Frustrations with Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • by Gitabushi

I’ve been reading more slowly lately. Life, plus an obsession with a mobile game* as a stress reliever.

I am really trying to like Pulp. There is much to like about Pulp. But there is also much to dislike about Pulp.

Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) provides some good examples of both.

I’ve read enough of ERB and Robert E. Howard that I can get into a pulp mindset where I turn off my writing critic and just enjoy the story.  And *still* ERB annoys with some of his poor plotting mechanics.

I have to conclude that ERB was great at coming up with an amazing archetype of a hero, and then just writing about his bad-ass character. His fame comes from being the first to have such a bad-ass character, rather than from actual writing talent.

Maybe that’s harsh. I know it’s going to irritate some people. But look, I’ve read The Monster Men (which was one of ERB’s later works, and an attempt to be more literary), and while it still had some problems, it was actually a fairly well-written book, with some twists, some character complexity, proper foreshadowing, etc.

But I’m still in the midst of slogging through Gods of Mars, and there are just so many examples of poor writing.

I feel like nearly every 3-4 pages there’s an example of poor writing that jars me out of my Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

Sometimes it is having incredible luck that saves John Carter from failure/death or otherwise continue the narrative. One would be irritating, but there have been at least 10 so far…way too many.  Examples: How was it John Carter to Barsoom returned just in time to encounter Tars Tarkas? How was it Tars Tarkas wasn’t the Green Warrior surprised by the unexpected jumping tactics of the Plant Men? How did Thuvia and Tars happen to be right at the location where the damaged air car of John Carter, Xodar, and Carthoris comes to ground?  Why does Thuvia have the ability of nearly perfect telepathy with beasts? Is this something other Barsoomians have? The answer seems to be that ERB needed something to get the characters through a nearly-impossible situation, so he just pulled something out of the air and ran with it.

Or the characters encounter an obstacle, and what do you know, they just happen to have the ability/item they need, right at that moment, but ERB just forgot to mention it before then! This is probably the most irritating, because it gives an impression of first draft writing: if your writing leads you to put your characters into a difficult situation, you go back and add the solution earlier in the work, at a time that it won’t seem unusual or significant.  Call it effective foreshadowing, call it effective preparation to  avoid a deus ex machina, I don’t really know the right way to put it. But ERB completely misses the mark for this in A Princess of Mars and Gods of Mars.

One that bothers me even more, however, is when ERB is inconsistent with the world and the rules of the world he himself set up.  In A Princess of Mars, he explains at length that the Green Men have rifles capable of amazing long distance accuracy, and the marksmanship skills to use them at incredible ranges. Yet when the Green Men would reasonably use that advantage in a way that might hurt the main characters, the Green Men conviently forget to use them.  A prime example of this (which I just read, and pushed me over the edge to needing to write this complaint) is when the Warhoons are chasing John Carter’s band after he rescued Tars Tarkas, but the Warhoons merely pursue them instead of shooting their mounts from underneath them. Another example is several pages earlier when John Carter merely follows Tars’ escorting guards through the dungeon, intead of attacking them immediately to free Tars. And immediately following when John Carter regretfully feels forced to ambush Tars’ guards, clearly feeling it was not up to his standards of fairness.  This bothers me because John Carter had not hesitated to attack far more than just four Green Men warriors previously, and he had killed one with a single blow from his fist before. Why would he hesitate in this situation, and why would he finally decide on a somewhat-dishonorable ambush? Inconsistency.

There are other things to like about the book, but this isn’t really a book review. I like it better than the Land that Time Forgot, because when I put The Gods of Mars down, I do want to pick it up again.  But it isn’t compelling me to reach the finish like The Monster Men did.

I’m not saying the book sucks.  But it does spur contemplation on the nature of successful writing. Should I sacrifice quality for speed in writing? Should I just come up with a great character and not stress plot and consistency?  Why does the best of SFF pulp have this many problems, but the best of Western and Detective Noir do not?

Okay, come at me.

* Kingdom Rush. My obsession is finishing every level without using any of the one-time use special abilities you can purchase with diamonds.  I’m almost done. I’m stressed because the new job I mentioned on Twitter as getting hired for FIVE MONTHS AGO still hasn’t given me a start date. Long story there.

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MUST WATCH SFF Television Show: Flash Forward

  • by Gitabushi

An unheralded television show aired on ABC back in 2009.  It was cancelled after just one season in the spring of 2010.  I somehow managed to get a copy of the DVD without knowing anything about it, and my teenage kids and I fell in love with it when we randomly picked it out of the backlog stack and gave it a try.

Premise: The entire world falls unconscious for 137 seconds, for unknown reasons. This causes all sorts of pandemonium, like car crashes, planes falling out of the sky, and other disasters you might expect from such an event.

As the world is coping with the massive loss of life, people begin comparing notes of the dreams they had while unconscious.  In doing so, they discover coincidences that cannot be explained as anything other than visions of a moment six months in the future.  For instance, someone has a vision of being in a meeting with someone they have never met before, but there is enough identifying information from the vision that the other individual can be tracked down. When contact is established, the other individual reveals they had the exact same vision, including the same actions, conversation, etc. Enough visions include looking at a calendar, clock, etc., that the moment of the vision of the future can be established, and all visions with such time-based details all agree with each other.

This causes all sorts of crises, including visions of being intimate with someone not your spouse, dealing with the aftermath of killing someone, discovering that someone you thought was dead is actually still alive.  Worse, perhaps, is the people who do not have visions: the understand rapidly spreads that these people will be dead before the Flash Forward moment.

And as the world is dealing with this realization, the FBI discovers that the event may have been triggered deliberately by unknown, non-government entities. Moreover, closed-circuit television captures at least one person moving during the blackout: the blackout wasn’t, in fact, universal.

Then they discover that you can actually take actions to prevent your vision from coming true, in drastic fashion.

I think you can immediately think of multiple philosophical issues that arise from these various aspects and examples, and the television show doesn’t shy away from exploring them.  My children and I always had plenty to discuss for more than an hour after watching each episode. There were plot twists to discuss, of course, but also the philosophical and psychological ramifications of events and developments.  We had some discussions of fate, comparing/contrasting the actions of those who chose to prevent their future vision and how they did it with those who actually caused their vision to come about via their efforts to avoid it.

Particularly poignant was the relationship between the main protagonist (there are a lot of people you care about in the show) and his wife (also a protagonist) who had a vision of being intimate with a man she didn’t currently know.  At the point of the blackout, they had a strong relationship and were both faithful.  The knowledge of the apparent unfaithfulness did seem to both contribute to it coming about, but also seemed to supply motivation that might help prevent it. Watching the couple struggle through jealousy, guilt, and distress was extremely interesting, and it gave me several launching points for talking to my kids about marriage, love, trust, integrity, desire, dissatisfaction, and proper/improper ways of dealing with marital difficulties.

One person, an FBI agent who would be dead in six months, was engaged to be married.  How does he tell his fiancee he will be dead?  Particularly when her vision is of the wedding ceremony they planned?  How can both their visions be real?

These stories both subvert and play straight the notion of Fate: can it be stopped?  Does fighting it bring it about? The answer to both is Yes, and it seems to conclude that the future is in a box with Schroedinger’s Cat: you don’t know what happens until you get there and open it up. And the story was the better for it.

This is not a television show to binge watch.  Nor is it a show to watch alone.  This is one of the better “what would *I* do if…?” stories I’ve seen.  Watch an episode, and then take a few days to let it sink in, to discuss it with the friends and family you watched it with. Then watch the next episode and have your mind blown.  Rinse and repeat.

The show had declining viewership, and I really don’t see why.  Of course, there were some very depressing points as the season went on, and confusing aspects, and developments we didn’t like.  But we had the whole disc, so it was easy to continue watching.  From that perspective, I guess I could see looking at the next episode coming up and deciding you have better things to do with your time.  It is also true that the episodes were so dense with information that if you missed one, it would be nearly impossible to have any interest or ability to catch up with what was going on.  This was in 2010, so I don’t think there were options to watch the shows online to actually see what you missed.  So I guess I do see why, but I think a bunch of people missed out on an excellent story, and since it resulted in the series being cancelled, I think we are all the poorer for it.

The declining viewership meant the show was cancelled. The season finale was written and filmed before the cancellation, however, and this creates two problems: one, there is a cliffhanger over whether a character survives or not; two, there is a completely new set of intriguing Flash Forward visions, but this time 20 years in the future instead of just 6 months.  I would like to have seen how they handled a 20-year gap.

