SENSOR SWEEP: Hysterical Publishers, Minimal Speculative Elements, Pseudoscience Stories, and Outright Horror

Monday , 2, October 2017 8 Comments

D&D (Gaming While Conservative) Nine — “A wandering monster check came up snake-eyes for the party, which is a euphemism for a series of catastrophic events.  In this case, two events occur at the same time.  The first event was a normal orc patrol.  The second event came up…the arrival of one of The Dungeon Specials.  I have a Very Special Table filled with unique encounters that reshuffle the chairs on the deck of The SS Dungeon.  Some of the items are good (Avatar from Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards arrives to offer guidance, healing, and stogies) some of the items are bad (a portal to the Clockwork Dimension opens up, unseen, and every encounter gets more mechanical as the Clockwork Dimension starts to take over the place [read: everything gets a +1 AC, and all non-coin loot is worth +25% more). Well, this time represented the first appearance of The Troll.”

Wargame Life (Kotaku) The Notorious Board Game That Takes 1500 Hours To Complete — “This is the resolve of The Campaign For North Africa’s cult. They’re drawn to the game not for its cleverness or flair, but for its absurd, maximalist nature. Board games tend to prioritise a friendly communion with their players, simply because it’s difficult to sell copies of a design that nobody understands. But North Africa never got that memo. It is ornery and intentionally difficult, its commercial release feels like a grave miscalculation or an ultimate dare issued by a hysterical publisher. But its audacity touched a special few. Finally, the chance to have your courage and resilience challenged by a pile of cardboard.”

Television (Rawle Nyanzi) Big Media Tries “Start a Fight” Marketing — “In the world of entertainment, Star Trek is a major brand. It is something that most people are familiar with in some way, and it is repeatedly quoted not only in the media, but in casual conversation. It is a big cultural touchstone, and it shapes many people’s idea of what ‘science fiction’ is. Someone with the rights to a mainstream series like Star Trek wouldn’t need such measures to raise awareness of the show. Unless…their confidence in the show was low. Thus, the marketing of Discovery could be seen as a way for the show to save face and boost its viewership numbers since they believed that a more conventional marketing campaign would doom it to obscurity. However, it’s one thing for a plucky upstart to court controversy. It’s quite another for a broadly popular mainstream entity to do the same.”

Appendix N (SuperversiveSF) Or Maybe I’ve Been Pulp Rev All Along — “The revelation of the quality of the pulps was a big enough deal that it angered a lot of smart people. Genuinely angered. Maybe you didn’t hear the stuff they heard about how bad the pulps were…but I did. If you don’t see the memory holing of the pulps as having been a serious issue, or the blowing up of Campbell’s rep, then sure, this will all sound silly. But to a lot of people it isn’t.”

Pulp Revolution (Black Gate) September Short Story Roundup — “While I’m still dubious of any sort of serious swords & sorcery revival, there is most definitely a renewed interest in the older roots of fantasy and science fiction going on. Howard Andrew Jones is editing a new magazine, Tales from the Magician’s Skull, that is inspired by Gary Gygax’s fabled Appendix N. The folks at Castalia House have built up a serious following based on their love of pulp and Appendix N. One of the most serious proponents of some sort of pulp restoration is P. Alexander, editor of Cirsova magazine.”

D&D (Gaming While Conservative) In The Pudding — “I’d guess that you could get thirty combats, a dozen RP encounters, and at least 60 hours of play out of this little dungeon, or about 15 of your standard sessions. It should carry a party from first level up through most of third level by the time they clear out enough to make adventuring here feel like a trip to the post office*. It took me about 90 minutes to draw all of this up. That’s some serious gaming bang for your creative bucks.”

Hard SF Considered Harmful (Kairos) Larry Correia vs. the Campbellian Memory Hole — “Glenn: ‘Lowbrow readers want to be told the same, schlocky stories ad infinitum instead of new tales set in original worlds.’ Also Glenn: ‘I want the same subgenre of hard sci-fi stories set in this world with minimal speculative elements that I liked back in the day!’ Note that he also wasted no time declaring science fiction dead. Where have we heard that before? Food for thought: which takes more originality and creativity–dreaming up and populating an expansive, if perhaps somewhat derivative–galactic empire with space marines and spaceships; or setting a story in a Silicon Valley lab full of screwdriver-toting nerds two years from now with the currently projected advancement of Moore’s Law as the central plot conceit?”

Pulp Revolution (Visions of Paradise) Robert H. Davis — “The period from 1905-1920 was the Golden Age of pulp magazines. Under Davis All-Story Weekly was the leading publisher of science fiction in that era (known as ‘pseudoscience stories’, a phrase created by Davis himself). Davis’ most successful writer was Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose Under the Moons of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes both appeared in All-Story. The vast majority of Burroughs’ output was published by Davis over the next decade. But Burroughs was just one of many important science fiction writers published by Davis. The entire list reads like a Who’s Who of pre-Gernsback science fiction: A. Merritt, Garrett P. Serviss, George Allan England, Charles B. Stilson, J.U. Giesy, Max Brand, Ray Cummings, Homer Eon Flint, and Austin Hall.”

