Happy St. George’s Day!


April 23rd is St. George’s Day, so I wanted to celebrate by assembling this scene in the Age of Empires II: HD map editor. It is a little-known fact that, in the original mythology, St. George was a Roman soldier from the province of Cappadocia in what is now Turkey. His adventure with the dragon and the princess would have taken place somewhere in Africa, which in classical antiquity was known as “Libya” (referring to the entire continent rather than just the country we call Libya today). Not quite the medieval English portrayal we’re all used to, right?


My new website

In case you were wondering what I’ve been up to the past few weeks…

I want to promote a new website I set up for myself using Bluehost and WordPress.org (as opposed to WordPress.com). As was the case with this blog, the site is meant to showcase my art and writing, but I wanted it to look more professional (like a sort of portfolio for me).

Brandon Pilcher’s Creative Adventures

To be honest, now that I’ve set the new website up, this old blog now seems superfluous and obsolete. I’m not going to shut it down right now, as I want people who have been following me for some time to check out the new site. But I might be less active here unless I can find an alternate use for this blog. Anyway, check out my new site!

Liebster Award Nomination 2018


Fellow blogger Keji from Blackness Across Borders was kind enough to nominate me for the 2018 Liebster Award. I have to say I’m most flattered to have received that kind of recognition, let alone a nomination for such a blogging reward. Also, while Keji’s blog seems to be only a couple months old, it nonetheless has a lot of thoughtful posts on social justice and intersectional feminism reflecting her experiences as a Sudanese-American woman.

So, without further ado, here are my answers to the questions Keji presented to me as part of the nomination process:

1. What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?

Introverted, artistic, and hungry. I’ve always kept to myself in real life (a common trait for autistic people, I believe), I like to draw a lot, and I love my carbohydrates way more than I should.

2. What’s the story behind your blog name?

Tyrannosaurus rex was always my favorite dinosaur. In fact, it’s always been my favorite animal, living or extinct. It’s easily the most awesome apex predator to have ever walked on land. Of course, adding “ninja” as a suffix could only up the awesome factor even more.

3. What is your source of strength?

“Strength” could be interpreted in a vast number of ways, but since I use this blog mostly for art and occasionally writing, I will interpret it to mean “inspiration” since it’s a major fuel for my creative output (to say the least).

The inspiration for individual pieces can come from all over the place. Sometimes it’s things I have read in books or the Internet. Sometimes it’s photos or other people’s artwork that I have seen. Occasionally it might be experiences I have during my day-to-day life. Often, I develop mental images of the artwork I want to create when listening to music on my iPhone (which can range from hip-hop, R&B, metal, pop, film and game soundtracks, to “world/ethnic” music).

As for the recurring themes in my artwork, dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures have been a lifelong passion for me going back to age four. My mom tells me that the names of the dinosaurs were among the first words I ever said aloud (I read far more than I talked in my earliest years). These days, dinosaurs seem to have taken a backseat to the human subjects in my art, but I will never lose all interest in them. And yes, I’m looking forward to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this summer, as well as the game Jurassic World: Evolution.

My interest in Egyptian and other African history is a more recent development. It had its genesis when we spent a few months covering ancient Egypt in second grade. Back then, I was fascinated by the idea of one of the world’s oldest civilizations developing in Africa, a continent I knew at the time for its exotic wildlife (unfortunately, most white people in the US probably grow up associating Africa with safari animals before they consider its human inhabitants). Computer games like Pharaoh and Age of Empires continued to fuel my interest in Egypt in the years since, but it was in my middle school years when I realized that the people of ancient Egypt, much like the wildlife that featured in their pantheon, would have been African too.

At the time, I had discovered the prevalence of white supremacist activism on the Internet. To see their ideology not only survive but even thrive online was a shocking and horrifying experience for me. There was a whole subculture of these guys putting forth claims about natural “racial differences in intelligence/behavior/aggressiveness”, the kind of pseudoscientific propaganda that gets peddled under the banner of the “alternative right” or “human biodiversity” these days. Since these racists asserted that Africans were naturally incapable of advanced civilization and that the continent’s current economic struggles were a consequence of their “low IQ” (as opposed to the legacy of Europeans’ oppressive and pillaging imperialism), they emphasized that the ancient Egyptians would have been “Mediterranean Caucasoids” rather than African (or “Negroid” as they put it). What I did was Google whether that was actually the case, and I found arguments backed up with data to the contrary. That, however, is a discussion for another day.

