SENSOR SWEEP: Signs of Resurgence, Male Possessions, Manifest Terror, and Self-Censorship

Wednesday , 7, December 2016 10 Comments

Pulp Revolution (Puppy of the Month Club) Prologue — “We don’t read any book here, though, but those that represent the spirit and style of fiction that was once popular and emulated, but now has waned, even if there are already many signs of a resurgence. And Thune’s Vision is one of those signs. And what’s more, if someone who doesn’t know much about fantasy (or someone burned out by today’s fantasy novels) asked me for a book to get into the genre, this would be one of those I’d prescribe as a good starting point. It is well written (in my opinion, a surprisingly uncommon thing in fantasy,) it is short, it has humor, it is exciting (and what’s the point of reading fantasy if it’s not exciting?), and sometimes it can be quite deep if you pay enough attention.”

D&D (Gaming While Conservative) Hotel Monsterfornia: Chapter Three — “They ignore the demon face and start futzing with the archway.  Eventually, they hit the right combination of lights and the mist clears.  That triggers a memory from one of the players.  He knows where they are – don’t touch anything!  He argues that they should leave…now.  The players won’t hear of it.  Much table talk ensues about whether the estimable Mr. Wright would really plonk Acererak’s Tomb down in the heart of a Level 1 Caves of Chaos.  My time on the Vegas Poker circuit serves me well here.”

Movies (Misha Burnett) Muggles And Mutants — “Fantastic Beasts has none of the ‘us versus them’ mentality of the X-Men films. The wizard world is a place apart, but it is a place that exists alongside the human world, comfortably for the most part. The wizards who see muggles as the enemy (such as Voldemort in the Potter franchise) are not the mainstream, they are a dangerous fringe. In short, the X-Men cinematic universe shows a contempt and hatred of ordinary people that is refreshingly lacking in Rowling’s wizarding world. We can be different, Fantastic Beasts says, without being enemies. People who are not like us are still people, and still worthy of respect and affection.”

D&D (Crossplanes) Adventure Conqueror King and Dwimmermount — “I took a few minutes before the game to go over the ACKS rules AND to emphasize that you aren’t limited by your sheet to do something. I made it abundantly clear that creativity and exploration were as important as combat. As an aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Dwimmermount and cannot recommend it enough. I hope to run within it’s halls again.”

Lovecraft (Just The Caffeine Talking) Nostalgie Du Geek: Hearing the Call — “While many roleplaying games have won awards, spawned licensed products and cross-media tie-ins, I think Call of Cthulhu is the only one to have set off a literary movement. The game got a whole generation of gaming nerds reading Lovecraft, and then reading other writers of his circle. This created a ripple which is still spreading.”

Appendix N (PC Bushi) Thoughts on Berserker — “The main draw of the berserker stories is seeing Saberhagen’s different takes on the central theme of man against machine. In many cases, men manage to outwit the berserkers. The entry story provides just such an example – with the protagonist doing a bit of quick thinking and throwing together an improvised system to trick the berserker into thinking its mind-ray is ineffective, buying the humans the time they need for their third attack ship to arrive. The last story bookends perfectly on that theme, with Karlsen coming chillingly close to death but being shrewd enough to test his rescuers before admitting them into his pod.”

Books (Cheah Kai Wai) Drop the ‘Strong and Independent Female’ Label — “Male characters aren’t described as ‘strong and independent’; they are described by skills, history and worldview, making them stand apart from each other. When freed of fluffy shorthand labels, they all become unique. By contrast, female characters who labelled ‘strong’ and ‘independent’ are reduced to three words: strong, independent and female, signifying nothing of import. Their identities are erased, and they are all damned by faint praise.”

Bro, Do You Even Read? (Salon) Why rape is so intrinsic to religion — “This is the context for the miraculous conception stories, and in this context, the consent of a woman is irrelevant. Within a society that treats female sexuality as a male possession, the only consent that can be violated is the consent of a woman’s owner, the man with the rights to her reproductive capacity—typically her father, fiancé, or husband. Many Christians are surprised when told that nowhere in the Bible, either Old Testament or New, does any writer say that a woman’s consent is necessary or even desirable before sex.”

Pulp Revolution (Seagull Rusing) Cultural Processes and the Pulp Revolution — “That’s the message you get from the ‘regress harder’ crowd, and it appeals to the sensibilities of all men of good faith. That message is a direct threat to the new-wave writers and those who subscribe to the larger cultural narrative. That message resonates with the hearts and souls of those looking for hope, and active measures are taken to silence that message because it is so much stronger and appealing. That message has to be contained because every time the message of life grows, it does so at the expense of the death eaters.”

