PC Koshinbun: Castalia House and the PulpRev scene are bustling!

Jeffro’s been doing Sensor Sweeps for a while now, and I highly recommend checking them out from time to time for some good highlights of what’s been going on with the pulp/classic SFF crowd and some tabletop gaming commentary.

Back at my old blog, I used to do periodic roundups or features of interesting Japan-related content in that corner of the web. One of the things I really like about this neck of the woods is how much support there is for budding bloggers and other aspirants who want to get their thoughts out there and contribute to the scene. When I was starting out, I remember how exciting it was to get a plug from Jeffro or Cirsova (not that it’s not still exciting). Or getting a retweet from Daddy Warpig (11k followers and he noticed me…!).

Now that we’ve built a small but awesome audience, I hope to contribute in bringing light and eyes to some of the more excellent content I’ve been discovering. Unfortunately I can’t cover everything and everyone, but I’ll try to make sure these aren’t too infrequent. Also I beg your indulgence if I shamelessly highlight some of our own content, too.

Before I get to the meat – what’s a koshinbun? Well, shinbun (新聞) is the Japanese word for “newspaper.” During the early to mid Meiji period (mid-late 1800’s), there were two major types of papers in J-Land: the oshinbun (大新聞), which were the big, usually political publications, and the koshinbun (小新聞), which were more focused on “pop” topics, like local news or fiction.

Anyway, here we go:

Castalia House blog is booming!

Jeffro brought several new writers onboard this year to bolster an already strong stable of columnists. Daddy Warpig (Jasyn Jones) and Morgan have been stirring the pot with Jeffro in some sharp criticisms of Campbellian SFF. Worth reading, even if you disagree. For my part, here are the three pieces I’ve contributed so far:

Mount and Blade and the spirit of roleplaying
Man’s Best (SFF) Friend
Solomon Kane: The Original Dark Knight

 

Geek Gab is GREAT

Before straying too far from Daddy Warpig, I have to mention this podcast. I’d seen links to it before, but I don’t listen to much talk stuff on the computer. The other day it occurred to me that I could look for it on iTunes, as I do a lot of listening during my daily commutes. Hey – there it was! I’ve listened to two episodes so far and really enjoyed them both. It’s basically a bunch of intelligent, enthusiastic, nerdy guys sitting around talking about nerdy stuff. It’s a lot of fun! Daddy Warpig, along with Brian Niemeier and John McGlynn and their guests, are definitely worth a listen if you’re into SFF (and not just literary).

 

Here be dragons

I’ve been following Oghma on Twitter for a while now, and his blog has gotten off to a roaring start. His stuff has been very thoughtful and thought-provoking. He’s shared some very candid life tales as well as some lighter nerd fare. To start, I’d draw your attention to:

In RPG’s do we even need races? – what do Hobbits bring to the table?
Props in Narrative Gaming – some great music and how-to’s on making a super cool scroll and other props that may liven up your pen and paper sessions.

scroll

 

Edgar Rice Burroughs on fiction

Over at the Pulp Archivist, Nathan reminds us of some wise words from Edgar Rice Burroughs – that “entertainment is fiction’s purpose.” We would all do well to remember this!

 

The Mixed GM schools his players 

I’ve written before about how there’s merit to newer editions of D&D, which afford players more room to be awesome (or overpowered, as the case may be) and is less punishing when it comes to player character death. Many old hands resent this approach to dungeon crawling, but it is what it is. Just because I’ve advocated for the more recent style of play doesn’t mean I’m in favor of coddling players when they play stupidly. The Mixed GM illustrates a good example here of where and how to draw the line.

 

HiLo Brow’s top adventure stories of 1907

Very specific! This one caught my eye because I’m an Oz fan, and Joshua’s number 2 pick is Frank Baum’s Ozma of Oz. Baum was actually mentioned on Geek Gab recently as one of the more underrated fantasy authors of his time. Other names you may recognize on the list – H Rider Haggard and William Hope Hodgson.

ozmaoz

 

Legends never die

In what’s shaping up to be a series of posts, Kestutis Kalvaitis has been writing about Timothy Zahn and his Thrawn trilogy – arguably some of the best work of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. He also mentions some of Zahn’s other scifi work in passing. I never did explore anything he did outside of Star Wars, but sounds worth a look.

 

Defending the screwdriver guys

Keith West expounds on how many of us enjoy both the pulps and Campbellian SFF, and lands on the fact that there’s room for both subgenres. I’ve argued this point myself, recently, and I think Keith’s voice strengthens my own view of the matter.

 

Howard out-Lovecrafted Lovecraft!

Alexandru Constantin puts forward a somewhat provocative idea –

“I think Howard writes Lovecraftian fiction better than Lovecraft. I like the idea of Lovecraftian more than I actually like Lovecraft’s writing. I find all his crap boring as all shit, filled with idiotic purple prose.”

