Linkfest 2021-03-12: The Importance of Leaving Bad Reviews

This is Iceland, but it speaks to my Northman heart

This is Iceland, but it speaks to my Northman heart

The Old That is Strong: Tolkien & the Anglo-Saxons

An achingly beautiful exposition on how key passages in the Lord of the Rings echo either Anglo-Saxon history or Northern epic poems.

Now I want to re-read my copy of Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney [Amazon link]. I had considered naming this blog Scyld Scefing after the legendary ancestor of the Danish royal line, but I settled for putting Ogier the Dane in the sidebar.

Games, “Narrative,” and Gameplay

David V. Stewart has a great piece on the importance of gameplay to how videogames work. He makes an interesting point that people who complain that gameplay difficulty prevents them from seeing the story unfold appear to be unaware that there are a vast array of products such as the visual novel that would appear to give them what they want. I think that is a good point, but I would probably also add that even if aware of such products, the complainers wouldn’t like to be associated with them because they are low status. Losers and weebs play dating sims and read visual novels.

Apple Threatens North Dakota, Suffers Crushing Loss in Arizona: "A Lot of It is Just Fear"

Anti-trust gadfly Matt Stoller points out that there is an inversion underway in which party is pro-business, with Republicans starting to attack businesses that enjoy official or unofficial monopolies, and the Democrats repeating press releases from the Chamber of Commerce and libertarian think tanks. In Arizona, it is a strange sight to see the Democrats aligned with the Goldwater Institute and the Republicans against it.

He Got $300,000 From Credit-Card Rewards. The IRS Said It Was Taxable Income.

A physicist engaged in financial arbitrage with credit card rewards. Hilarity ensued.

What's Broken: Reviews

This post is about the OSR and the community of players and creators of roleplaying game products, but it speaks to me about how I review books too.

So here we are without a review culture to guide consumers (ooh, he said the “c” word!). We have tastemakers and influencers but not reviewers. Consumers - potential buyers of an adventure or a game - will see some guidance. They are hungry for information to help them make a good decision about how to spend their money and time. Without any reliable source of guidance to distinguish between products, we’re going to fall back on a) known producers of good reputation (be it writers or companies), b) impressive visuals (be it artwork or production values). See where this leaves the independent producer? In the mud. If you’re a newish writer with a small budget, you will very quickly feel like you cannot compete. And you can’t.

My goal is to provide as honest a review as I can, to guide other readers to books they might like, and to sharpen up tastes beyond genre labels. I review writers who are famous, and writers who are not. I do worry that the smallness of the world with social media influences what I say, and that I sometimes pull my punches. We cannot have good reviews without honest criticism, but that doesn’t have to mean nastiness.


Game Structures – Addendum: System Matters

I’m fascinated by Dungeons and Dragons in part because I’ve wanted to play it since I was a kid, but I’ve never actually done so. I’ve played other RPGs, but never the one that made the idea gel into popular culture as a thing.

I’m also fascinated by how the thing has developed over time, and how much like with videogames, the actual gameplay determines the kind of experience you have, and that different people are looking for different experiences, but confusing the hell out of themselves and everyone else by using the same words in different ways.


The Long View: The Scorpion's Gate

John J. Reilly reviews a Deep Stater’s novel about the Middle East, an interesting counterpoint to the grunt’s eye view Galaxy’s Edge novels that are partly about the same thing.

41gVch8vWTL._SX289_BO1,204,203,200_ (1).jpg

Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology

I gave this book a terrible review early in my book reviewing career, and I was then surprised when one of the authors in the anthology reacted on social media. That cast a long shadow over how I review. I still think this is a terrible book, but thirteen years later I have a better idea of why I didn’t like it. It failed to elicit wonder. There was no adventure. I’m not sorry, and don’t read this book if you like adventure stories full of wonder and excitement.