A detail of a 1975 map showing the Pentagon. KENT LEE/EAST VIEW GEOSPATIAL

Today’s post was going be on “obsessive game modding” but we’ll get to that next week as this morning I came across an old article on Soviet cartography during the Cold War that is too good to pass up. From the Wired article:

“They (the Soviets) had mapped nearly the entire world at three scales. The most detailed of these three sets of maps, at a scale of 1: 200,000, consisted of regional maps. A single sheet might cover the New York metropolitan area, for example”.

Many areas were mapped in greater detail:

 “They mapped all of Europe, nearly all of Asia, as well as large parts of North America and northern Africa at 1: 100,000 and 1: 50,000 scales, which show even more features and fine-grained topography.  

Another series of still more zoomed-in maps, at 1: 25,000 scale, covers all of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as well as hundreds or perhaps thousands of foreign cities. At this scale, city streets and individual buildings are visible.

 And even that wasn’t the end of it. The Soviets produced hundreds of remarkably detailed 1:10,000 maps of foreign cities, mostly in Europe, and they may have mapped the entire USSR at this scale, which Watt estimated would take 440,000 sheets. All in all, Watt estimated that the Soviet military produced more than 1.1 million different maps”.

The article is full of interesting items for game designers. There are links to vendors selling the maps and for the truly obsessive designer the larger scale maps contained details such as “…. the precise width of roads, the load-bearing capacity of bridges, and the types of factories”.

More on the next page. 

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Hinamatsuri (manga) - Wikipedia

Hinamatsuri, our first anime

Four Anime Reviews is one of the most popular posts I’ve ever done on the site. Since then I have watched a lot – and I do mean a LOT – more anime, and enjoyed almost all of it (I will only actually watch something to the end that I enjoy).

In light of that, I have thought carefully and decided on four more anime to review. The rules: They must be an anime I have not written a review or article on already…and that’s it. This means nothing on Mob Psycho 100 or One Punch Man, even though Mob Psycho especially is probably my second favorite anime that I’ve watched since that original article.

I’ll also be sort of kind of breaking that rule for the final review, but that show NEEDS to be talked about.

The 10 star rating system is gone. I realized I would have to rank too many shows I really liked below 5 of 10 if I wanted to be consistent. So now it’s just thumbs down and thumbs up.

(I wrote a couple short articles on already airing anime, so my short conclusions on them: Cells at Work improved as the season went on, added real character development and intelligent world building, and ended on a high note. It is my easy winner for anime of the summer 2018 season. Steins;Gate 0 spun its wheels a bit in the middle and had some hilariously bad action scenes but the last four or so episodes were fantastic and it too ended on a REALLY high note.)

And without further ado: Read More

JORDANETICS: A Journey Into the Mind of Humanity’s Greatest Thinker is now available for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

Jordan Peterson is believed by many to be the greatest thinker that humanity has ever known. He is Father Figure, Philosopher-King, and Prophet to the millions of young men who are his most fervent fans. He is the central figure of the Intellectual Dark Web, an academic superstar, and an unparalleled media phenomenon who has shattered all conceptions of what it means to be modern celebrity in the Internet Age.

He has, by his own admission, thought thoughts that no one has ever thought before. He has dreamed dreams that no one has ever dared to dream before.

But Jordan Peterson is also a narcissist, a charlatan, and an intellectual con man who doesn’t even bother to learn much about the subjects upon which he lectures. He is a defender of free speech who silences other speakers, a fearless free-thinker who runs away from debate, difficult questions, and controversial issues, a philosopher who rejects the conventional definition of truth, and a learned professor who has failed to read most of the great classics of the Western canon. He is, in short, a shameless and unrepentant fraud.

But is Jordan Peterson more than a mere fraud? Is he something more sinister, more unbalanced, and even more dangerous? In JORDANETICS: A Journey Into the Mind of Humanity’s Greatest Thinker, political philosopher Vox Day delves deeply into the core philosophy that Jordan Peterson advocates in both his written works and his video lectures. In doing so, Day methodically builds a shocking case that will convince even the most skeptical Jordan Peterson supporter to reconsider both the man and his teachings.

For a video preview, watch the Darkstream.

As a reviewer, I’m told I have two distinct responses to movies. The first is “This movie is so bad they should bring back the stocks so we can lock up everyone involved and pelt them with rotten vegetables.” My second review posture is “Eh, it didn’t totally suck in every single way,” which I’m told actually means “BEST MOVIE EVAR!” (Your mileage may vary.)

But I’m giving J.K. Rowling’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Volume the Second: The Crimes of Grindelwald a completely different review: “Rowling made some fundamental mistakes in plotting these movies, and as a result they’re much less than they could otherwise have been.”

Let’s start with the main character: he’s autistic. Not an insult, the character just has all the typical traits of a Hollywood movie autist: he’s twitchy, can’t look anybody directly in the eye, is blunt and socially blind, and is a bit of a weirdo. All of this is really distracting and off-putting.

Basic Advice: Never make the weirdo the main character of your book or movie. It so very rarely works out, and most of the time it alienates the audience, preventing them from getting into the story (much of the time without ever realizing what’s wrong).

Who’s the main character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Charlie. Not Willy Wonka, not an Oompa Loompa, just Charlie. Who’s the main character in Harry Potter and the…? Harry Potter. Not Luna Lovegood (the platinum blonde super-weirdo), just Harry. Lovegood is great as a comic relief character, for a few minutes here and there, but if you had to spend 15 hours with her, you’d probably end up hating her and the movie. Well, Newt Scamander is the Luna Lovegood of this series, and he’s the main character. It’s a mess.

Moreover, Scamander is so deeply involved in the magic world that he has a suitcase AND a house with multiple gigantic extradimensional spaces in which he’s built artificial biomes in to keep a myriad of fantastic beasts in. It’s MAGIC MAGIC MAGIC!!!!!!!!!, except that it’s not even magical.

The original “Harry Potter” movies revolve around a completely normal kid, wholly ignorant of the Wizarding World, who is suddenly introduced to the fantastic and fantastical. He’s just as flabbergasted and enthralled as the audience was supposed to be (and most were). What enthralled the audience wasn’t just the magical elements of the movie, but the emotional journey they took along with the character.

Seeing emotions in someone tends to evoke emotions in ourselves. This is the entire basis of fiction and drama (and empathy and sympathy): when a character is terrified, we feel a little of that terror. When they’re excited, we feel a little of that excitement. And when they’re awed by the magical world, we feel a little of that awe. Conversely, when a character is unimpressed or even bored by the fabulous and amazing, the audience feels a little of that boredom.

The movie had some SPECTACULAR special effects, and some cool and imaginative magical devices, creatures, spells, and so forth. Despite that, I wasn’t thrilled at all. Because this was routine to Scamander, even boring, none of this was magical or wondrous to me. This phantasmagoria of imagination and effects was routine and boring.

So not only is Scamander an offputting, twitchy, socially inept loser (who literally can’t get a date with the movie’s hottest chick, played by Zoë Kravitz, when she’s—against all logic—standing directly in front of him asking him to sweep her off her feet and carry her away), it’s also a bottomless pit of wasted imagination and special effects. All of that because of one single mistake: Scamander shouldn’t ever have been the main character.

Is there an otherwise mundane character, someone unused to the Wizarding World, someone who could feel awe and wonder? Maybe a character who is a regular guy? Someone who even gets the girl? Why yes, there is. Baker Jacob Kowalski, the bumbling sidekick from the previous movie, is (potentially) the perfect protagonist, the perfect window into the wizarding world, the perfect non-annoying and non-offputting protagonist the series needs.

In the first movie Kowalski, as a non-magician, could have been swept up in the aftermath of Scamander’s accidental release of magical creatures into New York City. Thrown in with the magicians, he could have learned about the world, rose above the circumstances, stood his ground and showed his bravery, and eventually won the day by using some small piece of magical lore he’d picked up along the way. Scamander could have been his flaky and unreliable guide, necessary to recapture the animals, but not someone to rely on or really fully trust. Blue collar would-be-baker Kowalski—the unlikeliest of heroes—saves the day, Queenie falls for him, they supposedly get obliviated, but the last scene of the movie shows he remembers everything, especially the beauty who’s in love with him.

