Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Geekly Paradise

Had my first taste (a small one, admittedly) of geek celebrity-hood this past weekend— was part of a panel at Blizzcon, the gamer convention for Blizzard Entertainment. Those of you who play Diablo or Warcraft or StarCraft will be well familiar with this online multi-player company; everyone else will be completely in the dark. I spent my youth rolling twelve-sided dice and plotting magic dungeons on graph paper in my friends' living rooms: these are my people. 

Dungeons & Dragons, writ large 
I went in expecting it to be like Comicon, but smaller; it is, in fact, nothing like Comicon at all, but in a good way. There's a lot less splashiness— no product placements, not a lot of costly, no flashy A-list celebrities and movie tie-in swag. There's no corporate synergy going on, because it's all about one company. The celebrities are the game artists and developers, who are for the most part uniformly Asian, uniformed in black t-shirts and jeans. The big draw are the banks of computers—three parking lots worth of them— where you can sit and play the "campaigns" with and against all of those people around you. It looks like a vast war room, but with mages and blood elves and clerics on the screens. There was pure and unadulterated geeky goodness going on at the Anaheim Convention Center.

I was invited to be part of their first voice talent panel, along with some of my World of Warcraft compadres, very esteemed voice actors all. 

I'm a pretty recent addition to WOW— I play a warrior Panda (no, not Po) named Taran Zhu in the Expansion Pack "Mist of Panderia." Here's an earful of what I do:
I'm the Panda Pandaren who comes in at about 1:00.

I think that most of the audience had a hard time reconciling that growly character with the reedy-voiced, bespectacled man on the stage, and, I have to admit, I'm always a bit surprised myself. 

That ugly ginormous brute with whom I fight? Here he is in the flesh;

Patrick Seitz, a kind and gentle man, who specializes in throat-shredding monster voices and doesn't even cough up blood afterwards!

The panel was fun. I got to sit next to the estimable Keone Young, fellow Pandaren and essential guest star on "True Blood" and "Deadwood."  

We talked, did a Q&A, and signed autographs. I picked up my autographed poster, bought a stuffed panda and made my way into the darkness of the gaming floor—once a geek, always a geek.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Adventures in Publishing: The Ecstasy and the Agony

"And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-end of my days and ways
And how should I presume?"
—T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

It is real, folks. I'm hitched. I've just signed my publishing contract with St. Martin's Press. Still Life Las Vegas in Spring 2015— book clubs forming now! Nothing thrills the soul more than thirty pages of legalese in which your name is referred to as "Author." Nothing like it. I read every paragraph and sub-paragraph, excluded territories and all. It was a real page-turner; looking forward to a sequel!

After such wonderful confirmation, is there anything that could possibly knock me from such a giddy height? Ah, enter the Knight of Mirrors, galloping in from an email attachment sent by my editor: the Author Questionnaire. Such an innocous title— the Author Questionnaire— how could it inspire so much pain? The Author Questionnaire sounds like it might be some lovely time filler, a whimsical series of questions that might grace the back of Parade Magazine, next to Marilyn Savant's Mensa quizzes.

Instead, it's a soul-flaying survey of your life. Ostensibly, the Author Questionnaire is a series of questions about you and your book that the publicity department will use to position you in an overcrowded literary marketplace. What about your life can they can use to sell you—er, me (see, I'm deflecting already) to a public who is not related to you me. Who do I know? What have I done? Who can review my book or say something glowing about me?

Oh, it's enough to make an inveterate introvert
"No, I have not yet updated my status… the winters, they are long."
burst into flame. My misanthropic tendencies 
have been laid bare. Is "Social Hermit who lives in Cave and Forages for Acorns" a helpful attribute? Apparently not. Moreover, the negative space surrounding my meagre answers make me keenly aware of all the things I meant to have done by now, but haven't. Conferences? Twitter Feeds? Uh…soon...

What the heck have I been doing? Important things! Here are some of my most recent crowning achievements:

• Reached level 36 on "Simpsons: Tapped Out" on my iPad (that's the HIGHEST level)

How could THIS be a waste of time? Look at the urban planning! 

• Received the prestigious Parent Ambassador Plaque at my son's 
elementary school, for OCD Library Reshelving above and beyond duty

• Completed the Friday NYT crossword puzzle in 14:10 minutes

• Gold Founders Circle Membership at Arclight Cinemas (hey, a free popcorn upgrade 
EVERY TIME and a complimentary birthday ticket!)

• Can recite half of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Animated by Christopher Scott. Read by the author himself. 
I know, it's an abridged version, don't get all hatin'...

• World Record for shortest recorded time attending a social function, in and out: 
23.5 minutes, INCLUDING drive time (Guinness confirmation pending)

• Three punches away from a free frozen yogurt at at Menchies 

• Have I mentioned that level 36 is the highest level in "Simpsons: Tapped Out"?

I await the Pulitzer Committee's call.