SENSOR SWEEP: Scientific Romance, Warlock Spell Points, Loyal Dogs, and Douchebag Elves

Friday , 19, February 2016 8 Comments

Appendix N (Pulpfest 2016) ARGOSY at PulpFest — An Abundance of Riches — “Bean’s novel — the first published fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs — would introduce John Carter of Mars to readers. It would soon be followed by the author’s ‘Tarzan of the Apes,’ published in its entirety in the October 1912 issue of THE ALL-STORY. These two novels, along with the pseudo-scientific works of H. G. Wells and his American disciple, George Allan England, would serve as templates for much of the science fiction written over the next twenty-five years, generating a type of fiction best known as ‘the scientific romance.’ The Munsey chain in particular worked to develop this school of fiction, creating a stable of writers – Ray Cummings, J. U. Geisy, Victor Rousseau, Francis Stevens, Charles B. Stilson, and the best of all, Abraham Merritt – able to contribute such stories.”

Appendix N (Dancing Lights Press) What Would Gary Gygax Say? — “I’m not going to link to that discussion, because I obviously disagree with it…. Such purism really misses the point of Appendix N. Gygax never really explained why he listed those books or how they influenced him. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times people are left scratching their heads trying to figure out what possible connection there could be.”

Appendix N (Fractalbat) An Ever Changing Land — “A common theme in early Dungeons & Dragons, and the Appendix N literature that inspired it, is the conflict between Law, represented by civilization, and Chaos, represented by the wilderness. Settlements are sanctuaries from the unpredictable and unearthly. Perhaps not safe, but their dangers are mundane and rational. Incursions of chaos into a city, through monsters or witchcraft, are treated as abnormal and cause fear in a different way that simple crime or political intrigue. The wilderness is unpredictable, it shifts and changes when you aren’t looking. Paths in the woods lead to different places in the darkness. Forgotten groves may be both ancient and new at the same time. Those who ally themselves with Chaos may find that they can raise a castle from the darkness, to serve as a base of power or snare for a knight errant.”

Wargames (Board Game Geek) Comparing BoB to Combat Commander and Conflict of Heroes — “I think that Band of Brothers is really an impressive achievement. Despite a ruleset that is extremely streamlined–the game is easier than either CoH or CC, both of which are not terribly difficult–the result is something that captures its subject matter in what I can only describe as a more authentic way. If I was to put my finger on why that is, it has to do with design philosophy. Instead of looking at earlier games as touchstones for how to proceed, the designer clearly looked at tactical combat first, made some observations about how it worked, and then considered how to translate that into game mechanics. All the fat has been ruthlessly shaved off the design, and in some ways, I think that will bother people. There are simply fewer decisions to be made in a game of Band of Brothers than there are in CC or CoH (nevermind ASL), but the thing is, those decisions are the right decisions. People who enjoy tactical games absolutely owe it to themselves to check this one out.”

D&D (Zenopus Archives) The Warlock OD&D Spell Point System — “It wasn’t long after D&D was released 1974 that fans began tinkering with the rules. One of the earliest published variants was Warlock in the the Spartan Gaming Journal in August 1975. Holmes used this system in the games he ran with his sons prior to editing the Basic Set, and I’ve written about the possible influence of these rules on Holmes Basic. In Dragon #52, Holmes wrote that he tried to convince Gygax to include a spell point system in Basic D&D. As we know from the lack of these rules in D&D, Gary was not persuaded.”

Lovecraft (conceptual fiction) The Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft –“Eventually, as Lovecraft aimed to branch out from pure horror to science fiction, he drew on elements of quantum physics and Einsteinian space-time jargon to buttress his mthology with a thin veneer of technological plausibility. These theoretical elements added little to stories that relied on suspense, not futuristic science for their appeal, and in some instances undermined perhaps the key allure of Lovecraft’s work, namely the reader’s instinctive repulsion at the inexplicable and unmentionable. But they testify to the author’s obsession with expanding the scope and rigor of his homegrown system, his unified theory of horror.”

