Isle of Joy: Kickstarter Coming Soon!

While this blog is not heavily-trafficked, I thought it would probably be a good idea to post this here, because at least according to my site’s stats, a few real people do drop by from time to time. 

If you’re following me on social media, you’re probably aware that there’s a Kickstarter coming up for my Isle of Joy adventure book. One of the elevator pitches I’ve seen is, “If Jodorowsky directed The Tempest for A24, but an RPG,” and that feels right to me. If that appeals to you, then head over here to be notified when the campaign launches!

A recent post included a mock-up image of the book’s cover, which I think is gorgeous, along with what look like new sketches for a couple of my favorite locales in the setting:

The contents were playtested by my Sunday night group, and we had loads of fun playing through it. It’s a dark, spooky, weird setting on a tropical isle—or is it two islands—with a lot of mysterious and weird tragedy woven into the setting, which is to say a setting with a lot of secrets and mysteries to uncover, including a lost magic system, loads of NPCs, plenty of bizarre creatures, and several entire civilizations for your player characters to encounter.

It’s written for OSE, but you can run it with anything loosely compatible with that. The Kickstarter itself is coming in October. 

Oh, and for your listening pleasure, here’s one of the sample tracks I did up for the campaign video. 

It’s one we didn’t end up using, but I still like how it reminds me of really early stuff by The Orb. People are welcome to download it (right click and download the track here) and use it in their game if they like. 

Once again, here’s that link to sign up for in order to get a reminder when the campaign launches!

Another SuperCollider Thing

I’ve been busy over the weekend and wasn’t able to advance much in the book yet, but I did play around with SuperCollider a bit more. Here’s some recorded evidence:

My old iMac was running out of memory near the end, which is why stuff got all glitchy near the end. Not for this reason but for other reasons, I’m upgrading to a newer Mac, so I won’t have that issue soon. 

For now, this feels a lot like twiddling knobs on an analog synth back in the day, which is undeniably fun… but I’m hoping that before long I’ll have moved on to other challenging applications with SuperCollider. Still gotta get a handle on all the basics first, though. 

Harrow County Library Edition, Vols. 1-4, by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook

This entry is part 16 of 19 in the series 2023 Reads

Like all the posts in my 2023 reads list, this four-volume set of enormous hardback graphic novels appaears here on my blog at a slight lag, meaning I read this a while back. Not much of one, oin this case, though: I finished this yesterday. 

I was completely unfamiliar with this comic series, but it was in the holdings at the local branch of the National Library, so I figured I’d give it a shot. The books were heavy—which is to say, really nice quality, large, durable hardbacks with very thick pages, and they’re striking-looking books. 

The stories are fun and creepy, and flavorful in that way one expects from a story where ghosts and things that go bump in the night are referred to as “haints.” The artwork is really well-done, too: especially the watercolour, which gives it a kind of old-timey, natural feel that fit the characters and milieu really well.  But the real standout of the series is the twists and turns of the tale, the way things keep going in an unusual direction with each mini-arc of the narrative. The twists aren’t necessarily all unanticipated, and once or twice I got the sense the pacing would have felt better if I’d been reading the story in its original form, over weeks at a time rather than in a single volume, but I think they’re all executed quite well, and enough is left undefined and weird that I think it all works well. By the time I got to the end of Volume 3, I found myself feeling a little disappointed that the end was approaching, but I also found myself tearing through Volume 4 all the same. 

This, however, seems to be one of the last big graphic novel collections available at the local branch of the National Library. There’s a few volumes of Locke & Key, which I will probably look at this winter, but I think I’ve exhausted the library’s offerings in this genre. It’s just as well that I’m finally able to focus better and I’m reading more prose again, after such a long drought through the pandemic. 

That reminds me, I’m eagerly awaiting the Haffner Press two-volume complete collection of all of Manly Wade Wellman’s John The Balladeer stories and novels. It’s taking forever, but that’s just as well, since I haven’t had a chance to preorder it yet.  Honestly, I’d probably be just as happy with old paperbacks, but some of them are rare and internet economics have caused all the prices to be jacked up so high that a pair of brand-new premium hardbacks is cheaper than trying to pick up the old editions—at least, if you don’t have direct access to some local, offline used bookstore. I mention the Wellman because I feel like he’s the touchstone for this kind of Appalachian horror stuff—from Old Gods of Appalachia to Harrow County, these seems to be credit owed to him for the inroads he made in building an outpost in the world of genre fiction for fantastical tales from the hills. 

Learning Supercollider 1: Starting Out

So, a while back I saw a few videos of Dan Tepfer’s where he was exploring ideas like algorithmic music and visual representations of music. One video that really grabbed my attention was his exploration of canons and automated canon playback, which he posted on Instagram:


At the time, I was struggling to write a prolation canon for this string quartet I’ve been slowly, off-and-on working on for the last month or so.1 Sadly, the rules Tepfer mentions don’t apply to prolation canons, only to simpler sequential canons, so I suspect I’ll need to work out the prolation canon slowly and by relying on common sense and my ear.  

However, that software of Tepfer’s caught my attention. In the course of the video, he specifically mentions SuperCollider, which I soon learned was also what he was using for other experiments and creations with algorithmic music, such as his Natural Machines project:

This grabbed my attention, because for a while now I’ve been saying that we ought to be able to do some pretty cool things with machine/human interactive performance. Obviously, if you’re an amazing pianist like Tepfer, you can do all kinds of things in solo interaction with software, but I’m curious just how far the technology could be pushed in terms of getting an algorithm to “listen” and “respond” to live musical performance by one or more human beings. 

Anyway, SuperCollider’s free, so I’ve installed it and started working through some tutorials while I wait for my copy of The SuperCollider Book to arrive. So far, I’ve just started exploring, so I have nothing amazing to show for it yet, though I can twiddle some oscillators in real time, and output the audio to Audacity. The sounds on this track, in fact, were so complex that Audacity was struggling to play them back without lagging (that, or my poor old mac’s memory is just overtaxed), and I had to export them to MP3 to actually hear the output again properly without (as much) weird distortion and choppiness:

(My son’s commentary sums up that track: “It’s like a dream inside a robot’s brain!” It’s his first blush with old-fashion synth noise, and he responded by dancing around a little, then working the keys on my saxophone and thumping the drum pads on my edrum kit!)

This isn’t much like writing music in the traditional way: it’s more like inputting numbers and then seeing what the computer does with them—a bit like how one would messes with knobs and switches on a modular synth to see what the machine spits out. Still, it’s fun to adjust numbers and see what happens, and moreover, I suspect it’s a stepping stone towards more interesting things. (I can already see how one could build ways for it to “listen” for incoming MIDI data and “respond” with algorithmically manipulated versions of the same.) 

For now, that’s the step that starts what I imagine could be quite a long journey: SuperCollider’s an entire programming language for algorithmic music (as well as the environment and associated audio software in which the language can be used), so there’s a lot to dig into. We’ll see how far I get with it, I guess. The book is almost 800 pages long, though how much of that is references, I’m not sure. (As usual, I was able to find a second-hand copy for cheap, but it’ll need to cross an ocean before I get to dig into it.) 

  1. Yes, I realize those are string orchestra patches. I don’t have a good sample-based vst for solo strings.