Sensor Sweep: Galaxy’s Edge, Excalibur, Wilbur Smith, Shadowrun

Monday , 10, May 2021 4 Comments

Fiction (Ken Lizzi): Science Fiction has its big three. Most often these are listed as Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke. The line up varies, of course. It can’t be objectively determined and prominence waxes and wanes with time. Weird Tales had its own holy trinity: Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith. Three seems to be a magic number. Who, I wonder, would be Fantasy’s big three?

Fiction (DMR Books): Valkyries dispatched to the battlefield to retrieve the souls of slain warriors, taking them to the great roaring hall of Valhalla, where bitter enemies by day drink and debauch by night. Do we believe this actually happened? Valhalla is of course just a myth. But, how to explain dying warriors on corpse-choked battlefields clutching notched swords to gasping chests, praying to Odin through blood-flecked lips to bear them to his golden hall? It was certainly tangible enough for these raiders from the likes of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and integral to how they lived their lives.

D&D (Grognardia): On March 19, 1978, The Journal Times of Racine, Wisconsin (located about forty miles east of Lake Geneva) ran a news story about TSR Hobbies, “a small corporation, headed by E. Gary Gygax, 39.” The article recounts the history of TSR up until that point, in addition to providing plenty of space for Gygax to talk about games.

Live Stream (Kairos): A quick reminder to all my readers that my new live stream series, Final Fantasy IV Retro-Spective premiers tonight on Geek Gab’s channel at 10:00 PM Central.

Review (With Both Hands): In Legacies [Amazon link], Jason Anspach and Nick Cole return to the Galaxy’s Edge universe. Season one ended in a conclusive and quite satisfying fashion, but sufficient mysteries remained to leave us all waiting for more. Those mysteries only deepened as Cole and Anspach filled out their universe, showing us the horrors of the Savage Wars and the birth of the Legion, telling stories about Rechs the feared bounty hunter and showing us the ordinary heroism of the men and women who were inspired by those who dared to stand up to the post-human Savages.

Game Tie-In (Wertzone): BattleTech is the franchise that stubbornly won’t die. Starting life in 1984 as a tabletop miniatures game, it quickly spun off a series of over one hundred novels and more than a dozen popular video games (most famously, the MechWarrior and MechCommander series) before petering out in the late 2000s after an ill-advised reboot (the Dark Age setting). After a few years in the doldrums, it suddenly spun back into life with a new edition of the tabletop game and two well-received video games: 2018’s turn-based BattleTech and 2019’s real-time simulator MechWarrior 5 (which is getting a wider release this month on Steam and Xbox).

Comic Books (Jon Mollison): Madmen. They did it.  The really did it. Arkhaven is dumping massive amounts of comics onto the internet under a “pay what you want” scheme, and it looks fantastic.

Confession time.  I was skeptical about Arkhaven’s latest venture.  For one thing, I’m not a big comics fan.  For another, I thought I already had all the comics that appealed to me from them.  So it took me some time to finally get bored enough.

Cinema (Porpor Books Blog): I remember seeing the movie Excalibur when it was released 40 years ago in April of 1981. It was the first of what would be a steady stream of fantasy-themed films that were issued in the 80s, with Dragonslayer coming out a few months later, and The Sword and the Sorcerer, The Beastmaster, Conan the Barbarian and The Dark Crystal coming in 1982.

Fiction (DVS Press): I’ve seen some posting on “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Ultra-compact analysis:

  1. Le Guin asks YOU to imagine a Utopia with whatever in it YOU think would make people happy.
  2. This Utopia will have all those pleasures (including sinful ones) with NO DOWNSIDES.
  3. You don’t believe it, obviously.

Myth (Tolkien and Fantasy): The story is titled either “The Woodman and the Elves” or “The Woodman and the Goblins.” It tells of a woodman who finds some overly large eggs in an unfamiliar part of his forest. He brings them home, and they hatch, giving forth six goblins or elves (the terms are used interchangeably). The woodman raises them by himself, but they are unruly, save for when he lights a lantern at night, and the sight of it transfixes them. I won’t give away the ending here.

Review (Paperback Warrior): Paperback Warrior has a thing for Stephen Mertz. That admiration comes partly from the fact that the M.I.A. Hunter novels were my first introduction to the men’s action-adventure genre. Since we started this blog, we have mostly focused our reviews of Mertz’s work on military and vigilante fiction like Mack Bolan, Tunnel Rats and the M.I.A. Hunter novels. Thanks to Wolfpack Publishing, a collection of Mertz’s short fiction stories has been compiled under the title The King of Horror & Other Stories. This multi-faceted examination of Mertz’s fast-paced style offers a blend of genre offerings that display the author’s diversity.

