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LARP September 24, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in alt history, conventions, fantasy, ghost towns, New Mexico, science fiction, sense of wonder, steampunk.
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The Steampunk Spectacular NM 6 was held in Madrid, a former coal mining town amid a touch of rain and a lot of enthusiasm. The subtheme was OZ, giving the usual steampunk cosplay an added dash of whimsy. I’m not too good estimating numbers but I’d guess that about 100 people showed up for the daylong celebration of … having fun. This is the thing that pleased me most. Everyone was smiling, enjoying themselves and no one complaining that others weren’t PC. This will change as it has in sf fandom, I am sure, but for now it is a wonderful escape.

Part of the festivities included a LARP (Live Action Role Playing) detailing how an evial French spy killed off a mine full of robber barons using a coherer (a device to remotely trigger the explosion) and steal a special time crystal. I wanted to play and wandered in, only to be asked if I wanted to be the killer. Well, yes, of course, I said. I became Edward Branley, mass murderer and railroad clacker. And French spy who killed his entire revanche. Of all those taking part, some 30 people, I could lie during questioning. Typecasting, I am sure. After being interrogated by this living theater, I was exposed as the villain. Curses, foiled again. The winner got a nice prize and I was awarded a book detailing nifty 19th century mechanical devices. The LARP was a great way of mingling and seeing others, though the interacting tended to be in role playing of role playing. Great work writing the scenario and fun working through it.

After a day of enjoyment, I started the 50 mile drive home. Sunset, crimson fire to the west over coal black mountains. Far south, cumulonimbus clouds still caught in bright sunlight. In the rearview mirror, lightning from a storm overtaking me. Ahead, empty road, dark as a desolate shot from LOST HIGHWAY and Pink Floyd’s “Time” playing on the radio. High beams cast along two hundred yards, reflecting back nothing but markers on either side of the winding road. It was surreal.

The writers and purveyors of the Steampunk Spectacular Murder Mystery LARP 2017. Thank you!

White Oaks and the Drain Plug July 23, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in Billy the Kid, education, ghost towns, history, New Mexico, nostalgia, outlaws, westerns, Wild West.

It’s no secret that New Mexico is circling the drain in many ways, fiscally, population, jobs, education. Small towns are dying and it’s as if someone folded the state in the middle, the cities and towns on the east and west rolling to the crease that is the Rio Grande Rift. Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces are becoming the only populated places in the state.

That’s why I was delighted to see the small town of White Oaks down in Lincoln County giving a shot at putting in the drain plug by getting folks (ie, tourists) into their town, if only for an afternoon. The population is 70 and is situated in gorgeous terrain in the Sacramento Mts, near Ruidoso and oozing with history from the Lincoln County War to serious gold mining. There is a cenotaph in the cemetery memorializing one of the deputies Bill the Kid murdered (James W. Bell’s body is there somewhere–they don’t know where, so…). The last mine in town was a tungsten mine. The special occasion was the reinstatement after 40 years of a tribute potluck dinner for

David Jackson
His acceptance in the town so long ago is especially noteworthy because the first black to ride into White Oaks was hanged as a horse thief. David Jackson was the second and became a pillar of the community and brought electricity to Carrizozo, the county seat 12 miles away.

After the potluck at a very nice former schoolhouse turned museum, we got a tour of the town, including a soon-to-be-open bed and breakfast, a pre-1900 house with copper shingles and the town’s main draw now, the No Scum Allowed Saloon. Here’s a picture (Lorene Mills, photo):


New Mexico? Where is that? December 17, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, ghost towns, gummint, history, ideas, movies, music, New Mexico, Wild West, writing.
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Back in the day I used to sell as a sideline gag “visas” to New Mexico and touristy junk like that. I vaguely remember a booklet telling tourists US postage stamps were good here, passports weren’t needed and other obvious things that the rest of the USA simply didn’t know. Jan 6 the state is 100 years in the union. Most citizens of these great states still have no idea. It wasn’t until the most recent set of license plates that USA was dropped to keep cops in other states from thinking New Mexico meant “Frontera.” (The ultimate tourist story is the one where a woman asked at the Balloon Fiesta is she had to be a Catholic to go to the mass acension.)

The state image is in the pits. Nobody wants to vacation here because they don’t think there’s anything here. Fair enough. Tourism Dept has a lot of work to do with not much money. But I recently received a link to another blog that got me thinking. The idea of sf writers portrayed on the Simpsons is cute, but the blog itself is for an online college.

NM needs name recognition as a state with things to see and do. What are our resources? A lot of scenery. A lot of world class writers and artists and, I suspect, film makers.

