The House Where Time Stood Still by Seabury Quinn appeared in the March 1939 issue of Weird Tales. A scanned pdf of this issue can be found here at Luminist.org.

I’m sure that if I had the time and money to delve deeper into Weird Tales, I’d find myself wondering why and pontificating on the injustice that Lovecraft is one the only horror writers from that magazine who is still talked about. Seabury Quinn’s The House Where Time Stood Still is a damned creepy story that’s almost certain to give one nightmares. This is some real Cronenberg/Lynch stuff here, except decades before either of them. In fact, I hate that I have to use contemporary frames of reference to describe stories like this, because it should be the other way around.

Quinn’s story begins, more or less, with his famed Occult Detective Jules de Grandin explaining to his friend and Watson, Trowbridge, the philosophical differences between medicine as art (physicians/healers) and medicine as science (doctors); “followers of Aesculapius”… ”are concerned with individual cases” and “alleviating suffering in the patient”, while “the doctor, the learned savant, the experimenting scientist”… “cannot see [man the individual] for bones and cells and tissues where micro-organisms breed and multiply to be a menace to the species as a whole.” Needless to say, this conversation serves to foreshadow the villain of the tale, who embodies the worst attributes of the latter. If this were an English paper, I’d be more prone to also discuss the repeated references to Faust throughout, reinforcing the theme of the mystical vs. scientific, spiced with notions of damnation, predestination, unholy inevitabilities, and yes, also salvation, but I’ll suffice it to say it’s there.

Quinn serves up a clever misdirect, as Grandin is interrupted by the arrival of some copper pals from England. Some important dispatches from the embassy have gone missing along with the lad sent to deliver them; they hope to enlist Grandin and Trowbridge to look for the young man, last seen zooming off into the countryside in a conspicuous red hot-rod. Of course, this just serves to set-up the tale for Trowbridge to be in the right spot at the right time to fall into the hands of a megalomaniacal supervillain who’s been using an insane asylum as cover for his experiments in vivisection.

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The full Gondwane Epic runs six books.  Lin Carter apparently planned ten.  I have the first four chronologically—The Warrior of World’s End, The Enchantress of World’s End, The Immortal of World’s End, and The Barbarian of World’s End (there are rather expensive copies available on Amazon; I can’t vouch for their quality).  Carter really should have called it the World’s End epic.  Carter wrote Giant of World’s End first, then went back and wrote five prequel novels.  The odd novel out is The Pirate of World’s End.

The Gondwane books are set roughly 700 million years into the future.  The sun is a bit dimmer and the moon closer to earth and showing the cracks which will be it (and life on earth’s) undoing.  The continents kept moving and met on the other side, forming another supercontinent, and giving the books their name—Gondwane.  (Fortuitously, I was reading a bit about the summer solstice and learned that days are slowly getting longer as the earth’s rotation slows, but the days on Gondwane are not abnormally long.)  The laws of physics have subtly changed, and magic is as common as science, but each is more likely to appear as an inscrutable artifact.

The hero of Carter’s epic is no mere man.  Ganelon is found stumbling naked through a blue rain beside crystal mountains.  A wizard later determines he is a non-human construct.  For all intents and purposes a superman created by the Time Gods to face some potential disaster they foresaw millions of years after his demise (he was evidently hatched from stasis early and will miss his purpose, but no one gives much thought to this).  He is superhuman in every way.  He towers head and shoulders over mortal men.  He can outrun a horse in a sprint or a marathon.  Or he could, if horses weren’t extinct.  He has superhuman strength and stamina.  His skin is tougher than most armor, and he heals fast enough to practically have a healing factor.  Oh, and his hair is silver.  Not silver like your debonair uncle’s hair silver, silver like your avaricious aunt’s silver silver.  So basically he looks like this.

Jeffro wrote a Retrospective post on book 1, The Warrior of World’s End, and Morgan has a bit to say about the Gondwane books in his post on the Lin Carter style.

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Almost certainly not what C.S. Lewis had in mind – but an amazing image! What would the conflict between Aslan and Tash look like if Lewis had had this on his desk? (Image of Narasinha, avatar of Vishnu, slaying Hiranyakashipu from krishna.com)

The greatest argument for reading much and reading widely is the chance to see sides of things that were invisible to the authors – if only by virtue of having a completely different perspective.[1]

An excellent example of this is this article by Vishwas R. Gaitonde on viewing Narnia through a Hindu lens.

Gaitonde takes us on a tour of the Narnia Chronicles, pointing out places where some of the ideas of Hinduism[2]  can be seen resonating with the text.

At first blush, this seems surprising – didn’t Lewis write the Narnia Chronicles as a kind of Christian allegory?[3] Certainly, given Lewis’s reputation as an apologist this would seem to be the obvious assumption.

