The Programming Continues Apace

O daughter mine insisted that I watch this stunning and brave take down of the much ballyhooed vidya, Life is Strange, as reviewed by the incomparable E;R.  If you’ve seen his next level Plinkett take-down of Star Wars, The Cancer Years, then you already know to brace yourself for the bad language and highly controversial noticing of things we aren’t supposed to notice in these enlightened days.  He does a great job, but misses one very important subtlety to this game.  Watch first, or skip it, I’ll cut to the chase below the fold.

The whole point of the entire…game…?…is to deliver you to one single decision point.  Murder your horrible friend or murder the entire town.  That’s it.  That Sophie’s choice is the whole point of the game, and it is as subtle as it is evil.

First things first, the game is a long string of decision points, many of which represent that exact same dichotomy.  False choices that force the player to decide who dies and who dies.  Neat huh?  The big whammy occurs regardless of the choices you make, and only after a whole lot of time invested in the game.  The big choice waits until you throw in the towel and can’t even imagine cutting the Gordian knot of that fateful ultimate choice.

This whole game is predicated on training the player’s mind to become increasingly comfortable making “lesser of two evil” choices.

As Wikipedia puts it:

The lesser of two evils principle (or lesser evil principle and lesser-evilism) is the principle that when faced with selecting from two immoral options, the one which is least immoral should be chosen.

(Brief aside: Normally, I’d use the Infogalactic entry, but Infogalactic makes a subtle but important distinction by using the word ‘harmful’ in the place of ‘immoral’.  If you don’t already, you’ll understand the importance of that word change shortly.)

Life is Strange represents nothing more than one giant argument for relative morality, which is itself one giant argument for no such thing as morality.  And it does it in a very circumspect manner.  It never comes right out and expresses the idea that one should always be running their choices through a calculus of relativity, but by designing the game in this manner, they’ve boiled the universe down to a constant stream of, “which sin should I commit here?” decisions.  It demands the player chuck any semblance of principles straight out the window in favor of expediency and in-the-moment feelz.

That calculus is like a cancer that infects your thought processes if you don’t prune it on a regular basis.  It starts with a game like this, but it infects your thinking until you consider an infant’s death a fair trade for its mother’s financial well being.  Or the ruin of a stable North African nation a good price to pay for choking Europe with a flood of vibrant diversity.  Or the costs of invading a Middle-Eastern nation on false flag pretexts worth living in a world where…you know, something something it’s all Bush’s fault anyway.

People who play Life is Strange are training their minds to run through those channels, to reject any sort of principles or even a belief in any sort of underlying truth.  It’s sick and twisted and just one more sign of how low the post-modernists have driven our culture.  Yes, our culture – this stupid game is much beloved by the sorts of anti-West media types responsible for ruining everything from movies to film to literature to…well, video games, of course.

As with most games built by SJWs and leftists in general, the only way to win…is not to play.  That goes for you and your kids, and if your kids have already played the game, show them E;R’s review – it won’t just make them laugh, it will make them think, and that’s something that the makers of Life is Strange never intended.

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Too Hot for Prime Time

This little bit of meme magic was meant for a recent Castalia House article that veered off in a different direction than intended.  Since it didn’t match the new thrust of the article, it has languished, alone and unloved, on my drive.  It’s really too good not to share, though.

Now might be a good time to sign up for my newsletter.  (See the top right sidebar for the link.)  You get a free novella, and pretty soon I’ll be sharing the artwork for the cover of my next novel pretty soon.  It’s a bit of a departure from my normal pulp style, but fans of E. Z. Sudden will appreciate it.


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Adventure Constant, The Dead Tree Version

Great news for you adventure fans that prefer the touch of good old fashioned pulp in your hands when you read your good old fashioned pulp adventures.  My latest novel, Adventure Rising, is now available in dead tree format.  Jack Dashing (kind of) returns to action in this sequel to his first thrilling escapade, Adventure Constant – a book reviewers have loved.

Check out this review from Guy Buttersnaps:

[It’s] got everything a reader could want: sword fights, espionage, crocodile men, and spaceflight. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

The sequel features a much more intimate look at the New York City of a parallel world where things are much darker, much more grim, and where it takes a hero like Jack Dashing can make a difference.  Whether you love New York City for its vibrant bustle, or roll your eyes at its smug sense of superiority, you’ll get a kick out of the Big Apple in Adventure Rising.

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Cirsova 7 Triple Play

The last three stories in this spring 2018 edition of Cirsova are shorter works that make for a welcome change of pace. The earlier stories in the issue bring the emotional heat or the high-stakes adventure, but there’s more to life than pathos and pulse pounding adrenaline. Putting the two lightest stories back to back strikes me as an odd decision. One of the selling points of Cirsova is the eclectic nature of the stories it contains. Each issue represents a grab-bag of fun fiction that runs the gamut, and that “box of chocolates life” approach serves it well. Sliding one of these light pieces in between a couple of heavier works would help serve as a palate cleanser to help those of us who read the collection straight on through decompress after the heady wine of a Machu Hampacchu or the dark sliminess of The Iynx.