Pulp Revolution (Puppy of the Month Club) December’s Puppy: Swan Knight’s Son — “The monthly selection was announced two weeks ago in order to give everyone time to read the book and participate in discussions on day one. Of course, as an informal discussion group, everyone has their own style. Some high achievers read chapter by chapter through the month, some read the entire book and works by related authors, and research the story. Some have even informed me that they use the Book Club as a means of determining whether a book is even worth buying at all.”

Pulp Revolution (Every Day Should be Thursday) Throwback SF Thursday: Thune’s Vision by Schuyler Hernstrom — “This is another story that feels BIG without needing either a huge word count or to wear BIG IDEAs on its sleeve. It’s by far the most historically grounded and low-magic of any Hernstrom that I’ve read, though. His wild imagination is always a highlight, but as The Saga of the Adawolf helps show, there are thematic depths to his work, dancing lizards and giant crabs or no.

Don’t read anything before 1980 (The Telegraph) American school bans Huckleberry Finn from lessons because of ‘use of N-word’ — “Friends’ Central School in Philadelphia said American literature students would no longer be required to study the text because its negative impact on community outweighed its literary benefits.”

Struggle Time (Barnes & Noble) Rewriting H.P. Lovecraft, Reclaiming the Mythos: A Writers’ Roundtable — “Lovecraft’s manifest terror offers a way of examining bigotry through a safe lens, almost. And I think that is interesting because even if we’re not bigots in the way he is, we’re all humans and we’re all problematic, and we all have little prejudices of our own. And when you start cutting into someone else’s problems to see how they tick, it’s inevitable that you start looking into yourself and sometimes, that produces an unsettling kind of insight.”

Science Fiction (Stuff I Like) Dune: A Reread — “A friend wanted to get into science fiction, so a few of us started rereading the classics and tossing them his way. Among the books I revisited were Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy and The Gods Themselves, Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama, Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky, and Herbert’s Dune. Of all those, Dune’s the only one I would recommend without hesitation. Foundation is terribly rusted with age, flat prose, and limited characterization. The latter two problems apply to Gods and Rama as well. Orphans is good and pulpy, but ultimately nothing special.”

The Canon (Intellectual Takeout) C.S. Lewis’ Uncanny Foresight on the Decline of Education — “Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma – Beelzebub, what a useful word! – by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age-group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coaeval’s attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON THE MAT.”

Pulp Revolution (Seagull Rising) Grown Up Book Report: Starship Grifters — “At this point in my life, I’ve consumed enough moral ambiguity and anti-heroism. My tastes run towards moral reinforcement and true heroism. Rex Nihilo is just a grafter looking out for number one, and that leaves me cold. Bear in mind, I finished this book on the strength of Kroese’s humor and writing, but as pretty as its chrome sparkles it just doesn’t have much under the hood.”

Games (Just The Caffeine Talking) Game Mechanics (Part 2): Why They Don’t Matter — “If you’re writing a novel you can edit your manuscript over and over again. If you’re making a movie, you can edit the film, re-shoot scenes, and tinker endlessly. But a live performance doesn’t have that luxury, which makes each one a unique event. Avid playgoer know that on some nights the performance is simply better than on others, even with the same cast, the same theater, and the same director. Sometimes everyone is just ‘on’ and everything ‘clicks’ — and sometimes everything doesn’t.”

Someone Took Their Lunch Money (Kevin the Strange) How Social Media Witch Hunting Killed Genre Fiction — “The self-censorship and the fear that self-censorship creates in the community has stifled, choked and ultimately, in this author’s opinion, killed small press genre fiction. It’s no secret that next to no one is making money writing fiction outside of a few key markets. But the horror, sci fi, and bizarro writing communities were booming only a few short years ago.”

Books (the Little Red Reviewer) Countdown to Vintage Science Fiction Month! — “Ok, so Vintage Month. The idea is to read (or watch or listen to) anything scifi / fantasy / spec fic / fantastika from 1979 or earlier. You can read a book, listen to an audio book, watch old movies or TV shows. Then talk about it online. Or comment on someone else’s post online. Don’t have time to experience something Vintage-y in January? That’s OK too. If you comment on someone else’s Vintage post, guess what? You’re a participant in Vintage Month. Why 1979 you ask? It’s the year I was born.”

Appendix N (Worlds of Wonderment) The Return of SF&F History Month – Zelazny Style! — “A few chapters in, I’m already thinking I made the right choice. It actually starts much like a contemporary thriller, with a first-person protagonist waking up with amnesia in what appears to be a private clinic. His escape from confinement and initial moves to discover his identity by tracking down the sister that had him confined there could come right out of a (70s-era) Bourne movie, with only a few hints – like his prodigious strength – that something weirder is going on.”