He goes on to talk about how Howard manages to get that sense of weird and horror, but employs exciting, competent protagonists who take it to the unspeakable evil. Alexandru also brings up Howard’s pioneering of the “weird western” subgenre!

worms

Some homegrown SFF for ya

Our own Kaiju and Gitabushi have been working on some sweet stories, both as of yet untitled. Feel free to check’em out:

Kaiju’s sword and sorcery-type: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Gitabushi’s zombie outbreak: – Part 1, Part 2

 

-Bushi

bushi

 

PC Koshinbun: Castalia House and the PulpRev scene are bustling!

Untitled Novel, Revision & Pt II

  • by Gitabushi

A few days ago, I published a teaser of the Group Apocalypse story I’m working on.  By doing so, I experienced the benefits and drawbacks of publishing a teaser: I received some ego-stroking compliments, I received some good feedback, and now I want to make a very small, but truly substantial, revision to the original text.  Basically, I want to increase the uncertainty over whether Beverly is infected or not. Since I’ve made the change, I will now republish the revised first section here, along with section two:

***

Beverly woke, feeling groggy, not sure where she was for a moment.  Her bleary eyes blinked the world into focus.  Metal, glass, tile.  People hurrying past.  Voices over an intercom: “Flight 262 to Washington Dulles International, now boarding Zone 3.”

Beverly pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes.  Zone 3?  That was her boarding group.  She stretched, picked up her backpack and purse, stifled a yawn and stood up.  She shuffled over to the line, then fished her boarding pass out of her purse.  Another yawn rose, and this one would not be denied.  She covered her mouth, but despite her best efforts, this one was audible.

The man in front of him turned around at the sound.  “Tired, huh?  Well, you’ll get some sleep on this red-eye, as long as there are no infants near you.”

“Yeah, I just flew in from China.  I’ve already been traveling for 22 hours.  I couldn’t sleep on the plane earlier, but I just caught a nap there in the waiting area.  I think it made me feel worse.”  The line moved forward a step.

“Wow, long trip!  Where are you headed?”

“DC is my last stop.  Good thing.  I feel like a zombie or something.”  A few more steps forward.

“You’re not sick, are you?”  The man looked like he would sidle away if he could.

“No, I loaded up on vitamin C before the trip.  I’m just tired.”

They reached the flight attendant, and the conversation died.  As he was looking at Beverly’s boarding pass, she heard some yelling down the foyer, maybe 10 Gates away.  The flight attendant glanced past her shoulder, a puzzled look on his face.  The sound of commotion increased, and Beverly turned to look.  She couldn’t see anything at his angle, and wasn’t willing to step out of line to see better.  The attendant motioned her to go on, and she smiled faintly at him as she walked past.  Just as she entered the jetwalk, she heard what sounded like a scream, and a loud report like a firecracker.

A gunshot?

No way.  Beverly shook her head.  Guns aren’t allowed in airports.

She found her seat, put her cellphone in airplane mode, and started fading out of consciousness as the pilot started talking about a disturbance that wouldn’t delay departure.  She didn’t even feel the take off 20 minutes later.

***

She woke again as they were making the final approach into Dulles, then dozed until they pulled up to the gate.  Lack of sleep and disruptions to all the normal biological cycles made her feel groggy even after she gathered her purse (no carry on!) and staggered off the plane and up the walkway.

Her luggage would be arriving at the very last turnstile.  Before walking down there, she stopped off in the Ladies Restroom.  She sat in the stall, staring at nothing, trying to will herself fully awake.

She heard someone stagger in, then stumble over and push at her door.

“Taken!  Try the next one.”

More pushing at the door.  The groans sounded a little urgent.

“Hey!  Taken!”

Whomever it was seemed to take the message, and stumbled into the stall next to hers.  She could see the woman’s feet, rather large in tennis shoes, in the 12-inch gap.  She saw a hand reach through and paw in her direction.

“Out of toilet paper?  Okay, hold on a second.”  Beverly unwound a big wad, reached down and held it out.  The other person knocked it from her hand.  Fine, I don’t care, Beverly thought.  Some people just have no gratitude.

She closed her eyes and put her head in her hands, took several deep breaths.  She pulled out her cellphone and held the button until it began to turn on.  She stood up, and had just gotten the door open when she felt her foot grabbed.  She looked down in time to see a man’s head stuck through the gap between the floor and the stall divider, and saw him sink his teeth into her ankle.

blinding pain–

“SON OF A BITCH!” Beverly yelled, and dropped her phone as she yanked her foot free.  She aimed a kick directly at the side of his face, heard his head bounce off the base of the toilet.  She opened the door and ran out with her purse.  She heard the man struggling to get out of the stall behind her.

Out of the restroom, she picked out a security guard a few dozen yards away.  She staggered up to him.

“A man just assaulted me in the ladies restroom!”  She pointed back the way she had come.  She had to repeat it again before he understood.  He looked grim and began to walk in that direction, lifting his radio to his mouth as he went.

Beverly hesitated a moment.  She didn’t really want to wait around and see the guy.  Just thinking of him gave her the creeps.  There was something funny about his eyes.

She also didn’t want to wait around to repeat her story a dozen times to the police.  She knew that she should do her part to get a jerk like that off the streets…but she was exhausted, and just wanted to go home.  At least she could pick up her luggage first.  That would also give her more distance from the bathroom.

