SENSOR SWEEP: Artistic Dead Ends, Deep Ruts, Old-Fashioned Elements, and Philosophical Romance

Wednesday , 12, October 2016 10 Comments

Pulp Revolution (The Puppy of the Month Book Club) Author Interview: Brian Niemeier — “In hindsight, I think it’s safe to say that the Soul Cycle—Nethereal in particular—is responding to the same creative exhaustion in contemporary genre fiction that’s motivated the pulp revival. Almost every story released by the major movie studios and publishing houses is a copy of an imitation of a deconstruction of 70s and 80s homages to the pulps. Writers like Jeffro want to get back to the primary sources to work around the artistic dead end that SFF has devolved into. Certainly going back to the vine and growing a new branch from there is an approach that stands to bear fruit.”

Appendix N (The Daily Bestiary) Gate Archon — “For the record, demi, I’m going to go with your Narnia theory. Gygax was a huge reader, famously recommending a number of books in Appendix N of the 1e Dungeon Master’s Guide. While Narnia isn’t on that particular list I think there’s no question that Lewis’s wise woodsmen centaurs provided the template for Gygax’s. And as we’ve talked about before, Gygax’s shadow over the hobby is (understandably) pretty long—so that the tiniest idiosyncrasies in the 1e Monster Manual tend to be with us even today. That wagon left some deep ruts.”

Traveller (Just the Caffeine Talking) Nostalgie du Geek: Opening the Traveller Box — “If you know anything about Traveller, you know that the career history character generation system included the possibility for your character to die before play actually began. Other people found that baffling but I loved it. It made character generation into a game in and of itself: the chance of death meant you had to balance that risk against the possible rewards of remaining in a dangerous service for multiple tours of duty. Without the risk, all Traveller characters would be 65-year-old retired admirals who are supplementing their pensions with smuggling and light thuggery.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) Rich Playboys, Mad Scientists, and Venusian Monsters: The Best of Stanley Weinbaum — “As with any older writer, there are plenty of old-fashioned elements that any contemporary literary critic can have a heyday trouncing. In addition, Weinbaum (an engineer himself) sometimes like delving into paragraphs-long, though somewhat plausible, pseudo-science explanations of fantastic or sci-fi pheonemona. But, in sum, Weinbaum’s stories are inventive and interesting. They are adventurous, page-turners that really stretch your imagination. The result is a menagerie of enjoyable reads.”

Pulp Revolution (The Tarzan Files) Edgar Rice Burroughs 1930 Article: Entertainment is Fiction’s Purpose — “In fiction the reader has a right to expect entertainment and relaxation. If obscenities entertain him he can always find fiction that will fulfill his requirements. If he wishes to be frightened or thrilled or soothed, he will find writers for his every mood, but you may rest assured that he does not wish to be instructed. He does not wish to have to think, and as fully ninety per cent of the people in the world are not equipped with anything wherewith to think intelligently, the fiction writer who wishes to be a success should leave teaching to qualified teachers and attend strictly to his business of entertaining.”

Comics (Tor.com) Greg Rucka Confirms Wonder Woman is Queer — “But far more important to Rucka is the idea that past incarnations of Diana, in an attempt to follow an outdated romantic ideal, robbed her of much of her agency. Rucka wants it to be clear that his Wonder Woman doesn’t leave Themyscira because she loves Steve Trevor. Instead, Rucka puts her decision down to a far more heroic reason: ‘she wants to see the world and somebody must go and do this thing. And she has resolved it must be her to make this sacrifice.'”

Pulp Revolution (Wasteland and Sky) What Makes a Legend ~ A review of David Gemmell’s “Legend”  — “This doesn’t mean stories based on European myths and legends can’t be excellent in their own right. There is a lot to mine there. But that’s not what fantasy became. For longer than I’ve been alive, Tolkien was shamelessly aped and plundered over and over again. That was, until George R. R. Martin came along and subverted everything. Did he change the genre? No, writers just began aping him instead. If you wish to know why most of my fantasy reading comes from pulps, manga, comics, and stuff older than Tolkien then now you know.”

D&D (Tales to Astound!) Prepping for my next Lamentations of the Flame Princess game! — “I opened up Raggi’s Random Esoteric Creature Generator and after a few rolls conceived of a beast that works a little like a basilisk, but instead of turning you to stone, manifests the dreams in your head. And when I say that, I mean, something that you dream begins to grow and become real, growing until it is its natural, real size… usually splitting your skull open from the inside out and killing you. I liked this a lot not only because it is weird but because before they encounter the beast they’ll be finding the corpses of men lying dead with thei skulls split open from the inside out. ‘That will give them pause,’ I thought!”

Traveller (Grognardia) Imagination, Research, and Thought — “On some level, Wiseman’s reply to the review comes across as a little tetchy. On another, though, I find it reminiscent of the afterward [sic] of OD&D, where Gygax and Arneson ask the question ‘why have us do any more of your imagining for you?’ That’s a sentiment that makes more and more sense to me as the years wear on, so it delighted me to see it expressed in the pages of JTAS so long ago.”

Reader Revolt (Under-Paid, Over-Enthused) Why I Stopped Caring About Banned Books Week — “What I have a problem with is children having all their literature decided for them by publishers in New York. In fact, I don’t think anyone should have their literature solely decided by multi-million dollar corporations, because that’s a pretty good way to end up going round and round in the same fishbowl. Why doesn’t the scenery change? Because you’re in a bowl. I want to swim in the ocean, not where publishers park me.”

Don’t read anything before 1980! (Fantasy Book Critic) GUEST POST: To Mythos or not to Mythos By. C.T. Phipps — “My own politics are on the progressive side and they influence my writing. My concerns when writing a Cthulhu novel weren’t whether or not I should shun HPL’s creations: I don’t think that at all since if I’m going to do that then the literature of the past 2000 years is going to be a problem. Everything from the works of Aristotle to Edgar Rice Burroughs were written by people who did not share my opinions or values.”

Don’t read anything before 1980! (The New York Times) Male Chauvinist Rabbits — “Fully the last two–thirds of Adams’s saga is devoted to what one male reviewer blithely labeled ‘The Rape of the Sabine Rabbits,’ a ruthless, single‐minded and rather mean‐spirited search for females—not because Watership Down’s males miss their companionship or yearn for love but rather to perpetuate the existing band.”

Bro, Do You Even Read? (We Are the Mutants) The First ‘Lord of the Rings’ Paperbacks and the Making of Fantasy — “After 1965, the science fiction section in bookstores became the ‘science fiction and fantasy’ section, and fantasy elements quickly entrenched themselves in sci-fi literature and film….”

Appendix N (PC Bushi) Three Hearts and Three Lions — “We’ve already talked about Fantasy’s shift away from Christianity, and greater critics than I have analyzed the trend. In light of that movement, there’s something satisfying and almost fresh (old is new again) about fey folk who cannot stand the touch of iron and who are vulnerable to the cross and the invocation of the Lord’s name.”

Pulp Revolution (Seagull Rising) More Hernstrom: Thune’s Vision  — “Hernstrom’s work meets that impossible to describe, but wonderful to behold dream of production companies everywhere; it’s the same, but different. He works well trod ground – fantasy lands that incorporate the ruins of great technological empires long crumbled into dust, or fairy tale-esque fantasies with wicked sorcerer’s and tricksy little fey creatures. But in Thune’s Vision, he’s doing it on his own terms, and adding a strong voice and just the right mix of new ideas, and new blend of old ideas, to give the reader the sort of sf/f that is in such short supply these days.”

Games (EN World) The RPG Origins of Fallout – Part I: Tunnels & Trolls — “Fargo’s choice of partners proved a good one in more ways than one. St. Andre and Stackpole were both very well-acquainted with computer games and didn’t look down on them, a quality that stood them in marked contrast to many of their peers from the tabletop world. Both had become active electronic as well as tabletop gamers in recent years, and both had parlayed this new hobby, as they had their earlier, into paying gigs by writing articles, reviews, and columns for magazines like Computer Gaming World and Questbusters. St. Andre had developed a special enthusiasm for Electronic Arts’s Adventure Construction Set, a system for making simple CRPGs without programming that wasn’t all that far removed in its do-it-yourself spirit from Tunnels & Trolls. He served as head of an officially recognized Adventure Construction Set fan club.”

Pulp Revolution (Barbarian Book Club) Cirsova: Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine #3 — “So how do I like my fantasy? Adventurous, mysterious, massive, and wild. I want to read stories that take me back to when I first cracked open my AD&D players guide and ran my friends through skeleton filled dungeons and protected villages from goblin raids. I want to be transported to worlds where Barbarians pit their swords and strength against evil serpent worshiping wizards. I crave stories filled with adventure and mystery. Fabulous ancient ruins filled with unspeakable horrors, vicious creatures, and evil wizards.”

Pulp Revolution (Kairos) On Science Fiction and the Business of a Revolution — “It’s already over. There will be no coexistence. There will be no reconciliation. Because you can’t reconcile with a corpse. Jeffro also has oblivious Big Five authors dead to rights. Every writers’ panel still takes NY’s dominance for granted. They have no idea what’s happening. The wailing and gnashing of teeth on the (very near) day when the hammer falls will be epic.”