(I mention that last because—against all sense—this movie opens with the fact that Kowalski wasn’t really memory-wiped, directly contradicting what the last movie showed. It’s highly peculiar, why they didn’t have such a happy ending scene in the previous film. It would have improved it immensely, and made this movie’s beginning make more sense.)

In this movie—the escape and rise to power of Wizard Hitler, complete with a Wizarding World Reichstag Fire—Kowalski could have served much the same role. Forbidden to marry in the US, the two go to Europe, where such shenanigans are allowed, and get caught up in another of Scamander’s outrageous adventures. Once again Kowalski (ever the unlikely hero) is in over his head, but his doughty heart—belied by his doughy exterior—sees him through, and he rises above the circumstances and again triumphs. He and Queenie are married, and despite the fact that Wizard Hitler escaped, he earns his happy ending.

Grindlewald has a lot of problems, but most of them are peripheral. The core problem is that Scamander, for all that Rowling identifies with him and is enamored of him, is just not the right character for this series to revolve around. With all this magic, the core needs to be grounded, and Scamander simply could never serve to ground the film.

Adventure stories need heroes, even unlikely heroes, and Scamander is only a sidekick.


Jasyn Jones, better known as Daddy Warpig, is a host on the Geek Gab podcast, a regular on the Superversive SF livestreams, and blogs at Daddy Warpig’s House of Geekery. Check him out on Twitter.

Artists (DMR Books): Jim Steranko‘s eightieth birthday snuck up on me. Hard to believe that number, because he’s still out there rollin’ like a boss. Jim is possibly the coolest eighty-year-old I know of.

This is a last-minute post, so I’ll have to keep things brief. I first became aware of Jim in fifth grade when I encountered one of his iconic Nick Fury covers in a Marvel coloring book.

 

 

 

 

 

Comic Books (Paintmonk): So you’re probably wondering what I’m thinking when I suggest that an obscure character might have become as legendary as Mike Grell’s Warlord. 

Let me explain.

There’s nothing sadder than an interesting and creative comic character marching off into the sunset. From the CrossGen Comics brand to the ill-fated Atlas Comics pseudo-relaunch in 2010-2011, seeing comics fail because of business-related issues is always a tragedy. Read More

A HERO AT BRINKLEY is the sixth and final issue in the RIGHT HO, JEEVES series. RIGHT HO, JEEVES tells of the travails of the inimitable Bertie Wooster, summoned from the comforts of #3A Berkeley Mansions, London, to Brinkley Manor by his imperious Aunt Dahlia. Love is in the air and Wodehousian shenanigans are afoot, as Wooster is not the sole guest at the manor, which is also playing host to the fairy-gazing Madeline Basset as well as the famous newt-fancier Augustus Fink-Nottle. But, as always, the inimitable Jeeves is there to set things right and save the day!

Adapted from the classic Wodehouse novel by comics legend Chuck Dixon and drawn by SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN illustrator Gary Kwapisz, A HERO AT BRINKLEY is the brilliant culmination of the RIGHT HO, JEEVES series.

We anticipate releasing the RIGHT HO, JEEVES graphic novel, which collects the entire six-issue series, in a premium 10×7 paperback, before the end of the month. It’s going to be beautiful. In the meantime, the Kindle edition of Issue #6 is now available.

Three years ago, I wrote about the magazine Weird Tales having no issues the previous year and a half. It appears that Weird Tales is dead. After I posted that blog post, I had heard that editor Marvin Kaye was trying to get money together for a new issue. I have not heard a word about the magazine for close to three years.

Maybe it is just as well. The Weird Tales revivals always had the feel of a Franken-magazine about them.

