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Jim Cambias
I am a writer, game designer, New Orleanian, cook, parent, and cat-slapper.
Recent Activity
American literature doesn't have an official "Canon." There's no equivalent of the Academie Francaise to decide what is and what is not Literature with a capital L. But we do have some approximations: high-school or first-year college course reading lists, better-late-than-never Pulitzers, adaptations in Classics Illustrated Comics or Oscar-bait films... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Just The Caffeine Talking
Last time I asked if experience points in roleplaying games are necessary, and more or less talked myself into believing they are. But I can't say I'm happy about that conclusion. How come? Because I think experience points and character advancement have a corroding effect on roleplaying campaigns. Here's why:... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Just The Caffeine Talking
For any fan of roleplaying games, the answer to the question in the title of this post is "Of course!" or maybe "As many as possible!" But I'm not sure that experience points are necessary for roleplaying games — and I've started to wonder if they're actually harmful. If you're... Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
(". . . Featuring ME!") I drove west through sleet, rain, and fog — but no snow, which was a huge relief as I was in a car without snow tires — to Albany, which looks as if someone decided to drop the 1960s capital city of a large post-colonial... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
On Friday and Saturday, March 31-April 1 I'll be a guest at Albacon 2017, the long-running convention in New York's capital city. There's a really impressive lineup of people attending: Charles E. Gannon, Stephen Hickman, Lawrence M. Schoen, Ken Altabef, Ken Burnside, Debra Doyle, Jim MacDonald, Chuck Rothman, Ryk E.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Having finished the story several chapters earlier, Mr. Baum piles anticlimax on anticlimax by cutting away from the adventurers in the Nome Kingdom to the magical fairyland of Oz, where Ozma has been watching the whole thing on her Magic Picture. I have to say Ozma is a little uncomfortably... Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
When last we left Our Heroes, the villainous Nome King had just transformed the Shaggy Man into a dove, transformed the Rose Princess Ozga into a fiddle (not that anyone really cares), chained up Quox the dragon, and was preparing to force Polychrome to marry him and stay in the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Queen Ann Soforth's invasion of the Nome Kingdom gets off to a rocky start. (Get it? Rocky? It's funny because the Nome King rules a kingdom of minerals. That's kind of like rocks, see? Laugh, damn you!) The Nome King tries to capture the Army of Oogaboo in a pit... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Betsy Bobbin et al appear before Tititi-Hoochoo the next morning to hear his decision. Fortunately for them, the Jinjin is a Reasonable Authority Figure and thus is willing to overlook their involuntary passage through the forbidden Hollow Tube. (Why an all-powerful Jinjin never thought of simply closing the Tube, or... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
And now we meet the great arch-villain of the Oz books once again: Ruggedo the Nome King — alias Roquat, as he was originally known. I don't know why L. Frank Baum changed the Nome King's name; the in-story explanation is that Roquat forgo his original name upon drinking the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Chapter Seven begins with a nice bit of Baum's own particular fairy mythology. The Rain King gets too much water in his basin and it spills over, causing rain on Earth. Then the Rainbow arrives, and the Rainbow's Daughters dance on the bow, daring each other to touch the ground.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
In Chapter Four the scene shifts to a ship caught in a terrible storm. Betsy Bobbin is introduced and falls overboard in one sentence, followed by a thin, sad-faced mule named Hank. Then the ship explodes and sinks (well, it is 1914 . . . ). Betsy and Hank climb... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
It has been nearly four years since my last Ozblogging effort, but since Oz is a timeless fairyland we can pick up where we left off as if nothing had happened. Tik-Tok of Oz (first published in 1914) has a rather complicated history: it's an Oz book based on a... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
This is slightly more serious-and-thoughtful than my usual posts, but it's something that has been bothering me more and more of late. It has become a rather tired joke, since 2000 came and went, to ask "Where's my flying car?" Or, more generally, to wonder why this or that gee-whiz... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I recently spent an informative day sitting around a big table discussing medical robotics with a bunch of people who knew a lot more about medical robotics than I did. Since we were talking about modern cutting-edge technology or next-ten-years developments, the technical experts were all very clear that the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
It wasn't just 2016. It's not a "bad patch" we're going through. Your beloved childhood media icons are going to keep dying. FOREVER. Here's why. It's about television. Movies have been around for a century. Movie stars have been dying almost as long. But I submit that movie actors, even... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Recently my son and I were driving along the commercial strip on King Street in Northampton when he asked (as teenagers do) if we could pick up some food. One of us suggested tacos, so we pulled into the unnatural hybrid Taco Bell/Kentucky Fried Chicken store for a snack. On... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
For more than a year now I've been running a Pathfinder roleplaying game campaign at my local game shop. The players seem to enjoy it, and so do I. Though I use the Pathfinder rules pretty much as published, one thing I do not use is the "official" Paizo Publishing... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
It's Carnival season again, which means it's King Cake season! Which means it's King Cake Baby season! I love my home town. Where else can one take pride in the "creepiest mascot" in pro sports? Here's a video made by the Pelicans which seems to glory in the unnerving nature... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Anyone who complains that the Electoral College used by the United States of America is too complicated should take a gander at the method employed by the Republic of Venice to select its Doges. Step 1: The Grand Council (sort of a House of Representatives, except that membership was by... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The transition from high school to college is a big one for most people. You meet a whole new circle of friends. You live on your own for the first time. You probably try a lot of new things. It's a chance to "reinvent" yourself. And if you're a huge... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Imagine there was a novel which combined James Patrick Kelly's amazing short story "Think Like a Dinosaur" with Alastair Reynolds's brilliant novella Diamond Dogs. Imagine that novel was written in 1960 by a respected and influential science fiction author, editor, critic, and teacher with multiple Hugo and Nebula awards to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I've finally dipped a toe into the waters of independent e-publishing. My e-chapbook "Outlaws and Aliens" is now live on Amazon! It's an affordably-priced little ebook containing two of my short stories — "The Alien Abduction" and "Object Three." The cover art is by Rob Caswell. You can buy it... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Every year at this time I link to my favorite Christmas Web site: the Official NORAD Santa Tracker page. If you don't understand why this site is the sweetest, goofiest, and yet also the greatest embodiment of the Christmas spirit, you have the soul of a Krampus. And Krampus is... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2016 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, is a landmark of Italian literature. There are many reasons to read it, but among others it contains some of the great dinner scenes in modern fiction. The meal in Chapter 2 begins with "monumental dishes of macaroni." But this isn't just a pile... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2016 at Just The Caffeine Talking