Wednesday, August 31, 2016
P. Alexander is the guest in this particular show, and he dishes out the hard sell for Cirsova magazine (two weeks left in the Kickstarter, yo), but all three men focus more on the ongoing pulp revolution and their excitement for science fiction in the Gernsbeckian and Campbellian tradition.
As one of the new kids on the pulp revolution block, I fully understand that this has probably already been brought to your attention. The intention of the "signal boost" posts is to add one more voice in support, one more piece of word-of-mouth-advertising for the good stuff, and one more link to aid the SEO of these deserving works.
This particular post is just another reminder for fellow revolutionaries that you are not alone. If you long to read the sort of science fiction and fantasy marked by Heinlein's juveniles rather than Heinlein's latter works, it's coming. A lot of people are waking up and returning to the fold after a long time away from the genre. Which can only lead to positive developments.
Right now, we are in the early stages of a positive feedback loop. As more readers abandon the dreary 'romance in a spaceship' and 'political tract with a dragon' style of modern genre fiction, and look to the pulp revolution, more writers will experiment with that style. As more writers produce material, more readers will learn of the revolution. So take heart - every planetary romance and weird fantasy and sci-fi actioner you buy grows the market and helps encourage more materials for your reading pleasure.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Now Karl Barber returns for a fourth thrilling installment, in "Street Fight". For the first time ever, Karl's fight against the evils of the world occurs on his native American soil. On his way from a downtown hotel, he leaps into action when a mob of violent thugs attempts to disrupt a peaceful political rally, and winds up in the fight, and flight, of his life. "Street Fight", is only available inside this collection of his first four adventures.
Monday, August 29, 2016
|Free to play: just consume our anti-scientific propaganda|
about the field of science.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
PCBushi had the best description of this dank corner of the internet when he called it a “young blog mostly about culture, gaming, and fiction.” That stands in contrast to the “About” page which includes the mission statement, “one man’s attempt to cast off the shackles of the corporate cubicle farm and start a new life as an independent author, voice talent, and free thinker.”
Friday, August 26, 2016
Still and all, it’s a nice slow burn mystery that clocks in at six hours of entertainment. It has an internal consistency to its mythos and cosmology that is refreshing to see. None of the main characters acts in a particularly stupid manner just to serve the needs of the plot. Yes, some do act in stupid ways, but for understandable reasons, he’s twelve years old, she’s a grieving mother, that sort of thing. And the show spends just enough time showing their normal routine, their normal crises, and how the pressure of the situation affects those day to day pressures. It’s very Stephen Kingesque in that regard.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Made me laugh. Before we get any deeper into this, I'm not really a part of the internet troll culture. I mix it up a bit on Twitter, but have never been to any of the chans, and limit my political analysis to some fairly milk-toast sites. I do love me some Pepe, but that's just because...I mean, look at that face! Don't know why but the utter inanity of Pepe combined with the high stakes political game just busts me up every time. (Perhaps not every time, but you get the idea.)
What follows is an outsider's analysis and not based on any inside information. Nor is it so much a call for action as it is a prediction based on past performance.
With that out of the way, let's do some nonstandard analysis and predictimicating. We all know that the standard analysis will consist of long winded versions of the playground "Uh uh!" and "Yuh huh!" arguments. Instead, let's look at one potentially huge ramification of this random guy yelling one random word into the short silence between sentences.
This guy just opened the door for every alt-right troll to turn the tables on the left. They've established that shouting during Trump speeches is a legitimate form of protest. That means that the alt-right can shout/protest Hillary speeches by yelling, "Pepe!"
Will she bar them from entry? How? Right now Hillary's crowds are so small they'll take every warm body they can get. Any 'net troll who wants to up his game can get through the doors and sound the call for freedom during her speech.
One shout is a pin-prick, but if this happens over and over at her events, it's going to become the slow drip of Chinese water torture. She can't respond to the shouts; any man with the stones to protest like this will be more than capable of engaging in whatever rhetorical thrust and parry she brings to the show. Heck, even responding grants the alt-right troll a legitimacy that she can't afford to grant him. There's no good response but having security make the protestor quietly disappear*.
