May 2nd, 2008

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The Libros de Acedrex is available online!

Okay, time for a little Laurel-geeking. My thanks to mikekn for pointing out that not only has Sonja Musser Golladay's long-awaited dissertation on "Los libros de acedrex dados e tablas" been published, but it's available for download from the University of Arizona! It's pretty big even by dissertation standards (over 1400 pages), but well worth getting your hands on -- this is without a doubt the most important book published on period games since Willughby's "Volume of Playes".

Golladay goes into loving detail about every aspect of the book and topic, and the result is that it's potentially interesting to many different readers. For example, baron_steffan might want to take a look at the ten pages discussing Hermeticism as an underlying precept of parts of the book; quantumkitty might enjoy poring through the full transcription of the text. Anyone who enjoys chess and wants to hone their period-chess skills is likely to appreciate the 100+ chess problems from the book, and anyone who enjoy fun and weird period games will *love* the stuff in here -- the majority of these games are still unknown to most of the SCA.

I'll admit a modest personal stake here: she spends several pages on my reconstruction of the Astrological Tables, and broadly finds it to not suck. (Which is a relief: it's always a bit disconcerting to have a knowledgeable scholar pore over my stuff.) But really: with this publication, all of the books that I had in my "long-awaited" pile have finally been published. (This, Willughby, and Smith's compilation of the Domenico corpus.) Clearly, I need to set my sights on something new to wait for now...
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Volume 15 Has Landed

And speaking of long-awaited -- the most awaited item of all, the one I've been looking for for over a decade now, showed up in the mail this week.

You have to understand: msmemory and I are collectors, although of a peculiar sort. It's perhaps more correct to say that we are "completists". It's far from universal, and *usually* doesn't get out of hand, but we're a bit binary about interests: when we get into one, we tend to accumulate everything fun and interesting about that interest. Sometimes that gets channelled in ways that are downright useful -- for instance, our formidable collections of books, both period and modern, on the subjects of period games and cooking. Sometimes it does become a bit of an issue, leading to divestment problems like my current monumental project of inventorying all 20,000+ comic books and getting rid of most of them. Usually, it's somewhere in between, and the focus of the passion changes over the years.

For a window of about five years, the central guiding passion was Babylon 5. I won't claim that it was the best-written TV series ever, but it was certainly one of the best SF shows and generally still stands as my *favorite* series ever. For all its flaws, and it certainly had some, it was pioneering and crucial, especially in demonstrating that, if you were flexible enough, it was possible to tell a true long-form epic -- a long but cohesive story with a beginning, middle and end -- in television. I still don't think it's been bettered in that respect (although BSG might yet give it a run for its money, if they somehow manage to make it all make sense in the end). It showed that science fiction could be about basic human concepts like politics and religion, even on television, speaking to the human condition in its most common state. And at its best, it was simply a damned good ride.

The completist mania subsided not long after the series ended -- we still picked up the novels and stuff, but stopped buying every action figure just because it had Londo's face on it. What will probably be the last hurrah started a few years ago, in the form of The Scripts. All of the scripts for the series, published in a series of 14 plain fat black books, describing the show as it was meant to be seen. Modest differences from the episodes as seen, and loads of notes from JMS (the author), but not a lot that was really New and Different.

And now they're done -- and with that ending came Volume 15. This was the come-on, the extra hook for the script books, given free to anyone who bought all 14 volumes and never to be sold or reprinted, and I have to admit that it pushed us over the edge when it came to buying them. Volume 15 is all the stuff that *is* New and Different -- the things JMS had hinted at over the years, but never showed folks, and in some cases had claimed he would never show. But for Volume 15, which is arguably the final statement on B5, he finally let it all hang out, with all the hidden stuff revealed.

It's a fascinating mixed bag. One or two things are merely rare, like the little-seen original Writer's Bible, or the labor-of-love catalog of every single way in which the show as aired differed from the scripts. Some is just for fun: a couple of alternate scripts that JMS disliked so much that he threw them out and started over, or the gag script of Londo/G'Kar slashfic, or the original treatment for the show that JMS shopped around for five years before finding someone who would take him up on it. (Bits of the latter are fascinating in how much they changed. In particular, the Vorlons as described in the treatment are little like the way they eventually came out.)

And then there's the real gem, the Rosetta Stone of B5: the Series Brief. Early on in the series' history, he decided that he needed a concise description of what the story was and where it was all going. It was just for his own reference -- the only other person who ever saw it was Michael O'Hare, who played Commander Sinclair. He's referred to the Brief over the years, and claimed that he'd never publish it, but for this book he relented.
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And I suspect that writes finis for Babylon 5. Much though I would *dearly* love to see what was supposed to happen next in Crusade (little of which is evident from the Brief), JMS seems to have moved on, and television as well. The themes he wanted to talk about have been expressed elsewhere. (In particular, I strongly suspect that Jeremiah was a very loose thematic rewrite of Crusade.) Fortunately, there are new stories out there to grab our attention and passion...
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Oh, and CommYou? It's live.

Suffice it to say, it's been a busy week.

I promised that CommYou would go live in April, and we did manage to make that target -- by the end of the day Tuesday, the website was up in at least skeletal form, and the program itself was live. Indeed, it's already on its second release: unsurprisingly, the first release revealed one of those bugs that only shows up after it's been running for a while, and so I did a quickie 0.1.2 release yesterday, fixing that and a few other bugs.

(This is, BTW, where losing two months to building infrastructure starts to pay off. With a well-established test harness, build system, and all that, dropping a new release is *much* less traumatic and dangerous than it might be for a more hackish environment.)

I have to caveat that it's early days yet (indeed, I'm kind of annoying msmemory by how much I'm soft-balling things right now) -- at the moment, it has only a *tiny* number of features (maybe 20% of the ones I consider important), and I'm still working through lots of bugs. Still and all, it seems to be mostly working correctly, so you can now start having very simple LJ-ish conversations with your Facebook friends. And I hope for things to evolve pretty fast from here, with releases once or twice a week. My official goal is to be Useful in one month, and Cool in two. (And once people are finding it Cool, I'll have to take some time out to deal with scaling issues.)

So if you want to kick the tires and play with it, go over to http://www.commyou.com/, and you'll find instructions on how to install it into Facebook. Have fun, and I look forward to having you along for the ride...