On My Shelves: Pandora’s Legions

  As I mentioned back in my discussion of Doc Smith, when I was in 6th grade my teacher Mr. Dickinson gave me two SF books to read. One of them, Second-Stage Lensmen by Doc Smith, transformed my world forever. The other was only lesser by comparison with the titanic effect of Doc's work, for it was a truly worthy work by itself: was Pandora's Planet, the earlier edition of the book reissued by Baen as Pandora's Legions.   Pandora's Planet was the first story I ever encountered which was told from the point of view of the alien [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: Isaac Asimov

  The First Law: A robot may not harm, nor through inaction allow to come to harm, a human being. The Second Law: A robot must obey the orders of a human being, where those orders do not conflict with the First Law. The Third Law: A robot must act to protect its own existence, where this will not conflict with the First or Second Laws.        Isaac Asimov was the only one of the Big Three (Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke) that I ever actually saw in person. It was at a talk whose subject I don't even really recall, but I do remember [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Deed of Paksenarrion

         The Paladin: one of the most commonly reviled or mocked character classes in Dungeons and Dragons, a Paladin is a warrior who fights for the sake of their deity, gaining certain mystical abilities from their god in return. Often depicted as the classic Knight in Shining Armor, Paladins in RPGs often were played as either Lawful Stupid (so goody-two-shoes that they could be easily suckered into lethal confrontations), or as arrogant Knights Templar, well-intentioned extremists willing to go to ANY lengths to accomplish what [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: Eric Flint

            I've described elsewhere on the site how I managed to end up getting published through the clever strategem of insulting the editing skills and moral choices of Eric Flint in his editing of the James Schmitz reissues. Here, I want to talk about the influence Eric has had on me outside of that specific sequence of events.        People who read some of my older postings (in the 90s and before) would likely see, at some point, my mentioning that I wouldn't detail some particular idea because I intended to use it in my [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Schlock Mercenary

  Unnamed amorphous creature:"Hi, I'm here to enlist." Der Trihs: "You can't. You're not human. You see, little fella, we don't do sociological stuff like 'Interspeciated Workplaces'. We're a crack team of space mercenaries. We do 'hurting people' and 'breaking things'." Amorphous creature (taking a plasma cannon from its own mouth and pointing it at Dehr Trihs): "Sounds like my kind of fun." Der Trihs: "When can you start?"        I don't remember who first pointed me at Schlock Mercenary, but that's how it starts; the [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: The Arduin Grimoires

       Back in the ancient days of roleplaying games, Dungeons and Dragons was pretty much the only game in town, a game consisting of three little booklets: Men & Magic, Monsters and Treasures, and The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures, followed a bit later with the supplements Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldritch Wizardry.        But one day, I joined a game with a GM – John Robb – who was using a new book: like the others, it was a staple-bound pamphlet-style book with a sort of buff-colored cover, on which was a warrior [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Ophidian Conspiracy

       Written by John F. Carr, The Ophidian Conspiracy is one of the least-known SF novels (from a major publisher) that I've encountered. I have a battered, yellowing copy that I picked up somewhere – don't even know where or when, exactly. I cannot find the book at present, and it is so little known that specifics of the book cannot be found on the internet, so this review will lack specific names. If I find the book again I'll edit this review to have the character names and other appropriate details.        Its obscurity is [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Chrono Cross

  I have mentioned previously that I consider Chrono Trigger one of the greatest videogames ever made. One can imagine my anticipation, then, when finally, after several years, a sequel to Chrono Trigger was announced. I reserved Chrono Cross and played it as soon as it came out.   As I mentioned in my discussion of Chrono Trigger, I found Chrono Cross disappointing as a sequel; basically it undid or made worse than useless the achievements of your original group of heroes in Chrono Trigger. I had hoped for an actual sequel that [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: Godzilla

         One dull, rainy weekend in the early 1970s, when I was living in Latham, NY,  my brother and I were bored, and my father turned on the TV and checked what was on. This didn't take long, since we could receive exactly 4 channels – Channel 13 (CBS), Channel 10 (NBC), Channel 6 (ABC), and Channel 17 (PBS).        He stopped at one and settled back in his chair. "I think you'll enjoy this."        At first we didn't get it. It was a bunch of Japanese people, occasionally with a guy I recognized as usually playing [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Vision of Escaflowne

  "Was it all just a dream? Or maybe a vision... no, it was real!"        While there have been some strong contenders in the last ten years, no anime has yet managed to take the crown of "Best Anime Series" from the one, the only, the incomparable Vision of Escaflowne.        Budding track star Hitomi Kanzaki is apparently an ordinary girl, aside from her amazing fleetness of foot and an uncanny ability to read accurate futures from tarot cards. During a practice race, she has a sudden vision of a strange young man, and [ Continue reading... ]