Weird Tales might be dead but a revived Weirdbook is thriving. Doug Draa was involved with the Kaye era Weird Tales. He has moved on to editing Weirdbook the past three years.  Weirdbook was a classic small press magazine from 1968 to 1997 published and edited by W. Paul Ganley. It was a market for writers to develop their writing skills. Richard L. Tierney, H. Warner Munn, Charles R. Saunders, and Joe R. Lansdale were found in those issues. The art was often great also with Steve Fabian providing several covers. Read More

Bond groaned. ‘Spare me the Lafcadio Hearn, Blofeld!’ — Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice

After reading “Of a Mirror and a Bell”, found in Hearn’s Kwaidan (Ghost Stories), Bond might be protesting too much. Hearn’s collection of Japanese legends, written months before his death, has been highly influential, influencing many Weird Tales authors, including Manly Wade Wellman, and Japanese culture as well. Kwaidan holds the first appearance of the legendary yuki-onna (snow woman), a favorite monster in Japanese popular fiction. And four of its tales became the basis for the Oscar-winning film Kwaidan.

But reading from Kwaidan is different than most fairy tales and fantasies. Rather than make up his own tales, Hearn, an Irish writer who stopped in New Orleans before emigrating to Japan, collected many oral tales from around Japan and published them. The result is a set of unembellished stories that might read thin on the page, but are utterly riveting when read out loud, like many early collections of oral traditions. Over time, these tales have been rewritten and embellished by other authors, but they lose the stark focus of the recorded oral tale. Hearn preserves this and provides cultural explanations to explain to English audiences what is happening in the tale.

“Of a Mirror and a Bell” is two stories bridged by an explanation of sympathetic magic. The first story, found elsewhere as “The Bell of Mugen,” tells of the making of a bell some 900 years ago. The local temple wanted to make a bell and asked for donations of bronze mirrors. A young woman gave her cherished bronze mirror, then regretted it. Because her gift-giving was not pure, the mirror would not melt. Out of shame–and after extensive bullying by the town–the young woman killed herself, but not before she placed a blessing upon the bell. Whoever struck the bell and broke it would become rich. Tired of the near constant ringing of the bell, the priests threw it into the swamp.

Hearn then pauses and explains a tradition similar to the voodoo doll in Japan. Using similar magic, many would try to break a small brass basin and get the blessing for breaking the buried bell. Some actually succeed and get a significant portion of wealth, enough to be immortalized in song. But one couple finally wins the full blessing, and the woman’s ghost appears to hand over a cup–

Hearn ends this legend with an unfinished tale of a likely not-blessing delivered by the woman’s ghost herself. Some think the unmentioned treasure was money or jewels. Knowing youkai, it was likely something horrific. But Hearn won’t say.

The retellings omit these later tales, as well as the mirror woman’s shame and suicide. This results in a story cleaned up for kiddies, but also one robbed of the horror and sympathy found in Hearn’s version. Living in Ireland and New Orleans prior to moving to Japan, Hearn was familiar with the strange and foreboding, with the Gothic in a way last seen in Weird Tales. Losing this familiarity has robbed much of horror and legend of its impact.

In short, Hearn’s ghost stories read like legends, but until you read multiple versions side by side, it is difficult to see how less is more.

Video game mercenaries, sky race pilots, Martian private investigators, and an army of alien bears feature in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in science fiction.


Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science – Alec Nevala-Lee

Astounding is the landmark account of the extraordinary partnership between four controversial writers—John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard—who set off a revolution in science fiction and forever changed our world.

Drawing on unexplored archives, thousands of unpublished letters, and dozens of interviews, Alec Nevala-Lee offers a riveting portrait of this circle of authors, their work, and their tumultuous private lives. With unprecedented scope, drama, and detail, Astounding describes how fan culture was born in the depths of the Great Depression; follows these four friends and rivals through World War II and the dawn of the atomic era; and honors such exceptional women as Doña Campbell and Leslyn Heinlein, whose pivotal roles in the history of the genre have gone largely unacknowledged. For the first time, it reveals the startling extent of Campbell’s influence on the ideas that evolved into Scientology, which prompted Asimov to observe: “I knew Campbell and I knew Hubbard, and no movement can have two Messiahs.” It looks unsparingly at the tragic final act that estranged the others from Campbell, bringing the golden age of science fiction to a close, and it illuminates how their complicated legacy continues to shape the imaginations of millions and our vision of the future itself.


Before the Shattered Gates of Heaven Part 1: Trickster’s Pit (Shattered Gates #1 Part 1) – Bryan S. Glosemeyer 

Deep in the subterranean Labyrinth of a cruel, alien world, a nameless girl has one chance to choose her fate, earn a name, and join the conquest of the stars:

Nine victories in the bloody fighting pits of the Divine Masters.

