefab kit ($150), or a bag of parts ($75) to solder together yourself. For $200 you can ship your own antique typewriter to the maker and have it converted.

    I would love to pair an old portable typewriter with a mini-ITX or Via computer and a little LCD screen for the world’s weirdest and most wonderful laptop. Throw in a retro telephone handset for a cell phone, and look! A mobile vintage office!

    Installation instructions and more information at the USB Typewriter site.

     
     
    Vintage Pulp Cover Art from ‘Fantastic Novels’, at Golden Age Comic Book Stories

    Filed under Found on the Web

    Thrill! to twenty-five covers for Fantastic Novels, from 1941 to 1951, at Golden Age Comic Book Stories!

    Gasp! at the striking cover art by Frank R. Paul, Virgil Finlay, Norman Saunders, Lawrence Sterne Stevens, and Raphael DeSoto!

    Be Amazed! to discover that most of the A. Merritt stories I read in the early seventies seem to have first seen print here, in these Astounding Pages!

    Well. Or not. I mean, that’s probably more amazing to me than to you. And doesn’t that space ship on the left have a duck’s head? Yep. I thought so.

    Great stuff here. Everything from Finlay’s rifleman on the back of a giant mutant bee to the unashamed mad science of this beaker-bearing biologist with his tiny man in a tube.

    Just the thing for a Monday morning. Trust me on this one.

     
     
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