Monday, September 25, 2017

Castalia House, about those book covers...

They're really good these days. So I've got to ask: When are you going to find a way for us to get posters of this great art?

The Moth & Cobweb covers started out meh, but then you found a stellar artist. Appendix N has art by the same gentleman. Your print editions for Mr. Grant's Maxwell Saga has new and attractive art. The Rod Walker covers are great fun, and the Kalsi and Cheah cover look wonderful. You could also use this to rerelease the alternate cover Corrosion had, with the alternate author.

And I know you don't own the art for some, like Mr. Van Creveld's nonfiction books, Mr. Grant's Westerns,  and Mr. Cole's that you do print editions for.  But you've got some serious art here. As one of the marks of civilization is beauty, why not sell some folios of posters? Say, selected fantasy covers, sf covers, and There Will Be War covers. Perhaps a selected fiction and nonfiction collection, with David the Good's covers, Loki's Child, Cuckservative, and more?

It's just a thought, and I don't know the rights status for these outside of books. But man, I want some of this for my walls. I'd even take a Selenoth collection and consider the map for a game store campaign, leaving it on their wall.(yes, I do remember there's a potential ACKS thing going to happen.)

Now, I'm not suggesting these for shirts, they're really detailed. Mugs, perhaps. Maybe a phone cover? I'm not a big merch guy, but I know that a lot of people are, and it would increase public awareness of the properties. And for your upcoming Faraway Wars, while I'm guessing you have a video game in the works, merch will help push that out as well, building brand awareness.

Note to indie authors and cover artists: This goes for you guys, too. If you get a big bunch of great covers, use them for marketing. Get some of the best covers you have, and sell the posters. Who does this depends on the rights, but that's for you to hash out.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Quick Game look: Villages of Valeria

A friend of mine had Valeria Card Kingdoms(maybe I'll discuss that one another time), and after playing that, I decided to try one of their other offerings, and they have two others in the same setting. Villages of Valeria is a quick and fairly complex game. Images come from BoardGameGeek.

How's it work? First big mechanism is role selection(I'll get to covering that mechanic someday). The rest of the game is resource management and tableau building. This is a lead/follow mechanic, with some interesting limiting factors as to if you can follow. There are three card types: the castle(starting card), buildings, and adventurers.

Here's a picture of a part of a tableau from a played game:

I'm going to focus on the 2 fully visible cards, one building(left) and one adventurer(right). The rules suggest that buildings of a type be tucked that way, because name, points, and effects are all of the card that matter after building.

Card breakdown for buildings: Top corners are building type and VP for game end. Just under the name of the card is its special effect(some instant, some constant, and some conditional). On the left side is the resource cost of the building when you build it. The bottom section is resources when played a different way, which I'll discuss later. The Adventurer has its effect in the same place, and on the left side is the building requirement to hire the adventurer.

Now, a glimpse of a more full tableau.

Yeah, it's further out. The two cards on the left bottom here are important. The leftmost is the role selection card, with its marker(it helps for people following/tracking turns). The next one in is the starting castle, with some buildings developed for resource availability. Now, for the roles, so the rest fits together better. Cards do change some of these.

Harvest- Draw three building cards from the face up row, or the top of its deck. Followers draw one.

Develop- Discard one card from hand. Tuck another building for its resources under your castle. Followers discard two.

Tax- Take 1 gold and draw one card. Followers draw one card.

Recruit- Pay 1 gold to recruit an adventurer to your town. Followers pay 2.

Build- Place gold on open resource spots to fill the requirements for the building, and draw a card. Followers don't draw a card.

When your turn begins, the gold on your resource spots becomes yours. This also means players can block others from being able to build  by using all the resources. If all their money is tied up in resources, recruit or build.

Now, I've only played it with two, but we played three or four games straight. I'd say it's rather light, though the iconography takes a moment to get used to. But there's a lot of variability for such a light game in here, and that's before the little expansion packs.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ok, I'm starting back up.

Sorry, folks for the absence. I've had an injury that has kept me shut in and affected my concentration this last week. Thankfully, I'm recovering, and will get back up to speed soon. Yes, I've also fallen behind on my reading. I should get back up and into my normal pacing soon; I've got a quick review set I'm partway through the reading for(unless I just split them all up), an anthology to get reviewed, and Cirsova 6 is almost ready for me to write my review(as in not done yet). Oh, yeah. I also tried out a game yesterday with two players that I want to try with more, but was really interesting.

Now, that I've gotten some of the other stuff out of the way, I posted a drawing for Rocketo just over a week ago, and received four comments on it.  And, the winner is: Man of the Atom!

I'll be contacting you shortly(maybe before you have a chance to read this).

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

On the lineup for a new comics company

Yeah, I'm going to continue from yesterday's post. Because a lot of people want to get things moving, and more of them want to write or perhaps draw, everyone wants to read, but very few want to build a whole picture.(Not that I have the funding to manage this).

Yes, the bulk of your books are going to be hero titles. Because that is the type of story that comics tells better than anything else. It's also the most expected thing. But take care to make unique characters, and not just ripoffs, though one or two will of necessity be derivative. Yeah, I don't care about your archer or gadget guy or martial artist. Shoot, use something like Mutants and Masterminds to create characters, so you've got real limits of power, and know how everything works.

But, you need some other books. In fact, I'd say close to half should not be hero titles.

Let's say you start with 10 titles. Yeah, that's a lot to manage right off. Shops won't take you very seriously without a variety. So, four or five at launch should be hero books. Perhaps 3 solo titles, one team book, and maybe an anthology for widening your world.

So you've got 5 books less. Sff/horror should be likely three of them, maybe even four. But you might want to make one for each of  the  marketing genres(yes, it's ok to play that game initially, we know it's a lie). And if you have an author that can tell a good story in it, have a western, it can be straight or weird. If you can, try for a sword and sorcery book, Robert E. Howard is still having adaptations done that move well enough, same with Edgar Rice Burroughs.

There's your 10 book start, if you can get all that. Three months after launch, you add another hero title, and maybe another sff book.Or you can add something like a spy story or a crime book. It's not like there's any restrictions on what you publish unless you want there to be.

Another note: There need to be very clear terms for writers and artists on what they're paid for, and their royalty returns for any creations they add(which would be subject to approval). This shouldn't need to be said, but as most comics guys are lousy businessmen, I'm saying it.

Yes, finding all the talent needed would be a big challenge. That's not to mention getting listed in a distributor(Daiamond right now, by default, but I know there's something in the works). And you have to build word of mouth. This in fact will require a good bit of startup money, because you want about 3 months ready to go BEFORE launch. So you can hit up a few small cons, talk to stores and readers, and show them what you're doing. Have an issue or two pre printed(not final, maybe just pencilled and lettered) to give a shop owner, so they can talk to their customers. Build Buzz.

Yeah, I put all this rant out there in the lame hopes that somebody might be paying attention and do it. Maybe even offer me a job to help keep things in line, because comics would be cool to work in. I'm not going to hold my breath, but 4 color dreams are nice.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

On the Comics Collapse. Oh, and there's going to be a giveaway.

Now, I know I haven't written about the problems within the comics industry before, despite my posts mentioning and reviewing some books, and trying to boost comics that I think are worth a look. Partly this was because I still have part of the industry that tells good stories: non-hero books are a bit less converged than hero books in general. That's not to say there isn't a lot, but I can still find stories that are well written and drawn and don't play politics all the time, or at all. There are still good stories in sff comics, and I still get an occasional action or horror book. Hero books are rare reads for me now.

But, JD Cowan, Brian Niemeier, Jon Del Arroz, and others, notably the Diversity & Comics you tube channel have laid enough groundwork that I think I should chime in with some thoughts. Unlike most of these guys, I'm more into the DC universe for my heroes, so my references will be that direction.

It's not a recent event that comics have gone downhill. This is only the most recent in many events that have hurt the industry. And sales have historically shown every bad move, not immediately in every case(variant cover fever)(death of superman). But eventually there's a sales collapse after each one of these chases of fashion that comics has done. Collectablility was a terrible thing to pursue; comics are not MTG cards, nor should they be.

Each reboot of comics universe seen changes to the world and characters. Sometimes this has strictly been to create a history that made sense. But a lot of times it's been to create "jump on" points, in the belief that people that don't read comics will magically come in if it's now issue one, and you don't need to know the character. BS! I have friends that don't read comics that think if they want to, they have to start with Action Comics #1 and read ALL OF IT. So part of it is perception; whether or not it matters now, a character's history intimidates some people.

What do they do wrong in most every reboot? They change some characters. Not refine, like add details that fit established traits and history, but change. Let's make such character GAY! When they've a long history that says nothing of the sort. You want to play that game? How about a Green Lantern that's a family man? They did it in the animated series, and the character was cool. Or a celibate Green Arrow? Oh, wait, Connor Hawke was when written by CHUCK DIXON. Too bad Connor doesn't exist anymore that I know of. My last DC title I read was All Star Western(Jonah Hex), and I quit after Booster Gold pulled him into the present.

Now, a lot of characters are being replaced by "new, relevant" versions that have NOTHING whatsoever to do with the originals. Thia has gone back to the New 52 for DC, and Marvel has been doing the same thing more recently. But when they make Superman not relate to people, they lose readers. When Martian Manhunter isn't THE common part of Justice League of America, it doesn't work, especially when they've made him untrustworthy and shifty. This is not to mention stuff like the Chinese Superman and co. they've added recently(which I have no real opinion of), especially when they had heroes everywhere in the world. But let's toss them and igonre history for lowest common denominator bs.

How hard will it be to setup an alternative distributor at this point? I have no clue, but I will say stores don't want to order from EVERY worthwhile small writer and artist self publishing. So, if comics are going to be rescued from the death SJWs are engineering, a distributor is necessary as all get out. And don't talk to me about digital and web comics. I don't have a giant screen needed to read them well, and the files are huge. Webcomics can be okay, but I prefer my books physically.  Manga isn't something I'm for or against, and I'll likely grab My Hero Academia as the anime has been good, and Mr. Cowan recommends it.

Now, to the giveaway:

I found this day at my local library's friendshop both volumes of Rocketo, which I have discussed  before. As I don't need another set, I'm going to give them away together. These are library discards, and have some wear and use.Comment  below for the giveaway, which will be drawn at random on 9/23/2017.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Alt Culture, or not.

Vox Day put up a post responding to yet another article on building another culture. Seriously. I hear about or find another article every few months.  Vox mentions the fact that conservative media has never talked about a Castalia House book. I've seen an interview in a Catholic online mag with John C. Wright that only talked about his Tor books, and this was recent. The fact is, the so called media organs of conservatism and Christianity don't benefit from helping relevant material grow. They benefit from being able to whine that the establishment is leftist and dishonest.

Music has largely been hostile to faith and conservatism for decades. Yes, there are exceptions for faith, notably country music, but that's been getting sidelined even there. But you look outside it, on FM stations? Lust filled lefty music is what you find. Oh, you want to go with classical?  You really don't know how left most of the performers are, do you? Oh yes, there are exceptions, and most of them focus on being a better musician. Look at what they do with "reimagings" of great opera: they change the setting, change character sexes, etc., and then, while you still have the story, it's being told in a manner against the original. That's ignoring the garbage pieces that get foundation and government grants. Not going into the Christian music scene.
Movies? There's plenty of lower budget stuff out there. Kevin Sorbo's done a ton when he should have been one of the current big stars. A lot of actors even just keep mostly quiet, but have their own rules which have hurt their careers. Neal McDonough is a Catholic who won't do some scenes, and it's moved his career more to supporting roles or antagonists.  But, foreign ventures like the movie Guardians prove that you don't need Hollywood itself to do good looking action films.

Books? Well, just another place where the movers and shakers mostly prefer to stay ignorant. This case, unlike music, I'm glad about. Why? Because their willful ignorance leaves a place for people like me. If those media were actually paying attention to small press and independent  authors, I'd have a much harder time with audience growth. They want to ignore anything but big NY publishing, I'll gladly fill part of that huge gap.

Now, as to other reasons aside from selling the "can we build an alternative culture" article again. Most of it comes down to the fact that people are largely lazy. I've seen it like crazy with people at church that will go to a concert of the youth pastor's cover band, but won't bother with their musician friend's group that's been working for years and building hours of music.  A lot of folks also want to be able to talk about the same entertainment as everyone else. This view of culture is the real culprit.

I won't drift very far into this, but there's a real purpose to culture, which is part of why Andrew Breitbart's statement "Politics is downstream from culture." rings true. The Thomist philosopher Josef Pieper covers it very well in his Leisure: the Basis of Culture.  And the core idea is this: Culture is a part of our worship. The town festivals and celebrations all started as HOLY DAYS, on a very local level. For centuries, the Church funded the creation of a great amount of music, architecture, sculpture, and other art, funding artists both internally and externally of Church hierarchy. Now? Most of that is done by people in "ministry" on the Protestant side, or by clergy who may or may not actually be good at the art on the Catholic side(look at modern Catholic hymnody).  While I could go further, I'm not ready for it to devolve into a rant or grow into a full fledged post on its own.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Injustic Magazine Review: Phantaxis #6

Cower not, fierce reader! This day we look at magazine that isn't looking to be pulp, but rather a normal sff magazine. That said, this read proved far more worthwhile than the last time I picked up Fantasy and Science Fiction, Analog, or Asimov's. Let's take a look at the contents.


For Hannah by Mark Bilsborough- The story is a big exercise in unrequited love. There's also a lot against male fantasizing, of the incel(involuntary celibate) type, because those guys really need to be picked on a bit more. Well, ok, it's more like the Zuckerberg type that has money, but no social skills. Kinda meh, as there's no action, but is more a drama piece, with no real conflict.

Playmates by Arlen Feldman- For the most part, this is a tender and amusing tale. There's a lot here on the moral hazard of cloning, and making the creation of life simple. The ending is a bit gut wrenching, as while the father might know who can make his life more miserable, he doesn't seem to know the joy his daughter can bring him. Again, there's no real sense of conflict, though this flows pretty well without.

Evens and Odds by Vanessa Kittle- Another cloning story, though this one is far more straightforward, and there is definitely a bit of conflict, though no action. There's another moral hazard aspect here, as well as unscrupulous businessmen.

The Ship of Theseus by Phillip Brian Hall- This was a great read. It's a detective story in a time when lifespan has been extended indefinitely, and nobody retires. This follows a detective assigned to a missing persons case, revolving around a secretive group they call pro-deathers for their rejection of immortality. We also see some philosophical discussion of the humanity of "human androids", people uploaded into android bodies.

An Infernal Malady by Michael Haynes- This story is dark. There's no conflict, action or hope. In fact, it's more a glimpse into a malevolent mystical existence.

The Home Secretary is Safe by C. R. Berry- This vignette features small scale time travel, treating it more like a puzzle. There's a small amount  of action, but again, no conflict. In many ways the story is cynical.

Daughter of the Western Winds by Jenni Wood- Hey, a story with real action and conflict, internal and external! In some ways, this feels like watching anime set in medieval Japan, perhaps earlier. The elements all seem to fit together well, and there's an interesting dichotomy between the fantastic powers in the story and the false humility of the tiered nature of the society.

The Wheel of Fortune by Matencera Wolf- Joy. A dystopian world where the lower classes have everything rationed, and our main character is seen as a worthy sacrifice for societal reform by one of the upper echelon. At least there's a minimum of action here.

F-Bombs by Allen Kuzara- While this once again has no conflict, and no real action, this does have a feel like one of the moderately interesting entries from Forbidden Thoughts.(Superversive, you guys might get in touch.) We do have a good glimpse of a father trying desperately to keep his partial custody of his daughter.

Urgent Care by Dale T. Phillips- This is the aftermath of a story. The world is very distopian, as people get violent over everything, apparently, and health care is rationed unless you can pay right now. It's an interesting glimpse.

A Guy Walks into a Bar by Russ Wartrous and Mike McHone- A fantasy story recounted in a fantasy tavern. The storyteller and listener(his friend) are not part of the story, but merely scenery of some interest in a recounting, allowing for the storyteller's embellishments.

Flash Fiction:
Honestly, this stuff is entertaining, but completely forgettable. Mostly they move you between stories a bit easier, by taking you out of setting like an ad, but without the purchase compulsion.

Final thoughts:
Phantaxis looks to sit in a very odd place in sff right now. It's an actual middle ground publication, with some material that seems to fit the establishment crowd and some that fits the puppy/castalia house/pulprev/superversive crowds. Most of the writing was pretty decent. I'll likely give it another try in the future. Even the stuff I didn't like did not drag. An actually diverse magazine. 7 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.