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SENSOR SWEEP: Literary Genius, Imposed Visions, True Heroes, and Moral Worth –

SENSOR SWEEP: Literary Genius, Imposed Visions, True Heroes, and Moral Worth

Monday , 27, February 2017 14 Comments

Old School (Weird Words of Joel Jenkins) One Last Book for the Year — “Alexandre Dumas is a literary genius, and this book is a confirmation of that. It was serialized in 1844 and 1845 and there is a reason it took so long to serialize–mainly because the book is humongous. I’m pretty sure I read this book about three decades ago, but in finishing the book again, just before the death knell of 2016, I am also convinced that I must have read the expurgated and abridged version.”

Science Fiction (Kairos) Deciphering the Sci-fi Color Code — “Your mistake is assuming this is about mere comparison of published works. It isn’t. The Silver Age was about the New York clique (Futurians & Cambellines) becoming gatekeepers in F&SF, then imposing their vision of what SF should be on the field. They purposely stopped publishing Pulp-style heroics and heroism, in preference to their own style of stories. More, they waged a DECADES long campaign of defamation against the Pulp authors, a successful campaign of defamation, to where even modern authors with a pronounced love of the pulps use ‘pulpish’ as an insult.”

Appendix N (Puppy of the Month Book Club) Jewels in the Forest & Ancient Sagas of Heroes and D&D — “Now, I’m not saying this short paragraph was the source of the whole idea of class levels but… it’s a fascinating possibility. In any event, it seems clear that at least it did inspire the Titles and power-level (first via Chainmail) of Hero and Superhero. Also, if anyone ever tells you that ‘heroic’ adventure starts at level 12 or somesuch, or that level 4 characters are ‘low level,’ remind them that level 8 was already considered Superhero back then, before the Great Level Inflation.”

Completely Subverted (The Chronicle of Higher Education) The Great Shame of Our Profession — “We tell our students to study literature because it will make them better human beings, that in our classrooms they will learn empathy and wisdom, thoughtfulness and understanding. And yet the institutions supporting literary criticism are callous and morally incoherent.”

Science Fiction (The Jesse Lucas Saga) Reprint: John W. Campbell, Traditional Values — “Traditions are valuable not because they’re traditional, but because they’re rule-of-thumb engineering results from ages of experiments performed on/by millions of human beings under widely varying conditions.”

Appendix N (The Writings of Jon Del Arroz) Appendix N Is Your Science Fiction Red Pill — “It’s changed the way I think about stories. It’s changed the ways I think about worldbuilding. It’s got my hungry for more reading and literature like few events in my life have ever done. Now I discovered this group touting a #PulpRevolution a few months ago, but until reading Appendix N I’m not sure that I grasped the full meaning of what it entails. There is such a deep world of reading out there that we’ve missed out on based on modern storytelling conventions, where everything has to be told at least in somewhat of a bubble (sensitivity readers will make sure of that!).”

Movies (Rawle Nyanzi) Modern Action’s Fundamental Problem — “The spread of modern civilization throughout the world — Western or not — has made the average person’s life much safer and more productive, but that is because it clamps down on private violence; thus, pulp-style action looks unbelievable in a modern setting. Things like the seven solutions mentioned above become necessary when you want heroic action in our wonderland of guns, planes, and computers. No wonder Conan remains popular.”

Science Fiction (Seagull Rising) Devious Brains, Honest Brawn — “Normal people can go their whole lives without thinking about these things, because they don’t have to – they feel them deep within their bones. A longing for honesty and justice is part and parcel of the western civilization psyche. It’s so natural as to go without saying. But a guy like Asimov – so desperate to be the smartest man in the room – has to announce that the vague longing people have for simplicity and virtue is actually a very bad thing, and if you’ll just hear him out, he can explain why honesty is stupid. That Asimov sees himself as allied with the schemers and deceivers tells you everything you need to know about him. How much trust to put into the words of a man who sympathizes with the liars and connivers is up to you.”

Gaming (Searching For Dragons) RPG’s As Modern Ritual Storytelling Volume I — “What about us? You know what I mean. The ‘Us’ with a capital U that enjoys sitting in the company of others pretending to be these archetypes instead of watching them. We hobbyists and storytellers would rather make our own. Now, I have a theory as to why. I think because we see the Hollywood machine as so geared towards money they forgot to tell the damn stories.”

Role-Playing Games (David Larkin) Telling Tales by the Fireside — “Each session focuses on one of the adventurers and his ‘story.’ The other players take on the roles of ancillary characters from the story—fellow adventurers who are doomed to die grizzly deaths before the end of the session. There would have to be some sort of method, either mechanical or narrative, for determining in which ‘phase’ of the central adventurer’s life this story takes place: as a young novice, as a seasoned veteran, as a world-weary conqueror. Next week, it’s onto another player’s adventurer and their tale, which could come from any point in their long and bloody career.”

Science Fiction (SuperversiveSF) A (Brief) Defense of Asimov — “Asimov is best described as bloodless. His stories are much like his robots; every now and then there’ll be a brilliantly shined gem, but it’s ultimately still a gem. There’s no spark of life to his tales. And I too find his opposition to heroic fiction rather repulsive; despite my cynical nature I am actually a romantic at heart (but don’t tell anyone).”

Appendix N (The Pulp Archivist) Edgar Rice Burroughs: 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.”

Pulp Revolution (RMWC Reviews) #PulpWillNotDivideUs — “It is impossible to coexist with something that wants you driven out from its presence or converted to its narrow worldview. Which is what Establishment Sci-Fi is nakedly trying to do to Pulp. We have evidence. See the above point. Pulp and the Superversives are a very real threat to the ivory tower of modern Science Fiction & Fantasy. They have the enthusiasm, very soon they’re going to have the writers (and a lot of young, up and coming writers at that, with long careers ahead of them), and then they’ll have the audience.”

Culture (Marina’s Musings) Heroes. We Keep Using that Word… — “I think the rather tragic truth is that we’re desperate for true heroes. But we have been told over and over they don’t exist. So in one of those cruel ironies beloved by storytellers, we eagerly fill the void with remote and glamorous celebrities, while gleefully tearing down those among us who might be admirable but are proven on close inspection to be imperfect. It confirms our pre-conceived notions. We tell ourselves there wasn’t much worth appreciating in the first place, and we go on our no-so-merry way on the road that leads, not to finding better ideas and people to admire, but to the dead end of nihilism.”

Science Fiction (Adventures Fantastic) In Defense of Guys with Screwdrivers — “Campbellian SF focuses more on ideas than adventure. This will naturally appeal to a smaller group of people, a group heavily slanted to readers with science and engineering backgrounds.”

Traveller (Tales to Astound) Classic Traveller Editions–A Section-by-Section Comparison — “Frank Filz has done an amazing thing for those of us who are very, very obsessed with digging into the rules of Classic Traveller: He has created a section-by-section comparison of the text found in the 1977 edition of Traveller Books 1-3, the 1981 edition of Traveller Books 1-3, and the Starter Traveller and The Traveller Book editions of the game. Some of the changes are small. Some are significant. Some will matter to you, but not another person. And some will make you go, ‘Oh, hey, that’s really interesting. I never noticed that before, but I prefer [insert your preference here] this version of the rules over the one I was familiar with.'”

Fiction (Vintage Novels) Marietta: A Maid of Venice by F Marion Crawford — “More and more these days I’m finding I can identify the culprit in a murder mystery or guess the outcome of a sci-fi drama, just by ruling out the Minority Representation Characters – the real villain is never going to be the Moor, or the homosexual, or the difficult-to-communicate-with aliens. It’s time we stopped evaluating moral worth based on social identity, and started evaluating it based on actual moral worth defined by Scripture.”

  • Anthony says:

    Heh, I do want to note that as the title indicates despite the harsh beginning that is indeed actually a defense of Asimov.

  • keith says:

    Crawford’s “The Witch of Prague” is excellent, as are his ghost stories. Former is, from my understanding, much maligned (unlike his generally adored and widely read ghost stories), apparently because it is though to be “antisemitic”. If that was antisemitic, then so is Meyrink’s “Golem”, by that same “standard”…

  • Thanks for the shoutout!

  • B&N says:

    An intro to higher education

    14 In contrast, Seattle’s website formerly described “emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology” as a form of “cultural racism,” and currently states that the district has no intention “to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as [a] … colorblind mentality.” Harrell, School Web Site Removed: Examples of Racism Sparked Controversy, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 2, 2006, pp. B1, B5. Compare Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U. S. 537, 559 (1896) (Harlan, J., dissenting) (“Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law”).

  • B&N says:

    The Great Shame of Our Profession — “We tell our students to study literature because it will make them better human beings, that in our classrooms they will learn empathy and wisdom, thoughtfulness and understanding. And yet the institutions supporting literary criticism are callous and morally incoherent.”

    What they mean is that the teachers will teach welfare and affirmative action, which students will learn if they can remember that they are victims. It is impossible for them to remain in the victimhood mentality when exposed to pulp-style heroism, so that literary movement needs to be replaced with the pessimistic realism of Grapes of Wrath and The Color Purple.

  • Hooc Ott says:

    “Now, I’m not saying this short paragraph was the source of the whole idea of class levels but…”

    Does this strike anyone aside from myself as nothing short of the discovery of plutonium?

    I am not part of the OSR movement or anything so this could very well be a known quantity rehashed.

    Still it is odd there are no comments to it. Shouldn’t there at least be a RPGPundy comment saying “Oh yeah I knew this everyone did” or something?

    I have had trouble commenting at Puppy of the Month Club but I have trouble commenting on any blogger site. But not everyone has their browser as locked down as mine I assume.

    • John E. Boyle says:


      Unless there is another work that is KNOWN to be the source of the idea of class levels, this would seem to be a topic of serious discussion. But (crickets).

      No D&D in my RPG background, but this seems to be curious.

  • instasetting says:

    One of my Multiverser settings did have the difficult to understand alien as the murderer. But conservatives tend to avoid being PC.

  • Jon Mollison says:

    I’m so glad that Sensor Sweep is back. It’s one of the best ways for me to get outside of my own internet bubble and read new good stuff without having to wade through oceans of drek.

  • Keith West says:

    Thanks for the link.

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