Prepare Your Emotions for Critical Role

So, you’ve listened to a few tabletop RPG podcasts (or none at all!) and have wanted to get into the ever growing in popularity Critical Role but you don’t know where to start and are kind of overwhelmed. It’s a daunting task, as Critical Role is currently some 240+ episodes and each episode is at least three hours long, sometimes stretching into five hours (those are usually boss battles and/or the most stressful episodes of all time). It makes for thousands of hours of content. It has spawned comic books, coffee table art books, merch, and an upcoming animated series.

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Five Books With Great Opening Lines

One book that got its hooks into me struck at Chengis Khan airport in Ulanbaatar years ago. A friend and I were returning from a long stay off the grid with Kazakh nomads in Mongolia’s far west. We were saddle sore from a trip across the Altai mountains in a Russian jeep, suffering from intestinal parasites, and reeking of yak dung. But we had Kindles, and something passing (in Mongolia) for Wi-Fi. “Read this,” my friend said, and stuck this opening under my nose:

“If I could tell you one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head. As formative events go, nothing else comes close.” –The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, by Brady Udall.

Thank God for books. They can take you from anywhere, to anywhere. Not all of them do it as precipitously as Edgar Mint—there are ways to be transported that don’t involve such a dozy of a first step—but as an author myself I swoon over such writing.

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Tom Holland Was So Nervous to Meet the Other Spider-Men, He Had to Bring Friends

Spider-Man: No Way Home is unquestionably a major hit and still making a strong showing at the box office many weeks after its premiere. What’s less sure is whether the movie will be a big hit at the Academy Awards, especially for the Best Picture category.

It looks like Marvel is making the push, however, and one of those efforts to get the movie on the Academy’s radar was to have all three Spider-Men—Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield—have a joint interview with Deadline.

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A Transformative Pandemic Novel: Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark

What makes for essential pandemic fiction? This is a question that’s been on my mind for a substantial portion of the last two years. Early in the current pandemic, I shared some thoughts on the subject; since then, the pandemic-lit canon has expanded and deepened. Consider the acclaimed adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven or the new translation of Mario Bellatin’s Beauty Salon published in late 2021. There’s something both compelling and disconcerting about experiencing stories about a pandemic from within a pandemic. That’s a sensation that Sequoia Nagamatsu memorably captures in his new novel How High We Go in the Dark.

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Home, New Home: Books About Generation Ships

Science fiction loves a space colony, or alternatively a colony ship on its way to one. My book Children of Time focuses on one such craft, humanity’s last hope in a desperate, millennia-long journey to reach what the crew very much hope will turn out to be a terraformed and habitable world. The ship itself is slowly coming apart at the seams, the crew have only an uneasy alliance with each other, and worst of all, their brave new world turns out to be already tenanted. Their cargo—surviving humanity—is in suspension, as are they for most of the trip—so however desperate their situation, they dodge the bullets some of the colonists and starfarers have to deal with in the following novels about generation ships…

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The Vampire Diaries Creators Reteam for More “Love, Death, Thrills and Tears” in Dead Day

Vampires never die, and neither do really good partnerships. The Vampire Diaries creators Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson are working together on a new project for Peacock—one that got ordered straight to series. Dead Day, based on the comic series by writer Ryan Parrott and artist Evgeniy Bornyakov, focuses on the annual holiday “Dead Day,” when the dead return to life for just one day.

As the book’s summary explains, “Some come back to reunite with family and friends, others for one last night of debauchery, still others with only one thing on their decomposing mind: revenge.”

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Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice and the Joy of Being Surprised

It’s always a great feeling when a writer blindsides you in the telling of a story. There you are, you’ve been taken in hand and gently guided into another world, and things are moving along and it all feels perfectly normal … basically, you’ve been quietly seduced, and you’re not even aware of it, until a scene arrives and in a flash, everything changes.

I’d not read Hobb before and knew nothing of her. I don’t know why I bought Assassin’s Apprentice; the impulse to buy is pernicious.

Started reading, admired the controlled point of view, the leisurely pace. Liked the boy-and-his-dog riff that was going on. Never even occurred to me that something was odd about that relationship, until the Scene. I won’t spoil it here, but that relationship ends with a brutal event, shocking in its seeming cruelty. Yet, it was in that moment that I realised the fullest extent of that quiet seduction. I’d bought so completely into the boy’s point of view that I sensed nothing awry about it.

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A Reading Spreadsheet Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

“That seems too much like work,” a commenter said, two weeks ago, about reading spreadsheets, and I haven’t been able to get that thought out of my head. If you work all day with spreadsheets, I can understand not wanting to return to their gridlike shapes in your after-hours. But if they just sound intimidating? The thing about a spreadsheet is that it’s only as complicated as you make it.

There are some impressive, elaborate versions out there; just searching “reading spreadsheets” will turn up loads of templates. But I like to keep it a little simpler. Okay, a lot simpler. And to tell you the truth, no reading tracking system has ever been easier—once I got the basic template up and running.

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Beyond Critical Role: Four More D&D Shows You’ll Love

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about Dungeons & Dragons and Critical Role lately, and with good reason: We’re currently in a sort of renaissance for tabletop RPGs, with live stream shows leading the charge to make these games feel accessible and exciting. Critical Role has blazed a trail over the last seven years, adapting their live stream home game into everything from a podcast to graphic novels to a new animated version of their first campaign, The Legend of Vox Machina, premiering January 28th on Amazon Prime. If you’re new to live-watching D&D games (or to D&D in general), then welcome! You have so much awesome content awaiting you…

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Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Sixty-Six

Welcome back to the Rhythm of War Reread my friends! I’ll say right up front that this was a tough chapter to get through. Many of us have distrusted—and generally disliked—Taravangian ever since the end of The Way of Kings, and this conversation with him is frustrating in so many ways. He can be so right and so wrong at the same time. Well, come on in and join the discussion, and let’s see what we can do with it.

[He needed to talk to Taravangian in person.]

Series: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

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