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Arthur B on Wings of Love(craft)
at 14:24 on 08-12-2017 - link
Finally got around to reading this so rather than doing my own review I'll offer some thoughts here:
STUFF WE BOTH LIKE: I wasn't sure about how heavily Copping Squid leans into a fear of impoverished black people, and I didn't entirely buy how Andre convinces the protagonist to play along. (There's a particular bluff which requires the protagonist to believe that the San Francisco police department would give a harder time to a white convenience store clerk than they would to a black guy with a deeply suspicious demeanour, and... yeah.) I think it made up for it with the sheer audacity of the horror imagery involved.
The Broadsword might just be my favourite entry in the collection. It's a bunch of familiar tropes, sure, but it's shaken out in an interesting way. (I especially like how the conclusion is the opening movement of a cabin-in-the-woods-type horror movie.)
With Usurped I thought the flat effect was quite a good way of conveying the way the protagonist's thought processes had been altered and forced into an alien pattern.
Tempting Providence I thought was kind of awesome, with its central premise in particular a much better execution of the whole "Fishers From Outside" idea than most others have managed.
The Truth About Pickman seems to be part of Stableford's ongoing project to write perfectly rational alternate explanations for Lovecraft's stories, like the debunking of Shadow Over Innsmouth I reviewed a while back, but at least this time around there's actual horror involved and it isn't just Stableford being a massive fun-killing spoilsport.
Tunnels, I've decided, is actually a better Chthonian story than anything Brian Lumley has written. Which isn't a high bar, but it clears it very comfortably.
STUFF I LIKED THAT YOU DIDN'T: Even though Pickman's Other Model doesn't offer a whole lot beyond what the original story has to offer, beyond dabbling into another artistic medium and playing with some of those really juicy vintage Hollywood scandals, I thought it was quite engaging in terms of technique, particularly in the way it sets out the information provided.
Denker's Book is brief and a bit silly, but it's fun for it and at least it doesn't outstay its welcome.
If Inhabitants of Wraithwood were any more over-the-top gothic it'd be wearing a mesh shirt and too much eyeliner, but I thought it presented a very imaginative scenario.
The Correspondence of Cameron Thaddeus Nash I liked because whilst it does draw on Lovecraft's biographical details and his exchanges with various pen pals of varying degrees of flakiness, at the same time you don't need to know any of that to follow the story and there's an actual narrative arc involved.
Lesser Demons is blatantly a Lovecraftian take on the whole zombie apocalypse thing, and I almost slipped into not liking it because of that because it seemed like a very straightforward zombie apocalypse tale with a thin veneer of Mythos slapped on it, but then it went in some interesting directions so I just about approved. I agree that the protagonist is very FPS-ish, though I think that's part of the point - he's in full on "I Am A Hard Man Making Hard Decisions Because Life Is Hard" mode and he closes the story contemplating going back to a mundane existence and whether that's even possible and everything we've seen so far in the story suggests things may have gone too far for that.
STUFF I DIDN'T LIKE THAT YOU DID: I couldn't get on with Desert Dreams - the end seemed kind of abrupt for the amount of buildup it had. Likewise, The Dome I thought had an interesting central mechanism but seems to lack a certain something, and I thought Howling In the Dark kind of fell apart at the end and doesn't really go anywhere.
I wasn't keen on Substitution. There's basically nothing Lovecraftian/cosmic horror-ish about it at all, it's just a cautionary tale, and the closest thing it comes to any Mythos-y/Lovecraft-ish themes is "stick to what you know", and that's a stretch.
STUFF WE BOTH DON'T LIKE: Engravings is kind of awful, isn't it? I particularly dislike the narrative voice of most of it, because it seems like Pulver's trying to write from the point of view of someone who comes from bad circumstances but has a very classist and patronising take on what that implies - it's the train of thought of someone that the author doesn't believe has that much in the way of thoughts. And it's yet another Mythos story where Nylarathotep does a supervillain monologue at the end. That didn't work when Lovecraft did it in Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and it gets no better with other people's attempts.
