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The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum (illus. by Shanower)

An interesting origin story for Santa Claus, though a bit vapid by modern standards. Pretty art, tho'.

Told Under The Christmas Tree, compiled by Frances Cavanah

A perfectly nice 1940s collection of Christmas tales, some religious, some fantastical, some historical.

By Spaceship To The Moon by Jack Coggins and Fletcher Pratt

As mentioned elsewhere, my elementary school had a copy of this (pre-Sputnik) book in its library, and I must have checked it out a half-dozen times. The science holds up pretty well, though the assumption that we would build a space station before attempting the moon didn't come true. The art is marvelous (Google it!). Space travel art that is not intended to be fantastic, but also was created before actual space travel, is a small niche, and it's wonderfully one step to the right of the reality. (See also Chesley Bonestell.)

Weirdworld: Warriors Of The Shadow Realm by Doug Moench et al

Created to cash in on the Tolkien craze, this Marvel comic is an amiable fantasy about two naive elves and their grumpy dwarf friend dealing with assorted crises in Weirdworld. Marvel did not stint on the production values here; several of these stories came out in special editions including copious notes, text features, and maps. Nevertheless, it's all a bit silly, what with islands shaped like skulls and such.

Mister X: The Archives by Dean Motter et al

I bought the original Mister X collection back in the 80s, which included just the first four issues. I always thought it was a delight. This collection includes the following ten issues as well, in which things get increasingly incoherent to no obvious purpose but disorientation. If they're attempting to make the reader feel like one of the citizens of Radiant City, with its mind-altering architecture, well, have at, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the original story.

Grass by Sheri S. Tepper

I heard many good things about this novel. I understand why it gets the praise it does. Nevertheless, I don't think it's my sort of book. I made it halfway through before I admitted that I wasn't enjoying it enough to finish it. So, I skipped ahead, read the last two chapters, and I'm calling it done. Good book, but not for me.
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When I was in grade school back in the 70s, the school library had a pre-Sputnik nonfiction book on space travel. I borrowed it several times, and the pictures engraved themselves in my brain, as such things do.

For decades, I've been idly trying to track down the book, which is tricky, given I didn't remember the title. It wasn't The Conquest Of Space or The Complete Book Of Space. Finally, I followed the right nostalgia-Tumblr, saw a familiar image, Googled it, got a name, and ordered a used copy off of Amazon: By Space Ship To The Moon by Jack Coggins and Fletcher Pratt. Oh yeah, that's the stuff...
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The Last Convertible by Anton Myrer

A "great" American novel about the "Greatest" Generation, but it's mostly about people with poor communication skills making poor decisions. I made it through the war, but stopped reading shortly thereafter.

Worlds For The Taking by Kenneth Bulmer

Honestly, a lot of the reason I bought this was because of the use of the Function Display font on the cover (which Ace used occasionally in the 60s). A rather disturbing take on colonialism, with planets literally getting stolen and moved by the Terran Corps. Also prey to more-than-the-usual foibles of its era; I think I set the book down shortly after, in the middle of a firefight when allies are dying all around him, one of the POV characters takes a moment to sexually harass his communications officer.

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

I love Huff's work, but the starting premise of this book involved generations of people being mind-controlled into forced sex, and I'm not spending any more time with that.
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Pathfinder Tales: Pirate's Honor and Pirate's Promise by Chris A. Jackson

The first two tales of Captain Torius Vin and the Stargazer, pirates of good repute in the world of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. Entertaining, and written by someone who actually knows his way around ships! I've introduced them as background NPCs in the game I'm GMing.

The abc's Of Model Railroading

A collection of articles from circa 1978, I picked it up for nostalgia purposes. (My father and I were briefly into model rail around that era.) Vastly out-of-date in many ways, and the variety of articles highlighted how I'm way more interested in some aspects of the hobby than others.

The Darksword Trilogy: Forging The Darksword by Weis & Hickman

I read the first two novels in this series in 1988 (while in Army job training), and never finished the trilogy. I re-read this one in part to see if it was worth finishing. While it's perfectly competent 1980s fantasy (with some imaginative worldbuilding), it doesn't quite cross that threshold. Brief synopsis: In a world where anyone born without magic is killed at birth, the emperor's son is born thus "Dead". An appropriate number of years later, a mysterious young man starts getting in the way of the plans of the powerful and treacherous, and learns the ways of "technology". Mildly entertaining.

Blades In The Dark by John Harper

A fantasy RPG, combing an adjacent-to-the-Apocalypse system with a Thief: The Dark Project setting. The system owes a great deal to Apocalypse World, including standard moves available to all PCs, and special playbooks for specific classes. Also, an emphasis on the GM rolling dice as little as possible, "success with cost" as a basic mechanic, etc. It also has some brilliant rules for handling capers and planning, preventing the time-waste of making a plan when you know something is going to go wrong. The setting is a dark fantasy city, in which the party are criminals on their way up through carefully organized tiers and structures of the underworld. Highly recommended.

D&D: Tales From The Yawning Portal

A collection of D&D dungeons across the decades, adapted for fifth edition. It includes four dungeons from 1978-1981, two from 2000, and one from 2014, which is an interesting spread. I'm dubious that literally nothing from the 90s deserved inclusion, but there are probably publishing realities I'm not privy to. Anyway, many of these are absolute classics Like Tomb Of Horrors and White Plume Mountain, and even the recent ones like Sunless Citadel have some claim to being classics. Recommended.
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Some thoughts on the fantasy genre, particularly loosely-Tolkienian stuff.

Fantasy stories are set on Earth, or not set on Earth. (There's certainly a gray area, especially prior to the 20th century, but anyway.)

If they're not set on Earth, the world nevertheless usually has a lot in common with Earth. E.g., humans, horses, breathable air, oceans, a day-night cycle of about 24 hours, a year of about 365 days, stars, and a sun.

Where the sticking point often comes is with the Moon. All those things above, while Earth-like, could just be "coincidental" similarities. The Moon, by contrast, is a unique object, and if the moon in the fantasy world is the same as Luna, then your setting is Earth.

However, if you make a big point of the moon being different, or absent, or having several of them, you've brought in the conscious awareness of the world as a planet, which gets people thinking of science fictional tropes. Which, ideally, you'd like to avoid in most fantasies.

(D&D settings are usually okay with this, because D&D has had science-fantasy in it since day two.)

I'm thinking of this while reading Robin Hobb's Elderling books, where there is a moon, but we get only vague hints about it, probably due to her awareness of the above issues.

Anyhoo, just noodling.
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Apocalypse World 2e by D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker

This is the second edition of an influential roleplaying game. The setting is Mad Max-y, mixed with other post-apocalypse media. The system is strongly class-based, with such classes as the Chopper, the Driver, and the Battlebabe. Each class gets their own special powers, and the primary mechanic is rolling 2d6+stat, where "stat" can be either something resembling the stats from other games, or the strength of a relationship, or something else more situational. (To my tepid amusement, this edition never gets around to saying "the basic roll is 2d6". You have to deduce that from scattered hints.) Unusually, the GM never rolls dice; players roll to attack or defend, but the GM just declares situations. Recommended!
The core system of highly-specific-to-genre stats, class-based powers, relationships as stats, etc., has been adapted into other games, such as:

Dungeon World by LaTorra & Koebel

D&D, as Powered By The Apocalypse. This game manages to faithfully embody many of the cliches of D&D, while simultaneously making you look at them in all-new ways. Unlike old AD&D, where the rulebooks seemed to focus on whatever had caught Gygax's eye that day, this game narrows its gaze on the meat of dungeon adventuring. Its handling of "fronts" (the big threats that face the world) is incredibly useful and insightful. Recommended.

Farflung: Sci-Fi Role-Play After Dark by Wallebhaupt et al

This is a posthuman, end-of-time, high space operatric weirdness SF game, Powered By The Apocalypse. Its focus is more vague than the previous two games, since there's a lot of different ways to play SF, but it still brings some good insights to the table. It certainly doesn't stint on anything, including 11 base stats of various sorts (six proper attributes, three kinds of hit points, and two power pools), and a couple dozen classes. The attributes are named top, bottom, strange, charm, up and down, which I find simultaneously twee and inspiring. (I'm noodling a game where your stats are based on the seven operations of alchemy.) The art has a tendency to drift toward the kinky, which may be a plus or minus in your eyes. And, I rather like the underlying system of fueling your powers by turning future into history, which can then be used to inspire people you have a history with. Mildly recommended.