But….but…but playing on the idea that people want to learn, especially to write (disclaimer: I am an instructor for Long Ridge and have been for four years), why not have a series of seminars, lectures, writing clinics at appropriate places with big name instructors? SF would obviously tie into Los Alamos or, shudder, Roswell. What’s the most romantic spot in the state–for a romance writing conference? Westerns? Lincoln County to tie in with Billy the Kid and the LC War. But there are buffalo soldiers and Indian War and even that most maligned, the Trans-Mississippi Civil War. Spanish exploration? Pueblo revolt? Spots all over the state would be fine for such writing classes. We’ve got top of the line western authorities here. Paul Hutton, Don Bullis (the official NM Centennial historian), Johnny Boggs, Melody Groves–I could go on but the list is long. The WWA 2012 conference is in Albuquerque but this is limited to WWA members who go to lots of places for the convention, not necessarily for the place itself..

Mysteries? We’ve got mystery writers galore here. Thrillers? David Morrel and others.

If the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium draws 30k or so, finding 50 people interested in Billy the Kid (who aren’t from either NM or Texas) shouldn’t be impossible.

The biggest problem is transport since Abq is the only air terminus for the rest of the US to get here. State tourism would do well to promote genre writing clinics in various parts of the state–writers tend to write. A lot. But movie making clinics would draw bigtime from California. Maybe the state tourism dept could subsidize the transportation (an obvious gimmick is to “charge” $1000 for the actual seminar but discount it for people from, pick your target region, to only $250. And that $250 covers the actual costs so the state money would only go for transportation–what kind of a deal can the state make with airlines?)

Would budding artists pay to do landscapes in a weeklong seminar with masters? They’d be using NM’s actual scenery for subject matter. They go home, they display their work or do more…of NM. Photography, the same thing. Music? The idea is to get small groups coming here that will leave and carry with them pictures/words/movies of New Mexico that might slowly educate the geographically ignorant in the rest of the country that we have immense beauty and talent here.

Two obvious resources NM has are scenic beauty and a pool of artistic talent. None of this will happen (listen to indie film makers about how the NM Film Commission works sometime) but it is an interesting gedanken experiment. For me, at least.

Single Action Shooters Society End of Trail June 2010

A Brand New Ghost Town December 16, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, ghost towns, gummint, history, New Mexico, writing.
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Yes, bids have gone out to build a brand spanking new ghost town in New Mexico.

The idea is pretty innovative. Build an entire town that would normally house 35,000 residents but use it as a test bed for all kinds of 21st century technology. Intelligent traffic systems (a stunningly new idea for NMexico drivers), smart grid uses (for security–gotta wonder if they will also build in electronic glide paths for the police Predator drones) and one that ought to be there and probably won’t, modular reactors.

Bill Gates can go to China to pitch travelling wave reactors but can’t seem to do that inside the US. A pity. The NM newly built ghost town can be a wonderful place to test out such technology. After all, the town is likely to be built within an hour’s drive of the Stallion Gate and Trinity Site. (I suspect optimal location is near Socorro and NM Tech–Tech already runs a ghost town of its own down in the Bootheel used for blowing up things and training urban assault SWAT teams).

Other possibles for reactor testing, though ones like the CANDU hardly require it, are certainly out there. What better place to test EMP reactions than an entire test city?

Maybe this is the reason behind China’s Ordos? Naw, that was a failure of central planning.

There is so much NM can do to bring in the bucks using what resources we are allowed to develop. More on some random ideas about using writers in the same way Walter Jon Williams runs his Taos writers’ workshop.

I leave you with this tidbit. The name they have chosen for the town? The Center. I’d rather they had gone with The Village, but that’s just me.

The not-quite Green Dome

Not Just (Billy the) Kid(ding) December 4, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in awards, contest, death, ghost towns, gummint, ideas, New Mexico, westerns, Wild West.
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A few months back I mentioned New Mexico’s Billy the Kid hunt. Items or clues placed at historic spots around the state–sort of a collect the entire set kind of quest. NM Tourism spent about $600k on the project and says it has netted over $2m. I assume this means that $2m was spent that wouldn’t otherwise as a result of the promotion. That’s fine and dandy, and I’m happy to see someone in Santa Fe doing something other than ignoring their jobs.

Since the state is stymied in developing its extraction industries and more than 70% of the land is owned by the feds (and therefore off the tax roles) NM scrapes the bottom of the barrel when it comes to generating revenue. “Catch the Kid” resulted in a $10k reward being split between two teams, one of which notably called itself “The Regulators.” Other prizes were significant.

Our history is about all we can use to generate new money. Spaceport America is a good start on continuing revenue coming in from outside the state (and US) and now is the time to push tourism since Jan 6, 2012 marks NM’s 100th anniversary as a state.

