Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reading fail

I gave up on two books I had from the library: Star Wars: Dark Disciple and Cold Dish, the first in the Longmire series.  The second one was the least interesting in terms of why it happened, so I'll get it out of the way first—it was clear that the plot for the novel was used to make one of the episodes of the TV show.  Whether or not it added more or did something else, I'm honestly not that interested.  It would be rehashing a story that I've already just watched recently on Netflix.  That may work for some types of books, but for mysteries, if you've seen the screen adaptation, reading the novel afterwards is usually a let-down.  Nevermind.

Too bad.  I would probably have liked to have discovered the novels before I discovered (belatedly) the show, but it didn't happen that way, and there's no point in wishing for something that didn't happen.

For the Star Wars novel, on the other hand, the story is quite different.  I was initially excited about it because it was based on a number of scripts written by Katie Lucas that were to have been episodes of the phantom Seasons 6 and 7 of The Clone Wars, a show which I greatly enjoyed and still rewatch on occasion (my son has been "marathoning" the episodes for a few weeks now; he's just finished Season 4, I believe.  They're on Netflix in HD which makes it easy and convenient.)  In fact, heck—I was really excited about all kinds of stuff that didn't make it into the season.  The novel was written by Christie Golden.

Instead, and as a result of this abortive attempt to read the novel, I've decided that I'm going to offer my answer to the infamous K. Tempest Bradford challenge.  I'm going go deliberately not read any author who isn't a white, straight male author, who appreciates Western civilization.  At least not without multiple, trustworthy recommendations.

Sure, there's the odd Leigh Brackett or C. L. Moore in the field, but by and large, I find that "diversity" authors do not write about things that I want to read.  Almost every so-called science fiction or fantasy book I've read in the last several years written by a woman has actually been a bodice-ripper romance novel in fantasy or science fiction drag.  And Star Wars: Dark Disciple is no exception.  The official publisher's summary of Dark Disciple is as follows:
"The only way to bring down the dark side's most dangerous warrior may be for Jedi and Sith to join forces.
In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. Despite the powers of the Jedi and the military prowess of their clone army, the sheer number of fatalities is taking a terrible toll. And when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself.
But the ever-elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to bring both sides of the Force's power to bear—pairing brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though Jedi distrust for the cunning killer who once served at Dooku's side still runs deep, Ventress's hatred for her former master runs deeper. She's more than willing to lend her copious talents as a bounty hunter—and assassin—to Vos's quest.
Together, Ventress and Vos are the best hope for eliminating Dooku—as long as the emerging feelings between them don't compromise their mission. But Ventress is determined to have her retribution and at last let go of her dark Sith past. Balancing the complicated emotions she feels for Vos with the fury of her warrior's spirit, she resolves to claim victory on all fronts—a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy . . . and her own doubt."
A more accurate one would be as follows, modified from the publisher's summary to 50 Shades of Grey:
"When self-proclaimed maverick Jedi Quinlan Vos goes to interview young bounty hunter and former apprentice of Count Dooku Asajj Ventress for a startling mission assigned by the council, he encounters a woman who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The naive, emotionally out of touch Vos is startled to realize he wants this woman and, despite her enigmatic reserve, finds he is desperate to get close to her. Unable to resist Vos’s wry humor, wit, and independent spirit, Ventress admits she wants him, too—but on her own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Ventress’s singular erotic tastes, Vos hesitates. For all the trappings of success—her successful bounty hunter business, her own ship, her undeniable skill—Ventress is a woman tormented by demons and consumed by the spectre of the Dark Side. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Vos discovers Asajj Ventress's secrets and explores his own dark desires.
Oh, and they try to kill Dooku, which obviously won't succeed, since he's still kicking around at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith."
Of course, even the official summary hinted at the uncouth romance genre nature of the story. But rather than learn to get better at reading between the lines, I'm just giving up on women writers completely.  It's been at least five years since I read a work by a woman writer that I'm honestly glad I invested the time in reading.  Major let-down.  And I've been let down far too many times now.  I don't want to read a crypto-romance in space or in fantasy drag.  I don't want to read a screed against Western civilization or "the Patriarchy" or white privilege or any other such inane, ridiculous, insulting concepts.  Never again.

So, like I said, I'm countering Bradford's challenge.  I won't read an author who isn't a white, straight, "cismale" writer this year.  I may not read one ever again, and certainly not without a really significant endorsement from multiple, trustworthy sources.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Borrowing from my own past

I totally ditched my old plot outlines for a potential novel set in the DARK•HERITAGE setting.  One of these days, I'm really going to kick myself for not having buckled down, written it, and put it out there on Amazon as a Kindle ebook.  But I've decided that for my first real outing, I needed more compelling characters than the ones I had whipped up, and in looking back at my gaming past, some of the most compelling characters to ever feature in a game I ran are probably the best place to start.

Not saying that I'm going to use them per se, but rather that I think using the core concepts of them is where I want to start.  The following list of misadventures were referred to obliquely in the back stories of Lash and Ricardo, and gives an idea of the kind of people that Scourge and Raimundo will end up being.  Once adapted out of a more overtly D&D-like scenario into my own setting, of course.

  • While at a wharf saloon in Iclezza, Ricardo and Lash brokered a deal with a fight promoter and a goblin prostitue. The details are unclear, but what is known is that at one point they ended up upside down and naked.
  • Ricardo had at least one incident with a cross-dresser in Kadath. 
  • He also had a rather unfortunate incident with a pair of twins in Torregina.
  • Ricardo and Lash once ended up strapped to logs and floating toward the plateau edge in that little town in Nevistimo . Apparently this involved an innkeeper's horny widow that somehow pissed Ricardo off.
  • There was also a time in Iclezza when Ricardo told Lash to do whatever he thought best and two hours later everyone else in the tavern was dead.
  • And there was the time (location unspecified) when Ricardo was apparently keeping a noblewoman distracted while Lash robbed the house . Unfortunately, Her Ladyship the Duchess Borishonova screamed so loud she alerted not only her husband upstairs (busy with his neighbor's daughter), and the neighbor, but most unfortunately that troop of Kisraak's that just happened to be prowling the street, looking for "that cheating hobgoblin and his dandy friend." Lash just about had the safe open, too, when her husband, the daughter, the orcs, and the neighbor all arrived in the study at the same moment. Our heroes were forced to leave town in a manure wagon.
Lash was a hobgoblin con artist, thief and pirate motivated almost solely by greed.  Scourge, of course, can't be a hobgoblin, but I think letting him be a wildling accomplishes much of the same "vibe"—a member of a race typically seen as savage, but cunning and worldly.  His signature weapon (and source of his "name") is a whip, but he also carries plenty of knives and pistols.  He has a history of cat-burglary and general thuggery.

Ricardo, like Raimundo, is equally straight-forward; a dandy, a fop, and yet a sadist and dangerous swordsman, who is motivated almost solely by lust.  I see him as a cosmopolitan fellow, originally from somewhere like Sènt-Haspar, but who's favorite places are the picaresque dens of iniquity of Terrasa or Porto Liure.  He's a spadassin.

For whatever reason, the two of them have been together for almost as long as either can remember, and can't envision capering about the Mezzovian area without each other.  This is perhaps rather ironic, as the fatal flaw of the one character will frequently tend to foil the schemes of the other and vice versa and they argue like the caricature of an old married couple.

But as I cast my net wider towards protagonist archetypes, the notion of two buddy con artists, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby of the Road movies but with more competent action/fighting abilities was the one that appealed to me the most.  And since I had seen that archetype played out in a former game (two, actually) that I'd run, it seemed like the easiest place to start modeling novel characters.