Monday, September 18, 2017

Lead Time Lords: Affairs of the Hartnell

In their day Harlequin Miniatures were tremendously prolific and varied in their choices of subjects for their Doctor Who range. Every current Doctor, including the Eighth and Cinematic ncarnations ere represented, along with every companion, nearly every major villain and an embarrasment of riches in the monster department. No manufacturer since - licensed or not, has met the enormity of their range.

As a consequence, and with Black Tree Miniatures still runing the range in a scaled-own way, the collector can have more than one version of most their favoite Time Lord. It meant that, thanks to UK-based friends, I have more than one version of the First Doctor. One has already been painted, but recently I've been working on Harlequin's alternative sculpt - and here he is

This is the unpainted version off Black Tree's site. You get the gist of it - this is the First Doctor from An Unearthly Child, his debut. OR, from The Tenth Planet, his swan song. The Astrakhan hat and cloak give the painter a few options, really, maybe Planet of the Giants at a pinch, for example. So my approach was to take advantage of that. But first, a few adjustments:

Harlequin sculptors loved their bow-legged poses, and they weren't averse to the odd stragely-positioned arm either; and so we have a First Doctor here who not only has both, but also lacks a few characteristic accessories - his monacle, for one. Plus, blink and you'll mis his walking stick in his left hand, buried underneath the cloak. In the pictures I've seen, William Hartnell carried his cane in his right hand, so a new cane and green stuff monocle were fashioned. I'd have loved to have made a scarf as well, but there's quite a lot going on under that elongated head already.

So here’s progress to date paint chips, scuffing and dodgy painting aside. I briefly considered rendering my alternative First in monochrome, but having seen examples online decided against it (harder to make the colours pop, and it’s something this figure needs.) unlike his other incarnations the Girst Doctor has so far has three distinct faces from different actors - Hartnell, Richard Hurndall and more recently David Bradley (actually there have been four if you count Edward Warwick’s Android ‘duplicate’), so while my original First Doctor resembles Hartnell the most, this alternative will do for the others.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Geek Like Me

'Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks' by Ethan Gilsdorf (2012)

On a recommendation from the Save or Die podcast I recently read through Ethan Gilsdorf's Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, an autobiographical journey by the author, a journalist, who revisits an Eighties childhood of roleplaying games through literally revisiting and immersing himself in many of the elements past and present of a fantasy geek lifestyle. Along the way he meets other gamers, lifestylers and geeks, some of whom also tell their story through Gilsdorf.

Gilsdorf is around my age, but got into gaming earlier, and seemed to stick with it larger, and yet his experiences of leaving the game seem pretty familiar to anyone who has left home, entered adult institutions and fumbled their way through the sought treasures and pitfalls of adult relationships. In fact, the author's late childhood of nursing a severely disabled mother while entering his teens weighs heavily on the narrative, as does his confessed difficulty with committing to his longtime girlfriend. In a way, the premise of the book as quest oriented helps tell his story - the work of the journalist being one of discovery, detective, conflict and intuition, much like that of an RPG character; however, it's a piecemeal journey, with interruptions, revisions and deviations. There's also an returning element in Gildorf's writing that admits to a form of arrested maturity in the writer - something he explains in part to his unenviably difficult teens, but nevertheless it intrudes into the narrative. In short, there are times when the quest seems to be aimed at more than just awakening and examining the geek in Gilsdorf's head, but also pursuing a warrior queen of his very own, and to me it sat uncomfortably.

Nevertheless, there's plenty here to absorb if, like Gilsdorf, you've been somewhat divorced from the world of roleplaying games and are interested in how its various worlds - tabletop gaming, LARPing, historical reenactment, online MORPGs and fan culture, have evolved. As anyone who has followed the fortunes of games like Dungeons and Dragons can attest, the fortunes of the game and its community have waned and waxed over the years and fought their share of demons - from Eighties Satanic Panic to the collapse of many of its gaming studios, to the emergence of new media and the digital age. I found a lot of interest in Gilsdorf's visit to the spiritual antecedents of RPGs, in particular Guedelon in France, where a castle is being constructed strictly according to mediaeval methods including manpower, and the modern re-enactors, whose lives I do not envy, but dedication and philosophy intrigues me.

Perhaps the book rather extends its stay, though. The coda, a visit to New Zealand, seemed tacked on to complete Gilsdorf's mission of visiting a fantasy world up close and offer the best chance to immerse himself in one post-Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. But anyone who has tried to accomplish this will probably tell a similar story of the variable fortunes of attempting to meet screen with reality. It's a rather flat ending, and somewhat unsatisfying. I recommend Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks with some hesitation, but will say that its coverage for the time is pretty generous, and while told from a US perspective, doesn't seem to be especially parochial. Gilsdorf himself comes across as a pretty intense individual - sometimes apologetically so, and as noted above, this personality drives a lot of his book: your mileage may vary. Fr my pafrt I finished the book a little less patient with its writer, but happy to have been on some of his journey at least.

Here, recently posted on YouTube is Gilsdorf's original films of his teenage gaming group in jittery, blurry Super 8, with the soundtrack 'Kids' from Stranger Things. As an artefact of its time it's damned near perfect.