The Editor’s Rant: Issue #3

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Here we are, already at our third issue. If this was a Marvel comic, it would be time for a gratuitous Spider-Man cameo. Instead, you get me. I just love a captive audience. Hey! Don’t walk away from me when I’m ranting at you, come back here! Ok, I apologize and will try to keep the ranting to a minimum. Now, read on Macduff…

If you’ve read one of our earlier issues, or met us at conventions, then you already know how thick we are. Boy, that sure came out wrong. The point I’m trying to make is… Starting with this issue, we are doubling our page count! This will give us enough space to add plenty of new features—including an expanded selection of poetry and fiction, more comics, new columnists, more artwork, and there’s even room for me to ramble on about whatever tedium should spring to mind.

Some less secure editors would worry about suddenly having twice as much space to fill. Not me. [Sweat, sweat, sweat.] I’m sure that our readers would love to have thirty-two pages of my ranting if I should come up short on material. Right folks? Hello… Anyone there?
Actually there are a few reasons that we are able to double our size. The first being the incredible reception we’ve been getting at conventions. It’s because of this strong fan-base that businesses are willing to take a chance on advertising with us. So, a hearty thanks to our readers for taking the time to seek us out at their local SF/Fantasy conventions!

And, as long as I’m handing out thanks, I can’t forget to mention the fantastically creative group of friends that have volunteered their time and talent to this project. The names in the black bar to the right are more than just a staff, collectively they represent 145 years of friendship. As is usually the case though, the new kid on the block is always the first one to get screwed over. Andy World, who just joined us a few months ago, is an amazing artist whose credits got left out of the previous issue. If anyone was curious as to who did the three illustrations that accompanied “Hector the H20” in Issue #2, it was Andy. We’re all grateful to have him on the staff.

I would also like to mention, in great detail, the contributions of the rest of the staff but space grows short here. Instead, I will use my remaining space to get in some quick promotions… Visit our website (www.nthzine.com); send us your letters, stories, poems, filks, comics, etc.; look for us at your local genre-related conventions; eat all your vegetables; and, most importantly, buy everything that our advertisers are selling. See you next issue!

 

Game Review: Kill Doctor Lucky

Doctor_Luckyby Chris Tompkins

 

(click) …and remember, that for a meager $300.00 donation you get this fantastic PBS keychain. We now return you to PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! Welcome to the J. Robert Lucky mansion, a rambling country estate seven miles north of nowhere. It is a stormy midsummer’s evening, ten seconds after midnight, and someone has just shut off the lights. You have hated Dr. Lucky for as long as you can remember and you’ve been secretly awaiting the perfect chance to do the old man in. Maybe he destroyed your dry cleaning business, maybe you think he’s the leader of the vampires, perhaps he’s the only person standing between you and the family fortune, or maybe his cat just keeps peeing in your shrubs. Whatever the reason, it’s good enough to push you over the edge and now you can’t wait to take the old bastard down. And, even though you don’t know it, everyone else in the house wants to kill him too.

Yes, boys and girls, unlike Clue, where the game starts after all of the fun is over, Cheapass Games proudly brings to the gaming masses, Origins’ Best Abstract Board Game of 1997, Kill Doctor Lucky. The name of the company is very appropriate, as the game only comes with the bare essentials, what you can’t provide yourself. That includes the map tiles (made of cardboard thinner than a cereal box); movement, failure, and weapon cards (you thought the map tiles were thin!); and the rules. The game is diceless and the pawns you have to bring to the table yourself. Having to use your own pawns makes the game different with each set of pawns you use. Got some D&D miniatures? Now the name of the game is Kill Evil LichLord Lucky. Use your Star Wars action figures and play a rousing game of Kill Doctor Jar Jar. We used hobbit pawns and Dr. Lucky was the Malevolent All-Seeing Eye and the game was Kill Doctor Tolkien.

The game itself is a breeze to play. Gameplay begins with everyone’s pawn starting out in the same room, each player having six cards in their hand. After each turn, Dr. Lucky moves to the next highest numbered room on the map. On the player’s turn you have one of two choices—Search or Do Stuff. Searching consists of moving one space, if you wish, and drawing a card from the deck. Doing Stuff consists of moving one space, or not; using a card to move Dr. Lucky or yourself; or attempting to murder Dr. Lucky. The game works on a very simple line-of-sight system where you can see anything going on in the rooms with a door to the front, behind, left, or right of you, but not diagonally. No one can attempt to kill Dr. Lucky in a room someone else can see into.

If you do (and it isn’t easy even with a mere three people) find yourself in a room with the good doctor, and no one can see you, you may attempt to murder the poor bastard. Murdering him is done simply by saying, “I’m attempting to murder Dr. Lucky,” and playing a weapon card. Weapon cards have a basic murder value, good for any room, and a specialty room murder value (i.e. the garden spade is worth two points in any room, but catch Dr. Lucky in the Rose Garden and it’s worth five points!). If you don’t have a weapon card, you can attempt to poke him in the eye, give him noogies, or use the dim-mak death touch, but these hand-to-hand attacks only have a murder value of one point each. After you make your murder attempt, the other players get the chance to play “failure” cards to stop your murder. Failure cards have a point value on them also. If the failure points are equal to or greater than the murder value, the old man lives to see another turn.

