'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Corrupt Cliffs

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Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Friday, April 20, 2018



We are going to steer away from Conan for a minute and give a quick shout out to Runehammer Games! When I came back to gaming a few short years ago there was a group of youtube channels devoted to RPGs. I liked quite a few of those channels but one of the channels I came across and started following was Drunkens & Dragons(now Runehammer), it spoke to me at a slightly different level.

The presenter was engaging and didn't take himself too seriously, most of all he looked like he was having a BLAST. He had videos on crafting, but as well, he had videos on theory and ways to make your game more fun. Although he played D&D he obviously wasn't tied to the system.

As I and others watched we got to know more about Hankerin' Ferinale. He did a few drawing streams, he talked about getting people to draw. He was and IS always encouraging and giving back to the community through his YouTube channel and his podcast. He talked about quick props drawn on index cards. Something I still use to this day when I need to hand my players an object. Sharpies and Index cards are awesome. This idea led to his first set of pre-drawn index cards that can be used to generate story ideas, or as location representations or as general props. (Hey Hankerin' we could use some cards for some sort of pulpy swords on mars game......)

And then finally he released his version of an RPG. His codified thoughts on playing a fun game. ICRPG was here officially.

ICRPG is light on rules and heavy on fun. There is an active google+ group as well as many many online games showing the mechanics of how the system works, as well as a quickstart guide available for FREE! I admit I have little time to game and it's been chiefly focused on 2d20, and haven't had time to do more than read the rules, which I like. Even if you never played it the advice in the book makes it worth the price alone.

He has continued to work on and expand ICRPG, Volume 2 and Volume 3 of index cards have been released. VTT assets have been added to the ICRPG core pack. He has released ICRPG Worlds which details three settings: Sci-Fi(Warp Shell), Fantasy(Alfheim) and a Weird West(Ghost Mountain). Just recently he even released a system agnostic set of characters with complete art called Heroes of the Hammer.

And now he has released ICRPG 2E. I haven't even had a chance to look through this book yet, but I wanted to post something about this awesome independent creator. Today we drink to your continued success!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Lost In Space 2018: A Netflix Original

It is a good time to be fan of Sci-fi or Fantasy. It seems everyday a new network or streaming service is releasing or announcing something. The Expanse, Season 3 aired on April 11th and on April 13th Netflix's Lost In Space was added to my streaming list. I have watched 3 or 4 episodes of the show at the time I am writing this. I am going to try and avoid spoilers, so will be talking in a very generalized kind of way about the show itself vs specific instances in the show.

The show so far has chronicled the Robinson family on a deep space colonization mission. They have crashed on an unknown planet and have to survive the new world. Each episode has had some major calamity to solve or get past, placing the family on the brink of failure and death. The story is told through present day situation and flashbacks helping us learn who the characters are and what motivates them.

The show is, in my opinion, not as intelligent as The Expanse. It seems every episode has had something that has made no sense to me, based on the world they have shown us. I like this franchise and wanted this to be a great show, so I don't really feel like I am out to find problems and analyze it to death. Hopefully as the show progressed and the writers found their way it begins to become more internally consistent.

The storyline and characters, though sharing the same names as the original, deviate a fair bit from the original story. That is the details of the original story, the broad brushtrokes of the show remain the same. Comparing the smaller details to the movie, I think the movie does a better job incorporating these into the story as compared to the original TV show. Is that a good thing? That is for you to decide.

That isn't to say I am not enjoying the show. I am, I think it's a fun, albiet, fairly light entry into sci-fi TV. The effects are generally good and imaginative. The Iconic ship is again redesigned, although it reminds me more of the '98 movie than the Jupiter 2 from the series. The characters are being developed and are portrayed in a decent enough manner. I will continue to watch it for now and will probably revist a few episodes of the original series, which I have not watched in, probably, 30 years. I am also planning on revisting the movie as well.

So if you are looking for something light and enjoyable, I would say give this show a chance. The general feeling on the Internet has been positive. You might like it.

Lost In Space 2018 gets......
3 out 5 Skulls of My Enemies!

Check out my review of the Expanse!

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Friday, April 13, 2018

The Expanse: Season 3 (and the show in general).

