I Want to be an Awesome Robot

A while back I hit on the idea of putting together some weird comedy stuff about RPGs. This had a lot to do with the fact that I’ve been obsessed with John Hodgman and his trilogy of Complete World Knowledge, and I started writing a thing tentatively called “Beautiful Lies: An Untrue History of Role-Playing Games.” I had been thinking of making it into a series of blog posts and/or podcasts. On the other hand I also hit on the idea of doing a daily calendar type thing like Hodgman did in two of his books. Coming up with 365 things just about gaming was a pretty daunting task even if I allowed myself to make stuff up, so I ended up expanding the project to encompass just about anything I could convince myself to write about. The calendar became “Today in Geek History,” and I started working on sections about anime, Japan, food, conventions, and more. I also started writing some sections that are simple, honest memoir.

I haven’t settled on a title for the book yet. I was initially using “Yaruki Zero: The Book” as a placeholder, but it’s gotten to the point where it’s definitely much broader than my RPG blog. It’s a mix of parody, almanac, and memoir, and covers just about everything that interests me. Looking at other books in the “collection of comedy stuff” genre for title ideas isn’t all that much help, and the only thing I’ve got so far is something like, “I Want to be an Awesome Robot.” Then the cover could be a stock photo of a vintage toy robot.

The almanac aspect is pretty interesting by the way. I hadn’t thought to look at them for ideas before Hodgman mentioned that they were a major inspiration to him, but I’ve been looking at the Old Farmer’s Almanac and other books of trivia. These books feel like they come from another world, and yet they’re oddly charming. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is full of useful information on dates, weather, astronomy, gardening, etc., plus stories, recipes, and corny jokes. And while the contemporary almanacs are very well-researched and use legitimate meteorological data, the ads in them are for the weirdest fringe stuff: strange religious tracts, blatant snake oil, and psychic healers. I can’t help but imagine there are kids in rural areas who attended the FFA at school, and for whom the almanac was a window into a bigger world in the same way that Radio Shack and Bud Plant catalogs were for me. That also gave me some ideas for some new sections to add to the book, most notably one called “My Dumb Recipes.”

I’ve got about 40,000 words written already, though I want to get up to at least 60,000 and fill in several of the sections I started before the first draft is done. I also want to commission some artwork, and I’ll need some stock photos and layout and so forth. I’m thinking of self-publishing it when it’s done, but that’s a ways off anyway. It’s a very different kind of writing from what I’ve been doing so far. I’ve written comedy stories, and I’ve written non-fiction blog posts, but I’ve never really tried to blend the two. Delivering silly lies with a straight face is tremendously fun.

Over on my Tumblr I posted up some rough excerpts from the book, including several entries from the Today in Geek History calendar. I also put the list of 700 catgirl names up on the Neko Machi site. I’ll most likely be posting some more excerpts here as I make more progress, and I aspire to do a daily podcast of the calendar next year.

Image source: Josh McIntosh

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