One other thing, if the old man moves into a room you are in, it automatically becomes your turn. This adds a great bit of strategy to the game. When we were playtesting it, I found that I could finagle anywhere from 3-5 turns if I had the movement cards—although, even with this extra advantage, I still couldn’t win the game.

I highly recommend Kill Doctor Lucky to all ages and genders. With a pricetag of only $7.50, you can’t afford not to try it (have you seen the price of Clue lately?). Cheapass Games also publishes an extensive variety of card, board, and computer games with cool sounding titles like Unexploded Cow and The Great Brain Robbery. There’s also an interesting looking prequel called Save Doctor Lucky that involves rescuing the doc from almost certain death on the Titanic. For more fun and frolic, check out the other offerings at www.cheapass.com and tell ’em Dr. Lucky sent you.

 

Con Review: I-Con 21

ICon21by Catherine E. Twohill

 

I-Con 21
April 19-21, 2002
Stony Brook, New York

I stands for Island, Long that is… Stony Brook, Long Island’s I-CON is billed as a three-day festival, designed to encourage literacy, creativity and interest in science and technology through science fiction and its related genres. Their billing is dead-on. Over 6,000 guests took over SUNY at Stony Brook’s campus the weekend of April 19-21. Workshops and panel sessions were interwoven with medieval jousting on the Quad and autograph jousting from Billy Boyd (Peregrin (Pippen) Took, Lord of the Rings) and a number of stars from Babylon 5. Con content was varied and abundant. At any given time, attendees could hear from writers, gamers, comic artists, and publishers or attend interactive workshops and share their own thoughts and ideas for peer feedback. Tightly organized, I-CON has much to be proud of. I-CON 22 is slated for March 28-30, 2003.

 

Con Review: Balticon 36

Balticon36by Catherine E. Twohill

 

Balticon 36
May 24-27, 2002
Baltimore, Maryland 

Presented by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Balticon celebrated its 36th year Memorial Day weekend in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Balticon is truly an “elder statesman” of the East Coast Con scene. When Cons can claim to be older than their average guest, you can bet your last drachma that the list of rules for that Con is longer than the autograph line for Phil Foglio. The rule that seemed to most impact Balticon festivities was the enforcement of “no alcohol on site.” Not that the staff of Nth Degree requires a drink in every hand and a bottle on ice but, well, we enjoy hosting social events and inviting our readers to come by for a “sip or two.” Rather than alcohol, we decided to abuse another compound element—HE2. We held our first Heliympics and, quite honestly, we believe it will be our last. We’re still woozy. That said, Balticon has a loyal and significant following. Other, newer Cons have much to learn from the organizers of Balticon. Sometimes rules help keep a reputation intact. Balticon 37 will be held May 23-26, 2003.

 

Con Review: Heroes Convention 2002

Heroes2002by Michael D. Pederson

 

Heroes Convention 2002
June 14-16, 2002
Charlotte, North Carolina

Heroes Con claims to draw 10,000 people to the Charlotte Convention Center, and I believe it. With over one hundred professionals guests, more than one hundred and fifty dealer’s tables, and non-stop gaming tournaments Heroes Con is easily one of the largest comic book conventions on the East Coast. Not only was the dealer’s room enormous, but it was also wall-to-wall people. Definitely the place to go if you’re into comics, especially if you have a couple of extra bucks to spend in the dealer’s room (I could have dropped a couple of hundred dollars just within fifty feet of the entrance). Next year’s convention is scheduled for June 13-15, 2003.

 

Con Review: CastleCon 15

Castlecon15by Catherine E. Twohill

 

CastleCon 15
July 5-7, 2002
Reston, Virginia

Held the weekend of July 5-7 in Reston, VA, CastleCon 15 was true to its positioning as a “relaxacon.” The Con Suite offered free food, coloring books, board and boxed games, a tv/vcr set-up with lots of tapes and, above all, Lite-Brite boards with thousands of colorful pegs. Sessions took on the vacation theme as well. Painting, filking, and belly dancing with Miraj (the “Elvira” of bellydance!) were key, as was the organization of an impromptu sugar party. The open gaming area was consistently full of LARPers as was the hotel’s pool (unclear as to whether they were LARPers). Attendees were able to take advantage of the organizer’s great effort in creating a relaxing and fun atmosphere. CastleCon and EveCon share the same organization team, FanTek.org. We’re very much looking forward to EveCon, December 27-29, 2002.

 

Con Review: Toronto Trek 16

TorontoTrek16by J. Andrew World

 

Toronto Trek 16
June 5-7, 2002
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Trek is hailed as Canada’s largest annual science fiction event, and boy is it! There were a few things I was pleasantly surprised to see… They welcome room parties. The people were extremely nice and very friendly (including in the bathroom, which in most places is considered to be like the elevator, no talking!). And, no surprise really, there were an enormous amount of people dressed up as Klingons.