How will they respond to that? If history is any guide, with an iron fist. The campaign will have to start vetting entrants and that's going to suck all the way around. They'll drive away more people, spend money, slow things down, aggravate her loyalists through un-necessary checks.
*Take that however you choose.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
While shouldering my way through a particularly grinding commute this week, I found myself with the time to listen to a pair of mp3’s that had been sitting on my phone. The first was a recording of the 2016 Worldcon panel on “State of Short Fiction" that saw its moderator, Dave Truesdale, ejected from that convention in particular, from Worldcon in general, and from all of polite society. The second was the much less well known Appendix N seminar held at GenCon 2016, which was sponsored by the crew over at Goodman Games. Listening to the two back to back provided a clear example of the stark contrast between the tiredness and tedium of the leaders of the dinosaur publishing outfits and the passion and creativity of the new school guys working out on the fringes of the genre.
Brief aside: If your attack or defense of Truesdale includes the notion that he shouldn’t have recorded the panel, you’re an idiot, and I’ll reject the remainder of your analysis out of hand. A panel discussion is a public event in which the participants have no expectation of privacy. You are also signaling that the views expressed by ‘your side’ don’t stand up to the light of scrutiny, and if you don’t have enough faith in your views to allow that, then why would anyone else adopt them?
Listening to the second panel, hosted Goodman Games, purveyor of fine role-playing adventures for various editions of Dungeons and Dragons, was one heck of a palette cleanser. Here you listened to four guys excited about sci-fi and fantasy, discussion big ideas, concrete events and characters, and how the writers of yesterday continued to influence the writers of today. The panel was wide ranging; it discussed literature spanning more than sixty years, and drifted off into related topics like artwork and publishing. The panel was engaging; it featured laughter and disagreements. The panel was informative; even an old hand at Appendix N literature could come away with some new fragment of information they hadn’t seen before. (Personally, there were a few things about Frank Frazetta’s career arc that I hadn’t heard before.) The panel was everything you would expect from a group of people excited to work in an exciting genre like sci-fi and/or fantasy.
As for me, I'll be following Robert Frost down the road less travelled.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Online sci-fi/fantasy fandom spends a lot of time talking about these books, but most of those conversations are scattered over a dozen blogs and multiple social media platforms. If you're anything like me, a lot of those conversations are over and done with before you've had a chance to clear your reading queue and read the work for yourself. This is a chance to join a community dedicated to selecting worthy books, and reading and discussing them in some detail.
At this point, I'm calling for anyone who would like to sign up to Contribute to the project. All you're committing to is reading one book and writing a quick summary or review. If you're up for that, leave a comment, and I'll get back to you. If that's too much, then feel free to lurk, and join in the conversation in the blog comments.
As a club, this isn't something I'm doing for me, but for the wider community. I'll pick the first book, just to get the ball rolling, but future works will be selected on a rotational basis by other Contributors. That way everyone can get thoughts on books they love, and everyone gets to read books that might be somewhat outside of their own lists.
It should be fun, shoot me a message, and jump on in.
Monday, August 22, 2016
There's really no point in picking any one or a dozen of the color-by-numbers articles covering the Hugo Awards. They write themselves, "People who meet the right demographic criteria won, the racist right wingers did everything could to block them, and failed. Nerdom is safe for the Narrative for another year." Pad that out with inaccurate histories, a few quotes from one and only one side of the issue, and remind the reader that anyone to the right of Che Guevara probably has white robes stashed under their bed, and you're done. Time for some overpriced martinis at a cocktail party hosted by the right people in the right town. It's the same playbook used for every other piece of what passes for journalism these days.
While the Hug Award Faithful are busy this week congratulating themselves on another successful year, there's just one little fly of truth in the ointment of self-congratulations...
That coverage doesn't help them, it helps the Puppies.
Like cockroaches*, they can really only do their dirty work in the dark. The more people see the Hugo Award Faithful, the more they will see what they really are. The more people see what they really are, the more they will start questioning the Hugo Narrative and be repulsed by it. The more people start are repulsed by the Hugo Narrative, the more they will find alternatives like Sad Puppies or the Rabid Puppies.