Pink Slime Watch (Black Gate) The Power That Preserves by Stephen R. Donaldson — “Over the years I have seen these books dismissed for putting a rapist into the position of hero. But that is a point of view that fails to see the true nature of what Donaldson is exploring. There is no cheap grace in Thomas Covenant’s ascent from rapist to savior. Every movement he makes toward redemption comes with its own additional burden. Even when there is forgiveness for Covenant it doesn’t erase the damage he has done. Sins he commits in Lord Foul’s Bane don’t fade with that book’s end, but last for decades, often growing in severity. Sin has weight that cannot simply be lifted by a wave of the hand, a change of heart, or a sunny disposition. To just dismiss Covenant for being a rapist calls into question the very possibility of redemption.”

SFF (Planetary Defense Command) Interview: P. Alexander — “When I heard the accusations that sci-fi is being taken over by a bunch of racist sexist regressives who wanted to drag the genre kicking and screaming back to the 40s, I really hoped that had meant cigarette smoking spacemen saving classy dames from savage aliens.”

Game Design (Flames Rising dot com) Kickstarter has gone to the dogs with Pugmire — “These are the words of the Code of Man. Dogs have inherited the world, building the kingdom of Pugmire thousands of years after the Ages of Man. These dogs have been changed to use tools and language, and they (along with other races of uplifted animals) seek to rediscover the world they’ve inherited. Some dogs use the leftover technology of humanity, but they believe it all to be magic handed to them by their dead gods. Others seek to create an ideal civilization, using a Code of Man compiled from ancient, fragmentary lore. The world is dangerous and mysterious, but courageous and loyal dogs will persevere.”

D&D (Blog of Holding) was gary right about gold coin weight? — “Gold is clearly much more common in D&D than on it was in medieval Earth. Accept that premise and a lot of problems go away. You don’t need to go to a silver standard to match Earth historical prices. Just accept that a pound of gold buys you a longsword; laborers earn a gold piece a day instead of a silver groat; even in a back country tavern, you don’t cause a riot by flashing gold; and for larger transactions, higher currency must be used, like platinum and gems. None of this is absurd. It’s only fantastical. It assumes that, for whatever reason, D&D worlds ended up with heavier elements than did Earth. In such a world, gold coins would be large and heavy, just as silver coins were large and heavy at the time of the Morgan silver dollar.”

GURPS (Dungeon Fantastic) Magic Item Placement in my DF Game — “This is pretty simple – as amusing as swords that fight for their master are in fiction, or no matter how cool a ring of Invisibility sounds – in my experience it’s better when the PC’s abilities, driven by the player’s skills, move the game. Items which too completely solve a problem just take away the need to learn to deal with that problem. They remove challenges instead of give you a chance to solve larger versions of those problems or deal with smaller ones more effectively.”

Japanimation (Games Nosh) UN Attempts to Mandate Japanese Culture — “Hopefully the UN will come to its senses soon and realise its futile attempts at trying to mould a culture it doesn’t understand to one of its own. However, this IS the UN that gave a platform to Feminist Frequency over, well, any other decent and reputable women’s right activist.”

Movies (Cirsova) The Hunger Games: a Strangely Powerful Invective to Torch D.C. and the Political Class — “Dystopian science fiction is one of the most popular genres among young adult readers. The biggest hits today are stories about youth who are suffering under the thumb of an oppressive statist system and rise up against the authoritarian status quo to save the day. But going by what the web-papers are telling me, youth today are ready to line up behind whatever cradle-to-graver they think will give them free-stuff and a safe-space where they don’t have to worry about free speech.”

Hugo Awards (Not a Blog) A Rocket For The Editor, Part Two — “Yes, you are supposed to nominate your own favorites based on your own knowledge… but there is nothing wrong with increasing that knowledge. That is the whole purpose of recommendation lists, which I maintain are fundamentally different from slates. I have been making Hugo recommendations for years, long before the Puppies.”

Appendix N (Ed Grabianowski) Something’s Bugging Me About Tolkien — “I’m working on my roughly biennial rereading of the Lord of the Rings— this is my fourth or fifth time through them, but having just finished Fellowship, something’s started to bother me that I hadn’t noticed before. It isn’t really a problem with Tolkien himself, or his storytelling. No, what’s really been bugging me is that the elves are total douchebags.”

