Sensor Sweep: Lovecraft’s Terror, Damon Knight’s Charity, the Great Rewriting, and Dour-faced Old Men

Monday , 18, January 2016 4 Comments

The Pulps (Cirsova) Quick Musings on the Depiction of Women in Science Fiction — “I can’t remember the names of all the bad black and white sci-fi flicks from the 50s I’ve watched with my dad, but for some reason while Hollywood was content to again and again show us shrieking lady scientists who are told by some square-jaw that they’re wrong about something (even when they were right) because they were a woman, science fiction writers in the magazines were cranking out all kinds of badass babes of whom Princess Leia was a cut-rate knock-off. If you go just by what you’d see in the movies, you could easily conclude that old sci-fi was kind of stupid and bad and all the women were shrill Faye Wrays in need of rescuing. That could not be further from the truth.”

Lovecraft ( Race, Publishing, and H.P. Lovecraft: A Conversation With Daniel José Older and Victor LaValle — “I see [the Lovecraft Mythos] as being the greatest embodiment of white terror. The horror is coming from miscegenation. There are beings that do not care about [the white author] or his power. That’s what makes Lovecraft amazing… but it didn’t occur to him that these mutant half-breed monsters, at some point they will learn to write.

Television (SuperversiveSF) The Shannara Chronicles: Review —  “I don’t object to young, I don’t object to pretty, but I object to making a high fantasy feel like a high school drama. I actually stopped watching half an hour in because of it. I thought I was done, but maybe I just had to process it.”

Photography (Behind the Scenes) Making INNSMOUTH — “Kosar created a virtual army of monsters as pull-over masks and gloves. With my encouragement, he mixed elements of piranha and the Creature from the Black Lagoon into his designs. His collection of Deep Ones is truly amazing!”

Game Design (Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque) System Matters, But Not as Much as the Social Contract — “If the author of a text is ‘dead’ as soon as it is in the hands of a reader, is not the design of a game ‘dead’ when it becomes the imaginative property of the people playing it?”

Convergence in Action (Asimov’s) Praising or Banning by Robert Silverberg — “Damon, in the mid-1960s, had become the science fiction editor for one of the major paperback houses, and in the course of time published a novel so dreadful, so totally awful, that I could not resist dropping him a note of protest. Anyone unfamiliar with science fiction, I said, who happened to pick this book up to see what SF was all about would throw it away after a couple of chapters and never go near our field again. What sort of servive to science fiction did Damon think he was performing by letting a book that bad go into print under his auspices?”

Role-Playing Games (Gaming Ballistic) Initiative and the OODA loop in GURPS (noodling) — “In the real-world, what one tends to see other than in very circumscribed situations is that one fighter has the initiative, and the other reacts. This can change – and it’s often the goal of the one that doen’t have the initiative to make it change – during the fight…. In the real fights I’ve seen, usually there’s someone who’s driving the action. They make a series of All-Out or Committed Attacks. The other guy is back on his heels. He’s either making Defensive Attacks or even taking All-Out Defense. This continues until the fight is over, or initiative somehow switches.”

Leigh Brackett (Adventures Fantastic) Blogging Brackett: “The Woman From Altair” — “One thing I did notice that wasn’t common in the pulps in those days, or so we’re told by The Narrative, is that the hero of the story isn’t a man. Marthe is the person who figures out what’s going on and takes decisive action to deal with it, at least initially. And while she does have to be eventually rescued by Rafe, if it weren’t for her courage and clear thinking, the entire McQuarry family would have died.”

D&D (Dark Heritage) Spotted online… — “D&D is now Terry Brooks and David Eddings and Forgotten Realms, and the OSR will be playing ACKS or Lamentations of the Flame Princess and they simply don’t have anything in common anymore except the shape of their dice.”

Game Mastering (Dungeon Fantastic) Do you need a map for your megadungeon’s world? — “All of this boils down to – don’t make extra work for yourself. Don’t end up telling stories that end with, ‘. . . but they never ended up going there.’ This is especially true if you’re using someone else’s material – plow your extra prep time into digesting and adjusting what’s there, not making up a world you might never need.”

Culture (New Statesman) What to do when you’re not the hero any more — “Capitalism is just a story. Religion is just a story. Patriarchy and white supremacy are just stories. They are the great organising myths that define our societies and determine our futures, and I believe – I hope – that a great rewriting is slowly, surely underway.”

Movies (Kasimir Urbanski) Star Wars’ Newest Villains are Social Justice Warriors — “You might have noticed that in the original Star Wars movie, all the Empire’s officers were old guys. They were dour-faced old men who wanted to take your freedom away because those were the kind of people who wanted to take your freedom away back in 1977. But in the new movie, the First Order’s officers are all young. They’re also mostly kind of attractive in a fascist chic kind of way. I don’t think this was done by accident: the First Order are all young because in 2015 it’s young vain narcissists who want to take your freedom away.”

Comics (Dr. Xaos Comics Madness) Splendid little wars — “I like the comic because it engenders dialogue without making claims about how good the Vietnam War was or allegedly could have been if it hadn’t been ‘betrayed.’ Its very lack of political identity for the enemy is more than just an excuse for romanticizing the brotherhood of combat – it throws the romanticizing into such sharp relief that it can be discussed. I may think what it says is wrong, but it’s not ‘not even wrong,’ like Beidler’s introduction. Let’s hear it for the audacious and problematic, without which no thought can occur.”

  • Thank you for this. I hope the Sensor Sweep becomes a regular posting, as a quality counter to file 770. It is heartening to see the contrast between camps and generations: the generational one being more due to lack of exposure to older material and it’s expectations and conventions.

  • VD says:

    Glad to see my instincts about Damon Knight being the Scalzi of his day were correct. And it’s interesting to see Silverberg criticizing Knight for his early foray into full-blown editorial SJWism.

  • Aeoli Pera says:

    Fun post.

    The context for that last photo escapes me. It’s kinda disconcerting to end a blog post that way. “And here’s a woman being sacrificed, apparently.”

    • Jeffro says:

      That picture is from the 1970 film interpretation of Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror”. It is an example of how derivative works based on the pulps tend to have very little to do with the originals. This goes along with the multiple links above delving into how the old masters do not fit with what one blogger referred to as The Narrative. This bogus narrative does not, however, explain the incredibly stupid things said about Lovecraft that are emanating from the wannabe literati types. Those people have read one or two stories (if any) and are simply riffing on stuff their friends have said.

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