Why not a tour of outlaw hot spots? Blackjack Ketchum is a gruesome ending to a New Mexico outlaw is notable. (pictures at the link might be sorta, well, gruesome for you) Elfego Baca is on the other side of the badge–he wore one. His shootout is nothing less than astounding.

Shakespeare, NM is a veritable time capsule of outlawry. You might want to check my fictionalized version of deadly happenings there in the story “Silver Noose.”

So much history. I’m glad “Catch the Kid” was successful. May the tourism dept think of something even more successful for NM’s centennial year.

Horror and Horror Compounded November 13, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in End of the World, fantasy, ghost towns, writing.

Why my mind wanders (and why I so often join it) isn’t something that concerns me, even if it should. I just loose the dogs of war and woof my way through. Pacing and horror seem vitally intertwined, but there are different ways of achieving the end of scaring your audience silly.

The gothic style (not goth, gothic) is slow-moving, even glacial. Consider Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. Very slowly paced, but it builds like a mason puts together a wall. Each brick is careful located and when you realize the wall is almost done, Fortunato, it is too late to do anything but rush to the end. Slow build, immensely powerful, quick conclusion. It’s like watching a dam begin to leak. A drop here and there and then the unstoppable flood.

Modern horror relies on bringing out the menace immediately. Instant gratification (or mortification, depending). From here the pace is steady. How do you escalate when all your cards are face up on the table? The SyFy Channel monster movies are certainly in this vein. Monster in opening credits, go from there. I am tempted to say such things are less horror and more shock. Nothing they do these days has the pacing (or impact) of The Birds, if you want a nature turning against us plot. (OK, I admit it. I watched Rage of the Yeti last night. It was actually funny rather than horrific)

For me, horror lies in places not thought of as “horror.” About the scariest movie in decades was A Beautiful Mind. It’s got it all. Isolation. Events beyond the protagonist’s control. Ineffectual help arriving too late. And real horror melding fantasy and reality. This scares me. Lord of Illusions is merely a movie I watch, trying to figure out why I’m watching it again. House on Haunted Hill is a better “shock” movie, meaning it makes me jump–but does not horrify me, give me that brain itchy feeling of dread so I go turn on the lights. Just to be sure.

or maybe the Vincent Price title is more to your liking

Old Towns and Research November 2, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, education, geocaching, ghost towns, history, hobby, ideas, music, New Mexico, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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After leaving LA, I dropped down to San Diego, mastered the (easy) trolley system and zinged down to their version of Old Town. Relatively recent compared with Santa Fe or even Old Town in Albuquerque (California’s was settled some 60 years later) But this is the first European settlement in California so was fodder for the western fiction research mill.

But I am on a different time zone so got to OT a couple hours before it opened. I took the $10 plunge and had installed the android geocaching app on my cell phone. The 2 hours gave me a chance to try it out. I found 3 caches, one in Presidio Park, another on 1769 Hill and yet one more virtual cache showing how metal rusts in salt air. By the time I had wandered around, it was opening time for the museums.

Life is tough all over. I had breakfast at a restaurant that boasted that it had been established in 2010. In today’s economy that might be long-lived. From here hiked up the hill to the Mormon Battalion Museum. Very slick, very cute girls in period costumes, interesting high tech video presentations, had the chance for some hands on examination of props since I was the only one in the “group” (not peak tourist season, I’d say), got a couple teeny gold nuggets, and was surprised when I asked about music of the era and one guide disappeared and came back later with a handwritten list taken from a contemporaneous journal. Very kind of her to supply this and info will certainly be used (but I’m not likely to order a free copy of Book of Mormon or send one to a friend). The Mormon Battalion has a monument between Abq and Santa Fe (and a geocache, btw) and it was good seeing the end of the 2000 mi trail in San Diego. Not sure I buy all the achievements of the Battalion but they might be true. Will look to see if they actually started the first newspaper in Northern California (California Star–ok, looks factual since Alta California grew out of CStar–founder Samuel Brannan was the first Gold Rush millionaire, but some conflation is going on. Brannan wasn’t part of the Mormon Battalion, coming around the Horn in 1846. And, hmm, this might be the second trailing The Californian from Monterey) or were responsible for first finding gold at Sutter’s Mill (but I certainly think they worked to build it so might well be true). All a bit before the time period considered the Wild West but great background.

On to Whaley House, supposedly the “most haunted” house in California or the US or somewhere. The best that could be conjured was it was built on an Indian burial ground. NM is built on an Indian burial ground, fer Pete’s sake. Nancy Holder later said it was the site of public executions. So why didn’t the period-dressed guide say this? Mostly like restored houses elsewhere in the West, but renewed my interest in writing a western that simply has no mass market. Ah, VIPub. When I get time. Mike Resnick ought to be proud–he had a lot of copies of The Buntline Special on the museum bookstore shelf.