If you’re a fan of sci-fi then you are familiar with the trope of a massively powerful galactic civilization meeting humanity for the first time. That central premise lies at the heart of Criteria for Joining the Galactic Community, by Michael Tierney, and in fine traditional form, the President of the United States finds himself Earth’s unexpected ambassador. In a compact story like this, one gag is enough, but Tierney manages to squeeze in a nice one-two punch with a deft touch of humanity for a President in way over his head. He also does it without the sort of cheap shot political theater that would bury the story under a pointless virtue signal. Another point in this story’s favor.

Anna and the Thing, by Abraham Strongjohn starts off as a typical sci-fi bounty hunter struggling to bring his beautiful target back alive without getting killed in the process. The set-up is standard, though well executed, and fits in perfect with a couple of the earlier stories in this issue. The resolution hits the reader with a nice little curve ball that in the hands of a lesser writer would feel cheap. Given the skill with which Strongjohn slings words, it works.

My Name is John Carter (Part 6), by James Hutchings rounds out the issue with the usual celebration of masculine adventure told in fine traditional mythopoetic form. If the choice were mine, Hutchings would serve as this nation’s poet laureate, and we’d see a lot more epic ballads proclaiming the greatness of the American system and way of life – including poems about clean limbed warriors and hot chicks with long blades and radium guns fighting alien hordes on far flung frontiers – and a lot less of that free verse nonsense you get from celebrated hacks like Angelou.

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Blooded, A Chuck Dixon Novel

“He left the bar with a girl he didn’t know for the wildest night, one that would never end, of his life. Her gift to him was immortality. The gift came with a price: a diet of human blood.

Forget capes, coffins, bats, wooden stakes, and garlic. Follow a former real estate salesman on a journey that begins with his death and leads to a life of a living dead full of hunger, hunting, and betrayal.”

Intrigued by a down to earth vampire story that treats vampirism as the curse that it would really be?  Don’t have time to read even a short novel like this?  Stuck in traffic?  What are you waiting for?  More rhetorical questions?  Get off your butt and pick up a copy of the audio book of Chuck Dixon’s Blooded, and brace yourself for the kind of high energy and verisimilitudinous vampire book that doesn’t belong on the Romance shelf.

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The Toads of Machu Hampacchu

My expectations of this story were low for no other reason than the title. Something about the name “Machu Hampacchu” just doesn’t work for me. It’s the kind of name I’d expect to see in a satirical Lovecraft story about a ruined city of pig worshipping luchadores. That’s probably just me, and I’m happy to report that the title doesn’t do the story itself justice.

Louise Sorensen takes us back to the Deodanth, a city of that ancient time in earth’s history when no-fooling Elder Things walked the planet and flew the not-so-friendly skies. Having killed an Elder Thing back in Issue Five, Darla decides to lay low for a while by guiding a small cadre of clueless Strangers – humans not of Deodanth to a ruined city on the slopes far below.

It doesn’t work.

It turns out that leaving a city lost in the mists of time by hiding out in the ruins of an even older city that was itself lost in the mists of that first city’s time is a lot like jumping out of a leaking boat into the safety of the waiting jaws of an alligator. Or perhaps that should be the waiting jaws of a frog god. Darla and her companions run afoul of the things worshipped by the people of that ruined city, which in fine tradition means waking a slumber god.

As with many of the Eldritch Earth stories of Issue 5, The Toads of Machu Hampacchu is kind of hard to follow. Not for the plotting or the events, but by dint of the sheer alienness of the setting. Told in the first person by a native of the strange time and place, the descriptions of the setting and events are chock full of holes borne of the assumption that you know what Darla is talking about despite the eons between her writing and your reading. It lends the story an airy dreaminess that enhances the weirdness of the story in a completely natural way. Louise’s writing here reminds me a lot of that of Dominika Lein’s.  If you’re read her works, you know what I mean.

That dreamy quality also takes what could have been a cliched resolution of the showdown at the end of the tale and turns it into something uncannily unknowable. Sure, twas beauty that slayed the beast, but in a way that makes just enough sense to be understood without making enough sense for it to feel natural.

And that’s a nice spin on the elder days.

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Gomers: A Tale of the Zombiepocalypse

Zombie fans, your listening options got bigger.  Audible now brings you Chuck Dixon’s Gomers, the story of one family of wandering grifters, two nerds, one hardened vet, and the dog that brings them all together.  Voiced by the always entertaining ME, the end of the civilized world never sounded so good.