Scooby Apocalypse by Giffen, DeMatteis, and Porter

And what if Scooby was a genetic experiment, Velma was a mad scientist, Daphne was an investigative reporter, and the setting was Burning Man on the day the crypto-zombie apocalypse started? Calling this a darker and grittier reboot is vastly oversimplifying: It's weirder, and bloodier, and isn't afraid to look into the gang's souls. I'm on board for the ride.

X-Men: Lonely Are The Hunted by Thomas, Roth, Heck, and Tuska

This is a fat collection of late-1960s X-Men adventures, long before Wolverine and Storm, but after Lee and Kirby. It features the Factor Three saga, the first appearance of Banshee, and a couple sets of new costumes. Mildly recommended to fans.

Batman And The Outsiders by Barr and Aparo

Batman quits the Justice League and forms his own team of heroes, including Black Lightning, Halo, Metamorpho, and the brand-new character Katana, who has gone on to be DC's most prominent female Asian hero. She is both somewhat cliched — Japanese samurai with dark past, magical sword, strong sense of honor — and refreshingly different from so many other female heroes, in that she's fully dressed, her top isn't skintight, no-one spends any time ogling her, she's a widow, and her role in the team is "big sister". It was good to see the origins of this team, and the handling of Batman's secret ID is fun. Mildly recommended.

Reasons

Apr. 5th, 2017 10:49 am
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While I encourage people to investigate and discuss the new LiveJournal Terms Of Service, and come to their own conclusions about them, I decline to further discuss my own reasoning for switching from LJ to DW.

(This is why I closed comments on my last LJ post.)
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Well, after 14 years, the newest Terms Of Service for LJ have me switching to Dreamwidth.

I'm "woodwardiocom" over there, too.
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Thanks (predominantly) to changing my diet, and attendant weight loss, my A1C is now down to 5.8, which means I am no longer diabetic (in the sense that carbs and sugar won't send my glucose skyrocketing).

I still need to keep the weight off, or my insulin resistance will return, but it means an occasional splurge won't disintegrate my retinas...
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Octavia Butler's best work?
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Dehliah Dirk And The King's Shilling
All-New Captain America: Hydra Ascendant by Remender, Immonen
Swords Of Sorrow by Gail Simone and many more
Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology, edited by Sfé R. Monster
The Sleeper And The Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic
How To Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps by Jared Blando
Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley
Spacewreck: Ghostships And Derelicts Of Space by Stewart Cowley
The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb (3 books)
Dragon's Winter and Dragon's Treasure by Elizabeth A. Lynn (2 books)
A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel by L'Engle, Larson
The Emerald Key by Daigle and Sternberg
The Kobold Guide To Worldbuilding, edited by Janna Silverstein
Memories Of The Future by Wil Wheaton
A Million Little Bricks by Sarah Herman
The Burning City by Niven & Pournelle
Detour To Otherness by Kuttner & Moore
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Existence by David Brin
Hedy's Folly by Richard Rhodes
Gentleman Jole And The Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb (3 books)
Bitch Planet by Deconnic & De Landro
Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson
The Compleat Enchanter by deCamp and Pratt
Under The Green Star by Lin Carter
The Gates Of Creation by Philip José Farmer
The Goblin Tower by L. Sprague deCamp
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
Rise Of The Robotariat: Tales From The Front Lines by Jule Pattison-Gordon
The Art Of Language Invention by David J. Peterson
The Victorian Bookshelf: An Introduction To 61 Essential Novels by Jess Nevins
Off The Main Sequence by Robert A. Heinlein
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
Star Wars: Red Harvest by Joe Schreiber
The Watcher In The Shadows by Chris Moriarty
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Tales From Super-Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg
Legend Of The Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka
Ombria In Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
The Ballad Of Black Tom byVictor LaValle
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
The Jewels Of Paradise by Donna Leon
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, v2 by William H. Patterson, Jr.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Hellboy In Hell by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart
The Burning Realm by Michael Reaves
Unbound by Jim C. Hines
The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton
Snuff by Terry Pratchett
The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
The Buried Life by Carrie Patel
Hoka by Anderson and Dickson
It's Superman by Tom De Haven
The End Of All Things by John Scalzi
Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949)
Science Fiction Adventures In Dimension, edited by Groff Conklin
Deep Space by Eric Frank Russell
The Falling Torch by Algis Budrys
Get Off The Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey

The raw count is 68. Rounding down a bit for comics and books unfinished, that's comparable with last year. (I'd forgotten how fast I tore through six Robin Hobb books. Better order the next trilogy or two...)
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Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949)

It's been long enough since I read this anthology that I don't specifically remember any of the stories.

