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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Updates

No new card ideas got sent off to WizKids yesterday by me, as I was working on another project instead: updating Doc Nebula's HeroClix House Rules into a full, complete set of game regs, with my own modifications layered on.

Step 1 was globally copying WK's own official rules .pdf. That was easy. Step 2 was going in and editing it -- deleting their rules where I didn't like them and adding in my own where it was appropriate. The result is a master rulebook; not just my modified rules, but everything you need to play, all in one place. (And if you think Step 2 was as easy as it seems when you're just reading about it afterward, well, um, no, not so much. But without electronic files and word processing technology to work from, it's the kind of project that would take years and cost millions of lives, instead of just a little over a day, so I'm grateful that I could do it at all. Now if someone would actually just read the fucker, I'd be ecstatic.)

I realized too late that I should not be deleting WK's original rules where I didn't like them, but probably putting them in parentheses, or a larger font, or something, with a great big "these rules SUCK so I'm not using them" note on them, so people could see what I was taking out, as well as what I was putting in. Unfortunately, I'd already deleted several paragraphs of nonsense about power actions and Soaring characters always being adjacent to grounded characters even though they can never actually attack grounded characters and dumbass horseshit like that, and by the time this occurred to me I couldn't remember exactly what I'd taken out.

I could have gone back and started over, and I considered that for like .09 picoseconds, and then decided that that was a really stupid idea and got over it.

I did, however, put all my additions in bold, so at least people casually scanning (ha ha, yes, I kid myself like this all the time, I know, I know, as if anyone will ever read the crappy thing at all, casually or otherwise) will be able to see those modifications easily. Still, anyone who is very experienced with WK's rules may end up missing where I've removed a great many of them which suck, and think they're still in there sucking. I wish I'd thought of that before I got halfway through with the project, but sometimes I'm just not very smart, and I've had to learn to live with that. Oh, well. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

I also got word yesterday that an entry I'd written for an online short story contest has made it into the final judging. According to the email, the contest received 30 submissions; my story has made it into the final 9. That's nice, I suppose. I never win these things, but at least I'm a better writer than 21 other wannabes out there.

SuperDramaTeen came home from her dad's early last night; as she's eighteen now, she can come and go like the wind, and I guess she's decided to alight here for the next couple of days. I think she likes having two different households she can shuttle back and forth between pretty much at whim. It's nice having her back, for however long she decides to stay this time. Although it does make it harder to get on my X-Box when she's in the house... she bought some extremely violent Mafiosi/fighting game called BEAT DOWN and is practically living with the controller in her hand these days.

Today we all headed over to Frankfort, the state capitol, to get SuperDramaTeen's birth certificate, so we could then get her an adult I.D., so we could then get her minor's savings account closed down and her money transferred into a grown up checking and savings account. A lot of driving hither and yon, quite a few things crossed off the to-do list, a happy oldest stepdaugher and a SuperWife so pleased and proud she's nearly busting open with it. All told, one of my better days lately, although it's certainly not very exciting to the outside eye, I grant you.

I've ground my way through much of the in stack I've had on the back desk since, like, Christmas. I've finished OLD TWENTIETH by Joe Haldeman, THE SKY PEOPLE by S.M. Stirling, and CAMOUFLAGE, again by Joe Haldeman. Right now I'm working my way through RED LIGHTNING by John Varley, which is a sequel to his RED THUNDER, which I read sometime last summer, I believe.

Haldeman and Varley are among my favorite writers, but honestly, I think they're both pretty much coasting on past accomplishments and extremely skilled writing styles these days.

OLD TWENTIETH was just kind of boring; without Haldeman's direct, very precise prose skills pulling me along, I don't imagine I could have gotten more than a third into it. As it was, the settings and characters were all pretty boring and the plot itself never moved very fast, nor did anything much ever happen in it; basically, it was an interesting idea with mediocre execution and a plot twist at the end that I, at least, saw coming for the last seventy pages of the novel.

Varley is very much the same kind of writer Joe Haldeman is, which is to say, they're both very much in the Heinlein school -- direct, bombastic point to point prose, very straightforward, with lots of technical exposition and generally interesting characters doing interesting things in interesting places. Where Haldeman continues to get my business on the strength of books like THE FOREVER WAR, MINDBRIDGE, and ALL MY SINS REMEMBERED -- stuff he wrote like thirty years ago -- Varley is in much the same boat, since I'll buy nearly anything he writes simply because a long time ago, he wrote TITAN, WIZARD, and DEMON. Both Haldeman and Varley have produced some major, major turkeys since -- the WORLDS duology, THE HEMINGWAY HOAX, and the two sequels to the FOREVER WAR are true stinkers Haldeman has penned, while Varley has shat out clunkers like STEEL BEACH and THE GOLDEN GLOBE, and, well, RED THUNDER wasn't such a much, either -- yet I keep reading their new stuff, as hope simply refuses to die. With Haldeman, there's some justification for this, since both BUYING TIME and TOOL OF THE TRADE were pretty good, relatively recent books by him.

With Varley... I dunno. I buy his stuff, it's crappy, and yet, I keep buying his stuff. I think he wrote something about a frozen mammoth I've been smart enough to stay away from, though. RED THUNDER was okay; kind of like ROCKETSHIP GALILEO, but with a more interesting cast and better exposition.

Anyway, RED LIGHTNING isn't bad so far, but it isn't great, either, and that's all I have to say about that.

CAMOUFLAGE was a pretty interesting book and I had a lot of fun reading it. It went fast, almost fast enough to keep me from noticing how stupid a great deal of the plot was, or how much Haldeman was cheating, keeping vital information about certain characters off the radar screen until the last couple of pages, just so we wouldn't know who the villain really was until he was ready to spring it.