This is of course largely a gaming blog, and aimed at the pulp genre of the early part of the last century. How futuristic sounding is that? That being said we take ideas and inspiration from everywhere and there is a lot of good content out there these days. Despite my feeling that more and more people simply do not read books, we have a plethora of authors out there writing and creating worlds.

The Expanse is, IMHO, some of the content that you should be consuming on the sci-fi level. Written by James S.A. Corey, the series tells the story of humanity in the near future. Earth, Mars and the Belt working to survive at odds with each other. This post is about the TV show running on SYFY, but I think you should pick up the Expanse novels as well, and the first three are on sale AND on Amazon Prime right now!

April 11th saw the debut of this much loved series, and I got to sit down and watch it last night on Google Play. True to form, the opening of this season was tense and full of action. The story arcs of our main characters are told and they themselves as people grow. We see some characters step up and be incredibly bad ass in their environment, while others we know to be strong be forced to take the back stage. The TV series doesn't follow the books exactly, or maybe not at all. They tell the same story. They follow roughly the same story paths, but apart from that the writers have taken the material and pulled it apart and rewoven it into an exceptional TV show with compelling on screen characters.

Do I think this is a perfect show? No, but I was looking forward to the new season. So what don't I like? Casting wise the characters have grown on me and I understand the reasoning behind not using really famous people. Having read the novels, as is often the case, the characters didn't fit how I had imagined them, sometimes strikingly in some ways. The actors have grown on me and more often than not when I am reading the novels they have supplanted my original imagined views of the characters.

Specifically in Episode 1 of Season 3, I liked it all. As I said it was tense and well executed, I don't recall any time where it was slow, we had some excellent character growth and a few revelations. As well there were a few well timed moments of levity to ease the tension. The worst single part of this show right now is that I need to wait a week till the next episode. Is this really how we watch TV now? :(

If you like Sci-fi and are not watching this, you need to. If you like Sci-fi and are reading this and think my praise of the show is misplaced because you couldn't get through the first few episodes, I urge you to try again. This show is smart and visually pleasing. The near future version of space travel and combat are well conceived in the novels and executed well on the screen.

The Expanse on TV gets a solid.....
4 out 5 Skulls of My Enemies!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Why Pulp Fiction?

Escapism is all around us. Today society has myriad forms of entertainment ranging from the written word to the moving picture. We live in a world that has made all of this entertainment and escapism accessible to the masses.

Stories have always been important to us. Since the dawn of man we have found ways to record our exploits and our heroics, but until the modern era these stories were told by word of mouth or perhaps through expensive reproductions laboriously copied by hand on vellum.

Paper, in the Western world at least, wasn’t really needed until the invention of the printing press in 1450. Suddenly we had the ability to mass produce books, but we still lived in a labor intensive society. We still didn’t have time to sit down and consume entertainment like we do now.

Listen to me talk, I complain about not having enough time to do half the things I want to do. In reality though I could make much better use of my down time. In the middle ages and renaissance, living and working by sunlight or lanterns, I simply would not have. I wouldn’t have the luxury I have now.

Enter the Industrial Revolution. Automation of processes brings workers time and an increase in the standard of life. It gives them, for the first time, the ability to have a sustained ability to consume entertainment. Although I am not going to discuss, or hypothesize as to why, we also see a dramatic increase in literacy. (Devon Lemire, 2012)

Now we have paper, the ability to produce the written word and an audience. What becomes of this? If we type “Penny Dreadful” into google we largely get hits from a TV show called “Penny Dreadful”. This TV show about the weird and dark side of Victorian London takes its name from the widely available cheap literature of the day. These magazines, known as a Penny Dreadful specialized in sensational stories and offered the working class a way to get the written entertainment without having to buy the more expensive novels. You should check out this article for a more in depth look at the Penny Dreadful.

In 1900s United States we see the rise of the pulp magazine. These magazines are the direct successors to the serialized cheap publications that came to be known “Penny Dreadfuls”. The collective name for those publications is a combination of the content and the price, the pulp magazine takes its name from the paper used, which has become synonymous with how the content is generally viewed; cheap, tawdry and of no value.

