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Category Archives: Blog Watch

Blog Watch: Defining Aesthetics, Blatant Hatred, the Dead-Egg Division, and Midlist Diaspora

Realism Isn’t (Ben Cheah) Going Bright — “In the name of realism, many artists today chase the darkness. Every vice is elevated, every taboo broken, every blasphemy committed. Nothing is sacred, everything is false. There are no heroes, only degrees of evil. No saviours, only monsters wearing the masks of men. No virtue, only the will to power. The intelligentsia claim this is ‘dark’, ‘gritty’, ‘realistic’. It is the defining aesthetic of our times, a relentless march towards deeper depths of degradation and desecration.”

Game Over (Wasteland and Sky) End of the ’10s — “But things have change a lot in such a short time. I can’t imagine going back twenty, or even ten, years and telling myself that just about every piece of art worth engaging in would be independent while corporations cratered due to outright, and blatant, hatred of their audience. This is how they’re dealing with the death of the old paradigm. It’s a glorified temper tantrum.”

Women Ruin Everything (Kairos) Fempub — “At first blush, it’s not unreasonable to look at these numbers and conclude that oldpub’s catering to female readers is just a common sense reaction to market forces. After all, if most of your customers are women, your products should target them. With all respect to Ben, this explanation puts the cart before the horse. It’s not that men don’t like to read. We know they love to read. Male-targeted fiction dominated pop culture during the reign of the pulps. It took frustrated lit fic authors-turned-editors at NYC houses to suppress men’s adventure fiction and usher in the pink revolt.”

There’s Always a Woman (DMR Books) Sword & Planet: A Genre of Mashups — “Speaking of natives, the protagonist encounters a lovely female who has a big problem. Whether it be an unwanted marriage arrangement, a hostile city about to declare war, or simply being lost / stranded in the wilderness, this problem is serious enough that she could use some help. The protagonist, being usually an honorable sort (or at least wanting to impress the lady), volunteers to give assistance. There is almost always a woman involved in a pulp Western story, even if only as a background element. Whether a good woman or a bad one, she offers obvious motivations and complications to the protagonist’s life.”

Something Happened (Walker’s Retreat) My Life As A Writer: Brian & David Talk Mecha On “NewPub Talk” — “In short, the Dead Egg Division of frustrated Bitch Lit authors turned their pity positions in OldPub into power positions by 1980. During this time the malaise of misery porn in the West that polluted popular science fiction got stymied only due to Star Trek and Star Wars, with some off-brand examples getting some traction because of this (e.g. The Black Hole, released to theaters in 1979). ‘Respectable’ opinion shat on them and the tradition of the Pulps they–Star Wars in particular– represented.”

Bro, Do You Even Regress? (Breitbart) 11 Ways Kathleen Kennedy Killed the Star Wars Golden Goose — “Hey, I’m someone who believes Hollywood should make movies for everyone, including the alphabet people. But just like people don’t want to be told Jesus Is Lord in a Star Wars movie,  they don’t want to see a lesbian kiss. That’s why Christian movies are their own genre, and that’s why gay should be its own genre…”

Wind is Changing! (Jon Mollison) Stopped Clocks and the Midlist Midwit Diaspora — “We’re talking about guys who are very online and very dialed into the culture of the SJWs. They have contacts and ‘ins’ and rumor-mills at their disposal that we plucky underdogs do not. So their change in attitude from as recently as a few months ago means something big is in the wind.”

Get with It, Y’all (Effective Nerd) An Interview with P. Alexander of Cirsova Publishing — “There are more tools and resources for authors and publishers than ever before. What’s out there may not be perfect, and sometimes changes (like Amazon folding Createspace into KDP) aren’t always for the better, there has still never been a better time to get into publishing. Anyone with a finished book waiting for a golden ticket from tradpub is wasting valuable time that they could be spending getting their work out there and in front of readers.”

Blog Watch: Risk Averse Marines, Level Inflation, Demonic Easter Bunnies, and Man Plots

War Games (Marines) 3rd Marine Division challenges junior Marines with war games — “War games at the higher levels tend to be much more complicated, but using the board game Memoir 44’ is simple. The rules aren’t overly complicated so it lends itself to be easy to analyze. We can put together a small party of Marines to play the game and from a single round, we can collect how many times they attack compared to how many times they move. With that I can figure out if they’re overly aggressive or risk-averse.”

Appendix N (Autistic Mercury) Real Fantasy — “This complex of stories, Tolkien’s Legendarium, has clear influences in earlier works with which Tolkien was familiar, in particular the work of Lord Dunsany, and his 1905 book, The Gods of Pegāna, which, similar to the Legendarium, outline a fictional mythology of the world’s creation and the gods who participated in it. In Dusany’s personal mythology, like in Tolkien’s, our universe is the physical manifestation of the music of Skarl, the Drummer, who beats on his drum for all eternity. Dunsany, besides influencing Tolkien, was likewise appreciated by many of the other acknowledged founders of Fantasy, such as Lovecraft, Howard, as well as Jorge Luis Borges and many others.”

The Pulps (Wasteland and Sky) Licensed to Thrill: A Pulp History (Part I: The Beginning) — “Pulps were sold primarily on awe before anything else. The romance of adventure and the terror of action were the selling points to those who wanted their escapism. You read pulps for excitement, for hope, for wonders, for horrors, and for love. You read them to be taken to higher places, and away from your troubles.”

D&D (Emperor’s Notepad) Level Inflation is a disease even clerics can’t cure — “If someone is playing in a Conan or Star Wars setting, it is always assumed that Conan, Darth Vader, or Luke Skywalker should be quite close to the upper tiers, towards the lvl 20 range. Unfortunately, that transforms those iconic characters into walking gods and, therefore, everything else around them has to go through a level inflation upgrade if the original source material is to make any sense at all. So, the soldiers or giant snakes that Conan kills in this or that story, or the villains Luke kills, are not low-level NPCs (which is what they actually were) but suddenly they have to be reinterpreted as level 10+ characters for them to be meaningfully threatening.”

RPGs (The Mixed GM) Interview With Venger Satanis! — “It’s funny what players take seriously (from grave danger to mostly harmless) and what they don’t, how easily they’ll buy-into an element of the setting and what seems too far fetched, in the moment. That just means expectations and assumptions need to be redefined, which happens organically as play proceeds. I’ve never had a player say, ‘Nope, my snake-man sorcerer just does not accept demonic Easter Bunnies from the outer void. I’m out.'”

PulpRev (Barbarian Book Club) Book Review: The Last Ancestor by Alexander Hellene — “The Last Ancestor is a tale that is rooted in a moral and heroic landscape that was part of our childhood, Hellene is about my age. A landscape that was filled with heroic characters instead of the ironic and nihilistic fare that passes for boy’s entertainment nowadays. It’s a tale that belongs on the shelf next to He-Man, Thundercats, and Johnny Quest and fans of fun and adventurous will love this book.”

SWPL (The New York Times) Should Board Gamers Play the Roles of Racists, Slavers and Nazis? — “The ranks of board game designers, however, is changing more slowly. According to one study, 94 percent of the designers for the top 100 ranked games on BoardGameGeek were white men. This perhaps explains the viewpoint many games take. Their designers can more readily identify with the European colonizers, and not the colonized.”

It’s Okay to be Japanese (Quillette) Yukio Mishima: Japan’s Cultural Martyr — “Against the ‘selfish individualism’ of Western culture, Mishima hailed the ‘samurai spirit’ of heroic self-sacrifice and praised the “tragic beauty” of the kamikaze squadrons. In his short film Patriotism (1966), Mishima himself played the role of an army officer who commits suicide rather than disobey an imperial command. To many observers it appeared as if Mishima was willfully taunting Japan by lauding aspects of its past that it was now eager to forget.”

Brand X (Kairos) The Seduction of Brand X — “In the wake of the director’s departure, Disney briefly shelved the project before retooling it as a soft reboot. Filming on Brand X; X starts in May. The reboot stars Idris Elba as John Wayne as Genghis Khan, who must defend Chinese railroad coolies from the predations of a Christian cult led by a vampiric Abe Lincoln. Disney will donate one dollar of every ticket sold to the SPLC.”

Adventure! (Brain Leakage) Big Irons: Westerns, Adventure Paperbacks, and the Man Plot — “Neal Fargo inhabits a changing world. The wild places are becoming civilized, and the real struggles for survival are being replaced with phony copies, meant to entertain softer men than him. But Fargo himself is still a man of action. And he actively seeks out the places where his action will have meaning. To a modern reader in an increasingly sedentary and regulated world, there’s something powerful about that idea.”