But the series remains watchable.  For as much love as Firefly got for its single season, I think this is better. The cast is large, and yet you actually know the characters more deeply than on Firefly. Firefly introduces a bunch of elements (particularly regarding River) that change the very nature of the series (making it really all about River); nothing like that happens in Flash Forward. In fact, the season doesn’t just stop, it concludes and wraps up almost all the stories.  It is a pause. It is the end of the first act, but good enough to let you go on with your life without burning questions.  Flash Forward ends like Star Wars: sure, you don’t know what happened to Darth Vader, and the Rebellion hasn’t won, but you get enough of the threads wrapped up that you don’t feel dissatisfied. Firefly is like what you would feel like if they never filmed The Return of the Jedi: imagine never knowing what happened to Han.

So if Firefly can get so much love and attention from just one season, Flash Forward deserves equal treatment.  Find it and watch it.  Let me know if you think I led you wrong.

But my bottom line judgment is: THIS television show is what speculative fiction is and should be: a “What If?” tale that challenges you, teaches you, and still lets you teach yourself.  I can’t imagine watching Flash Forward without growing as a person. And it is also entertaining. What more could you ask?

 

How to Stop the Left from Destroying the United States

  • by Gitabushi

 

A man with a history of violence, steeped in Rachel Maddow conspiracy theories and Bernie Sanders ideology, tried to kill Republican Congressmen simply because they were Republican.  This was the latest occurrence in escalating violence and anti-democratic tactics by the Left.  The questions raised by this shooting include: Are Democrats and their allies in the news media responsible for this?  What should the Right (and Republicans) do to stop it?

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The idea that the Right is Fascist and the Left can do anything necessary pervades the Left’s worldview.  Otherwise mild people are convinced that Donald Trump is a unique menace to the United States. This worldview is summed up in the prevalence of the self-described #Resistance movement.

Doesn’t the Right embrace the idea of individual responsibility?  Is the Democrat Party’s  worldview responsible for the shooting of GOP officials? Yes and no. Directly responsible? No. Blameless? Certainly not.

Words are just words, not actions, not force. But words are also orders, and encouragements, and goading.  “I was just following orders” is not an excuse. You are responsible for what you do.  But “my hands are clean, I didn’t pull the trigger” is also not an excuse. At some point, words expressing intent should be taken seriously

I hate to go here, but I have to: Hitler didn’t personally kill 6 million Jews.

He stirred up hatred, accused them of selfishness, blamed them for all of Germany’s problems. He said it was okay to punch them. And worse.

Don’t forget, Obama used religious imagery to tell his followers they were righteous. Told them to punch “back” twice as hard. He threatened financial executives with mobs and pitchforks if they didn’t cooperate with his goals.  He praised the Occupy movement, stirred up anger and hatred in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The inevitable rise of Leftist violence should have been expected when Obama hung around with a Leftist terrorist who had gained enough status to never be held accountable for his crimes.  The Right tried to use it politically: “Obama pal’d around with terrorists”, but we didn’t draw the lines to see where it would lead.  And, of course, the Left’s control of the Overton Window was used to protect their Lightbringer: Obama having an unrepentant terrorist as a mentor was downplayed; if mentioned at all, Bill Ayers’ current status as an accepted leader for the Left was seen as a repudiation of Ayers’ past rather than the approval it was.

But even the strongest critic of Obama didn’t realize it was leading to the overt Leftist violence we see today.

We should have realized when the news media looked at polite, peaceful Tea Party gatherings and called them violent racists, that it was an indication of more than just partisan rhetorical sniping. They were building the case for violence against the Right. Distorting views of our character. De-legitimizing our concerns. Demonizing us.

Mainstream news outlets have pointed out the shooter had no ties to any violent extremist groups, as if that is exculpatory. In fact, it is damning.  This man was unremarkable in his associations, but felt justified to shoot Republicans just for being Republican.

This is just an escalation of the general attitude on the Left.  Remember, Obama ensured his IRS subordinates would face no penalty for targeting conservatives just for being conservative.  He shielded any and all his subordinates from penalties for their actions in support of the Leftist cause, to include Lois Lerner, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and her aides (for Benghazi, and for divulging secrets), Bradley Manning, and all his officials who broke Federal Records laws by using private email accounts to conduct business as a blatant ploy to avoid citizen oversight (again, to include Hillary Clinton).