From the introduction of these magazines in the early 1900s to their demise in the 1950s, a wealth of these magazines were produced, and because of this need for content many people tried their hand at writing. Some created iconic characters that have lasted to this day; Conan, Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Shadow.

In the 1950s rising costs and increased competition from books with higher production quality, television and comic books saw this boom in pulp literary entertainment begin to wane and the majority of the pulp magazine companies going out of business. I found a graph stating that in 1950, 9% of US households had television, and in 1955 it had rise to 64%, by 1965 92% of households had television (Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication). I am sure it’s now close to 100% and although reading is still popular among some, I am sure we all know someone who just doesn't read anymore.

Pulp magazines are often looked down on. Their authors are not held up like “true” authors. They are not typically views as literary masters, or authors that made a contribution. I am not here to tell you that everyone who wrote in a pulp magazine was an expert wordsmith, but to wipe our hands of every author because they were commercial authors being published in the pulps is a disservice to literature. I would argue that these authors writing in the early 1900s have had a significant effect on our culture, as great as any of the large names. They have created ideas and characters that have become our modern heroes, or the basis for them. Who’s work reached a larger audience: Hemingway or Howard, Lovecraft or Lawrence, Steinbeck or Smith?

These magazines defined a large portion of entertainment for the working class for the first half of the 20th century. They were a large part of culture during that time and to ignore their influence on it is folly. The authors of those magazines certainly wrote to get published but that doesn’t make them less. This does not mean that there is not depth in their stories.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Black God's Kiss by CL Moore.

Jirel stands defeated as Joiry is conquered by Guillaume. Captured and imprisoned Jirel escapes and seeks a weapon to exact her revenge. Is revenge worth it at any cost?

Today I want to talk to you about to a pulp author from the 1930s that is new to me and perhaps to you as well. CL Moore was published in the same magazine that published many of Robert E Howard, HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith's stories; Weird Tales. I believe I became aware of CL Moore through CromCast Podcast, and due to their work had a basic idea of the story line of this tale.

The main character is "Jirel of Joiry" a warrior and Lady of Joiry. Although female characters are not unheard of, what sets Jirel apart is that her author was also a woman. Catherine Lucile Moore wrote under the name CL Moore and perhaps this allowed her to get published? This was the 1930s after all. That is supposition on my part as the artists who create the risque covers for Weird tales was also a woman. With that bit of background behind us I thought I would try my hand at a little review of this enjoyable pulp story who's character never rose to the fame of Conan and Robert E Howard or the Cthulhu Mythos and HP Lovecraft.

The Black God's Kiss was published in Weird Tales in October 1934, vol. 24, no. 4. I enjoyed the story and the character of Jirel and will be looking forward to continuing her adventures. I felt it stood on it's own and wasn't just a carbon copy of other heros I had read. It kept me interested as Jirel progressed across her journey with both good visuals and some depth to the story. I highly recommend you pick up this story and give Jirel and CL Moore a try. This was clearly an important character from the time of the pulps that is often overlooked.

The story was enjoyable and it flowed well. I found when I had put it down to go do something else, I was drawn back to the story to find out what would happed to Jirel, clearly the mark of a good tale! There was a few places I had to go back over and re-read to fully comprehend what had happened, but it was very few and I didn't find it hurt my enjoyment of the story. For good or bad depending on your opinion, I felt that CL Moore was less "thesaurasy" than some of the other pulp writers I am familiar with, especially Clark Ashton Smith. I felt this took a little potential flavor out of the story, but substitued it with easy of flow and language across nearly a century.

I think the story was paced well and had a lot of interesting visuals and ideas within it's pages. On it's surface it starts as a simple revenge story, but quickly becomes a question of what is actually worth sacrificing for that revenge. I especially liked this lack of black and white. Revenge wasn't portrayed as a simple right and wrong. Jirel being the hero doesn't instantly make her revenge justified or even a correct course of action. Jirel isn't just a carbon copy of the other Heros of her day, she feels like she has her own motivations, ideas and needs.

"I know. Do you think I'd venture down if I could not be sure? Where else would I find such a weapon as I need, save outside God's dominion?"