Pulp Revolution (Misha Burnett) Putting the Weird back into Weird Tales — “These stories are an invitation to the strange. The world in these pages is dangerous and unknown–and it is dangerous because it is unknown. An explorer on a new planet doesn’t know the rules of the world. The giant spined lizard might be as harmless as a puppy, and the soft grasses might be sudden venomous death to walk on. To drink from the enchanted goblet might mean invulnerability, or it might mean inescapable damnation. Any of the strangers passing in a darkened alley might be an agent of the Tongs, armed with a hidden needle dripping with an exotic oriental poison.”

Pulp Revolution (Dirty 30s!) The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot — “This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words. No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell. The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.”

Appendix N (The Puppy of the Month Book Club) Hardboiled Fantasy — “Another feeling that the book evoked in this reader is the feeling of datedness. Whenever else one considers Amber to exist, there’s no doubt that Corwin is a product of the 1970s. He and his siblings drink and smoke constantly, even in a dank prison, and he commonly uses the verb ‘to dig’ as a synonym for ‘to understand’.”

Books (Every Day Should be Tuesday) Throwback SF Thursday: Frankenstein (1931 Movie Version) — “A few things were striking when I read the book for the first time after walking in with an image largely created by this movie. First was the artic opening (I want to read a novel just about that expedition). Second is that it may be more of a science fiction novel than a horror novel (not that those are in any way mutually exclusive). It really does deserve to be called the first science fiction novel. But the biggest difference is that the book is the story of Victor Frankenstein; the movie is the story of his monster.”

Appendix N (Rawle Nyanzi ) Martians, Go Home — “There is no angst about how the Earth is doomed or how humanity is on its last legs (because it isn’t); everything remains lighthearted as Luke and other people try to figure out how to live with the little green men. Even the parts dealing with the mental patients come off as cheery; it was as if the author meant for this to be the opposite of stories like The War of the Worlds or The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

Pulp Revolution (Actually…) The Pulp Aesthetic — “But the thing is that the true substrate on which the pulps were built isn’t ironic at all – it’s earnest and enthusiastic. It can sometimes be dark of course, and doesn’t always involve uncomplicated protagonists and villains, and even sometimes pokes fun at itself, but the basic sense of it is pure – and you could even argue that it’s founded on human universals.”

Pulp Revolution (Misha Burnett) The Five Pillars Of Pulp Revival — “The focus of the storytelling is on what happens. We know who people are by what they do. This does not mean that every scene has to involve a knife fight on the top of a speeding train. Ordinary every day actions can also inform—Raymond Chandler could describe a couple’s relationship by showing us the man lighting the woman’s cigarette. We don’t want the writer to tells us that a scientist is an unconventional genius, we want to see him tearing a rival’s paper to shreds and throwing the pieces out the window when asked to critique it.”

D&D (Fuzzy’s Dicecapades) Character Creation vs. Character Building — “This is probably why I like older versions of D&D more; in B/X and (core, no splatbooks) AD&D2, a fighter is a fighter. Sure, there’s weapon specialization in AD&D2, but for the most part one fighter starts out the same as another. The uniqueness of each comes out in play. Delmar the Mighty is famed for his killing of the Dragon of Grindly Grunn, while Ulysses is a very smooth talker.”

Appendix N (Puppy of the Month Book Club) All roads lead to Amber.  — “Roger Zelazny appeared in the fabled Appendix N but– unlike a more definite influence of Jack of Shadows on the thief class– trying to find how the Amber Chronicles shaped the original Dungeons & Dragons is a bit more difficult (to me, anyway.) But it did end up influencing D&D a lot, even if years later. A kind of time-warping retroactive influence that I’m sure Zelazny would have enjoyed.”

Appendix N (Puppy of the Month Book Club) Nine Princes in Amber, Chapter 2 — “Like many works prior to the fantasy explosion of 1977, the Chronicles of Amber does not sit easily in any one genre. Fortunately, in The Hand of Oberon, a self-inserted Roger Zelazney states that he is ‘…writing a philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity.'”

Games (National Museum of Play) 2016 National Toy Hall of Fame Finalists  — “Developed in the 1970s, Dungeons & Dragons plunged participants into imaginary worlds of magic and monsters. It required players to role-play without a board or other defined game space, asking them to rely on their imaginations. Dungeons & Dragons heavily influenced the computer video game industry, inspiring the earliest text-based role-playing games to the more modern massively multiplayer online role-playing games.”

