Sensor Sweep: The Searchers, Disney Failures, Henchmen

Monday , 19, April 2021 4 Comments

Video Games (Wasteland & Sky): Both the ’00s and the ’10s are two of the most creatively stagnant decades, and it says a lot that there has never been a nostalgia movement for them when the current wave for the ’80s and ’90s has never really stopped since the latter decade ended. Be all accounts we should have had ’00s decade back in the ’10s . . . but that never happened. It never will.

Fiction (Goodman Games): Growing up I lacked access to sword-and-sorcery fiction. Stories of muscled barbarians and curvaceous women clinging to mighty thews were available only in drugstore wire-spinners or in the adult section of the local public library. Both were sadly out of reach of my meager allowance and the limited access afforded by my juvenile library card. If it didn’t exist in the elementary school library, or on my parents’ modest bookshelves, I wasn’t reading it.

Cinema (Unz.com): Who is Ethan Edwards? He is a warrior and a wanderer in wild spaces: the space between warring civilizations and the space between civilization and savagery. He lives in the state of nature, not civil society. In the state of nature, there is no overarching power to enforce the peace, so a man needs to know how to protect himself. Thus Ethan knows how to thread his way between hostile peoples, negotiate treaties with enemies, strike bargains with crooks, and deploy both trickery and violence in a fight.

Disney (Arkhaven Comics): Disney knows what it wants and what it wants isn’t you. After a year of doing nothing but studying all the stuff that Twitter and Tumblr users are gaga about, Disney’s ABC has boldly announced its plan for failure. Here is a letter that Exec vp for development and content strategy, Simran Sethi sent to all of ABC:

Appendix N (The Last Redoubt):

Fiction (Men of the West): Why does woke writing fail? And why do we only respond, as a civilization, to male heroes and strong women who love male heroes? The answer is both simpler and more complex than anyone has pointed out recently, and yet, if this simple truth were understood, Disney could make a killing with every single movie, and the Big Five could quit losing their shirts over every new woke book.

Disney (Kairos): Spend any amount of time studying history, and you’ll soon find it rarely follows a straight path. The past takes all kinds of twists, turns, and switchbacks from one event to the next. This phenomenon makes no exception for movie history. It’s unimaginable now that Disney has become the world’s dominant cultural force, but back in the early 80s, the Mouse was on the ropes.

Appendix N (The Last Redoubt): DMR recently published two reviews of Bugman’s Appendix N, one strongly taking the stance that the new one fatally misunderstands what it is dealing with, and not worthy of even beaing a torchbearing peasant to Jeffro’s work, the other, kindly, being best described as “damned by faint praise.” What nevertheless sticks in my craw, is something almost pointed out, but not critiqued, in the “positive” review.

Fiction (Wasteland & Sky): For those in the mood for more classic sword and sorcery, you should definitely look into the recent Renegade Swords series by DMR Books. Inside you will find reprints of classic stories that have been neglected over time. Today I would like to present to you the recent second instalment which has the exact sword of action and wonder you are looking for. If you are unfamiliar with the genre, this is the place to start your journey into it.

Tolkien (The Wert Zone): The Hollywood Reporter has indicated that the upcoming Lord of the Rings prequel TV series, The Second Age*, has cost almost half a billion dollars so far. In fact, they put the figure at $465 million.

Fiction (Pulp Rev): There’s a good deal of discussion these days about how much “wokeness” has permeated virtually every aspect of popular entertainment. Indeed, the political messaging in movies and television is often so crude and ham-fisted that even the most slow-witted and unaware consumer cannot fail but notice it. Fortunately, most of the people who write these stories are as inept as propagandists as they are as story tellers. But that’s not always the case.

Fiction (Goodman Games): The army features knights and men-at-arms and longbowmen and the various other components of a Medieval host…but it certainly doesn’t have anything to match the likes of the Wersgorix. Alien invaders, the Wersgorix fall from the sky in the midst of Ansby in an enormous chrome ship bristling with weapons. They have anti-gravity, beam cannons, force screens, flame guns, sophisticated communications and mapping technologies and the will to use them — for the Wersgorix are the overlords of an enormous galactic empire that makes a habit of finding new worlds, exterminating or enslaving their populations, and installing new Wersgor masters in their place.

OSR (Grognardia): I must confess it still baffles me that, even after all these years, the nature of the Old School Renaissance remains a matter of contention in some quarters. Given that, I suppose it should be no surprise that there’s no universally accepted start date for the OSR, though I think a good case can be made for 2007 or 2008.

Fiction (Brain Leakage): That’s the introduction Leigh Brackett wrote for Keith Bennett’s “The Rocketeers Have Shaggy Ears,” a short she personally selected for inclusion in The Best of Planet Stories #1. The latter was a reprint paperback anthology she edited in 1975 for Random House, paying tribute to the all-stars of the magazine that earned her the nickname, “The Queen of Space Opera.” Under Brackett’s editorial eye, Bennett’s tale joined stories by such Golden Age heavy hitters as Poul Anderson, Frederick Brown and a young Ray Bradbury, not to mention Brackett herself.

Art (Geeky Nerf Herder): Showcasing art from some of my favourite artists in the field of visual arts, including vintage; pulp; pop culture; books and comics; concert posters; fantastical and imaginative realism; classical; contemporary; new contemporary; pop surrealism; conceptual and illustration.

The art of Ken Barr.