Authors (Express): Wilbur Smith: Why am I still writing at 88? To find out what happens next! WILBUR Smith is sitting on his patio watching wispy clouds float lazily above Table Mountain, the majestic rock outcrop overlooking South Africa’s Cape Town where he has lived on and off since his early twenties. Behind him is the study where he has written the majority of his nearly 50 books.

Cinema (AV Club): Like the toothy T. rex, Jurassic Park towered over the many Michael Crichton adaptations that made their way into multiplexes in the ’90s and early 2000s. Many struggled to stave off anonymity (see: Barry Levinson’s inertly stylish Sphere), but ironically, one of the most enjoyable entries in the Crichton-mania cycle is the one that feels the most like a bungled Steven Spielberg take-off: Congo, a zany update of H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines for the telecom age that was directed by Frank Marshall, co-founder of Amblin and producer of, among other things, Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Fiction (DMR Books): In most of Smith’s writings, there is a brooding, a rapturous fixation on doom, destruction, decay, and destroyed things; there is also a relationship between the beautiful and the dead or doomed. This kind of writing connects to Romanticism; Smith’s “The Shadows” and “The Last Night” are nigh-perfect representations of this, especially when compared to Lord Byron’s “Darkness.”

Horror (Bloody Disgusting): The shark remains the reigning champ of aquatic horror, dominating the subgenre more than any other oceanic creature. Alligators, crocodiles, and mutated fish make up another large percentage of an already shallow pool. Then there’s cryptids and sea creatures, of which horror always has room for more. That includes the folkloric creature made benign and romantic by Disney, the mermaid.

Game (PR Web): Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., today announced that its team is working with FNCPR to develop and publish the video game entitled “John Carter: Warlord of Mars.” Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., manages and licenses the creative works of novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs—including Tarzan of the Apes® and John Carter of Mars®. FNCPR Ltd. has acquired the license to develop and publish the “John Carter: Warlord of Mars” game.

Fiction (Grognardia): Warrior of Llarn is Gardner F. Fox’s entry into the field of sword-and-planet fiction, first published in 1964. This initial release boasts a terrific cover by none other than Frank Frazetta. This is several years prior to his moody paintings gracing the covers of the Lancer Conan paperbacks that would soon be found on spinner racks everywhere.

Games (Kairos): One forgotten touchstone of High 90s gaming was the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo. Gamers didn’t split along hardcore vs casual lines back then. Instead, you identified yourself by your gaming hardware. The vast majority of households only had one gaming device, and with PC ownership still relatively rare, that meant you were either a Sega Genesis kid or a Super Nintendo kid.

Pulps (Pulp Net): In Europe, the evolution was slightly different. Things never quite settled into a hard and fast format. In the early 19th century there were the equivalents of story papers in most countries, but there were also unique variations. English penny dreadfuls, serial stories issued in weekly penny parts, are the best known. These became the boys’ weeklies, such as Union Jack, The Wizard, and The Magnet, and produced major fiction characters such as Sexton Blake, Nelson Lee and Billy Bunter.

Vintage Science Fiction (Marzaat): Timeslip Troopers and The Martian Epic got me interested in the works of Théo Varlet. So, as I usually do when reading more deeply in an author’s work, I sought his short fiction first. Review: The Germans on Venus and Other French Scientific Romances, ed. and trans. Brian Stableford, 2009.

Interview (The Stars Came Back): He has written a LOT of books, and his summary of the historical non-fiction series “Plantation America” and what order they might be best read in looks useful. He expects to wrap them up with a summary and consolidation with a comprehensive narrative of the practice of white servitude / slavery / bondage in the colonies and early USA. I’ve completed “The Greatest Lie Ever Sold: The Foundation of Our Misbegotten Nation“, and found it fascinating.

Driving (Art of Manliness): You’re cruising down a narrow road when you see two cars parked across it, blocking your path. It seems to be some kind of checkpoint or barricade. What should you do? If it’s an official police or military checkpoint, you better stop. Despite what you see in movies, blowing through a police blockade is not a sound strategy: you can kill an officer, get shot yourself, and even if you get through, the authorities will be after you like white on rice, inevitably nabbing you in the high-speed chase that follows (if you don’t end it yourself by crashing).

4 Comments
  • Mike Tuggle says:

    Another stellar collection of links. I especially enjoyed the articles on Clark Ashton Smith over at DMR.

  • John E. Boyle says:

    Always look forward to your list of links, Sir; they take me to the most interesting sites. Films like Excalibur and Congo, games like BattleTech and Barsoom, I can’t wait to see what they do with that!

  • deuce says:

    That post from the Art of Manliness is a classic.

    Regarding Lizzi’s essay…I’d have to say that Haggard, Dunsany and Lovecraft would have to be the top contenders for ‘Number Three’.

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