SENSOR SWEEP: Tedious Dice Rolling, Indulgent Spaces, Mary Sue Agitprop Vectors, and Required Reading

Monday , 30, October 2017 14 Comments

Comics (The Last Redoubt) WHY REBEL, AND NOT THE STRIPES — “Like it or not, a flag that was to some a symbol of states that fought to preserve a system that included slavery, and is associated purely with that by some, is to many, including some blacks who’s forefathers fought for the south, a symbol of gallantry, bravery, and resolve in the face of fire and fury, wrack and ruin. Of doing what is perceived, rightly or wrongly in the test of time, as right instead of what is popular. Of not backing down. That flag flew over WW2, in Korea, and in Vietnam.”

D&D (Ultanya) Twenty Questions with Rose Estes — “No, I never played the game. I was drawn by the stories but had little to absolutely no interest in all of the dice rolling which seemed tedious and worse, interrupted the flow of the narrative. I realize this is heresy, but so be it. Few things in my life have had as major an influence on my life and creating the person I am than reading, so, despite my lack of formal training, I am first and foremost, a storyteller and that was always the impetus behind the books.”

Traveller (Tales to Astound) The Expectations of a Traveller Referee at the Start of the Hobby — “The fact remains in countless cases judgments have to be made on the part of the Referee in any RPG. Now, there are two paths here: One is to encourage people to become better Referees through advice and practice. The other is to take the responsibilities of being a capable Referee away from Referees and shift those responsibilities to the text of the roleplaying game itself. For the most part the hobby followed the second path. The rules and text changed (and have continued to change) to move the Referee away from being the impartial arbiter of actions and situations during play and into the role of applying rules from the rulebook. And this has become the default assumption of the RPG hobby.”

D&D (Playing at the World) D&D In the News (1976): Fazzle on the Ryth — “Although Duffy does not spell ‘orc’ as we would, you would be hard-pressed to find an earlier mainstream press mention of displacer beasts or umber hulks. Many early journalists had trouble comprehending the D&D game, but Duffy fares pretty well, especially in how he faithfully relates that the original published system was really just guidelines. As he summarizes, ‘Essentially, what you get is a rule book, and the players wing it from there — modifying rules and adapting as they go along.'”

RPGs (Walker’s Retreat) How To RPG: This Is How It’s Done — “This is how it’s done, folks. You don’t dictate a narrative. You don’t run a railroad. You don’t sit there and react to events. You have to be pro-active as a player, and as the Game Master you have to be Crom- unyielding and uncaring, favoring none and letting fate play out as it will. Death of a PC isn’t anything to cry about; shrug it off, get a fresh sheet, and get on with rerolling a new guy. When players earn their wins, let them have and enjoy them; villains and monsters are there to be slain and looted, not mourned or complained about. Let the survivors tell the tales; the play is the thing at the table- not any pre-determined events or outcomes.”

Pulp Revolution (Bibliorati) HINDI PULP—VIMAL! — “Known as the father of Hindi pulp crime fiction, Surender Mohan Pathak has written close to 300 novels, including 60+ standalone thrillers, 120+ adventures of crime reporter Sunil, 22+ investigations of the Philosopher Detective Sudhir, and 42 of his anti-hero Vimal crime thrillers. While working a full-time job in Delhi with Indian Telephone Industries, Pathak began his writing career in the early 1960s translating Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and the works of James Hadley Chase into the Hindi language. His first original story, The Man 57 Years Old, was published in 1959, followed by his first full length novel, featuring his crime reporter series character Sunil, in 1963.”

Fake D&D in the News (The New Yorker) The Uncanny Resurrection of Dungeons & Dragons — “A decade ago, when developers attempted to bring Dungeons & Dragons into the twenty-first century by stuffing it with rules so that it might better resemble a video game, the glue of the game, the narrative aspect that drew so many in, melted away. Players hacked monsters to death, picked up treasure, collected experience points, and coolly moved through preset challenges. The plotters of the game’s fifth edition seemed to remember that D. & D.’s strength lay in creating indulgent spaces (get lost in your gnomish identity, quest or don’t, spend time flirting in the tavern) and opposing whatever modes of human industry prevailed among the broader public. D. & D. now has vastly simpler rules than those found in an iTunes terms-and-conditions agreement.”

Comics (PJ Media) Prominent Conservative Artists Blacklisted Because of Involvement with Alt*Hero Comics Series — “The fact that a comics publisher, of any political stripe, would refuse to utilize the work of an accomplished illustrator like Timothy Lim simply because he worked with someone else they don’t like is absurd, but more importantly, it is proof that they are less interested in producing quality content than they are in pursuing approval from social justice warriors.”

