SENSOR SWEEP: Tarzan’s Daughter-in-Law, Quixotic Publishers, Romantic Fiction, and Male-centric SF Adventure

Wednesday , 28, September 2016 2 Comments

Appendix N (Cirsova) The Son of Tarzan — “Really, The Son of Tarzan could’ve just as easily been called The Daughter-in-Law of Tarzan. Though the narratives’ focus on Meriem doesn’t ratchet up into high gear until the middle of the novel, Burroughs has given us something that the first book lacked – a co-protagonist who is genuinely worthy of the affections of the badass male lead and who is awesome in her own right.”

Books (Caleb Q. Washington) Review of “A Throne of Bones” — “Unlike all other fantasy books I’ve read, I never found myself struggling to understand what was happening in the beginning. The pacing of new information was just right to keep me interested while not causing me to flip back pages or pause to try and sort through what I had read. The plot and setting are easy to digest while they are still as full and developed as any other.”

Pink Slime Watch (Bondwine Books) The exotic and the familiar (Part 1) — “Many people thought the Tolkien ‘fad’ had passed, that fantasy would once more be relegated to the ghetto of children’s literature, or (better yet) abolished altogether. A few quixotic publishers kept trying to make a buck out of the genre; they dimly supposed that there must be more than one way to make money out of this fantasy thing, whatever it was. In 1977, Lester del Rey published a group of highly successful books that proved it was so. Those books included The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, referred to above; but the second breakthrough fantasy came from a wholly unexpected source.”

Appendix N (The John Carter Files) Taking Stock of Barsoom: Strengths and Weaknesses by Abraham Sherman — “Bringing virtually anything in from outside the series risks creating an impression of it being derivative, since this story has influenced so many others. Using a copy of something that copied Barsoom to try to patch Barsoom doesn’t work. Only ERB can patch ERB.”

Appendix N (ERBzine) Romance Isn’t Dead — “Romance isn’t dead… never was dead… and never will be dead as long as man exists! We need it, so we will always demand it! What kind of fiction sells year after year, steadily and with no lessening of the public’s interest? Romantic fiction… doesn’t it? That’s why people continue to buy the Tarzan stories, why Tarzan’s adventures continue to be popular as picture serials in the daily paper and as screen attractions. What else could it be?”

Appendix N (Tor.com) Lúthien: Tolkien’s Badass Elf Princess — “One thing to appreciate about this tale is the fact that both its hero and its heroine share equal billing. Neither is the main character and neither upstages the other; they tag-team their way to Morgoth’s own throne room in the depths of what amounts to Hell in this world.”

Appendix N (Tor.com) Robinson Crusoe of Tschai: Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure Tetralogy — “The novels do fall down when it comes to the relative lack of women in the story. These books really are male-centric SF adventure, with a male gaze, a male point of view and male characters. Women do exist in the story, in both positive and negative roles, but given the tight focus on Reith and his adventures, we rarely get a good feel for what the life of a woman is like on Tschai.”

Books (The Catholic Geeks) Review: Iron Chamber of Memory — “Wright is in a level all of his own, wherein he brings together so many myths and legends, there were moments I paused and went ‘How did I not see this?’ His dissertation director at Oxford is a Dr. Vodonoy. If you don’t see it, don’t worry, I didn’t either. You will be amused by a Mister Drake. He doesn’t actually have any lines of dialogue, but trust me, when Wright reveals the joke, you’ll enjoy it.”

Role-Playing Games (Post World Games) In the Vacuum of Space, Sci-Fi RPGs Suck — “Genre has become a meaningless term in roleplaying games. Everything is a mashup, devoid of theme, and heavy on veneer. Therefore, talking about scifi in any context is most likely about the veneer of it and not the structure.”

D&D (Just the Caffeine Talking) Nostalgie du Geek: My First Dungeons and Dragons Game — “The characters we played were not the optimized, carefully-designed PCs one sees nowadays in games like Pathfinder. You rolled the dice to generate the six attributes, and tried to come up with some character class those scores might fit. Assigning numbers or doing some kind of ‘point buy’ would have seemed like cheating. To be frank, I rather looked down on some of my friends who spent hours rolling up endless series of characters in order to get one with superior scores in every attribute.””

