SENSOR SWEEP: Political Agendas, Vapid Nonsense, Screen Misogyny, and Boring Things

Wednesday , 9, November 2016 2 Comments

Traveller (Tales to Astound!) TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–“Giants of the Imagination” — “In particular, the tales that inspired early RPGs (books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack Vance, Robert E. Howard, and countless others) were never about one definitive setting, obsessed with the defining the top-down organization and structure like some obsessive compulsive gazetteer. Instead, the larger setting (if there was one) served to hold countless settings within it.”

Pulp Revolution (Wasteland and Sky) Magical Parrots and Power Suits! ~ Cirsova #3 Review — “Political agendas inform stories instead of concept or character ideas leading to alienating segments of the audience and morality plays with predictable endings where the group the author hates ends up suffering their wrath, often with a heavy handed moral message. In short, this is what the Horror and Weird Tales markets looks like now. Is it any wonder Cirsova is getting so many submissions in the Weird Tales format?”

Appendix N (Don’t Split the Party) Clark Ashton Smith, the Beast of Averoigne, Castle Amber, and Horror — “When I read Clark Ashton Smith I am reminded of Louis L’Amour, and vice-versa. Their pacing, framing, love of language, and evocative descriptions strike me as being from a similar outlook in many ways. Both men did a lot of different things, and both men had a wide range of talents. L’Amour wrote one science fiction/horror book, the Haunted Mesa; read it and compare it to some of Smith’s Hyperborea tales and I think you’ll see what I mean. Both men saw the fey, the faerie, the sidhe as not just different, but other, alien., inhuman in ways that are innately terrifying and hostile. They seem to share the outlook of the old tales of the Folk where they do incredibly horrible things for no reason comprehensible to humanity for they are not human.”

Appendix N (OSR News and Reviews) Poetry Book by Clark Ashton Smith on Gutenberg — “I always thought Clark Ashton Smith was unfairly omitted from Appendix N. He gave D&D the Geas spell and his Zothique stories essentially gave rise to the language and themes of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth tales. But before he wrote short stories, he wrote poetry, another volume of which, Ebony & Crystal is now available on Gutenberg….”

Appendix N (Where Worlds Collide) The Literary Origins of RPGs — “Today’s generation of RPG designers get their ideas more from film and television than from books, with some games designed around the tropes and beats of a typical television episode, and combat systems designed to reproduce the fight scenes from action movies.”

D&D (Tome and Tomb) The Oldsters Vad — “I would say I’m most surprised by my grandpa and how he has taken to the game. Out of everyone that’s playing, he is the one that I least expected to get really into his character. He’s a tough guy who has certainly done his share of manual labor, but he’s playing a sneaky, Halfling rogue named Jeffro. He’s really dived in headfirst and has even texted me to talk about his character’s backstory in between sessions.”

The Classics (Every Day Should Be Tuesday) Throwback SF Thursday: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley — “Not that the monster is not far different. He’s an articulate, vengeful monster, almost supernatural in his powers. While the movies have typically suggested his brain plays a role in his personality and his intelligence, even knowledge—whether it is a criminal’s brain or Waldman’s—the book does nothing of the sort. Instead it suggests his quick mastery of language is something much more terrible—that it is another manifestation of his superhuman abilities. By creating his Adam, Victor Frankenstein may have sealed not only his own doom but that of all humanities. I finally watched X-Men: Apocalypse and I’ve been working my way back through the previous movies. First science fiction novel? Heck, Frankenstein might be the first superhero novel, with Frankenstein’s monster the first supervillain.”

D&D (The Alt-Right DM) My Last Session — “Only one of the 20 characters survived, and he couldn’t carry out a tenth of the loot. He took every gem, jewel, ring, and potential magic item he could carry – he looked like one of the Goonies before the Fratelli’s showed up and ruined their golden shower. Now they want to put together a return expedition led by the now-second level cleric. Next week they’ll take a nice little cakewalk to an empty treasure chamber littered with clues they can follow to the local monster hotel. ‘Their’ loot is smeared across a dozen linked caves inhabited by everything from kobolds to gnolls, with some paid as protection money to the local ogre and minotaur and evil cult.”

