Appendix N author Jeffro Johnson recently took to Google+ to point out five ways that Rogue One fails to meet the pulp standards of the original Star Wars saga.

Rogue One dad
#PulpFail number one: So the empire is here to kidnap dude's family and force him to create a doomsday weapon. This whole scene is set up merely to show that (a) little girl is strong female stoic even at a young age, (b) her parents LOVE her and give her mementos to show how they feel, and (c) that daddy is a passive little bitch that is unwilling and unable sell his life dearly. Oh, that last one stings. This sort of scene has been done in countless Westerns. Except... lemme tell you how it goes. Dad knows he's overmatched. He looks his foe in the eye. He knows he's going to die. But he reaches for his gun anyway and is blown away. The whole family dies... but somehow the kid survives. He then dedicates his entire life to learning how to kick ass and achieve vengeance. Shitty post-modern loser dad here is just pleading for mercy while is wife draws the gun and attempts to do something against all odds. She risks her life and (the image is not on google)... he runs to her side when she gets shot and looks all the world like some Scarlet O'Hara momentarily overcome with the sheer drama of it all. Except Scarlet O'Hara could actually shoot a Yankee deserter in cold blood. This opening scene is bullshit. I would rather convert to old school Viking religion with its concept of a warriors death and Ragnarok and everthing else than subscribe to anything remotely like the value system of the non-culture that produced this piece of garbage. Seriously, this opening scene is just one gigantic kick in the balls. Screw these people.

Rogue One kills
#PulpFail number two: Introducing a protagonist by having him betray someone that trusts him in order to save his own skin. He shoots a disabled person in the back after telling him everything will be okay. This is the sort of story beat you'd typically reserve in order to fully establish that a bad guy completely deserves the ass whoopin' that's coming to him. Absolutely moronic. These people are incapable of conveying the sort of pulp ethos that was fundamental to Star Wars.

Rogue One this guy
#PulpFail number three: It's crazy. They have scenes. They look like Star Wars. The music tells me that something important is happening. But it feels like this movie has no idea how to get started. "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper" isn't edgy enough. No, we have to show fish lips mortally wound a few rebels that are rescuing her. Meanwhile... the rebels have to be shown as being mean and nasty. And OH MY GOSH! Who can complain when they have recreated the control room set from the battle of Yavin? And dropped in a throwaway character from Return of the Jedi?!
But this underweight, rat faced fellow that talks like what... Cheech and Chong or something? What the hell?! It's like they had focus groups help them find the most un-Star Warsy thing conceivable. Is there supposed to be romantic tension between him and fish lips? I can't tell. The opening scene with them packing to go to Dangerville is set to maximum cringe. He asks he to pretty please let him have the blaster she's not supposed to have. That's right, spymaster extraordinaire let that get right past him.
Dude is going on a critical mission and he has to depend on someone that is established as wanting to fight the rebellion tooth and nail every step of the way. Seems like that would be a good time to lay down the law. For dude to have any credibility, he would be shown setting the tone, schooling her on what his expectations are. If she's too awesome for that, then he's (a) not the monster he's been established as being and (b) unable to hold his own in any sort of repartee with his romantic foil. It's like the conflicting requirements cancel each other out, leaving an inherently schizophrenic mess of a film that has no idea what it actually wants to be.

Rogue One Whitaker
#PulpFail number four: Okay, so the rebellion comes in two flavors: scuzzy and extra scuzzy. Mummified Peter Cushing is freaking weird. Stormtroopers are here to play Keystone Kops. And there are more shout outs to classic movies than there is plot. Finally something happens.
FIsh lips, who is established as having extreme daddy issues because her father didn't have the sense to, you know, defend his family. But she was also ABANDONED by the guy that is being set up as the meanest, nastiest, cruelest most Machievellian scumbag in the galaxy.
Oh, but this guy that is so evil and nasty...? He's also really sentimental about this random girl.
Lemme tell you how the galaxy works at its most basic level: blood is thicker than water. And the scummiest scum bag in the galaxy would hand fish lips over to his boys for a brief bit of entertainment before indulging in this kind of bizarre sentimentality.
What the hell are they doing setting up two father figures for fishlips anyway...? Like they have time for this sort of distraction in what's supposed to be pulp style adventure. The people that made this are brain damaged.

