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Jim Cambias
I am a writer, game designer, New Orleanian, cook, parent, and cat-slapper.
Recent Activity
I'm going to be at Boskone this weekend. My schedule is here. Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Just The Caffeine Talking
When secret Japanese superweapons caught the American carriers unprepared at sea just after Pearl Harbor, the Pacific was defenseless. Imperial Marines landed on Oahu a few weeks later and the Rising Sun flag now flies over Hawaii. America's still in the fight, but it will take time to rebuild the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Warning: if you are interested in healthy, low-fat recipes, GET OUT NOW! I discovered this dish, or something very like it, at the Ginger Garden restaurant in Amherst. When I first moved to the area at the dawn of the new millennium, Ginger Garden was a very ordinary Chinese food... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Assuming you made it past the desert, the ribbon of black earth and green vegetation hugging the banks of the Nile is studded with grand cities. They are filled with whitewashed brick houses, grand palaces and temples of stone, and busy markets. As the richest kingdom in the ancient world,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
My family and I are fans of the past decade's amazing string of Marvel superhero movies. In the film Captain America: Civil War, the villain (not really a spoiler, here) is an eastern European military man named Zemo. What's interesting is that in the comic books, Zemo was always Baron... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Even historical Egypt was like a fantasy kingdom to ancient historians like Herodotus or Pliny. In a fantasy setting, all you need to add is a few monsters. This table covers the wilderness beyond the valley of the Nile — which visitors will have to cross in order to reach... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
On the weekend of February 16-18 I'll be at Boskone, the grand old New England science fiction convention, now in its 55th year. My schedule is below — stop in at the Westin Waterfront in Boston and join me! Friday, February 16, 4:00 p.m.: Kaffeeklatsch — Join me for a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The Orbital Elevator, stretching from an artificial island south of Singapore 36,000 kilometers up to geosynchronous orbit, is one of humanity's great engineering achievements. Capsules leave the ground terminal every two hours, and the whole journey up the long carbon-fiber cable takes two days. Each capsule is a self-contained spaceship,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Fans of Mexican B-movies are aware of the long-standing popularity of Luchador movies. These feature masked wrestling stars, but their opponents aren't other wrestlers, as one might expect. In film the Luchadores battle ghosts, spies, Frankenstein's monster, Aztec mummies, gangsters, mad scientists, aliens, monsters, and vampires. Sometimes all at once.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Almost every superhero has a home town. Whether it's Batman's Gotham City, Superman's Metropolis, or Marvel Comics's shared New York City, it's the place where the heroes live in their secret identities, where their non-super friends live, and the place which keeps getting attacked by villains. ENCOUNTERS IN THE CITY... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The Most Serene Republic of Venice was a major player in Mediterranean trade and politics for at least nine hundred years, but in the 17th century the city's power went into a terminal decline. It went from being a commerical and naval power to being a tourist destination. Foreigners came... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2018 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I saw The Last Jedi the weekend it came out, and I've been thinking about it and discussing it with my family (especially my son) sporadically since then. I'm not going to write a review; suffice to say that I give it a B and leave it at that. Nor... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Once again, it's time to link to the greatest Christmas Web site ever. I refer, of course, to the NORAD Santa Tracker. As I write this, their countdown stands at 6 hours and 41 minutes. The tracking begins at 6:00 a.m. GMT, which is when the sun is setting in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
It's a tumbledown roadhouse on a desert highway, no cute signs, no come-ons for tourists. Inside it's shabby but comfortable. The customers are mostly crewcut types with sunglasses. But the photos on the walls include shots that can't be anywhere in the Solar System. This is the bar where the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I've noticed that discussions of Star Trek — especially as it enters its second half-century — focus on its "cerebral" nature, and how it addressed social problems and moral dilemmas related to real-world politics. That may well be true, but I think there's an even more important component of Star... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Cloud Island is a mile-wide mass of solid cloud, shaped rather like an egg. It was settled long ago and is currently ruled by a Cloud Giant sorcerer. The island serves as a free port and marketplace for ships and creatures that sail the sky or venture through the ether.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
We're on the final stretch now in our read-through of Judith Merril's 8th Annual of the Year's Best SF, covering stories published in 1962. The 26th story in the collection is Zenna Henderson's "Subcommittee," about the budding friendship between a human child and a young alien while the adults are... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Today's Random Encounter Table takes us to a distant star system at the edge of explored space. The spaceport can be either an orbital station or an outpost on the surface of a planet. Because this is the frontier, equipment is patched-together and law enforcement is lax and ad-hoc. Use... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Picking up where we left off last time, at the halfway mark. "MS. Found in a Bus" by Russell Baker, is a bit of alleged political humor from the New York Times. Baker was a Times columnist from 1962 to 1998. This very short piece is (I think) a satire... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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Exciting news about one of the first titles I covered in the "Island of Lost Games" series — John Hill, one of the original Droids gaming group, ran across my post and sent this reply: I enjoyed your recent post about the game "Droids", though the circumstances that led me... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Where does the horror-haunted Plateau of Leng lie? In Central Asia? Past the Mountains of Madness in Antarctica? Or is it outside of waking reality altogether, in the dimension of nightmares? The city of sinister temples and forbidden magic draws visitors from all space and time. ENCOUNTERS IN LENG (Roll... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Picking up where we left off, we reach a milestone: the first story in this anthology — published, let us recall, at the height of the Space Race in 1963 — which actually takes place in outer space. Poul Anderson's "Kings Who Die" is an odd blending of swashbuckling space... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
ENCOUNTERS IN POST-APOCALYPTIC HOUSTON (Roll d20 if the party is moving, d10 if they are staying in one place.) Roll Twice and Combine Plot-Advancing Encounter: Something or someone related to whatever brought the adventurers to Post-Apocalyptic Houston in the first place. (If they're just passing through then this is an... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I picked up a copy of The 8th Annual of the Year's Best SF in a used bookstore a couple of years ago, and recently re-read it. It was published in 1963, so the stories represent the best of 1962 — at least in the opinion of Judith Merril, the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I'm starting a new feature of the 'blog this week: your Weekly Random Encounters. Each week I'm going to post a new random encounter table for a particular setting. Use these for roleplaying games, story prompts, or as a kind of I Ching to predict your week. I'm also appending... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking