Sensor Sweep: Symptomatic of the Field, Empathy-Free Criticism, Treated Like Slaves, and Tons of Agency

Tuesday , 26, January 2016 10 Comments

Immensely Sad (The Chronicle of Higher Education) Prominent Medieval Scholar’s Blog on ‘Feminist Fog’ Sparks an Uproar — “It’s too easy to take his blog and point out everything that is wrong with it and label him a misogynist and walk away from it like it is a car wreck. He was symptomatic of a field that is stunning for its racism, homophobia, and misogyny.”

Everyone’s a Critic (Where Worlds Collide) The Rights and Wrongs of Negative Reviews — “You only have to look over the wall at the toxic cesspool that Science Fiction fandom has become in the wake of Requires Hate and the Sad Puppies to recognise what happens when empathy-free criticism is actively encouraged.”

Star Wars (The Mary Sue) Resistance, Caring, & “Mask”ulinity: The Feminist Message of the Dudes in The Force Awakens — “Obviously Finn digs this girl — who wouldn’t, she is undeniably The Coolest — and he does ask if she has a boyfriend early on, but after she says ‘None of your business,’ he lets it go. When he could sulk or tease or be possessive or rude toward her, he doesn’t. He adores her, but is happy just to see Rey safe and well. He’s not preoccupied with romance or feeling ‘jilted,’ where another character might resent her for it. When she hugs him on the Starkiller Base, he doesn’t turn lecherous or try to make a move. She owes him nothing, even when he risked his life to come to her aid, and he gets that! He’s not a White Knight, Friend-Zoned, or a Nice Guy. He never tries to ‘take’ anything he wants when it comes to Rey. He doesn’t view her as a thing to take.”

Star Wars (The Irish Times) Anthea McTeirnan: ‘Star Wars brings feminism to a galaxy near you’ — “The good news is that our hero-du-jour, Rey, is fully clothed – and remains so for the entire movie. If that’s a spoiler that will stop you stumping up for a ticket, may you force off.”

Star Wars (Elle) The New Star Wars is Feminist AF — “In a year during which so much of the public conversation has been about the roles of powerful women, and the lack of women in powerful roles, particularly in Washington, where the number of women in Congress remains abysmally low, and Silicon Valley where the bro culture continues to create a toxic environment for women, it is good, nay necessary to be reminded that balancing the scales isn’t just up to women. It is up to men also. Men are quite capable of changing the narrative should they so desire. Abrams just took it upon himself to change one of the most widely recognized, profitable narratives of the last century.”

History (Cedar Writes) History’s Women — “Beseeching their husbands at home had been insufficient, they were not too proud to embarrass the men in the forum to make their cause known. They were being treated like slaves rather than valued, protected members of the family, and that they would not tolerate.”

Books (SuperversiveSF) Review: “Many Waters”, by Madeleine L’Engle — “L’Engle has the characters talk about the sexist patriarchal society, but it didn’t really fit what we saw at all. All of the women in the novel – even the women who were together with the nephilim, the novel’s villains, though to a more limited extent – pretty much had the ability to go where they wanted and do as they pleased so as long as chores were completed…which was true of the men as well anyway. They have a ton of agency. They are allowed to pick their husbands, and can turn down suitors if they want to. They even carry weapons to protect themselves from danger (including dangerous men). The society just…didn’t really seem sexist.”

Books (Atlas Obscura) Puzzlewood: Mysterious, fantastical woodland inspiration for “The Lord of the Rings” — “Over the years, evidence of Roman occupation of the area has been found in the form of over 3,000 coins from the third century.”

Wargames (US Naval Institute) Improving Wargaming is Worthwhile– and Smart — “Real wargaming is about the conflict of human wills confronting each other in a dynamic decision-making and story-living environment. There is a place for technology in supporting that clash of wills, but electrons are not always the most useful technology to apply.”

D&D (Cirsova) Lodoss, the Accursed Pink Slime — “Record of Lodoss War is what you get when you try to craft a western style fantasy adventure when late 80s Dungeons & Dragons is your primary exposure to western style fantasy. Based on a group of Japanese D&D players’ session logs, Lodoss emerged from a culture where the western fantasy canon we take for granted is, if not completely absent, simply not a shaping force. The result is stark and strange and perhaps gives us a look at what the game looks like from the outside looking in devoid of the context of classic SFF.”

D&D (Dark Heritage) What’s Missing By Paizo — “Although I’ve long since kinda stopped paying attention, I still pop in every so often and see what Paizo is doing with their setting development (they lost me a long time ago with rules development; they kind of took what was wrong with 3.x and made it worse).”

D&D (Dreams in the Lich House) Wandering Monsters, You Will Serve Me — “I’m not suggesting to ignore the dice if I don’t like a wandering monster result… dice fudging is verboten. If it’s worth using the dice to determine an outcome, it’s worth rolling them in the open and letting the dice fall. Dice create drama and consequences, and using them temporarily shifts the referee into a spectator of the unfolding story much like the players – none of us know what’s going to happen when the dice are rolling, and that’s exciting. Dice are the neutral arbiters of fate. If you don’t want to the possibility of a negative result, don’t even roll them. Make a ruling instead.”