The Puppies are fun loving decent people who love truth, justice (not the phony façade of social justice), and the American way of science fiction and fantasy - rollicking good stories with hard science, weird magic, and something to offer other than people meeting diversity checkboxes and plain women who are really beautiful whose biggest problem in life is deciding between the rich handsome supernatural half-man, and the down to earth sensitive and secretly rich supernatural half-man.
The Hugo Faithful win in dark rooms behind closed doors and cannot stand the sight of a mirror. Their ouster of Dave Truesdale serves as yet another data point demonstrating that they cannot tolerate dissent of any kind. The Puppies thrive on attention and adventure and conflict.
Your average reader, looking for a good fun read without a scolding, has only one choice. Every one of those articles written by the dinosaur media might feel good and scratch a short term itch for the Hugo Award Faithful, but they serve the long term interests of the Puppies. Keep 'em coming - you're doing the Puppy's work for them.
Hugo Dalenda Est
* I can guarantee some member of the Hugo Party will claim I called them cockroaches. Note that I didn't say they are cockroaches, just that they are like cockroaches.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Saturday, August 20, 2016
|Oh, Pepe, you shortcut to |
humor, is there any post
you can't improve?
Time Magazine called me super-racist when I was just a Tea Party Type.
Time Magazine is now calling me a super-duper-racist now that I'm part of the alt-right.
That's like three layers of racist stacked on top of each other.
The problem with strategies that rely on trump cards to win is that sooner or later all the trump suited cards have been played. Then you're left with nothing. You're guns are empty and everyone just watches as you point and click the trigger over and over while the alt-right you've been trying to shoot just laughs and walks away.
Remember when Bush was Hitler? And then McCain, and then Romney? It wasn't that long ago. Now the American media has found that calling Trump Hitler has no effect - the American host has started to develop natural antibodies to that particular attack. Even squishy center types roll their eyes when they hear Trump labeled Hitler. Those who use that line of attack out themselves as wild-eyed crazies and full blown crackpot Marxists of the marching in the streets, burning down their own neighborhood "for justice and stuff" types.
It's so over that of all the lies and distortions and sins of omission that Joel Stein comits, the one thing that motivates me to analyze his piece at all is the rich mother lode of irony it contains. That screed contains so many layers of irony they are hard to fully pierce. The one that sticks out to me must be the contradiction inherent in an online article disagreeing with and attacking people for having the temerity to go online and disagree with and attack people.
Welcome to the dark side, Joel Stein. Your Pepe memes and Harambe meditations are already in the mail.
Friday, August 19, 2016
A concrete example: Early in The Long Campaign, the villains the characters faced had a nasty habit of getting away at the end of the tale, and returning a week later to wreak vengeance. This wasn’t by design, it was just a happenstance of the circumstances and effective dice rolls on those disengagement checks. After a string of ambushes at inopportune moments, the players started looking for way to cut off escape before engaging combat. They started cutting down every foe that cut and run, just as a means of avoiding trouble down the road.
They weren’t a particularly bloodthirsty group of players. They hid from, snuck around, bluffed through, or bribed their way past many potential combats, but once the gloves came off they didn’t stop swinging until every enemy was dead or dying. Again, this wasn’t a conscious decision on anyone’s part; it just sort of…happened.
We didn’t know it at the time, but what we were doing was an exploration of a different kind. We didn’t write stories or prepare stories, we set up a few avatars, nudged them a bit this way and that, but at the end of the day all of our choices and all of the die rolls combined to form a story that no one could have predicted at the outset. No one planned for the polymorphed wizard’s cure to leave him with frog eyes. No one planned for the thief to wind up with a 19 Dexterity despite hobbling about on a peg-leg. No one planned for the fighter to be a reckless miser willing to charge into any fight if he caught even a glimpse of gold. These were all the result of fortuitous die-rolls, but all played a major role in the game.
We didn’t so much create stories as discover them through play.
Although not nearly as frequent or colorful, we found the same sort of ‘revealed story’ in a number of hex-and-counter wargames. We remember the game of Ogre that saw the behemoth meet its victory condition in two turns only to blow all of its tank treads on the next turn, unable to do anything while it was chewed to pieces by long range artillery. We remember that last German defender in the blockhouse singlehandedly save the left flank of the board from a Soviet onslaught in ASL. Our games of Dawn Patrol always started with a dice-off for the one Sopwith counter that always survived the game. (Which version of the biplane it was escapes me now, but it was a quirky suboptimal plane.) After a while, every scenario turned into “Kill Snoopy” for the German players. We didn’t decide that counter was nigh indestructible and give it stats to ensure that, something in the universe decided that, and we just ran with it.
|This same process happened to tabletop RPGs.|
Apparently wargames are undergoing the same sort of process.
