Weekend Haul & Other Stuff

Because I can’t help myself, despite having more stuff than i can reasonably read, I managed to expand my collection on a number of impressive fronts. I got several Jack Vance books, another Andrew J Offutt, and a few Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser books, some I didn’t have and one that was a first edition paperback of the one I already had (so I can pass along my reprint to a deserving person who needs it). What’s really cool, though, is that I got the serialized form of the High Crusade as well as a couple issues of digest sized pulps with Vance pieces as the feature stories.

Cirsova has been receiving a good bit of attention lately. As a review resource for MYFAROG, the new Basic edition has sent a good bit of unusual traffic my way. I’ve said before that Jeffro’s G+ feed is like Drudge Report for gamers, and some of the stuff of mine he’s reshared has ended up in cool strange places, like Conan message boards. Not only was I one of the Dyvers best reads of the week, I was in the top 10 of the month! What’s terrifying though, is that in a world where Wikipedia does not consider Breitbart and several other well known conservative/libertarian outlets reputable sources, Cirsova has been cited as a representative member of Gamergate and evidence that Agness Kaku doesn’t “blame” Gamergate for the harassment she has received on the Kickstarter Wikipedia page. Also, with the latest slippery slope flap over at Onebookshelf, I’m sure that at least one those “Unknown Search Terms” that has been giving me traffic is “Steve Wieck Hypocrite”.

I think the part about the 1488 ballots being thrown out might come from a misreading of this second paragraph, but this was a pretty good post-Hugos stream.

And yeah, Gamergate was not all that involved in the Hugos this year: case-in-point, I am probably in the top 10 ten most influential members of Gamergate actively involved in the worldcon debacle this year.

Later this week, I’ll talk about Thomas Burnett Swann and force myself to write a bit about Joseph Green’s A Star Is Born.

Short Reviews – Moon of Danger, by Albert de Pina

Moon of Danger by Albert de Pina appeared in the Summer 1947 issue of Planet Stories (Vol 3. No 7).  Note that I incorrectly labelled Mo-Sanshon! as being in the Spring issue.  To avoid further confusion, I will be including the specific volume and issue numbers for future Planet Stories short reviews.

Albert de Pina’s novelette is by far the best written of the stories I’ve read in this issue so far; though some of the hallmarks of deadline writing can be seen in “Moon of Danger” (accidental or intentional repetition of adjectives close to one another, rushes through certain sections and flat characterizations), overall it’s a tightly written and evenly-paced story.  Frankly, I’m surprised Fox’s story was on the cover and not this one.

Moon of Danger has all of the hallmarks of classic early post-war space-opera: chemical and atomic weapons, dangerous radioactive materials and threats of large-scale devastation wrought by high-tech warfare.  Mars has been ravaged by a radio-active biological agent that can quickly corrode metal; the last of the Martians have decided to pack it in, hop on the refugee ship and head for Earth before the last “Ionization Towers” give out.  The Martian effort is threatened by an Earth faction, including a mutinous Fleet Commander, who’d rather blow the Martians out of space than risk letting the spore plague reach Earth.  In an early twist, it’s revealed that the plague was unleashed on Mars by the denizens of Phobos, thought long dead for hundreds of years, in retaliation for the genocidal wars between the planet and its moon.  The ruler of the Phobians doesn’t care that those wars happened centuries before he or the current Martian Queen were born, he will use the looming Earth civil war over the Martian refugee crisis to force full recognition of Phobos as a prime federation world or else unleash his plague on all the other worlds.

Phobos has been hollowed out, and a powerful reverse-gravity generator has been installed at its core.  So, in one of the coolest “George Lucas almost certainly read this” moments in sci-fi I’ve come across, the heroes end up flying two linked ships towards the core of Phobos, delink from the ship full of atomic bombs, and before the bomb-ship hits the grav generator, ride the gravity wave toward the moon’s surface before the plant, Phobos and all the Phobians are blown to hell.  That part was even better than when the hero had to keep killing drug-addict Phobians with his bare hands while working in the slave fields cultivating bio-weapon spores!