So what do we do about this?

There seems to be two sides. 1) Use the same tactics the Left uses, against the Left. 2) Keep doing what we are doing, hold to our principles.

I find both tactics to be unsatisfying.

Two intelligent, thoughtful participants in this debate are Jim Geraghty and the anonymous Ace of Spades blogger.  I don’t have a link to the twitter debate they had, but Geraghty references it here, as well as summarizing his argument.

I can’t disagree with Geraghty for distinguishing between words & actions, but the best argument against Geraghty’s point was made by Geraghty himself mere days before he debated Ace of Spades: At what point is Islamic rhetoric criminal? Applying that to the #Resistance, at what point does the rhetoric of Democrats and their news media allies actually become responsible for the violence the Left is committing?

 

The thing is, Ace of Spades makes a compelling argument that the Right cannot simply sit endure and outlast Leftist violence and destruction of democratic values in the US.  Read this article summarizing the violence by the Left and how the Left encourages it. The rise of violence was telegraphed by Hillary’s campaign deliberately instigating violence, but we responded to it only in the political sphere, and not even much there.  And even after the shootings, some Democrats are still encouraging more violence. (all three links are to thought-provoking Ace of Spaces HQ articles)

And this list of violence by the Left against the Right truly is mindblowing, to see it all in one place.

Whatever the Right has been doing, it isn’t working.  We need to hold the Left responsible.  The simple fact, is that most political violence is perpetrated by the Left. Endemic to Marxism, encouraged by Alinskyism.  It has always been that way throughout history.

“By any means necessary” & “The ends justify the means” are ideas rejected by the Right, but embraced by the Left since the original rise of the Communist movement.

In some ways, it is a process vs outcome argument.

The Left only cares about process if it gets them what they want. The Right sticks to process even if outcome is against them.

The Left exploits this. They know they can depend on the Right to keep following the rules. Even as the Left doesn’t recognize any rules.

That’s why we have this violence. That’s why we have porn. The Left is losing power in normal processes.

This just leads us right back to the debate between Geraghty and Ace of Spades: what do we do about it?

One major proponent of following the new rules set by the Left is Kurt Schlichter, who not only predicted this escalating wave of Leftist violence, but makes strong arguments for embracing those new rules, simply because the Left wants them.  To be accurate, he isn’t just arguing for Tit-for-Tat like Ace of Spades, he’s arguing that if these are the rules the Left applies to itself, let there be no double standards.

In some ways, Schlichter’s argument fits with the Right: we follow processes, we follow the rules.  His argument is that we stop thinking the process/rules are what’s written down, and start thinking of the processes/rules as demonstrated by the Left.

All respect to Kurt Schlichter, but I’m not going to shoot Democrats. I’m also not going to call for violence on them.  It isn’t really that I don’t want to stoop to their level, or fear I lose my soul if I use their tactics to win.  I simply can’t do it.  I can’t kill, I can’t advocate violence to install my preferred political outcomes.

But continuing to follow the processes and rules, as written, while they attack and kill us? No.

My take: continue to follow the rules, because that is our most basic nature.

But change the written rules.  Strengthen and improve the processes to make them serve the democratic process, rather than help the Democrats seize and wield power un-democratically, as they do now.  We have unprecedented power at all levels: control of the Presidency, Senate, House, SCOTUS, governorships, and state legislatures.  But we are barely using this power to enact our political agenda.

We should be using this power to enhance criminal penalties on the Left’s current tactics.

Use every democratic process at hand to change rules to to allow dismissal of judges. Then fire ones who don’t rule based on Constitution.  Use democratic processes to change rules to to allow dismissal of bureaucrats more easily. Then fire the ones enacting Left agenda.

There has to be a way to criminalize the heckler’s veto without damaging free speech. One idea that occurs to me is re-writing laws (and prosecutorial discretion policy) to penalize mob actions.  Free speech is an individual right, not a collective right.  If you are in a mob, and the mob shouts down a speaker, you aren’t using speech to counter speech you don’t like, you are using the mob’s power to shut down free speech.  We can make that illegal, while still encouraging individual free speech, right?free-speech-voltaire.jpeg

We gotta do what we do: stick to the rules. But use our power to change the rules: increase transparency, liberty, and choice.