In the end, though, all the smooth exposition in the world couldn't hide that the resolution to the big alien vs. alien fight the whole book had built up to was kind of stupid, and the premise of the entire book was even stupider -- yeah, I'll accept that a million years ago, a single representative of one shapeshifting alien race landed on Earth and has been trapped here ever since, going through shape after shape and identity after identity as it slowly learns how to be human... but two of them? Completely unrelated to each other? From entirely different species, both of which are shapeshifters, and both just happen to land on Earth without any knowledge of each other? And one is a vicious psychotic who loves to kill and torture and maim, while the other one is just a confused outsider who gradually learns how to love and be loved?

I don't know. It nearly sounds stupid enough to be something I'd come up with. Haldeman's writing style is so practiced, smooth, and pleasurable to read that he can make nearly anything work while you're reading it (except, maybe, OLD TWENTIETH) but afterwards, the holes in the fabric show pretty badly. To me, at least.

Still, what the hell, it was way better than 1968.

Now, THE SKY PEOPLE -- well, S.M. Stirling is a very prolific author, and this is pretty clearly meant to be a lightweight effort on his part, more a fun little Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche with slightly more sensible physics than a serious piece of work like, I don't know, the Draka books or the Islander trilogy. Within that context, it works just fine -- Earthmen go to Venus and find it's a savage, primitive paradise populated by saurian predators and exotically beautiful humanoids still living in the Stone Age. Whacky adventures (including French saboteurs, cannibal cavemen armed with AK-47s, velociraptors, packs of predatory pterodactyls, gigantic domesticated wolves, and much, much more, all mixed in with lighter-than-airships, which are rapidly coming to be a Stirling staple) ensue. It's a fun romp, if ultimately a pretty shallow one. I find myself looking forward to the second book set in this particular metareality, IN THE COURTS OF THE CRIMSON KINGS, set on a Burroughsian Mars, with reasonable enthusiasm.

Remaining in the pile from Christmas is just the Neil Gaiman anthology, FRAGILE THINGS, which I really should get to next -- it's just that, being a hard cover, it's always on the bottom of the stack, because paperbacks get piled up on top of it. Still, it's got seniority over the two books sitting on top of it, DEAD WATER by Barbara Hambly and RAINBOW'S END by Vernor Vinge. (The former is a Benjamin January novel, so it will almost certainly be good, while the last I can't even remember anything about, but Vernor Vinge hasn't disappointed me yet.)

Aaaaaand... when I start out on HeroClix and end up with what I'm reading lately, you know nobody's going to be reading THIS entry. Ah, well. We go to blog with the army we have, not the army we'd like to have, or something like that.

3 Comments:

At 12:24 PM , Anonymous Always Esteemed Scott said...

Now if someone would actually just read the fucker, I'd be ecstatic.

I have this plan: in about a month my family will be going on a 3 week vacation, two weeks of which will be at various cottages where there will be no TVs or electronic devices of any kind.
We haven't had a lot of time to play Heroclix recently, but I'm thinking that this vacation will present an excellent opportunity to spend some time learning the rules and playing. I'll be printing out these new rules, mark my words.

And one is a vicious psychotic who loves to kill and torture and maim, while the other one is just a confused outsider who gradually learns how to love and be loved?

That sounds rather like a slight variation on THE HIDDEN.

but Vernor Vinge hasn't disappointed me yet.

Really? I read A FIRE UPON THE DEEP several years ago, after hearing Vinge praised to the heavens, and honestly, it didn't do anything for me. Maybe I just didn't, you know, *get* it.
Thinking maybe I was just missing something about the greatness of Vinge, I read A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY last year, and it was even less appealing to me than FIRE. For whatever reason, Vernor Vinge just ain't my thing. Since we generally have fairly compatible taste in books (have you had a chance to read those Dave Duncan books I sent?), I'm curious what it is you like about the guy.

 
At 1:27 PM , Blogger The Bunnyman said...

THE HIDDEN! Ah, yea. Oddly, I was just looking at something about the movie on the web the other night, and raving to SuperWife about how much I like the movie and how badly I want to get a copy on DVD. I used to have it on VHS, and lost it in the Great Pawn Shop Purge of 2000, and have never had a chance to replace it.

What I like about Vernor Vinge isn't either of the two books you mention, which are probably the worst things he has ever written -- I enjoyed them, sort of absently, but to get real yeah strength Vernor Vinge, you need to find THE WITLING, TATJANA GRIMM'S WORLD, TRUE NAMES, THE PEACE WAR, and MAROONED IN REALTIME. That stuff just rocks out loud.

No, haven't gotten to the Duncan stuff yet. As it's a trilogy, it keeps settling to the bottom of the pile. Something to do with molar weight, I guess. I'll get to them, though.

 
At 2:00 PM , Anonymous Always Esteemed Scott said...

THE HIDDEN! Ah, yea. Oddly, I was just looking at something about the movie on the web the other night, and raving to SuperWife about how much I like the movie and how badly I want to get a copy on DVD.

Truly, THE HIDDEN is one of the most underrated sci-fi movies of the '80s; I'd love to have it on DVD myself, but I never see it anywhere. I probably need to amend my list of The Best Sci-Fi movies ever with that one. If I'd known you didn't have a copy of it already, I'd have included in your meager wedding package.

What I like about Vernor Vinge isn't either of the two books you mention, which are probably the worst things he has ever written

That's a relief - those two novels are the only Vinge I've read, and I was truly wondering if there was something wrong in my brain that I didn't dig them the way every one said I should. Now I have on the authority of none other than The Bunnyman that they aren't very good. Cool. I'll check out that other Vinge stuff on your recommendation.

 

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