However, the story may be more complicated, and in this case at least it’s possible that the fresh, invisible perspectives that Mr. Gaitonde sees through a Hindu lens may not be entirely unintended by Lewis. Read More

It turns out that Rocket’s Red Glare is NOT an exclusively American themed collection.  A few of the stories fit that theme, but now that the number has dipped below .500, I’m forced to conclude that the unabashedly pro-US position in some of the stories is the icing and not the cake.  Which is fine – the quality of the stories ranges from the merely good to the great, and I would certainly recommend this collection.  It’s probably not something to recommend to those who become triggered when accidentally reading a story that exults in a pro-Western worldview, but normal science fiction fans with a healthy psyche will definitely enjoy Rocket’s Red Glare.

The next story in the line-up is Jupiter Convergence, by Robert E. Vardeman, an interesting first contact tale that pits the heroic and humble lunar scientists who made the contact against the petty political appointees of the UN who want to commandeer the project for their own vainglory.  The adventure hops around the solar system and strikes a perfect balance between thinking man’s puzzles, political chicanery, and fast paced action.

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Dungeon design in Amsterdam. Not my picture or map but this guy has the right idea.

On Google + I discovered The Library of Gaming Maps community and recommend you check it out.  Currently, there almost 4k members with an active contributor base of artists who “……post and share maps they’re making, for the entertainment or aid of other gamers who may not have the chops or time to make their own!”.

Browse the posts and even if you are not a gamer you’re bound to find something of interest, especially if you are a SciFi or Fantasy fan. One can filter posts by topic which includes Fantasy (predominant), SciFi, Historical, Icons and Tokens and an eclectic Modern topic section, which contains a real grab bag of interesting posts.

Many members also link to interesting sites such as this one so there is enough here to stimulate the imagination of a game designer or game master.
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The question of just what sort of game Classic Traveller really was at the beginning is among the greatest mysteries of gaming. Mind you, that’d be Traveller without the Third Imperium. Without the big ships of High Guard or the grav tank design sequences of Striker. Traveller without “advanced” character generation. Without the Spinward Marches. Without the Droyne, the Zhodani, the Aslan, or the Solomani. Without the sector sized campaign maps produced by GDW and Judges Guild.

What happens when you go back to just those three original little black books…? This:

Sir Percival Jones
54576B Scout (3 Terms) Pilot-1, J-o-T-1, ATV-1, Vacc Suit-1, Electronics-3. Primitive “Alien” Paddle Sword, Scout ship “Nellie Gray”. No credits.

The emergence of this character broke pretty much whatever was happening before his entry into the game. When I’d got done rolling the dice, some sort of merchant campaign was brewing featuring a Marquis and a tramp freighter. But then I hustled a psionically “gifted” child and his mom off of a world descending into chaos. Thanks to the jump-2 rating of my scout ship combined with the absence of the merchant captain the next session, and suddenly my character is arbitrarily the center of the action. Comments on the after action report had the merchant captain wanting to roll up a new character that could take passage on Percival Jones’s ship!

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Image result for edison's conquest of marsToday’s post is a guest post by Karl Gallagher, author of the critically acclaimed novel Torchsip and regular contributor to Superversive SF.

One of the earliest hard SF novels is Edison’s Conquest of Mars by Garrett Servis. It’s effectively an unauthorized sequel to HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, published in 1898. It’s actually a sequel to Fighters From Mars, an unauthorized rip-off of War of the Worlds relocating the action to America and stripping out unamerican things such as the protagonist moping about.

Copyright law wasn’t a big thing in 1898.

The author was commissioned to write it because as an astronomer he could describe how to get to Mars. And not just any astronomer. Servis was the Carl Sagan of his day, presenting a lecture series sponsored by Andrew Carnegie. He went on to write other SF novels, beginning the overlap between technical professionals and hard SF writers. Read More

Look! A tribute to a game that was actually good.

Electronic Arts (video game publishing superpower) is a pretty scummy company—voted “Worst Company in America” 2 years running!—but in the quest to milk every single dollar out of an increasingly alienated and cynical fanbase, they occasionally do something not completely horrible. (Or at least something marginally useful for the purposes of researching one of my infamously inflammatory blog posts.)

Last week, for example, they gave away “free” access to several of the titles on their aging backlist, in the hopes of enticing those few gamers who hadn’t either heard of or played the titles to plunk down good money for mediocre games (or at the very least, some overpriced DLC). One of the mediocre games included was BioWare’s much reviled computer RPG, Mass Effect 3.

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Appendix N (RMWC Reviews) Appendix N Review: The Ship of Ishtar — “There’s so much going on. Action, magic, ancient Babylonian gods, a superhumanly strong drummer named Gigi, a badass redheaded Persian warrior named Zubran, and a Viking named Sigurd who swears blood brotherhood to Kenton and Zubran. In true adventure fashion, the stakes keep raising and the action keeps ramping up. Kenton is a two-fisted kind of hero, quick to action when he makes his decisions. The romance between him and Sharane starts off rocky. She thinks he’s an agent of Nergal when he explains that centuries have passed in the outside world, so her handmaidens chase him out with spears. He then swears to avenge his pride by conquering the ship and then her.”