From that point on, my interest in ancient Egypt not only intensified, but it also spilled over into other kingdoms of pre-colonial Africa such as Kush, Mali, Great Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia. However, Egypt remains a special focus of my artistic output because so many people out there don’t recognize it as African in the first place. Everyone takes it for granted that Kushites, Malians, Zimbabweans, etc. would have been dark-skinned Africans, but the Egyptians still get portrayed as European- or Arabian-looking in movies, book illustrations, and other media, often with Arabic music playing in the background. Part of the blame may lie in the current tendency to conflate North Africa with the Middle East (a consequence of the region’s conquest by Muslim Arabs centuries after the fall of pharaonic Egyptian civilization), but you can’t deny that anti-African racism has also contributed to this desire to white- or tan-wash Egypt’s ancient, indigenous heritage as well. This is a portrayal I am determined to counter with my own art.

Finally, I must admit to a special weakness for African and Afro-Diasporan women. The girls in Destiny’s Child were among my earliest crushes, but I seem to gravitate more towards darker-skinned women these days. I believe it’s an “opposites attract” thing for me personally.

4. What do you want your legacy to be personally and/or professionally?

I would have to say I’d like to be known first and foremost for my creative output, as would most artists and writers. Those are the achievements I take the most pride in.

5. Describe one kind thing you’ve done within the past 24 hours.

Draw, of course. I’ve finished one piece with a Carthaginian priestess holding a Barbary sheep, and another with a Zimbabwean queen juxtaposed with a kudu antelope. The next drawing I have in the works has a Shilluk queen from South Sudan leaning against a hippopotamus. All of these are part of an art series I’m working on which pairs up women from across Africa with native wildlife.

6. What new thing did you learn today and how did it make you feel?

There is a species of bacteria which excretes gold after consuming toxic metals. Who would’ve known germ shit would have been so valuable?

7. What 3 traits do you wish others would see in you?

The adjectives I would consider the most flattering to me would be honest, compassionate, and intelligent. I can’t say those are necessarily accurate descriptors for my personality, but they’re what I would like to be.

My blog nominations

Richie Billing

Mars Will Send No More


What Inspires Your Writing?

Chronicles of Harriet

Questions for Nominees

  1. What motivates you to write or blog about your topics of choice?
  2. What experiences or upbringing influenced your view of the world (e.g. political ideology, religious beliefs or lack thereof, other opinions, etc.)?
  3. How has your view of the world changed over the last decade?
  4. What would you say your favorite movie, book, game, or entertainment of any other medium would be?
  5. What do you consider to be best in life?

Rules for nominees

  1. Write about the nomination on your blog, thank whomever nominated you, and write about their blog too.
  2. Display the image of the award on your blog post.
  3. Answer the questions the nominator asks you.
  4. Nominate 5-10 blogs you think deserve the award, or at least some recognition.
  5. Let the nominees know about their nomination.


Reaction to Footage from Jurassic World: Evolution

Jurassic World: Evolution was announced a few months back this year, but at first all we got to see was a trailer. Today, what appears to be footage recorded from the game itself has finally arrived, and it is every bit as magnificent as you would expect.

Essentially, Jurassic World: Evolution is a game where you run your own zoo of cloned dinosaurs, complete with the Jurassic World license. You could consider it a late 2010’s update of Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, much as Jurassic World itself was Masrani Global’s working update of John Hammond’s vision. That by itself would be appetizing enough, but since the developers are the same people who gave us Planet Coaster, it’s even better to know the project is in qualified hands.

That said, I do hope the roster of cloneable dinosaur species in the final game is more extensive than what we see in this footage. Right now, all we can see here are the most iconic dinosaurs of the first two films in the JP series: Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Brachiosaurus, and Velociraptor. Strangely, the Mosasaurus that was one of Jurassic World’s unique new attractions doesn’t seem to have made the cut yet. While a larger selection of dinosaur species is what I expect once the game hits the market, I had hoped to see more than just the most familiar ones in this early footage. I guess we’ll have to wait for more footage as the game gets finished.

On Planning and Pantsing

When it comes to planning out stories, writers seem to fall anywhere between two ends of a spectrum. Towards one end, there are the people who write down detailed scene-by-scene outlines of their stories, often with character biographies and setting/world-building notes as part of the package. Closer to the other end, you have the writers who prefer to “write on the seats of their pants” (hence the term “pantsers”), eschewing planning altogether and not necessarily knowing what’s going to happen in the next scene. Although both the planners and pantsers have plenty of published writers in their ranks, in my experience it’s usually the planners who are most convinced that their method is ideal. Certainly most books on writing (with the distinct exception of Stephen King’s On Writing) seem to advocate the planning approach.