Blog Watch: Narrative Warfare, Arthurian Propaganda, Bad Children’s TV, and Mecha Vietnam

The Big Op (Bradford Walker) Narrative Warfare: The Spooks Get It — “What you believe to be true (Narrative), you perform in everyday life (Culture). What you perform as normal behavior (Culture), you will enact as state policy (Politics). This is why control of the Narrative matters, and that means Narrative Warfare is really the secular version of Spiritual Warfare; this is why cults and religions are the bedrock of a nation’s identity, and therefore Narrative Warfare is Identity Politics because you’re fighting over what the foundation of a given nation–a given distinct body of people, all of whom share the same race, religion, and language–is and whomever has control over that has real power because they have faith on their side.”

The Other Pulp Renaissance (Dark Worlds Quarterly) Why I Read & Write Pulp — “I feel blessed really to have been a 12 year old in 1975. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard in paperback, followed by tons of comics. I caught the Fantasy explosion as it was growing and finally exploded after Star Wars. Joe Kubert’s Tarzan, John Buscema and Roy Thomas’ Savage Sword of Conan, Star Trek, Space 1999, Logan’s Run, Dan Curtis’s Kolchak– the 1970s. That is my nostalgia, not 1932.”

Brand X (Unz Review) Tired of Hollywood’s Woke, and Failing, Actioners? Try Vox Day’s New Comic Book Series — “Don’t worry about the deplatformings. They will soon be a thing of the past. But we still need to build our own institutions and support our own projects rather than support the endeavors of those who hate us, hate America, hate the West, and want to destroy everything that is good, beautiful, and true.”

Appendix N (Cinephilia & Beyond) Leigh Brackett: A Terrific Writer Ahead of Her Time just as She Was Ahead of Her Colleagues — “What we’ve prepared for you today is a rare conversation Brackett had in 1974 with Starlog Magazine, four years before her death. In this captivating piece, Brackett discusses her beginnings as a writer and a successful Hollywood screenwriter, her collaboration with William Faulkner on the script for The Big Sleep, working with Howard Hawks, as well as huge movie stars like Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne.”

No Thundarr for You! (The Data Lounge) Censorious c*** responsible for four decades of bad children’s TV is finally dead — “Seizing on a clause in the Federal Communications Act of 1934 that assigned broadcasters on the public airways a responsibility to tend to the public interest, ACT set about raising money and became a grass-roots force for change. The organization began pestering lawmakers, regulatory agencies and broadcast corporations to help educate children and not pander to them — to treat them as future contributors to society and not as just another consumer market.”

Game Design (gamesindustry.biz) Hooked on loot boxes — “This is where the outrage over loot boxes is coming from. This time it’s not rooted in ignorance and a fear of the unknown. It’s rooted in the knowledge that the publishers of the world don’t want to make games for players to consume so much as they want to make games that consume their players.”

From the Comments (Dalrock) Lancelot’s bowtie — “Of course, much of this was composed by French authors after the conquest of Britain by France in A.D. 1066. I suppose if I was a French propagandist I might well want Britain’s national hero and greatest king to be a bastard who consorted with dark powers, which would, in point of fact, justify France invading and taking over, just as Lancelot, the ultimate French Chad, invaded Guinevere and took over. In this story Arthur, who stands for England, becomes the cuck to Lancelot, the bull who stands for France, and of course Lancelot kills anyone who says anything against it while Arthur slinks around like David French watching his wife at a swingers club.”

Your Staff is Broken (One Angry Gamer) On the Dying Gatekeeping Media, Toxic Creators and Fandoms — “For the longest time the media has served as the gatekeepers of public opinion and perception. Their writings have cancelled people, destroyed businesses, and even sparked wars. They have for the longest time held an unparalleled power over the public perception and for that reason powers that be whether governmental, religious, technocratic or plutocratic all have sought to control the media.”

Not Everyone Can Play at this Level (RPGG) The Real Castle Greyhawk — “Four of these portals led to four independent dungeon ‘stacks’ of seven levels each (each ‘stack’ having a few side levels). The fifth portal, in the middle, led down to a stack of interleaved levels noted as 1, 4.5, 5.5, 6.5, 7.5, and 9. Beneath these dungeon stacks, a series of caves and caverns extended from the 10th to the 30th level. There were also at least three major areas that could be reached only by ‘magical transference’.”

Mecha (JD Cowan) The Real Super Robot ~ A review of Armored Trooper VOTOMs — “Since Dougram was based on guerrilla warfare and Gundam was based on WWII, Takahashi wanted to create a series based on Vietnam and the feelings such a war could inspire. But it doesn’t work as you might think. It’s not like any Vietnam you or I might know of aside from visual nods to popular works such as Apocalypse Now or soldiers fighting a war seemingly without end or a point. In fact, there is a point to this war, though it is not revealed late into the series. But there is more to it than superficial similarities.”

D&D (Castalia House) Secrets of the Nethercity — “In one of the more interesting design choices, Autarch does not burden DMs with a linear plot or lock NPCs into specific roles and goals. Instead, he provides a short list of motivations for each of the major dungeon players, to be determined as they are encountered, perhaps even randomly. This does two things for the better. For one, it allows each play-through to be nearly unique. For another, it allows the DM to slowly build the overall conflict within the dungeon, and only gradually increase the complexity of the situation.”

Not Brand X: Dracoheim, 3d6 in Order, Fantasy Vietnam, and the Beating Heart of SF/F

Fantasy (Misha Burnett) American Fantasy — “That’s what I set out to do with Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts. Dracoheim is not on any version of Earth–the Settled Lands are on a world with a different year and a different climate than Earth, the physical/metaphysical laws are different there. Yet the setting is recognizably American (despite a sprinkling of UK terms to describe the government and courts). Dracoheim is Los Angeles in the middle of the 20th Century in the same way that the Shire is rural England at the end of the 19th Century.”

Books (Jon Mollison) Bad Dreams and Broken Hearts — “Erik Rugar makes Harry Dresden look like a chump, and makes Discworld look like a set from Scooby-Doo. Imagine if Bright wasn’t so preachy and had some solid romance subplots. It’s that good.”

D&D (E. Reagan Wright) The 3d6 Grease Trap — “Guys who run Big Boy D&D understand that how a character is rolled has no impact on the way the game runs. The best DMs do not craft worlds and challenges for characters, but for players. The sandbox gets stocked with high challenge areas and low challenge areas. The wheels of the campaign churn away with neutral efficiency. It is up to the players to determine which is which by throwing bodies at the campaign with the same reckless abandon as a Soviet lieutenant yeeting prisoner units at German machine gun emplacements.”

Brand Echh (Jon Del Arroz) Is Publishing Just A Scam For Power? — “Alan Moore is right. Editors don’t have taste. Publishers don’t have taste. They have no idea. It’s why the comic stands are filled with crap, it’s why there’s nothing even worth picking up when you make a Barnes & Noble trip. Everything that’s worthwhile is on the new frontier of self-publishing.”

Brand X (Kairos) The Fap Cult — “One thing both cults have in common is their elevating of personal preferences over the good. Fundamentally, they do away with the concept of objective value altogether and seek validation solely from their choice of weird sexual hangup or entertainment product. Nor will they countenance neutrality. You must join in their liturgies and partake of their sacrifices. Just try pointing out that transsexuals are mentally ill or that Big Brand X is a shame ritual that bilks money from paypigs for the pleasure of insulting them.”

Short Fiction (Rawle Nyanzi) The Persistence and Promise of Cirsova — “Though fiction writing in general is a tricky business, one stands to make more through a series of novels than through any number of short stories. I often wonder if he is wasting his time due to the poor economics of the enterprise, and yet, he continues to publish. The short story used to be the beating heart of SF/F, but now, it is little more than an appendix; through continual publication of short stories, P. Alexander may be able to revive the form.”

Brand Zero (Cirsova) Rawle Nyanzi’s Brand Zero and a Look at Some Cirsova-Published IPs — “The short version of it is a mindset to put fully behind the failing corporate fiction brands that continue to disappoint and instead focusing on new brands, new properties, either by creating them or supporting them. Talk up these new IPs instead of spending time and effort on complaining about how let down you are by the old brands. Brand Zero has picked up a lot of traction in the last few weeks, but it’ll be interesting to see if it gains real momentum beyond a few writing circles.”