Over on the twitbox, no less than Lewis Pulsipher himself, designer of such great wargames as DragonRage and Britannia, lamented the dearth of hex and counter wargames at GenCon 2016.
Didn't notice a single hex-and-counter wargame at the vendors at GenCon. Lots at WBC, of course. (Can't remember seeing hex ANYthing at GC).— Lewis Pulsipher (@lewpuls) August 12, 2016
Through the course of that slow-burn conversation, we gradually approached the idea that pre-packaged stories dominate the RPG market today. For whatever reason, pretty hallways sell better than pretty sandboxes. As grubby little sandboxes, hex-and-counter wargames just can’t provide the same sense of ‘tell me a story but let me pretend to be participating in the telling’ that RPGs do. The very nature of most hex-and-counter wargames precludes set path routes. Players expect a level of freedom and decision in deployment, tactics, or timing. Wargames that limit those aspects in an effort to force players down a ‘pretty hallway’ wind up feeling more like Choose Your Own Adventure Books with a lot more fiddle bits than pages.
As a historical simulation, one would expect the player’s choices to be somewhat limited in scope. Supply, terrain, and ‘the army you have’, are all predicated on the facts of the historical encounter. And yet, players still have the option of trying a new strategy. They commit reserves earlier, attack cities from a different direction, or force a crossing farther upstream where the river is wider, but defenders lighter. Every one of these decisions can allow the tabletop general to discover a new story, rather than simply repeat the original story as recorded in the history books.
And yet, I begin to wonder if the hex-and-counter wargaming hobby isn’t following in the footsteps of the RPG hobby. Eager to write games that accurate recreate historical events, are designers writing more ‘pretty hallways’ these days? My readings suggest this is so, but my own pushing-cardboard tims is too limited to come to any hard and fast conclusions.
My own experience with Khyber Rifles has not been encouraging. It features a card driven activation system that provides a very historical feel and pace to the game, but binds players hands so tightly that any given turn provides one clear choice: do this or waste the turn. It’s great for illustrating the challenges facing the historic commanders. It’s great for providing historical reality. It’s lousy for providing interesting tactical choices. I need a few more games under my belt to make certain, but at this point it doesn’t look good for Decision Games.
The upshot of this concern is that finding more data to support my contention that even wargames are moving towards a ‘pretty hallway’ model will require finding, buying, and playing more wargames. And that’s just the kind of tactical choice that this old grognard likes to be forced into.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Now let's look at the first results of a Google Image Search. The caption of each of the following photo is the search terms for those of you who want to verify the results of this experiment.
Video Games: We start with an obvious search that should show the sort of overweight couch sloths that the anti-GamerGate crowd assures us make up the standard model.
|video game convention|
Wargaming: These guys sit around painting and reading and watching the sorts of grainy black and white documentaries that the The History Channel used to show before it went all-in on the midgets and hoarders. Or is that The Learning Channel... Either way, wargaming doesn't burn many calories, so surely these guys need to buy two tickets for every flight they take. The best wargame convention in my country is Historicon, the annual convention of the Historical Miniatures Wargaming Society.
Knitting: One might object to the above categories, being as they are populated exclusively by men, so let's take a look at the ladies. Knitting is a predominantly female (and female-of-center*) hobby
But I think we all know which one is most likely to appear on Goodbye, America (in a photo).
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
For the love of…of course it’s going to be just that simple, this is a pocket wargame designed to be streamlined. You shouldn’t need to cross reference anything with anything to play a game like this. Smooth move, Dad. Real nice.
Monday, August 15, 2016
|Johnny P., protecting Ze Party from the real enemy -|
those who threaten his quisling sinecure.