She limped another couple hundred yards to the luggage turnstile, which was already turning with a few pieces forlornly waiting for owners.  Hers was already there, too.  She grabbed her suitcase, then heard a scream and turned to look back at the bathroom entrance.

A struggle was ensuing between two security guards and the guy.  It looked like one of the security guards was down with the guy on top of him, and the second security guard trying to pull him off.  As she watched, the second guard pulled the assailant off of his buddy.  The guard on the floor wasn’t moving at all.  The creep turned in the second guard’s grasp.  It was hard to tell from the distance, but it looked like the guy was winning!

Beverly felt a bolt of terror in her heart.  She turned and hurried toward the exit.  She looked back as she reached the door, saw the guard fall to the ground and saw the man stagger in her direction.  She pushed out the doors as fast as she could, scrambled out onto the sidewalk.

She looked for the economy parking lot bus stop.  There!  And her lot color was already there.  As she ran toward it, dragging her suitcase, it started to pull away.

Then the driver must have seen her, because it stopped and the doors opened.  She clambered on board, yelled, “Go!” and collapsed into a chair.  She looked back at the baggage claim door, but didn’t see her assailant emerge.

Her ankle throbbed.  She pulled her foot up to the seat, looked her ankle over.  She winced as she pressed and explored the bite area.  It hurt so much it seemed impossible there wasn’t a chunk of flesh missing.  But there was no blood, at least.

When the bus reached her stop, Beverly raced to her car, jumped in, and locked all the doors. She sat, shivering with reaction, for about 15 minutes.  She transitioned directly from panic to exhaustion, however, and woke herself when her head lolled forward.
She shook her head to clear it, glanced at her watch, and estimated she had lost only about 20 minutes dozing.
“Better I get back home as soon as possible and crawl into bed for some good sleep,” she said out loud, trying to wake herself up.  “I just hope I don’t nod off on the road home.”
Not many cars were on the road.

At one point, she saw someone walking across the freeway ahead of her.  She slowed slightly, until she saw that he would pass safely across before she reached him.

Within about 40 minutes, she was turning the key of her Eckington neighborhood town home.  Three levels, 4 bedrooms, all hers.  Well, after another 27 or so years of mortgage payments, as she  liked to say to friends.

She stripped her clothes and showered as rapidly as she could.  She checked out her ankle and still didn’t see a wound, rubbed some soap on it to be sure, and sure enough, there was the sting of open skin.  She looked more closely, but didn’t see any teeth marks; it was more like a scrape.  And, of course, it was already a vivid, angry purple.  Clean and not bleeding, there was nothing more to do but wait and see if it got infected.

The sky was just beginning to lighten as she stumbled into her bedroom and slipped into bed.  And then out of bed again to close the heavier curtains, to make sure sunlight drifting in between the slats of the blinds after daybreak didn’t wake her.

She set the alarm for a little over 6 hours later, pulled the covers up to her chin, and waited to fall asleep immediately.

35 minutes later (as confirmed by the bedside clock), she was still waiting.  She started the self-hypnosis technique she had learned back in college, and before the second set (backwards from fifty), she felt that curious falling sensation that accompanied entering sleep when completely exhausted.

***

Something was wrong, but she wasn’t sure what it was.

She lay in bed for a few minutes, trying to piece it together.

It was morning.  She could tell by the dim glimmer of light sneaking in past the edges of her heavy curtains.  She had slept more than 6 hours, she could feel it…but her alarm hadn’t gone off.  She glanced at the clock, and saw why: the power was off.

She reached a hand out of the blankets to snatch her watch, and pressed the button to let its backlight shine through the artificial dusk in her room.

Three in the afternoon!  She had slept for a full ten hours!

That’s when it dawned on her what was wrong: there were no traffic sounds from outside.  Her windows did a fairly good job of keeping the sound to a minimum, but she lived on a main street, and normally you could hear cars going by almost constantly.  Now, there was nothing.

 

She slipped out of bed and padded over to the window, peeked out.  Sure enough, no cars on the road at all.  Most of the cars were gone from the street parking places, too.

Was there an evacuation or something?  Why?  It isn’t hurricane season or anything.   She thought for a moment.  There might be a surprise gully washer thunderstorm this late in the Spring, but what kind of flooding would it take to evacuate DC?  She looked at the sky.  It’s not even cloudy, much less raining.

She pulled on some comfortable clothes and went downstairs to the kitchen.  She would call Erik and…oh, holy crap!  I never picked up my cellphone after that creep bit me.  She was sure she could get it back from the airport’s lost and found later, but in the meantime, she was cut off from everyone.  She could call from her neighbor’s phone later, but first she wanted to get something to eat.

She opened her refrigerator and looked for anything that might spoil if the power was out too long.  Some eggs, some cheese.  No fresh veggies because of her trip.  The bacon looked okay.  Should she make rice congee?  No, rice was stupid in a power outage.  It has to be something you can do with natural gas, on a stove.  Okay, an omelet.

She cooked, ate, and cleaned up.

Still no vehicle sounds.  What the hell was going on?

She walked outside, down the steps, and up her neighbor’s steps.  She knocked, and waited.  She knocked again.  Waited.  She pounded the door.