Pulp Revolution (Kairos) This Is Not Fine — “Like all postmoderns, novelty cultists vocally deny objective standards of beauty and craftsmanship while at the same time conflating their subjective preference for novelty with objective quality. Exploding their argument is as simple as refusing to let them frame the debate. The key isn’t to defend your preference for the classics. It’s to point out that older works are objectively superior to the creatively exhausted tripe that film, game, and comic book studios churn out these days.”

D&D (Gaming While Conservative) D&D5 – The Storyteller’s Dream — “The rules are set up to make it extraordinarily hard for characters to die. My third level sack of hit-points, a sword and board fighter, charged into every combat (both of them in four hours…sigh), triggered every trap, and generally jumped in the path of danger at every opportunity. My dude got burned, fell thirty feet, stabbed, sliced, diced, and poisoned, and managed to survive the night.”

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If you run across one of Barry Sadler’s Casca books you could do worse than picking up a copy.

Casca is a Roman legionnaire that had the misfortune to draw duty on the wrong day and was assigned to the crucifixion detail for Jesus and two thieves. His  losing streak continues with a low dice roll which determined who stayed until the prisoners died.  Impatient to leave, Casca decides to end the ordeal and runs a spear into the Messiah. Before passing, Jesus curses Casca, “Soldier, you are content with what you are. Then that you shall remain until we meet again”. Casca is doomed to soldier until Jesus returns.

What follows is one of the most formulaic series of stories I’ve come across. Each book follow’s Casca’s adventures throughout different historical periods. In D&D terms he has a lot of experience points so he tends to serve in a leadership role, sometimes taking over whole empires (see #2).  Casca always finds a lover but is doomed to curse the fate of an immortal loving a mortal. The woman usually comes from a low station or is rescued from evil slavers, barbarians, etc, and elevated by Casca to a position of prominence thereby drawing the jealously of a sadistic antagonist who provides the storyline betrayal and drama.

 

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This was our third game of Space Empires 4X with the Close Encounters expansion. The first session I managed to blitz past my sons defenses with a stack of cloaked destroyers thanks to the “Cloaking Geniuses” Empire advantage. The second session my son went all in with an all-destroyer fleet and large amounts of ship yards. I didn’t even need my “Star Knights” empire advantage and my son’s “Nan-technology” which allowed him to freely update his existing ships proved to be more of a distraction.

So I was a little worried. What if this game is too complex for my son to really get the hang of? What if it ends up being too demoralizing for him to play it? I decided for the third game to (again) not use my Empire Advantage at all in order to balance things out, but I wasn’t sure if it would be enough.

In the opening stages I moved out into deep space and quickly colonized four alien worlds. This made all my heavy cruisers able to take an additional hit thanks to the Emissive Armor I acquired, and another card gave me dreadnoughts that cost four less than usual. I had a significant economic advantage to this fancy tech.

Meanwhile my son was building ship yards and a massive fleet again. He forgot to build an exploration cruiser for it so he just sat there paying maintenance on it. This looked like a really weak strategy to me. He even scuttled his scouts again instead of exploring a little bit with them. He kept saying he had a surprise for me and when he was finally ready to make a move, it turned out there were four alien worlds blocking his fleet from coming at me!

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In the far-flung grimdark future, the Emperor of Mankind sought to unite the fractured and isolated colonies of humanity under his rule. To help in his plans, he created twenty sons, the Primarchs, genetically-engineered demigods who would serve as enlightened governors and inspired generals. To each, he gave a legion of space marines, medically augmented supersoldier monks bearing the best arms and armors the Emperor of Mankind could craft. Two of these sons, the Emperor erased from history. Nine more fell sway to the Ruinous Powers of Chaos. The battles where brother fought against brother and father against son, known as the Horus Heresy, tore the universe apart. At the end of that war, the traitors were chased out of the galaxy, the loyalist sons lay dead or in hiding, and the Emperor of Mankind was entombed in the Golden Throne, his mind still living within a rotting shell. Bereft of the guidance of God-Emperor and Primarch,  mankind slipped into millennia of stagnancy, superstition, and decay, besieged on all sides by aliens and the servants of Chaos.

Then, at the end of the 41st Millennium, the unthinkable happened. A loyalist Son of the Emperor came home.

For years, gamers and readers of the Warhammer 40k universe have grown frustrated as the story remained stuck at the year 999 of the 41st Millennium. Now, with the release of the 8th Edition rules on the 17th of June, the setting has leapt a century forward into the 42nd Millennium, with Guy Haley’s Dark Imperium as the first of the novels exploring the new setting. Primarch Roboute Guilliman might have returned, but instead of heralding a new age of renewed progress, he fights to reunite his father’s empire after a giant rift in space has cut off half of the empire from all contact with Earth. To impede his efforts, the Plague God Nurgle unleashes his demons against Guilliman’s home sector of Ultramar–including the traitor primarch Mortarion and his legion of fallen space marines. As plague and invasion ravages the 500 worlds of Ultramar, Guilliman marshals his forces to drive out the forces of Chaos and reclaim the worlds for Man. Read More