Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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Category Archives: Pulp Revolution

The SF Reconquista: Muscular Christian Science Fiction, the Deus Vult in Space… Cruci-fiction!

Deus Vult in Space (Jon Del Arroz) The Craziest Day Of My Career — “Justified is officially a break out hit. It’s doing the numbers the big boys sell. I’m not completely surprised at how well it’s doing, as an action-packed military science fiction with a strong male lead, promoting Christianity, is something that is a universal truth in what people desire. Heroism. Bravery. Honor. Loyalty. Love. Chastity.”

Deus Vult in Space (Brian Niemeir) A Sea Change in Science Fiction — “There is a vast underserved market of predominantly male, Christian readers who’ve been ignored by the witches in oldpub, the nihilist nudniks in newpub, and the milquetoast Boomers in Christian fiction for decades.”

Deus Vult in Space (Bradford Walker) “Justified” & The Pulp Reformation — “This is not just the return of the Pulps, but their full restoration. Read the old stuff and you’ll see the very Christianity on display, but not explicit as having a Templar as the hero. All of the morality, the conflict, the temptations, and so on are built off of a robust and thriving Christianity assumed as the norm for Civilization.”

Deus Vult in Space (Liberty Island) An Author Interview with Jon Del Arroz — “The way we transform culture is talking about the culture we want the culture to transform to.”

Deus Vult in Space (Alexander Hellene) Cruci-FictionSo what is ‘Cruci-Fiction’? Nothing short of unabashedly Christian fiction that still has explosions and fights and guns and blood and guts and action all of that good stuff. What it doesn’t have is a groveling, mewling, weak depiction of faith, or an embarrassment on the part of its writer for being a Christians and featuring Christian themes and characters.”

Deus Vult in Space (Rawle Nyanzy) I Am Proven Wrong (by the Almighty) — “There are more Christians and Christian-adjacent folks than weebs. Weebs and mech fans don’t read novels, so it was a mistake to try and market to them. There is a vast difference between an untapped market and an uninterested market.”

Westerns (JD Cowan) The Prince Returns — “The most fascinating part of the book to me is that it is more or less completely unknown despite its obvious quality. I have found no reviews online for this. There has never been an adaption that I’ve been able to track down.”

Appendix N (New Pup Tales) John Carter: A Cornerstone of Pulp — “While I could see how Burroughs would come up with some of the Red Martians technology, their airships seem like a logical leap from the airplanes and blimps of 1912, I was blown away by the fact that Mars had a factory to produce its oxygen.”

Reconquista (Brian Niemeier) A Confident Masculine Christianity — “Even if you’re not a Christian–even if you’re an atheist, only God-fearing artists who hope in Christ have a chance against the NY and LA death cultists who spread the Left’s anti-faith.”

Commies (LA Review of Books) Mutate or Die: Eighty Years of the Futurians’ Vision — “A single writer cannot make change alone, but must be supported, along with other writers, by the institutions of publishing: magazines, editors, readers, and people putting their money behind publishing houses, book reviewers, cultural taste-makers, bookstockers, awards…”

Clown World (The American Catholic) John W. Campbell Was Not a Fascist — “Beyond the usual SJW insanity this silliness demonstrates a complete forgetting of why we honor people. We honor them not because they share in the common virtues and vices, opinions and prejudices of their times, but because of something notable they accomplished.”

Appendix N (Castalia House) Sensuous Science Fiction — “There is a narrative that sex in science fiction did not exist before Philip Jose Farmer came along. Sensuous Science Fiction blows holes in that narrative. Seven stories contained therein including stories under pseudonyms by Edmond Hamilton and Jack Williamson.”

Weird Tales (RMWC Reviews) Pre-Tolkien Fantasy: The Abominations of Yondo and The Voice in the Night –“What’s been most interesting to me about this exercise has been in how the lines of what is ‘Fantasy’ get blurred the further back in time you go. Weird fiction, horror, ghost stories; those are all integral parts of what Fantasy is…. The problem arises from those who wanted to be the next Tolkien. Ponderous doorstoppers with twenty book series that lie unfinished at their creators’ deaths, Dry and dusty histories of the world and long names with gratuitous hyphens and apostrophes chained within them.”

Short Fiction (Cirsova) Realities of Short Fiction Economics — “The scarcity of short fiction comes in name recognition, not the fiction itself. There are a gorillion amazing stories, but for instance, there is only one Sky Hernstrom–with only one Sky Hernstrom creating a limited supply of Sky Hernstrom stories, the value on those stories becomes a premium. If I can pay Sky more for a story than another guy because I want to be the pub carrying Sky Hernstrom stories, then that’s where the value comes into fiction, not through the slush pile of great undiscovered and unpublished fiction we see every year.”

Weird Tales (PulpRev.com) Thoughts on Jirel of Joiry — “In Jirel’s stories we see reflections of the classic feminine virtues: adaptability, stoicism, emotional intelligence, reckless daring in facing overwhelming odds for a higher end, devotion to faith and duty.  Jirel of Joiry embodies the greatness in women. Her femininity is front and center, the core of her being. It is an approach utterly alien to the fiction of Current Year….”

Old School Gaming (Daniel J. Davis) The Implied Apocalypse of Dungeons & Dragons — “It’s interesting reading through the AD&D rulebooks now. Like I mentioned last week, I don’t have any personal nostalgia for this edition. So it’s not like I’m viewing it though rose-colored glasses. Even so, it’s hard not to come away with a feeling that something incredibly cool was lost in the transition to the slicker, more polished game I grew up on.”

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Dead Horses, Nerdly Discomfort, Swoleplaying, and Sadhu Sunder Singh

Over on Twitter, Yakov Merkin laments the state of cultural criticism:

You know, if all these YouTube personalities seen as much time promotion quality indie works instead of repeatedly hitting the dead horse that is SJW “creators,” we’d probably be able to make more positive cultural change. But negative videos gets more views I guess.

Grames Barnaby responds with a very generous shout-out to my work:

You need to think more like an anon. It’s not that it gets views, it’s that many of the folks in tg/vidya/or other johnny come lately “lifestyling market” bullshitters that are liberal facing are scared of what they really need to abandon to re-make the spaces to work again. Or to put it in a way that someone like @Aurini has pointed out the frame of most folks in various cultural wars, is mostly about trying to roll shit back to the 90’s because of how comfy it all feels, instead of standing on a set of principles. You want great art? You need to know how great art is made, and what it stands for, not what you liked about it because muh nostalgia.

Oddly enough, even something as innocuous as looking back to old books and games for inspiration is now something that requires a great deal of brainwashing in order to be executed “correctly” today. The once-vital online vintage rpg discussion that made my book possible is currently falling all over itself to virtue signal about how they can do that while still remaining unwaveringly committed to whatever the narrative will demand of us the day after tomorrow.

Here’s Brad J. Murray with the latest dementia in that vein:

There is a lot of resistance to addressing this because cultural problems are messy and even today not everyone is going to agree what was “worse” and what was “better”. Even “genocide is bad” seems to be up for debate in some circles. Nor even which mechanical elements in that game ore are reflective of what’s worse. But also because some of the nostalgia for that earlier time, the reason for mining that old material, might just be a desire for a whiter, maler, more heterosexual context. And the idea that that might be true is rightly uncomfortable as hell. And one thing we nerds know about discomfort: we do not want to talk about it.

But when we make a game that incorporates or emulates material from that past we risk racist, sexist, homophobic regressions. And we don’t have a good way to test for it, especially if we want to ignore it even as a possibility: if you want to ignore an error your first step is certainly to avoid testing for it. Or rather, we do have good ways to test but we do not deploy them. So let’s look up from the dungeon map and take a step and acknowledge that this is a risk. That material with a forty year old context may have side effects (and possibly direct effects) that reflect that context. And that in some if not many cases that would be a bad thing. That would be regressive.

Seek enlightenment through the strenthening of mind, body, and soul. But mostly body. #swoleplaying #brosr

That is precisely the attraction to the old books and old games. They are not just fun, they are largely free of the sort of cowardly, self-hating abasement that happens whenever people attempt to make a virtue out of cultural suicide. That stuff is craven. Disgusting. Ugly. It’s also intrinsically unmanly:

I am old and white and mail [sic]. I wish I could get glasses for my brain that correct for this.

It’s got to be tough living with that amount of self-hatred. I’d almost pity such a person if, you know, they didn’t actually hate people like me more.

It irritates me. Really, it does. And a good old fashioned fisking would be danged fun if NPC’s like that weren’t in charge of schools, universities, newspapers, and HR departments.

But Grames Barnaby is absolutely right. You’re wasting your time contending with these losers. Cheah Kit Sun has– on the fiction side– the right attitude:

The best stories I’ve read have the following characteristics: 1. Tight plot 2. Believable worldbuilding and setting 3. Well-developed characters 4. Authentic tradecraft, mindset, equipment 5. Polished language 6. Inherent sense of ethics 7. Illumination of higher truths

Point six and seven are where the battle is fought most hotly. In fact, the existence of real virtues is why the fake ones have to be pushed so vigorously– and why older works have to be either suppressed or expurgated. It’s like a religion to these people. Or an anti-religion perhaps.

Probably the most insightful statement on this impulse is by Sadhu Sunder Singh:

You will hardly find men who will not worship God or some other power. If atheistic thinkers or scientists, filled with the materialistic outlook, do not worship God, they often tend to worship great men or heroes or some ideal which they have exalted into a power. Buddha did not teach anything about God. The result was, his followers began to worship him. In China people began to worship ancestors, as they were not taught to worship God. In short, man cannot but worship, this desire has been created in him by his creator, so that led by this desire he may have communion with his creator.

See, when Christianity was removed from American culture… we didn’t end up with our old culture minus the old time religion. No, we got an army of breast-beating totalitarians, fire and brimstone zealots intent on tearing down even the remnants of anything that would remind them of who or what we were.

What can you do against that? Well you can start by not bowing the knee. But most importantly, you can be– unapologetically– the thing that they hate. And create as if they have no power over you.

If you’re having second thoughts about doing that, do yourself a favor and find a biography of Singh. It’s legitimately inspiring.

Odds and Ends: Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves and More!

I am AWOL, but not entirely. In the wake of Google+’s passing and the mass exodus of game bloggers from that platform, several people have contacted me to ask where exactly I hang out now.

The truth is… I’m just not online all that much to begin with these days. Last year’s gym membership culminated into this year’s outdoor adventure kick… which culminated into a general habit of constantly trying things I’ve never done before… which then turned into me becoming unusually active and outgoing. It’s exhausting!

I don’t play games near as much as I used to. On the other hand, I have a game group that is even better than the high-school group I had back in the day. Odd thing to me is how quickly the games became secondary to the fun of just getting together and hanging out. But it’s still game night either way!

I still have time to get a good read in, though. Most recently I got ahold of Fenton Wood’s Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves… which pivots effortlessly between weird pulp horror, fairy stories and tall tales. Here’s my tweet-sized review:

What this book does is it takes all of the subversive, dystopian impulses of science fiction between 1940 and 1980 and it turns it all inside out. This is the kind of fiction we could have had if publishing had not been weaponized and turned toward cultural suicide.

The mysterious author of this fascinating work came out of hiding to respond:

I’ve avoided social media so far, but I had to thank you for the good word. This book came as a surprise to me too! I just wanted to write a pure adventure story with no politics.

Pretty awesome! Definitely check it out.

Meanwhile, Grames Barnaby cites both me an Jon Del Arroz “leading a decent charge to restore Christian stoic ideals in fiction.” Wah. Gotta say, it’s very gratifying to be associated with the Christian faith in even a modest way. Honestly, I never imagined that there could be an actual revival of that sort. The people that are actually bringing this stuff forward and putting it into the marketplace are the real heroes in my book.

One of those guys is definitely Jon Mollison. Dig this from his most recent novel:

Tiberan, uneasy spoke up. His words echoed those of the bandit. “Are you sure about this Primus? These men aren’t… civilized.”

“They don’t speak with two meanings, you mean?” I asked him harshly. “They don’t take their oathes lightly? They don’t hide behind paper laws and clever word tricks before slipping a knife into a man’s back?” I snorted. “If that’s what it means to lack civility, I’ll take barbarism.”

Perfect!

But not everyone in the pulp scene is hitting the mark like that. Broadswords and Blasters makes clear how they don’t really want a revival that goes all the way with this stuff:

“Much of old-school pulp is unfortunately EMBLEMATIC of limited cultural ideals that we have no interest in propagating. As such, we encourage DIVERSE characters and welcome stories that SUBVERT the standard pulp formula.”

Here’s my take on the correct “Regress Harder” approach to bringing an authentic pulp ethos back to the table:

“Much of old-school pulp is EMBLEMATIC of superior cultural ideals that infuse the West’s most inspiring tales of myth and wonder. As such, we encourage truly HEROIC characters and welcome stories that SUBVERT today’s dreary literary establishment.”

Zing!

Anyway, I threw this post together to let y’all know that with the passing of Google+ I am now on Twitter here. I’m also on MeWe as “Jeffro Johnson” due to my mates heading over there, but I’m pretty lousy at using it just yet.

Look me up if you’re over that way!

SciFi is Filled With Gross NERDS

This just in, an honest question regarding the nature of the Pulp Revolution scene:

As I noted over on Google+, there is something to this. Science fiction and fantasy before 1940 was written by a diverse group of people from diverse regions with diverse perspectives… and written for a very broad audience. Fandom did not really congeal until the forties… and it was a mistake. The ghettoization of the genre at that point twisted the field into something pretty much by losers for losers. In the more extreme cases, you get freaks like Marion Zimmer Bradley… as celebrated as she is evil. For myself, I find even decent authors like Orson Scott Card to be disappointing given the absolutely dreary ending of Ender Wiggin’s romantic prospects. I’m sorry, you don’t have much to offer in tales of imagination if either having a normal family life or else sweeping a girl off her feet are outside the scope of your life experience.

Author Misha Burnett sums up the shift this way: “the fantasy used to be ‘a loser can change himself to become a winner’ and a lot of us were inspired by geek pursuits to make positive changes. Guys were inspired by ‘A Princess Of Mars’ to go into aerospace, or became gym rats to be like Conan, joined the military to follow Sergeant Rock and the Howling Commandos…. But something changed and today’s losers want a message of ‘the world has to change to suit you, and then you’ll be a winner’. Harry Potter was pulled out of his abusive home and brought to the place where he was always the star of the show through no action of his own.”

This inability to take decisive action… this pattern of waiting around for a soul mate that can love you just the way are… this withdrawal into a clique of freaks and losers… it’s not healthy. From a libertarian standpoint, it would make a lot sense to let people self destruct in this manner if that’s what they think they want to do. On the other hand, when these people cross the line into weirdly and aggressively making a virtue out of their own awfulness, a great deal of damage is done.

A case in point would be this exchange over at Katie’s Game Corner:

ALEXANDRU CONSTANTINWhy don’t you just call out names and actions instead of being vague.

“Dipshit Jones acted like a little bitch at the convention, I told him to quit, and he didn’t.” Say it, shame them. Describe the actions.

I don’t go to gaming conventions because I find gamers disgusting fat bores but whenever we go bar hopping and some dude creeps on my wife or female friends they get handled swiftly and violently.

Maybe you need some friends to watch your back.

LUCASI try to avoid bar hopping because I find bros who feel they have to be violent to prove they’re a “man” or because they can’t articulate their thoughts and can’t act in a rational way disgusting and more often than not the cause of issues.

I’m sure there are plenty of people to watch her back, but I think the point was that our hobby should be a safe and inclusive space.

ALEXANDRU CONSTANTINObviously, there isn’t “plenty” of people to watch her back because she’s getting harassed at public events.

DUSTY CRAINE: Alexandru .. Lucus .. Too many people are afraid to speak up for fear of how THEY will be perceived. If it’s someone of influence that you respect and admire, it’s even harder to speak up against their bad behavior. Who wants to alienate a person they admire for the sake of a girl they don’t know? Not many. So they probably say nothing. Or if they do, and it does go down like they expect, and this guy lashes out. Anyone else observing has learned the cost of speaking out. Not many people will accept the consequence of speaking up for a stranger. Certainly there are people who will. I would like to think that I’m one of them, but I’ve not been given the opportunity to test that. So while there may be plenty of people, in number, to watch her back. How many will actually do so?

Notice the mindset difference there.

The guy that embodies a normal, healthy “pulp” attitude takes it for granted that friends stick up for friends. Weirdo Beardo? He’s not even sure what he would do in an awkward social situation because he’s never been put to the test. He lacks the confidence to even commit himself to doing what he understands to be right thing to do.

If you ever wondered why pedophiles can operate with impunity within geek scenes such as SciFi fandom, it’s because of weak losers that can be relied upon to never stand up for anybody or anything.

No wonder Katie doesn’t feel safe at Origins.

1940: It’s Not Just a Running Gag!

Author JD Cowan confirms a long-running culture critic meme:

While looking up the big magazines back in the day I came to the conclusion that 1940 is a really HARD cutoff to where the best material ended. There were some good stories, but it stopped becoming common after that very specific year.

Argosy eventually dropped pulp after running less and less of it, Weird Tales changed editors and aimed away from novels and sword and sorcery, Campbell had finally shaken off the last of the red-blooded action adventure writers from Astounding, Amazing and Fantastic shrunk and ran smaller and smaller stories, and most every other magazine followed suit. This correlates with the change in content as well as the less imaginative titles and covers the magazines sported. Oh, and the same small pool of writers began showing up everywhere while others just vanished around the same time. The field only shrunk in the 40s so it was no mystery why magazines had completely died by the 50s.

The only magazines that seemed to hold on were Planet Stories and Startling Stories, somehow living in a decade where the bigger magazines disowned their style of adventure stories. And they were looked down on as trash.

So, yeah: don’t read anything after 1940!

Now, if this is the first time you’ve heard of this, you are going to have a powerful desire to dismiss this is being merely a product of evolution, changes in technology, progress, and/or utterly predictable changes in fashion and style. You’d take for granted that the publishing industry merely adapted however it could in order to maximize their bottom lines. And you’d also be wrong. Because the same thing that you are witnessing happening to both Marvel Comics and Star Wars right now happened to short science fiction and fantasy back then.

Author Brian Neimier explains it this way:

The short story’s demise is by design. The Campbellians and Futurians took over the big anthologies and magazines decades ago. Find me an SF fan who religiously read AnalogThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, or Asimov’s since the 70s (or before in the first two cases), and I’ll show you a fan who’s since cancelled his subscription.

The SF short story market collapsed because the gatekeepers deliberately banished escapism, heroism, and action from the format. They tried to murder novels, too, and they almost got away with it. Amazon has been the science fiction genre’s saving grace. The tradpub gatekeepers didn’t see it coming, which tells you how little they know their own industry.

Since at least the 1940s, the sciffy literati have been working to purge any trace of masculinity from the genre. They purposefully strove to replace the Shadow, Doc Savage, and Conan with Kickass Strong Female Characters™ , Scalzified soyboy snarkitrons, and androgyne sideshow attractions. Men responded by abandoning print sci-fi in droves at the reader, author, and editor levels. They were supposed to have nowhere to run.

Now, you might object that the old style of story wasn’t actively suppressed. You might point out that several of the best authors from the bad old days are still in print. If you’d like a look at the sort of person that holds sway over the print industry for the past few decades, just look at the sort of nudniks they tap to write the introductions to these works.

Author Jim Fear has a typical example:

I’m reading this biography of Robert E. Howard called Blood and Thunder: The Life & Art of Robert E. Howard (which I highly recommend, by the way, if you’re interested in the man’s life), and in the introduction Joe R. Lansdale has the absolute unmitigated gall to say, and I quote, “The twelve year old male was perhaps his most obvious mark, being open to all the repressed desires that Howard displays, but readers of all ages have fallen under his spell.”

This might seem innocuous to you, but it lights a fire under the [bottom] of someone like me. This belies an attitude of unvarnished, feigned superiority. An air of “I’m better than you because I don’t enjoy what twelve year old boys enjoy.” And in the interest of poking into the very base of these suppositions that people like Lansdale obviously hold so close as to throw around in such a cavalier manner, what in the absolute hell, precisely, is wrong with what twelve year old boys enjoy?

Hey I get it, not everyone likes the same sort of thing. That’s fair. If you’re on the same page as Joe R. Lansdale and really want to have some wide open, totally realistic, grown-up oriented fantasy, then E. Reagan Wright has just the thing for you: Modern Fantasy from Dark Horse Comics!

I’m not even going to provide the link. It’s just another stale-ass relationship webcomic dressed up in D&D garb and slapped with a Dark Horse logo and felated by a fawning press to make it seem legit. From what I hear at the D5D tables down to the local friendly nerdery, it’s a pretty good approximation of the latest version of D&D. Most of what I see these days are people LARPing as tabletop RPG gamers – it’s like the Inception-pocalypse out there, people.

#NotAtMyTable!

Now, some of you are going to read these posts and… I really get it, your spirit is going to be vexed. You’re going to recall your favorite hard science fiction classics. You’re going to think of all the cases where realism contributed to the story. You’re going to tune up whatever smart remark about John Carter getting with a big breasted Martian woman that lays an egg for him and all that. Truly, you are the spiritual heir to the weenies that wrote in very angry letters to Planet Stories back in the forties. You are a truly discerning person and I’m sure you have a point!

Nevertheless, you need to chill. There is a particularly noxious attitude that justifies itself by making appeals to realism but which has an almost Gollum-like hatred for a great many things that are real.

Richard Curtis put it this way:

“If you write a story about a soldier going AWOL and kidnapping a pregnant woman and finally shooting her in the head, it’s called searingly realistic, even though it’s never happened in the history of mankind. Whereas if you write about two people falling in love, which happens about a million times a day all over the world, for some reason or another, you’re accused of writing something unrealistic and sentimental.”

I want to tell you to do yourself a favor and get these godawful killjoys off your shelf and out of your to-read pile… but the fact is… you walked away from these losers decades ago without even realizing it. And Marvel and Disney are watching entire of legions of people do the same thing right now now that they’ve made it clear that they can’t create stories with unvarnished depictions of the heroic.

It’s 1940 all over again.