SENSOR SWEEP: Ignoring the Past, Total Pariahs, Rakish Charm, and Dramatic Identifications

Wednesday , 13, April 2016 6 Comments

Books (The Mantle) Viewing Narnia through a Hindu Lens — “I do not imply that Hindu readers will ‘get’ any messages such as I have described from reading the Narnia books. They won’t any more than Christian readers will always spot the Christian symbolism. Books that sermonize are generally not enjoyed. The story is everything — readers (of any age) must be pulled into it, experience it, get beguiled, wonder, delight, sigh, sob, smile, grit their teeth and be surprised by joy without the feeling of being preached to.”

Appendix N (The Guardian) Tanith Lee obituary — “Thereafter her career went through the doldrums, exacerbated by changes in publishing in the 90s and thereafter. Precisely those qualities that had built her career – her endless fertility and constant self-reinvention – were liabilities in a publishing world obsessed with strict category and with authors who produce the same reliable product. At one point, she complained that she was writing books because she could do no other, but was stacking them unpublished in a cupboard.”

Cutting Edge Sci-Fi (The Establishment) Why Cutting-Edge Sci-Fi Is Often Penned By Marginalized Writers — “They live in an odd, alternate universe in which Mary Shelley, Samuel Delany, Ursula Le Guin, and Octavia Butler never lived or wrote. Having ignored the past, they have no access to the future, or even to the present. Like Bron, they wander around being helplessly unpleasant, trapped in a community that long ago passed them by.”

Appendix N (File770) Justin Leiber (1938-2016) — “Justin Leiber gave a long description of his experience with teaching a writing course at a college with a creative writing program. The fact that he was a successful author was bad enough, but that he was a successful science fiction author meant he was a total pariah.”

Appendix N (The Escapist) How John Carter Is A Vital Part of Cosplay History — “Without the writing of Edgar Rice Burroughs, there would be no Star Wars, and without his leading lady, Dejah Thoris, there would be no Princess Leia. In fact, Dejah Thoris is the most likely origin of the kick-ass women science fiction is known for, thanks to the sheer number of prominent sci-fi authors Burroughs’ stories inspired. Were it not for Burroughs, a lot of great cosplay characters would never have been invented.”

Anime (Wasteland and Sky) The Difference: Anime Edition — “But I mean LOOK at that video. Is that not everything you watch anime for in the first place? Action, adventure, comedy, romance . . . it’s all there and from the director of Trigun. This is the type of show that got me into anime in the first place and this season will finish the story off, hopefully giving us a classic anime that will be looked back years from now as an example of how to do it right.”

D&D (Zak S.) Princess of the Silver Palace by…a lot of people — “You know that old TSR module Palace of the Silver Princess…? Anyway, I farmed out every page to a different DIY D&D Blogger and we rewrote it–I’m shocked with how well it came out. You can use the old maps, but the key has been completely renovated with all new stuff.”

Star Wars (The House of Geekery!) Ironically, The Force Awakens Put ME To Sleep— “That’s not hyperbole. I literally fell asleep twice during Star Wars: The Force Awakens, once when some Imperial somebody or other was lecturing someone and once when the goofy alien (you know, the one what looks like they were lifted from a Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning kid’s cartoon) was lecturing Rey about something. LIGHTBULB! Lecturing people about things is BAD in a Star Wars movie. Who knew?!”

Appendix N (S.T.A.S.I.S.) C. L. Moore and Leigh Brackett (pulps – 1950s) — “It’s important to point out that, contrary to the myth, Moore never concealed her gender in order to publish in the pulps, although she did attempt to hide her identity as a pulp writer from her employers, hence the initials. (See Moore’s correspondence in the 30s with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert H. Barlow. See also Moore’s interviews in the 70s with Dee Doyle, Byron Roark, and Jeffrey Elliot, in which she stated several times that she never sought to conceal her gender. See also Moore’s Afterword to The Best of C. L. Moore.)”

Game Design (Gaming Ballistic) Pondering the d4 BECMI Thief — “So yes! The d8 5e thief is actually less robust than the d4 Thief from BECMI if you roll the first level HP, but if you don’t, well, obviously he’s more robust. It’s the lack of randomness for rolling hit points that makes the difference. If you gave all 1st level BECMI thieves 4 HP to start, then they’d wind up with almost exactly the longevity of a 5e Thief. It’s like the designers thought about this or something.”

Cutting Edge Sci-Fi (Women Write About Comics) Vox Day: In the Hall of the Troll King — “But at the same time, Delany repeatedly turns to a far more troubling line of thought by raising the possibility of healthy sexual relationships between adults and children. He claims that ‘Many, many children are desperate to establish some sort of sexual relation with an older and even adult figure’ and states that ‘there were myriad child/adult pairings, at least in the gay world; the vast majority of them that I knew of or had been involved with as a child appeared to me benign.’ This disturbing thread culminates in a description of a sexual encounter that Delany had as a six-year-old in 1948.”