Nothing.

She tried the door.

Locked.

The silence was kind of strange.  A city shouldn’t be this quiet.  The faint sound of a car horn drifted in with a strong breeze, but its obvious distance just emphasized the uncanny absence of city noise.

She looked up and down the street.  She saw a few people walking down past the intersection at New York Ave, past the gas station.  But that was a mile away, or more.  She didn’t feel like walking down there.

She went back home, shut the door and locked it, and sat on her couch.  No electricity kind of screwed things up.  No TV.  No wifi for her laptop.  She normally would have used the 3G connection on her smartphone, but that was at the airport.

She sniffed, then coughed.

Do I have a fever?  She felt her forehead.  Well, she didn’t feel well, but maybe it was just jet lag.

She climbed two flights of stairs to the small room she considered her library and picked out a book that she had purchased a few months ago but never got around to starting, and sat down by the window to read.

Two hours later, there was no mistaking it; she was coming down with something.  She had coughed a dozen times, and was at least a touch feverish.

Erik was had planned his backpacking trip to get back the same day as her flight, or today at the very latest.  He would stop by after he took a shower, wouldn’t he?  He normally stopped by at least once a week, and they had their separate trips to talk about.  He would particularly make sure to drop by with things weird like this, wouldn’t he?  He would call, and when he didn’t reach her, he would rush over to make sure she had made it home safely.

So what’s taking him so long, then?

Maybe he called and someone at the airport answered and said the phone was in Lost & Found.  He must have gone there first to pick it up for me.  Erik was always doing things like that.

***

Untitled Novel, Revision & Pt II

Civility

As much as I may hand-wring about overaggressiveness from the Pulp Revolution crowd (I still prefer to think of myself as a moderating voice rather than a scold), I have to say that at least most of these folks conduct themselves with a level of decorum that seems to be absent in other quarters.

At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory about “my own side,” I’ve seen very little objectionable behavior from “us.” Sure, there’s some shitlording and sometimes you’ll see some bad language, it’s true. But I have yet to see anyone write off a good faith effort to engage. Dialogue and debate are welcome.

I bring this up because of an encounter Alex of Cirsova had yesterday. Summary:

 

(Updated – thanks for clarifying a point here, Alex)

– Dude writes a blog post about the Arthur C. Clark Award and his thoughts on the SFF genre.

– A commenter mentions Cirsova magazine’s contributions to the genre.

– Cirsova pops in to elaborate about his SFF magazine.

– Dude replies back observing that the Cirsova website has a Gamergate banner.

– Cirsova affirms this.

– Dude replies back accusing Cirsova and/or its fans of being misogynistic fascists. Unprovoked.

– Cirsova makes a graceful exit.

– Dude takes a parting shot.

– I drop a post mocking Dude’s lack of civility.

– Dude calls us self-serving Nazi pricks.

You can see the archived image here.

I think, in the long-run, this kind of thing can be good for us. The average observer, seeing this, is going to conclude that Dude is an asshole. It’s the same kind of poor behavior we see from the likes of Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street, or the Trump protesters. Sorry guys – setting cop cars on fire and smashing Starbucks windows is not going to win you any prizes, nor will it ingratiate you with the public.

This, I think, is part of the reason the pendulum swung to the right this election cycle. Bad behavior is not rewarded.

I mean, who comes out looking badly here?

capture

From where I’m standing, it’s not Cirsova.

Even if it *were* ok to punch Nazis in the face, you can’t just declare everyone who disagrees with you to be a Nazi. Eventually you’re going to punch someone and either (a) get hauled off or (b) get the shit kicked out of you.

-Bushi

bushi

 

Civility

Untitled Novel, Teaser

  • by Gitabushi

The McCoy’s Story, Chapter 1: Beverly

Beverly woke, feeling groggy, not sure where she was for a moment.  Her bleary eyes blinked the world into focus.  Metal, glass, tile.  People hurrying past.  Voices over an intercom: “Flight 262 to Washington Dulles International, now boarding Zone 3.”

Beverly pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes.  Zone 3?  That was her boarding group.  She stretched, picked up her backpack and purse, stifled a yawn and stood up.  She shuffled over to the line, then fished her boarding pass out of her purse.  Another yawn rose, and this one would not be denied.  She covered her mouth, but despite her best efforts, this one was audible.

The man in front of him turned around at the sound.  “Tired, huh?  Well, you’ll get some sleep on this red-eye, as long as there are no infants near you.”

“Yeah, I just flew in from China.  I’ve already been traveling for 22 hours.  I couldn’t sleep on the plane earlier, but I just caught a nap there in the waiting area.  I think it made me feel worse.”  The line moved forward a step.

“Wow, long trip!  Where are you headed?”

“DC is my last stop.  Good thing.  I feel like a zombie or something.”  A few more steps forward.

“You’re not sick, are you?”  The man looked like he wanted to sidle away.

“No, I loaded up on vitamin C before the trip.  I’m just tired.”

