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.