Video Games (Breitbart) ESA Praises Antonin Scalia For Defense of Video Games as Left Wing Games Journalists Trash Him — “He declared, with no ambiguity, that video games, like books, movies and other forms of expression, are deserving of First Amendment protections. It was a momentous day for our industry and those who love the entertainment we create and we are indebted to Justice Scalia for so eloquently defending the rights of creators and consumer everywhere.”

Lovecraft (Lovecraftian Science) Lovecraft and Planet Nine, Part 2 — “The first real planet to be discovered since 1846 & only the third in the history of the human race! One wonders what it is like, & what dim-litten fungi may sprout coldly on its frozen surface! I think I shall suggest its being named Yuggoth! Reports make it smaller than Uranus & Neptune, but larger than the earth.”

Books (Monster Hunter Nation) One Star Reviews Over Book Prices are Dumb. — “Authors love being told that the entertainment they provide isn’t worth a buck an hour, usually from people who have no problem drinking a $6 Coke and eating $4 nachos while watching a 90 minute movie that cost $8 to get into.”

Bro, Do You Even Read? (Boing Boing) Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country — “Ruff inverts the Lovecraft horror, which turned so often on “miscegenation” and the duty of advanced humans to trample those around them in their drive to recapture this lost wisdom (and humanity’s lost grace).”

And the winner is… (Talking Game) That Hugo Thing –“Last year, we all lost. Except the hatemongers in the Rabid Puppy camp. The non-Puppies lost because the Puppies silenced them during the nomination process, and then the Puppies lost when the anti-Puppies voted a strict non-Puppy slate.”

Seems legit. (thetranslatedworld) The Ocean Within — “The Hugos are voted for by attendees to the annual World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) and in 2015, a faction of conservatives calling themselves the Sad Puppies tried to highjack proceedings. Their grievances mirror the wider gripes of angry white middle-aged men fearing cultural irrelevance: in their view, the awards have become too highbrow, too progressive, too politicized, too foreign. Alas, as a sign of how times have changed, their campaign failed miserably. The main award went to female Chinese writer Liu Cixin and for categories dominated by Puppies nominees, the fans overwhelmingly returned ‘no award’ votes.”

  • L. Beau Macaroni says:

    I wasn’t taken aback when that “Talking Game” game guy called the Puppies “hatemongers.” Call me jaded, but I have grown used to that level of partisan invective, two-minutes-hate-against-Emmanuel-Strawman style, in this, the internet age. However, I was surprised by this comment from the same blog post,

    “When the series is “The Dresden Files,” it’s a pretty good guess that Harry Dresden is going to be around for most (if not all) of them. And I usually just can’t read single-protagonist series after about five or six books. The Wheel of Time was an exception – it’s one book that’s about six million pages long.”

    Okay, okay, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Harry Dresden or multi-volume series that go on forever, either. But did this guy just tell me that the one protagonist he just can’t get tired of is Rand al’Thor?

    For real? Rand al-fugging Thor? Did I just read that?

    And by the way, “GameThyme” is an awful, lazy pun, and I make that criticism as someone who calls himself “L. Beau Macaroni.”

  • I missed the KS and there’s no info anywhere on how to get the magazine that I found. Please help, I love planetary style fiction.

    • Jeffro says:

      I think you’re talking about Cirsova. I’ll email Alex and let him know.

    • cirsova says:

      Hey, sorry you missed the kickstarter! It was mostly just for pre-orders. If you only wanted a single copy of the magazine, they will be available on Amazon sometime in March. The magazine was done except for some extra layout and proofing work before we even launched.

      If you wanted to order in bulk, buy some remaining ad space or were interested in any of the other rewards, though, hit me up at cirsova at yahoo dot com.

  • Dave says:

    Whoa sensor overload.

    Did you happen to notice that Liu Cixin had a sex change? (thetranslatedworld) The Ocean Within — “…The main award went to female Chinese writer Liu Cixin”

    Also L. Beau Macaroni; pot, kettle

  • L. Beau Macaroni says:

    Yeah, I noticed the Liu Cixin thing too, Dave, and I decided not to even click on that link. You might say that doofuses who don’t know what they’re talking about are a dime a dozen on teh interwebz, but I’d like to find the sucker who’s supplying the dimes!

    I’ll admit that I’ve given you no reason to trust me, because he who would make a pun would not scruple to pick a pocket, don’t cha know?

  • Good to know about Cirsova. Thanks.

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