Bro, do you even read? (Black Gate) Galaxy’s Edge 19 Now Available — “And, in an era when girls in science fiction stories were just lumpy boys, fit only for holding the equivalent of the hero’s horse, Moore created yet another powerful, competent woman, fully the equal of Jirel — the memorable Juille, who rebels against a rebellion.”

Role-Playing Games (A Pius Geek) DragonCon Report, Day 3: All Butcher, All Day — “You have to realize, for every Dresden book, I have rewrites, beta readers, editors, line editors, and a final copy. By the time I’m done, I’ve gone through seven to nine variations on the book, and fans only get the one final version. So you probably know some of this stuff better than I do. In fact, the guy who made the RPG actually found some stuff I had planted in book one, and I asked him not to write it down, otherwise it would give stuff away in the later novels… he was creepy good about finding those details.”

Lovecraft (S. T. Joshi) Reply to Charles Baxter’s “The Hideous Unknown of H. P. Lovecraft” — “There is also little indication of Mr. Baxter’s familiarity with the tradition of ‘weird fiction’ (Lovecraft’s felicitous term) in which Lovecraft was working—a tradition that stretches back to the Gothic novelists and Poe and progresses through Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James, Walter de la Mare, L. P. Hartley, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson, William Peter Blatty, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Thomas Ligotti, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Laird Barron, and many others. Lovecraft is at the focal point of this genre, drawing upon the best that preceded him and fueling much of the work that followed in his wake.”

Star Wars (Taylor Leigh Books) Is Star Wars Becoming the New “GamerGate”? — “People like their fandoms. People don’t want agenda pushed on their fandoms. People complain about that. SJWs scream at them for being racist/homophobic/sexist. Are they? No. The vast majority of people aren’t. Are there a few idiots out there who really have a problem with Jyn? Probably. But they’re so small it’s not worth mentioning. What they’re sick of is the agenda. We don’t want to admit it, but the main character is female simply because they know it’ll make SJWs happy and antagonistic towards the rest of us. And we’re already seeing it. What SJWs don’t understand is that these people don’t care that the lead is female. They care that the lead HAS to be female. Storytelling in Star Wars is becoming less about stories and more about making those people who actually diversity count happy.”

Appendix N (Tor.com) Heredity, Environment, and a Few Dead Lions: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes — “At this point, many of you might be thinking that this is quite enough plot, what with mutinies, fighting apes, lion attacks, abductions, massacres, French lessons, and making out and so on. You guys are not Burroughs, who, far from ending there, threw in fingerprinting, evil suitors, ocean journeys, more lions, a forest fire in Wisconsin, pirate gold, blackmail and of course the revelation that the OTHER HEIR TO THE EARLDOM OF GREYSTOKE is also Tarzan’s RIVAL IN LOVE because if there’s one thing this novel can’t get enough of, besides burning kisses, lions, and fight scenes, it’s coincidence.”

Appendix N (Tor.com)  The Great Classic Fantasy Reread: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin — “In any case, the light in the cavern: what could have been banal—the story of a worldly young man teaching a sheltered, religious creature about her sensuality and desires—is of too many dimensions to be contained within the bounds of such a banal interpretation. For one thing, Ged never displays that quality so prized in romances of that sort—rakish charm. Throughout, the quality most prominently on display from Ged is one that’s much less romantic, yet of surpassing value: decency. He does not charm his way into the heart of Tenar; he is, truly, that light in the caverns, and his purpose is not to illuminate his own good qualities, but hers. He acts in humble deference to her journey and transformation. What he brings out in Tenar is not sexual attraction, but an instinct for goodness and decency that had been buried in the stagnant death games of the Tombs.”

Role-Playing Games (Dark Heritage) Druids in Dark Heritage — “I imagine druids as being almost feral creatures who run naked through the woods, kill (and eat) trespassers with their bare hands and teeth. run in packs not unlike wolves (and occasionally gather for various reasons, not unlike grizzles at a salmon run) who are so completely and thoroughly hostile to any form of civilization that they make the massacre of the XVII, XVIII and XIX legions look like a friendly rebuke.”

Movies (A Pius Geek) Spectre: a review — “Every Bond film has had the villain explain, in perfect detail, exactly what his intentions are, with a fairly good description of the how and why of it. Sure, the plots were insane, but they usually at least tried to spell out what the hell they were doing, why they were doing it, and what they hoped to achieve with it. Whether or not it was creating a Utopia on a Bioshock-like underwater city (or a space station), start a nuclear war, or hold the world hostage in exchange for amnesty, the scriptwriters tried, damnit. This? Oh, Blofeld has daddy issues, and he’s going to take over the worlds’ intelligence networks. Is he going to use it to become rich and powerful? No idea. Even Hans Gruber is a better super villain than this.”