To the World Fantasy Convention itself soon and the VIPub vibe building like a tidal wave there.

Mormon Batallion Museum

And a Bottle of Champagne October 18, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, ghost towns, gummint, ideas, New Mexico, science, space, Wild West.
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…was opened as Richard Branson rapelled down the glass front of the newly christened Spaceport America. With luck flights ought to be UUUUP there next summer.

I heard an interesting promotion on the radio the other night. Japan is sinking $10m into airline tickets to get people to Japan. Just the airfare. And the winners have to blog or twit or whatever about their experience. This is clever because it gives a lot of worldwide publicity (you can bet the Japanese tourist agency will pick up on every line and push it to an even bigger audience) and brings money into the country. You gotta eat and stay somewhere and travel around once you get into Japan. Who wouldn’t want to return with souvenirs? This looks like a great twofer– publicity and guaranteed money spent in country. Tickets are likely in the $1500 range. That much or more would be spent in country.

I wonder if something similar can’t be done in NM. Though we really have only one airport in the state (Albuquerque Sunport) it might work better than other promos. I haven’t heard how the “find Billy the Kid” hunt is coming. Or if it is. An outlaws of the American West might be an interesting promotion overseas. One denizen of Western Fictioneers said that a Japanese friend coming to Abq for the WWA conference next June wanted to find other black powder enthusiasts.

Throw in the lure of a lottery along with the plane ticket–a lottery for a trip to the edge of space. These are nickel and dime expenses for a state’s tourism budget, even NM. But, of course, money will be spent not building businesses or attracting tourists but in lining political pockets as has been done far longer than our 100 yrs as state and territory.

But the Japanese have a nifty idea. How can that be used to promote ghost towns, Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands and Spaceport America and our outlaw heritage?

Abandoned September 15, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, End of the World, fantasy, ghost towns, history, ideas, sense of wonder, weird news, writing.
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The idea of once thriving towns that succumb to desertion intrigues me on many levels. Who comes in the first place, what drew them, what caused them to leave, what’s left? The what’s left is obviously a draw for others, too. I love Dark Roasted Brew website especially for their series of abandoned places. This one is a Disney island like the one in Disneyland’s Frontierland. Tom Sawyer Island?

What great speculation that Disney walked away because of brain eating amoeba or real man eating alligators! Those aren’t quite sufficient but they make great story ideas. I turn to mystery rather than sf for those stories, btw.

Or YA. Imagine yourself as a kid who discovers an island like this. It’s all yours to explore. If kicking around an entire ghost town could be cool, this is light years better.

When I was a kid there was a house down the street that had collapsed or was being demolished, though I suspect even then real demolition could take place in a day like it does now, leaving only an empty lot. We’d get down under the main floor and explore. Somewhere along the way a security guard came along to keep us out. Yeah, right. It made for even more fun, exploring this derelict house *and* avoiding the hapless guard. Eventually the house was completely demolished and hauled off to make way for a Circle-K (an early day 7-11). The house was more fun.

Maybe it is the thrill of finding something that makes all this interesting to me. Not sure what “something” might be and in that lies the appeal.

Brand New Ghost Town To Be Built September 9, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in ghost towns, history, inventions, nostalgia, westerns, Wild West.
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I am long fascinated with ghost towns, especially in New Mexico, and dying towns trying to avoid ectoplasmic entropy. Building a brand new ghost town for the purpose of high-tech investigation is a dandy idea. I’m not sure exactly how it will work, or if it will ever be done–it would ironic to start construction of a ghost town, run out of money and then leave it partially completed.

They want a test ground for traffic control devices, urban planning and other things that would be gummed up if, you know, people were around. The location hasn’t been selected yet (and the picture accompanying the above link is White Sands Natl Monument, unlikely to be the site since people can visit there–and should. I have yet to see White Sands during a full moon. Put that on the bucket list. And then tap out some of the white sand (gypsum, really) from the shoes)

New Mexico Tech is famous for blowing up stuff and has a town devoted to just that in Playas, NM. This makes a lot of sense to me, more than the mega millions building an empty town for urban planning. But I am willing to be convinced the Pegasus town is a good idea. It will certainly bring much needed money to NM and maybe stir some interest in ghost towns and their resurrection. And the company also works on Spaceport America.

Speaking of ghost towns, Pat and Scott went to Ft Bayard
near Silver City this past weekend. She regaled me of tales of the Victorian buildings and how well preserved they were on the outside but rotting inside. If you want to take a tour of an important part of NM’s past (let us not forget the Buffalo Soldiers stationed here during the Indian Wars with Victorio and Geronimo). Ft Bayard Days are coming up the 16th and 17th of this month.

Fort Bayard, NM