I personally would say that individual writers should go with whatever works best for them. As for myself, I’ve found that I lie somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, albeit maybe a bit closer to the “pantser” side. I absolutely do need some idea of where a story could go when I start writing, but I don’t necessarily have to write a whole outline down. In fact, every time I’ve actually finished a story, most or all the planning I did was in my head. By contrast, whenever I try to write a complete outline for a story, I find myself blocked sooner or later. I am still not sure why that is.

To be sure, all my successes as a writer have been with short stories. I have yet to complete an entire novel. It could be that novels, since they naturally have more going on, require more meticulous planning than shorts. All that I can vouch for right now is that when it comes to short stories, I seem to favor a sort of mental planning that almost looks like pantsing.

Dinosaurs in Prehistoric Fiction

One fact I’ve observed while looking up the prehistoric fiction genre is that surprisingly very little of it seems to feature any dinosaurs.

Of course, the fantasy of prehistoric humans (or “cavemen”) coexisting with non-avian dinosaurs has appeared in numerous movies, cartoons, and comic books. But if you look at prose literature with prehistoric human characters, dinosaurs and other Mesozoic fauna appear to be absent altogether. Instead the majority of prehistoric fiction novels, such as Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear or Steven Barnes’s Great Sky Woman, try to represent the prehistoric human experience more or less realistically. Literary equivalents to One Million Years BC or When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth are few and far between.

(There are the ape-like hominins in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, of course, but that doesn’t really count as “prehistoric fiction” since it’s really an isolated lost world surviving into the late Victorian era.)

Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with realistic prehistoric fiction. I actually enjoyed the portrayal of prehistoric African foragers and their world in Great Sky Woman quite a lot. However, I’m also a longtime dinosaur fan, and I see a lot of potential in the cavemen-and-dinosaurs brand of prehistoric fantasy that I think more authors should exploit. Instead they seem to have left it for the filmmakers and comic book artists. What’s up with that?

Dinosaurs & Dames: A Selection of Short Stories

So this is a self-published anthology of my short fiction that I recently posted for sale on Amazon.com:

Dinosaurs & Dames

This is a self-published anthology of short stories by amateur writer Brandon S. Pilcher. By and large, they are action-packed speculative-fiction tales featuring dinosaurs and other savage beasts, fierce female warriors and huntresses, and African cultural influences. So if you like adventure, strong heroines, prehistoric wildlife, and non-Western settings, these are the stories for you.

I would greatly appreciate it if anyone with a Kindle or Kindle app would be willing to spend $1 on my anthology. You won’t regret it!

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Trailer Reaction)

As people who have followed my little WordPress for some time know by now, I don’t normally use this blog for anything other than sharing my artwork and stories. Today I’m going to do something a bit different from the usual here by posting my thoughts on the recent trailer for the upcoming Jumanji sequel.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Official Trailer

Right off the bat, what I notice is that this movie’s tone (at least as represented by the trailer) appears extremely different from the 1995 original with Robin Williams. If you ever saw the first movie as a kid, you might recall that it had a certain spooky and ominous quality permeating it, as shown for example in the riddles of ghostly text that swirled within the game board’s central glass dome. This one looks like it’s emphasizing the action/adventure angle (with some humor added to the mix) at the expense of those creepy supernatural elements. It’s quite a sharp contrast for something that is supposed to be a “continuation” of the original’s story.

Also, the original game’s theme was evocative of 19th century exploration expeditions into Africa, so the motorcycle gang seems out of place as a game peril.

On the other hand, making Jumanji into a video game that sucks players into its world is a sensible update for a sequel. Not only does it reflect our changing times, but as a sequel rather than a reboot, the new movie can’t simply regurgitate the original’s premise of a board game that unleashed its obstacles into the real world. We’ve already seen rhinos and elephants stampeding through suburbia, so the logical next step for a Jumanji sequel (if it must be made at all) is to visit their original habitat.

Besides, I’m a sucker for action-packed jungle adventure. Unless the reviews before release turn out to be unanimously bad, I’ll be looking forward to it, even if it’s probably going to be a very different experience from the original.