They reached the flight attendant, and the conversation died.  As he was looking at Beverly’s boarding pass, she heard some yelling down the foyer, maybe 10 Gates away.  The flight attendant glanced past her shoulder, a puzzled look on his face.  The sound of commotion increased, and Beverly turned to look.  She couldn’t see anything at this angle, and she wasn’t willing to step out of line to see better.  The attendant motioned her to go on, and she smiled faintly at him as she walked past.  Just as she entered the jetwalk, she heard what sounded like a scream, and a loud report like a firecracker.

A gunshot?

No way.  Beverly shook her head.  Guns aren’t allowed in airports.

20 minutes later they were in the air, and Beverly was fast asleep.

***

She woke again as they were making the final approach into Dulles, then dozed until they pulled up to the gate.  Lack of sleep and disruptions to all the normal biological cycles made her feel groggy even after she gathered her purse (no carry-on, for the win!) and staggered off the plane and up the walkway.

Her luggage would be arriving at the very last turnstile.  Before walking down there, she stopped off in the Ladies Restroom.  She sat in the stall, staring at nothing, trying to will herself fully awake.

She heard someone stagger in, then stumble over and push at her door.

“Taken!  Try the next one.”

More pushing at the door.  The groans sounded a little urgent.

“Hey!  Taken!”

Whoever it was seemed to take the message, and stumbled into the stall next to hers.  She could see the woman’s feet, rather large in tennis shoes, in the 12-inch gap.  She saw a hand reach through and paw in her direction.

“Out of toilet paper?  Okay, hold on a second.”  Beverly unwound a big wad, reached down and held it out.  The other person knocked it from her hand.  Fine, I don’t care, Beverly thought.  Some people just have no gratitude.

She closed her eyes and put her head in her hands, took several deep breaths.  She pulled out her cellphone and held the button until it began to turn on.  She stood up and had just gotten the door open when she felt her foot grabbed.  She looked down in time to see a man’s head stuck through the gap between the floor and the stall divider, and saw him sink his teeth into her ankle.

blinding pain–

“SON OF A BITCH!” Beverly yelled, and dropped her phone as she yanked her foot free.  She aimed a kick directly at the side of his face, heard his head bounce off the base of the toilet.  She opened the door and ran out with her purse.  She heard the man struggling to get out of the stall behind her.

Out of the restroom, she picked out a security guard a few dozen yards away.  She ran up to him.

“A man just assaulted me in the ladies restroom!”  She pointed back the way she had come.  She had to repeat it again before he understood.  He looked grim and began to walk in that direction, lifting his radio to his mouth as he went.

Beverly hesitated a moment.  She didn’t really want to wait around and see the guy.  Just thinking of him gave her the creeps.  There was something funny about his eyes.

She also didn’t want to wait around to repeat her story a dozen times to the police.  She knew that she should do her part to get a jerk like that off the streets…but she was exhausted, and just wanted to go home.  At least she could pick up her luggage first.  That would also give her more distance from the bathroom.

She walked another couple hundred yards to the luggage turnstile, which was already turning with a few pieces forlornly waiting for owners.  Hers was already there, too.  She grabbed her suitcase, then heard a scream and turned to look back at the bathroom entrance.

A struggle was ensuing between two security guards and the guy.  It looked like one of the security guards was down with the guy on top of him, and the second security guard trying to pull him off.  As she watched, the second guard pulled the assailant off of his buddy.  The guard on the floor wasn’t moving at all.  The creep turned in the second guard’s grasp.  It was hard to tell from the distance, but it looked like the guy was winning!

Beverly felt a bolt of terror in her heart.  She turned and hurried toward the exit.  She looked back as she reached the door, saw the guard fall to the ground and saw the man stagger in her direction.  She pushed out the doors as fast as she could, scrambled out onto the sidewalk.

She looked for the economy parking lot bus stop.  There!  And her lot color was already there.  As she ran toward it, dragging her suitcase, it started to pull away.

Then the driver must have seen her, because it stopped and the doors opened.  She clambered on board, yelled, “Go!” and collapsed into a chair.  She looked back at the baggage claim door but didn’t see her assailant emerge.

Her ankle throbbed.  She pulled her foot up to the seat, looked her ankle over.  She winced as she pressed and explored the bite area.  Was the skin broken?  No blood, at least.  That seemed impossible with as bad as the bite hurt, but maybe her jeans got in the way?  The way it hurt, she was going to have one hell of a bruise.

When the bus reached her stop, Beverly raced to her car, jumped in, and locked all the doors. She sat, shivering with reaction, for about 15 minutes.  She transitioned directly from panic to exhaustion, however, and woke herself when her head lolled forward.
She shook her head to clear it, glanced at her watch, and estimated she had lost only about 20 minutes dozing.
“Better I get back home as soon as possible and crawl into bed for some good sleep,” she said out loud, trying to wake herself up.  “I just hope I don’t nod off on the road home.”
Not many cars were on the road.

At one point, she saw someone walking across the freeway ahead of her.  She slowed slightly, until she saw that he would pass safely across before she reached him.

Within about 40 minutes, she was turning the key of her Eckington neighborhood townhome.  Three levels, 4 bedrooms, all hers.  Well, after another 27 or so years of mortgage payments, as she liked to say to friends.

