SENSOR SWEEP: Pop Culture Purgatory, Curly-toed Shoes, Low Cunning, and Good-natured Fun

Monday , 24, July 2017 5 Comments

Pulp Revolution (Kairos) PulpFail — “There are people whose lives have no other meaning than Star Wars. They are legion. And now their last common cultural touchstone is being strip-mined of all value. It’s like some kind of memetic disease. They pay people who hate them to be insulted. Delude themselves into thinking they enjoyed the experience. Realize they’ve been had on the second viewing. But selective amnesia sets in by the time the next round of postmodern hazing begins. I don’t know if these inmates of pop culture purgatory can be saved. I have to try.”

Appendix N (Pits Perilous) The Methodological OSR? — “Things were approached from the perspective(s) of those living at the time. Believe me, four decades of role-playing has given rise to many abiding conventions; among them, the idea that dwarves are miniature Vikings with a Scottish accent. But back then, dwarves were more often based on the stuff of 19th century fairy tales. You know, impish little people with colorful cloaks. Look at the elf on page 32 of OD&D’s Men & Magic booklet or the various depictions in TSR’s Swords & Spells. It was all tasseled hats and curly-toed shoes because back then, that’s the antiquated lens we saw demi-humans through.”

From the Comments ( Getting Started: Stuff You Can Show Your Friends — “I highly recommend reading The Three Musketeers, fantastic adventure story with even better sequels. Dumas reads almost contemporary. But, a huge sticking point that has to be mentioned. You have to make sure to get the superior Richard Pavear translation. The cheap stuff is based on dry and censored Victorian era translations. It’s night and day in quality.”

RPGs (Cirsova) The Real Problem With Story Games — “So many story games I’ve played in, regardless of the system (yes, I’ve been in a B/X story game with next to no player agency), have failed at the ‘game’ portion of story gaming. Instead, what players tend to get are story nodes with false challenges that amount to ‘roll high enough that you will be allowed to move to the next story node’. There’s not much actually determining what story node you’re going to next, nor is there any real penalty for failing to roll high enough other than delaying the inevitable progression towards the final story node. No matter what, eventually, the rails are spotted, the lack of agency becomes apparent, and I can’t help but lose all interest in what’s happening.”

Appendix N (DM David) The best of D&D’s Appendix N: The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson — “The Broken Sword jams more passion and emotion in a slim volume than modern fantasies work into a fat trilogy. The tale’s villains earn nearly as much sympathy as the heroes. As the story hurtles forward, both heroes and villains call on ever more dangerous means to achieve their ends, knowing they draw closer to doom, but unwilling or unable to stop.”

Appendix N (RMWC Reviews) Pulp Review: Black Destroyer — “Alfred Elton (A. E.) van Vogt (1912-2000) was a Canadian-born author who is more or less forgotten in the modern age thanks to fellow Sci-Fi author and Science Fiction Writers and Fantasy Writers of America founder Damon Knight who savagely vilified van Vogt in the 50s. Which is odd, considering that van Vogt is also credited with ushering in ‘The Golden Age of Science Fiction’ when he sold his first SF story to John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction in 1939.”

D&D (Cirsova) D&D Alignment — “While the alignment system has never been very good, a lot of folks complain that it doesn’t work without really understanding WHY it’s not even working for what they think it’s supposed to be use for or why so many DMs just toss the whole thing out entirely. A DM doesn’t have any justification for dealing with alignment mechanics for your blood-god-worshiping cat-elf being Lawful Good within the framework of its own culture. It’s easier to just ignore the implications of a system that was initially built upon an objective approach to morality within a cosmology rather than attempt to apply that framework to alien cultures and moralities.”

Books (Vintage Novels) Ensign Carey by Ronald Welch — “Ronald Welch’s heroes usually have a character flaw to overcome, but none of the ones I’ve read are so close to sociopathery. William is a genuinely repulsive character, but I was impressed by how well-written he was. Welch is always showing him doing understandable or even thoughtful or brave things, and then just as you think William has grown and learned, yank! out comes the carpet from under your feet, as you learn the truly selfish motivations William has for his actions. This is not to say that William doesn’t grow or learn: by the end of the story, he’s risen to the occasion in a number of ways, and managed to feel sorry for someone not himself. But I was fascinated and impressed by the deftness of the characterisation here, which never completely breaks your liking for this character, despite all his avarice, low cunning, and gutsy determination to live comfortably on the misfortunes of others.”

RPGs (Comics Madness) Very special effects — “Off the top of my head, and acknowledging that these reflect my accustomed standards for the procedure, if you have a Gas Jet defined in game terms as a simple, unmodified Energy Blast, it may well affect more than one person if they’re being hit at the extreme end of your attack range, or do some automatic damage to the guy in powered armor – solely because at that moment in play, it seems sensible or fun or “just right,”  for some of the gas to spread, or to seep in no matter what. Same goes for negative versions, e.g., the Gas Jet being half-effective when high winds or similar effects are present. At least to my eyes, in this generation of Champions, special effects are much more than skins – they are, actually, the primal “matter” of the body-of-play, with the rules being a functioning subroutine within them.”

Traveller (Tales to Astound!) TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–The Use of Planetary Government in Traveller — “The big take away from the quote above (emphasis added) is that the government factor is built to create elements for the Player Characters to interact with. The totality of what a planet’s government is or might be is not described in the UWP. Thus, the UWP isn’t trying to be a taxonomy of ‘reality.’ It is establishing details that will push at the Player Characters and which the Player Characters will interact with directly.”

Hey, You Got It! (Black Gate) No Slimy Monsters, No Princesses: The Bantam Spectra Omnibus Robert Silverberg — “It was a chancy thing to do in a field where writers are dependent for the livelihoods on their popularity with readers in search of light entertainment. Someone who had just gone to see Star Wars and now wanted to find a science fiction book that would provide the same sort of easy good-natured fun was not likely to be pleased with Dying Inside or Born With the Dead… There are no slimy monsters here, no spaceships, no glamorous princesses, no sword-swinging heroes, and if those are the things you want science fiction to provide for you, I recommend in all kindness that you put this book back on the rack and search for something else.”

From a Certain Point of View (Tor.Com) The Spirit of the Rebel Alliance is Defined by Rogue One’s Jyn Erso and Bodhi Rook — “It’s difficult to count all the ways this moment resonates. That Bodhi is played by Riz Ahmed, the son of Pakistani immigrants to the UK, is the most immediate. Heroes can look like anyone. Heroes DO look like anyone, and this is the first Star Wars movie in the history of the franchise to date that’s really shown that. Along with fellow cast members Donny Yen, Jiang Wen, and Diego Luna, he’s a long overdue embodiment of how diversity and representation can not only make stories different but make them better. Bodhi, Ahmed, and their colleagues are the embodiment of progress that’s necessary, long overdue, incomplete but, finally, in motion.”

  • H/t to Jeffro for supplying the bulk of the material for my linked post. All I did was compile his wisdom in one convenient location and offer some color commentary.

  • Anthony says:

    That last quote from Tor is the sort of thing I might write when trying to parody the SocJus crowd.

    • deuce says:

      That occurred to me as well.

    • Terry Sanders says:

      Can’t you see it? Bodhi says that dramatic line. Everyone in the theater frantically googles the character, then the actor. The significance of his ethnicity sinks in, and the whole audience sighs in fulfilment as the moment resonates…

  • John E. Boyle says:

    Isn’t that Riz Ahmed the one who said that non-diverse casting recruits killers for ISIS?

    And who has Curly-Toed Shoes? Do those belong in the PulpRev?

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