Rogue One council
#PulpFail number five: The all new extra-diverse rebel council refuses to reach consensus on stealing the death star plans. Subtext: diversity = division. With the exception of the squid people, the non-whites mostly sit this battle out. Then for the Battle of Yavin...? Man, they are totally gone, leaving all the fighting adventure to the all-white cast of the real Star Wars movie.
The pulps are filled with nuanced treatments of colonialism and forging bonds of friendship and love across racial lines. Rogue One? It's so racist, I am literally shaking.

My comment:

At the store yesterday, a buddy and I were indulging in lavish speculation about how Disney will screw up the Han Solo movie.

Awkward-looking lady across the aisle from us looks up from the shopping list she's hunched over and asks if we're talking about the new Star Wars. Pregnant pause. We say "yes" at the same time.

Lady: *Nervous laugh* "I'll be there opening day."
*Looks back down. Pushes her cart around the corner out of sight*

There are people whose lives have no other meaning than Star Wars. They are legion. And now their last common cultural touchstone is being strip-mined of all value.

It's like some kind of memetic disease. They pay people who hate them to be insulted. Delude themselves into thinking they enjoyed the experience. Realize they've been had on the second viewing. But selective amnesia sets in by the time the next round of postmodern hazing begins.

I don't know if these inmates of pop culture purgatory can be saved. I have to try.

Reminder: Dragon Award nominations close on Monday. My latest space opera The Secret Kings is eligible for Best Sci-Fi Novel.

"The Secret Kings is a worthy candidate for a Dragon Award."
-VFM #0352

Get SK for free.

Nominate it and your other favorite books, movies, shows, and games for a Dragon Award.



Appendix N vs The Great Books

D&D 1st ed DMG

Just for fun, I've decided to post excerpts from the plot synopses of three books from the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest British Novels and three books from Appendix N. I made my selections at random by rolling d%.

Now, if you'll indulge my decidedly un-scientific methods, let's begin the experiment. Can you tell which books excite modernist literary critics and which inspired Dungeons & Dragons?
1) a young hay-trusser named Michael Henchard gets drunk on rum-laced furmity and argues with his wife, Susan. He decides to auction off his wife and baby daughter, Elizabeth-Jane, to a sailor, Mr. Newson, for five guineas. Sober the next day, he is too late to recover his family. When he realises that his wife and daughter are gone, he swears not to touch liquor again for as many years as he has lived so far.
2) The eponymous hero is born as a male nobleman in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. He undergoes a mysterious change of sex at the age of about 30 and lives on for more than 300 years into modern times without aging perceptibly.
3) Holger Carlsen is an American-trained Danish engineer who joins the Danish Resistance to the Nazis. At the shore near Elsinore he is among the group of resistance fighters trying to cover the escape to Sweden of an important scientist (evidently, the nuclear physicist Niels Bohr). With a German force closing in, Carlsen is shot - and suddenly finds himself carried to a parallel universe, a world where Northern European legend concerning Charlemagne ("The Matter of France") is real.
4) Dorothea Brooke appears set for a comfortable and idle life as the wife of neighbouring landowner Sir James Chettam, but to the dismay of her sister Celia and her uncle Mr Brooke, she marries The Reverend Edward Casaubon. Expecting fulfilment by sharing in his intellectual life, Dorothea discovers his animosity towards her ambitions during an unhappy honeymoon in Rome. Realising his great project is doomed to failure, her feelings change to pity. Dorothea forms a warm friendship with a young cousin of Casaubon's, Will Ladislaw, but her husband's antipathy towards him is clear and he is forbidden to visit. In poor health, Casaubon attempts to extract from Dorothea a promise that, should he die, she will "avoid doing what I should deprecate and apply yourself to do what I desire". He dies before she is able to reply, and she later learns of a provision to his will that, if she marries Ladislaw, she will lose her inheritance.
5) The novel concerns American Leif Langdon who discovers a warm valley in Alaska. Two races inhabit the valley, the Little People and a branch of an ancient Mongolian race; they worship the evil Kraken named Khalk'ru which they summon from another dimension to offer human sacrifice. The inhabitants recognize Langdon as the reincarnation of their long dead hero, Dwayanu. Dwayanu's spirit possesses Langdon and starts a war with the Little People. Langdon eventually fights off the presence of Dwayanu and destroys the Kraken.
6) Forced to flee his city of Melnibone, Elric and his sorcerous blade Stormbringer journey through barren hills to the edge of a black sea. Elric finds a dark ship and begins a voyage that will bring him face-to-face with all the champions Time can summon--and more.
OK, that last one especially is a no-brainer. Scanning those synopses, I'm reminded of something that John C. Wright said: "Science fiction is about an ordinary man having extraordinary adventures in a strange new world. Literary fiction is about an ordinary man doing nothing in his own back yard."

