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Ben Lehman

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SKEW: Whacked out Science Fiction [Aug. 30th, 2012|02:09 am]
Ben Lehman
I have just put up a pre-order kickstarter for SKEW: whacked out science fiction.

SKEW is an anthology of unreal experiences. It contains fiction by:
Erik Amundsen
Dallas Taylor
Scotto Moore
Lisa Lindeman
Ian Creasey
Sara Amis
Greg Stolze
Caren Gussoff
and Brendan Adkins

as well as a game by me. It is edited by Isabel Cooper Kunkle.

Available rewards include library donations, games hosted by me, and bespoke microfiction.

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Satoshi Kon Movie Marathon [Aug. 22nd, 2012|02:19 pm]
Ben Lehman
For the two portland folks who read this.

This Saturday I will be hosting a Satoshi Kon movie marathon at my place (if you need directions / address e-mail me at balehman@gmail.com). Satoshi Kon is an amazingly good Japanese director who died tragically two years ago.

2 PM: Perfect Blue
5 PM: Millennium Actress
8 PM: Tokyo Godfathers
11 PM: Paprika

We will be getting lunch from the nearby and exquisitely good JC Rice Noodle. If you would like to be counted in for that, please let us know.

There will also be a dinner break. Maybe pizza?

Bring friends if you like. However, our living room only seats about 12, so if we get too many folks we may need an alternate venue.
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Matriarchy [Aug. 14th, 2012|04:29 pm]
Ben Lehman
So for the last couple of years I've been working on a social game called Matriarchy. It is pretty great: A game about being the empress of an isolated female-dominated society that is just now coming into contact with the outside world.

You can play it at matriarchygame.com. It requires twitter or facebook to log in, but will not do evil with that information.
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Seven Topics [Feb. 8th, 2012|03:27 pm]
Ben Lehman
This blog has lain fallow of late: I've been blogging over at benlehman.wordpress.com , but this looked fun: seven topics. Comment and I will give you seven topics of your own.

1. Your Amber game.

Run by amberite, Blood Lines is a pretty cool Amber game which, using some odd canon tweaks, manages to both exist within a (mostly) canonical timeline and provide the PCs with a fresh, new multiverse that they are the unqualified masters of. This is a pretty cool tightrope to walk, and so far it's worked out wonderfully. It is also neat for me because the primary concern of the players (and thus a lot of the characters) seems to be about exploration of this universe with a hefty side-dose of thematic content, rather than gaining marginal advantage. Often in Amber people pursue stuff because it gives their character a leg up on the others, in this case, we are pretty much of equal mind that we do things because we think that they're cool and interesting. So basically a lot of it is we get together and geek out about philosophy of infinite worlds, and so on.

One of the interesting things about the game is that it is, for me, resurrecting a play style which I haven't done since college, featuring both long sessions with a lot of in-character play and also the intentional building of a "fandom" of material around the game (for instance I've been designing the board games played in the worlds that my character spends a lot of his time in, and also invented a genre of poetry for one of the worlds... another player has been carefully crafting a cross-over universe with "My Little Pony," several people have been making soundtracks, etc.) It's more fun than I remember, for I think several reasons: the quality of play is generally higher, I think; we're less bashful about explicitly getting players on the same page with each other; I'm only doing this with one game, not several; there's no sense that this is universally "the right way" to play but rather that we're playing this way because it is interesting. So that's been a cool experience. I imagine in a year or so I will start to be able to process it into game design.

2. A game design thing you're into right now.

I'm in the middle of writing an essay for anyway called something like "in praise of the non-fiction: roleplaying as memoir." The thesis is basically that the primary constituent of the role-playing experience is not the fictional content of play, but they players and their interactions. This is referenced in Forge theory but, due to the structure and concerns of that theory, isn't really explored beyond "don't be a dick" in Ron's formulation and "being a dick means different things in different contexts" in Meg's. I'm beginning to look at it as a wholly positive thing, and trying to craft games as group experiences in communication, reflection, and self-expression rather than as fiction generators.

My John Woolman game is a first stab at expressing this theory in terms of game design. The fiction generated by it is, specifically in some instances, not dramatic. It is specifically quite day-to-day. But the hope is that the game will allow players some opportunity of understanding and communicating about slavery, politics, grace, forgiveness, and atonement.

3. What's good to eat in Portland?

JC Rice Noodle has the best chow fun I've ever had. Including in China.

4. A history thing you've recently discovered.

John Woolman mentioned above is pretty amazing. He nearly single-handedly, in the 18th century, convinced a major US denomination (the Quakers) to not only liberate their slaves, not only pay them back wages, but to become major political supporters of abolition as well as material supporters of the underground railroad and similar movements. Some astonishing things about Woolman: he managed this through individually convincing slave owners that slavery was wrong, rather than by force of arms or force of law; he got right the question of slave's wages, something which eludes mainstream America to this day; he raised the point that not only slaves, but also slave owners, were diminished by the institution of slavery, something which eludes many to this day; he was, by all accounts, an amazing and decent person to everyone he met.