Science Fiction Adventures In Dimension, edited by Groff Conklin

Ditto.

Deep Space by Eric Frank Russell

Ditto, tho' this is a collection. (Abridged from the original collection.)

The Falling Torch by Algis Budrys

Nominally about freeing an occupied Earth, actually about Budrys' father and occupied Lithuania. Contains a lot of political philosophy, some minor action, and a complete unwillingness to deal with the multi-year journey from Alpha Centauri to Earth. (The story is explicit about it taking years, but skips over it like it was a week or so.)

Get Off The Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey

A re-read. Some good stories, some whose sexual politics have slid into "completely creepy" over the decades.
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The Buried Life by Carrie Patel

Interesting post-apocalyptic murder mystery-slash-political drama, vaguely steampunky. Recommended.

Hoka by Anderson and Dickson

On its face, cute retellings of stories and history using sentient alien teddy bears as main characters. On a moment's reflection, it's about the destruction of local culture by colonists, and even uses the phrase "Earthman's burden", while trying to make it look cute. And the very first female character is introduced breast-first, which counts for at least two strikes with me, by itself. Yech.

It's Superman by Tom De Haven

Aggressively Depression-era retelling of Superman's origin. Different enough from the thousand other retellings to be interesting, and entertaining in its own right. Recommended.

The End Of All Things by John Scalzi

A climax, and probably conclusion, to the Old Man's War universe, with humanity tracking down plots and perfidy in an attempt to survive. Nth in a series, recommended.
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I remain terribly behind on reviews, so brevity is the soul of gettin' it done.

The Burning Realm by Michael Reaves

Sequel to The Shattered World, an imaginative not-derivative-of-Tolkien fantasy. Recommended.

Unbound by Jim C. Hines

The secret that magic comes from books is out, and it's causing oodles of problems. Third in a series, recommended, not least (nor most) for including polyamory.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton

I get a bit tired of Hamilton's tendency to include crypto-fantasy in the middle of his space operas, but the creepy reveal towards the end of this one makes up for a lot. Set in a multibook universe, recommended.

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Far from the best Discworld novel, but I was entertained.

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Steampunky first in a series of (possibly post-apocalyptic) fantasy, with nicely detailed airship battle tactics. Recommended.
woodwardiocom: (Me Turtleneck 1)
Consider, a retelling of Groundhog Day, in which our hapless protagonist, A) has a modern cell phone, which B) is affected the same way he is. (E.g., if he takes a photo on one day, it's still there the next.)

Speculate.
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Tales From Super-Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg

Super-Science Fiction was one of the pulpiest of the pulps, and ran for 18 issues in the mid-1950s. Silverberg was a regular contributor, and was tapped to edit this collection. Many of the stories are fun, and many are mortifying. My rose-colored glasses and fondness for undersized hardcovers keeps it on my shelf.

Legend Of The Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka

First in a long-running series of space operas (adapted into a long-running anime series, allegedly due for American release), this is a satisfying start to an epic of gray vs. grey battles, with some reasonably believable tactics (that aren't just wet navy tactics in space).

Ombria In Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip

An intriguing fantasy of palace politics, and the borderland between reality and myth. Memory, wax, and charcoal mix and merge.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A young girl is admitted to the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy, but it means giving up her family and dealing with the pervasive racism of the world outside. Then she is touched by the war... Well-deserving of its Hugo.

The Ballad Of Black Tom byVictor LaValle

"The Horror At Red Hook" is one of Lovecraft's most racist stories, and that's a high bar. This is the story told from the other side, addressing and deconstructing the racism from the POV of the protagonist, a black entertainer who gets hired by the sort of fools who invite the attention of elder gods... Recommended.