Games (Explorminate) A Brief 4X Gamers Guide to Modern Board Games: An eXposition — “SE4X is a wargame styled ‘hex and counter’ empire and conquest building game from GMT Games. In many ways, it’s a throwback in style and mechanics to wargames and space games from the 70’s – which in turn influenced the creation of Master of Orion and early 4X video games. While the design looks spartan, the game is anything but. You’ll be conducting exploration, settling new colonies, and engaging in the deepest military maneuvers of any of the games presented here. There is a lot to sink your teeth into – but you’ll need to rely on your imagination to help fill in the thematic gaps. A very well regarded game nonetheless.”

Appendix N (Mana Pop) The Gods of Mars: Edgar Rice Burroughs – Book Review — “You don’t get better swashbuckling space adventure than this. The Gods of Mars will have you rifling through the pages as you can to discover if John Carter and his friends will escape the Black Martian city, wondering what other dangers could lie within the subterranean Sea of Omean. Will John Carter and company make it back to Helium only to be killed as heretics? Who is that young Red Martian captive with the lighter red skin who bears such a startling resemblance to John Carter? Does Dejah Thoris still live and if so how many times will John Carter have to rescue her?”

Appendix N (Rawle Nyanzi) An Appreciation for the Fantasy Genre — “Reading Appendix N broadened my mind about what the fantasy genre could be. It didn’t have to be a poor impression of the Middle Ages. It didn’t have to be a story with overdone, intricate worldbuilding (though I do often like such stories.) It didn’t have to ignore science-fictional elements. It only had to leave the reader with a sense of wonder. And for me, it did just that.”

10 Comments
  • PCBushi says:

    I missed a couple of these. Good roundup, as usual!

  • Anthony says:

    Bashing the second half of “Watership Down” is the trendy thing to do. Never mind that Bigwig asks the females if they want to leave first and that they share the same pragmatic attitude towards reproduction as the males.

    • Alex says:

      “We’re starting a new, better society where you won’t be oppressed by a brutal dictator; wanna come with?”

      • Anthony says:

        “Not if women can’t vote!”

      • Anthony says:

        Also, not sure if you’re joking or not, but that’s pretty much exactly what Bigwig says.

        One of the rabbits even makes a point to say that this time, they’ll get to choose their mates. It’s not even close to a “rape of the sabine rabbits”. Nobody is kidnapped.

  • Hooc Ott says:

    “not because Watership Down’s males miss their companionship or yearn for love but rather to perpetuate the existing band.”

    This is pure Cuck bait.

    If Watership Down actually was a romance and the goal of the male rabbits WAS love and companionship you better bet that a New York Times reviewer would be screaming “Misogyny” and “privileged gender roles” from the highest building in NY.

    In fact that mirror is found in Tor’s criticism of old Wonder Woman and her romance with Steve Trevor.

    Procreation is a sin against romance and romance is a sin of the privileged patriarchy. There is no winning here only reeducation of wrongthink and the destruction of anything good from the past.

    • Anthony says:

      It’s just another example of today’s conservative being tomorrow’s liberal. The original Wonder Woman was created by a polyamorous man who believed that women were literally superior to men. Wonder Woman was his feminist power fantasy. But the Modern Feminist isn’t allowed to let little things like “love” get in the way of their feminist utopia. Only love in the service of the Cause is acceptable.

      I don’t understand supposed conservatives or conservative types like the Alt Right who defend Wonder Woman. From her origin to her use nowadays, she’s an utterly indefensible character.

  • H.P. says:

    “Rucka wants it to be clear that his Wonder Woman doesn’t leave Themyscira because she loves Steve Trevor. Instead, Rucka puts her decision down to a far more heroic reason: ‘she wants to see the world.'”

    A funny view of heroism, but ok.

  • Rawle Nyanzi says:

    As always, thanks for the linkbacks, Jeffro.

  • Bruce says:

    I think one reason Traveller never took off like D&D is that Gygax was a cool, relaxed northern Illinois or Wisconsin midwesterner. Want to play Elric, Conan, Corwin, Jirel of Joiry, Kane? Sure, sounds fun, here’s how the rules will help, go for it. While Traveller was run by prissy southern Illinois midwesterners with Grant Wood’s pitchfork up their butts who thought everyone who wasn’t playing historically accurate wargames was a retard anyway. You can be Dumarest or you can be a generic career military guy. Want to play as the Grey Lensman, Louis Wu, Skywalker, Boba Fett, Vader, throw asteroids at planets as the stars fall in flames? No you can’t, it’s technically within the rules but we won’t help, anyway you should be polishing your Grognard chops playing historically accurate Napoleonic or Civil War battles you pussy.

  • Please give us your valuable comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *