Sunday, November 19, 2017

Comics as culture? Absolutely

How many times have we heard comics derided for being "kids' stuff", or "only comics"? But the fact is, less than a hundred years ago, comics were not only culture, they DOMINATED culture. And there's more to it than that.

But the quote prompting this came from the intro to Max Allan Collins' Seduction of the Innocent, the third of his comics and crime novels. And while the quote is false, the numbers are real:

The most popular entertainment medium of all, here in 1954. My city boasts twenty comics publishers putting out 600-something titles every month, selling eighty to one hundred million copies a week, reaching an audience larger than movies, TV, radio and magazines combined(they figure a comic book gets passed around or traded to six or more readers).

And lest you think I'm exaggerating, here's some numbers via Infogalactic on Action Comics 1, and a few later issues. Action Comics 1, had a printing of 200,000 issues. And sold out. Eventually, Action Comics would reach sales nearing 1,000,000 a month. That's one title. And over a decade before Dr. Wertham's tirade against comics.

Hey, let's see how Detective Comics did. In fact, I'll even go to post Wertham. 1960. Hmm. According to Comichron, using USPS required data(first year of requirement), Detective Comics(Batman) sold an average of 502,000 copies an issue. Not as much as say, early Action Comics, but this is still more than five times the top book from October 2017. Oh, and the best selling book that year(Uncle Scrooge) sold on average 1,040,543 copies an issue.

So if Alt*Hero and other projects do well, maybe we can reverse this tide of shrinking markets. Maybe we can open up people's imaginations better than movies do again. Maybe people will talk of heroes and romance and man's flawed nature. Maybe, but I really don't know.

Honestly, I have to wonder if the first real casualty of the culture war was comics. Stop people from reading about horrible things, so they don't fight against them. Stop tales of romance and heroism being popular, and sideline them to "kid's stuff".  Hide from the public just how horrible our worst acts are, and let people think that man is perfectible, so the anti-Christian agenda can be pushed, via "science".

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pulp adventure comics: Half Past Danger

It's been awhile since I posted one of these, and this is one of two miniseries I recently reacquainted myself with that fits the pulp bill in many ways. Yes, this series was about three or four years ago. It's so pulp in a lot of ways it hurts. Here's the blasted cover:

If that doesn't get your attention, I really don't know what will. Hmm. Ah, I'd like to not spoil it, but it's been out awhile, and I'm not going to give out all the story. Look for it. Oh, and there's a new one coming out now.

I'll take secret Nazi bases for 500.

Oh, is that not enough? I mean you've got ww2, really cool planes on a secret base. Hmm. Well, I suppose there are dinosaurs for terror.

Hmm. Yeah, there might be some good action here. Oh, we're missing something. What's that? Oh, you want to know about the guy with the sword on the cover? Well, his sword is really nice.

We've got Nazi's and ninjas, dinos and dames. Oh, I didn't show you the dame past the cover? I should fix that maybe. Couldn't find a good online pic from the original, so I had to take a picture. Excuse the bad angle and such, I'm no photographer.

Oh, no, I'm telling you why or how that guy can carry the gun like that. Nope. Gotta leave something for those that decide to read it. But yeah, this is a great fun read. I'm gonna see what I can find on the new one, because well, dinos and war comics are a good mix.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Guest Review for MAGA 2020 and Beyond

A good friend of mine was most generous and reviewed the anthology MAGA 2020 and Beyond for me. I'm in it, so I must recuse myself from a balanced review. I've made minor corrections for spelling, and deleted one sentence more functional to the publisher side of the book. But anyway, here it is:

Injustice Gamer Guest Anthology Review
By Tom Trumpinski
MAGA 2020 and Beyond

I’m lucky enough to share a coffee shop with Albert Genesson. We’ve spent hours talking politics and the craft of writing. I was surprised and delighted when he asked me to review this new anthology that contains two pieces of his work.

MAGA 2020 and Beyond is billed as examinations of optimistic futures that result from the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 election. My inherent suspicion towards message fiction slid forward, of course, from my reptile brain. After all, stories that emphasize message over substance are notorious for being a main cause of Puppy-Related Sadness.

So, can the conservative, libertarian, and alt-right produce better message fiction than the Left?
I say, “Cower Not, Fierce Reader, for the best four stories alone in the anthology are well-worth the five dollar Kindle price!” Brad R Torgerson gives us 45, a conversation piece about a secret-service agent and a time-traveler who ponder the methods by which to avoid a future hell. For action, Declan Finn gives us a rip-roaring Middle-Eastern tale, Mad Dog Moon, from his Love At First Bite universe. The anthology begins with an adorable YA story by Jon Del Arroz, Winning Is What We Do, which pits illegal alien illegal aliens versus a TrumpMecha. Jon also wins the prize for the best duplication of the President’s unique manner of speaking, which he exhibits in particularly loving fashion. Former White House Science Fellow, Arlan Andrews, Sr., gave us a fun piece about a newly-born super-patriot in M.A.G.A.I.

An ambitious project like this one inevitably ends up having down-sides. The shift in editors mid-project shows in several ways. Alfred’s essays look and feel rushed. The New Wall and Six Grandfathers seemed to suffer from inadequate editing. 

In addition, I was disappointed by the swerve into dystopia evinced by some of the authors. While they have merit, in some cases, they felt out of place in an anthology billed as optimistic. I was a bit put-off by the amount of Canada-hate in evidence. Heck, I’ve been on panels with Robert Sawyer, the Pope of Canadian Nationalism, and I still don’t dislike Canada that much. To those writers, a piece of advice—the closer your message is to the front-line of a story, the more the story suffers. Quality, first and foremost, because if our Fierce Readers put the story down unread, we’ve failed both as artists and advocates.

The weakest parts of the anthology were the essays. I’ve ended up being an off-again on-again off-again member of the CLFA because I have an inherent distrust for governmental change as a tool of freedom and progress. Ivan Throne’s and John C. Wright’s essays stayed far, far beyond the frothing level of discourse and did nothing to convince me to be optimistic using either rhetoric or dialectic.
One last note—Milo’s introduction seemed to be partially redone from the intro to Forbidden Thoughts. I’m not sure that he really knows that much about SF and Fantasy. I know he’s a big name in the movement, but I think you can do better.

 Overall Rating, Three Cups of Double-shot Cappuccino. Rating of Four Best Stories, A Rousing Five Cups!


Quite honestly, I'm quite happy getting a mixed review with an anthology of this nature. It's not for everyone, and Tom and I certainly have some different ideas and ideals in reality and fiction. It's a good time, and I'm glad to call him friend.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

7th Continent: adventure gaming at its best

I FINALLY had a chance to break out my copy of 7th Continent yesterday. I had it with, it wasn't in my plan to play it, but hey, it won't get played if it's not there. But the friend I met with had been advised we play it, so...(pics will be from BGG)

Yeah this is a really good game. As far as theme, think of it as a coop based on the choose your own adventure books. Only the game isn't one story, it has a few. And there are a lot of variables within the game. Some of this depends on action efficiency, some on timing. A lot of it depends on the cards in the action deck. Or lack thereof.

First things, though: if you haven't seen this game, it has a lot of cards. So if you order it in the future, be prepared to sort for awhile before you play. It took the two of us a couple of hours in a previous time to get the cards all sorted.  Here's one of all the cards:

Anyway, back to the game premise. You and your fellow adventurers(early 1900's) recently came back from an expedition to a newly found land. Unfortunately, you all are cursed, and have to go back to lift the curse. Each curse is tied to a specific starting point, and there's four generic curses added to the action deck as well. I'll talk about that soon.(You can start with multiple curses, but I wouldn't until you've beaten a couple first.)

The map building is very specific, as the art forms a very coherent map. After exploration actions, that is. Unexplored cards are marked with explore cards of a certain type indicated on the map.

From there, you explore and build up a map. But, you won't ever see everything. Seriously. The estimated time for all the content in the box is something along the lines of 1500 minutes. That is not for a game, that's to see EVERYTHING, requiring many games, even with the same curse. Eventually you develop a map that might look like this:

More or less. I haven't been there yet. We played for about 3.5 hours, and got off our initial island. Our action deck had run out, and then, after a little exploration and actions, the curse struck its final blow.

Now, the action deck. There's a default set of basic skill cards, plus a set of five for each character that are added to the game. The action deck is shared. Every action has a cost and a requirement for success.  Once the action deck has run out, the discard pile is shuffled and replaced in the discard tray face down to draw for each action. If at this point a curse is revealed, the game is lost. Here's the official basics video, it includes a save demonstration:

Anyway, there's a lot here, and it has an easy save mode with no need for notes or remembering what you were doing. Also, given the join/drop rules, I have to say, in a lot of ways this fills the rpg spot quite well. Exploration, puzzles, and so on.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Injustice Book Review: Praxis, by Justin Knight

Cower not, fierce reader! Today we take a look at a more practical side of science fiction: warehouse workers IN SPAAAACCCE! Honestly, there's a lot to the story and it's far more than that. But, as someone with over eight years of experience on power equipment in warehouses, it's nice to see. What do we have?

First, our warehouse workers are fairly realistic. Not all are smart, but they aren't a homogeneous group by any means. There are characters with family, devoted couples, and people just dealing with the daily struggle. The equipment junkie attitude of them being "toys" is pretty accurate from my experience.

Second, we have a redemption arc within the story. I won't go into details, per my general spoiler policy. But the fact that someone can be stuck for a long time, and come to a point where they wish to repent and change and actively do, especially after paying a price. Whereas the SocJus crowd is far more likely to simply excuse behavior and deny evil, unless of course it's in recognizing truth.

Third, there's a story of alien cops and pirates. While this may not be a SocJus trigger, the fact that the lawmen are good guys is.

Fourth, Mr. Knight gives us glimpses of family life and devotion. Not only is it respected, but aspired to by other characters.

A little bit of real criticism here: I kind of wanted to see more on adjustments to equipment required for zero and low gravity. It would be a real concern, and is almost always ignored by authors. Now, there is some mention of future equipment, as well as a little extrapolation from existing safety/security measures.

Damaged product also gets mentioned, but I saw nothing on inventory integrity. Both of these issues would be HUGE in space. Is it glamourous? Nope. Necessity rarely is. I also know that too much would get boring quick for almost all readers. How many times do you have to count to a thousand?

One small thing that is explained by the author being English is the use of "whilst" and "learnt". Though, as the workers are based out of Vancouver, I'm uncertain as to the idiomatic nature of the region. It might be more American, it might be something entirely different.

This is a fast and worthwhile read. 8 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Deadman by Neal Adams is DOA

Neal Adams is honestly good at art. But wow did he drop the ball on this. People that don't know Deadman can't really get a grasp on him, despite there being a bit of origin story here. There's plotholes bigger than just in the Russian movie Guardians. (The movie is really fun still. This? Um, no.)

I don't know a ton about Deadman, he rarely showed up in the DC books I read. But he was  in Batman: the Brave and the Bold a few times. Yes, it's not the same, but you do get a bit of a feel for the character. But to say, a diehard Marvel Zombie?

Well, Diversity and Comics couldn't follow it:

Now, if you didn't watch, let's talk about some plotholes. They're everywhere. Jim Gordon, commissioner of Gotham PD, is a temporary ambassador for a NUCLEAR FACILITY inspection. What about all the scientists in the DCU? Where's the Atom? Where's Professor Martin Stein? Good grief, there's bad guys with better qualifications than Gordon.

Now, Neal Adams managed to do things that can only happen when the same guy does writing and art: plotholes in art and layout. It's honestly impressive when something that happened in art apparently just unhappens in the art. There's also travel bits that make no sense, when he's supposed to be able to just appear where he needs to be.

DC should just shut this down now. Get a writer to work with Adams,  his art is still good, but don't give him the writer/artist control. His Batman mini was largely deem incomprehensible, and why encourage him by giving him another one?  Not everything has to make sense right away, but enough does that the questions get asked initially and answered later.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Injustice Anthology Review: Lyonesse Volume 1

Cower not, fierce reader! Today we look at the first collection of stories from the Silver Empire subscription service Lyonesse. I'm putting up both links because I know some will want to subscribe, and some might just want to check out the anthology. Either way, I think it's a good deal. Let's take a look.

Four Funerals and a Wedding by L. Jagi Lamplighter- A woman is gifted to bring people back.

The Dreaming Wounds by Anya Ow- A woman slowly regains her ability to see those trapped between life and death.

The Dragon's Teeth by David Hallquist- An uploaded copy of a soldier is activated in dire times.

Zombie Jamborie by Declan Finn- Voodoo zombies attack New York. Private enterprise has a plan for everything.

The Artifact by Dean Abbott- A society that has enlightened itself past religion searches a planet for cultural evidence from a mysterious society far beyond them.

We Bury Our Own by Cheah Kai Wai(Ben Cheah)- Post disaster, a spiritual warrior is called to go after one of his own who went rogue.

Number 43 by Jonathan Ward- In a world of Frankenstein type science, a "servant" is sent after a former protege.

The Last Winter by A. R. Aston- An old warrior in what looks to be his end comes to an understanding of a witch woman's prophecy from years earlier.

Shini Tai by C.L. Werner- A Samurai comes across a great sumo and mystical forces set against him.

The Case of the Unicorn by Nora M. Mulligan- A detective is hired to find and return a unicorn to an elderly woman.

The Harsh Mistress by Mike Murphy- A salesman with a bad month gets a unique chance to make a sale.

St. Lucian's Star by Dawn Witzke- A woman who locates objects is hired to locate a relic, and goes along for the recovery.

A Day Without the Horned Goddess by Kieran McKiel- The daughter of a mythic being from the South gets weary of life around the Northern loch.

In Another Life by Morgon Newquist- A tale of time travel, obsession, and a sort of revenge.

Moonset by S. D. McPhail- On an alien world, the different species cooperate when a new strange tree shows up.

Mile High Murder by Declan Finn- A man with a deadly plan faces some men with their own plans. Mildly ties to A Pius Man and the Con Murder books.

Honestly, all of these stories have good stuff in them. There's a huge variety in feel and thematics, so don't worry if you don't like one. It's in many ways the type of anthology the "year's best" collections want you to think they are. 9 of 10 fell deeds

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Book launch is Wednesday for MAGA 2020... and another little bit of news.

Yeah, Wednesday launches from Superversive Press: MAGA 2020 and Beyond.  I've got an essay and a story in there. I'd like feedback from those that read it. It's got a number of folks I've reviewed here, including Jon Del Arroz, Declan Finn, Daniel Humphries, and Dawn Witzke. We have pieces by Ivan Throne and Milo Yiannopolis as well, and one story from Brad Torgersen.

We have a memslinger(Dawn) that worked very hard on some publicity stuff. Here's what she did for my story:

It's fairly fitting. Not as good as the one for kaijubushi, though(you may have seen the tweets):

In other news, I found out that Galaxy's Edge is going to be expanding. I was personally skeptical when Nick Cole and Jason Anspach announced the project, but I think they've shown they know what they're doing. Who gets to join the fun? Well, he's got some chops, though you might be used to him writing SF comedy. His current project involves space Vikings.

Yeah. I have NO CLUE how this will work out, or if it will be serious, a comedy, a side piece, or what. But given what I've read from the people involved(dunno if Jason is in on this too right now), I'll be watching. This must be what a well run franchise is like.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Prayer Request for Gene Wolfe

It is with a heavy heart I post this. Two days ago, I found out via Twitter that SFF legend Gene Wolfe is in the hospital. He has had a bad case of the flu, and had trouble keeping food down for about two weeks. It has been stated he would appreciate get well cards from friends and fans.

Here's the address if you wish to send him a card:

OSF Healthcare
800 NE GlenOak Ave
 Peoria, IL 61603

I have read a number of his books, and like many great authors, I have more of his that I haven't read. The first science fiction convention I went to(only a couple years ago), he was a guest at, and made certain to take the time to sit at one of his panels which was part reading and part just him chatting.

He is a Catholic, and his faith came through in his discussion. Unfortunately, the religious ignorance of the audience was also apparent when he mentioned the only time he felt real fear was an encounter with a diabolist. He had to explain what that was, and then there were comments about all fundamentalism being wrong.

For those unfamiliar with the term, there are, broadly speaking, two types of Satanist. One is a hedonist that mostly doesn't want to be told what to do, might dabble in magic, but generally will leave others alone and be decent to people. The other is in full agreement with Christianity on the nature of good and evil, and actively seeks to do evil. There are stories of them in drug and human trafficking, sex slavery, and other sinister things.

At any rate, the experience of being among so called fans that were so uninformed about faith nearly made me swear off of sff conventions entirely. I still had good experiences with game cons, and it was my stumbling into independent authors and small publishers that got me to go to LibertyCon.

I wish I had taken a chance to talk with Gene at the convention. Even then, his health and strength were clearly on a downturn, though his mind was still quite active. Sadly, in many ways he and his work are being shoved aside. Here's a recent picture of books I rescued from library weeding:

The sheer cultural ignorance of librarians amazes me. But then, we know they're actively playing Social Justice. As we know:

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Injustice Anthology Review: HA!HA!HA!

Cower not, fierce reader! Today we stare villainy in the face. Sometimes it is familiar, sometimes understandable, sometimes incomprehensible. I will have to take a few stories to task, but let's take a look.

We open with a foreword by Nick Cole, drawing on his acting background and experience. He quite rightly mentions that villains are in many ways, better characters. Many comic book heroes are defined by, or rather, in contrast to, their villains.

Supervillainy 101 by Chris Pourteau- Whew. Take one part serial killer interview, one part sacrifice to a LONG term plan.

Tick Tock by Christopher J. Valin- The writing is very solid. I wish the set piece part of the story were more original: A good chunk of this is a reworking of Max Allan Collins' Batman story, "A Death in the Family".  I don't mind the copying of characters so much, but the fact that there's little to separate it, to make it unique.

Vying for Power by Greg Wilkey- The big supervillain in a city has died. Now, at the funeral, a play is made for control and power. But not everyone is what they seem to be.

Ghosts of the Flames by Hall and Beaulieu- We follow a team of scavengers in a world of heroes and villains at war. But hidden agendas and unsettled spirits have ways of unsettling things further.

Rejected by M,K, Gibson- A retired hero gives a chance to shamed heroes. The fallout of a supervilain's death has to be dealt with, and there are more layers to his organization than is readily known.

The Winter Witch by Susan Faw- Morpheus leaves the world, and one of his children has their own plans for the realm granted by their father.

Counterclockwise by Ed Gosney- A man whose power has failed him approaches his last moments due to a lack of control and judgement. Or perhaps we have a case of psychosis? Either way, the act was done, and actions have consequences.

The Gala by Morgon Newquist- Ooh, another Serenity City story. This takes place long after the one in Paragons. There's a really interesting take on the insane female sidekick here, more complex than many versions of Harley Quinn. A sinister lass indeed. Stay away from the crazy.

The Heart of a Clockwork Girl by Michael Ezell- Oh, man. A henchman goes on a mission for the evil genius that has created an artificial woman to hold him loyal. Revelations and weariness change the henchman's perspective.

Djinn 2.0 by Jessica West- An alien royal is exiled to Earth after scandal. Her redemption is to help humanity to peace.

Hacksaw's Formulation by A. J. McWain- I know nothing of the story, as it was absent from the ARC I received.

Prisoner of War by Steve Beaulieu- A war reporter under fire finds there are worse things than normal enemy soldiers to worry about. And lines can be easy to cross.

There are some standout stories in here, I particularly enjoyed Vying for Power, Rejected, and The Gala. And the volume is at least currently priced to be well worth it. 7 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Gonna rant because Hollywood hates everything good

Oh, I know he's not as popular as The Shadow, or possibly The Phantom, and he's not the shining example of Prince Valiant. But I have to say I dig the Green Hornet. There's a great amount of history here, with multiple serials, radio shows, and a TV show. Not to mention some really cool visuals and music. Dynamite Entertainment even has done some really interesting comics, both on the traditional and on the reinvention side of things.

But what they all did right, Hollywood did wrong. Yeah, that terrible Seth Rogan film from a few years back. Even by the end of the movie, the character doesn't have a clear direction and is still a bit of a schmuck. Why? Because they think you have to tell origin stories all the time.

Amateur tip: Your hero needs to be a hero, in fact show me that fast. I can put the pieces together myself, and I don't need to see him fumbling around. Especially as a standalone film.

Guess what the old show and serials all did? Jump right in. Check it out:

The first serial(just a clip):

Here's the TV show:

Hey look, right into the story. No origin, just show us stuff moving. Instead we got mopy, directionless Rogan being unsure of himself or acting like a frat boy. Sure, the serials had an advantage of coming from the radio plays, but they went right into it as well.

And there's apparently someone wanting to bring it back again. Whether it ever sees the light of day, that's another matter. Oh, yeah, try to have a good theme song. In fact, just use the old one, it's great.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Injustice Book Review: Jack Del Rio by Richard Paolinelli

Cower not, fierce reader! This day we look at an action series from one of our friends. This review is for the entire trilogy, which was just finished, and is available as an ebook omnibus for the uninitiated, which I was one prior to this.

Now, I went and read the whole series in order, and  I think the last book might make sense without the prior books, though I wouldn't recommend it. There's a great amount of emotional journey that Del Rio goes through that just won't come across in the small mentions contained in the final volume.

I joked in my Amazon review that Richard had created Jack Del Rio simply to torture him. I say this due to the recurring loss that follows this character in each volume. I won't spoil any of the plot this way, but simply say that his parents being killed years earlier is just a start.

Each story features an investigation that spreads far further than what it initially looks like. The first is on an Indian Reservation, the second goes into DC, and the third spreads into the UK, DC and more.

There's conspiracy, action(but not too detailed), shadow governments and more. If you want non-sf action and adventure, this will scratch that itch and quite well.

8 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Injustice Anthology Review: Paragons

Cower not, fierce reader! This day we have a collection of heroes, some tragic, some triumphant. Some are simply happily out of the game. Let's take a look at the woven words within.

Medusa by Steve Beaulieu- This is most definitely a tragic tale. A hero with no control of her power, forced into isolation, or risk the rest of a world she has already lost.

Nightsick by Kai Wai Chea- An ex-cop engages in a brutal fight with organized crime. His former partner still has her role with the law, but traps and snares make things more flexible.

Blackout: A Serenity City Story by Morgon Newquist- I get the feeling Serenity City might be a grand place to visit, with heroes taking the roles of Arthurian Knights, Greek Gods, and mysterious fae. 

Like Father by Jon Mollison- This is a generational story of a father and his son and the day the training wheels came off. The dread an tension of watching, being there JUST IN CASE something goes wrong. And the son surprising the father.

Blue by John Milan- A man who's been given an experimental technology is haunted by his mistakes from action. His despair has held him captive in a dead end life. A chance meeting, paired with a villain that wants the power push him to change.

Crisis Counseling by Jon Del Arroz- It figures he would write the story that might be unpowered in here. But this is about the power of the imagery of comics, the inspiration and hope it can give.

The Weight of One Girl by Richard Watts- A powered cop is searching for a missing girl. She gets sidelined when the investigation leads in the direction of a Senator she's had dealings with before. How is she to save someone when banned from the investigation?

Low Man by M. Earl Smith- A combat vet with PTSD who has chosen to stay homeless is nearing what he believes is his end. He takes his one friend where he hopes he'll be cared for, a place that may or may not remember what he's done.

A Soldier Out of the Desert by Paula Richey- An alien warrior is tasked with protecting and helping a human hero, after his people betrayed him. The hero is tasked with helping him learn to fit in human society, despite her own problems.

Someone is Aiming for You by J. D. Cowan- A hero that avoids the government limitations hunts a trail to the men that destroyed something precious. What attacks of conscience can do is remarkable.

Deadly Calm Returns by Dawn Witzke- A retired hero gets called in to handle a villain who really just wants a date with the young hot thing that normally protects the area. But action, adrenaline, and fame aren't everything.

Weather Witch by Declan Finn- A girl in Africa is part of a group rounded up for human trafficking in an attack by a powered being of force. In resisting him, she comes into power to protect herself.

Stalina by Sam Kepfield- After an accident in careless areas of t nuclear research in the Soviet Union, a patriot learns some inexplicable powers. She is tasked with protecting their projects in the space race.

There are some serious gems in this collection, and I would not say any are bad. Now I gotta wonder when I get to see some of these in proper panels. 9 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Alt*Hero nears a quarter mil

It's less than 13k away. and sure, I could be precise and state it's got $238,712 as of this writing. But it's less fun than saying quarter million. Corporations see numbers like that and start thinking about money they missed, especially if it's something they already produce.

I'm sure Disney and Time Warner are starting to take notice. Sure, there's a lot of material involved. But, you look at these kind of numbers over time, especially with comments like, "I quit reading comics X years ago", and somebody might start crunching some numbers just on that one guy, and realize that if they could have had him for those years, we'll say 3 titles(small), and talking to friends, becomes a lot of money eventually. Especially as he's not unique in his experience. X can be 5, 10, 20, 30, or 1.

One is a dangerous guy to the SJW crowd. Not only is he more willing to be check out an alternative, he's more likely to be mad about what they did to the fictional world he loved. People that love Star Wars are getting dissatisfied, because the material is rehashed. Wait til real alternatives show up: STD is losing to The Orville. If the timing had been there, Galaxy Quest would have blown it out of the water already.

At any rate, while I have some book reviews to do this week, I'm going to try to go through a few Chuck Dixon comics I have as well. Besides, I want to revisit Winterworld a bit.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Well, somebody at DC animation still knows what they're doing

And I'm not talking about the animated films. Nope. Nor that horrid looking Teen Titans reboot. Nope. There's a newer show out featuring a version of the Justice League. There's no deconstruction here, and the animation well, it's not Justice League Unlimited, but it's pretty good.

Oh, here's a little clip because the show also has a sense of DC's animated history:

It remembers some things about the earlier cartoons that even Bruce Timm seems to have forgotten with his last venture. First, that heroes need to be good and heroic. Second, that the story needs to be fun. Third, that funny does not preclude treating the material seriously.

They also did a fun Halloween episode, with Cain and the House of Mystery. Here's a little clip from that:

Yes, we once again get kid versions of the Leaguers.

I have two small things I take issue with. One, that they went with the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship angle. I simply don't care for it, it feels like lazy writing. The Batman/Wonder Woman angle in JLU was interesting. Yes, I know New 52 went there. I gave up on DC for awhile with that.

Two, they dropped a character called Space Cabbie in the mix. It feels very Golden Age goofiness. I will say the writers make it work, but I just don't care for the idea.

There are a couple of semi-feminist bits, but I can excuse those just for the fact that they are dealing with Themiscyra. Of course, most rampant feminists don't look like Amazonians, either.

At any rate, it's fun. Not quite the genius of Bataman: The Brave and the Bold, or JLU, but it does know what it's doing.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Injustice Magazine Review: Storyhack issue 1

Cower not, fierce reader! Today we take a look at the first  regular issue of another pulp action magazine(there is an issue 0). We've got contributions from authors reviewed here before, so let's take a good look at what we have.

New Rules for Rocket Nauts by Michael DeCarolois- Way to open the magazine with a bang. Yes, it's a longer story, but we've got a young cast aside adventurer, mysterious aliens that nobody can communicate with, officials who too easily believe in peace without understanding, loss, and fighting to save humanity.

Retrieving Abe by Jay Barnson- This is interesting, as it's a bit slower, but filled with tension throughout. One might argue that it's a bit strong female character in nature, but I didn't find it unbelievable. There's no Mary Sue here, she pursues out of duty to her husband, not a desire to be independent. The sense of knowledge of the work from one's youth brought in helps greatly.

The Price of Hunger by Kevyn Winkless- Oh, my. A story of greed and Indian legends. And cursed gold. Yeah, this might be a good late night read.

Protector of Newington by John M. Olsen- This steampunk superhero story has a lot of fun pieces. I did say steampunk and superhero together, right? Cause that's exactly what we have. A mysterious bad guy, child slavery, and sacrifice  and redemption.

Brave Day Sunk in Hideous Night- Initially I was meh. Werewolf, PI doesn't do it for me. Throw in a time criminal and law? Ok, you've added enough to the mix that this is worth reading. Especially as the werewolf has PTSD, it's a nice touch.

Taking Control by Jon Del Arroz- Well, I for one am pleased to see my friend dabbling in Weird Westerns again. This is certainly a bit lighter than the Doomtown material was on the weird factor, but that's fine. This has some nice touches of cons, holdup artistry, and magic, and there's even a hint of possible future pieces(somewhere in that writing time, maybe).

Some Things Missing from Her Profile by David Skinner- Mars. A blind date gone bad. Martians have been conquered. A woman with less past than she should have. A segregated society. And a main character with a family history of not respecting the law.

Dream Master by Gene Moyers- Woah. Um. This felt like something out of some of the old pulps. Ripped right out, even. We've a series of mysterious deaths, strange behavior beforehand, and a psychologist trying to figure out the how and why against a secretive sinister being.

Under the Gun by David J. West- Hey, I know this guy. I know Porter Rockwell. But the story doesn't follow him, for the most part. We've a weapon that urges killing, and a newly made killer. We have an old killer who has learned to stay his hand. Fire away.

Circus to Boulogne by Mike Adamson- As one who likes to occasionally visit old war comics like Enemy Ace and Sgt. Rock, this is pretty cool. I'd say it's a touch slow here and there, but then, there's plenty of tension to help balance that.

There's a lot of pulp here, from the cover to the illustrations before each story, to the little filler bits. Variety pulp, and while there aren't serials, there's plenty of argument against too many. 8 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Injustice Book Review: SJWs Always Double Down

Cower not, fierce reader! Today we look at the second volume on SJWs in the world. As it is, his mere existence triggers many, so let us look at the tome, and after, I'll have the results of the drawing.

First, there is a pretty good history of many incidents within the last year. I think some of the Hugo/Dragon timeline is off, but, for the unacquainted, there's good background. Unfortunately, very little of this material was new to me, and while good in detail, I had read most of it before with varying levels of detail. The previous book's history section was honestly much more useful to me, though this does provide reference for the future, and for those who join later.

This history is more focused on group actions and corporate signs and signaling than the previous one, and includes here discussions of the NFL and comics as well as some tech history.The history is spread throughout, instead of as a single portion of the book.

Somewhat more universally useful is the section on sequence of convergence and the tactics used. As with the previous volume, they are expanded on with examples.  One thing we can be grateful for with English is that our language mostly denies one tactic, that of Accent, which was a problem with the Ancient Greeks, and I suspect might be with several other languages, especially Chinese, which has recently had moves to ban puns, a long tradition based on the proximity of vastly different words.

But, if one has read the previous volume, much of this can be extrapolated from those premises, even if one does not have the exact vocabulary. Sad to say, in this regard there is little to surprise his experienced readers. This is no insult, merely  that one's mileage will vary based on experience, perspective, and observation. That said, some are more fortunate in their life dealings and locations, and have less opportunity to witness, to say nothing of the younger generation.

The next section, of individual tactics, is in many ways more useful than the overall tactics. While the information is far from new, it does serve as a potent reminder of the specific attacks, especially if one has only witnessed a few. Again, the vocabulary is possibly more useful at a universal level.

We have following this a section on SJW mindset and psychology. This section is actually very good, as to most readers it will be like a foreign language, even after experiencing attacks. A general explanation of r/k theory is here, and makes one wonder if our abundance is not indeed a hindrance to proper society. To complement this, Vox also includes a detailed list of his socio-sexual hierarchy. While I'd read a good bit of it before, here it is laid out in a detailed manner, with relation to SJW psychology.

Vox also presents a chapter on building SJW proof institutions, based on his experience with Castalia House and now Infogalactic.  These processes are informative, and in some ways might be worth the price of admission alone.

Three Appendices are included, one is an interview on SJWs in Open Source software communities, and the other a section on identifying Gamma Males. Both of these are good, and the final, a draft of the Code of Merit for software projects will prove helpful to that front.

I do not put any blame on Vox for this book being less unique; I'm not sure it was intended there be more than one initially. There are many that have written him already for the help the book has been to them, and I hope it isn't for me. 7 of 10 fell deeds.


Now for the drawing, a day late, but here it is. The winner of the Max Allan Collins Crime and Comics trilogy is....

Dominika Lein! I'll be sending those off soon after contacting you.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bad Movie adaptations: Screamers: The Hunting

Well, I took one for the sake of research. That and love of the story Second Variety by Philip K. Dick. I found a copy of this film at a local used movie shop running a buy 5 get 5 free sale. This made the second time I'd seen a copy, and there was enough  other stuff around to let me go for it. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

Now, the original story is honestly creepier than either film. This is because the movies have robot hunters for the most of their length. In the story, they're not clear robots, they look like people, and there are three VARIETIES   of android. One's a child, another's an injured soldier, and then there's the second variety: a woman.

We actually see that at least in the first movie, Screamers. We have a lead actor that should have been an A lister in Peter Weller. (It's hard to say how much was hindered by Buckaroo Banzai and how much his love of painting, which he teaches). There's some scenery chewing, and quotable bad dialog. Intentionally bad dialog. At least I hope it was.

The second movie has some really big inconsistencies from the first film. While both take place on the same planet, the first one has a great feel of not being on Earth. There's no cohesion in the squad movement and tactics, not to mention a lack of willingness to follow the chain of command. There's a spot where some people are chained in place. Bad decisions are made.

Some of the actors from the second move have gone to have pretty decent careers, or had them already. A paycheck is a paycheck. And you can laugh at an early Stephen Amell(Green Arrow) performance, as well as a lot of predictable moments.

At any rate, if you like the occasional bad movie, or PKD adaptations, or both(especially both), go ahead. watch them.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Injustice Book Review: Space Princess by Jon Mollison

Cower not, fierce reader! This fine day we have a tale that is BOUND to trigger any elements of SocJus that encounter it. There's plenty here to like, and they have possibly more to shriek about. Let's get to the charges!

Firstly, this book is most definitely Christian. Catholic, even. This is the first revisitation of the idea of Crusades in SPAAACE(Poul Anderson's The High Crusade being the first I know of) in  recent years, with most of the intervening ones taking a low view of Christianity and its defensive wars.

With this expansion, we have the Faith expanded to aliens of every sort imaginable, from insect like, to blobs, to, hive-minds, to robots. Mr. Mollison even comments on the documents that would exist regarding artificial life and their souls(given the premise of his setting).

Second, this book focuses very heavily on family. And not a broken or "blended" family, but a very much proper traditional family. Mild spoiler(it happens so early, I don't mind): the father, our narrator, finds three children in need of help. And takes them home.

Now, there's also a presentation of an older view of marriage, that is, one that is less focused on partnership. But, the discussion is rather brief, and little in the way of contrast is mentioned, though some is shown.

Third, there is what some might consider an analog to the jihadi nations. Now, as to their faith, I can say there is no presentation of that, though they do come from desert planets. They also are making war against Christian worlds, and some believe they can be reasoned with.

Ah, nuts. Look, this book is a lot of fun, and if you've read his past work, you won't be disappointed, though your expectations might be slightly off. Yes, there's action aplentty. But there's also a good number of tender family moments, and chunks of political intrigue in the mix.

Let me tell you about this cover: EVERYTHING there? It's in the book. Robot bishop, family, space battles. Another quick note: I mentioned a large number of typos in Adventure Constant(when I read it), but there were very few I spotted here. 9 of 10 fell deeds.

 When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Couple of comics I'm dropping, and why

Well, I tried to see how these would work. One, the first arc was entertaining, and it's the second arc that has gone all radical feminism. The other was a new book with a cool concept, only it decided to be degenerate from the start.

Codename: Babushka by Anthony Johnstone  is the book in the second arc. It follows a former Russian crime boss turned to a US government pawn. The first arc was pretty good, but I should have seen the warning signs over in his book The Fuse. That one went from cool sf police procedural(lived in sf) to tossing in "this character's gay!" out of NOWHERE. No sign of it in the first two stories.

Well, he pulled that here, plus in the back he has feminist essays (including lesbian and transgender agenda pushing).  This new arc has been less fun each issue, really. Oh, the art is a bit different than the first arc, not bad, but it is lessor. But the agenda is HUGE here. I'm surprised he hasn't gone and made the bad guys a conspiracy of Catholic and Orthodox priests working together.

The other was Made Men, which just had its second issue come out. The premise is honestly cool. A cop and her team(yes, another female led thing, I was willing to try) get ambushed and all killed. She's of the Frankenstein line, and comes back due to family serum she's been pumped with. She goes to get revenge and gets tied to a crime lord. Cool premise, I think. But they go and push activist lesbianism in the second issue, and there's also the playing with combining two people together(neither had enough to be brought back), and combining a human body with a lion's head.

There's no sign of consequence to actions in sight. And while the concept is decent, the whole point of Frankenstein was the need for looking at consequences. The creators apparently wanted to do an agenda driven horror/crime comic. Sure it's early, but if there are no signs of real consequences now, I think they'll take too long to show. 100 Bullets had consequences all along the way, with the knowledge that there was a price.

More independent books would be worthwhile if they didn't focus on being degenerate, but telling a story.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

On Marketing Authors, Worlds, and what people want

Earlier today, Brian Niemeier posted some musings in response to comments from Nathan Housey on marketing. Now, there are some very good points in here, from both, don't get me wrong.

But in the instance of WoW, I have to wonder how much of it was pure marketing. How much instead was building a platform that was capable of popularity with gamers of different preferences? And I don't just mean raiders vs PVP lovers. There's people that hate raids that love the game. There's some that have been fans of Blizzard stuff since before Warcraft(yes, it has been around that long). There's room for casuals in the game. They made WoW a big brand, Blizzard is a brand that owns that brand. How much is simply going for the popular product?

Brian and Nathan both bring up Sanderson, and Brian noted that despite the success of his Cosmere, the marketing is about him, not the universe/multiverse. Brian mentioned that Tor markets likewise. Well, my response is as much as Tor markets anyone not Scalzi. Which isn't much. They push Scalzi more than Orson Scott Card. Now, they did push for a display of their last Sanderson book in B&N. Which was a waste of paper, as it was all reprints of novellas and shorts his real fans had in other volumes, with two maybe three exceptions. I wasn't dropping cash for that, even if I weren't already boycotting Tor.

Brian brings up Galaxy's Edge, which is an interesting study as it's by Nick Cole and Jason Anspach, two authors I've reviewed apart from each other as well. They're both really good. I want more 'Til Death, Jason. But, the brand here is not either author, but both. I don't think either could put out as good a work in the world alone. This is far from an insult, it's a compliment to how well they work together. It's a really good riff on Star Wars. I know of at least one more coming up.

There's a rather good one from Robert Kroese, which started off as a Star Wars riff, but has moved more to SF in general: Rex Nihilio of Starship Grifters. The brand? Kroese, hitting on notes from around sf culture.

One somewhat similar setting that was missed was Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy's Horsemen universe. The books are solo pieces so far(there's an announced shared novel). And only a few of the short stories have been cowritten. Here, the strength belongs more to the universe. Yes, it was established by two authors, but others are playing in it, and why is it working? Well, Mechwarrior and Robotech aren't doing the job, and I don't see any dominant anime now. Once again, we hit familiar notes.

So where's the alternate Trek(outside of Orville)? There's Starfleet Universe, but the publisher has done very little with it of late. A smart publisher/investor would buy those rights and do EVERYTHING they can. I don't know all the details of those rights, they may exclude film and tv. If not, Axanar should have bought them. But video and boardgames and rpgs there? They could move, and Nick Cole used Starfleet U in his Ctrl Alt Revolt!, not Trek.  Galaxy Quest did its thing(the best trek film), had some mildly amusing comics, and disappeared.

Which brings us to Brian. He claims that the level of originality has hurt him via the Amazon algorithms. I don't doubt that's somewhat true. But he's also not hitting a single familiar note with fans, either. His work is usually described with combinations of others, and that likely narrows his appeal to many. While I really dig what he's done here, to most people it will be like Beethoven's 9th was when it premiered: they didn't get it.

A lot of people want the familiar. They don't seek new music, they turn on the radio. They don't dig for old or unusual shows, they turn on the TV, and stick to a show or few.

So what am I going to do? I'm going to play with some old notes in a new way. We'll see if it works, I'm barely started, but I'm having fun so far. Maybe others will get it, maybe not. Guessing I might make some folks mad.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Injustice Book Review: A Place Called Hope by Daniel Humphreys. Oh, and another giveaway

Cower not, fierce reader! This day is the day you can return to Z-Day. Now, I can't say for certain, but I suspect one need not read the previous book to follow this one. But, we have a new volume of survivors and Zed(walkers, zyborgs, whatever).

First, this book has a lot more tragedy in it. While the first one had plenty of bad things happen, a lot of them happened to people working against the society they were part of. That's not the case here. Here, we have good men sacrifice for a mission, so rebuilding can continue.

Second, we've got a new perspective, and I won't spoil it. Suffice to say there's a transition from mere survival to a pursuit of redemption. This happens in flashbacks, and meets up with our main story at the end. I look forward to how that plays out in the next book.

There's of course a lot of action, and it's written with enough detail to be visceral, but not too much that it bogs down for noncoms. We have some gruesome deaths, including that of a fictional version of our friend Jon Del Arroz(It's already been on twitter, I don't feel bad).

We see further development of the real threat the virus/program is and will be. This is interesting, in that the characters never give up, we have some sacrifices because the threat is that big, and the knowledge of the changes that important. There is not despair, but there is a grave shock at how badly things are headed.

This book plays with readers emotions. There were a couple of points this book made me mad. Because Humphreys had to kill good characters. There's even references with some of the conversations on twitter about Hanson and Taylor Swift. This roller coaster is definitely a worthy successor to A Place Outside the Wild. 9 of 10 fell deeds.


Now, about that giveaway. I just thrifted copies of Max Allan Collins' Comics and Crime trilogy. (Strip for Murder, A Killing in Comics, and  Seduction of the Innocent). Same rules as last time: comment below if you want to be eligible, and I'll draw for it in a week.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Getting to the point

Of the blog, that is. Or at least one of them. Not my primary reason, but I did start blogging in order to try to improve my writing, and to get in the practice of writing regularly. I had not been writing for a few years, had fallen out of the practice, and was quite rusty.

What am I getting at? Fiction and essays. There's a nice upcoming anthology that will have a couple of my pieces, one short story and one essay. You might even know of the anthology from some of the other authors in it. I happened to be available at the right time to help fill in some gaps.

Here's the anthology, for those that might want to preorder:

Now, they share a common theme aside from Trump, though they approach it from different ways. The story has a bit of retrospective at unintended truth. And my essay approaches the subject with reference to history, albeit in brief. Should you read my work in this book, please, let me know what you think.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Robin: Reborn, and the reason it brings real hope for Alt*Hero

So, I picked a copy of the Robin: Reborn trade, to remind myself what some of Chuck Dixon's hero writing was like. I wasn't reading the Batman books at the time, though I was somewhat aware of what was going on.

There's a few things of interest here, the most significant being that Mr. Dixon is one of two writers working in parallel on the same part of the same story. Two writer-artist teams, and Mr. Dixon and Mr. Alan Grant pass the scripting between them REALLY well. Oh, there's some differences in style, and certainly some art differences(maybe due to a style conflict), But overall it reads the way you would expect a single creative team story to read.

This is the story of Tim Drake becoming Robin, after figuring out that Batman was Bruce Wayne, and Nightwing Dick Grayson. And there's a lot of emotional depth and moral anguish here. Batman does not want Tim in costume, but only helping in the Batcave with investigative work off scene. Tim's parents are away, and end up kidnapped.

Bruce spends every effort he can to save them, and ends up with only a partial success in saving Mr. Drake. Tim has early anguish in both the loss and not wanting to go to the dark places Batman does. And then, Batman follows a reporter into a trap. Tim figures out the culprit, and knowing it will stop him from being Robin, goes to save Batman and stop Scarecrow. After, Batman says he earned the right to be Robin.

The second half follows Tim in schooling in healing and fighting. And I really don't need to describe more, the story is solid.

My point? Chuck Dixon knows how to work in parallel with another writer. He also has been burned enough in the industry that if he trusts someone to put his name with a project, the deal is solid.

What does his involvement with Alt*Hero. From what I've gathered from Vox's postings, Dixon's stories will be written in parallel, but entirely in a city called Avalon. In fact, that's the name of the book.

There's another well reputed book that features a city and its heroes. That's Astro City, written by very liberal Kurt Busiek. Now, Mr. Busiek hasn't sacrificed all his talent to preach SJW thought, but there's been more instances in recent volumes. So, I'm going to hope that in many ways, Avalon will end up being a response to Astro City. Mr. Dixon tells great stories on his own, and has no problem poking fun at liberals, as seen in Winterworld(Cee-Oh-two!).

To clarify one aspect about Astro City: it doesn't follow a hero or team. It tells stories about the heroes that are based there. But they aren't a normal continuity. If Avalon works well, it could do the same.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Game mechanics: Role Selection

Today, I'm going to look at the Role selection mechanic in boardgames. Now Boardgame Geek has no specific entry for this, but rather has a Variable Phase Order entry, which is more broad, and not quite suited for a good discussion of the workings of games. The games I'm going to consider have something along the lines of a lead/follow mechanic with relation to actions.

Puerto Rico and San Juan- These two games are heavily related, and the role selection works the same, so I'll lump them together. The games are played in rounds, with the first player rotating each round. In turn order, each player will choose a role to take, which others can execute as well, but the active player gets a bonus. That role is not an available choice again until the next round. The roles are slightly different by game, but both include captain, builder, and merchant.

Race for the Galaxy- This game is also related. The designer of Puerto Rico asked the designer of this to work on a card game version. They eventually split projects, and this one came later, but has a lot more options. There are 3 expansion arcs for the interested, each of which take the game past 4 players. I won't detail those here, but before anybody tries: the arcs are not supposed to play together! Besides, the card pool gets HUGE.  The roles here are similar to San Juan's, but here, there are two major differences: simultaneous action selection, and role modification.  Each player has a set of Role selection cards that they choose from simultaneously, then execute phases in order.

Both Race and San Juan also build tablueas of cards for each player. In Race, the cards in tableau also let you take actions based on the symbols you have, letting you do more than just what you selected. Cards pay your costs in this game(and San Juan), and are also your goods(shown facedown below).

Related to Race for the Galaxy is Roll for the Galaxy, a dice game with tiles set in the same universe. Each player has a pool of dice, rolled behind a screen and assigned secretly. One die chooses an action that WILL happen, while the rest line up as rolled, and may execute based your choice or those of others. Your dice let you find planets/tech to settle/conquer/develop, sell goods,and are goods.

Glory to Rome is a near mythical game now, due to project mismanagement. But, it is a great game to discuss here. Like Race for the Galaxy, cards perform a lot of functions. Here, they have your role on them, are patrons to improve you action, are material, are buildings, and points, all dependent on where they sit in relation to your player board. The other players could follow the action by playing a card of the role as well, or decline and draw. (pictures of the 2 most known versions below)

I would be remiss if I did not mention the last game I reviewed here. Villages of Valeria has a lot in common with many of these games. You're building a village and hiring adventurers. There's less multifunctionality here, and that will make the game feel closer to Puerto Rico and San Juan. But, the role chosen has no effect on what is eligible for the next player to choose.

As usual, none of these are just that mechanic. The mix of ideas, player interactions, and cost/benefit analysis makes each of these a different creature.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Injustice Book Review: Sea of Fire by J F Holmes

Cower not, fierce reader!  This day we take a look at a seaborn fantasy. And there's a bit to talk  about, not all good, unfortunately. Let's take a look. Warning: this will have some spoilers, as this is going to have a lot more critique than usual.

Fantasy races: We've got dwarves, elves, half-elves, and dragons. The unfortunate thing with this is that the elves and dwarves are about as generic as they could be. There's currently a war of racial purification going on where the elves are trying to exterminate the half-elves. Not really a big deal, I've seen it in D&D before. The elves do have a penchant for eating humans, characterizing them as less than human. The scene isn't even graphic, it's just a conversation. There are some interesting implications in there, but I won't discuss them here. Dwarves, I didn't see anything remotely unique or interesting.

The dragons are also mostly nondescript, but they do have a bit of personality, separating them from the bulk of the cast in the book.

Fantasy religion/magic: There's a moon cult, and that has some of the more interesting pieces here. Honestly, I wish there were more of it present, though I can understand that the setting and plotting avoided that. The priests have access to magic, but it is powered by the moon, so they are weak during the day, and on moonless nights.

There are brief mentions of a couple of other religions, one on land based, and one followed mostly by sailors. This is interesting, but it's only a casual mention, more in laying the fallen to rest than anything else.

There's also a couple of magicians on the ship, and magic does not travel well across water. Interesting. Very little in the way of mechanics of magic, which I appreciate at times. Worldbuilding can be excessive.

Action: This is one thing the book does very well. I do commend the fights here, for being a good mix of tactical portrayal, and sweeping action. There's not too much detail, and yet, there's a clear knowledge of formations and techniques.

Language: I know, there's a good middle ground between being accessible and realistic. This veers too far to the modern accessibility side of things. The word "fanboy" should not appear in a world where THERE ARE NO FANDOMS. And while I've given some authors a measure on their copyediting, I have to do so here again, and it's easily avoidable.

IF YOU DON'T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TO AND TOO, DON'T USE THEM. USE ANOTHER ADVERB AND PREPOSITION. OR HIRE A DECENT COPYEDITOR.  "Where too?" shoves me out of the story faster than a lot of homophone misuse.

Now that I'm done with taking the book apart, I will say that overall it was a fun and fast read. I just wish there were more to separate it than the sea, and putting a dragon on the ship. The worldbuilding is fast, and happens with the story, rather than aside from it. 6 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Well, I tried a couple new DC titles this week...

Something I haven't done for quite awhile. DC lost me with New 52, and I hadn't bothered to check out Rebirth or even the Chuck Dixon Bane story(loved his Green Arrow work, though I didn't get into the Bat-books). But, seeing a lot of talk that DC is doing better these days, I thought I'd give it a try. My results? Mixed.

So, the two books I picked up were Ragman and Michael Cray(links are to DC preview pages). In both cases, I will say the artwork was fine. Nothing I found spectacular, but far above a lot of the art we've seen from Marvel of late.

First, I'm going to talk about Michael Case. We've got a covert government ops group dedicated to taking out "bad people". Unfortunately, they're playing politics here. They made Oliver Queen the target, saying he's selling weapons to less than legal organizations. Also, he hunts veterans. Cray's father is an angry black man with an added touch of New Age hipster, drinking kamboucha, and talking about toxicity. Oh, and he doesn't care what they do to Queen as long as they don't make him President.

Yeah. The authors played that card. Now, I don't have a problem with the DCU having extralegal government ops. That's fiction. Going after an industrialist based on lies is another thing. And clearly equating him in some way to our current President is way out of line. I state the equivocation, because there's no other reason for Presidency to have been mentioned. Oh, and Queen's origin(as well as Bruce Wayne's), of losing his parents is now treated as a little pain(from Cray's father).

Now, onto Ragman. This is not classic Ragman, but a new take, bringing it seemingly more in line with the Egyptian origin(as far as aesthetics). We have a PTSD discharged soldier who was a sole survivor of his team. He brought back something else, and has to learn to control it. Oh, so far, no real measure of politics.

Of the two, I will say Ragman will continue to get a chance. Michael Cray, I will not recommend. As I said, I have no artwork complaints on either, but the story, well paints a different picture.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

It's the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto

One of the great turning points Western History. This battle turned away the Ottoman Empire from its invasion. Now the war continued for another century, but this was also a great mark of the unity of Catholic Europe amidst the wars following the Protestant Reformation.

In commemoration, let us look at GK Chesterton's poem Lepanto(no worries, it's in public domain)

White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young,
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain—hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri’s knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunset and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,—
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, “Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done,
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces—four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate ;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey in the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.”
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still—hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michael’s on his mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
      Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip’s in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial, and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John’s hunting, and his hounds have bayed—
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plum├Ęd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign—
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.