 

Con Review: Shore Leave 24

by Catherine E. Twohill

 

Shore Leave 24
July 12-14, 2002
Hunt Valley, Maryland

The premier east-coast convention for Star Trek fans (Trekkers, please, not Trekkies), Shore Leave celebrated its 24th year in Hunt Valley, MD the weekend of July 12-14. Organizers chose to limit ticket sales to 1,750 per day. Those arriving on Saturday afternoon were disappointed as the Con sold out for the day before 1:00 pm. While Star Trek is the general theme (Klingons hold their family reunion and Vulcan ear points are de rigueur), this planet held species from many different worlds: fairies, devils, long-robed Deaths, Storm Troopers, and Darth Vader as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans—the appearance of James Marsters brought out the swooning females of that particular species. Next year will mark Shore Leave’s quarter century. Shore Leave 25 will be held July 11-13, 2003.

 

Movie Review: Scooby Doo

Scooby-Doo_posterby Brandon & Susan Blackmoor

 

Scooby Doo, How Could You? 
(or, Scooby Doo as Modern Myth)

Scooby Doo is the King Arthur of our generation: a tale retold countless times, interpreted and re-interpreted according to the whims and prejudices of the storyteller. We have explored the branches of Scooby Doo’s evidently inbred family tree (his brother Howdy Doo, and his cousins Scooby Dum, Scooby Dee, Whoopsy Doo, and Dooby Doo, just to name a few), we have seen the Scooby gang miniaturized into small-bodied large-headed versions of themselves, and we have seen the Mystery Machine gang play host to such luminaries as Don Knotts, Phyllis Diller, the Addams Family, and Davy Jones.

The myth of Scooby Doo has inspired scenes in movies like Wayne’s World and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The characters have become role-models to generations of young people who find themselves arrayed against possibly-supernatural mysteries. Curious and open-minded teenagers have discovered the joys of alternate lifestyles through the regularly-abducted example of Bondage-Prone Daphne, and the patron saint of Cannabis sativa, Shaggy, has gently shepherded his flock through the terrible ravages of sloth, cowardice, and the munchies.

The most recent addition to the Scooby Doo myth cycle is a worthy effort. For the first time, human actors are cast in the roles of the beloved Mystery Machine gang as they meddle in yet another mystery. By and large, they do a surprisingly good job of portraying their animated counterparts. The best of these is Matthew Lillard’s poignant evocation of Shaggy. We are shown a deeper, more meaningful Shaggy. Yes, he eats anything that isn’t nailed down, and yes, he’s every bit the coward we have come to know and love, but there is more to him. He is the soul of the group, the conscience and moral center. Lillard also pegs the voice and mannerisms of the animated Shaggy with preternatural accuracy.

Linda Cardellini deserves mention, as well: she breathes life into Velma, and for a brief moment we know the true Velma, the Velma under the thick glasses and the thicker turtleneck sweater. Sadly, Sarah Michelle Gellar doesn’t quite make us believe the role of Daphne. Is she too cute? Insufficiently glamorous? It’s difficult to say. She tries, and perhaps she does the best with the part that she can, but it just rings false. Not as false, however, as the grievously mis-cast Freddie Prinze, Jr. as Fred. Does Prinze look like Fred? Not really. Does he give off Fred’s latent homosexual vibe? No (at least not to me). Does he have Fred’s trademark topheavy build? Nope. So what explains his inexplicable casting as the foppish hunk? Could it be because he was romantically involved with Sarah Michelle Gellar, who can single-handedly attract millions of dollars of financing to a movie project? But perhaps it’s better that we not speculate. Besides, they’re married now, so we should be kind—the romance won’t last much longer. The important thing is that the cast, on the whole, does a fine job, and better than one might expect.

But what of the story? Does it live up to the greatest of the Scooby Doo stories: The Spooky Space Kook, Which Witch is Which, or Foul Play in Funland? Almost! The story concerns a rich amusement park owner who calls in the gang to investigate peculiar behavior of the park’s patrons. It’s a simple story, and it’s fairly transparent, but it works. The creeps are creepy, the sets are marvelous, and the amusement park owner is played by the pleasantly goofy Rowan Atkinson—and as we all know from the underrated farce Rat Race, Rowan Atkinson can be entertaining even while falling asleep.

This isn’t to say that the movie couldn’t be improved. There were several scenes left upon the cutting room floor that would have made the film more entertaining to its adult audience, such as the kiss between Daphne and Velma, or Shag and Scoob trading hits on a Scooby-sized bong. Some of these will hopefully find their way to the Scooby Doo “Special Edition” DVD (which should see heavy promotion in the months before Scooby Doo 2 is released in theatres in 2004). There’s also the small matter of the Scooby Doo character itself. It’s no Jar-Jar Binks, but it’s no Velociraptor, either. If you want to see a funny talking dog, see Men in Black 2. Let’s hope that the animation is better in the Scooby sequel (and that there aren’t any more Star Wars movies).

But is Scooby Doo watchable and fun? I think so. So add it to your Netflix queue, stoke up the hookah, and kick back with some Scooby Snacks.