She stripped her clothes and showered as rapidly as she could.  She checked out her ankle, rubbed some soap on it, but no sting of an open would.  Sure enough, though, it was already turning purple. The sky was just beginning to lighten as she stumbled into her bedroom and slipped into bed.  And then out of bed again to close the heavier curtains, to make sure sunlight drifting in between the slats of the blinds after daybreak didn’t wake her.

She set the alarm for a little over 6 hours later, pulled the covers up to her chin, and waited to fall asleep immediately.

35 minutes later (as confirmed by the bedside clock), she was still waiting.  She started the self-hypnosis technique she had learned back in college, and before the second set (backwards from fifty), felt that curious falling sensation that accompanied entering sleep when completely exhausted.

***

Untitled Novel, Teaser

Asimov was an asshat, but so what?

Time to write another tedious defense piece. But I feel compelled to argue with people on the internet – thus is my curse.

I’m not going to go into an explanation of the Pulp Revolution right now (though that warrants a post in the near future), but suffice it to say there is a growing contingent of bloggers, tweeters, indie authors, podcasters, and literary critics who have come to know and love classic and pulp Scifi/Fantasy. Like any group of enthusiasts, we spend a lot of time chewing the cud. When we’re not reading or writing, we tend to be reviewing, discussing, and/or trying to preach the gospel.

And while the other activities in which we engage can contribute to the last one, I think spreading our message and drawing new fans into the fold is the most valuable service we can render. I suppose we go about this in different ways. I see positivity and enthusiasm as the most effect recruiting tools. When I found the Cirsova blog and then Jeffro’s, I felt like I’d struck gold. Here were a couple of guys who clearly loved the stuff they were writing about, and it was infectious. Jack Vance sounded awesome, and as a result I wanted to read him.

Now if the first blog posts I had come across at those two excellent destinations had been about how Harry Potter is trash, or maybe a top ten list of overrated authors listing five of my favorites, well, fair or not I probably would have been turned off and clicked away. And then, because I am a frail human being who is susceptible to hurt feelz, I would have lost out. My awakening to the classics could have been prevented (or thanks to Kaiju’s influence, perhaps just delayed). In most cases, shitting on something that someone likes isn’t going to attract them to try out your brand.

And so I first put forward that we as a movement and even as individuals are at our best when we’re touting the great and the good. Criticism and righteous indignation of course have their place. But if we want to draw more people to us – not just the disillusioned scifi fans of decades gone by, but fresh blood robbed of this stuff by the SFF generational gap – let us also exercise restrain and thoughtfulness. If you see yourself as a solider in a literary war, I’m not proposing you offer your enemy succor. Rather I am pointing out that when throwing bombs or fireballs, you may not have full view of the blast radius. If that doesn’t give you pause, or if you deem the payoff greater than the risk, or if flinging fireballs just feels good and you don’t care because they have it coming, well. Not much I can do about it – wage on, I guess.

So let’s get to the title of this particular post.

Among some fans of older SFF, Asimov has been a popular punching bag for a while. They say he doesn’t deserve to be called one of the “Big Three” scifi writers. They say that the Golden Age of scifi is a misnomer. And you know, I don’t disagree.

Well, some of my Pulp Rev friends have been taking a turn with Asimov. Some people are even writing stories about the evils of his ilk. And you know what? We’re each entitled to our own opinions.

I think the grievances being put forth against Asimov can pretty much be condensed thusly:

  1. He was a pompous asshole
  2. His name has been undeservedly hoisted above better writers
  3. He was a godless leftist punk
  4. His stories didn’t uphold traditional heroics
  5. His stories were boring and he was untalented

 

As to the first accusation, I would say that from what I’ve read and gathered, this is the case. But so what? Most typical SFF fans don’t go digging for quotes and manifestos and essays. They want to read an entertaining story, and being an asshole doesn’t disqualify one from spinning a good yarn.

isaac_asimov_on_throne

Second – this is also probably true, but difficult to objectively prove. Maybe an argument can be made based on sales numbers or some such metric, but this would be a purely quantitative indicator. Though I agree with this second statement, I wouldn’t assert it as fact.

Third – Again, yes. But again, how does this matter? There were godless, leftist punks whom the Pulp Rev crew likes. I like to point to Fritz Leiber.

Fourth – This is true, and a great argument for why you don’t like Asimov, or how he’s brought down the genre. But does it lessen his writing talent or the impact he’s had upon science fiction? I’d say not. And while many of us may prefer stories with a traditional good guy who beats the bad guy and gets the girl, there are other forms of entertainment. Silence of the LambsBreaking BadThe SopranosScarfaceOcean’s ElevenFight Club; Beetlejuice. There are plenty of popular stories and characters that don’t conform to the formulas we most enjoy.

Fifth – This is purely subjective. Many people, including myself, have enjoyed some of his stories. “A fan of the pulps cannot enjoy Asimov’s garbage” you may say. Then how do you explain me? I am a fan of the early Foundation books and the Daneel Olivaw/Elijah Bailey stories.