Books (Weighing a pig doesn’t fatten it.) WHIPPING STAR – Frank Herbert (1970) — “I’m sorry to report that Whipping Star is pulp, and that’s why I chose to display the cover that most exemplifies it. It’s not that Herbert does not try for depth: there are reflections on communication, the nature of reality (indeed, we are all nodes, like More Than Human hinted at as well) and bureaucracy. Of course, as was fashionable back in the days, there’s mental communication and musings on energy and creativity being the same too. Each in itself deserving, interesting themes, but Herbert mostly just scratches the surface, and approaches these matters in a cartoonish matter.”

D&D (Dyvers) How Should We Be Describing Areas in Role-Playing Games — “After my failure with Dwellers of the Forbidden City I decided to take a different approach with all future published modules I would run and try to bring a bit of Howard’s style into the descriptions. Now I could do it on the fly but often it meant that I would end up missing things. The tone might get slightly off because I hadn’t read far enough to know the location wasn’t all that important or that the current non-player character (NPC) would be a pivotal character in the adventure. So I found myself doing a lot of prep work in order to make the published adventures work in a way that satisfied me.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) Why Swords & Sorcery? — “When I finished rereading all the Kane stories, I practically ran to my shelves looking for anything else that might affect me the same way. The obvious choices were Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock. I had read both authors’ works several times previously, but not for nearly twenty years in both cases. Howard met my needs, Moorcock less so. Howard remained the ur-swords & sorcery writer, a teller of ripping yarns of the first caliber. This time around Moorcock struck me as too intent on holding the material at a distance, as if part of him was slumming, or maybe just putting on a show to make some shopworn points about heroism, politics, and religion.”

Pulp Revolution (Actually…) What I learned from the Warrior-Maid of Mars — “It makes me wonder: how many people picked up this issue of Planet Stories not because Warrior-Maid looked interesting but because Bradbury was on the cover? Remember: while there were dozens of magazines on the racks everyone who was anyone was reading all the long-lived ones. The American issue of Planet had a lively readers’ letters column, which included commentary from people like Poul Anderson, Robert Silverberg, and others who ended up following the luminaries of the SFF field around in the next decades. This is where you build a literary movement.”

  • Anthony says:

    That brief snippet from the Salon article was so abysmally stupid that I just couldn’t bring myself to click on the link.

  • John E. Boyle says:

    Wise choice.

  • caleb says:

    Speaking of that roundtable, author Laird Barron recently mentioned that there is a background push by “certain” publishers for these subversions and PC reimaginings of Lovecraft’s work.

    “Some of the bigger publishers are enticing authors with little overt connection to Lovecraft to write novellas that subvert the old Mythos standbys.”

    Hence the recent flood of such titles: “Velitt Boe”, “Black Tom”, “Lovecraft County”, “I Am Providence” and so on… all of them heavily hyped and publicized.

    • Hooc Ott says:

      Some unformed thoughts on this:

      it is odd to me that the narrative folk have chosen from all the pre-campbell pulp writers to focus on. Why not “take back” and converge the heroics adventure and romance of ERB or the cyclical history of Howard, or the “feminism” of Brackett. The list goes on…and it is a long one.

      I have a theory. Lovecraft of all of them focuses on the horror of existential nihilism. The soul crushing realization that you are small ineffectual and the universe is controlled by powers far behind human comprehension who not only do not care about you or humanity but does not even really acknowledge your existence.

      Lovecraft of all the pulp writers owns the “black-pill” of sci-fi nihilism. Which the cultural Marxists want. but because he was a WHITE MALE and he expressed the dread of nihilism as a horror the narrative pushers have to shoulder him out of the way with a wave of narrative reclaiming works.

  • PCBushi says:

    Thanks again for the plug!

  • Thank you for the links, Jeffro. As usual, the sweep provide me with joys and shudders alike.

  • icewater says:

    Oh my, I do “love” that part from Barnes and Noble link where that Kij Jonson person admits how she has huge issues with reading fiction whose protagonists are of opposite sex. So much that she tries to switch male protagonists to female in her head, but sadly some protagonists (like Randolph Carter) are way too masculine for that. So she rewrote Dream Quest from female POV… Holy crap guys, imagine if some published male author said that about works with female protagonists.

  • T. Everett says:

    Thanks for the mention, Jeffro! I always enjoy these posts, and it’s an honor to be included!

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