With eight kills behind her, she is one fight away from realizing her dreams. But what must be sacrificed, and what must she become, in order to survive the Trickster’s Pit?

Part 1: Trickster’s Pit is an action-packed novelette that introduces an exciting, new science fiction adventure through outer and inner space.


Daisy’s Run (The Clockwork Chimera #1) – Scott Baron

Life in deep space could be a drag sometimes, but Daisy supposed things could have been worse. They were still alive, after all, which was always a plus in her book. Now if only she could figure out who, or what, was endangering her return home, things would be just peachy.

With the powerful AI supercomputer guiding the craft beginning to show some disconcerting quirks of its own, and its unsettling cyborg assistant nosing into her affairs, Daisy’s unease was rapidly growing. Add to the mix a crew of mechanically-enhanced humans, any one of whom she suspected might not be what they seemed, and Daisy found herself with a sense of pending dread tickling the periphery of her mind.

Something was very much not right––she could feel it in her bones. The tricky part now was going to be figuring out what the threat was, before it could manifest from a mere sinking feeling in her gut into a potentially deadly reality.


Deception (Forgotten Colony #2) – M.R. Forbes

Somewhere in deep space, Caleb wakes from stasis, unprepared for what he discovers.

The Marines he was supposed to relieve are missing, something monstrous is roaming the corridors, the dead are rising, and the starship is inexplicably low on fuel.

Now Caleb is fighting time, desperate to find some way, any way, to overcome an impossible situation and get the colonists to their new home.

He’s also about to come to the most frightening realization of all:

They may have already arrived… Read More

POP KULT WARLORD: It’s way more than just a game!

PerfectQuestion is back! He’s running and gunning his way across an incredible civilization-building game set on Mars. But this time he’s employed as an online ringer for a corrupt dictatorship and trying to avoid getting “disappeared” in a reckless world of intrigue, epic parties, sports cars, and women who are as dangerous as they are beautiful.

Five million in gold says he can do it and put the next Sultan on the throne by leading a rag-tag clan of gaming jihadis to victory, but revolution and revolt are afoot. The long knives are out in Calistan for the hero of Soda Pop Soldier and anyone else who gets in a murderous prince’s way.


The phone rings. It’s Irving Wong. My new e-sports agent. We met during the Razer party. He also represents the new Batman actor. So he must be big-time, sorta.

“Hey, PQ!” he says in his cigar-smoke-ravaged voice. I see his name in the caller ID.

“Mr. Wong.” My parents raised me to be polite. I’ve been thinking about them a lot as surreality has become a new reality. Like they’re some anchor I must hold on to, or otherwise go spinning off over the cliffs of insanity.

“PQ! Rock star! Baby!” Irv erupts at just after dawn, Havana time, as the multi-colored city surrenders to the full glare of an unrelenting tropical morning. I can see people in the streets below from the wide window of my top-floor suite. Still dancing. But many are streaming away to wherever it is they’re staying. It’s expected after almost twenty-four straight hours of nonstop Super Bowl partying.

“Call me Irv, PQ.”

I agree to.

Again. Politeness. I’m tired so I kick off my loafers and lay the suit jacket I had made in Rome across the emperor-sized bed. Maybe it’s time to go back. Have another one made. I liked Rome a lot.

“Okay, cutting to the chase, kid,” Irv begins. “I already got something for you. Something very hot. A booking that starts now-ish. You game?”

“Now-ish?” The thought of throwing myself into another e-sports combat game seems impossible at this moment. As in… triathlon impossible the day after you’ve quit your habit of smoking and eating three cheeseburgers a day.

I exhale, involuntarily. I’m not just suffering from game fatigue, or binge tiredness… I’ve got a serious case of game hangover. It’s been six months of straight matches every weekend, and we’ve been winning pretty consistently. You’d think winning makes it easier, but it doesn’t. It makes things much, much harder. Every match… every engagement… every bullet… develops some massive psychic weight of importance that must be constantly accounted for and dealt with. Gaming isn’t just fun at this level… it’s become a business.