Change the rules to reduce non-accountable exercise of power. Change the rules to identify & reduce Marxist influence.

Then make them follow the rules and enforce them fairly, but fully.

Use Rule of Law to punish Leftist violence harshly. Every time.

 

 

 

 

Must-Read SFF: The Last Coin, by James P. Blaylock

  • by Gitabushi

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This book is…odd. Yet immensely enjoyable.

I had no idea what I was reading at first.  Was the main character insane? Did this world have different rules than our Earth?

But I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did. The main character might be insane, but most likely just has an eccentric view of how the world works and his place in it. Eccentric, yet still functional. And the eccentric view is probably also vital in the course of saving the world.

In some ways, this book is very nearly the distillation of Kaijubushi’s tweeting style into a complete, novel-length narrative.

But only in some ways.

I’ve read other books by Blaylock, and most of them don’t approach the sheer joyful lunacy of this work.  I haven’t yet been able to get my hands on the first book of the Elfin Ship series, yet, however; brief perusals of The Disappearing Dwarf (second in the series) lead me to believe it has the same sort of wit and upbeat zaniness.

Still, the Last Coin covers a fairly serious topic, and does it quite well.  There is menace in the antagonist, and stakes rise appreciably throughout the story, as a good story should.

The characters are memorable, the plot is developed well, and without implausible shifts or solutions that ruin the willful suspension of disbelief.

I don’t really want to say much more, because that could spoil the delight of discovery on your own. You can freely read the back-cover description, however: the book is about the magical power of the 30 pieces of silver Judas Iscariot was paid to betray Christ, and how that power can be used for immortality and apocalypse, and how the use of that power is stopped by ordinary people doing what they think is right.

Although it is listed as the first in a trilogy, it does stand alone. When I finished reading, I had no idea any other stories were planned, much less written.

It is one of my favorite books, from an excellent writer at the top of his game. Highly recommended.

We Need to Start Fighting Islamic Terrorists

  • by Gitabushi

The views expressed in this post are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect on the views of PC Bushi or Kaiju Bushi.

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Credit: Joel Goodman/London News Pictures/Zuma

“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

The Western World may not want a war with Islamic Extremists, but Islamic Extremists have taken away that choice.

Western leaders are gaslighting us on Islamic Terror.  Elites will repeat that your chance of being killed by an Islamic Terrorist is less than that of being struck by lightning, or some other bullshit statistic.  They will repeat that Islam is a religion of peace. They will repeat that moderate Muslims aren’t attacking us, that we shouldn’t punish moderate Muslims for the actions of a few, etc., etc., etc

1) Your chances of being killed by a Terrorist are vanishingly small

Who cares?

“Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.”

This is the spirit of the United States. We are a free people. A death from an Islamic Terrorist is an act of war, a deliberate murder, a violation of our Right to Life. Getting struck by lightning is not. There is a qualitative difference, and it is the most base deception to compare those two.

The responsibility of our leaders is to take reasonable precautions to seek our best interests. It is not in our best interests to be killed by terrorists any more than it is to be struck by lightning.  However, people can be deterred from becoming terrorists, and terrorists can be stopped by reasonable actions (discussed later in this piece). Lightning cannot. Lightning deaths are not within the responsibility of our leaders. Stopping terrorist deaths is. Why do they give excuses to gaslight us into accepting a few deaths every few months?

2) Islam is a religion of peace

Who cares?

We won’t kill someone just for believing in Islam. We should kill people who embrace terrorism. Non sequitur.

3) Moderate Muslims aren’t attacking us, we shouldn’t punish them by refusing to allow them to emigrate to the West.

More gaslighting.

What is a moderate Muslim? To what extent do moderate Muslims facilitate terror by funding via donations to radical mosques, by providing rhetorical cover for extremists, by providing numbers for the terrorists to hide among?

I’m not saying we need to start killing Muslims en masse, of course, but a government, any government, owes its first responsibility to its current citizens.  Any government is also supposed to moderate/resolve problems between existing citizens. So in the first case, we are under no obligation to permit another Muslim to enter our nation until they work harder to root out and eliminate terrorists. In the second case, Muslims who are already citizens should follow the US Constitution as their primary law. Sharia should never be allowed to supplant US Law at any level. Honor killing, FGM, donations to radical mosques, etc., should be prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

Some will  point to the current/recent attacks as evidence (or even proof) that the War on Terror is a failure. After all, we started back in 2001 and they are still conducting successful attacks 16 years later.