Erasing the Pulps (CDV) Science Fiction’s Women Problem — “Hard science fiction tends to be a boys’ club, while soft science fiction can be seen as more accommodating to female writers. There is a perceived hierarchy of merit operating in these classifications as well: ‘hard’ sounds masculine and virile, while ‘soft’ connotes a weaker, less potent, feminised form of the genre. This is why ‘hard’ science fiction is more likely to be considered among the ‘best’ science fiction, and why the ‘soft’ science fiction that more women tend to write doesn’t often make the cut.”

Appendix N (PC Bushi) Love and Family in Storytelling — “The Albino Emperor comes from an evil, demon-worshiping society. But even when he gives into societal pressure, Moorcock takes pains to show that Elric’s not such a bad guy, and he’s just trying to do what’s best for his people, or for the woman he loves. I think this is kind of bullshit, honestly. In refusing to wield his power to vanquish clear and present evils early on in the story, he opens the door to more sinister forces and avoidable tragedy. But one thing I will give him – unlike many of his kind, it seems, he loves.”

#NotAtMyTable (Black Gate) The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes — “For me, RPGing is about storytelling.”

Pulp Revolution (Kairos) Castalia House Reviews Nethereal — “Seriously, Jeffro just opened my eyes to a core theme of the Soul Cycle that I’d missed for years. To paraphrase Adrian Veidt, only the very best reviewers can accomplish that!”

Appendix N (Every Day Should Be Tuesday) Throwback SF Thursday: The Dying Earth by Jack Vance — “The Dying Earth (now misnamed Mazirian the Magician, apparently) is a series of interconnected short stories set in, as it says right on the tin, a dying earth. That is, literally our earth (albeit presumably thousands and thousands of years into the future) and literally dying (well, with a literally dying sun, which will do for the earth when the time comes). Mazirian the Magician is indeed featured in the first story in the collection but isn’t seen again. The real main character of the stories is the setting. The characters and stories of each short are interesting, to be sure, and the stories are cunningly interconnected (usually with one character shared from one story the next), but the setting is the star. As is Vance’s gorgeous, redolent prose.”

Appendix N (Vintage Novels) Black Amazon of Mars by Leigh Brackett — “Brackett’s hero, Eric John Stark, we are regularly told, has only the lightest veneer of civilisation over a caveman core, having been raised by animal tribes on Mercury. As a pulp hero, he is obviously intended to be the coolest, biggest, baddest warrior barbarian ever, and he’s all about the primal urges, which is what makes him so cool. That puts him in rather stark (pun not intended) contrast with Burroughs’s chivalrous Southern gentleman hero John Carter. What makes John Carter so cool is that as well as being the best swordsman on two worlds and an unstoppable one-man-army, he’s also a thorough gentleman, a man of refinement and self-control. Everyone on Barsoom is a barbarian; it takes the Earthman to transcend that, to win the princess’s hand through humble service, tame wild beasts through kindness, and become the Totally Awesome Warlord of Barsoom through winning the savage loyalty of his barbaric opponents.”

Pulp Revolution (Seagull Rising) Signal Boost: Geek Gab With Schuyler Hernstrom — “That interview, below, has only enhanced my opinion of the man. His surfer-cool attitude towards the new take on yesterday’s blender approach to sci-fi is a refreshing change from the usual fare, and his point about going off and doing your own thing and letting the CHORFs do theirs hit me particularly hard. Stoking the fuel of righteous anger at what the…expletive deleteds, have done to my beloved sci-fi and fantasy is all well and good, but only as a catalyst for the creation of work that makes more worthy heirs to the forerunners of sf/f than the drek peddled by the people who live east of the Hudson. As the true heirs to the throne, all we have to do is keep producing and pimping the pulp revolutionary style, and trust readers to recognize the huge gap in quality between message fiction and fun fiction. The truth will out.”

Traveller (Ancient Faith in the Far Future) Animal Encounter – White Apes of Barsoom — “They are big,(1600 kg) they are aggressive,(Attack 2+) and they are fast (Speed: 3). Even Travellers armed with guns should have a difficult time with these beasties. When they attack, they will move at best speed to Close range and use their claws, which are more deadly than shotguns or laser rifles. PCs with melee weapons can use their skill to parry (-DM) but the apes massive size & strength gives them a big advantage. Carter, who probably has Sword-5 plus the strength bonus was able to fend them off, but most PCs won’t be that capable.”

