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Sketchbook HarvestNanofiction

My Great Great Grandparents Died at Auschwitz

The 1936 Berlin Olympics ended in chaos: Adolf Hitler assassinated! Afterwards, things gradually improved for German Jews. But the sniper was a time traveler; the universe rippled back to "normal" when another chrononaut stopped the assassin. How do I know? I was in the Time Traveler's Tiki Lounge at the time. Technically, I don't exist.

#12's Nanofics

New this week:
Conflict in the City


I'm whistling the wa wa part of Close To You, scratching my wrist, staring at the monitor and wondering what to rename 'New'.

Cool Words

clepsydra (klep'-si-dra) n. a water clock (fr. Gr. kleptein "to steal" + hydr "water"

Haiku Reviews

Boys Don't Cry :-)
Lana should've told
Brandon that she had a mole
near her left nipple.

Daddy-O's Reviews


I had one of those "goink" moments (as my colleague Dr Cool puts it) where my suspension of disbelief was totally shattered, basically ruining the movie for me (when they put the pilot's son on the line and the pilot refuses to listen). Even so, this gripping cold war drama (nicely re-created in *live* B&W on CBS last week, with Richard Dreyfus as the President) is a must see for all students of the Sociology of Nuclear War (you know, I actually took that class in college).

Tirade's Choice

Demand Greener Cars!
Fruits of Chaos
Virtual Drawing
#12's Webcomic picks
It's Gravy!

Thursday, April 20, 2000
by the Wunderland Toast Society

What's New?

What's Going On? What is Secret Project 39-C?

Last week I said I'd tell you about the new game I've been hinting about for the past 3 months, so without further ado, it's called Chrononauts, and it's the card game of Time Travel.

In Chrononauts, each player becomes a time traveler, with a unique identity and a secret mission. During the game, players travel backwards and forwards through history, doing all those things people have always dreamed of using a time machine to do: Visiting the great moments of the past, peeking into the future, collecting up impossible artifacts and priceless works of art (at the moment just before history records their destruction), coming to grips with the paradoxes of time travel, and of course, changing pivotal events and altering the course of history itself. How would the timeline be different if Lincoln and JFK had not been assassinated? And is that the version of reality that you came from originally... the one you must return to in order to win? It's all packed into a fast and easy Fluxx-style card game that will take you to the beginning of time and back again.

Sounds cool, eh? Lemme tell you, it is! The gameplay of the current prototype has all the fun and excitement I'd hoped it would last January, when I first set out to create a time travel card game. There's still a metric ton of work to be done before it'll be ready to publish, but I feel the design has reached the stage of completion necessary for me to begin telling people about it.

Up until now, I haven't wanted to reveal very much about the game, partly because I wanted to shield myself from outside ideas until I had a chance to fully develop my own ideas myself, and partly because I didn't want to make a bunch of statements that would probably turn out to be untrue, which is definitely what would have happened, given how much the game design changed as it evolved over the past 3 months. (As it is, what little I have said includes at least one rendered falsehood...)

However, one of the things people tell us they like most about our website is our openness about what we're doing. Our readers are enjoying watching our story unfold, as we seek to build a successful game company, and the process of taking a new game from Pre-Production to Published Product is a story I want to cover in detail on this website over the course of this next year. Being secretive about my cool new game was running totally against the grain of my journal-style corporate reporting, which is why I haven't been able to resist talking about it at least vaguely, and why I just couldn't wait anymore to tell you what it is.

Moreover, keeping it secret makes it difficult to conduct proper playtesting. Even though we have no idea how we're going to pay for it, we're hoping to publish Chrononauts this fall, i.e. in time for the next HSS (Holiday Shopping Season), and production schedule-wise, that doesn't actually leave a lot of time to finalize the design and produce the finished artwork. Right now, all that exists is my master prototype (if you're going to Balticon this weekend, drop by the Pop-Tart Cafe and ask me to show it to you) but the next step will be to produce a small run of playtest decks and make them available to the Mad Lab Rabbits for testing. To this end, we're planning a Limited Edition Cheapass-style Beta-Test release, which we're hoping to have out in time for Origins. So, given all this, it seemed like the time was ripe to tell you what we've got up our sleeve next.

...and now for the Bad News. Last week I described our funding woes, and announced we'd decided to consider going after Venture Capital. I tried to put a positive spin on this -- we need the money for growth -- but it's also rather frightening. We've been operating in the red for awhile now, and our debt is mounting. Kristin has been doing an absolutely incredible job of building our company for us, but even with Herculean efforts like hers, it takes years to build a profitable business, and our situation is getting somewhat critical. If we don't bring up our sales volume and/or find some deep-pocketed backing soon, I might even need to put this website on hiatus and go back to the working world as a highly paid computer programmer (which would obviously be like a total bummer). To forestall that fate, we need to "close the deal" as they say, on some of the great sales prospects we got at Toy Fair and GAMA. As Kristin and Leslie keep telling me, we need to stay focused on the projects with larger returns. And we've got plenty of inventory taking up space in our house... we just need to get busy and sell a bunch of it.

Unfortunately, while there's no shortage of things I could be doing to help Kristin generate more sales, I've instead been spending the last couple of months obsessively designing a new game. Even though we lack the greenbacks necessary to reprint all the games we currently have for sale, I've been busily adding another expensive line item to our out-of-control budget. So, now it's time to pay the piper... in order to spend more time helping her build the business, I've decided to cut back on some of my weekly web publishing deadlines for a while. Therefore, this week marks the end of the current season, if you will, of the Iceland comic and my Nanofiction writings. Sketchbook Harvest will continue unabated, since it really is very easy to keep up with; but Daddy-O's Reviews may also go dark now and then in the coming weeks, as I seek to spend less time on this site and more time helping to increase sales.

It's really just as well... last week I promised a tour of the sights of Planet Zorn (followed by a banquet and a coronation!) with no real idea of what any of that stuff is going to look like, much less how to draw it, so a short hiatus will give me a chance to do some much needed planning ahead. As for the Nanofics, when I first started publishing them here, I had a nice little reserve of them to pick from when I didn't have something fresh on hand; but having whittled that away, I like the idea of stopping for awhile and building that reserve back up. Besides, I need to try to figure out how to write about something other than time travel... in case you haven't figured it out yet, many of my recent Nanofics were actually written for use in Chrononauts. Each "Identity" card will feature a character sketch, in the form of a nanofic. This week's entry is one of ten such stories I'm currently planning on using in the game. (The other nine are already featured on the Nanofiction archive... can you guess which ones they are?) Anyway, it may not seem like these two featurettes really consume that much of my time, but they do, and rather than putting the entire site on hiatus, I'm just gonna try to reduce my workload for awhile. How long? Good question... a few weeks at the least, a few months at the most. We shall see.

As for the Search for Funding, we've gotten lots of great feedback, and although no Business Angels (that's the term for what we really want, we're told) have descended from Heaven yet, we did get a number of folks expressing interest in helping to provide funding on a smaller scale, suggesting we offer stock warrants or perhaps bonds backed by the inventory of game products; but these ideas would require legal wrangling that we don't really want to get into if we don't have to. Another idea we've heard is to try to make the website pay for itself, by renting out paid banner ads or charging our readers a subscription fee. We dislike both of these ideas and are not considering them; but at the same time, we're hitting our disk space ceiling again (3000+ pages takes up a lot of meg), and the last thing we need right now is for our website hosting fees to go up. But while we have no wish to deny readers access to our site unless they pay a fee, we figure it would be OK to accept donations from any readers who might volunteer to make them. So, this week we're contemplating the idea of setting up a patron program, not unlike the one used in the performing arts industry, where they list your name in the back of the program book if you give the theater some money: if you donate $10, we put your name in fine print on the bottom of this page, for 6 months or a year, under a big banner listing all of our beloved patrons. Put up more money, and we'll use a bigger font. Links and graphics would cost extra. Of course, there are problems with this idea, too (for example, does anyone know the legal issues involved with accepting donations in this way?) but we're serious enough about it that we'd like to know how our actual readers would react to it. So, please send us email with your opinions!

AndyDon't forget to play!

New Iceland cartoonthe story so far

Thought Residue
Alison took a real beating on her taxes this year. Due to the strong stock market and a badly-timed IRA-to-Roth-IRA conversion, she ended having to pay income tax on investment money that she isn't allowed to touch... not even to pay off the tax bill it generated. As a result, the government just took away most of Alison's life savings (except for that theoretical IRA money...)
"Mr. Chairman, sadly, I don't believe that General McCaffrey can be trusted to give you an accurate appraisal of our drug situation. Deaths are up, high school kids can get drugs more easily than ever, drug use by junior high kids has tripled, drug prices are at historic lows, drug purity is as high as ever, and we are still not treating most of the millions of addicts desperate for help. How can General McCaffrey, with a straight face, tell you and the American people that we are winning our fight against drug abuse?" -- Eric E. Sterling, president, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, to the House Committee on Appropriations, March 23, 2000
Today is 4/20, a day for asking this question: does it really make sense to put people in jail, just for smoking marijuana?

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