History (DMR Books): Burton published his long poetic work, The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi: A Lay of the Higher Law, in 1880. It presented his agnostic/unitarian view of theology, albeit at third remove. The Kasidah was purportedly written by the titular ‘Abdu El-Yezdi’ and translated by one ‘Frank Baker’–‘Baker’ being Richard’s mother’s maiden name. It sold poorly at the time, but went through multiple editions during the early twentieth century. It remains in print to this day.

RPG (Monsters and Manuals): Making a game of D&D work has a lot to do with the DM making decisions about what would be reasonable. Can my character do [x], where [x] refers to persuading somebody of something, telling a convincing lie, pulling off a neat combat move, reacting suddenly to an unexpected event, ducking behind that pile of crates, tugging a potion out of his backpack while simultaneously backing away from the dragon, or any of the other infinite number of things that a player will want to do in-game which aren’t covered explicitly by the rules?

Fiction (Fantasy Literature): Following the release of John Taine’s four-part, serialized novel The Time Stream, which wrapped up in the March 1932 issue of Wonder Stories, fans of the Scottish-born author would have to wait a good 27 months for any more sci-fi product from him. But fans of the Taine alter ego, and the wondrous nine novels that had thus far been the product of his abundant imagination, were eventually rewarded in June ’34, with the release of Taine’s 10th novel (out of an eventual 16), Before the Dawn.

Fiction (Old Style Tales): Swine feature prominently as villains and motifs in Hodgson. Sometimes they are antagonists outright, othertimes they are instruments of the plot, or used to describe the attributes of Hodgson’s horrors (more simply put, they are either monsters, victims of monsters, or used to describe monsters). This is most prominently featured in “The House on the Borderland,” where a lonely man is besieged by porcine demons, his house accidentally having been built on a soft spot in the fabric between the natural and supernatural worlds. Those devils are extremely similar in form, character, and motive to those which haunt Carnacki’s client in “The Hog.”

Lovecraft (DMR Books): Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890–1937) was, like that looming spectre of his written works, a master of the Weird, and his driving focus without a doubt was to whet his tools of Cosmicism, which had given rise to his hallmark style, one to which Genre savants of this modern-day might refer as “Lovecraftian Horror.” But Lovecraft’s writings are much closer to the Gothic, to a sort of foundational vein of Gothic Fiction, closer than has been attested to in bookish spheres of the mainstream, amongst the prosaic zeitgeist of modern society, in spheres of everyday pop culture, and perchance even in deeper literary circles.

Fiction (M. Porcius): I lived in Columbus, Ohio a while and somehow three years later I can still use the Grandview Heights Public Library hoopla system to borrow e-books for free.  So it is with ease that I can read on my phone or laptop stories by Clark Ashton Smith from 2006’s The End of the Story: Volume One of The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith.  All of these stories originally appeared in Weird Tales in 1930 or 1931, but it is perhaps worthwhile to read them in this 21st-century book because the people who put it together have endeavored to make sure the texts in it represent as close as is possible Smith’s intent.

Cinema (We are the Mutants): King Kong vs. Godzilla is perhaps the best remembered of the Shōwa-era Godzilla movies, after the original Godzilla. The first time either creature would be seen in color, it remains the most successful and popular Godzilla movie to this day, in terms of ticket sales at least, perhaps due to the way in which it was marketed—almost like a high-stakes boxing match or wrestling bout. The genius of its combination of two iconic monsters at a time when both of them still remained fearful beasts, rather than comic or heroic figures, was powerful enough for the movie to remain a genre high-water mark for years to come.

RPG (Grognardia): If anyone ever doubts the importance of henchmen, let him contend with this statement. What I find most interesting here are two things. First, Gygax says that henchmen are “greatly desired by the discerning players,” not characters. It’s possible that is simply a casual conflation of player for player character that can sometimes be found in early RPG writing – it happens a lot in Empire of the Petal Throne, for example –  I’m not wholly convinced of that. Gygax was very interested in “skillful” play and regularly stated that D&D (and RPGs more generally) was something at which one could become better with time and practice.

History (Frontier Partisans): Today, April 16, 2021, marks the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden Moor, where the last great Jacobite uprising was crushed in a mighty slaughter of the warriors of the Highland Clans. Their defeat there at the hands of the Duke of Cumberland marked the end of the movement to restore the Stuart dynasty to the British throne, a movement that had flared and guttered repeatedly since James II was run out of England in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

4 Comments
  • Fractal Rabbit says:

    That PulpRev piece by James Buck is excellent. I used to be a fan of another BBC series, ‘New Tricks’, back before I understood wokeness and such. Looking back, its easy to see the same manipulations at work in that series as well.

    • deuce says:

      I’ll be damned. I’ve been commenting for awhile thinking that CHEAH was writing all of those PULPREV posts! He’s been writing a few recent ones, but Buck and Walker have stepped up. Good for them! The PULPREV blog is righteous and needs more people pitching in.

  • deuce says:

    That’s a good look at THE SEARCHERS. A nice antidote to the way most academics view it.

    Excellent essay from Moira Greyland on ‘woke’ fiction.

    GREAT Ken Barr gallery! What an underappreciated titan of book/comic illustration.

    That was a fun look at the old KING KONG VS GODZILLA movie.

  • Rolf says:

    Holy Crap! “Fire Hunter”!!! One of my fav books as a kid. Great book! Very thought provoking for my young mind.

  • Leave a Reply to deuce Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *