Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Category Archives: Blog Watch

BLOG WATCH: Dead-eyed Stares, Pre-Campbellian Gothic, Moral Complexity, and Patriarchal Constructs

Appendix N (Jon Del Arroz) In Praise Of Jeffro Johnson — “He showed me what science fiction and fantasy can be. Now you might think I’m overstating it, but it’s really incredible just how much the genre has transformed in the last three decades or so, and not for the better. I highly recommend searching his Castalia House posts at the very least and I also recommend every writer read Appendix N, his literary criticism of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s really brilliant and opened my eyes.”

Appendix N (Jon Mollison) On Jeffro’s Departure — “If you’ve ever enjoyed any of my stories, or any of my columns here or at the Castalia House blog, you have Jeffro to thank for it. His influence in my own work should be plain to all but the most casual reader. (For the record, Alex over at Cirsova comes in a close second, with a veritable army of other writers tied for a distant third.)”

D&D (Save Versus All Wands) “The fact that you can just randomly encounter a Longship filled with Vikings is pretty awesome.” — “Indeed, Vikings appeared multiple times in the original 1974 edition of Dungeons & Dragons (which is why I chose them for Zylarthen) but then quickly fell out as the system and franchise took a more naturalistic turn. And it’s not all about Vikings. What I tried to do in The Campaign was to create a mechanism or give referees ideas and tables for creating a mechanism to design a vibrant and ‘real’ wilderness, if you will, teeming with whatever the referee thought would be fun and cool, as well as giving the players interesting challenges and problems.”

D&D (Elfmaids and Octopi) More human Than Human — “I’ve considered using a whole bunch of medieval races believed to exist by scholars from late roman times into the renaissance. Elves and dwarves are fine and all but these might ad some colour. Not really developed yet but I’m tempted to do most using my beastman class (which I use for orcs and barbarians too). The multi fingered men would be exception, I might use elves as a template instead as I like idea they are magical and skillful.”

Pulp Revolution (Cirsova) Hard Lessons Learned Slowly — “Action, Adventure, and Romance are stronger selling points than pulp, sci-fi and fantasy. I think that navel gazing explanations of throw-backs, periods, Campbellians, Futurians, the Pulp Rev, etc. will make eyes glaze over and should be avoided. I typically never take it that far, and even mentioning the pulps at all tends to evoke a dead-eyed stare from most folks.”

Anime (Jon Del Arroz) Can Gamma Male Protagonists Evoke Classical Pathos? — “Almost every anime show (especially those set in a high school environment, which is the majority of them), have male protagonists that are your classic gamma male archetype. They are socially awkward, especially around women. When encountered with women they go into a crazed frenzy, female worship, nosebleeds, slapstick failings. We’re supposed to root for them to get the girl in spite of their failures. And sometimes we do, but we can’t help but wince every time they enter the scene with their female counterparts, who are usually far more composed and cooler than they are.”

Traveller (Tales to Astound!) What “The Traveller” Adventure had to Say About Situation Throws — “That there are people on Traveller focused sites convinced I’m simply making up nonsense procedures (and there are a few) has always startled me. It seems so obvious once you look at the text of the three books holistically. The improvised adjudication of situation is part and parcel of the game culture of the mid-70s.”

Traveller (Tales to Astound!) Using Original TRAVELLER Out of the Box — Rick Stump’s The Clash of Stars — “One of the things I really liked about what he’s posted is his section on nobility. Keep in mind that if you look on line you’ll find lots of people dithering about the Social Status rules in Classic Traveller and saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, the rules don’t tell me what Social Status means!’ But Rick doesn’t do that. Instead, he looked at the rules, saw there was a thing called Social Status, and said, ‘Oh, there’s a thing called Social Status and I get to decide that that’s going to mean for my setting.'”

D&D (Save Versus All Wands) Demons in Early D&D, Part 1 — “I’m not claiming that there’s anything wrong with Gygax patching together his own novel cosmology out of many different sources, mashing them together and redefining some of the terms – after all, this is essentially what he did with the entire monster canon for D&D – only that it must have seemed a bit confusing to some at the time, especially since it came with little explanation. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons would of course fully flesh all of this out, but at this time, AD&D was still 1-3 years away.”

D&D (Save Versus All Wands) Demons in Early D&D, Part 2 — “Of course it would be easy to pull this ‘out of context’ to argue that AD&D was attempting to make occult practices attractive to children or whatever. In truth, I didn’t even remember the spell, and was only reminded of it when researching this post, even though, at the time, I played AD&D exclusively and thought of the Players Handbook as the defining D&D tome. I suspect I’m not alone in this. Among other things, Cacodemon was a high-level spell and I doubt that many campaigns got that far.”

Movies (Jon Mollison) Arrival – Part One — “Hawkeye plays one of America’s foremost theoretical physicists, and early on in the film he argues that math is a better first step toward civilization than language. I have no flag in either camp, but when he brought that up, I literally sat up straighter in my seat. I thought we were going to get a lot of talk about how math is the first language – the universal language. How it doesn’t matter if your language is Bantu or English or cro-magnon or Klingon. One is always singular. The sequence of primes never changes. The area of a square made from the hypoteneuse of a right triangle is always as big as the sum of squares made from the legs.”

The Hard Buds of SF (Kairos) Is Science Fiction Dead? — “What I do think has happened is that the gatekeepers who usurped the genre in the late 30s have tried to associate ‘science fiction’ with ‘anti-escapist hard SF’ in the public consciousness, and they’ve succeeded. This engineered souring of public opinion toward the broad term ‘science fiction’ has had a negative knock-on effect in other SF subgenres. Several best selling authors who write what would have been immediately recognizable as science fiction during the pulp era have told me that their attempts to publish stories billed as space operas have met with little success. That’s despite the fact that space opera is actually the most popular SF subgenre in the world if you count movies and games. It’s not that people stopped liking space opera, it’s that the gatekeepers memory-holed Doc Smith and Edgar Rice Burroughs, so people don’t know what ‘space opera’ means anymore.”

Meanwhile… (AIPT!) Interview: Legendary Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter on the current state of Marvel, creator incentives and more — “It takes forever to tell a story. What Stan [Lee] would put in six pages–it takes six months. So you look at the sales–Marvel comics are now $4 apiece, and they’re thrilled if the sales are over 30,000. When I was at Marvel, the whole world was different. We didn’t have a single title–we had 75 titles–we didn’t have a single one that sold below 100,000. We had the X-Men approaching three quarters of a million. And that’s not some special No. 1, or somebody dies, or changes costumes, or someone gets married–it was every time. A lot of it was single-copy readers. People weren’t running around buying cases of it because it had a foil-embossed cover. It was every issue.”

Game Design (Lewis Pulsipher) Simplifying a Game Design — “[Harmony is] important because games are not just collections of mechanics, not just data, not just metrics. Games make intellectual and emotional impressions on players, and lack of harmony is noticeable, sometimes clearly, sometimes in subtle ways.”

Appendix N (Mighty Thor Jrs) Guest Blog: Conan was dumb, and 4 other common misconceptions by David Thomas — “This one always proves to me who has read Conan and who hasn’t. Sure, Conan was written for the pulps, and the women do happen to find themselves in need of rescue often. However, there are plenty of strong female characters in the REH Conan tales. Bêlit does and takes whatever she wants. She runs a pirate ship full of men. Valeria says “Why won’t men let me live a man’s life?” She lives by the sword, and is the equal or better of any man. Even the woman who walks around naked for the entire story, Nafetari/Zabibi in the story Man-Eaters of Zamboula, is only playing Conan the entire story. Once again, I chalk it up to pastiche and bad sword and sorcery stories and films which have fixed this useless damsel image into everyone’s stereotype.”

Comics (RPGPundit) “Fat Black Lesbian” Was Everyone’s Favorite GI JOE Action Figure as a Kid, Right? — “Some people somehow suggested this was unfair. It isn’t. This isn’t some kind of censorship, or blacklisting, or a boycott. This is a product that was intentionally designed to make its original market despise it (because the writer felt that fans of GI JOE as a patriotic American military organization should be punished for their beliefs) failing to attract any alternative audience (because SJWs love to praise the takeover and ruination of comics by replacing characters with SJW tokens, but have no real intention to ever actually buy these new politically-proper comics), and thus ceasing to exist as a result of the gross incompetence and one could even say malevolent intent of its untalented politically-motivated creators.”

The War on Human Nature (Newsweek) MEN WITH MUSCLES AND MONEY ARE MORE ATTRACTIVE TO STRAIGHT WOMEN AND GAY MEN—SHOWING GENDER ROLES AREN’T PROGRESSING — “‘This celebration of masculine capital is achieved through humor and the knowing wink, but the outcome is a reaffirmation of men’s position in society,’ lead author Adrienne Evans from the Coventry University’s Centre for Postdigital Cultures said in a statement. The problem, according to Evans, is that ‘although it appears as though we have moved forward, our desires are still mostly about money and strength.'”

D&D (Playing At the World) D&D in the News (1977): You, Too, Can Be a Wizard — “The photographs accompanying the article show OD&D in full use: we see white box booklets on the table in the first picture, and in another, a copy of Gods, Demi-gods and Heroes is lain across a few pages of Eldritch Wizardry. The dice visible are Creative Publications polyhedra, except for the six siders, most of which are pipped dice. Kemp is careful to emphasize that ‘books and figures may be purchased locally,’ and she repeatedly mentions the Regimental Supply Room as the local dealer.”

D&D (Save Versus All Wands) Monsters as Player Characters – OD&D vs. AD&D — “Of course during this quasi-concession Gygax takes the opportunity to further put down players who might have such a desire – unless the goal is purely experimental, then they either have a will to dominate or are relatively stupid and inept. This might be characterized as one manifestation of what has been called High Gygaxian style. Here an air of wisdom is coupled with silly insults. That’s not a criticism (of the style). In fact it’s quite entertaining.”

Before the Big Three (The Pulp Archivist) The Gothic Influences of C. L. Moore — “C. L. Moore had immersed herself in the classics from these men, and was familiar with the melancholy, mystery, individualism, and darkness that embodied their works and would soon be hallmarks of her own pre-Campbelline stories. And, as an avid Weird Tales reader, she would have also read reprinted works from Poe and Hawthorne in its page. In her Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry tales, Moore would become one of the last flowers of the Gothic tradition in science fiction, writing before Campbell’s twin revolutions in science fiction and fantasy removed these Romantic elements from American science fiction.”

Pulp Revolution (JimFear138) The PulpRev Sampler Review — “Into The Hands Of A Living God by Dominika Lein was another that threw me for a loop. It takes place in a fancy ballroom in space, with the humans in the room captivated by an alien creature. The story is told first-person, and our protagonist is infatuated with this creature as well, despite being no human. A man shows up to fight for her hand, but as the title says, what chance does he have against a living god?”

Appendix N (The Dark Herald) Imric the Elf Earl – “Tolkein’s elves were intrinsically good if ethereal. They were the Golden People. Not so much closer to God but closer to Man before his fall at Eden. They toiled not and lived lives of unearthly beauty. Anderson’s elves on the other hand are not nice at all. They not creations of God. They have no souls and hence are fundamentally incapable of love or morality. They are the anti-Tolkein. However, they are very much in keeping with the old stories of faerie. This soullessness is a central theme of this book. All of the faerie are soulless. Both the elves and their enemies the trolls. And all of faerie recoils before the encroaching power of the White Christ whose church will drive them to oblivion.”

Comics (Walter Simonson) Thor Volume One — “Perhaps the most powerful lesson I learned from those comics was that if you kept a straight face, you could do anything. The wildest stories were possible if you invited the readers to come along on the journey without breaking faith with them. No nudges in the ribs or sly winks to let them know that we were all in on the joke, that we were all too hip for our own good. The essence of a good story was to bind the reader with a spell broken only at that story’s conclusion, and perhaps, not even then.”

Old School Gaming (Metamorphosis Alpha) From the articles — “Once upon a time, when I was stocking up a mined city for a campaign, I added one enchained princess. My notes had one simple line: ‘Adventurers will fall in love with her; no saving roll….’ It so happened that a lone adventurer found her, rescued her, and they soon were married. But they did not live happily ever after. He and she went adventuring, ran into some nasty rogues, and she got her poor head sliced off by a rapier. That incident launched one of the most incredible– and spontaneous– quests that I have ever seen. He determined that he could not live without her, and set out to find a way to restore her to life. He plunged into the depths of the wilderness, he sought out every wise wizard and hirsute but mysterious hag, he tried everything. Eventually he succeeded.”

D&D (The Mixed GM) Short Stories, Novels, Old-School RPGs, & New-School RPGs — “Older games took it for granted that characters died often, either due to player stupidity or the occasional bad roll of the dice. The player would then roll up a new character and get back into the game. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Character background was less important, because spending a lot of time thinking up an epic story for a character who might die in the next 30 minutes is not a good use of time. The game itself, overcoming challenges in the game world was more important than an overarching story about defeating the world-ending evil bad guy.”

Appendix N (PulpRev.com) Robert E Howard — “Every story was like diving into a bottomless well and returning with armfuls of glittering gold and glimmering gems. Here were hard-hitting tales of passion and zest delivered in muscular prose. Here were restless men of action, pushing ever onwards to the next great adventure and conquest; and beautiful women who recognized and reveled in their femininity, dangerous and clever and charming and tough. Here were stories of mortal and moral peril, of blackest evil and foul monsters, of savage men who found glory and triumph in the dark corners of the world.”

Where Have All the Good Men Gone? (Tor.com) Women are the Champions of the Rebellion Now — “The Force Awakens and Rogue One transform the entire arc of the series, shifting from stories of young men acting more or less individually, to focus on women building resistances against unfair power structures, working together with people across class and species lines, welcoming new members, honoring each others’ work. Women have passed the spirit of the rebellion to each other, from Padme and Mon Mothma’s co-founding of the Rebellion, to Jyn Erso’s sacrifice, to Leia’s leadership, to Rey’s taking up the search for Luke. These stories may have happened a long time ago, but the future of Star Wars is female.”

RPGs (Dice and Discourse) Thoughts on “Old School” vs “Modern” RPG Design (Part 2) — “A video game only let you do what it was coded to allow. But an RPG let you do (or at least try) anything. In this way RPGs were always more ‘real’ to me. And I tried to have my PCs act in a way that I thought I would act if I were in this sort of fantastic world. So, I tried to avoid a fight instead of risking injury or death. To do otherwise would have been too… video game-y.”

Knights Revisited (Jon Mollison) The Unbearable Lightness of Empty Shells — “Despite centuries of Enlightenment scholarly effort (and especially the efforts of their modern heirs) to cast knights as eternal villains and base cutthroats, they remain the ultimate white hats of the pre-gunpowder days. Give them a strong arm, a deft tongue, and an unflinching disdain for evil, and people will bring a lot of the best kind of baggage along for the ride.”

Now Tell Us How You Really Feel (Walker’s Retreat) “The Last Jedi” is a Dumpster Fire- Don’t See It! — “This movie is a goddamn dumpster fire. It’s such a failure of fundamental elements of storytelling that anyone who has any acumen at storytelling cannot unsee how badly this film’s narrative is put together. This film violates every single piece of storytelling craft that there is, and as such it cannot help but to fail at its purported purpose.”

From the comments (Vox Popoli) It should be the last Jedi — “In the extended universe, Luke marries a 9/10 redhead, has kids, restarts and reforms the Jedi Order successfully, fights alongside his friends in cool battles, and becomes the most powerful Jedi Grandmaster who ever lived. In the Last Jedi, Luke thinks about murdering his young nephew, fails to build anything, abandons his friends, doesnt marry and dies a virgin in bitter isolation.”

From the Comments (Kairos) The Last Jedi Is a Con — “This movie is going to cause Rotten Tomatoes to turn off the audience score citing abuse from trolls.”

Bwa-ha-ha! (Twitter) Capsule Review — “The Last Jedi will not be for you if you like movies where characters grow, change, have conversations, develop relationships, or make choices for reasons outside of plot convenience. However there is a scene where Luke drinks green milk from an erotically moaning tit monster”

Remove not the ancient landmark… (Empire Must Fall) Narrative Warfare:The Last Jedi – Cultural Hijacking In Action — “Anciently, when a conqueror completes a conquest one of the things done do cement control and establish dominance is to change the mythology of the conquered nation. Their heroes get degraded, their deeds defiled, and the conqueror’s heroes supercede them in all ways- often with ease. To the generation surviving the conquest, this is insult added to injury, but left unchecked the generations that follow will accept this degenerate mythology as normal- and if the conqueror is wise, they leave an out for the subjects to go all the way and buy into their control. It’s the mythological equivalent of killing a man, taking his wife for oneself, and slaughtering his children by her before seeding your own to both remove loose ends and make her accept the conquest as inescapable.”

Unparalleled Hate (Rawle Nyanzi) A Tale of Two Reactions — “Consider this your evidence: if you portray whites in a good light, with functional families, healthy love lives, and caring families, SJWs consider the film racist and hateful. This is all it takes. The SJWs loved the recent Star Wars because it trashed the heroes of the original trilogy and reversed all of their accomplishments as rebel leaders — after all, Luke and Leia were white and thus inherently bad. Just like with the Hallmark Christmas movies, the SJWs consider the originals — and their fans — to be some racist and sexist embarrassment that should be pushed aside.”

Drown the Cat! (Of Wolves and Men) STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI AND WHY THE POD PEOPLE LOVED IT — “Your blue-pilled, Rick and Morty loving, coworker in the next cubicle is technically correct. Star Wars: The Last Jedi actually did something completely different. A HOLLYWOOD MOVIE DIRECTLY SHAT UPON THE JOSEPH CAMPBELL MONOMYTH. And when someone who watches a lot of movies (most of which have the same plot timing) they immediately notice that something is new and different even if they can’t quite put their finger on it. Of course attacking the monomyth is simply a prerequisite to shitting on and destroying the entire rest of the Star Wars mythos but that’s another topic entirely.”

The Ideological Conquest of Science Fiction Literature (Kairos) Neither Holy, Roman, nor an Empire — “The Hard Buds of SF revel in the narrative that science fiction was the nichest of niche fandoms from its beginnings (by their reckoning) just before WWII until Star Wars came along and made sci-fi mainstream. They often rehash this story while wrinkling their noses at the unwashed masses that Star Wars brought into their intimate little club. But as Jeffro pointed out, the only Campbellian narrative that’s even more shopworn than the above declares that Star Wars is not science fiction at all, but dirty, elf-riddled fantasy. You can probably see what the Hard Buds missed in their haste to defend their ivory tower: either science fiction rode Star Wars’ coattails into the mainstream, or Star Wars isn’t science fiction, and therefore SF has never been anything more than a super niche fandom catering to a small clique of oddball hobbyists.”

The Peasants are Revolting (Vanity Fair) Just How Seriously Should We Take This Star Wars: The Last Jedi Backlash? — “Whether or not this claim is true (and there’s no way to verify it at the moment), that Facebook post reveals how easy it might be for a vocal minority to manipulate a metric such as this and create a false narrative. Yes, there is a ticked-off splinter of the Star Wars fandom angered by The Last Jedi. These MAGA–esque fanboys—the same that called Rey a ‘Mary Sue’ or lost their marbles over the 2016 all-female Ghostbusters reboot before it even hit theaters—have been spreading their overblown hatred all over social media. As you might imagine, those “fans”—who seem to take their cues from First Order supremacists Hux and Kylo rather than Resistance heroes Rey, Finn, and Poe—aren’t very comfortable with the film’s more progressive messages. Their hysteria-tinged reactions are best ignored.”

Don’t Read Anything After 1940 (Kairos) A Simple List — “The insidious attitude that not only are there no heroes; there’s no such thing as heroism is rampant in American pop culture. The point of fiction is escapism. If you won’t give the reader something to dream about and aspire to, GTFO.”

Words Have Meaning (Burroughs Bibliophiles) Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Development of Science Fiction — “Some hard-core fans of science fiction might deny that Burroughs’ adventure oriented stories had much to do with the development of the genre. One must admit, after all, that the science in Burroughs’ books is nearly always subordinate to the adventure itself. However, I do not balk at including Burroughs as one of the founding fathers. I’m fairly catholic in my attitude toward science fiction. If it takes place on another planet or is set in the future or has some interesting and scientific element in it, and especially if it’s called ‘science fiction,’ I accept it as science fiction. There’s good science fiction and bad, but I don’t exclude stories mostly on the basis of theme.”

Something Happened (Salon) What to say to your kids after “The Last Jedi” — “How is diversity — and the lack thereof — used to indicate the values of the opposing sides of the conflict in the Star Wars series? Why is it notable that the First Order has very little diversity, while the Republic has a lot of it? Did you notice the strong female characters in the movie? How has the world of Star Wars changed in this respect since the original trilogy (or even the prequels)?”

That’s the Ticket (Independent) Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been killed off by PC culture. No really, people actually think that — “Bad enough that it has a prominent black character in it, and the fact that The Last Jedi basically belongs to Rey, a woman. But now there’s a new cast member who’s a Vietnamese-American (Kelly Marie Tran who plays Rose Tico) too. Enough already! What happened to the good old days when it was about white blokes, the token woman donned a bikini to give us all a thrill and the token black guy didn’t appear until the second movie and knew his place by remaining in a minor role?”

When the Mystery Box Turns Out To Be Empty (Forbes) How ‘The Force Awakens’ Set Up ‘The Last Jedi’ For Disappointment — “Not all of the flaws in The Last Jedi can be written off as the fault of J.J. Abrams, but paving a glittering road to nowhere certainly didn’t help. And some of Johnson’s decisions were, admittedly, fairly creative. Luke Skywalker’s story, or at least aspects of it, made a lot of sense to me (others may strongly disagree). Rey’s reveal was clever, as it destroyed the hereditary nature of the Force, democratizing it for the future, so Disney can build a post-Skywalker universe.”

Were Intellectuals Always this Stupid? (Wired) ‘The Last Jedi’ Is the Most Intellectual ‘Star Wars’ Movie — “It has the most moral complexity of any of the movies, it has the most surprises of any of the movies, and is the most intellectual and self-aware, and gives you the most to think about afterward.”

#RazörWasRight (The Dark Herald) Star Wars Falls — “The third of the new Star Wars movies is performing as badly as a DC Comics movie. This is the beginning of the end for Kathleen Kennedy because I am now becoming positive that Solo: A Star Wars Film by Star Wars is going to be the first of the actual money losers.”

The Last Tomato (Forbes) Gargantuan $151M 2nd-Weekend Plunge For ‘The Last Jedi’ Is An Epic Hollywood Choke — “Countless former die-hard fans have publicly sworn off seeing any future Star Wars installments. And as the 52 percent (and still declining) Rotten Tomatoes audience rating has indicated, the general audience has responded by telling Disney and the filmmakers, ‘You have failed me for the last time.'”

Just Do What the Purple Haired Lady Says (The Verge) In The Last Jedi, being a space cowboy doesn’t fly anymore — “Responsibility is a core theme in the film, which we also see in Luke Skywalker’s arc and his admission to Rey about why Ben Solo turned to the dark side. It’s a big change for a franchise that has always been more interested in the hotshot antics of the ‘galaxy’s best pilot’ than the practical results of taking those sorts of absurd risks. It subverts Star Wars norm of rewarding impulsive decisions with accolades, and paves the way for a richer narrative that acknowledges the fact that sometimes, good guys can inadvertently do bad things with lasting consequences.”

Some of Them Want to Be Abused (Entertainment Weekly) The Last Jedi: A Force push against the backlash — “Overall, I was deeply moved by what Johnson did with Luke in this film. I haven’t been around nearly as long as Yoda’s 900 years, but in my own time I’ve picked up two pieces of wisdom: It’s easy to go wrong while trying to do the right thing — and the good guys don’t always win, but sometimes it’s enough to just keep being good. It’s a nice fantasy to imagine that once you grow up, once you become strong, you stay that way. But I appreciated that Johnson took our mutual childhood hero and made him an adult one, someone who traverses the line between right and wrong and wonders if he can still see it clearly.”

Blue Checkmark Dawn (Washington Post) How to help fix our terrible discussions of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ — “Regardless, something needs to be done if Rotten Tomatoes and the rest of these sites want us to take user ratings seriously. Otherwise, potential customers and cultural commentators alike will have little choice but to disregard customer scores such as the one given to ‘The Last Jedi.'”

What Canst Thou Say? (NPR) Latest ‘Star Wars’ Teaches The Value Of Failure — “Skywalker is a tortured soul, racked by remorse and a paralyzing sense of failure. He blames himself for failing to rescue Kylo Ren from the dark side. Yoda, always the mentor, senses all this: ‘The greatest teacher, failure is.’ To Skywalker’s astonishment, Yoda goes on to destroy all the sacred places in the island, including a holy tree and the sacred books of the Jedi, mocking Skywalker. (Or maybe Rey saved the books?) The Force is to be felt, not theorized about. You carry it inside, not in books or holy places. It is the energy in all things, alive and not, the pulse of existence. To know it you must experience it, not read about it.”

Not Nearly Woke Enough! (The Weekend Australian) It’s still a white, male dominated galaxy — “In reality, Disney reinforces male hegemony under the cloak of gender equality. Rey reverently caresses the sacred and ancient Jedi texts, oblivious of its misogynist tenets. They seemingly eschew anger, aggression and fear, holding that these are the pathway to the Dark Side. Instead the Jedi lauded stoicism, self-control, objective truths, and logic, but they are a ruse designed to control women. As feminist scholars have demonstrated, logic and objectivity are patriarchal constructs. How naive was The Guardian in declaring feminism and inclusivity were consistent with the ‘Jedi spirit’? As we now know, subjective experience, the display of emotion, and the acknowledgment of multiple truths are the gateway to knowledge. Rey does not recognise this, but foolishly acquiesces in the Jedi’s oppressive ideology.”

Most Marxist Star Wars EVAH (The Guardian) Anti-empire, pro-activist … The Last Jedi is as left wing as Jeremy Corbyn — “There’s a delicious irony to the fact that director Rian Johnson, funded by corporate behemoth Disney, has used this most capitalistic, money-grabbing of platforms to plant the seeds of anti-fascist, anti-capitalist egalitarianism in the minds of the world’s young. It’s not a subtle message, either. There’s a whole sequence set in an intergalactic casino where the only thing of any import we learn is about the evils of unfettered capitalism – only the wicked get rich, and it’s by selling arms to both sides.”

And You Should Feel Bad (Cinema Blend) One Line Carrie Fisher Obviously Wrote In Star Wars: The Last Jedi — “Another significant moment that Fisher wrote was her final scene with Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo. Holdo is staying behind on The Resistance’s main ship to cover their escape plan from The First Order. The two women begin to say ‘May the Force be with you’ at the same time, and Leia says (brilliantly), ‘You go, I’ve said it enough.’ It’s another example of classic Fisher, who definitely said it enough in her lifetime, and it takes on a bit of a sad feeling under a meta context.”

No Payoff (Forbes) Fandom Menace: Why You’re Still OK If You Dislike ‘The Last Jedi’ (And Why It Matters To Disney) — “Rian Johnson, in his script and his direction, constantly pulled the rug out from under the audience, setting up expectations through what he showed and told the audience on screen, and then revealing that everything you’d just seen was a lie the movie told you so that it could then ‘wow’ you with a dishonestly manufactured surprise. Luke’s bitter antipathy toward the rebellion; Kylo Ren’s on again, off again ‘good’ side; Luke’s being pummeled by megatons of artillery; the cave that had no possible exit until it suddenly did; Yoda torching the Jedi library, except not really. And on and on and on. All cheap parlor tricks, shameless and aggressive duping of the audience that breaks the cardinal rule of storytelling: don’t treat the audience like ignorant patsies.”

MicroGames (The Daily Illuminator) The Fantasy Trip Returns Home — “At the beginning of my career, long before GURPS, I created a roleplaying game called The Fantasy Trip. For decades, the rights have been held by Metagaming, a publisher which is no longer in operation. I’m very pleased to announce that I have regained the eight TFT releases that I wrote myself: Melee, Wizard, Death Test, Death Test 2, Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, In the Labyrinth, and Tollenkar’s Lair.”

The Hard Buds of SF (The Verge) That bizarre milk scene from The Last Jedi has a basis in dairy science — “There’s a strange scene in The Last Jedi as Rey is following Luke Skywalker around his hermitage on the planet Ahch-To. Luke has apparently gotten into the habit of milking the planet’s local creatures — the remarkably relaxed thala-sirens that spend their time reclining against the rocks. He walks up to one of the creatures and squeezes green milk from its prominent udders. Then he drinks it, soaking his beard with the stuff.”

Anime (Castalia House) More Proof Hollywood Spits at Heroism And Adventure: Castlevania — “It begins with Lisa, a peasant girl trying to learn about medicine, waltzing straight into Dracula’s castle. When Dracula threatens her, she shows zero fear, and dresses down Dracula for not showing proper courtesy to a guest. Dracula is taken aback and proceeds to do everything she tells him to, like a properly repentant boy. Yep. Three minutes in, and the main, terrifying villain, lord of demons and monsters, has been emasculated and is being ordered around by an ordinary country girl. In exchange for this feminist bullshit, the mighty Dracula is robbed of all menace and mystery, vital characteristics of a villain.”

Gaming (Jon Mollison) Magic: The Smattering — “The CCG can die in a cold fire so far as I’m concerned. I’ve never forgiven it for stealing the limelight of tabletop gaming away from RPGs in the early 1990s. Which means that I’ve been following the Convergence of Magic: The Gathering with a morbidity similar to that which I feel watching Marvel Comics choke on their adherence to the Narrative.”

#PulpFail (Hunting Muses) SW8: the Last Jedi (SPOILER FREE) — “In this new film? 4 creatures are seen (I’m not counting the fish Luke kills to eat). The Porgs, land whales used for milking, giant horse-dogs, and crystal wolves. NONE of them threaten our heroes in any way, rather they are all friends and allies who want to help – domesticated. Once upon a time, Star Wars took place in a dangerous galaxy, one where our heroes (and villains) had to contend with threats beyond those of the empire. Now? Now the galaxy is safe. There is no danger to anyone except from evil people.”

State of the Art (The Nerdist) HOW THE LAST JEDI’S GROSS MILKING SCENE CAME TO BE — “Scanlan said that allowed two puppeteers to get inside the creature—one in the front and one above him. ‘One would operate the shoulders and the flippers at the top and the other person would operate the belly and the milking mechanism or the udder mechanism at the bottom.'”

There’s a message here! (Hunting  Muses) SW8: The Last Jedi (SPOILER review) — “Anakin saw himself destroying what he fought for. Luke saw himself becoming the very thing he fought. Rey… just sees herself. Infinite selves. Nothing else. She doesn’t see a dark Rey conquering the galaxy or standing beside Kylo Ren. Either Rey is so pure there is no darkness in her, or so dark there is no where left for her to fall. While she gets some decent enough action sequences, by movie’s end she’s made no real advancement as a character save for accepting that her parents were nobodies and all her friends are her true family – like pretty much every. other. film. from the last decade.”

Deep truths that most people won’t notice until the fifth viewing. Really makes you think! (Bitter Gertrude) THE LAST JEDI IS SUBVERSIVE AF, AND I AM HERE FOR IT — “When she falls for Finn, it’s not the usual trope of Hero Wins Sexy Woman, and was therefore criticized for being ‘shoehorned in.’ Rose wasn’t wearing a low-cut top; we never saw Finn ogling her; we never saw the camera linger over her ass. We were never given the signals ‘SEE HER AS A SEX OBJECT,’ so her love for Finn is ‘shoehorned in.’ But this is the stirrings of the new society. Any idiot can ogle a woman’s ass, but the man who automatically respects a woman’s expertise is well worth falling for.”

I’m Okay, You’re Okay (Polygon) Star Wars: The Last Jedi finally proves that the Jedi suck — “So what is the point of having a light and dark side if the Force is a part of all things? Why have a Jedi Order and a Sith if both can live together without any morality or arbitrary rules tearing them apart? Yoda understands this, which is why he tells Luke that it’s okay to be imperfect, to have some dark side tendencies.”

Traveller (Castalia House) REVIEW: Fate of the Kinunir by Robert E. Vardeman — “There just aren’t any advanced artificial intelligence systems in the game. Indeed, the original rules indicate that the computers on starships tend to be ungainly mainframes that have a set number of 8-track type program tapes that are constantly being switched out depending on the circumstances. And sure, most people ignore this obscure and dated aspect of the game. And yes, Signal GK did introduce sentient computer chip based life forms to the game. But even then, the advantages and abilities they conveyed when installed in a ship’s computer system were extremely modest.”

Traveller (Castalia House) REVIEW: Shadow of the Storm by Martin J. Dougherty — “The translation of The Lord of the Rings to the big screen is a prime example of what I mean. Oh sure, the director could handle a straight ahead rite of passage arc well enough: something like a young hobbit taking off for an adventure he isn’t quite ready for, but who then somehow finds his courage, defeats a foe, and returns home as a hero. The figure of Aragorn, however, is completely unfathomable to him. It’s as if the only way he could think of to portray him was to translate him into a carbon copy of Pippin. This of course reduces the travel worn, wordly-wise leader of men to a laughably adolescent level. It’s so bad, he even has to get a ‘step up’ sermon from his father-in-law-to-be before he could ‘find himself’ and choose to get on with what needed doing.”

From the Comments (Castalia House) RETROSPECTIVE: The Dying Earth by Jack Vance — “I rather liked this review, except for the part where it was called a review. The word review signifies a general outline of the stories, the genre and sketches of the plots, impressions the reviewer was left with by the stories, what he liked about them, and what he didn’t. This would be done primarily for the aide of readers who might want to read a series, but want to avoid sinking their time into reading something they’ll end up not enjoying. They turn to reviews to give them the gist of stories, to help them decide which ones to try, and which ones to avoid. In that regard, this ‘review’ fails remarkably (which, incidentally, is why I am remarking on it).”

From the Comments (Castalia House) RETROSPECTIVE: Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson — “You know, I can’t help but feel like some of the strangeness of the scenarios in early D&D come from the conflict between the Tolkienian paradigm and what you’ve described in this book. The Caves of Chaos as a threat to the Borderlands makes sense if its inhabitants are aligned with chaos as creatures of Fey encroaching on the lands of good christian men. But if they are simply other races, representing no threat other than what a slightly less advanced culture on the borders of a more advanced culture tend to represent, the moral and existential threat is significantly negated.”

Traveller (Castalia House) RETROSPECTIVE: The Winds of Gath by E. C. Tubb — “E. C. Tubb’s work played a key role in getting the Traveller role playing game off the ground, but like scaffolding that aids in the construction of a monument, it was no longer integral to the structure after the initial design work was completed. As is often the case with such games, the more offbeat and incomprehensible elements were quietly passed over and deemphasized over time. And yet a hard edge of the Dumarest series remains: fragments of a pulpy, uncaring universe populated with the desperate and the sadistic. Whenever players blow through a dozen worlds in half as many game sessions or get into trouble as a side effect to their living hand-to-mouth, they walk in the footsteps of the grandfather of all travelers: Earl Dumarest. It’s a great contrast to the squeaky clean future presented in Star Trek where people don’t even need money anymore. The problems in Traveller and Firefly always center on the human element and you can’t just ‘reverse the polarity’ and walk away from them. This aspect of the material is key to the enduring appeal of both.”

Traveller (Castalia House) RETROSPECTIVE: Derai by E. C. Tubb — “Whoever published this knew what they were doing. At a hundred and fifty-three pages, it does not represent a terribly serious investment, but really… any science fiction novel with a sword wielding woman in unreasonable armor on the cover is worth a shot. Sure, the plot is formulaic, following much the same structure as a television mystery. And admittedly, the setting is almost painfully derivative of Dune which had come out three years beforehand. But the lead character cuts so compelling a figure that it really is no surprise to me that this series would continue on for a whopping thirty-three books in total.”

From the Comments (Castalia House) RETROSPECTIVE: The High Crusade by Poul Anderson —  “There are few things more tedious than seeing 20th century perspectives inserted into quasi-11th century historical settings. It’s ignorant, incoherent, deceptive, often propagandistic, and intrinsically offensive to anyone with even a modicum of respect for history.”

From the Comments (Castalia House) RETROSPECTIVE: The Eyes of the Overworld by Jack Vance — “These articles are mind-bogglingly great, by the way. I’m definitely checking on this blog every day.”

From the Comments (Castalia House) RETROSPECTIVE: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs — “Y’know, I think that one of the many problems with our culture today is that the ‘Adventures For Boys’ genre/style of fiction is either dead or dormant. Unless you count the Harry Potter books, there really hasn’t been anything going on in this field of writing in my lifetime.”

From the Comments (Castalia House) RETROSPECTIVE: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny — “Jack of Shadows is not a novel about a moral philosophy to drive your life by. It is about freedom of choice, the context it sits in and uncertainty. Morningstar is an ambiguous figure who may be a devil or an angel, and as Jack falls at the end, it’s impossible to say if he his actions have been for good or ill. If Zelazny had him die or survive, this would have told the reader not only what the answer was, but that such an answer was expectable. Keeping it uncertain is the point.”

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Blog Watch: Naked Dames, Skipped Chapters, Heroic Girls, and Primitive Energies

Role Playing Games (Gaming Ballistic) Introductory GURPS: What do Basic D&D and WEG Star Wars tell us? — “One of the nicest things about the Basic D&D and S&W sets (and I feel this way just as strongly about the old WEG Star Wars RPG) is that you can sit a half-dozen or even a dozen people down at a table with nothing, and be playing in less than an hour. Perhaps much less. Even with limited copies of the rules. ”

Appendix N (Cirsova) Short Reviews – Lorelei of the Red Mist, Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury — “I wonder if Bradbury blushed when he was handed what Brackett had already written? Then again, we tend to remember Bradbury as the kindly old man of Ray Bradbury Theater, the guy who wrote scary kids stories and that book you had to read in school, when in 1947 fandom was asking ‘how did you wean Ray Bradbury away from his naked dames long enough to write Rocket Summer?'”

From the Comments (Black Gate) Discovering Robert E. Howard: Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward Re-Read “The People of the Black Circle” — “This is, however, where I’m dissapointed with Dark Horse’s adaptation on it. Essentially they skipped over the whole chapter ‘Yasmina Knows Stark Terror’ – which despite the Comics Code and reasonable limits on Magazine/Distribution was done by Marvel twice or so in the past quite well. I mean the part of the story to find fodder for the Brundage Cover…”

A New Hope (Salon) Leia finally picks up a lightsaber — and the little girl inside me cheers — “Is it crazy that when I saw that moment in the trailer, I felt an enormous upswell of triumph? Not just for Leia, former princess, but for me—and for the little girl I was, when I first saw these films. I don’t have to prove anything anymore. These films are for me, too. And that is how it should be. Because ‘Star Wars’ is, as Joseph Campbell so famously framed it, the hero’s journey, the story of everyone, for everyone. I’m glad that the new generation of little girls will know that they can be heroes too.”

Get Off My Lawn (Camille Paglia) Feminist Trouble — “As I have repeatedly argued throughout my career, sex is a physical interaction, animated by primitive energies and instincts that cannot be reduced to verbal formulas. Neither party in any sexual encounter is totally operating in the rational realm, which is why the Greek god Dionysus was the patron of ecstasy, a hallucinatory state of pleasure-pain. ‘Yes means Yes’ laws are drearily puritanical and literalistic as well as hopelessly totalitarian. Their increasing popularity simply demonstrates how boring and meaningless sex has become – and why Hollywood movies haven’t produced a scintilla of sexiness since Sharon Stone uncrossed her legs in Basic Instinct.”

From The Comments (SciFi Wright) The Canon Gap — “Yes, it is true that much of the old canon is not readily available. But if you point that out and stop there, you miss part of Jeffro Johnson’s point. Yes, they are hard to find, but WHY are they hard to find today? If the stories are indeed better qua story, they ought to be readily available. So what happened? Part of Jeffro’s series was on that question, and he concluded that the canon was subverted and replaced with malice aforethought. The inestimable Tom Simon has touched on some commercial reasons which might bear on the matter in his essays on fantasy publishing; Jeffro touches on ideological hypotheses for the erasure of the past in our little world. I suspect that both men have part of the story; in particular, I suspect that the shift was begun for commercial reasons by publishers such as Lester Del Rey, who wanted to sell his new fantasy blockbusters, but carried to completion by ideologues who are invested in reshaping the field to suit their ideology, and hiding the past was a necessary first step.”

Movies (Actually…) What makes SF work? — “It’s not an entirely unreasonable riff on the more out-there ideas of the day, but it’s out of step with the majority in the middle – because it breaks the rules: It invokes mythic themes and deus ex machina in the context of what’s written as a solid engineering SF story. To my mind, this essentially puts the film (and the co-developed book) in the position of being two quite different stories which have been stitched together, which I think is what causes the slight sense of ‘wrongness’ that rubs me the wrong way in the early ape scene and the transition to psychedelia at the end.”

AD&D (PJMedia) The Long Shadow of D&D’s Alignment System — “It’s a remarkably fraught system when you think about the implications; after all, having one’s moral quality be fully quantifiable can have any number of implications, starting with the fairly basic one that if something is inherently Evil then you can kill it without any kind of remorse.”

Conventions (Castalia House) Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End (Part 3 of 5) — “All of this noise, to prevent annoyance, alarm, the feeling of threat and unwanted or uninvited contact. Not one word to prevent child molesters from ‘accepting’ the invitation of a child. To the contrary, from the point of view of a practicing pedophile, the various ‘safe space’ policies cited by Scalzi both endorse and enable adult-child relationships. Now, that may seem like a strong statement from silence, but it really isn’t, if you can, for a moment, think like a predator.”

Traveller (Tales to Astound) TRAVELLER and “Hard Science Fiction” — I don’t think so… — “People attack the Traveller rules for ‘not making sense,’ for ‘not being realistic.’ Flamewars have broken out over the logic (or lack thereof) of Interstellar Trade, Piracy, Ship Design, and more. Decades have been spent trying to bring the rules and setting of Traveller into alignment with the Hard Science Fiction that Traveller is ‘supposed’ to be. But the fact is, Traveller was never supposed to be Hard Science Fiction. It was designed to allow RPG play in fictional situations inspired by SF tales published in the middle decades of the 20th century.”

Blog Watch: Ray Fencing, Turkish Delight, Distant Lands, and Loud Mouth Working Class Folks

Science Fiction (Cirsova) More Maza! — “At ray fencing, the Princess[Maza] was the equal of any trained soldier in her army, but her opponent, she found, was the most skillful she had ever encountered.  His tactics, however, were purely defensive except as he tried to destroy her projector.  Evidently his orders had been to bring her in alive.  He would feint, swinging his ray as if he meant to strike her down, but never in direct line with her body.  Noticing this, she resolved to stake everything on one long chance.  Accordingly, she held her projector away from her – a tempting bait.  He swung for the lure, leaving his guard open for but an instant.  But in that instant her red ray struck him full in the chest, and he was no more.”

The Inklings (AtlasObscur) C.S. Lewis’ Greatest Fiction: Convincing American Kids That They Would Like Turkish Delight — “England’s wartime sugar rationing probably figured into that choice. The reason the Pevensie children were staying in an old house with a portal to Narnia in its wardrobe was that it was World War II, and kids were being relocated due to bombing risks. Candy, too, was a casualty of the war. During WWII, and well into the postwar period, sugar was strictly rationed in England; in 1950, when Lewis published the first Narnia book, the allowance was half a pound of candy and chocolate per person per month. It’s no wonder that, when the White Queen asked him what he liked best, Edmund’s answer was a confection that is almost entirely sugar.”

Appendix N (Dark Heritage) Appendix E — “Gamers today—and even just simply science fiction and fantasy genre fans, whether or not they’re gamers—have to specifically be told to look for these books, and many of them never are and consequently never look.  Sure, the Appendix E can count as them being told, I suppose, assuming that they look at it.  But the Appendix E is full of a bunch of fluff compared to the Appendix N (which even than, I think, certainly had its share of fluff).  And today’s crybaby generation reads stuff like the Conan stories and finds themselves ‘triggered.’  It’s a sad state of affairs.”

Science Fiction (SFRevu) How Shit Became Shinola: Definition and Redefinition of Space Opera — “Perfectly intelligent but ignorant people are writing revisionist history, inventing an elaborate age of space opera based on wholesale redefinitions of the term made up in the sixties and seventies to justify literary political agendas. To say it flatly, before the mid-1970s, no one in the history of science fiction ever consciously and intentionally set out to write something called space opera (except Jack Vance, who accepted the assignment from Berkley Books in the late 1960s to write a novel to fit the title, Space Opera — at the same time Philip K. Dick got the assignment to write a book called The Zap Gun. These were editorial jokes to be shared with the fans).”

Traveller (Tales to Astound) TRAVELLER : Book 4 Mercenary – The Implicit Setting Made Explicit — “Yet these exotic, uncivilized, distant  lands are the analogue to where the PCs are supposed to adventure. These are the analogues for the setting of play for Classic Traveller. My question is this: How much of this feel of the distant, the exotic, the strange and the uncivilized made it into the Official Traveller Universe by the time all was said and done? How much of it made it into the Spinward Marches–full of MegaCorporations and Xboat networks that carried news with ease? Did this frontier setting ever feel like a frontier? Did it ever seem like it was all that different than sectors located toward the Imperial core? My impression of the material was that all the answers to those questions was no.”

D&D (Dungeon Fantastic) Review: City System (Waterdeep) — “If I had to run another city-based game, I’d be strongly tempted to bust out City System and go with Waterdeep and its blown-up maps. Having done both – full-out detail, and just rule-roll-describe – it would be nice to get the benefits of the full-out detailed city again. This is an excellent supplement for that.”

Star Trek (startrek.com) Forgotten Trek: Designing the Reliant for Star Trek II — “‘We were mailing everything over to him and getting him to approve it and mail it back to us,’ she told Star Trek: The Magazine, ‘so we did our first sketch of the ship and mailed them off to him.’ Bennett was supposed to sign for approval at the bottom of the sheet. ‘When he got it in the mail he took it out of the package upside down, I guess, and wrote out on the bottom, ‘Yes, this looks very good, proceed.’ So when we got it back we realized he’d approved it upside down.’ Rather than bother Bennett again, the three decided to make it work that way — and it did. Jennings and Lee added what Minor dubbed a ‘roll bar’ to support the dropped nacelles. Phaser banks were put in this supporting structure.”

Science Fiction (Cirsova) Short Reviews – Beer-Trust Busters, A.R. Stuart — “Space wasn’t just a place where soldiers fought alien wars, it was where you earned your living. Whether in a bawdy farce like this or in a more serious potboiler like The Martian Circe, sci-fi writers spent a lot of time looking at what the space-age joe-average would be dealing with on a day to day basis, how he’d kick back and relax, not to mention the sort of recreational substance abuse that would go on. Being so advanced a civilization as to have space ships isn’t going to make us magically ‘better’ or ‘enlightened’ in the way we see depicted in settings like Star Trek. No, we’re still going to have our loud-mouthed working class folks who bitch loudly about taxes, bureaucrats and government overreach and will do whatever they can to undermine systems that oppress human leisure. God bless ‘em!”

Appendix N (Howard Andrew Jones) Conan Re-Read: “The People of the Black Circle” — “The magic was so inventive, and so NOT standard role-playing magic. I think too many of us now have grown up playing those games where spells behave a certain way. There’s no telling what’s going to happen with magic in one of these tales because it’s beyond our ken. It’s subtle and horrific. Never flashy, but usually fear inducing.”

Rpg Design (Roles, Rules, and Rolls) Interesting Buffs Are Visible Buffs — “One thing you’ll notice about all these is that their presence in the material world starts sparking off ideas for creative uses, advantages and disadvantages, just like the Force Shield beyond giving an armor bonus can also be used to stop a door or carry a load. If something only affects the rules level, there is only one use for it.”

Blog Watch: The Power of War Games, Cheating GM’s, Radioactive Ruins, and Ascending Celebrity

Star Wars (RetroZap) Padmé Didn’t Die of a Broken Heart, Part Two — “Do you really think a little electricity is enough to bring Darth Vader down? Does he really look that fragile? He may be an egghead at the end, but Anakin was TOUGH. A few seconds of Force lightning just isn’t enough to bring the Chosen One down. But, the death of Darth Vader makes much more sense when we understand that the life force he was given was suddenly severed by the death of Darth Sidious.”

OSR (Cirsova) Dungeon Crawl Cowards — “I don’t know what it is about DCC that encourages everyone to behave as though they’re in some sort of survival horror. What is more interesting was this phenomenon was not emergent in the exact same setting when we were using Lamentations of the Flame Princess; there, we would throw ourselves into the frenzy, die in a blaze of glory and have a new character rolled up in time to meet the party just around the corner.”

Gaming History (The New Yorker) The Tangled Cultural Roots of D&D — “This brief scene suggests that for Gygax, war games offered not just a dreamy retreat from the real world, but a prism through which to examine it. It is a perspective that seems increasingly prescient as the line between the virtual and the actual continues to blur.”

Hipster Rpgs (Rpg Stack Exchange) How to ask nicely in Dungeon World — “The GM cheats in Dungeon World when they speak without following their Agenda, Principles, and Moves. There is no GM move called ‘make an arbitrary decision.’ There’s also no GM move called ‘have a freeform social interaction.’ If the GM is following the rules, this kind of stall should not happen.”

From the Comments (Black Gate) Vintage Treasures: John the Balladeer by Manly Wade Wellman — “Unfortunately I always found the Silver John stories better in concept than in execution. Not that the stories were ever bad– they’re evocative and entertaining. But try as I might, I never found them truly engrossing, and I never thought to myself hey, I feel like re-reading some Silver John.”

OSR (RpgPundit) The Radioactive Ruins of the Storygame Movement Sure Burn Pretty From Up Here — “On the other hand, while you have a lot of ‘celebrity designers’ in the OSR, the OSR isn’t about the game designer. Its about the GM. OSR games are not ‘coherent’ little models of micro-game pseudo-genius that must not be altered in the least by the grubby little hands of a mere GM. On the contrary, they are almost always toolkits for the GM, who knows his party and what he wants, to create his campaign his way.”

OSR (Reviews from R’lyeh) Space Swords & Wizardry — “The problem is that without these additional Classes, White Star cannot quite do the types of Science Fiction that it is clearly inspired by, which is a shame because there is a great deal to like about the RPG. In addition, it would have been nice if the house rules had included options for skill use and some rules and guidance for creating planets and solar systems rather than just leaving it up to the Referee.”

Appendix N (Castalia House) Primary Research — “L. Sprague de Camp is important for bringing sword and sorcery fiction from the pulp and digest magazine format to the mass market paperback in the 1960s. Swords and Sorcery (1963), The Spell of Seven (1965), The Fantastic Swordsmen (1967), and Warlocks and Warriors (1970) are very important to the genre. De Camp had good instincts on material.”

Comics (Dr Xaos Comics Madness) Striking twice, some day — “That’s a pretty good idea! But there’s one lurking and dangerous concept in there: its reliance on the Golden/Silver/Bronze/Iron model in a big and not good way. ’cause that model is just ass. There weren’t any such things, especially not in a graded downswing from Cheerful Idealism and Patriotism into Bitter and Tragic and then into Dark and Mature and Gritty. I’m calling this mythology out; it’s bullshit. It was confabulated by journalists and hucksters in the mid-80s to hype specific titles (‘Zap! Pow! Comics finally grow up’), and it relies on cherry-picking titles, plain and simple.”

Traveller (Tales to Astound!) TRAVELLER: Out of the Box – Interlude: How People Played Traveller in 1977 — “Classic Traveller is iconic. It was the first really successful science fiction role-playing game, preceded by Metamorphosis: Alpha and Space Quest and a number of other largely forgotten games. What made Traveller different was that there was actually a minimum of background provided in the rules – most of the other games has assumed a great deal about the background setting for a game.”

High Gygaxian is Back! (Dungeon Fantastic) Fun Stonehell 2 typo — “Referees and players looking for complex details on overarching plots and other story elements will not find them here – but that doesn’t mean they can be introduced!”

Appendix N (The Arts Mechanical) Appendix “N” Looked At Again — “The fossilization of SF/F is happening because people aren’t tied to the roots of SF. Because they aren’t steeped in the culture and know where things come from, all these new authors can do is play with the same old tropes in the same old ways.”

Appendix N (S. T. Joshi’s Blog) The World Fantasy Award — “If anyone feels that Lovecraft’s perennially ascending celebrity, reputation, and influence will suffer the slightest diminution as a result of this silly kerfuffle, they are very much mistaken.”

Appendix N (Arts Mechanical) You know You Are In A War When the Other Side Lobs Artillery Fire At You — “For all that ‘s bad about the 1970’s you could put together an Appendix N from stuff in your library or from the public library. The stuff out there in paperback was that diverse. The problem is that by and large that’s gone, the victim of changed tax laws, push marketing, chain stores and aggressive tie in publishing. What’s replaced it is a bland pile of grey mush and the stuff that gets run though editorial boards that are graduates of the Ivy Covered Snob Factories all of which are indoctrinated in a culture that is at odds with what people actually want.”

Appendix N (Howard Andrew Jones) The Coming of Conan Re-Read: “Rogues in the House” — “Stepping back you can see how it’s a strange beast inspired from multiple sources — weird death traps out of Fu Manchu stories, a system of mirrors set to emulate a modern mastermind’s hidden cameras, and an ape servant who’s rebelled against his master. If someone had come and babbled the various story elements to me I would have rolled my eyes. Yet it works very well, in part because once it starts rolling it just never lets up.”

Comics (Comic Book Resources) Year of the Artist, Day 363: Joe Kubert, Part 3 – Tarzan #220 — “As we’ve seen, Kubert can be very simplistic – Tarzan’s blade is a basic triangle – but that ‘simplicity’ lends his art a smoothness and motion that makes his action scenes work really well, while his wonderful inking add heft to the characters, as with the lion’s thick mane and Tarzan’s rugged back. It’s a wonderful combination of the two poles.”

Those People (Monster Hunter Nation) The 2015 Still Not a Real Writer Book Tour Recap — “Now, a smart person would say, whoops, my bad. But not a Puppy Kicker. They have that whole narrative about how anybody who disagrees with TRUFAN is irreparably damaging their career, so of course he doubled down. Oh no. He was there at 7:05! And he saw my 40! And that was still horrible garbage failure of suck, because that bookstore ROUTINELY gets 500(!) people at a book signing…”

That’s No Princess (Entertainment Weekly) She’s not called ‘Princess’ Leia anymore … — “There are heroes, and monsters, a castle, and magic and machines that defy belief. There’s even a princess, although … nobody in the galaxy calls Leia that anymore.”

Star Wars (SuperversiveSF) Books that Informed Star Wars — “If you hope to create a beloved cultural touchstone some day–or even produce minimally competent fiction–you need to start reading everything you can get your hands on.”

Blog Watch: Jack Armor, Dollops of Pretentiousness, Courtesy Flirtation, and Pagan Romanticism

Traveller (Tales to Astound!) RPG Settings – The Useful and the Not So Useful — “This issue of setting bloat is something that happened after the first wave of RPGs. TSR, GDW, and others were certainly happy to produce material that consumers wanted to spend money on. But I question how much valuable utility actually came from such purchases. While I can see the fascination with countless details about fictional worlds I would propose that asking anyone (players or referee) how much digging through and mastering a thick background of setting really matters against having the players focusing on this adventure, right here, right now.”

Appendix N (Advanced Dungeons & Parenting) AD&D’s Appendix N? What About the Moldvay Appendix? — “Given that he has taken the time to review the Carnelian Cube, a book that fellow Appendix N advocate Erik Mona has found ‘wanting,’ it is my hope that James will someday review the Kothar series by Gardner Fox. Though if that doesn’t happen I might just find the time to do so. Having endured a couple of Lin Carter’s Thongor books, I figure they cannot be much worse. That said, Carter at least has the virtue of being one of the best editors in SF/F history even though his Thongor stories fall very short of the best of Sword and Sorcery fiction.”

Traveller (Ancient Faith in the Far Future) Why have high-tech Jack armor? — “Mesh-class armor is still clothes-like, but less so. It’s heavier and with non-fabric components. This is armor that looks like armor, unless an effort is made to disguise it, like lining a coat with it.”

It’s a Thing (Cirsova) The Robert Morgan Effect — “Have you ever entered an online (or real world) space where you were absolutely certain that you were right about your position and everyone else was wrong? You may have had truth, facts and statistics on your side, but the sheer fact that the position you held or the idea you were espousing was so opposed to the consensus that you were seen as an outsider, an outcast, a troll, a reprobate, a lunatic, etc. In the eyes of those people, you are more than just a fly in the ointment, you are an aberration that must be cast out in order to create a homogeneity of thought, a safe space.”

Appendix N (Isegoria) Appendix N Survey Complete — “Modern fantasy writers have read a lot of modern fantasy. The early fantasy writers read history and legends.”

Star Wars (SuperversiveSF) Star Wars: Aftermath — “It wasn’t just that the prequels were subpar, or that they contradicted the previously established “canon” of the novels/games/comics– and until the prequels came along, it was Canon– it was that they did it cavalierly, in little ways that showed utter spite for what had been written. The Clone Wars glimpsed through the lens of Zahn were something terrible and unnatural. In the prequel films, they’re a muddled mess, and clones, an unnatural abomination that felt terribly wrong to Luke in Zahn’s trilogy, are suddenly… good guys. Qui Xux was no longer the Death Star’s naive designer; its origins lay with some bug people on some planet in a muddled and incoherent conflict. Jedi are no longer the badasses that they were in the EU, capable of knocking Star Destroyers out of orbit with the force (albeit at the cost of their life), they were chumps who, universally, didn’t have the Force sensitivity to see betrayal coming.”

Movies (Daddy Warpig) Jane Austen’s Zombies AND Marvel’s Zombies? SOLD! — “My daughters are trained for battle, sir.”

Heroism (The Federalist) Guess What? You’re Not Actually A Hero — “Every day there’s some story focusing on false heroes and pseudo-bravery masquerading as some valiant or defiant action. Not only on the political front, but in culture, where fake courageousness not only dilutes the genuine heroic actions of others, but is used to create the false impression that people are engaged in actions far more important than they really are.”

Journalism (Instapundit) POOR WIRED — “It’s basically the same piece that Entertainment Weekly ran, and retracted, months ago, though with extra dollops of pretentiousness. So Wired isn’t just running with a bogus establishment narrative. It’s running with a behind the curve bogus establishment narrative, with extra dollops of pretentiousness.”

Nerd Life (Black Diamond Games) Courtesy as Flirtation (for Parents) — “Female customer service workers, like the ones I employ, are a captive audience. Their job is to be friendly and helpful, which, in this day and age of indifference and hostility, can be mistaken for flirtation. Boys see these women as ‘practice’ for asking women out. I’ve seen their fathers encourage this. Ha ha, you go junior! Bad form, dads.”

Comics (Dr. Xaos Comics Madness) EEEEEEAARRRHHAHH! — “It’s a gaudy and lovely blend of pagan romanticism, pastoral idealism, and anti-establishment, yet also techno-fetish because how cool is it to be a surgical-genetic hybrid satyr. Oh, and also an angry hippie Jesus in full, with FATHER cried out in crane shot. Shall I go on? Sure – it’s also that the crazy one is the one who sees clearly, you get that part; plus there’s the whole hate-my-fetish love-my-doom thing going on with technology. Not to mention some truly kickass ass-kicking, unsullied by silly things like ‘won’t kill people.'”

Appendix N Generation Gap (Mad Genius Club) Slogging forward, looking back — “Kris Rusch has also noted how many young writers she’s run into who are completely ignorant of the many, many female authors who’ve been in science fiction and fantasy since the start. Among other reasons, many of their works have gone out of print, and the new writers coming in may not have read the old magazines, or picked up the older, dated-artwork books at the used bookstores. So they really, truly, may not know that their groundbreaking new take has been done to death thirty years before they came on the scene, or that they’re trying to reinvent a wheel that has not only been invented, it’s evolved to all-wheel drive with traction control.”

Untamed Blackness (Black Gate) Vintage Treasures: The Janus Syndrome by Steven E. McDonald — “I was 17 years old in 1981, already spending a good chunk of my disposable income every week on science fiction paperbacks. I never saw a copy on bookstore shelves in 1981, and I assume that’s due to poor distribution. But even if I had, I doubt I would have bought it. I almost certainly would have seen a prominent black character on a book cover as a statement… and at 17, I avoided anything that looked like a statement.”

Appendix N (Castalia House) Crom the Barbarian — “Fox also had a pulp career starting with ‘The Weirds of the Woodcarver’ in September 1944 issue of Weird Tales. Fox went on to have three stories in Weird Tales, ten stories in Planet Stories, one in Amazing Stories, and a short novel in Marvel Science Fiction. Less known is he wrote a fair number of stories for western and sports pulp magazines. He wrote at least one hockey story.”

Star Wars (tickld) This Guy Just Changed The Way We See Star Wars. Mind Blown. — “I think that Jar Jar was initially intended to be the prequel (and Dark Side) equivalent of Yoda. Just as Yoda has his “big reveal” when we learn that his tottering, geriatric goofball persona is just a mask, Jar Jar was intended to have a big reveal in Episode II or III where we learn that he’s not really a naive dope, but rather a master puppeteer Sith in league with (or perhaps in charge of) Palpatine.”

Yassa Massa! (Zak Smith) Tunnels & Trolls DONE DIRT CHEAP! — “It was the 70’s, ROOTS (1977) was a real popular TV mini-series & Book(1976)! … the seventy’s was a different world; not so quick to judge: I don’t think it was meant to disparage. It was in the mass psyche of the times.”

Starf Wars (RetroZap) Padmé Didn’t Die of a Broken Heart — “Where a lesser film would have wrapped thing up with an expositive voiceover, Revenge of the Sith demands that the viewer watches how things unfold, and then asks the viewer to put the pieces together themselves. Unfortunately, not everyone has put them together the proper way, and that leads to a lot of differing conclusions regarding the anticlimax of the movie.”