Monday, October 09, 2017

Broad influences

What I've read and/or watched recently, and how it can apply to gaming—no matter the genre.  You should cultivate broad influences.  I've heard of people who only read fantasy novels.  I've heard of people who only read D&D novels, fer cryin' out loud.  That boggles my mind.  Anyway, just in the last few weeks:
  • The Black Swan by Rafael Sabatini Everyone should read Sabatini.  This was always one of my favorite novels, but for whatever reason it wasn't available for free in Kindle, so I hadn't read it in many years (I do have hardbound copies of a few novels, printed in the teens and early twenties—almost 100 year old books! now, but much of his best output is available on Kindle for free, since it's public domain now.)  This is a good one, but I think I actually prefer Scaramouche and Captain Blood after having read all three of them again in the relatively recent past.

    Not only is he a truly gifted author in terms of style, but Sabatini is normal, healthy person who can write likable, healthy, heroic characters.  Major Sands is another interesting comic relief and rival, Tom Leach (a fictional counterpart to Edward Teach, obviously) is a truly frightening villain.  As with other Sabatini novels, not only is the confident, heroic, swashbuckling protagonist well done and an archetype that is sadly lacking in much of modern fiction, but the romance between a him and a woman worthy of his attention is something that few people even believe in anymore, I'm afraid.  So, we've got classic protagonist, classic love interest, and a quite clever plot.

    I don't know that all of his novels are equally good.  He wrote a lot, and only a few of them really became big hits back in the day (although almost completely forgotten today).  But I certainly recommend the three mentioned above, and I've heard from my brothers that St. Martin's Summer is just as good, although I haven't yet read it myself.
  • Hatari! Starring John Wayne, Hardy Krueger, Bruce Cabot, Red Buttons, and the ever-lovely Elsa Martinelli.  This is one of my favorite movies of all time, for a variety of reasons.  It's actually surprisingly laid-back and moves somewhat slowly.  The characters amble through the movie offering, often, little more than humorous character vignettes, as there isn't a lot of plot to go on either. So... what's to like?  Well, the premise is both unusual and incredibly intriguing; a bunch of guys who live on a ranch in Africa, running around catching animals for zoos and circuses (for the season portrayed, it's all for the zoo in Basel Switzerland.)  The characters are all very masculine and very likable, and into this mix comes a couple of lovely ladies, leading to what is the only example I can think of a romantic comedy for men.

    I've long been a fan of the idea (sparked by this movie and the brief scene in Jurassic Park II where they do something similar) of a team of guys who do this same work on alien planets with dinosaurs, or other big crazy alien wildlife (thoats, calots, white apes, and zitidars?)  Yet another in the long list of brilliant ideas that I've had and then done absolutely nothing with.  Nigel Marvin's odd dinosaur/nature show Prehistoric Planet has a little bit of this vibe as well, although bowdlerized for a PBS-friendly audience.
  • The Moon Pool by A. Merritt.  I actually just started reading this one, and it's part of a collection I bought for the Kindle on Amazon.  As near as I can tell, it's no longer for sale, but the collection is called 8 Novels + 8 Short Stories, so it's all of his novels and a fair number of his stories—most of his output.  I'll talk more about this when I'm done, but this is something I should have read quite some time ago, I suspect.  As Jeffro has been pointing out for some time, A. Merritt is a true lost classic; more popular in his time then Edgar Rice Burroughs or Robert E. Howard (yet less prolific than either), he can maybe be seen as the true face of the great lost, pre-Tolkien fantasy genre and emblematic of the memory-holed pulp greatness.  As Jeffro said of him: "The most popular story of all time according to the readers of Wonder Stories magazine back before the Campbellian Revolution had fundamentally transformed science fiction? The Moon Pool by A. Merrit. The most popular story that Weird Tales published in its heyday? The Woman of the Wood by A. Merritt. The story selected as the readers’ favorite out of fifty-eight years of Argosy magazine? The Ship of Ishtar… by A. Merritt."

    But again; let me save a more detailed discussion for when I've finished the collection. 
  • SJWs Always Double Down by Vox Day.  If you haven't read the preceding book, you really should—SJWs Always Lie.  It is one of the best, and in fact most useful books ever to come out of political/social non-fiction commentary.  The sequel, which was just released today but which I've already managed to log almost half-read while waiting on some things this morning, is more organizational rather than individual, and is just as highly recommended.
  • Planet Dinosaur, not to be confused with Dinosaur Planet, a similar yet inferior production.  While they're all fairly well done, only about half of the episodes are really worth watching again.  After all, I need it for my Hatari!-Jurassic Park mash-up idea!  A little longer ago, I watched Chased by Dinosaurs, the Nigel Marvin show that followed Walking With Dinosaurs and preceded Prehistoric Park, which put me in the mood.
  • Skull-Face by Robert E. Howard, which I've already talked about a post or two back.
What's coming up in my reading and watching?  I'm actually watching almost nothing that's new on TV, and I can't think of anything that I'm looking forward to seeing in theaters until Thor: Ragnarok comes out in November.  I'll probably eventually see the new Blade Runner movie, although I've always thought the original was curiously over-rated and not actually even a good movie, much less a good sci-fi movie, and I'm sure I'll see Justice League.  So, it's old stuff for me; I've been meaning to rewatch The 13th Warrior for a little while, and I'm trying to decide on some Halloween themed movies that I want to see; maybe the 2010 Wolfman remake, and maybe I'll rewatch Woman in Black so I can finally get around to seeing the sequel.

For reading, I'll finish SJWs Double Down in the next day or two, I imagine, I'll keep chugging away at the A. Merritt collection, although I've got a long way to go there, and I really need to keep at least some progress on my slow-moving reads of The Winds of Gath by E.C. Tubb, Enemy of Man by Scott Moon, and the first Universe in Flames trilogy by Christian Kallias—who I think is probably better as an artist than as a writer.  His book is (so far) pretty amateurish, but his cover art is amazing.  And being amateurish isn't a horrible crime, it's just that with so much to read on my docket, it means that he keeps getting pushed inadvertently to the back burner.  I'm also going to pick up the first couple of Sax Rohmer Fu Manchu books, in my continued exploration of pulp fiction that I'd certainly heard of but which wasn't exactly on my radar before, and I'd love—for that matter—to dive a little bit into some Seabury Quinn.  If that wasn't intimidating enough, a couple of books that are relatively "hot" on my docket include P. G. Wodehouse's William Tell Told Again and some Edgar Rice Burroughs that I've never read before, probably starting with The Outlaw of Torn.  After that, well—even though it's been decades since I read parts of them, I never finished the Caspak series (ERB) or the Mucker series (ERB) or the Moon series (ERB) so I'll need to read them all together in their entirety.  I've been wanting to re-read the Otis Adelbert Kline Mars books, and I've never read his Venus books, although I have them all on Kindle in a collection.  Lin Carter's Zanthadon books I bought in a "megapack"—cheap older books on the Kindle is really a brilliant idea, by the way—and some Thomas Bullfinch and Howard Pyle is high on the list too.  Probably all of these will take a back seat to the new Galaxy's Edge book when it comes out in a couple of weeks, although maybe if I'm truly in the middle of something, I'll finish it before starting that.  I'd actually like to re-read all of that series as a refresher, but I've got too much else to do for that to be a high enough priority to crack into the other things I'm reading.

Sigh.  Too much to read and too little time.  

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