Subcreation (Ragnarok Publications) The Designer Guide to Secondary World Religions — “How do you avoid clichés like Crystal Dragon Jesus, the Evil Church of Evil, and smarmy secularist characters who know the Bible better than lifelong churchgoers? You build from the ground up—or in this case, the sky down.”

Comics (Bad Novelist) The Curious Case of Chelsea Cain, Part 2: Narrative Trumps Facts — “So how do we explain this almost immediate, lockstep reaction from those covering the comic book industry? Well, the obvious answer is that this story was essentially written before Mockingbird was even cancelled. It’s the same story that entertainment journalists (and I use the term loosely) have been telling about Gamergate, the Sad Puppies/Hugo Awards, the Ghostbusters reboot, and a hundred other lesser-known incidents. Anytime the dominant progressive/social justice/feminist agenda in the entertainment industry is attacked, the media responds with these predictable, fill-in-the-blanks stories about right-wingers, misogynist trolls, shitlords, and the ‘toxic culture’ that is threatening the moral and intellectual purity of whatever niche of the industry we happen to be talking about. It’s vapid nonsense, but every nontroversy they can make up becomes more ‘evidence’ for the narrative.”

D&D (War in a Box) Weirdo Beardos — “Using B/X as the starting point means race as class. Which isn’t to say players have no choice in the matter. They can play a sword dwarf or an axe dwarf or even a hammer dwarf. See? Lots of choices. And I’ve got miniatures for all of them. What I don’t have is miniatures for thief-dwarves or cleric-dwarves or, god forbid, sorcerer-dwarves. If you play a dwarf you get enough boosts that you don’t need any more of them from having a separate class. Take your doubled chances to find traps and shifting walls and be happy with them.”

Star Trek (Mythcreants) Four Fictional Economies That Don’t Make Sense — “The Ferengi travel the quadrant looking to buy low and sell high, but that would never work with the Federation pumping out endless amounts of high-quality commodities. Why should anyone buy from the Ferengi when they can get the same product at cost from the Federation? And that’s not even considering that most spacefaring civilizations in the Alpha Quadrant seem to have roughly the same technological capabilities. Any of the Federation’s neighbors could easily reach post-scarcity themselves.”

Role-Playing Games (Just The Caffeine Talking) Game Mechanics (Part 1): Why They Matter — “Even as realistic game mechanics were reaching their apogee in the early to mid 1980s, there was a revolution in roleplaying going on. Games like Call of Cthulhu and the Star Wars Roleplaying Game from West End Games abandoned the idea of accurately modeling the “real world” in favor of simulating the reality of a fictional setting. In the real world people don’t go mad when they see something bizarre and unnatural, but in Call of Cthulhu characters could lose ‘Sanity Points’ from encounters with unearthly monsters — because that’s what happens to people in Lovecraft stories. In the real world being an ace airplane pilot doesn’t make you a good race-car driver, but in Star Wars both were controlled by your “Mechanical” ability — because in the Star Wars universe, being able to fly a cropduster means Luke is an expert space fighter pilot.”

Pulp Revolution (The Pulp Archivist) Observations on Weird Tales — “I also noticed that Weird Tales and many of its authors were centered around Chicago instead of New York City. It is curious that these Chicago authors, without links to NYC fandom circles, were the ones who have slid into obscurity, just like pulpier Campbellian writers outside that clique have as well.”

Appendix N (Seagull Rising) More on Manly Wade Wellman — “There’s actually a lot of romance in this book. A touch of it with John in fine episodic television style, but mainly the romance is between the people John encounters and aids. It’s all very chaste and very suggested. Not suggestive, just suggested. It isn’t overtly in your face, but tasteful and pleasant and…well, romantic. It stands in stark comparison to what passes for romance in the few Magic Girl books I’ve read.”