The first and most obvious objection to Podhoretz’s characterization of the alt-right as a movement filled with pro-abortion crusaders is that his evidence consists of an essay attempting to convince the alt-right to abandon its staunch pro-life stance. Let me parse that down a bit more for people whose intellectual capacity is stunted by frequent and repeated exposure to Podhoretz's enervating blather: if the people you’re writing for need to be convinced to change to be in favor of abortion…that means they are NOT pro-abortion.
That should do it. No more needs to be said.
For those of you with enough intellect to see through Podhoretz’s ham fisted attempts to purge the right of any effective resistance to his masters on the left, we should look a little deeper. To do so, we’ll need to understand what the alt-right really is.
But first, and to stay on the “Podhoretz is an idiot” point, let’s look at what it is not.
The alt-right is not a top-down organization whereby a few authority figures issue decrees that we foot soldiers parrot back en masse. It’s not an ancient and creaking hidebound institution whose tenets have been hashed out, written in stone, and then constantly betrayed by the authority figures like those mentioned in the previous sentence. It's not Republicans. Those are the sorts of movements that Podhoretz has grown up and grown old with, and those are the only sorts of movements that Podhoretz understands.
When confronted with a movement like the alt-right, he can only analyze that movement through the keyhole camera of his previous experience, and it is by way of this lumbering and inaccurate understanding of the modern political landscape that Podhoretz comes to his false understanding of the alt-right.
Instead, the alt-right is a loose coalition of small and fractious groups and lone individuals united under a common banner. In addition to the unifying principles of liberty, non-interventionist foreign policy, and nationalism, each group brings its own political bugaboos to the table. It may be white nationalism, it may be pro-abortionism, it may be advocates for full blown Christian theocracy in America. Whatever.
It’s useful for the globalist media, and their lapdogs like Podhoretz, to whitewash the alt-right ideology by selecting choice slices of the movement to elevate to the status of ‘leadership’, but as with any other story on the front page of the New York Times, that is a carefully crafted narrative built on choice facts designed to influence readers to support the agenda of globalists like Podhoretz.
This is not a new thing for guys like Podhoretz. They have long policed their right flank, purging it of anyone not sufficiently willing to cave-in and surrender to the inevitable victory of the left. Like sandbaggers and doomsayers through history, Podhoretz advocates a noble and doomed opposition that contents itself with dealing temporary reverses to the enemy, and a bit of minor sabotage here and there, but never a full-on resistance or fight. Why, if the conservatives lose the fight, he advocates, then liberals will get what they want, so it’s best to simply not fight and give them want they want up front. That’ll teach them.
If you needed a third reason to ignore Podhoretz's inane scribbling, and as further evidence for the preceding thought, bear in mind the long and unbroken string of surrenders, losses, and outright failure of the establishment conservatives on the issue of abortion. When it comes to the actual results of that fight, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between supporting a guaranteed loser like Podhoretz and supporting greasy unequivocal supporters of Planned Parenthood like Jezebel.com, PBS, or NPR. Consider the establishment right’s position of constant loss but dang we tried and didn’t win the wrong way, which is its central position. While the alt-right may have outliers like Radix desperately churning the water for a shift towards pro-abortion positions, they are a distinct minority.
|Physiognomy is real.|
If you love the idea of nobly and ineffectively losing when it comes to halting the murder of the unborn, by all means, continue to support Podhoretz. But given Team Podhoretz’s complete and utter failure on the issue over the last four decades, those of us who want to win that fight must be willing to try something new. That something new is the alt-right, and the more of us who are willing to stand up and push the alt-right towards the defense of life and liberty for Americans, the born and the unborn, the more likely we will be to defeat those who fight to implement pro-abortion policies. You know, like Planned Parenthood, Radix, and John Podhoretz. Three murderous monsters in a pod.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Despite all the discussion of magazines and stories dedicated to explicitly fantasy and sci-fi stories, one important area that hasn’t seen quite as much activity is the historical non-fiction adventure market. That’s not to say that it has gone completely undiscussed; everyone knows that D&D owes a considerable debt to juggernauts of the genre like Zorro, The Three Musketeers, and the stories of Robin Hood. But if the lesser known works of the pulp sff magazines contributed to the genre and are worth a look, then it’s entirely possible that the lesser known works of other fictional adventurers contributed to the genre and are worth a look as well. After all, the line between historical fiction and fantasy fiction is often as blurry as the line between fantasy and science fiction.
|A monk climbing a wall|
while sword fighting? Can't
get much pulpier than that.
What follows is a fast tale featuring traps, counter-ambushes, captures, and escapes, all featuring the flashing steel, faceless minions, and dastardly villains you expect from a swashbuckling story. Is it fantasy? Beyond the fictional setting and characters, no. Is it inspirational for fantasy adventure gaming? You better believe it.
Friday, August 12, 2016
It's been a long time since I bought something solely for the purposes of improving my wargaming game. Wargames of the map and counter variety are largely self contained, so why would you need to buy anything extra?
These days I've been buying more pocket games, small and compact wargames that can be played in an hour and are sold in zip-lock bags. This leads to less games played on rigid cardboard maps and more games played on folded paper maps, which can be a real hassle. It doesn't look so bad when you just have two or three counters on the map, as in this illustrative photo, but once your stacks reach seven or eight counters, and are spread all over that continental divide, the slippage can drive a man crazy.
To fix this problem, I finally went out and bought a cheap piece of clear plexiglass sheeting. An 18-inch by 24-inch sheet costs about ten bucks, and can be scored and cut in half using a boxcutter. That gives you two sheets, one for use at home and one for use during those lunch games at the office, that will fully cover a standard ledger sized map (11- by 17-inch map).
After scoring and peeling off the label, it forces the map to lay flat and provides a much cleaner and easier playing surface. It's so nice I can't believe it took me this long to get around to it. Look how much more convenient it is, no tiltage, no slippage, it's great! This leaves the mind free to focus on the rules, the tactics, and the opponent.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Jack Vance is a great author. He does an outstanding job suffusing the Dying Earth novels with the oppressive atmosphere of a world grinding to a slow and evitable doom. That heavy gloom serves as a powerful counterpoint to the dry humor and wit of the tales themselves, but as a permanent undercurrent, it leaves the reader feeling that, despite all the sound and movement of the tale, it’s all pretty pointless given the impending cataclysm that is literally just over the horizon…until the angry red sun rises in the morning and once again reminds everyone that the end is near.
That sort of bleak outlook might be a useful corrective in the early days of a nation’s greatness. In the middle decades of the twentieth century, when America strode forth out of decades of relative neutrality and blundered about the earth healthy, wealthy, and full of its own hubris, one needed such reminder that all such things are fleeting.
If you feel that pressure, and escape fiction is your relief of choice, then you won’t find any in Vance’s Dying Earth. All you’ll find is another world wallowing in the same gloom as your own.
In times such as ours and those of the Dying Earth, trust erodes and people become stingy with everything from their time to their wealth to their charity. The autumn leaves tell us all to gather what we can and prepare for the coming winter. Granted, the greedy and grasping misers are always a part of every culture, but their numbers grow and everyone begins to follow their lead as they clutch at any resource available. It’s not an obvious or conscious shift, but rather a subtle and incremental shift in the culture. And it’s a shift that helps lead even more weight to the daily struggle.
Schuyler Hernstrom is one such writer. Schuyler’s tales sprawl across continents and environments, feature distinct and colorful characters thrown together by fate, and even include the wry, dry humor that gives Vance’s writing such power. The difference is that Schuyler’s settings, particularly those in his two stories featured in Cirsova, include an element of hope and optimism in a brighter future. They are infused with the fun spirit of adventure that reminds the reader that anything is possible, in stark contrast to Vance’s reminder that everything is transitory.
A case could be made that Schuyler’s work is derivative, more than one review of “Images of the Goddess” has pointed to an obvious Vancian influence, but if it is, then Schuyler is standing on the shoulders of the Vancian giant and taking Vance’s Dying Earth to a place it’s never been – a happy place. That subtle shift of mood may strike the nihilists among us as a step backwards, but at a time when civilization itself seems to be sliding backwards, it strikes this reviewer as a shift towards hope and optimism at a time when such a shift is sorely needed.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
|Aw yeah. I'll be in |
my niche in the wall
of the cave, baby.
You're not going to get any more detail out of this review. There are just too many twists and surprises that you need to read for yourself. As with the best of anything, if you really want to know how good this story is, you're just going to have to experience it for yourself.