Comics (John C. Wright) SJW Marvel — “Unfortunately, the ripoff version, at least in the books I have seen, never do anything heroic. Sam Wilson throws one punch during World War Two, and comforts and inspires Captain America who is puking from the stress of combat. Cap, for his part, never throws a single punch during World War Two. After the war, Sam Wilson becomes a baptist preacher and marches for Civil Rights. If Sam Wilson had been picked to don the mantle of Captain America because he was awesome, that would have been one thing. He was picked because he is black. X-23 for being a girl. Cho for being Korean. Kamala Khan for being Muslim and a girl. Carol Danvers for being a mannish looking mangirl. Jane Foster was picked to offend the fans of Thor, as a comic book version of a poisoned pen letter, or a brick through your window. Riri and Mile are twofers. Kate is a girl.”

RPGs (Talislanta Incognita) Talislanta Ads – Still Full of Elves — “Apparently some people think thralls and pyro-demons having pointed ears makes them elves, and therefore the ads are totally hypocritical and therefore Talislanta is just awful (according to certain commentators) because of its inconsistent and completely untrue marketing pitch.”

Gamma Fail (RPG.Net) Review of Mutant Future — “Characters are able to choose alignment with a three way system of Law, Neutrality or Chaos. This isn’t an aspect of the game I personally like as it has its roots in the D&D game and Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories, but I feel doesn’t really fit the post apocalyptic genre of games even though it is described as a character’s philosophy. Personally I tend to just believe in asking for a player’s description of how their character sees the world and try to support role playing of the character as they have been described.”

Television (Rawle Nyanzi) A Former Trek Fan’s Comment on the Marketing of Star Trek Discovery — “Trek was always based on optimism and hope. The ’60s pretty much sucked on a lot of levels. But Trek said we wouldn’t only survive but thrive. Making a grim-dark angry show in the Trek universe- I can’t see how it can work. It’s simply not Trek. Even the darkest show ‘DS9’ was about how we’d overcome the odds and win in the end.”

Hard Truths of Gaming (Walker’s Retreat) How To RPG: The Revealed Preference is Class & Level — “Gamer psychology gets weird, but it is not impossible to understand. They want clear, objective measurements because that’s info they need to inform their decision-making. Be that gamer one who prefers to work on the Strategic or Tactical level, good info is vital towards success. Class & Level contributes significantly to that clarity. Sorted. So that’s your default unless you have a damn good reason to do otherwise.”

Meanwhile… ( Border Crossings: the Art of Mixing Genres — “The first sex scene I ever read was between dragons. Too young and naïve to understand exactly what was happening but too smart not to get the gist of it anyway, I sank breathless-body-and-broke-open-soul into bronze Mnementh’s aerial capture of the gold queen Ramoth, and—simultaneously, of course—into Lessa’s acceptance of F’lar.”

RPG Design (Ron Edwards) Knockout — “Speaking as someone who very much likes character construction and a great deal more about Champions, I can tell you this community’s priorities repel me to the point of outright horror. I’ve written in detail about the math and underlying concepts of the game, especially to showcase a character’s dynamic and high-tension qualities. It is an instrument of play which can produce a powerful and above all emergent, un-programmed dramatic arc. In no way do I see it as an end in itself, specifically a Sudoku puzzle in point-balancing crossed with dress-up paper dolls.”

The Canon (Vintage Novels) Henry VI, Part 3 by William Shakespeare — “All this tragedy, revenge and betrayal is everything you ever wanted in a story about siblings. But everything just gets that tiny bit better when one of the siblings concerned is Richard of Gloucester. Richard is a hugely fun character in this play. Silver-tongued, ambitious, snarky, and unscrupulous, it’s actually hard to call him a villain, as hard as Shakespeare works to depict him as one. The reason for this is that Richard is only one of many unsavoury characters in this play. Both York and Lancaster are equally morally compromised, and this play merely continues a mounting series of terrible actions on both sides. By now, the civil war is so rancorous that when Margaret kills York, or the York brothers kill Clifford, they do it with lingering, malicious mockery. This is a play where the main characters discover one of their enemies expiring on the battlefield and spend an uncomfortably long time hurling insults and abuses at the corpse. Against such a backdrop, it’s not until Richard heads off to knife the only unmistakeably decent person in the whole play that we feel he’s crossed a line. Until then, he’s simply one among many anti-heroes, and by far the most engaging and colourful one.”

  • Fletcher Vredenburgh says:

    As always, thanks for the link.

  • Rawle Nyanzi says:

    Thank you for linking me.

  • Thanks again for the link.

  • Adam Simpson says:

    Another helping of the controversies that make the Internet interesting. I can get through a Monday without coffee but without Sensor Sweep I get the shakes.

  • deuce says:

    Nice shoutout to Talislanta. I was a big fan of Bard Games and Talislanta in the ’80s.

  • deuce says:

    Nice post on Shakespeare’s Henry VI. Will did truly great work with the War of the Roses. George RR Martin is no Shakespeare.

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