Passing Spirits is... eh. I can see that it's quite clever. But as you point out, it ain't Lovecraftian cosmic horror (it's someone dying of brain cancer with Lovecraft and associated figures cropping up in their hallucinations), and whilst it's an interesting meditation on death it doesn't really offer the weird fiction chill that I go to this sort of collection for. I have strong suspicions about the reasons behind its selection; Gafford has clearly read I Am Providence (or at least is reasonably well-informed about Lovecraft's biography) and leans on that a lot, and one wonders whether Joshi waved it in because he's the world's pre-eminent biographical expert on Lovecraft and it warmed the cockles of his heart to see someone get that right and/or show signs of having read and enjoyed his work.
(Susie is even worse for this - if you weren't reasonably up on your Lovecraft biographical details you might entirely miss that the title character is supposed to be Lovecraft's mum.)
Rotterdam is fucking awful. I should moderate that statement: it's perfectly serviceably written. By and large (with one exception I'll note in a bit), I reckon in terms of basic writing craft the standard here is way better than the average for, say, those Robert M. Price I reviewed a while back.
But in terms of the actual content of the story it's not good for more or less all the reasons you point out. It just doesn't do anything interesting, and has this really grating “sensitive, intellectual protagonist vs. masculine, sexually attractive rival" narrative which reads like it's trying to criticise toxic masculinity on the part of the rival but actually the rival doesn't do anything that toxic and it's the protagonist who's being toxic in that nasty passive-aggressive/just-plain-aggressive way that people who call themselves "incels" do. It's pretty much a literary version of one of those “virgin X/Chad Y" memes the kids are into these days.
Violence, Child of Trust is one of those stories where really nasty stuff is happening but it just sorts of wallows in that nastiness without doing anything interesting with it. I'd have missed the twist had you not mentioned it, and having noticed it I'm not sure how I'm supposed to care given thatthe dude's substituted in his brother's daughter instead of his own as the sacrifice, but it's too late for them to cancel so his brother has to go ahead and do the deed, except we don't really know either woman because the story is entirely from the mens' perspective so all it means for the reader is that one cipher has been stabbed instead of another and the toxic relationship between the brothers remains toxic, which we already established.
An Eldritch Matter is just bad in terms of prose, as in it reads to my eyes like an unrevised first draft entirely lacking in flavour. It's just not very developed at all.
On the whole I tend to agree with you that this is an extremely middling collection. Looking at the above I note that the hit/miss ratio seems to be close to 50-50 - and to be honest, whilst there's stories I like here, there's far fewer stories I like so much as to declare them keepers. I'll take a look at later entries in the series to see if Joshi's batting average improves; the prominence of the anthology series means that for the later volumes Joshi probably got more submissions, which would naturally translate to being able to be more selective about what made the cut.
Oh, and since I've been doing it for the other Mythos anthologies I've been reviewing, a Boy's Club-o-meter reading:
Number of authors with stories in the anthology: 21
Number of said authors who are male: 19
Boy’s Club-o-meter rating: 90.5%
Arthur B on Gradual Evolution, Not Rapid Mutation
at 11:03 on 05-12-2017 - link
Well, to be fair:
a) A lot of that stuff you can do after the main plot.
b) I forget how much of the faction stuff you can do after the main plot's done (since it involves you siding with one faction or another), but you can justify more or less all of that as part of the process of acquiring allies. Both the Minutemen and the Railroad make sense as people who you would want to cultivate as friends so when you work out exactly which monstrous conspiracy killed your spouse and stole your child you have actual buddies you can call on to fight for you.
c) The Minutemen, in particular, make a lot of sense to work with as part of the process of finding your feet in a strange new world where you'd expect the process of finding one person in the great wide wasteland to take an extremely long time anyway, so sinking a month into forging your alliance with them seems like a smart investment of time. (Remember, for all your character knows searching for their kid might take *years*.)