Movies (A Pius Geek) The Return of Everything — “Oh well, I don’t get it. Though if anyone in Hollywood wants to make my books into movie, cut me a big enough check, I will go away and you will never have to listen to me bitch about what you did to my book — because I will not see the movie. Yes, about half that check will be bribe money to keep me away from the film — the script, the set, the casting, the actors, everything. But that would require that these people can adapt their ideas from books instead of other films. Please, someone, get Peter Jackson to make more films based off of books… Just not another Hobbit movie, please.”

Pulp Revolution (Jim Fear) Donald Uitvlugt, Deathlands, & Halloween Movie Recommendations — “In this episode I ramble about the fiction of Donald Uitvlugt, a new fantasy author you all should become well acquainted with, Talk about a series that has grabbed me so thoroughly I now have a weird and creepy obsession with it….”

Appendix N (The Frisky Pagan) You are (probably) doing it wrong: Hit points, literature, and D&D. — “Now, something along those lines could have been the context for that first generation who played the game. However, since that context was obvious to its designers (and I suspect Gygax wasn’t very good at explaining the function and symbolism of those rules,) many things and references that should have been explained were left unexplained. Then the game expanded, and people who didn’t even know what a ‘pulp’ was or whose only idea of fantasy was a second-hand interpretation of Tolkien started to play, too. For some people, the first time they saw the concept of roleplay and ‘hit points’ was when, playing some video game, their virtual avatar could now withstand five axe blows (and, therefore, lose five times the blood, too!) instead of one.”

Game Design (Gaming Ballistic) Save or Die Revisited — “Doug’s DRAGON HERESY rules offer an alternate method, I would argue even more elegant, of addressing this issues. They are in fact so good I may use them for a future / cyberpunk ACKS.”

Pulp Revolution (Seagull Rising) Pulp Romance — “Tasteful. Evocative. Heart warming. This is how people who aren’t broken on the inside write about love and romance. This is how people who understand that love is a coming together and not a constant battle for the upper hand write about love and romance. This is how people who accept the difference between men and women write about love and romance.”

Television (Black Gate) An Open Letter To George R. R. Martin and the Producers of Game Of Thrones — “The real reason for my apology letter is that I was wrong. And pleased to be so. I thought, based on those opening salvos in Season One, that you, Sir George, together with your esteemed production team, had managed to raise screen misogyny to a whole new level. But I judged too harshly, and too quickly. The real genius behind your story cycle and the Game Of Thrones TV series is its sure-footed ability to bring the mighty low while elevating the powerless to citadels, honor, and eight hundred foot pyramids. Indeed, this is a tale where so many of the female characters seize control of their lives that I am hard pressed to identify another saga that holds so many excellent, nuanced, and meaty roles for such a plethora of remarkable female actors.”

Why They Hate the Pulps (Medium) Lessons of a ‘Sex Object’ — “How is a man to judge women? Well, according to feminists like Ms. Valenti, it is wrong for men to prefer good-looking women to ugly women, or to prefer chaste women to promiscuous women. Any overt expression of such male preferences — e.g., to express admiration of a woman’s beauty — is sexist, according to feminist ideology.”

Movies (SuperversiveSF) Quick Review: “Dr. Strange” — “Strange honestly didn’t really get an opportunity to prove that he had redeemed himself. Yes, he saved the world but as Star Lord pointed out in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, he’s one of the idiots who lives on it. And he didn’t have Stark’s charm; he was a jerk from start to finish. Again, this isn’t Cumberbatch’s fault; it’s just how the character was written. And honestly his performance was great enough in itself that it hardly mattered anyway.”

Game Design (Games Industry) Video Games Are Boring — “Listening to Kristina made me realize that I hadn’t been having good ideas. I realized that I had been working with people who think too similarly to myself, who draw on the same cultural references (geek culture), who use the same game design theory that was developed mainly by (white, male) gamers for (white, male) gamers. I realized that I was stuck. This is what happens when everyone is the same as each other. We make boring things.”

  • Anthony says:

    Thank you for the link!

    I would like to point out that though the quote highlights a negative portion of my review, it was HIGHLY positive overall. Great movie. Check it out.

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