Information is the Death of Narrative (Lewis Pulsipher) Video Games as a Vehicle of Imagination — “Games through the ages have let people make their own stories, with no pretension of telling them a story (that’s what novels, plays, films are for). This is what the video game industry often loses sight of: games are enjoyable because of what you DO, not because of what you see or hear. Technology is not necessary to good games….”

The Pulps (Paul Lucas) Weird Tales’ female readership — “In the early 1940s, Weird Tales decided to start up a fan organisation called the Weird Tales Club, and they listed the new members in their letter column, The Eyrie…. I’ve looked at all the other issues for the initial run (1923 to 1954) and this is the only list of members that I can find. Check out the breakdown by sex. There are 60 new members of the Weird Tales Club, but going by names, at least 16 of these were women. That’s 27%. If we take Avis to be a woman’s name (the infallible internet says it is), and Eleanot as a misspelling for Eleanor, that makes 18 women, or 30%.”

RPGs (Walker’s Retreat) Time to Sift Out the Wanna-Be Henchmen — “The reason that proper play went away is because of two major threads. The first is that the founding generation and cohort worked off a set of assumptions that turned out to not be as obvious as they thought. The second is that the succeeding cohorts, especially once videogames took off and became the primary gaming medium, acculturated to a very passive paradigm of gameplay for no more nefarious a reason than because videogames work best that way.”

Publishing (The Federalist) How Never-Satisfied Social Justice Mobs Are Ruining YA Book Publishing — “If publishing houses want to see their trends turn positive, they need to look at what independent authors are doing to gain market share. Thinking outside the box and creating something different from what others are doing in the field is what defines great literary works, not repeating the same thing because it’s the only safe space allowed for an author to write.”

Pulp Revolution (Kairos) The Fire Rises — “Note to J.J. Abrams and Larry Kasdan: it’s possible to write an action girl who can swing a burning hurt stick and read minds without making her an insufferable Mary Sue agitprop vector. It’s not a violation of some SFF blasphemy law to show female characters having vulnerabilities, making mistakes, and even plagued with besetting vices that sometimes gravely imperil herself and others.”

RPGs (The Mixed GM) Gamma World 1E… Why Did They Make A Second Edition? — “Because there are no classes, when you gain enough XP to level up, instead of gaining a class ability, you roll on a chart to see what you get (such as +1 to an attribute or +1 to hit). There is something freeing about the random rolls for almost everything. In other systems, if your character is garbage, it is your fault that you did not properly optimize your ‘character build’. However, in this game, if your character is awful, it is the dice. It isn’t your fault. But, through clever play, you can overcome the limitations of your character.”

RPGs (The Last Redoubt) Gamma World — “I will say this – Jeffro plays in a very open-table friendly way, as I’ve also described. The campaign centers around the town. There’s always an excuse for someone new to pop in. Unlike Traveller campaigns that move around, the small time scale to find things and go places provides more of an excuse as to why someone isn’t available for one foray but is the next.”

Television (SuperversiveSF) The STD that will Never go Viral — “When Michael returns, she leaves med bay to storm the bridge, demanding that it’s the Klingons, therefore we must attack them now. Because that’s how first contact protocols work (In this timeline, no one has talked to a Klingon in 100 years. Vulcans just shoot first, and never ask questions. Yes, really.) In order to get the Klingons to decloak, Michael says “Target them!!!” Upon further study, the massive space station is really … a glorified tomb, covered in coffins. And she had them target it. Because all anthropologists want to blow up culture.”

History (Hyperallergic) The Rise and Fall of the Viking “Allah” Textile — “The truth is, the Viking textile from Birka has no Arabic on it at all. Evidence for contact between the Vikings and the Islamic world is abundant and uncontested, but this particular textile fragment cannot be counted among that evidence. What the rapid rise and fall of this story reveals is perhaps more telling about this particular moment in our accelerated media world than it is about Vikings and Muslims.”

Pulp Revolution (Wasteland and Sky) The Revolution is Here! — “I sat down, wrote it up, edited it, and submitted it, all in a few hours. I wanted to embody the pulp spirit with every aspect of submission, and, thankfully, it was accepted! Other than a few line and clarification edits, this story is largely the same as it was when I put it through at pulp speed.”

Movies (Benjamin Cheah Kai Wai) Thor: Ragnarok and the Rejection of Myth — “Thor: Ragnarok acknowledges no morals and celebrates no virtues, it elevates no gods and eschews the epic, it sacrifices the mythic in exchange for lame winks at the audience. If this is the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I want no more of it.”