D&D (Searching For Magic) Session Report: The NewBs become Players! — “The transition from new person to RPGs to Player is a a subtle change. It has nothing to do with knowing what die to roll, the rules, or where to look for stuff in the Player’s Handbook. It happens the first time a player figures out how to transcend the rules and make their characters more effective than they have any right to be on paper. That first wacky plan or strategy that bends what you have on the character sheet into something incredible. That’s the moment when they stop imagining the board game structure in their heads and realize they can try nearly anything.”

D&D (Tales to Astound) Death is on the Table — “The game play is not in rolling to hit. The game play is in the decisions and ideas prompted by the fact that the moment you start rolling attack dice, things can go horribly wrong.”

D&D (Mischief, Inc.) The WORST Adventure of all Time? — “Yes we lost a thief in the entry hall to the sphere of annihilation/demon maw, but we had seven more characters and the players were confident that they were in great shape to continue. Besides, initially they weren’t sure they wouldn’t find the thief waiting patiently for them in some other part of the tomb. I never announce to a group that a vanished PC is dead, and the thief player was gracious enough not to tell the other players that his character was truly dead and gone. He played Atari 2600 Missile Command for the rest of the night. (I feel I should point out that he never complained, had a great time, and ran over to the table when things got exciting to see what was going on).”

Every time someone goes on about “OH MY GOD THE EXPANDED UNIVERSE WAS SO MUCH BETTER,” all I see is this.

D&D (Den of the Lizard King) In praise of lethality in old-school RPGs — “Having survived the horrors of the low levels, when death hangs over your head each and every moment in the dungeon or in the wilds – is the best background your character can have. Not even ten pages of backstory can mean as much for your character as actual experience you and your fellow player went through with your characters.”

GURPS (Gaming Ballistic) Shields Will Be Splintered (Shields in The Broken Blade) — “Our Witchking could lift Eowyn off the ground with one hand, and that tends to be ST 20 to ST 25, probably on the higher end, because while Miranda might weigh 120 or so lbs, the mail shirt she’s wearing is going to push that up plenty. And that’s assuming that the ginormous flail doesn’t require even higher ST. A flail wielded by Mr. Witchking is going to strike for something like 4d or 5d damage. That poor wooden shield she had was doomed from the beginning.”

Traveller (Tenkar’s Tavern) At What Point are PDFs Too Expensive for You? — “For me, under 5 bucks is often an impulse buy, 10 and under needs some serious thought but if there’s good word of mouth I’m in. 15 get’s shaky. 30 bucks is on par with ridiculous, especially if the PDF isn’t included for free with a print bundle. Maybe it’s me. Maybe 30 bucks for a rulebook in PDF for what should be what the print copy will sell for discounted on Amazon (if it ever steps away from POD) is the new normal. Hell, I feel dirty even considering grabbing the free reviewer’s copy at that price.”

Traveller (BroccoliFest) Traveller needs a reboot — “A rebooted Traveller would be similar, with the Imperium, feudalism, jump technology, politicl intrigue, and so on. The history would change but be similar, incorporating the effects of what science might be in the view of today’s knowledge. It would be at the same time familiar yet new, and would appeal to newer players as well as making new types of adventures playable. However, the chance of this happening now are smaller than the distance between gluons inside baryons.”

Champions (The Art of Denis Loubet) Aaron Allston’s Strike Force — “These are just three of the dozens of heroes and villains in Aaron Allston’s Strike Force, the new book that details the Champions campaign that spanned decades run by the late New York Times bestselling author Aaron Allston.”

10 Comments
  • Aeoli Pera says:

    Record of Lodoss War wasn’t half bad when I was 16. I wonder how well it holds up over time.

    • cirsova says:

      First ep is there the post; see for yourself.

      • Aeoli Pera says:

        Well it’s definitely aged, but it’s none the worse for it. Ought to watch it again.

        • Alex says:

          I still think it’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing fantasy animes ever made; it’s just that the story and setting are so incredibly bland and non-descript. There’s absolutely nothing about its paint-by-numbers fantasy world that makes it stand out in any way.

  • The CronoLink says:

    Seems like the link to the Lodoss War article is missing.

  • Solid entry. The Where Worlds Collide article was mostly decent, and demonstrated that there are still cultures willing to have disagreements without loathing. Some accurate presenting of RH’s actions in the comments as well.

    Lodoss War wasn’t bad, but eh. It had a total disconnect from it’s base culture, and subbed Nipponese, so it felt odd.

  • Thank you for opening my eyes to the fact that “tons of agency” is actually a really ridiculous line.

    I mean, I’m kind of proud of it now.

    • Jeffro says:

      That wasn’t intentional. I just needed something to complete the quartet of title-worthy riffs… and that seemed to fit!

      Good piece, though. I had no idea how far the feminism went with that series.

      • L’Engle is something of a leftist, new age-y sort of Christian. “A Wrinkle in Time” itself is much beloved by feminists, mostly because the main character is a girl and her mother is a scientist. Unlike “Many Waters”, though, there is nothing resembling feminist criticism in the book.

        But perhaps it sounds as if I’m making a lot of it. I don’t really intend to. Yes, there was some feminist theory shoved in there, but it didn’t take over the story. “Many Waters” was a pretty good book, just not a great one.

        I may write about my second favorite book in that series, “A Wind in the Door”, next. Perhaps for my next Castalia House post. The main message of the climax strikes me then as well as now as one of the most profound and brilliant things found in 20th century literature. It was really an incredible revelation for 10 to 12 year old me.

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