Lying About the Future, OR Reality is Unrealistic

I've written, to this point, five hard-SF novels, with two more on the way – the Boundary Series (Boundary, Threshold, Portal), the Castaway Planet novels (Castaway Planet, Castaway Odyssey, and forthcoming Castaway Peril), and one tentatively titled Fenrir. As hard-SF novels, I worked hard to make these stories as accurate-to-known-science as I could, within the limits of dramatic necessity and the need to not bore my readers with calculations and details that they didn't really want. But even within hard-SF, the author has to make a lot of [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Holst’s _The Planets_

There are a few classical pieces known to almost everyone; Beethoven's Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance (from graduations everywhere), Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor. Many more are known, but not always immediately recognized by name, as they get played in part or in whole in many different settings. But in the world of SF geeks, there are some with special significance, and of these, few could compete with Gustav Holst's The Planets, a suite of seven pieces each representing one of the major planets (other than [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Watchmen

Alan Moore and David Gibbon's Watchmen is, justifiably, a landmark in the comic-book universe, a carefully-planned attempt to analyze and deconstruct the standard superhero universe while, at the same time, staying true to some of its most powerful tropes. Watchmen was also made into a movie, which in my view managed to stick fairly close to the original miniseries/graphic novel, but of necessity had to cut out some rather important elements (discussed below). If you don't want spoilers galore, don't read any farther! The setting of Watchmen [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Girl Genius

Soldier: Herr Baron! We need you! All the experiments have either been let loose or turned on! And everything's on FIRE! Baron Wulfenbach(facepalming): Unbelievable.   Agatha Clay is having a bad day. In the steampunk city of Beetleburg, where she's a not-very-good student at Transylvania Polygnostic Institute, she encounters a strange electrical anomaly, runs from that, is robbed by two out-of-work soldiers who steal the locket that's her only memento of her parents, and arrives – late – to discover that Baron Wulfenbach, ruler of [ Continue reading... ]

Just For Fun: Tabletop RPGs 2: Effects Versus Causes, OR Why I Hate _Champions_

In my prior RPG discussion I talked about my basic approach to running a game – that the world is the important thing that I'm presenting, and the rules are the tools – often imperfect and clumsy tools – used to help the players (who are stuck in our world) interact with the game world through the characters, who live in the game world. But what makes a game world a functioning world rather than, say, a bunch of settings, people, and things? My simple answer for this is that it is a place with an underlying logic to it. Our world has the [ Continue reading... ]

Just For Fun: Tabletop RPGs – Game Balance OR World Trumps Rules

I've been a roleplaying gamer since 1977, when I first encountered Dungeons and Dragons – unless you count the venerable game of "let's pretend", which I was playing from the time I was 4 or 5, and even had some rules for to minimize the arguments. I discussed my initial encounter with commercial RPGs, and the influence it had on my life, in this prior entry: http://grandcentralarena.com/under-the-influence-roleplaying-games-rpgs/ In this entry, though, I want to talk about running RPGs and how I view this extremely challenging hobbyist [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Calvin and Hobbes

     "Spiff coolly draws his deathray blaster…"   For ten years – starting in late 1985 and going through the end of 1995 – readers of the comic pages were treated to the (mis)adventures of grade-schooler Calvin, his (usually) walking and talking stuffed tiger Hobbes, his long-suffering mother and sometimes clueless father, next-door girl Susie, schoolyard bully Moe, and a host of other chracters in Calvin and Hobbes. Someone growing up after that era – especially today – probably has a hard time understanding the way things worked [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Grand Theft Auto 5 (a partial review)

I was given this game for Christmas (2016) and I suspect that was partially intended as a joke. Nonetheless, I did install and play the game to an extent. This will be a "partial" review because it's extremely unlikely I'll ever play the whole game through, mainly because its basic premise doesn't appeal. Of the two characters I've unlocked and played a bit of so far, one is a basically decent, but apparently kinda weak-willed, young man named Franklin – he seems to know that a lot of the things his friends/acquaintances get up to are Just [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves (the Net): The Arithmancer/Lady Archimedes

As those who know me can attest, I rarely read fanfiction. I've written an awful lot of it (a million words or so with Kathleen in our Saint Seiya/Samurai Troopers/DBZ universe, and more elsewhere), but it's really very infrequent that I find a fanfiction story that is worth my time to read, and most of it is deep in the past, such as Ryan Matthew's Dirty Pair fics or Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Ranma (multiple authors). Harry Potter fandom, by its sheer volume, could be expected to produce a few real gems. Naked Quidditch [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Rogue One

I was at first unsure as to whether I would see this movie, as I am – in general – unenthusiastic about prequels, and I knew this one would be dark (at least for a Star Wars movie). But for the last day of winter vacation I took the whole family to the movies, and this is the one we chose. Capsule Summary: Rogue One tells the story of the events that lead up to the original Star Wars – the people and actions that eventually put the Death Star plans in the hands of Princess Leia Organa. This is a classic war story set in the Star Wars [ Continue reading... ]