Movies ( The Exorcist TV Series Subverts Its Own Troubled Franchise — “Mannnn are women ever evil in the Exorcist movies. Or, should I say, adult female sexuality is evil and dangerous to society. Actually, scratch that—any sexuality is dangerous. The ads for The Exorcist, and much of the criticism around it, focus on the idea that it’s about an outside evil attacking purity and innocence, in the form of a demon targeting a young, sweet-natured girl. But when you look at the development of the book and film, it becomes apparent that a deep discomfort with gender and sex were coded into it from the beginning.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) In Search of a new Weird Tales: An Interview with Joseph Goodman, Howard Andrew Jones, and the Talking Skull! — “In the 1982 edition of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide, the creator included an obscure bibliography. It was Appendix N, the 14th appendix in the book, where he listed the works of fiction that inspired him to create D&D. That list has since become notorious. It is now a de facto ‘required reading list’ for diehard fans of the game. Well, I read every book on the list over the course of many years, and it piqued my interest in vintage fantasy novels. The list includes names like Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Jack Vance, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Abraham Merritt, Jack Williamson, Manly Wade Wellman, and others. What do these authors have in common? They got their start in pulp fantasy magazines from the early 20th century.”

  • Thanks for the signal boost, Jeffro!

  • Thanks for the mention!

  • Andy says:

    “Thor: Ragnarok acknowledges no morals and celebrates no virtues, it elevates no gods and eschews the epic, it sacrifices the mythic in exchange for lame winks at the audience.”

    That’s been the case for the Thor movies all along. Read some Jack Kirby or Walt Simonson issues and weep at all the potential that has been wasted by these movies.

  • Paul says:

    What they said.

    I enjoyed the first Thor movie as it did feel mythic and big, while having human and funny moments, but the second movie? No thanks. I have no intention of seeing the third. The only MCU movies I would watch now are any Ant-Man or similar lighthearted offshoot series. They lost their mojo for me after the original Iron Man, Thor and Avengers movies, which was pretty quick when you think about it.

  • Salamandyr says:

    I see yet another explication on the “right way” to write an action girl. “Action girls should be like Brienne of Tarth”; “Action girls should be like Jirel of Joiry”; “Action girls need flaws”. I have a different piece of advice regarding the writing of action girls…Don’t.

    Just stop now. There are already a million of them; they blend together in a haze of estrogen, pumps, and badassery. So just stop. Go back to writing the stories of the person you want to be, instead of the person you want to sleep with. Men need to stop fantasizing about kick ass girls who can rescue them, and back to fantasize about the kick ass men they should want to be.

    • “Just stop now. There are already a million of them; they blend together in a haze of estrogen, pumps, and badassery.”

      Says the armchair QB opining in brazen ignorance.

      Here’s a better idea: stop telling other people what to write, and go write it yourself.

      • BLUME says:

        Its more like customer complaints than it is arm chair qbing. I am with him. If you’re protagonist is an action girl, then i am not going to read the book much less buy it.

        • Anthony says:

          Brian is a very good writer, but I am with you. The action girl concept is overdone.

          Whether Brian’s character really fits that stereotype or if it’s just a customer reaction, I don’t know.

        • JD Cowan says:

          Execution is everything. A female lead involved in the action is not necessarily an “action girl” just because she is in the lead in an action story.

        • He’s not a customer. No one who’d read my books would describe the female characters that way.

          • Andy says:

            Niemeier writes popular books.

            Readers like female character, ask for more of her.

            Niemeier listens to customers, writes book about popular female character.

            People who aren’t customers complain that Niemeier shouldn’t be writing about popular female character.

          • Salamandyr says:

            Mr. Niemeier,

            You are correct. I’m not a customer of your books. I’ve read your blog, I enjoy your opinion writing. I think your writing has potential, and I did read the first several chapters of Netherial, but got distracted by life events, and wound up picking up another book, and have plans to go back to it eventually. Despite your incredibly over-sensitive response to my opinions as a potential customer of yours, I still plan to. Because like I said, I like you, and I want to like your books.

            But you’re not going to convince me that “This action girl is different!” because I don’t care about action girls. If you like them, great. Go nuts. But don’t expect me to pay for it. Don’t insist, no, no, I’ll really like this one.

            This isn’t armchair quarterbacking, it’s a potential customer telling you that what you’re offering isn’t what I’m interested in. Exceptions do happen. I’m probably more ruled by the exceptions to things I’ve claimed not to like than I am by things I claim to like. So maybe I will wind up liking your particular action girl. I liked Sarah Hoyt’s Athena, though I didn’t expect to when I began “Darkship Thieves”

  • Much thanks for the boosts!

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