To me, the war between pulpy, actiony raygun romance and hard SFF is asinine. It’s like telling someone they can only like hard-boiled detective crime fiction or else legal thriller, but not both. One cannot enjoy both epic fantasy and fairy stories.

Say what you will about Asimov, but his writing was interesting enough that he still has many fans.

The fact that Asimov was a petty, obnoxious, intellectual, craphead of a man doesn’t matter to people who just want to read a fun scifi story. I’ve read that Lovecraft held and voiced many anti-black and anti-Catholic opinions. But that doesn’t make the Cthulhu mythos any less cool. Nor should it. I hold the same to be true for Asimov. Where a sharp mind (probably honed by regular political and literary analysis) may see Foundation as a story of an intellectual class lording over a people incapable of ruling itself – the ultimate elitist big government! – others of us just see a future story with cool fake science, planning, and problem solving. Doesn’t have to be sinister.

If the messaging you dislike is in your face, I can understand and respect taking a pass. No one wants to fork over their cash to someone who’s spitting in their face. But for many of us, Asimov and a lot of these writers aren’t in our faces. Maybe that’s because we’re blissfully unaware, but you know what they say about ignorance.

If you don’t enjoy Asimov because you find his stories boring or overbearing or loaded, I can understand that. But that doesn’t make him a bad writer, nor unworthy of literary accolade and recognition. For my part, I find Stephen King to be highly overrated. I found the Stand, for example, to be way too much buildup for a disappointingly paltry payoff. But I also recognize that he’s a SFF giant, and I’m not about to tell millions of people that they’re wrong and I know better. Just rubs me the wrong way.

And putting my money where my mouth is, I guess now I have to acknowledge that, HP, the Force Awakens isn’t garb. I simply didn’t care for it, on the whole. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

-Bushi

bushi

 

 

Asimov was an asshat, but so what?

Trying to Write Part 3

Part I

Part II

7.

“Take Alna and as many supplies as you can carry. She has never failed me, and will protect you on your journey. Head East and do not look back. Should I live, I will find you. You have my word.”

Nothing more was said. Orren watched Sara, Alna, and the child until they were  but a dot on the horizon. Two of the horses left owner-less from the day’s melee he sent in different directions. Maybe he could obscure the path of those fleeing, buy them some time. Others would come for sure now. The last horse he mounted started off North, following the path the soldiers had created. Alone again.

He passed fields of grain and vineyards overflowing with grapes. The occasional plantation house marked the landscape. These were no simple farmhouses like Sara had occupied, these were more akin to the mansions in the ancient cities of the far west: fountains, gardens, ornate stone work and windows of painted glass. He passed a few workers in the fields. They fled when they saw him, saying nothing.

Those in the martial orders of Sorrakam were required to wed, and if able, to be fruitful. The bonds formed between the warrior and his bride were indissoluble, sanctified in waters from the summit. The Sorra was present in their unity, imbuing it with power. From this they drew strength: it gave them reason to fight, to live, to die.

Save heresy, there was no crime more severe in Sorrakam than to purposely violate this bond. Sometimes one is taken before old age of natural causes, and while the pain of those left is still acute they can find solace in knowing that The Sorra had need of them. Their suffering has ended. But to have one’s lifebond shattered purposely? Little comfort is left them save for rage, rage hotter than the holy forges at the depth of the mountain, rage that will consume a man and all those around him.
A heavy rain began to fall as the landscape grew dense with houses and storefronts. Eyes peered from behind shuttered windows, unsure as to the purpose of the stranger trudging through the mud and stinging rain. The streets were empty. Doubtful that he would find anyone to welcome him here. They feared him perhaps, or they feared whatever consequences might be brought upon anyone who dared aid him. A people grown accustomed to the sacrifice of their own children are a broken people, easily kept in line.

He continued through the town until a sharp peak came into view through the grey. An enormous keep stood before him. It’s full size was obscured by the clouds, but it was massive, and ancient. It did not bear any architectural similarity to the houses in the town surrounding it, nor to any culture he knew of. Torches burned despite the rain on either side of a great portcullis. A crimson banner with purple trim hung above the gate. He stood before the closed gate and shouted:

“I am Orren, Shieldbearer of the Holy Order of Sorrakam. I seek the master of this keep. I wish only to talk.”

He stood motionless in the rain, face lit by the flickering torches. Without warning the gate was raised and score of armored soldiers rushed out and surrounded him. Orren steadied his horse but made no move for his weapons. He slowly dismounted and raised his arms to either sided.

“I wish not for violence here.” He said, “My name is…”

A soldier struck Orren in the back of his head with the handle of his sword sending him face-first into the mud. He looked up just in time to see the second blow, then all went black.

9.

Where are you?

A voice surrounded him in the darkness, her voice. He could see her face; pale white, eyes closed as though asleep. Her black hair floated weightlessly, like they were submerged in a great black sea. She looked the same age as the day he first saw her. He reached out and took her hand. The flesh withered and turned to ash, falling through his fingers. He opened his mouth to scream into the abyss but no sound came. He was alone in the darkness, a darkness that he could sense, that sensed him.

10.

A cold bucket of water roused Orren from his nightmare.

“On your feet” a gruff voice shouted at him from above.