Craverguy on Gradual Evolution, Not Rapid Mutation
at 05:30 on 05-12-2017 - link
I finally got around to playing this game in earnest. I like it a lot better than Fallout 3 (which I find incredibly dull and poorly written and have never made it past Megaton in), but not as well as New Vegas (which is one my all-time favorite CRPGs ever).
The main problem I have with it as that its central plot line undermines the picaresque nature of the franchise. My wife has been murdered and my baby snatched away before my very eyes; is it really in character for me to then spend a month running around the Commonwealth doing errands for the Minutemen, or fetching baseball memorabilia for a collector, or becoming the Silver Shroud? Don't get me wrong, all of those things were fun and I enjoyed doing them, but they make my character's priorities seem grossly out of whack. Similarly, I like that this is the first Fallout game with canon romances...but it feels weird participating when my character is still trying to avenge the death of a wife who, from his perspective, just died a couple weeks ago.
Ashimbabbar on Fresher Than You Think
at 00:49 on 04-12-2017 - link
( deleted my former comment as I think it was erroneous )
Another point to take into account is the bad guys' ruthlessly scientific point of view on reproduction: it's all amatter of getting the best gene combinations, so selceting the partners on purely biological grounds, all in order to obtain the purest possible strains…
Sound a lot like the SS married life and Lebensborn program, right ?
Ashimbabbar on Kickstopper: Turning the Lights Out On Those Who Most Need Them
at 19:47 on 03-12-2017 - link
say what you want about Masks of Nyarlathotep, but IMO joining a raid of Chinese anarchists against one of the bad guys' main bases just rocks
( Otherwise, this article is an extremely interesting dissection of how one can defeat one's own aims )
Arthur B on Kickstopper: Turning the Lights Out On Those Who Most Need Them
at 15:01 on 27-11-2017 - link
A little update: apparently Walmsley has been to Mumbai - which is fair enough, but as said in the review I didn't really get much of a sense of the place in the setting writeup. (Writing which really captures a sense of the spirit of a place is hard; writing which captures that spirit for people who haven't necessarily been there is near-impossible. Though arguably, there's few more Lovecraftian skills you can work on, given how vividly Lovecraft portrayed places like the Vermont hills, or his own beloved Providence.)
Jaiwo is apparently based on a specific country. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, it sort of makes sense to offer an African equivalent of "Lovecraft Country" - like how Arkham and environs riff on Massachusetts. On the other hand, using the real location would have not only put it at centre stage in a way which Western media doesn't often do for African countries, but also opened up a lot of scope to look to real history and news stories originating from there for inspiration.
- Alasdair Czyrnyj on The Inner Sadness of a Nazi Murder Machine at 04:07 on 22-11-2017 - link So, um, gonna toot my own horn here and say if anyone wants to know what I thought about Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, I wrote 2300+ words about it over on my blog. Suffice to say, I was not pleased at all, and I will not be purchasing any future games in this series.
Robinson L on Clotheslining the 1%
at 00:02 on 16-11-2017 - link
I’ve never seen this movie, and unsurprisingly, the first time I heard a plot breakdown of it was in 2012 or 2013 on a podcast inspired by Occupy Wall Street. From what I recollect, the guy doing the podcast said the movie itself was only so-so, but that the social commentary, while heavy-handed, was spot on.
So I’ve been kind of curious about They Live! as something which apparently grapples with some truths about US society which most film and television doesn’t acknowledge. I feel like if I did see it, I would probably write off the violent portions as “obligatory action scenes”; the films which reflect my sensibilities about how social change is accomplished make films which reflect my sensibilities about how societies like the US’ actual work look positively ubiquitous. However, I’ve never gotten much sense of They Live! as something I would enjoy on a pure entertainment level, and the social commentary doesn’t sound so cutting edge that I feel compelled to check it out despite my tepid interest in the story.
Maybe I’ll check it out someday, and if so, I know I’ll likely appreciate it on a discursive level. But if I never get around to it, I doubt I’ll feel that I’ve missed out on something vital.