This is an incorrect interpretation.

First, we have never fully prosecuted the war on Islamic Extremism. George W Bush said that if you supported terrorists, we would treat you like a terrorist, but he never really followed through. We invaded Afghanistan and toppled their terrorist regime. We toppled Saddam Hussein’s terrorist regime. But even with Iran surrounded, we never threatened to end their terrorist regime. We did nothing as Erdogan used terror tactics against the Kurds. We just fought terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But even with those mild measures, we were winning. From 2006 to 2009, terrorist attacks were down worldwide.  The flypaper strategy of attracting terrorists to Iraq and Afghanistan was working.

What changed?

The United States elected a President that didn’t want to defeat Islamic Terrorism and thought that a powerful, confident United States was bad for the world, and he prioritized his vision for worldwide interests over United States’ national interests.

Due to his views, he had us pull out of Iraq while before their commitment to democracy and liberty were able to take root. He imposed rules of engagement in Afghanistan that made it more difficult to effectively combat terrorism. He loosened restrictions that prevented terrorists from entering the US. He toppled Qaddafi, who had stopped engaging in terror, allowing al Qaida and other Islamic terrorist groups to have unrestricted access to weaponry. He did nothing to deter or stop the rise of ISIS and of Islamic Terror organizations in Africa. He released dozens of terrorists from Gitmo. He changed policy so that we no longer captured terrorists, but killed them, resulting in the loss of additional first-hand information on terror plans from interrogating captured terrorists. He turned the focus of the Intelligence Community away from combating terror toward spying on his political enemies.  And he gaslight us again and again and again, by refusing to call Islamic terror by its name, by claiming obviously-coordinate attacks were unpredictable “Lone Wolf” efforts, by blaming terror attacks on guns, or workplace violence, or something else.

George W Bush didn’t go all-out to combat terrorism, but we were still winning. Obama could not have done a better job cultivating Islamic Terror than if his actions were a deliberate attempt to do so.

We need to return to an active posture in combating terrorism. We need to do what George W Bush did, but more so.

We need to change their calculus.  We need to make them believe that becoming a terrorist (or in their minds, a Holy Warrior) will mean their futile death. We need to deny them successes, and we do that by fighting and killing them overseas, in their land. We need to deny terrorists easy access to the United States. That means no more refugees, and that means significant efforts to combat radical ideology targeting US citizens, and ending terrorist funding via Islamic charities.

Some innocent people will be wrongfully impacted by these actions, yes.

But as I quoted, “Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.”

There is a principle at stake. There are always false positives and false negatives. Western leaders have prioritized the interests of the innocent Muslims at the expense of innocent non-Muslims.  However, it is a subset of Islam that is actively attacking and killing innocent non-Muslims.  If innocent Muslims are harmed by a renewed War on Radical Islam, it is the fault of the subset of Muslims, in the same way that a person robbing a home is charged with murder if the homeowner kills his accomplice.

If the Islamic Terrorists were not attacking the West, the West would not respond by killing Islamic Terrorists.

The question of the extent that moderate Muslims support extreme Muslim terrorists is undetermined.  But the fact that it is uncertain means there is a possibility moderate Muslims are not innocent.

But the teens that attended the Ariana Grande concert are purely innocent in any religious war. Islamic Terrorists targeted them, and killed many. This removes the benefit of the doubt for moderate Muslims.  We should not target them. We should not intentionally harm them or damage their interests. But we can no longer afford to consider their interests when Islamic Terrorists are using them to launch deadly attacks on the unquestionably innocent.

The point of war is to eliminate the enemy’s will to fight. We never really tried to do that before. We must fully eliminate Islam’s Will to Kill Westerners. Whatever it takes.

It is time to go to war.

 

 

Request for Assistance: Vintage Mini Game Edition

  • by Gitabushi

One story my children have gotten tired of hearing about is how I came in 2nd at a D&D convention adventure tournament.

Here’s the story, mainly to fill up space before I get to the Request for Assistance.

In the early 80s (1983 or 1984), Billings had a Dungeons and Dragons convention. There’s a minor story about how a freak snowstorm killed attendance, and to pay off all the obligations they had an auction that included Katherine Kurtz putting winning bidders into one of her Deryni short stories, but that had no impact on my part of the story.