It’s crazy just how little I can find out about de Pina; there are only about a dozen stories to his name.  I’m hoping that out of the dozen issues of Planet Stories I now have that there are a few more by him.  If anyone has any info on this guy, let me know!  Sorry, I tried my best to find either a scan or transcript of this one, but it looks like you’re going to actually find a copy of the 1947 March-May issue if you want to read it.  The awesome page & a half illustration showing Ric (the hero), Tal (a Martian scientist) and Praana (Queen of Mars) fighting their way through a crowd of Phobian slave-workers who are rioting because the rulers have been sitting on a huge stockpile of drugs sadly is also unavailable online.

batman diversity

In other news, in the last 24 hours, I may have convinced at least two people to check out Leigh Brackett!

I Never Really Got Into a Lot of These Games

For the reasons that you couldn’t really find them.  So this is awesome news:

How GOG Rescued 13 Forgotten Realms Games From Licensing Hell

One of my all time favorite games, Sword of Aragon, is an old SSI title, and while it’s not a D&D licensed game, it probably delivers one of the best old-school fantasy miniatures + RPG experiences of any game I’ve ever played, so I may have to check out some of these other SSI games.

One of the things I’m remembering about RTS games, having dusted off AoE 2, is how anti-climactic victories are in that genre.  The most intense and exciting portion of nearly any game is the early phase of establishing and protecting a base.  Mid-game might have some action once you start getting interesting advanced units and buildings and have to fend off an enemy foray or five.  But late game, the excitement of delivering the crushing blow just isn’t there; typically, attrition and resource exploitation has taken its toll, and you’ve repeatedly massed a group of top tier cavalry and a few archers to guard siege engines and whittled away at enemy towns.  By the last assault, you realize there’s nothing to not much left, enemy villagers seeking the few resources wander into your defenses to be killed, the last town center goes down much quicker than you anticipated and suddenly hours of grueling effort are over in an instant.  I guess what I hate about RTS is that the S aspect usually comes down to moving one mass of troops to throw at a target, rinse, repeat, until the target goes down.  I just never feel like there’s some great master strategy at work in which I can co-ordinate attacks from various directions and strike a killing blow.  No, it’s pretty much the Persian strategy over and over again.  There’s never any point in your “hero” characters, because most of the time you lose if they die, so they have to stay hidden in a remote corner of your base unless you want hours of effort to go to waste.  I’ve never had this problem or felt this way with turn-based war-games.  AoE 2 is scratching an itch I have right now, but I doubt it will send me on an RTS bender the way that Kingdom Rush had me briefly obsessed with Tower Defense games.

Media’s Go-Tos for Horrific Crimes: Gun Owners and now #Gamergate

“This was not a war zone. Journalists were doing a perfectly safe story all local TV stations do. Yet they get shot, on air. This is America.” – Ram Ramgopal, CNN Editor.

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15… What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them… Alison made racist comments… I filmed the shooting see Facebook.” – Vester Flanagan, Murderer

Yep, this is America. Already we’re seeing this terrifying and tragic story being turned into part of the existing anti-gun narrative. No, it has absolutely nothing to do with a perfect storm of crazy and a race obsessed media.  But that’s not the only angle now.

Look out, Puppies, I know you’ve been accused of some bad stuff, but apparently you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.

Nevermind that the murderer gave us his exact reasons, it’s already being blamed on #gamergate.

In a virulent reaction to powerful, strong women who have gained opportunities following the emergence of the Feminist Movement in America, it has become common for failed men to turn their anger, fear, and vitriol at themselves onto women. Often, like Bryce Williams, onto women who are more successful and competent than they are.

Women working in the video gaming industry who had the nerve to speak out against the macho culture and over-sexualization of women in the gaming industry were met with threats of rape and murder. The trolls of #gamergate pounced with threats of rape and murder trying to intimidate these women into shutting up. (emphasis mine)

Fuck. Me.

Minor update: Comment section has been repeatedly scrubbed down to one “herp derp, you’re so right!” comment. Archived comments can be seen here: https://archive.is/qrQ6N  https://archive.is/kGi2M

Random News, MYFAROG, and New Drasmyr!