Knowing that people this good can exist in the world somehow gives me comfort. Even though I know I will never be able to do that much good, I feel better for a world where it is possible to be that good.

5. A thought on recent politics.

Just talking with Jake about this: It is amazing to me the degree to which changing one's mind has become a hallmark of insincerity in American politics. To be clear: I believe that insincerity in politicians is a serious problem, and that the structure of our system (with primary and general elections) makes insincerity a worse problem than it would be otherwise. But the idea that someone changing their mind is somehow indicative of insincerity is bizarre: in fact, it seems to be the opposite of true. A person who changes their mind on important issues may be sincere or insincere. But someone who, despite changes in facts and situations, never changes their mind, is clearly and irrefutably insincere, because no human actually works like that.

6. The last awesome thing you've baked/cooked.

I've been making a lot of pasta with boiled cauliflower sauce. It's really easy, tasty, and provides a huge amount of vegetables in with your cheap starches.

1 large head cauliflower
1 tin anchovies or anchovy paste to taste
Red pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, chopped
scant 1/4 cup olive oil
half bunch flat-leafed (Italian) parsley, chopped
1 lb pasta, ideally shaped pasta such as penne

parm cheese to taste on the side.

Boil water. Remove stems and leaves from cauliflower and chop in half. Boil 20-35 minutes, until very tender when pricked.
Meanwhile, put olive oil, anchovies, and red pepper in a skillet under lowest possible heat. Mash anchovies with the back of a wooden spoon and stir infrequently until they have wholly dissolved into the oil. Turn heat to medium low, add garlic. Cook on low heat until the garlic is pale gold, then reduce hit to minimum.
When cauliflower is done, remove from water, add to skillet. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the cauliflower as fine as possible, stirring with anchovy-oil mixture. If a finer texture is needed, add a cup of pasta water and boil it off. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, add pasta to water. Cook until done.
Mix pasta, mashed cauliflower, and parsley in pan. Serve hot, with cheese on the side.

7. Any good manga you've been reading?
Nope, sadly. :(
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Skew Deadline Extension [Dec. 4th, 2011|02:16 am]
Ben Lehman
I'm extending the deadline for submissions for Skew by an extra week, having realized that some people may have gotten caught up in NaNoWriMo and not had time to write something. So if you're interested, please send things in ASAP.
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Everyone, meet Clover [Sep. 26th, 2011|03:39 pm]
Ben Lehman
Clover is (finally) available for sale or as my gift to you.

It is a game about an adventurous five year old girl and her friends and the adventures that they go on together. It is touching, sweet, challenging, intense, and nostalgic.

With Clover, I am trying out a new business model: you can pay whatever you want for the book, even ask for me to send it to you for free. There is a standard price ($8) but what you pay, if anything, is up to you.

Clover is my favorite game. I'm really happy that I'm now able to share it with you all.

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Skew: whacked out science fiction [Sep. 7th, 2011|02:24 pm]
Ben Lehman
As previous intimated, I am looking for submissions for my new game / science fiction anthology. Please read, relink, spread the word, put this in front of your friend who's a good writer but never fucking gets around to publishing anything or you're friend who's a good writer and publishes everything and has some love for an indy anthology.

Go here. Submit!
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Semi-announcement [Sep. 1st, 2011|12:06 pm]
Ben Lehman
Real announcement to follow, this is sort of a leak to my LJ friends list, which I know contains a lot of writers.

One of my upcoming game projects is a science fiction short story game. It's as of yet unnamed, and it focuses on the kind of "real life gone horribly awry in apparently inexplicable ways" genre of PK Dick, WM Burroughs, Robert Charles Wilson, and Rudy Rucker.

I would like to include in anthology with the game a few short stories in that sub-genre. I've recruited an editor, funwithrage, to help me with the sorting and collection (ultimately, inclusion or not will be her call: she's the editor. Even my stuff goes through her.) I will be paying semi-pro rate (5c a word) probably with a minimum (for microfic) and a maximum (we don't want novellas really). As such, pretty soon I'm going to be opening a call for submissions.

And I thought you might want to know about that in advance.
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ANIMAL CRIME [Aug. 19th, 2011|01:03 am]
Ben Lehman
I have just launched a kickstarter for a small project of mine: ANIMAL CRIME. ANIMAL CRIME is a noir anthropomorphic animal murder mystery role-playing game. It's also goofy as hell, and a really good time. The final game will be donation-ware; the kickstarter is to raise money for art and presentation. Please watch the video, donate, or spread the word.
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Portlandia [Aug. 13th, 2011|03:36 pm]
Ben Lehman
I'm in portland for a couple of days. Portland residents, be advised.
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