I and my friends signed up for any number of activities.  One I chose to sign up for was a Dungeons and Dragons adventure.

Arriving at the session, the Dungeon Master (DM) asked us all what type of characters we wanted to play.  I had recently grown interested in Illusionists, which had been (unfairly) ignored in our own local sessions, so he handed me a Fighter/Illusionist.

The mission was to infiltrate a stronghold and defeat an evil Priestess/Mage.

In the first battle with an outpost sentry team, the main bad guy fell into the water.  Since I knew that there was no mechanism in D&D (at that time, at least) for hits to knock people back, I asked if he fell into the water, or jumped.  The DM shrugged and said he fell. So I told everyone the bad guy might regenerate in water, and thus to keep an eye on him as we edged past.

Safely past, I told the DM I was doing a “Change Self” spell (an extremely low level spell that merely alters your appearance with an illusion…you can’t look like a dragon, all you can do is disguise yourself slightly) to make myself look like the guy who “fell” into the water.

When we reached the next sentry team (a much more powerful team this time), I told them I had charmed and captured these invaders and needed to take them to the Priestess for her orders.

The sentry leader shrugged and let us go on.

Then we were in her presence, and attacked.  She took a good amount of damage, then changed shape (healing damage) to fly off.  We never got close to her again.

Fun session.

About 2 weeks later I came home and there was a package on the table.  In it were two mini-strategy games.  One was a dungeon crawl where a few teams raced to get to the center for some reason, encountering monsters and finding treasures and weapons on the way. The other was a space game I hardly remember at all.

I was puzzled, so I wrote a letter to the sender.  A week later I got a reply back: My actions helped us avoid a major battle and get closer to defeating the Priestess than any other team.  As a result, I scored 2nd highest overall and this was my prize.

I hadn’t even realized there was scoring and prizes. I was just intending to adventure with new people and a new DM.

So here’s the deal: I lost both games at some point in life.  I can’t even remember when.  I solo-played the dungeon game a few times, and would really like to find it and play it with friends now.  All I remember is that the objective was to reach the center, and it was a race against the other teams.  I think the idea was that reaching the center gave you control of the castle and special powers, and one of the teams was a Prince who should have been the rightful heir, but wasn’t necessarily a protagonist.  And I might have some of the details wrong, so don’t depend on that.

How would I find the name of this game so I can search out a downloadable copy, or search out a rare existing copy?

The science fiction game was something similar to “Revolt on Antares,” which was a science fiction game my friend owned, but which I have subsequently purchased, but never played since buying as an adult.

 

UPDATE: FOUND IT:

Valkenburg Castle

UPDATE II: The other game was The Warriors of Batak.  Amazing how you think you recognize another cover art, but aren’t sure…then when you see the right one, all the memories come back in a rush.

Health Theory: No Whites Allowed

  • by Gitabushi

I was thinking yesterday how sugar is really bad for the human body in so many ways.  It overtaxes our insulin system.  It turns easily into fat. It feeds the bad microbes in our gut. It is addictive.

We crave it so much, however, because it is concentrated energy, and easy energy makes everything easier when you are scrabbling for every calorie you can…which was the norm for most of human history, but not as helpful in age of plenty and Justin Bieber.

I decided to try to swear off refined sugar again.

But refined (white) flour is also considered pretty bad for your body, for many of the same reasons as white sugar.  It is a carbohydrate, and so your body converts it into sugar with almost no effort at all, and it impacts your body like sugar.

So maybe I should swear off that, too.

But is that enough?  Refined (white) rice is not only widely considered stupid, but also is pointed out as being bad for your health almost as much as refined flour.

And along with that thought came the realization that many restaurants now offer baked and french-fried sweet potatoes as a healthier alternative to white potatoes.

So now I’m considering just dropping all white starches from my diet, to the maximum extent possible, and replacing them with their brown or whole-grain alternative: no sweets, or brown sugar treats only; whole grain flour noodles and bread; brown rice, and sweet potatoes and yams.

It seems like making that switch could a) immediately improve your health, b) make weight loss and maintenance easier, c) give you some street cred with the SJW movement if you announce your moral diet purity with the proper supercilious air, and d) contribute to the end of Justin Bieber’s celebrity.

Thoughts?