He came-to on a hard stone floor of what must have been a prison cell. Two soldiers lifted him up and shoved him out into the corridor. His hands and feet were shackled. He was naked but for the thin cloth garments he wore under his armor, his weapons nowhere to be seen. He was at the mercy of his handlers and so said nothing. They led him up torchlit stairs and through corridors of gray stone. The storm could still be heard outside unleashing its fury upon what was now his prison.

It was not long before they came to a great hall lined by two large feasting tables. They were empty but for a few candelabra evenly spaced to light the gloom. Chairs were all neatly tucked into the table, did not look as though they had been utilized in quite some time. A fine red carpet ran through the center of the room to a raised seat upon which sat a solitary entity. Two guards stood on either side of the seat of honor, polearms in hands, staring blankly past Orren and his jailers.

The figure that sat before Orren wore only a large hooded robe of crimson and purple. Below the hood peered out two eyes, sunken behind flesh of unnatural hue; it was grey-white, like the skin of a drowned man left to rot in the sea. The being removed the hood and revealed a head completely hairless. The face was slender with a sharp chin, thin purple lips over perfect white teeth. Man or woman he could not tell by appearance alone. The face wore no expression, then it spoke.

“Was…bold of you to ride up to my gate on a stolen horse. Nothing so interesting has happened in my lands for quite some time. I would inquire as to its rider and his companions but the fact that you are here and they are not tells me all I need to know. You wore the armor of a foreigner. Is it customary in your land to flaunt your crimes at the home of those you’ve wronged?”

One of the jailors shoved Orren forward, “Answer him.”

Orren spoke:

“I came not to flaunt my actions, indeed I wish that I did not have to slay the men I did but they left me no choice. Their request could not be granted.”

“Their request? You mean returning that which did not belong to you? I’m not sure you comprehend what you’ve done.” the entity spoke, betraying no emotion in its voice.

Orren replied: “I know that this land is in the grip of a darkness that has no place in this world. I felt it in the valley, heard its whispers in my dreams, saw what it demands of your people. I came here to offer my aid in banishing this evil. This would not be the first time I have faced its like.”

When he finished his words the guard to the right of the throne broke his stare and looked down at him. The guard wore a curious expression on his face for a brief moment before returning to his stone-like gaze, then the robed figure began to laugh.

“You really haven’t a clue what you’re dealing with here do you? Why would we want assistance in removing our benefactor?” The corpse like figure laughed again, a cruel laugh soaked in venom.

“We have all that we could want! A bountiful harvest every season, surplus enough to foster trade with the nations to the east. Our people are never hungry, our soldiers armed with fine weapons, our power and influence growing every day. And at what price? An unnamed child left on the valley floor every now and again.”

“The deceivers make no agreements for the benefit of anyone but themselves and their kind. The price is always much greater.” Orren said.

“So I should let my people return to a life in which famine and poverty are more than just whispers from the past? Tell me, how is the life of one child too much to pay to avoid the death of a score of children that would result should our farms fail to produce?” There was coldness in the being’s voice now.

“There are fates worse than death.” Orren replied.

The being lifted its hood again, hiding its face in shadow. “I know, and soon you shall know too. Take him to the garden, have the flayer extract any information he possesses regarding the child and then leave him for the birds.”

-Kaiju

Trying to Write Part 3

Taking stock

I don’t write much about my personal life here – mainly because I’m an anonymous internet troll, and my story mainly involves caves and butting heads with other trolls (and occasional people). But today I celebrate another year on this earth, and so I’m feeling a little contemplative.

I’m not where I’d like to be in life, which is not an uncommon situation. But still, I have much to be grateful for. Though my finances are among my chief stress-inducers, I’m well off enough that I can eat. I have a pretty decent home-built computer, and I have a bountiful supply of books. Though I’m not at an ideal job, I’ve found a career I enjoy. That’s not nothing!

My wife and I have been preparing for our delayed wedding celebration, which will be held next month. So there’s that. And (excuse me if I get sappy for a moment) – she’s the blessing I’d been praying for for years.

I’m lucky to have great family – my mother has been a bastion of strength and wisdom throughout the years, and to her in part do I owe my interest in SFF and a good amount of handed-down books.

I’ve also been blessed with true and good friends. I’m proud to count our own Kaiju prominently among them. And a woot to him for his Hugo nomination! Congrats, buddy. I always knew HP had superior taste. ;)

More recently, I’ve been fortunate to discover a whole new world of literature. I remember my dad used to keep old Tarzan and Conan books in our basement. Sadly many of those have been lost to the ages, and so I’ve been working on my own collection. I’ve plugged Cirsova and Jeffro many times already as having catalyzed this, in addition to Kaiju. It’s been awesome to discover other blogs dedicated to these older gems and greats, and to see new ones cropping up. I’ll have to do another post soon highlighting some of what I’ve found.

Related to that, an apology to anyone who enjoys my literary musings – I’ve slowed a little and I imagine my pace will remain a bit languid until after the wedding stuff is behind me. Still, will check in and share my thoughts as time permits.

Thanks for reading, y’all!

-Bushi

bushi

 

Taking stock