In 410 Alaric, King of the Visigoths sacked Rome. By that time Rome wasn't the capital of the Western Roman Empire, it had been moved to Ravenna. I'm not even sure that Emperor Honorius ever visited the city. But it had huge symbolic importance and when news about Alaric got around it shocked and horrified just about everyone. Almost everyone, the Visigoths were pretty happy with the way things turned out. After 410 the Western Roman Empire was living on borrowed time and the whole shit train went off the rails in 476 when Odoacer, the real ruler of Italy by that time, got tired of pretending that Emperor Romulus Augustus was in charge. Odoacer pensioned him off and ruled as King of Italy.
So for 66 years the Empire was living on borrowed time but it was fascinating to watch Classical Europe just disintegrate. You'd think that a lot of novels would be set in that period but Avram Davidson's two books, Peregrine: Primus and Peregrine: Secundus are the only ones that I know of although I'm sure there are more. But L. Sprague de Camp wrote a great novel set in 6th century Italy, Lest Darkness Fall. In it Martin Padway, an American archaeologist circa 1939, is zapped back to Rome in 535. He knows that Emperor Justinian of the Eastern Roman Empire is going to send General Belisarius to conquer Italy, destroying the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths there and in the process turning Italy into a wasteland. So Padway, who knows everything about the Gothic War starts intervening, becomes an aide to King Thiudahad of the Ostrogoths and Belisarius' invasion is stopped dead in its tracks. Italy becomes an enlightened state and Western Europe starts to revive 900 years early.
Dear me, I'm getting all nostalgic now for 20th century science fiction writers. At any rate time travel stories normally don't interest me but Lest Darkness Fall is the exception and I recommend it.
May 24, 2019
The Epic Game Store opened on 12/8/2018 and from the start it challenged Steam. The store's biggest coup was grabbing Metro Exodus as an exclusive after Steam spent some time promoting it. Epic makes a random game free for a two week period twice a month. I've grabbed a few of them but I haven't actually bought anything there. That will change later in the year, Obsidian's upcoming RPG Outer Worlds will an Epic exclusive.
And I've mentioned this before but today something interesting happened. EA has its own store, Origin. Last year they used to give away free games too. They haven't done that in awhile but today they announced they'd be giving away Sims 4 free until 5/28. And Uplay has some free stuff too. Right now Uplay and Origin are company stores but I'm wondering if they're thinking about challenging Steam by selling third party games somewhere down the line.
There are a lot of folks who seem upset over the number of game stores on the net. In some cases I'm sure it's because of limited disk space. I've six storefronts installed and I can see how someone with a 500 GB drive might be pressed for space and a little annoyed, at least if they're gamers Other people are concerned over Epic's relationship with Tencent. Tencent is a Chinese game company, the largest video game company in the world, and it owns 40% of Epic. I presume that the folks at Tencent have access to information about what Epic game I own, how often I play them, and for how long. Of course Steam has the same information but Steam is a Murican company run by good old Gabe who would never, ever do anything untoward with the data his company has collected.
At any rate Epic has certainly stirred thing up and I expect they'll be more free stuff dangled in our faces before the dust settles.
May 22, 2019
Peregrine: Primus by Avram Davidson
The first review from Goodreads:
"Peregrine: Primus is a picaresque fantasy best described as the Davidsonian approach to the curiously modern amorality of the Dark Ages. It is the first novel in a trilogy describing the adventures of Peregrine, bastard son of the pagan king of Sapodilla, which, as all men know, was adjacent to both Navarre and to Pannonia, and was the last remaining bastion of pagan orthodoxy in what that generation considered the encroaching sea of Christian heathenism."
Who, reading this flyleaf, would ever bother to pick up the book? Somewhere, someone told me to read this, so I tried. Nine pages later it's no better than the above, and I concede defeat.
The Second and last review from Goodreads:
I couldn't read it... the attempt to write in an accent made me read each line 5 times. It gets two stars because the part of the story I understood, I liked. Wished I knew what people were saying.
Avram Davidson's style can be off putting. But while I can't really appreciate the music of poetry, to my disappointment, I can appreciate the music of baroque prose. Davison excels in that.