Here's one more book blurb you might be interested in:
Do you love classics like Frank Herbert or HP Lovecraft? Get this.Do you have fond memories of Pen/Pencil games? Get this.Do you just want to have a hell of a ride? Get this.


Audiobooks with JimFear138

The audiobook market is experiencing astronomical growth. On the latest episode of Geek Gab: On the Books, I talk audiobooks with narrator, audiobook producer, and podcaster JimFear138:

In other book-related news, the eBook version of my Dragon Award-winning SF/horror novel Souldancer is now on sale for only $2.99:

#FakeBooks vs. Fun Books

Speaking of #FakeBooks, I noticed this on Amazon a minute ago:

Collapsing Hardcover eBook

I'm not sure what's sadder--that Scalzi's failed blockbuster is $12.99 in eBook, or that the hardcover has already dropped to the same price. Either way, with a preachy, derivative tome that Tor is charging as much for in eBook as in hardback, Scalzi has completed his apotheosis as the quintessential tradpub poster boy.

Get the startlingly original, award-winning Souldancer for less than a quarter of what Tor is demanding for Scalzi's Asimov ripoff.

And remember, Dragon Award nominations close on Monday. Nominating is free, so cast your ballot today!

Get The Secret Kings, the WrongFans' choice for Best Sci-Fi Novel here for free!

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier

Nominate The Secret Kings, along with your other favorite books, movies, TV shows, and games, for a 2017 Dragon Award here!



PulpRev Interview

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jesse Abraham Lucas of PulpRev.com. He asked me about the Pulp Revolution, writing in general, and certain projects of my own.

The following is an excerpt.
Is there anything you can tell us about your WIP with Castalia House? Anything we should expect? Any way we can prepare ourselves?
Castalia House has engaged me to write the first three books in a planned ongoing series of space opera novels. The series is called Faraway Wars. It is part of Vox Day’s Creative Deconvergence project. His aim is to offer fun, high quality alternatives to SJW converged science fiction franchises.
As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, Faraway Wars is intended as a non-converged parallel to Star Wars. The last two feature films and the Aftermath series of tie-in novels have made it clear that Disney has co-opted George Lucas’ beloved franchise as a vehicle for social justice virtue signaling. Vox’s stated intent is to correct these abuses without stepping on anyone’s toes in terms of trademarks and copyright.
To that end, one of the editors at Castalia House devised a new space opera setting that will nonetheless be familiar to science fiction fans. Faraway Wars shouldn’t be thought of as an attempt to copy Star Wars. Rather, it draws inspiration from many of the same pulp and Campbell-era tropes that influenced George Lucas to create his iconic series.
Embers of Empire, the first Faraway Wars book, was pitched to me as, “What if Luke Skywalker had turned to the Dark Side at the end of Return of the Jedi?” Mind you, that hypothetical is meant as a springboard to jumpstart the creative process, like the “what if?” questions that serve as the impetus for all works of speculative fiction. The characters and situations in EoE aren’t mere carbon copies. I worked hard to put my unique mark on the book while making the FW universe a place where SF fans feel comfortable.
Still, Soul Cycle readers will know that you can’t rest easy for long in one of my stories.
Read the rest here.

And if you can't wait for the deconvergence of space opera, my new novella The Hymn of the Pearl breaks high fantasy out of the psuedo-Medieval elf rut the genre has been languishing in by featuring an inventive, Sandersonian magic system in a world inspired by Late Antiquity.