Like most zombie stories, this one features a gang of survivors worse than the zombies.  Unlike most zombie stories, this one does not feature survivors who take turns carrying an idiot ball just to ensure drama happens on schedule.  The fully fleshed out characters all take the end of the world as seriously as you would, and any mistakes they make are the sort of understandable ones that a reasonable person might make in such dangerous situations.  Give it a listen, you won’t be disappointed.

And if you like this, stay tuned – there’s more on the way soon!

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All Aboard the Bloglovin’ Express

My blog reading has fallen apart ever since I began my 2018 migration away from Google.  That includes leaving blogger in the rear view mirror, and it’s high time to fix that.  Never one to ask others to do what I won’t – and by popular demand by a few loyal readers – I’ve added this site to the Bloglovin’ service.   Hopefully this makes your life a little easier, too.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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Cirsova 7 – The Great Culling Emporium

Aw yeah, this is what it’s all about.

Marilyn K. Martin writes science fiction adventure the way it was meant to be written.  To call “The Great Culling Emporium” the story of a bounty hunter grabbing his prey in the midst of a neutral bazaar is as accurate as it is misleading.

Science fiction writers have to walk a metaphorical tightrope.  Future tech needs to be advanced and alien enough to feel like something more than just “a Mauser pistol, but with red LEDs”, and at the same time it has to be familiar and relatable enough for present readers to wrap their heads around it.  Alien, but not too alien.  Advanced, but still understandable.

Martin walks that line with aplomb.  This story features blasters that don’t feel like WWII props with doodads bolted on.  Atmosphere disruptors.  Electron capture-cubes.  Some kind of grav/jet pack.  It’s all just novel enough and understandable enough to follow without feeling like the usual old stuff.  Which applies just as well to the culture of the Culling Emporium as well.

If you’ve seen the execrable film Valerian, then you’ll remember the big bazaar in Act One that hovers in between a real and virtual bazaar.  The Emporium feels a lot like that.  It’s a sort-of-natural ground where the rules are written to allow just enough rule breaking to keep everyone on their toes and happy.  A constant refrain throughout the story, the Emporium takes on a life of its own and feels much more like a character in its own right than a setting.

Then there’s the romance subplot.  Our bounty hunter Jobard finds out his old partner Lomolly has a kiosk in the heart of the Emporium, and has to dance his way through the minefield of ‘the one that let him get away’ even as he attempts to (effectively) kidnap his target from a place where such things are (generally) frowned upon.  The amount of subtext that runs through this story is truly impressive, and makes the sudden violence near the end all the more satisfying.

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More on Genre Bending

As stated previously, I’m a fan of StoryHack Magazine first as a reader and second as a writer and third as a writer who has graced its pages.

Sure, one of my stories appeared in Issue 0, and another will show up in Issue 2.  I don’t submit to publications that I wouldn’t read myself.  If the magazine can’t hold your interest as a reader, why would think it would do the same for any other reader?  While my shilling for StoryHack contains elements of self-aggrandizement from a financial perspective, don’t think for a second my writing is the horse that drives this cart.  My continued support for StoryHack as a writer stems first from my love of it as a reader.

Bryce has an eye for stories that read smooth and writers who know how to properly pace a story.  As with most readers, I have my own little comfort niches in fantasy and sci-fi, but if the Amazon algorithm is to be believed, my tastes are rare.  Most readers have that one niche genre that they read and from which they rarely stray.

To be sure, I’m not a big fan of urban fantasy or steampunk.  Most of my experiences with those genres have consisted of bland girl wish fulfillment absent the stakes and challenges and personal character growth.  Mopey girls who lack concrete motivation do nothing for me, so I generally give those genres a wide berth.  Enter StoryHack, and Tales of the Once and Future King, both of whom have editors with tastes I trust, and I’m much more willing to risk ten minutes of free time on a steampunk story.  So lately, thanks to collections like this, I find my attitude thawing and my horizons expanding.

Ain’t that a kick in the pants?  Me, a guy with a strong sense of adventure, taking risks in my reading, whodathunkit?

Seriously, who are these readers that pick up fantasy and science-fiction and adventure tales for a taste of something new, but who then turn up their noses at anything outside of one genre because it’s too big a risk?  It’s three bucks for one of my books, and ten minutes to decide whether or not you want to finish the thing.  That’s not a risk, that’s an adventure.  If you confine your literary explorations to one narrow valley then you’re no more adventurous than readers of romance novels.

And you are not a reader I have any interest in capturing as a fan.  As a writer, I will take you places you’ve never imagined.  If you want to place narrow strictures on the boundaries of my territory, then go with my blessing.  Or perhaps I should say, STAY with my blessing.  Stay right here in your comfortable little dwelling with its familiar trappings and rules and decorations.  Hobbiton needs people like you obeying the algorithms and walking the same paths over and over and over again.  But if you want to see what’s over the next hill, and the next, and over the mountains behind them, and the forest behind them, then you my friend…you are the man I want by my side when we set out into the great unknown.

Come with me, and I’ll show you things you’ve never imagined.


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