Monday, August 28, 2017

Game Mechanics: Auctions

Yep. Because there's more to auctions than the disorderly bidding mess that are normal for auctions in the USA. And, games present and distill them well as mechanics. So, I'm going to go through the type of auction and how it works in a game, and give at least one example of this in a game.

Open Auction: The most easily recognized type of auction. Most games implement them with turn order for bidding, though a few do not. Power Grid uses this with turn order for new power plants. Indonesia uses them without turn order for mergers. Keyflower uses them for tiles to add to your village, with meeples being the bidding currency, and only one color(of four) being used per tile.

Sealed bid: Typically what is used for sheriff's auctions for property. In games, everyone chooses their bid and presents it concealed, when all are ready, revealed simultaneously. Sometimes combined with the all pay auction, discussed later.  O Zoo Le Mio uses this for its tile auctions, and Money uses it to determine order for choosing groupings to obtain. Scoville utilizes the sealed bid in an all pay format for the order of choice of turn order(which has different benefits per phase of the turn).

All pay auction: This is the least popular type of auction in gaming, because it punishes those that lose their bids heavily. This is a specific segment of sealed bid auction, not much applicable outside of gaming. Revolution! uses these to determine who wins each role for the turn. Dune uses a two player version to determine victory in battles.

Fixed price auctions: These can go two ways, either a fully fixed price, or fixed increments. Modern Art uses fully fixed price auctions as one of its types. Vegas Showdown uses fixed increments for tile types.

 Once around auctions: Exactly what they sound like. Modern art implements these as another type, where the each bidder in turn only gets one chance.

Reverse auction: This is pretty much another game only thing. No Thanks! gives players penalty points for taking cards, with a sequence being only the lowest number penalty. On their turn, players either take the card turned up(adding it to their negative points and taking all chips on it), or place a chip on it(reducing their positive points.

That's just a glimpse at auction games. There's a lot more great games with auctions, including Metropolys and Ra.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Injustice Magazine Review: Broadswords and Blasters issue 1

Cower not, fierce reader! Today we examine another entry into the attempts to revive pulp sff magazines. And while this magazine does get some things right, I'd say it misses a big point, at least as far as the pulprev crowd is concerned. And while I can't speak for them, I think I've read enough of several members' thoughts and fictions to know where most of them sit on some of these things. Let's look at these stories

Skin Deep by Nicholas Ozment- This is a really strong opening of two friends traveling with other swordsman to see creatures of legend.  Our protagonist goes to see beauty, his friend goes out of friendship; the others go for less noble reasons. There is a falling out, and we see heroism, and what is the most noble piece here.

Dead Men Tell Tales  by Dave D'Alessio- We've got an SF detective story, or maybe it's more along the lines of a crime story, as there's no mystery to be solved. There's a body, a beating, some nice subterfuge, and little bits of tech extrapolation and orbital mechanics. I don't know that I'd really say there's conflict here, but I like the mix of things in here.

The Executioner's Daughter- by R. A. Goli- While well written, this didn't feel pulp at ALL. If anything, it's almost a historical story, and that's fine, but it's a puzzle piece. There's a burden of family, and it feels like it was written as a jab at patriarchy and monarchy. But, there's literally no conflict, merely a challenge to overcome, and it is no ennobling thing.

Pension Plan by Dusty Wallace- Another piece that feels at least close to a proper pulp story.  We've got a heist on a mob vault, aliens, prospectors, and a dying boomtown. Are they heroes? Nope, just against bigger bad guys than them.

Saturday Night Science by Michael M. Jones- Well, it's fast writing, and there is at least perceived conflict. And we have a mad scientist, so there's some entertaining goings on there. There's even a bit of modernist romance, though I care not for it in this tale.

Island of Skulls (part one of two) by Matt Spencer- This has a lot of the elements I'm looking for in a sword and sorcery tale. There's clear evil, and people opposed to it, as well as those actively serving it, and others following out of fear. There's a bit of magic, and a sense of local enmities, but not much action as yet. Perhaps in part two.

The Waters so Dark by Josh Reynolds- This comes SO close to being the story I want to read. It has notes of Unspeakable Horror, a figure that has a little in common with Solomon Kane, and  an unfortunate final take of hopelessness. Our protagonist is a man of faith who has been though horrors, with a blessed sword, but not skill to use it well. This I would be OK with, if his faith had proven to be a proper weapon, but unfortunately, the author saw fit to be subversive instead.

Thicker than Water by Rob Francis- This is another piece that may be more a historical fiction than fantasy or such. Our main character, while far from a good man, has qualities that look to eventually redeem him. Unfortunately, his companion in this story has learned another lesson, and the conflict of lessons leads to an abrupt end.

Now, what is missing from most of these stories? Well, with the pulprev crew, there is an understanding of the import of Christendom, even among at least some of the atheists. There's no such thing here; in fact, I'm reminded of other authors who were the hangers on of Lovecraft who missed the whole reason the horrors worked. Without a cultural foundation, there's no core morality, and most of the stories fall flat here, as there's little heroism to be found.

Does it fit the pulp ethos outside of this? Well, mostly yes. The stories move, there's no genre boundaries, though only a few have real conflict.

Story quality: 6 of 10 fell deeds 
Pulp feel: 7 of 10 fell deeds

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I think I found a new friend to play with...

While doing some searches during GenCon for what the buzz was, I came across a blog titled *ahem* Reading and Gaming for Justice. Go ahead, take a moment to recover, I fully understand.

On the about page, Our New Friend tells of how in 2014, he was struck by the fact that most of his reading was "white male authors", and that he has made efforts since then to correct that "diversify his reading". That year was also the year he began playing boardgames, where he has also been struck by the implications of the market in designers, themes, and specific games.

And so Our New Friend decided to start blogging to answer these questions with his stunning bravery. "Social justice is not an individual journey; we must all take it together." Our New Friend also works with Youth of Diverse Backgrounds in higher education in a non-academic setting. And has "learned about and experienced extensively the impact of systemic privilege and oppression".

Whew, lad. I'm going to start unpacking what you're doing wrong.

First, why care about the race and sex about the authors you read? Instead, consider: are you entertained; are you informed; are you sanctified; are you counseled; are you improved by the content of the works you read? I don't care about race and sex of my authors with regard to their writing.

Second, you want to apply those same ridiculous standards to boardgames? You must really hate the fact that Reiner Knizia, Stefan Feld, Friedman Friese, Martin Wallace, Vlaada Chvatil, and Uwe Rosenberg design and sell a lot of games compared to pretty much everybody else. And many of their designs are far better than what most folks accomplish.

There's also the matter of who does most of the reading and gaming in the world. The answer might surprise you, New Friend, but it's not a minority group. So yes, I'd say it's reasonable for whites to do most of the writing and game design if they're the ones doing most of the reading and gameplay.

As to your education and work, I'm glad you were able to get a job with your degree. I haven't been, so I have no clue what you mean by systemic privilege. And yep, your idea of Social Justice requiring everybody is dead on, and also exactly why it won't work. People are disagreeable and contrary in the USA, and ignoring the fact that sometimes folk just don't get along is just a terrible idea. Quit being a commie.

I'll come back and visit soon, New Friend. We have a lot to discuss, because you're clearly more concerned with what you think is justice than what is actually good and just. I hope that someday you'll learn:

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Injustice Quick Reviews 2.12

Cower not, fierce reader! This fine day, we have special sf ops, an apocalyptic endgame, pyramid puzzles, and laughter from both deepest, dumbest Africa and space truckers. Let's get looking at our library and what demerits they have.

The Lawdog Files: African Adventures by Lawdog- I will say that not all the stories in here are from Africa. The Africa stories are from his youth, and about half are from his time since coming to the USA. I thought this was a much funnier collection than the earlier one, though . Major crime: Corruption and stupidity in the Dark Continent. 8 of 10 fell deeds.

Smith's Monthly #40 by Dean Wesley Smith-  He's one I've heard mentioned by writers referring to pulp speed a lot, and thought I'd try one of his volumes. There's four stories in here, a novel(The Adventures of Hawk), and a section on  killing the sacred cows of indie publishing. I think the indie publishing part was valuable. The fiction in here is alright, though only the Hidden Canyon story and The Adventures of Hawk gave me any sense of wonder and adventure. Major crime: Playing against the rules. 6 of 10 fell deeds.

Galaxy's Edge: Kill Team by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole- Yep, this is the third NotStarWars book from them. Interestingly, it fills a part of the gap between the first two books. This has some new story, including a look at the "intelligence" community making things worse for everyone. Major crime: Spy agencies aren't trustworthy. 8 of 10 fell deeds

Days of Future Past: Future Tense by John Van Stry- This is the finale of the far future apocalyptic fantasy. We see glimpses of the future space program, orc torture methods, and revolutionary madness. If you've followed the story so far, carry on. It's worth the end of the ride. Major crime: The path needed is sometimes very painful. 7 of 10 fell deeds.

 Galaxy Trucker: Rocky Road by Jason A. Holt- Why? Because it's a fun boardgame. The novel plays up the game's silliness to the right spots, and we've got interludes with pirates, semi-paradise planets, meteors, brown aliens, and trucker bands. Oh, and a good heft of corporate bureaucracy and de facto slavery. Major crime: Companies want your money. Especially if you work for them. 7 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

So, about SAC 2nd gig

I'm referring to the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex(not done yet, just a rant from what I've seen). And while it's entertaining, and has emotional rewards for the viewer, part of the overacing story is just driving me nuts. This will have spoilers, but it's been out for awhile, so too bad.

The big bad group set up as movers in the series is called the Individual 11. A bit odd, but whatever. Theyr'e supposedly a bunch of individualist, with no command structure. Stretching credibility a bit here, individualists usually want to be left alone. Here's the kicker: they're socialists bent on redeeming the massive number of refugees, or rather, pushing them toward redeeming themselves.

NO. Individualists are not socialists. Pretty much ever. Socialism requires a rigid authority structure, and ignores the individual. This requires a great misunderstanding of individualism, socialism, or both.

So yeah, I found the moment that was discussed a bit immersion breaking. In other respects, however, the series is somewhat prescient. Massive numbers of refugees have been brought into Japan at this time, and they're on the dole, and also competing for jobs with citizens. Meanwhile, the veterans of the last war get bad jobs and bad care from the government, being seen as a suspect class by some in fact.

Now, the show so far doesn't make a big political statement. It's largely a police procedural with some cyberpunk elements, though there are moments where the characters are trying to understand the some of the conflict motivations, and somewhat sympathize with each side.

It is refreshing to see entertainment even address the issues, and see them as real problems with the unpalatable solutions. Also seeing the government/commercial cooperation in corruption and actively acting against the people is far removed from most Western entertainment. Usually, when such things are even broached, it's one ore two individuals in government involved, not the much more likely high concentration of corruption in government at all levels.

Thanks for reading my mild rant.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Music blog: Missa Assumpta est Maria by Palestrina

Since yesterday was the feast of the Assumption of Mary, AND I love counterpoint, here's a timely mass setting.

And whether or not you agree with the teaching, it's magnificent music.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Injustice Book Review: Star Legions(books 1 and 2) by Michael G. Thomas

Cower not, fierce reader! This day, we take a look at a novel by one of the downplayed big indie authors. I just took a chance on this collection, and after reading the first two novels, I can see why he might be pulling down the large numbers Nick Cole has mentioned a few times, as he's got 30 plus books already and puts out more regularly. Anyway, I'm reviewing what I've read of Star Legions, which is currently the first two books. Let's take a look at what charges we can find against the Narrative.

Well, here's a pretty big one: it's a trasplant of a historical story, that of the warrior Xenophon. Yeah, we have glimpses of real history and legends that were foundational to Western Civilization. Greeks, Persians, and more fill the story. The cities and empires have been transplanted to planets, bases, and galactic empire, with the technology being appropriately upgraded.

Another big crime is the portrayal of direct democracy. I know that Vox is an advocate of such, but some of the Greeks had it too, and it resulted in wars that were beyond pointless, destroying both the military and the trust the society had prior. Due to basically mob rule, taxation is apparently high, the military disciplines weakened, and war declared that cannot be won.

There''s an awful lot going on here, and I'm not going to detail the differences between the Terrans(Greeks) and Medians(Persians), never mind the other races and cultures that appear peripherally. The military structure of the historical Greeks is maintained to good effect, emphasizing relationships with command, not just the ability to lead. The weapons used vary from pulse cannon to carbines, to cut down carbines with blades.

The Legions are from the various planets of Terrans, hired by Cyrus the Mede, brother to the Emperor. If you know the history, I don't have to tell you that's a cover. If you don't well, the war's been over for over two thousand years, spoilers need not apply.

If you like history and milsf, I definitely recommend these books. If you don't know, well, the whole series is cheap, but you can get book one for free currently.

History, political theory, mercenaries, and subterfuge. 7 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Terraforming Mars after one play

I finally had the chance to play Terraforming Mars last night. I'd seen bits of it before, but didn't know how the game actually worked before then. Pictures are from BoardGameGeek, not my play of the game.

This game is a mix of cooperative and competitive, in that the game lasts until Mars is sufficiently terraformed, that is, with 8% atmospheric oxygen, 8 degrees Centigrade, and 9 water tiles placed. I use the term tiles, as they would be giant glaciers for much of the game, before the melting point is reached, and the planet gets water, mine, city, and greenery tiles placed on it.

Some of you are already asking about the cubes, I can hear it. Each player has a color of cube, and for non-water tiles, it matters who placed them at the endgame for scoring.

The game is divided into generations and turns, with a generation being the turns taken until everyone passes. At the start of game, and each generation, starting with first player, each draws cards and pays for those they wish to keep. On a turn a player takes one or two actions. Many of these come from cards, but there are standard projects that just need paying for: building a city, adding water, and increasing production. Milestones can also be claimed, awards funded, and some cards grant actions as well.

Card play: cards have a cost and prerequisites in the left top corner, and give icons(for milestones and prereqs) in the top right. These stay in tableau once played, and some grant endgame points as well.

Just to the right of that huge tableau is the player board, which keeps track of income levels and current stocks of money/commodities. The player board is my biggest complaint, as it is very easy to knock cubes around and lose track of where they are if you're not careful(I am, but that's not the point).

Before I had played, I was concerned about the solvability of the game, and I think it might still be somewhat, but the cards go a very long way to fight that. If you like brain burners, this might fit your wheelhouse, but it's not that heavy compared to others. It's a nice mid complexity game.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Pulp Comics: Tazan/Carson of Venus

First things first: this is not a story ERB wrote. Or rather, stories, as it also collects the book Tarzan: A Tale of Mugambi. That said, it's well worth a look, and I haven't done one of these for awhile.

Yep. It looks awesome. And the start of the book feels that awesome. Carson is, as is his norm, captured by some people And of course, I mean one of Amtor's myriad races that are hostile to each other. Anyway, his escape occurs at the attack of a great beast, thwarted by someone who surprisingly speaks English: Tarzan. Like I said, ERB never wrote this, but given the interactions, the hostile aliens, and overlapping plot/peril/escape plan, this is very much like one of the Carson Napier books.

The various friends and enemies to be made in Amtor is easily added to, and we are introduced to water people and their giant turtles. We also meet a tribe known as the Timal, who live in the giant trees of the planet. Tarzan and Carson are separated, and we see more individual adventure. Carson's wife has been captured, and, as usual, Carson and Duare end up rescuing each other.

Here's from just before the first escape:

And yes, the artwork is largely very good, with some issues here and there. The inking and coloring is excellent.

The other story is also well done, but is largely a secondary consideration, as it is not even an apocryphal Tarzan adventure, but rather, a take on a creation myth that involves Tarzan.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What the Dragon Awards just got VERY WRONG

So, some liberal authors(and some of their crowds) have raised a ruckus over the Dragon Award nominations. Three authors, John Scalzi, N.K. Jemisin, and Allison Littlewood, asked to withdraw from the ballots, either because they didn't want to face a popular campaign with no gatekeeping entry fee, or for virtue signalling points with the tradpub/SJW crowd.

What was the response? DragonCon decided to allow Jemisin and Littlewood to withdraw, and talked Scalzi into staying(I'll let others give commentary on that). Giving in to demands of this nature is a very "conservative" play, by which I mean it loses nobly and accomplishes nothing. To their credit, they are going to reissue ballots for those whose votes are affected by these.  Here's DragonCon's official statement .

There are good reasons to not give in, and I'm going to talk about them first. But then, I'm going to discuss a PROPER response that would have allowed withdrawals as well. This is important, because giving the opponent a way out that doesn't damage you changes perceptions. But, the way they went does damage the perception, and plays to the Narrative against the awards.

So, first, why would you not allow withdrawals? Because though the award is for the work of authors and other content producers, IT'S NOT ABOUT THEM. Even in this press release, DragonCon states that the award is about the fans. DragonCon has a history of caring far more about the fans than the celebrities, and not inviting back ones that ignore fans, panels, etc.

Also, the biggest part of the complaining on Littlewood's part is that a bloc voted for her. Last year, Larry Correia was actively encouraged to campaign for the award, and this is after his time running Sad Puppy campaigns. So, because these fans are voting together, their voice doesn't matter? That's ridiculous. George R.R. Martin even finally had to admit that campaigning had ALWAYS existed in the Hugos awards, of course, downplaying it because it was behind closed doors.

Now, I can understand concern over voter fraud. But that's not what they're talking about here. How would I combat fraud?  First, check things by IP. Second, I would, at a later date determined randomly, send a confirmation email that REQUIRES a reply. Yes, I'm saying people need to watch their inbox and junk email. If no reply occurs within a specified time period, delete their nominations.

Now, as to how I would allow for withdrawal if I were them. Make it permanent. Yes, if you're going to allow for withdrawal from a fan award with a reputation for favoring fans over celebrities, deny them forever. Why? Right now, they're also playing a game of the Dragons not being real, legitimate awards. The next step, to take it the rest of the way, is to deny them a professional presence at DragonCon in perpetuity, for denying the fans.

DragonCon, play the role of a proper good dragon, protecting something precious. If you don't, they will corrupt you, and then, you will have to face St. George someday.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Kickstarter Glimpses, August 2017

Now, some of you already know that this month and next are just about the worst time of the year to launch projects. GenCon eats up GOBS of budget for a lot of people, between travel, hotel, events, food, and all the new releases. Doesn't mean people don't try. So here's a look at some interesting ones.

Kingdoms Lawn Game- Yeah, I know it's not a boardgame. It's an outdoor game for boardgamers. Yes, it's pricey, but as the publisher has mentioned in the comments, it's in line with pricing for similar lawn games. Part Bocce, part last man standing.

The Exiled:Siege - Tactics expansion- There's also pledge levels for those that don't have the original game, as I don't think this has reached wide distribution yet. But, it's an interesting coop game of being under siege, building and reinforcing defenses. There's even an add on for plastic siege engine minis.

Paladin: Warriors of Charlemange- If you like some of the ideas of King Arthur Pendragon, but want a bit more historical basis, this might be the RPG for you. Of course, you still have to deal with lots of legend, and the generational aspects are likely tweaked a little.

Total Recall: The Official Tabletop Game- Well, that's a mouthful; at least it's based on the older movie. This looks to be part resistance, part resource and hand management game, with a chance to win even if you get killed.

Reaper Miniatures Bones 4- If you like minis for your RPGs, or just painting them, this is a good way to get a lot of stuff relatively cheaply. The sculpts are pretty good, and some of them look AMAZING for REH style fantasy games, both in heroes and monsters. Now is they would reissue some of the older ones...

Nexus: Scrapyard- A scifi shipbuilding game with interesting action rules/fluff, and some interesting ideas with regard to opportunity cost. This is also apparently the first in a set of games telling a story.

ok, that's some cool game stuff, now for other things!

Amazing Tales of the Wasted Lands- Now this might, just might draw some of the PulpRev crowd. I remember some of the art, and I think one of the graphic novels from this world, and it's cool. It appears to be physical only, but it's not too pricey, either. Hopefully, it's at least as good as my recollection.

Shadow of the West: Legend of the Nightranger- This graphic novel is from someone that's worked on TMNT, the Tick, and a few other things. He's gotten the whole thing written, drawn, and inked, and this looks like fun, just from what I'm seeing. Weird West type fun.

700 Knights- This is actually for the fourth issue, but the previous three are available. This is the story of the Knight of Malta defending the island from the siege of the Ottoman Empire.

Escape from North Korea- Yes, it is an homage to that amazing movie. And The Game of Death. And look, just watch the video there, it's going to be the most awesomely 80's thing since Kung Fury. Plus, supporting an independent filmmaker.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Injustice Anthology Review: Astounding Frontiers #1

Cower not, fierce reader! This day, we examine the first volume of what Superversive Press, and the movement are touting as a modern Pulp magazine. I'm going to go through the stories and serials, and look at them as I find them. And then I'll discus the magazine as a whole.

The Death Ride of Suns Joyeuse by Patrick S. Baker- This is a space milsf story. It's good, but I didn't feel like I was reading a pulp story. There's a bit much focused on minutiae here,  and that's not bad, but it slows down what should be a faster paced story. MilSF. Descended from pulp, but not pulp.

Riders of the Red Shift by Lou Antonelli- This is really intriguing. I dig it as a piece of future historical investigation. It almost feels like a glimpse at a pulp story, within something that approaches pulp. I might need to read more of his shorts, especially if he puts out a collection. Pulp like, with glimpses of pulp action, but none present.

According to Culture by Declan Finn- Declan gives us an sf story following a Ranger named Sean Patrick Ryan. Perhaps some distant descendant of Sean A. P. Ryan? Anyway, there's an explosion to start, and a good long fight for the climax, including a dragon. Pretty pulpy. The story moves.

Stopover on Monta Colony by Erin Lale- I'm not sure about this one. The flow is pretty fast, and there's plenty happening, but there's a problem, not a conflict. And the nature of how things are resolved feels off. I almost think this would fit SciPhi Journal better, with the food for thought section at the end of their stories. Kinda pulpy. 

Watson's Demon by Sarah Salviander- Ok, this story is really good. But, it isn't pulp. There's no action, no advancement of conflict, just some rather intriguing ideas. I think this would have been amazing for SciPhi Journal, talking about hubris and humility at the high levels of disciplines, and the nature of humor as a sign of intelligence. Not pulp, but very interesting.

 Nowhither by John C. Wright- First, I applaud the cooperation with Castalia House to basically prepublish the first half of the book(at least that's the percent I've been led to believe).  I know there are folks that found Somewhither very long; I didn't.  Anyway, there's a lengthy prologue that is a quick summary of book one, and the first chapter.  There's a lot of description, and a lot happening here, so I've no complaints. Pulpy. Of the longer nature.

In the Seraglio of the Sheik of Mars by Ben Wheeler- I hadn't read anything by Mr. Wheeler before, so this was a really nice surprise. There's romance, and an investigation into the truth of someone, but not as yet conflict. I suspect that shall begin soon, given some of the pieces in play. Pretty sure it's pulp.

Galactic Outlaws by Nick Cole and Jason Anspach- This is a selection from their second book in the series. I've already reviewed it, and if you haven't read the book, it's not out of place. Pulp or pulp descended, it might be a bit too milsf for some.

The Whole Magazine
Ok, I think it's clear I don't think this is yet really a pulp magazine. There's nothing that lines up with pulp fantasy at all here, and a couple pieces just didn't feel like they fit what was put forward as the focus of the book. As a collection, I find this to be a much better effort than Forbidden Thoughts was, even without having it's full focus yet.

Story selection: Why didn't the PulpRev guys get asked for anything, even just one or two of them? Some of these guys have a good number of short stories sitting around, and it's apparent they know pulp methods and stylings better than most of the Superversive crowd.

Serials: I am very much torn on this, given that I've read one already and had planned on reading another since I finished Somewhither over a year ago. I'd prefer seeing Mr. Wright's Superluminary get a broader audience than his Patreon, especially as I've heard of no further plans for it. There could even be three entries interspersed through the magazine, and you'd still have enough for twenty issues.  As to Galactic Outlaws, it's a loss for me, having read it previously. And given it's high sales, I don't see the benefit for them or this with its inclusion. Mr. Wheeler's serial is the one that intrigues me most, as I hadn't read him yet, and it's a very different in nature to the rest.

As an anthology: 8 of 10 fell deeds.
As a pulp anthology: 7 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Injustice Book Review: The Golden Horde by Chris Kennedy

Cower not, fierce reader! This day we look at the latest book of the Revelations cycle, or the Four Horsemen universe. I can hear someone say, "But that came out last week!" .  What can I say? I fell behind in my reading. Anyway, enough about my slacking. To the review!

After his first entry, Asbaran Solutions, I had thought that perhaps Chris was the weaker writer of the pair, though still quite competent. This book proves that he just needed to find his ground. With this, he most definitely does. Perhaps it was the characters of the first book that kept me more distant, but this drew me in.

One treat with this story is that it isn't just centered on one character, we see a return from one featured in the anthology as well. And while you don't need to have read that story for this one, it's a nice treat to see some aftermath from a determined and tough character.

That's not to say there isn't plenty to like about the characters created for this book. There's an interesting dynamic, of family, redemption of sorts, and paranoia. The Enkh family runs and makes up a large portion of the Horde, based in Uzbekistan. They make a big deal about having and using information faster and better than anyone else. To kill aliens on strange planets.

We even see a return of our favorite failed logistics officer, Sommerkorn. This time, well, let's say he stays employed and even redeems himself for his mistakes.  A bit of a tragic character this, and in this volume, there's no comedy.

Oh, you want to know about the book's crimes? Right. It encourages paranoia, more than suggests government complicity in undermining its people, decisions of great import made without approval of authorities, and well, would be characterized as xenophobic by the SocJus crowd. But I don't believe in making friends with Tortantulas and MinSha for the most part, that's just a bad idea. As Nick Cole and Jason Anspach have written, KTF.

8 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Clarifying my posts on Superversive

Given the amount of traffic, and some of the comments, my posts this week on the Superversive Press/movement issues, I figured I should clear a few things up.

First and most important,  I don't consider this a fight. I'm seeing problems I would like fixed. This is not to say I don't see issues with Castalia House, or the PulpRev, I do. If, as many authors(Mr. John C. Wright included) state, readers are the bosses of authors, then we need to know things.

The biggest thing we need to know is WHEN STUFF COMES OUT. I literally only knew about Astounding Frontiers launching because Lou Antonelli posted on his Facebook account, I didn't see it in my Twitter feed or on any author blogs at the time. There was no launch announcement on either Superversive page.  If your boss doesn't know you completed a job, don't expect to hold that job for a long time.

Brandon Sanderson is an excellent example here. Now, I haven't read him much since the Torcott began, but take a look at the top left corner of his blog. Right there. Progress bars for multiple projects. I'm not saying the Press or sf page need to do this, it's just cool to see, and it does build a measure of both trust and anticipation. Then, on the right side of the first blog entry, he has a module for buying his last release, whatever it happens to be at the time. You can select country, format, and vendor. Again, it's a lot, but it is cool.

Another huge issue is that the Superversive Press page is pretty much a waste of space as it currently exists. Sure, the scrolling slideshow has links to project pages, but that's honestly distracting, and timing could send someone to the wrong volume. There's no other way to get to the books, either. Author pages? What are those? Nobody needs to know about our authors.(Yes, I'm being a bit snarky.)  Now, I have been informed reliably that this will be changing, hopefully the website management gets passed sooner than later.

And, since so much of what the movement is working on is for the Press, where are the announcements for any of those anthologies? I know there's a series of planetary anthologies, some of which still need submissions, and some are still a ways out. Where are those requests, and what about for future Astounding Frontiers(more on that in another post)?  If it's for pulp style stories, I'd think Jason would want the PulpRev guys sending in some stuff.

Now, if they want to keep submissions to a closed group, that's their prerogative. But that seems to run counter to the welcoming attitude they state they have.

But my biggest issue is the still near total lack of outside communication they have. If they're going to get on more social media and interact, spend a little less on Facebook, and converse on Twitter or Gab. TODAY. This doesn't take a group decision, get off your cat pictures and talk crap about stupid stuff with me in front of everyone. It'll be fun. Keep in mind, a week is very long on the internet.

When you play Social  Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dragon Short List, and the recommendations of Injustice

As most of my readers are likely aware by now, the shortlist for the Dragon Awards was announced a couple of days ago. So, I'm going to go through each category and discuss what I've read/played, and my recommendations. My selections are strictly based on what I've read, and believe to be the best book of those, not my relationship with the authors.

Best SF Novel- I have read Escaping Infinity, The Secret Kings, and The Collapsing Empire. I have literally NO idea how people thought Scalzi's book was worth nominating. Of the two others, I prefer Brian's The Secret Kings, though Richard's book might be a touch more accesible. My vote: The Secret Kings.

Best Fantasy: I've only read Vox's book. And I haven't read anyone outside of him, Corriea, and Ringo in the shortlist here. So, I have to say: A Sea of Skulls.

Best YA: The only one here I've read is Swan Knight's Son, and that was the BEST book I read last year. Period.

Best MilSF: I've read Rescue Run, Starship Liberator, Cartwright's Cavaliers, and have also read a couple of Richard Fox's other novels. I actually doubt there's a BAD book in the category, though I did find Starship Liberator a bit weak. The Eric Flint book will likely win, but my vote is going to Cartwright's Cavaliers.

Best AltHistory: My only read from the category shortlist to date is No Gods, Only Daimons. My vote is there, and I would not be surprised if he, Turtledove, or Flint won.

Best Apocalyptic: I've read Codename: Unsub, and A Place Outside the Wild. Both are good, but A Place Outside the Wild was WOW.

Best Horror: I've only read Live and Let Bite, though a lot of my friends like Blood of Invidia. Outside those, I've little likelihood of reading them.

Best Comic Book: Saga converged hard over the last two years. I'm actually surprised there's only one hero book.

Best Graphic Novel: Look, I don't care for Butcher's work(don't read it), but good grief, the rest is so SJW that I want to puke.  Girl Genius? What is this, the Hugos? Lousy writing and art that is entertaining in a magazine strip.

Best SFF show: I DON'T CARE

Best SFF movie: I saw Wonder Woman. That's it. It was pretty good.

Best PC/Mobile categories: No opinion, aside from Mass Effect: Andromeda closing the studio and being in GOODWILL inside a year should disqualify it.

Best Boardgame: My vote is going to Scythe, though I think the only bad choice is the Betrayal expansion.

Best "other" tabletop game: I haven't played any, though I'll be happy with anything but Magic.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Injustice Quick Reviews 2.11

Cower not, fierce reader! This day we run the gamut from true comedy to space opera to thriller and more. Let us take a look at our docket!

Noble Vengeance by William Miller- This is a second story, continuing months later. We've got a lot of internal intrigue within the intelligence community, the Mexican drug cartels, and a very on the nose political campaign. Major crime: Let's just say there's a LOT of mirroring and speculation on the last election. 8 of 10 fell deeds.

The Lawdog Files by Lawdog-  There's a lot for people to like in this collection of nonfiction humor. Some of the stories, I didn't see were that big a deal, but this book is both humorous and tender in turn. Major crime: There's a few crimes in here, but to the narrative? That cops are human. 7 of 10 fell deeds.

Adventure Constant by Jon Mollison- Jon's first novel shows a lot of his growth process as a writer coming to fruition. This book is outstanding, unbelievable fun, and feels like an older book, but one that is a slight bit self aware. It claims to be Jack Dashing book 1, and as it establishes a multiverse, I'm wondering which approach it will take: following the same one, Jacks of multiple earths, or a combination? Will there be a Dashing Adventure League? Pulp Readers must know. My ONE complaint: get a copyeditor, please Jon, there's enough mistakes it was a bit jarring at a few points. Major crime: Big adventure, big heroism, big virtue. 8 of 10 fell deeds.

Young Man's War by Rod Walker- Mr. Walker continues to write the finest Heinlein works RAH never wrote. There's aliens, conspiracy, and encouragement of the best in mankind. With this being the first official book in The Thousand Worlds, it appears he might be preparing to enter the grand stage of such works as Known Space and the Alliance Union universe. Major crime: Government ignoring real threats and instead pushing personal agendas for their legacies. 9 of 10 fell deeds.

The Long March by Richard Fox - This is the second in The Exiled Fleet series. There's a lot more in the way of cool space battles, we've got pirates and a free city, sabotage, and a whole lot more. The bad guys get badder, and the good guys well, more real. Major crime: Struggling with nobility and doing right by an enemy. 8 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

New Comics Spotlight

Time for a much more fun post! As yesterday was Wednesday, I went to my local comics shop, and picked up three issue ones. Two of these I have great hope for, and the third, well, it didnt' get mucked up YET. If you don't have a local comic shop, or they have a very limited selection and for some reason won't do special orders, I recommend TFAW, via the link at the left.

First, I'm going to point out the new Robotech comic from Titan Comics. This is a touch more grown up than the anime was so far, but not in a bad way. The art is GREAT, and I'm glad to see signs that real artists still work in comics that are fun. The book is a little short, but I'm actually willing to forgive that if they continue to do this well. I'd rather have well thought out and executed stories than filler.

Second, there's another one that should fit that audience, though it doesn't have any previous IP attached: Mech Cadet Yu from Boom! Studios. This evokes a lot of good anime without being tied to the plots, characters, or conventions that they have. We've got GIANT ALIEN ROBOTS, class divide/warfare, and some philosophy of free will. This book is fun and DEEP, you might want to read the issue a few times to get all the things that make for good discussion in here.

So far, I've talked about books that had no sign of SocJus agenda, at least in the writing. Now, onto one I don't have a lot of hope for, and why.

Turok from Dynamite. So far, the story is good, and I picked it up because of the Sovereigns backup story system they're using for those books. I'd already read two or three small parts to the story, and issue one picks up a bit after those, treating them as a prologue. So far, I think the book is solid. So why am I skeptical of its future? It's written by the most painful Star Wars author, Chuck Wendig. On the other hand, he hasn't engaged in any SocJus here yet, and it seems like he actually might have some understanding of how to write comics. I don't have a history with Turok books, so I can't comment there.

Now, if someone wants to counter my slim hope for Turok, and my thoughts on the other two, I'd like to hear them. And maybe have a good comic geek fight, too.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Superversive? I'm waiting to be uplifted.

Instead of having my hopes raised by Anthony putting up a post, which is promptly pulled down at the request of "leadership". Yeah, I meant the quotes, because I don't know that changes are going to happen. In fact, Amos appears to be the only specifically Superversive voice to have read my last post. I state this based on his comment, but the fact is, from now on, I'll archive anything from there first, because they're controlling their message strongly, and might delete ANY post if they decide to.

What got put in its place? Brian's initial post that started the conversation. While it's a good post, I don't get why that should be added there. Maybe it's the only part their leaders think is worth reading. Maybe they don't get what the PulpRev crew(at least part of it) actually gets out of arguments.

The arguments they have(I'm on the periphery as I'm just a blogger/reviewer right now, and who reads those guys, anyway?) are both for working through points, convincing others, and teaching themselves how to think about writing.  And while the arguments might get heated, that's not out of enmity, but rather the fact that they recognize that fun is serious stuff, far more serious than most things in life.

What's this mean for how I interact with Superversive itself now? Until I see changes, I'm going to be a lot more wary. I'm friends with a few of them, and that won't be affected on my part, but this whole controlling nature really hurts my ability to trust the "movement", and to an extent, the Press.

The whole keeping the rest of the world in the dark gets me down. I can't support something where there's literally no info on it, and since the group won't communicate publicly as a corporate body or individually, there's nothing to be found.

I don't even wanna type it.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Superversive Recovery and PulpRev Direction

Well, it's been an interesting couple of days. Brian Niemeier got a much needed conversation started through this post, based on some long and meandering conversations I happened to be a part of(yes, some of that is from me, but certainly not all). I wasn't going to blog on this, but given some of the more recent outputs, I think I should.

At Cirsova, Alexander talked about how this would push change, and a warning to the PulpRev movement.  Part of his concern is the PulpRev website, branding being a killer to a movement. If you haven't, go read it. Part of it is the concern over it becoming ideological, rather than methodical. In response to the second, I have to say, there are a certain amount of ideals(no, I'm not defining, let's not go to purity tests) that are, I'll go with common and consistent with the storytelling that the PulpRev is both rediscovering for the public, and writing. To the first, Todd Everhart has made a good post on the PulpRev site.

Now, to Todd's post. Todd writes clearly and plainly that if you want to join the Discord(I have, but haven't done more than lurk a little), or the website, you can. Todd also then talks a little about quality control, infiltrators, merch, and a bit more. I'm guilty of doing a pulprev shirt myself. I figured it might get some real life conversations started, that's it. Todd's  points are solid all around, and I hope they pin the post permanently for easy access.

And, lastly, a post on the Superversive blog by Anthony M. It's great to see an official post about them taking it seriously. They're looking at some changes, and I've got some comments to them. Edit: This post was deleted, so I've put up an archive of it.

To the changing of the Press name, or possibly making Superversive Press an imprint: STOP. You need one Press; it's fine. Imprints are largely silly, they don't get you more money, they get you less, especially when you don't have a deep catalog(50+titles). All imprints do is confuse people. I say this because I didn't even know Jon Del Arroz's For Steam and Country was from them until he told me at LibertyCon. Get the Press website in shape; there's no active links, no text entries, no author pages, etc. In fact, just migrate the blog over to make it easier to find all the stuff. Get an "about us" page up. UPDATE information as it becomes available(you're missing several contributors). Put submission calls/guidelines up, yes, ON THE SUPERVERSIVE PRESS WEBSITE.

To the second, I really hope the WHOLE group takes this to heart. But, I'll believe it when I see John C. Wright, Tom Simon, and Anthony having a blatantly silly chat about something being superversive on Twitter. This is about actively building relationships with readers and each other in public. And some of the folks who have accounts need to be active(Jagi, Marina, Jason).  To the other side of publicity, you need to seek out reviewers BEFORE you release, not after. My book money goes to way too many places on my meager pay. I won't complain over more free books. Really.

To the proposed livestream changes: GREAT. I like you guys, but your Roundtables seriously feel like I'm at a family reunion and everybody's talking, when I want to hear stories from my grandfather, uncle, and that weird cousin of mine. It's about focus, and I've not felt that from the few Roundtables I really tried to listen to. Chaos ensued, and I couldn't get a feel for much of anything.

Changing the comments: YEAH. I can't get disqus to remember me, and I use it so little I can't get to remember my account/password. I have to use a different browser so I can use this ID, and Brave is not cooperating right now.  I am eminently terminable, and won't endanger my job to comment on your blog.

To Focusing less on the details: If you mean less trying to define Superversive, and more talking about stuff that is, great. Get people think in those terms, show them what is deliberately or inadvertently uplifting and why.

On the whole, I am greatly encouraged by Anthony's post, and I hope they start the structural changes so more people can feel part of it.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.