Appendix N (Independent) If you’re a male geek who acts out macho sexist fantasies with video games, you’ve become a mainstream jock — “From Conan the Barbarian to Geralt of Rivia, the stereotypical ‘hero’ of geek culture is a muscular man with a sword who kills things and in return gains fame, fortune and the adoration of women.”

Role-Playing Games (Bundle of Holding) Radium-powered adventure a la Burroughs, Brackett, and Flash Gordon — “Rocket Age is throttled-up rocket packs on the long blast to the farthest reaches of the Solar System. It’s thunder lizards in the upland jungles of Venus. It’s Ancient Martian killing machines piloted by the Deutsche Marskorps across the baking red deserts of Mars. It’s the deadly skies of Jupiter under the constant threat of Europan disintegration. It’s RAY gun-wielding heroes targeting mutants in the blasted ruins of Io. Rocket Age is Cubicle 7’s radium-powered game line of interplanetary adventure.”

Cutting Edge Sci-Fi (Science Fiction Studies) Closed Systems Kill: An Interview with Suzy McKee Charnas — “Eventually, when asked to produce a story for George R.R. Martin’s volume of New Voices (stories by John W. Campbell Award nominees), I wrote my first short story in the form of a miniature space opera set on a world settled by the descendants of Nigerian market women. So you could say that Africa equipped me, as a white American woman, to write about space and the future as inhabited by more kinds of people than just smart white guys doing imaginary techno speak at each other. In fact, after Africa, there was no way I could even read that kind of thing with a straight face, so for a longish spell I stopped reading sf altogether because so much of it seemed so incredibly narrow that way (and other ways, too).”

Movies (Kairos) Is Galaxy Quest Superversive? — “Fans at a major Star Trek convention ranked Galaxy Quest the seventh best film in the series, and that was only because of backroom politicking that bumped Quest down from its starting position in second place. Key members of the creative team who’ve worked on Star Trek movies since The Voyage Home declared that it deserved to be #1.”

Role-Playing Games (The Tao of D&D) Extra Fiddly Details — “There is an important moment of uncertainty and unease when a character is told to make a saving throw. I never tell characters what their saving throw is for or what they have to roll. If possible, I like to wait until the roll is made before looking it up. The saving throws are on my wiki, so anyone CAN look them up, but since they often don’t know what they’re making a saving throw for (as the attack is hitting them from the dark, as it were) this isn’t always helpful. Why do I do this? The same reason the camera takes time to pan from left to right when we’re introduced to the main character. TIME is relevant. TIME creates drama. A pause is one of the most important dramatic identifications – and when you eliminate that time by having the player know in advance that a 13 will save their life, the player rolls the dice and knows before there is time to create anything, much less drama.”

Game Mastering (The Tao of D&D)  Magicians and DMs — “Where it comes to role-playing, it has to be noted that the standard practice of writing a mystery is turned on its head. While in a novel, the writer and the character are the same person – so that the character can be pushed in the right direction to make sure the clues are discovered – in an RPG the DM and the character are NOT. The character is someone completely ignorant . . . and that pushes the DM to use a heavy hand, occasionally, when the players aren’t: a) learning the right clues; or b) interpreting them very different than the way they are meant to be interpreted. This latter reason is likely why your last attempt at a mystery campaign failed. Your players are not Hercule Poirot. They won’t ‘conveniently’ understood the clue that has been carefully ‘worked backwards’ by the plottist – rather, they will overthink it, massively underrate it or overrate it, and in short order make a ghastly mess of the mystery they’re supposed to solve.”

6 Comments
  • Ok. After reading the Tor piece on Tarzan, the tranny’s piece on Vox, and the Establishment piece, I am very grateful for the sanity here and from Declann Finn, and some of Mad Genius Club.

    Now to read a little of Mr. Wright to restore sanity. My imbecele intake for the day has been exceeded.

    • Jeffro says:

      Oh yeah. Definitely check Declann Finn every day– right after cruising MGC and the ELoE. We really could use another half dozen blogs in that vein, though…!

  • Jill says:

    Good Lord. Can I poke my eyes with hot needles now? Does Day condone the murder of teenagers? No! He merely points to a historically recognized phenomenon: those whose heinous crimes are inspired by correcting the evils of today become the heroes of tomorrow. Madness inspires madness in order to over-correct.

  • James Sullivan says:

    That Dark Heritage piece about Druids was awesome. A whole campaign idea sprang to mind when I read.

  • Daniel says:

    That Leiber cover looks a lot like the one for the SFWA trade magazine that got everyone fired. Crazy.

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