Fantasy F***ing Vietnam (Brain Leakage) Kitbashing D&D: Skills, Resolution Mechanics, and Combat — “Every patrol to and from the Keep should be a tense cat and mouse game, as the PCs watch out for goblin ambushes, senses alert for any sound or sign that the enemy is near. Meanwhile, they’re trying to move like ghosts through the underbrush, staying to the darkest shadows they can find. Every snapped twig or dropped water skin should cause their little hearts to race, wondering if they’ve just given themselves away.”

Canceling Fantasy (RMWC Reviews) Pink Slime Review: The Man Who Came Late — “In short, everything about the world and characters that made them unique and loveable, from the magic to the culture to the weirdness to Holger’s blockheaded goodness, are stripped away and replaced by stewpots, housework, and boring people living boring lives. Faerieland and the forces of Chaos have been replaced by something far more sinister: ‘Realism.'”

Brand Zero (Paul Lucas) BrandZero Reviews of Indie and Self-Published Authors — “Here you go folks, copies of the reviews I’ve posted to Amazon for the work of independent and self-published authors. All of these people publish work that at least verges on the Weird, however you want to define it, and some of them roll around in Weirdness, completely naked. This is my small attempt to help support non-mainstream creators by focusing on them and not on the products of large media companies – naming no names. Go #BrandZero!”

Appendix N (The Charmed Circle) What’s in Your Appendix N? (Memories of the First Books #4) — “Appendix N was a list, written by Gygax himself, enumerating the works of fantasy and science fiction which were influential in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons. These were the books which shaped Gygax’s imagination, what he brought to the creation of the game, and what the game would become over time. Some of the authors are considered icons of the field, and some of the works are seen as classics. Others are less known, obscure, even out of print. All of them are, in a sense, part of the game’s DNA.”

From the Comments (Sacnoth’s Scriptorium) The New Arrival: APPENDIX N (The Book) — “As other reviewers have mentioned, his reviews revolve around creating strawmen who somehow ‘hate’ classic sci-fi/fantasy (because it is too politically incorrect or features male protagonists) and then he encourages the reader to ‘fight the power’ and read the classics anyway. It’s nonsense, none of these authors are ‘condemned’ by his mythical ‘them’ who are out to destroy fantasy and keep him from reading books about ‘heroic’ characters like himself.”

Life After 1980: RPG Consent Forms, Broken Elfs, and No Concept of Economy

D&D (John Blacktree) The Nature of Consent Forms in Role Playing Games — “There are great DM’s and awful ones. It’s a roll of the dice. (pun intended) but when something like a consent form is brought forth you are exerting an unearned level of control over others fun. They didn’t sign up to be whipped and burned with candle wax. They just want to play a game.”

Fantasy (Dutrope) Editor Interview: Cirsova Magazine — “For some reason, we get a lot of elf stories. Unless you’re doing something Dunsanian, no elves! Look, we can fix formatting, we can add page numbers to the footer of your manuscript, but we can’t fix a story that has generic D&D elves in it.”

Writing (Dean Bradley) Fighting Style and Character — “Before the renaissance in traditional European martial arts, a katana conveyed a much more seasoned and developed fighting style than a bastard sword. We now know that the fighting style of European knights was every bit as systematic and developed as that of the samurai, but the truth mattered less than the viewer’s impression of skill and study.”

Books (Castalia House) Swords & Dark Magic — “The better sword and sorcery writers who came out of the 1970s got their start in the small press. They started out writing short stories, then novelettes. A few then made the jump to mass market paperbacks that were generally 80,000 words long. Now it is backwards, the writers of the past ten to twenty years start out writing 700 page novels for seemingly never ending series. They have no concept of economy.”

Appendix N (Grey Dog Tales) Tarzan Reborn! — “I have no way of knowing exactly how the late Fritz Leiber approached the job, but I can easily imaging him watching the movie over and over, along with reading the original script treatment, making copious notes on what did and didn’t work. Frankly, he did an astonishing job of it. I was recently reliably informed that Philip José Farmer considered this to be one of the best Tarzan novels he ever read. I can’t disagree with that appraisal.”

D&D (The Alt-right DM) How Consent Works — “When you sit down to my D&D game, you consent to play my games. Both the RAW B/X game, and the head games that are part and parcel of dealing with a maniac like me. Like my second ex-wife’s ass cheeks, there a lot of overlap between the two.”