And I’m beat tired.

I sit on the bed and feel its whispering invitation to sweet oblivion. Darkness. Just sweet silent no-monitor-or-flashing-smartphone-lights darkness. I could seriously do that.

“Ever heard of a game called Civ Craft?” barks Irv over the faraway phone in my hand. Read More

The Rebels by Gordon R. Dickson appeared in the Winter 1954 issue of Fantastic Story Magazine. It can be read here at archive.org.

Gordon R. Dickson’s The Wall

This is the first story I’ve read by Gordon R. Dickson, and I’m a bit disappointed that it didn’t have space bears with swords and lasers, because that is literally all I know him for. But hey, this story wasn’t bad, even if it was more on the “Thrilling Wonder Stories” ‘gee, ain’t that neat?’ end of things rather than “Rawr, I am a space bear with a sword!”

In The Rebels, a trio of academic archaeologists has been expelled from academia forever. Their crime? Refusing to recant on their insistent belief in telekinesis and publicly retract their most recently published papers. It’s impossible, foolish, and would make them the laughing stock of universities everywhere and would certainly taint whichever institute employed them.

Nevermind that they have empirical proof of the phenomenon in that not only had the three of them mastered it, they had used it to aid in their most recent archaeological dig.

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The Crusader Kingdoms made a pretty good go of things, and the success of heroes such as Godrey of Bouillon, Hugh the Great, and Bohemund of Taranto bought the stay-at-homes in Europe a few generations of relative safety from the relentless encroachment of the Muslim forces. By 1191, Saladin’s forces had delivered a crushing blow at the Battle of Hattins, retaken Jerusalem and the critical port city of Acre. The string of Muslim successes in the Levant prompted the Third Crusade to renew Christendom’s defense of the West on the shores of the Levant, and the resultant chaos of a region riven by war, internecine fighting, and outright banditry makes a perfect backdrop for adventure.

Into the seething cauldron of the late twelfth century Holy Lands strides the hero of Andrew Latham’s The Holy Lance, Michael Fitz Hume. An English warrior with a checkered past, Fitz Hume struggles to atone for his checks by dedicating his life to the Knights of the Temple. As the leader of the relatively young order of the Poor Knights of Christ at a battle that breaks the siege of Acre by Saladin’s forces, Fitz Hume attracts the attention of King Richard, who has need of just such a man. Word has come to the king of the presence of the Holy Lance, the Spear of Longinius that pierced the side of Christ at Golgotha, hidden away at a small monastery deep within Muslim held territory.

Most historical fiction set in this place and period takes one of two tacks, particularly when the Templars are involved. Modern writers, steeped in the cynicism and bland venality of secularism of our age, struggle to present the Templars as products of their own age. Using an enlightened and advanced understanding of what motivates men of our age, the Templars are usually painted as shadowy conspirators, outright demon worshippers, or simple selfish brigands draped in holy cloth. Even in those rare instances where they are portrayed more sympathetically, most authors of historical fiction cannot resist the temptation of showing them as zealous religious fanatics or naïve dupes used as pawns in games played by the powers of the day. The choice of authors to craft Templars without a consistent and coherent faith in the God under whose banner they march rarely works to the benefit of the narrative, particularly this early in the lifecycle of the order. The later wealth and power of the Order suggests a potential avenue of corruption, to be sure, but during the struggles of the middle Crusades, it’s hard to countenance all of the horror stories told about the holy warriors dedicated to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. Even if the Order did become a haven for venal men seeking to hide behind the mantle of the cross, it would still require a base membership composed of righteous men to act as a smokescreen within which the villains might take effective shelter.

Fortunately, Andrew Latham presents a hero in Fitz Hume who stands strong and proud, motivated by a faith in God and a fear of divine retribution. Although a fierce warrior, his hot temper has caused him no end of trouble in the past, and even within the pages of The Holy Lance he struggles to contain his wrath. The inner turmoil prevents Fitz Hume from crossing over into the realm of Mary Sue even as it reminds the reader that good men exist and that heroes walk among us. The result is a living, breathing Templar who leaps from the page and makes the usual Crusader knight feel as two-dimensional as the typical treatment of the Crusades themselves. Read More