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Sensor Sweep: Classics, Steve Tompkins, Queen of the Black Coast, Gun Ghoul –

Sensor Sweep: Classics, Steve Tompkins, Queen of the Black Coast, Gun Ghoul

Monday , 25, March 2019 1 Comment

Culture (Legends of Men): The primary professional association for classicists is the Society for Classical Studies. This was formerly called the American Philological Association. Mary Frances Williams, a Ph.D. in classics, former professor, and an independent researcher, decided to attend this year’s annual conference. There, she witnessed first hand how the classics field is becoming a vehicle for social justice (a.k.a. Marxism). The SCS, as well as academics across the country (and presumably across Europe), is accomplishing this on multiple fronts.


Fandom (Don Herron): Hard to believe it was ten years ago today when Steve Tompkins punched his ticket. Only 48 years old, hospitalized for food poisoning after hitting Burger King, then out of the blue a heart attack. If they can’t handle a heart attack when you’re already in the hospital, game over.


Fiction (John C. Wright): Many a fan, this one included, calls Queen of the Black Coast the finest of the Conan stories, in part because of its legendary scope, in part because of its lurid romance, it passages of lyrical poetry, its vivid and bloody battle-scenes, the sense of mystery and adventure, the chilling eldritch visions of ancient eons and shades of the dead, the Viking funeral at the end.

The writing excels on three levels: first, striking characterization gives life to an intimate and tragic romance; second, lyrical world-building conjures a vision of a lost age, cruel but not without its savage beauties; third, a deep and even grim theme dignifies what would otherwise be a mere boy’s adventure tale with adumbration of deep time and an almost Norse melancholy touching the brevity of life, the indifference of the gods.


Fandom (DMR Books): Steve Tompkins died ten years ago today. I and a few other bloggers will be posting blog entries in tribute to Steve, whom I consider the best “genre” blogger of the first decade in this twenty-first century. Below, you’ll find a very concise history of Mr. Tompkins’ life and hyperlinks to all of his blog entries and online essays. This post is intended to function as a one-stop guide to Steve’s online legacy.


RPG (Playing at the World): The Illusionist in Dungeons & Dragons was created by Peter Aronson, an early Boston-area fan. In 1975, Aronson submitted an initial description of Illusionists to TSR , who ran it in the fourth issue of the Strategic Review. Then the following year, Aronson’s additions with system for higher-level Illusionists appeared in the debut issue of The Dragon. But Aronson didn’t stop there – he made a number of further expansions and corrections which he circulated informally in 1977, of which the first page is shown above. Today, we’re looking at the complete Illusionist subclass for OD&D as Aronson envisioned it, and the implications it created for “schools” of magic in role-playing games.


Fiction (DMR Books): Hira Singh was Talbot Mundy’s fourth novel; his second and third novels (The Winds of the World and King – of the Khyber Rifles) are more properly part of the Greater Jimgrim Mythos of interconnected stories and we will discuss them in their own time.  We will also be reviewing the Jimgrim Saga itself (those books whose hero is James Grim) in its own place.  Hira Singh was serialized in Adventure magazine in late 1917 and then published in book form by Bobbs-Merrill in 1918.


Popular Culture (Kairos): Hang out around science fiction authors long enough, and you get the sense that they’re all crazy.

John Scalzi claims that Donald Trump and the weather conspired to give him writer’s block. Patrick Rothfuss and George R. R. Martin have cited similarly temperamental reasons for not finishing their popular series.

The ancient Romans had a saying, Ars longa, vita brevis. Moderns take it to mean that life is short, but works of art last.


Popular Culture (Men of the West): This weekend, Captain Marvel defied expectations among traditional fanbase comic book audiences who expected the movie to gross between $80 and $100 million. It seemed as though every indication was there that the movie would tank, due to its blatant promotion of third wave feminism—both in the movie as well as in promotional material. However, the justified critics were wrong to presume the larger society of Americans were on their side, and the movie earned $153 million domestic.


Authors ( AS THE final weeks of the 20th century drew to a close, much attention was given to the question of what had been the best—the best of the century or best of the millennium? An endless flurry of polls, surveys, Top 10 and Top 100 lists were compiled.

And when it came to the best book or best author of the past 100 years, in poll after poll, survey after survey, list after list, J.R.R. Tolkien was nearly always at the top.


Comic Books (Jon Mollison): Back in December I took the Arkhaven Comics then new online book store for a test drive.  Wil Caligan’s Gun Ghoul showed up in plenty of time, but personal events made reading a comic centered on death and justice too painful.

Still, Wil’s a good guy who deserves support, so I cinched my belt tighter, sniffed and thumbed my nose like a good Mayberry Sherriff’s Deputy and shouldered my wife through a story of loss, revenge, and redemption.


RPG (Karavansara): The game in question is called Atlantis, the Second Age, that is a game with a complicated history – there’s at least three different editions that I am aware of: the first by Bard Games (when it was just called Atlantis), the second by Morrigan Press which is the one I own, and recently a new edition was released published by Kephera Publishing (I do not own it, but all reviews are glowing).


RPG (Tower of Zenopus): I’ve been interested in the Savage Worlds game since the earliest days of its existence – maybe before if we’re going back to Deadlands and the Great Rail Wars days. I played and ran some Deadlands in its original form, picking up pretty much all of the books and the Deadlands: Hell on Earth setting and books as well. I dove into GRW a little later and picked up a bunch of the miniatures and books for that too. I was on the Deadlands email list in the late 90’s/early 2000’s and followed the development of the system as bits came out there – you can see a more extensive version of that info here.

Fiction (George Kelly): I’ve been a big fan of Night Shade Books’s volumes in The Complete Stories of Jules de Grandin series. Black Moon, just published, is the fifth and final volume. Seabury Quinn created a psychic investigator whose cases usually involved weird, occult, and supernatural aspects. For four decades, Seabury Quinn wrote stories that attracted a devoted audience of readers. The stories in this collection bring together Jules de Grandin stories from the late Thirties, all of the Forties, and a couple stories from the Fifties.


Fiction (Too Much Horror Fiction): Pity poor Robert James Atchison. Living in a California town known as America’s preeminent burial ground, where the dead outnumber the living five thousand to one, he’s a sensitive 17-year-old boy with a fondness for poetry, instilled in him by his dear departed mother, and he actually enjoys reading books like The Iliad for school. He may have good hair, vibrant eyes, and fine features, but all that’s lost on his high school classmates: to them he’s a gangly, awkward-limbed, tongue-tied goof who they’ve nicknamed “Coma Man” with an embarrassing crush on Carla, the prettiest girl in school. He’s written Carla a poem and has two scarlet ribbons to give to her. What could go wrong?


Pulp (True Pulp Fiction): After having hardly any time for pulp reading for a while I finally got a chance to settle down with this issue of Adventure from from Howard V. Bloomfield’s editorial regime. Despite the cowboy on the cover the lead story is a Georges Surdez novelette, “A Head for the Game.” It’s a change of pace for Surdez in that his usual French Foreign Legion protagonists appear here as antagonists, picking a feud with a commander of Senegalese Tirailleurs.



One Comment
  • deuce says:

    That’s a great post from Don Herron on Steve Tompkins. We lost Steve way too soon.

    I’m glad to see Sechi’s ATLANTIS setting is still out there. One of the best campaign settings from the ’80s.

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