Books (The New York Times) Will the Left Survive the Millennials? — “But do we really want every intellectual conversation to be scrupulously cleansed of any whiff of controversy? Will people, so worried about inadvertently giving offense, avoid those with different backgrounds altogether? Is that the kind of fiction we want — in which the novels of white writers all depict John Cheever’s homogeneous Connecticut suburbs of the 1950s, while the real world outside their covers becomes ever more diverse?”

D&D (Cirsova) Why Lengthy Character Creation is Detrimental to Gaming — “Killing characters will make your game better and can make it more fun for everyone. But it only works if making a new character isn’t an arduous chore.”

Books (Stuff I Like) Shiny Horror Covers From My Youth — “The mid-seventies saw the birth of the big horror novel. There had always been novels, – see Conjure Wife, The Haunting of Hill House, and Rosemary’s Baby – but short stories seem to have been the heart of horror. Stephen King changed all that. His first published book, Carrie, sold a million paperback copies. After that, publishing being publishing, looked to replicate that success. Anne Rice, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz all spring from that era.”

Appendix N (Dial H For Houston) Book Review: Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light — “It’s ridiculously common in sci-fi for the hero to use his advanced knowledge to ‘invent’ gunpowder or steam engines or whatever on a backwater planet. Lord of Light differs, however, in that Sam invents/introduces a religion. Namely, Buddhism. Sam’s not a devout man– he just uses Buddhism as a way to undermine the caste-based rule of the Gods. He even mentions at the end that he could have used Islam or Christianity, but they wouldn’t have meshed well with space-Hinduism.”

Books (The Frisky Pagan) Reading the Hugos: Redshirts, by John Scalzi — “I’m sorry, but I have problems believing that a beautiful woman who makes sexual references in front of a group of young bachelors would have problems with people not stepping up. Perhaps it’s some sort of liberal utopia, where everyone is and behaves the same, but whatever the reason, the answer is obvious: Duvall is a dude. There is absolutely nothing, except the pronoun ‘she’ (and in this new brave world of ours, that doesn’t mean much,) that may indicate she is a woman.”

GURPS (Ravens N’ Pennies) Carpe Blogiem: Thoughts on the Dungeon Fantasy Kickstarter — “The ability to port backgrounds from other genres and even game systems was one of the things I most enjoy about GURPS. I had issues with the primary mechanic of level based games, and consider GURPS to be the best system on the market. The depth of world books has been so useful to me in this process; for several years I ran a game of Lovecraftian investigation using GURPS Horror, and GURPS Cthulhupunk I blended in things from the GURPS/Whitewolf crossovers.”

Canonized (Fantasy & Science Fiction) Editorial – September/October 2016 — “ONE OF THE traditions at Fantasy & Science Fiction is the Special Author issue…. They’ve included some of the most influential names in the field: Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg, Damon Knight, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, Kate Wilhelm, Gene Wolfe…. [David] Gerrold’s accomplishments merit his inclusion with this elite group. Kris Rusch touches on his remarkable record in her essay. Equally important, he has improved the field by advocating for more diverse and thoughtful representation, whether it was fighting for LGBTQ characters in the Star Trek universe or including them in autobiographical stories like ‘The Martian Child.'”

Game Design (Defense Linguistics) On Killing: Getting beyond One Step, One Hex — “In sports like tennis and fencing it has often been remarked that the most successful contestants will despatch the adversary without a second thought, something that most people — even good players — naturally hesitate to do. A winning mindset demands that sympathy be the opponent on the other side of the net more deserving of annihilation.”

Pulp Revolution (Puppy of the Month Club) Author Interview: Brian Niemeier — “In hindsight, I think it’s safe to say that the Soul Cycle—Nethereal in particular—is responding to the same creative exhaustion in contemporary genre fiction that’s motivated the pulp revival. Almost every story released by the major movie studios and publishing houses is a copy of an imitation of a deconstruction of 70s and 80s homages to the pulps. Writers like Jeffro want to get back to the primary sources to work around the artistic dead end that SFF has devolved into. Certainly going back to the vine and growing a new branch from there is an approach that stands to bear fruit.”

2 Comments
  • Hooc Ott says:

    “These books really are male-centric SF adventure, with a male gaze, a male point of view and male characters. Women do exist in the story”

    It is pretty clear Tor as a money making institution would oppose any pulp revolution just by looking at the publishers of all the pulp I have accumulated over the past 10 months or so.

    It is funny that they “sexist misogyny” the only Tor published author in my recently acquired collection though.

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