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Second in her Broken Earth trilogy, this volume is not quite as strong as the first, but it's certainly still good. The world is falling apart, and our protagonists are trying to hold together the last fraying bits of civilization, while also learning their real capabilities in the shards of their broken families. Entirely recommended.

The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Heaven knows I tend to collect things, and letting go is a skill I'm slowly learning. A lot of the advice in this book is quite good, some is a touch twee, and I'm not yet able to apply it all, but it's still good stuff.

The Jewels Of Paradise by Donna Leon

This novel drifted into our house by chance, and I gave it a shot. It's nominally about a historian doing some research on a classical composer, so as to clear up an issue of inheritance. The pace is slow, and little of actual interest happens. A lot of the book is a rather fetishistic depiction of Venice, in an "Oh god, how could I possibly live in Paris or London after having lived in Venice?" way. Not recommended unless you have a specific interest in the topic.

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, v2 by William H. Patterson, Jr.

At the end of the first volume, I still kind of liked Heinlein. By the end of this one, I wanted to shake him. As a military man myself, I think I've identified how he went wrong. Military training involves a lot of, basically, brainwashing. In particular, being told that because of your service you are set apart from civilians. They need your protection; while you are polite to them, you are their betters. Heinlein was a naval officer, which is all that to the Nth degree. His plan was to be the captain of a ship, and a captain of a ship at sea is as close to God as you get in terms of autocratic authority and power (in the eyes of naval officers, at least). Then, of course, he got sick, got kicked out of the Navy, and spent the rest of his life with a sort of stunted superiority complex. (His utter disdain for "getting a real job" is clear through both volumes.) Because he was both very smart and very talented, this was not always a problem, but I don't recall any point where he ever admitted to error without blatant reality smacking him in the face, and his willingness to accept propaganda from the US military led him astray an awful lot. He simply didn't have a mechanism for accepting constructive criticism, and he judged others (especially foreigners) by how well they served him. There's also a frequent refrain, regarding his more pedagogical books, that their tendency to be misunderstood was always failures of the students. Well, no, if the common factor in all these failures is the teacher...

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

The first volume of The Expanse, and a rousing adventure it is. A Solar System full of tension is pushed into war by assorted machinations and an awful little McGuffin. Our heroes are flawed nobodies thrust into prominence, and some handle it better than others. The TV series is quite faithful, and I recommend both formats.

Hellboy In Hell by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart

We've long known Hellboy was the son of a devil, and here he finishes his strange journey past death into something resembling peace. I had the privilege of co-authoring the Hellboy RPG, and thus have a lot of fondness for Red. I'm going to miss him.
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Today is Rabbit Hole Day, in which one would normally make a post from a strange alternate world you might live in.

Unfortunately, the most obvious alternate world cuts way too deep.
woodwardiocom: (Me Back BW)
I'm going to be eating better in 2017.

This is not entirely optional. I was recently diagnosed as diabetic (type II), and thus my long-term health is extremely dependent on keeping my blood sugar down. Fortunately, I was apparently on the right track even before my diagnosis, having dropped some weight over the past year through nowt but paying more attention to my food. I've lost more weight since the diagnosis, and am now approaching new-pants-and-belt territory, and firmly a resident of haven't-worn-these-jeans-in-years land.

I'm being very conscious of carbs, and avoiding sweets, and as of today my glucose numbers have been green for two solid weeks. Giving those things up has not been easy (I could totally murder some french fries), but it also hasn't been as hard as I feared. I can keep this up.

Diabetes is genetic, so while my bad habits certainly brought my condition to the fore, it was there all along. I'm posting about it publicly out of a desire to de-stigmatize the condition.

Here's to a new year, with new challenges, and may we rise to meet them.
woodwardiocom: (Me Turtleneck 1)
My Arisia schedule, as recently revised:
  • Saturday 10am: Building Healthy Gaming Communities. (Panelists will discuss how the gaming community can encourage participation, growth, and respectful debate.)
  • Saturday 11:30am: RPGs Old Enough To Run For Congress. (Nostalgia and history panel.)
  • Saturday 7pm: Another Look At the Bad Old Days. (A lot of SF has aged very badly. Moderating.)
  • Saturday 8:30pm: The Games That Made Us. (Is there a game that changed everything, that inspired or connected with you in an unexpected way? Moderating.)
That's gonna be a busy, and interesting, Saturday.
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