Between the nightmarish last week and a half I’ve had, I haven’t got nearly as much reading done as I would’ve liked.  Nor have I had much new gaming insights, because I’ve mostly been vegging out on Morrowind and Age of Empires 2.  But that’s not to say that there isn’t some cool news.

First of all, we’re getting some more details on the new Basic edition of MYFAROG:

Yeah, the new edition looks nice, and hopefully will cost less to ship overseas.  I’m also glad to know that I’m not alone in some of the issues I experienced with 1e and those look like they’ve been addressed.  The real question is if once I get a copy of Basic if I’ll be able to use it to run this.  If that doesn’t work, a new sample adventure has been made available here for free download.

Matthew D. Ryan is looking for reviewers for the next book in his Drasmyr series.  Which means that pretty soon there’ll be new Drasmyr!  As tempting as it is, I’m just so bad about reading long-form anything in ebook format that I don’t think I’d be the best person to volunteer my services for this.  I’m content to actually shell out for the hardback for this. But maybe when it’s closer to release, I can get Ryan back to talk more about his series or do a guest post.

Cirsova got a nod from Dyvers’ Best Reads of the Week, which is always an awesome honor.

Mike Monaco has some awesome cave pictures.

At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen is finally almost done; thanks to all of my beta readers, all of whom have been a tremendous help.  I’ve made a list of a few likely candidates for submission.  Plans for launching my own zine will be on hold until I can resolve three particular issues in my life, at least one of them involving a car payment/accident settlement, but that won’t stop me from writing.  I’m working on another piece as decompression more than anything, which may or may not get a short epub treatment if I finish it.  Once I get a few more Planet Stories under my belt, I’ll consider writing more Abraham Strongjohn stuff.

Battlefields and Broadswords?  It’s still sitting about 1/3 of the way done.  Did rules for cannon fire really stump me so bad that it derailed the entire project?  No, but I did get distracted by a million things.  I keep telling myself that I’m going to crack open BattleSystem and see if it has something I can use in place of painted dowel rods, but I guess I just haven’t been in game designer mode lately.  I feel like maybe it’s one or the other, fiction or game design.

Vox Day’s Xanatos Gambit a Confirmed Win (at Least for Vox Day)

Just as planned


“…I told everyone that this year was about the nominations and the best we could reasonably hope for was to provoke them into voting No Award… which they dutifully did.

Our execution wasn’t flawless. I made two mistakes, one which was fortuitous as it permitted Three Body Problem to make the shortlist and win, and one which was stupid as it cost us a 6th category in novelette. Our discipline could also have been better, although I don’t see that it would have made any difference at all with regards to either the nominations or the awards. But I trust the moderate approach is now sufficiently discredited in everyone’s eyes.” – Vox Day

“The real winner this year was Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies. Yep. You CHORFing idiots don’t seem to realize that Brad, Sarah, and I were the reasonable ones who spent most of the summer talking Vox out of having his people No Award the whole thing to burn it down, but then you did it for him. He got the best of both worlds. Oh, but now you’re going to say that Three Body Problem won, and that’s a victory for diversity! You poor deluded fools… That was Vox’s pick for best novel. That’s the one most of the Rabid Puppies voted for too.” – Larry Correia.

Short Reviews – Mo-Sanshon!, by Bryce Walton

Mo-Sanshon! by Bryce Walton appears in the Summer 1947 issue of Planet Stories.  A facsimile copy can be found and read for free here.

Avid Sci-Fi reader Red Formica prepares to sacrifice his life to save mankind from an evil all-female race.

Avid Sci-Fi reader Red Formica prepares to sacrifice his life to save mankind from an evil all-female race. #pulpmagtitlepagespoilers

Mo-Sanshon! was the sort of problematic and regressive science fiction I was hoping for when I’d first heard the accusations being leveled at the Sad and Rabid Puppies.  The writing here was a bit tighter than Gardner F Fox’s Vassals of the Lode-Star, but the high-octane, no time for exposition balls-out action pacing that made Kung Fury a world-wide sensation can be felt in full force.  Mo-Sanshon! has shoot-outs, clever disguises, intense torture scenes, space-ship crashes, evil sexy alien insects, a giant centipede and the sort of twist ending that you love even though you see it from a mile away.  Originally, I’d offered more in the way of summarizing the story, but since it is there to read for free, go read it yourself, I won’t spoil too much for you.

Doctor Jonathan Ward is an Entomologist who has been sentenced to govern reprogramming.  His crime?  He believes that a race of Martian insects have concrete plans to destroy the human race, and that’s just crazy.  As Dr Ward wonders what life will be like after his personality is erased, a taxi-driver named Red shows up to kill the guards and is all “Come with me, adventure time is now!”

Red is a self-proclaimed Fortean and sci-fi fan who has arranged the whole escape around his favorite book and its movie adaptation: he wants to save humanity just for the thrill of it.  Red may have been an awkwardly executed, if not failed, experiment at writing a dangerously genre-savvy character.  He knows exactly what’s going to happen and when because he’s planned this whole escapade from beginning to end based on his knowledge of pop-fiction; he’s a pulp hero intentionally basing himself on pulp heroes.  Even though the twist could be seen fairly early on, it was hard to put a finger on what his angle was. Maybe he’s an anti-statist communist (a true believer that the “State” must wither and die for TruCommunism) or maybe he’s just throwing around words he’s heard (the character, not necessarily Walton). He’s coming from one of those places where he complains about the proletariat, but he hates homogeny and conformity unto death:

“How different and lonely their life must be – when you even compare it with ours.  How envious and jealous they must be.  And how they must hate us, buried as they are underground, hidden from the stars.  Static, no individuality – that’s all lost in the colony.  The State is all.  And someday humanity may evolve into the same death trap.  No wonder they want to destroy us.  They can’t stand to see us keep on living, even partially free.  It hurts.”

But hey, I mentioned problematic and regressive elements, didn’t I?  Men like Red and his love of adventure and science fiction are unknowable and scourge to the Mo-Sanshon, and must be destroyed. Mo-Sanshon is not just a tale of men vs. giant insects.  It is a tale of men standing up against a matriarchal society intent on stamping out free thought, and by extension, male adventure:

The great sentient blob of breeding brain machinery called the Queen Mother, pulsed on without perturbation.  The creature beside him seemed unaffected; yet both of them must be trembling with fear, hate and indecision.  An organization of females.  And up there was the one Queen mother for the lot of them who layed all the eggs of her species, and dictated the policies for the rest.  The works, soldiers, nurses—everyone was female.  Even those who had assumed male humanoid form, such as the Executive Officer on the Sol and the Guard in the Federal Building, they were also female.

And the male—those representatives, whose voters of humanoid cultures—where were they? They didn’t exist as such.  They were simply created as mates for the younger Queens.  After the marriage flight they died, after a brief wholly utilitarian span devoted solely to the continuation of the Colony.

And he, Ward, a lowly Male, stood in their way.  Ward reasoned that only through intense study over centuries of time had they been able to grasp enough humanoid concepts to even be able to recognize such an impossible situation.  He, a lowly male—part of a ruling class!

Now, before you go trying to give this story the benefit of the doubt as some sort of progressive script-flipping, keep in mind that this is a 40s pulp story and it’s gonna end the way that 40s pulp stories end, the good guys are the good guys and the bad guys are, well, the bad gals.  We’re supposed to cheer for the destruction of a race that would assuredly stamp out science fiction. The real message is that giant insects that can pose as human and disappear when you kill them are bad news, and Real Men must rise to the challenge to preserve individuality at all costs.

Mo-Sanshon! is not a particularly deep or insightful work of fiction, though it certainly does attempt to be at times.  In fact, there may be too much one could read into it in a post-critical theory world, simply because its brief spats at philosophical ramblings tend to be muddled and vague beyond the clearer “individuality good/homogeny bad” motif.  When you can read anything into something, you end up walking away with nothing, better to not over-analyze and enjoy the ride such as it is. So I’ll say that despite its flaws this was an incredibly fun read and leave it at that.

Hugo Post-Mortem

In the end, the Hugos turned out not how I’d hoped, but how I’d expected.

The big question looming over the announcement was who were the people who’d shown up in record numbers to vote in the Hugos. Well, we still can’t say that it was entirely the GRRM “True Fans”, because there were several categories that had incredibly high vote totals for nominees in what are normally incredibly small categories. Toni Weisskopf got what may be a record number of votes in the Best Long Form editor category, with 1216 first pass votes. However this was one of the many categories that was “nuked” by the No Award vote.

Originally, I’d predicted that a lot of the lesser known categories would be nuked because the straight ticket and puppy-free ticket No Award crowd would certainly outnumber good faith voters in those categories. While I was one of those who had been brought in by the Puppy controversy, I was a good faith voter and only voted in categories in which I had read everything and could make an informed choice, so I skipped a number of categories. What surprised me was how large the No Award crowd actually was. I was expecting the Puppies to lose because they were splitting their votes among 5 nominees, not because they were outnumbered by the No Award block from around 3:2 to 2:1 in most categories.

There were a few other shocks which should not have been surprises, but still were. The Asterisk award bit was a huge insult to the nominees and the winners, but what was strange was the fervor of the cheers whenever “No Award” was announced. It was the best thing in the world to a huge number of people that the “wrong” authors didn’t win. In a year that gave an award to The Day the World Turned Upside Down for best novelette when other categories were being nuked because “hurf-blurf quality”, the cognitive dissonance is amazing. I abstained in the Novelette category because I didn’t get around to reading them all, but DtWTUD was one of the worst things I’d read recently. In fairness, it WAS losing to No-Award until the 4th pass.

There were a few bright spots in the categories that did win awards. I’m not unhappy that Guardians of the Galaxy won. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was definitely the kind of movie I’d love to see more of. I’m glad Julie Dillon won; I know nothing about her, and she could be the most horrible person in the world, but her artwork was superb and she deserved the win; I’m sorry that her win has an asterisk by it. I’m also happy to see Ms. Marvel get the win. Ms. Marvel is a flawed work and probably ultimately doomed to either die a withering death or become another zombie title simply because it’s an American comic that is part of the Marvel Universe, but it was certainly the best of the bunch. At least Rat Queens didn’t win, amirite? The Zombie comic had no chance because that dude could not give but a single fuck about the Hugos, and I’ve got to respect him for that.

It was a nice gesture to let that fan from Austria(?) come up and announce some winners. The Dalek was awful, though. No, not because of any ‘exterminate the Sad Puppies’ reference that some people are suggesting, but because the audio was completely borked for that entire portion of the ceremony. How great would it have been if they had to announce a No Award from Outer Space?

So, record turn-out for Worldcon to match a record number of No Awards being given out (doubling the total from all previous years). Saturday night, we may have seen the most epic ‘taking the ball and going home’ in history. Ultimately, there’s a now a stalemate in fandom: the Puppies have proven that they can lock the nominees in the most categories, while the TruFan crowd has proven that they can shut down those categories once nominees are decided. So, the question is, what will happen next time? Who will give first and by the time one side gives, will the Award even mean anything? The Puppies camp is already ratcheting up for next time. While the straight No Award camp was probably only in the few hundreds (else Movie and Comic would’ve been nuked, too), the Puppy-Free camp was certainly in the thousands. That’s a LOT of money being spent by a LOT of fandom to keep those nasty Puppies from taking home an award. With Worldcon membership price jumping up to $50, I wonder what attrition we’ll see? The psychological significance in difference between $40 and $50 is larger than a mere $10, so I would not be surprised if next year did not have the record number of supporting members.

This empty box cost fandom roughly $140,000.

This empty box cost fandom roughly $140,000.  How much will it cost next year?

I’m probably not going to register next year. After what I saw Saturday night, I don’t think Worldcon deserves my money.

Breakdown of voting can be found here, if you’re interested.

I was almost surprised Mixon didn’t thank Requires Hate in her acceptance speech.

Minor update: I loved the running joke of an old white guy making fun of Vaishnavism.  Progressive Hugos 4 the Win!