For the rest, I encountered an excerpt from Peregrine: Primus in F&FS a long time ago and liked it. But Davidson's books were not that popular and the bookstores in my part of the world were not large. Time moved on and I forgot about it until I learned that it had been republished by Wildside Press. And so I waited for them to come out with a Kindle edition.
That doesn't appear to to be in the cards so I finally decided to add to my collection of physical books and ordered a copy from Amazon. And having just cracked it open, I just ordered the sequel, Peregrine: Secundus. Because novels about, "...the last remaining bastion of pagan orthodoxy in what that generation considered the encroaching sea of Christian heathenism," appeal to me.
May 22, 2019
Dead Space Fuck Up
Once again one of the crew forgot to remove his coffee cup before the cameras started rolling.
May 20, 2019
Dead Space 2
This is a tad longer then most of my videos, I wanted to give you a taste of what the game was like. I think I might have done better in the firefight if it was earlier in the night but it took place at three in the morning and to be honest while I enjoy games I'm mediocre at best, even during daylight hours.
In the first game Isaac never spoke in the best Gordan Freeman tradition, so you had to fill in his personality yourself. I imagined a Gary Cooper Isaac myself. So it was a bit jarring to hear him speak, especially because my Isaac was far more self assured then this Isaac.
I don't know if I'll be able to finish this one but I do know that will be my last Dead Space game. In Dead Space 3 the game turned away from horror/action to straight up action and it was not well received. Biut I'm not playing that one and hopefully I'll be roaming the corridors of Titan Station for a few weeks. Then a break before Wolfenstein Youngblood.
By the way, while the game had some tense moments during the couple of hours I was playing, I could deal with it. As long as I have a chance to defend myself I can play a game with a horror component. It's games like Amnesia, where you're completely defenseless, that I can't play.
Update: It's 12:30 in the afternoon and after oatmeal and two cups of coffee I redid that fight and did much, much better. That makes me happy.
May 20, 2019
I finished the Blood expansion. Blood was the underground cult classic that I missed in the 90s. And since I'm on a roll I just bought Dead Space 2, after all it only took me 11 years to finish the first game, that means I have until 2030 to finish this one. By the way, I'm posting this picture because I've had the same conversation with some of my friends.
May 20, 2019
It may not be much, but figuring out which symbols would open up the door off camera to my left made me feel like I just cracked the Voynich manuscript.
May 19, 2019
That's map 4 from episode 1 of Blood. From the perspective of 2019 the game is about as frightening as a Road Runner cartoon but Blood came out in 1997 and I imagine there were parents who walked into the bedroom while their kid was playing this and did a major freakout. Still, from the number of folks posting that they're grateful to be able to replay a game from their childhood, not every parent censored what their children could play. Or perhaps they were just oblivious, certainly my parents would have shipped me off to a Christian boarding school if they knew the kind of subversive stuff i was reading.
As for me, I finished the main game. There are two extra episodes included in the game and after that there's really nothing on my plate until July. But you never know what will come up.
May 18, 2019
Upgrading Your Computer: Windows 10 Edition
Yeah, I realize it's not that bad but it's funny.
May 17, 2019
I just ordered Wolfenstein Youngblood which passes the torch from William "B.J." Blazkowicz to his two daughters. It can be played co-op but no one I know really plays co-op games anymore so I didn't spring for the deluxe edition.
Did you know that the Wolfenstein series goes all the way back to 1981? The first game in the series was Castle Wolfenstein and while I never played that I did play Beyond Castle Wolffenstein for the Commodore 64 in 1984. So BJ and I go back 35 years. I think we each owe each other a drink.
By the way Arcane, the studio who did the Dishonored series and Prey, is working on this one so there may be some stealthy ways of completing a mission. That would be cool, not that I mind blasting the shit out of Nazis.
I'm still playing Blood. The package contains the four episodes from the original game and the two episodes that were expansions. I'm more then halfway through episode three and I'm starting to wonder why I never heard of this game before. I suspect because after Quake I just started loosing interest in games made from the Build engine. My loss.
May 17, 2019
Darkseid Eats a Carrot
Slow hand clap.
May 16, 2019
I wasn't aware that Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the creator and star of Fleabag, was also the creator of Killing Eve. Looks like I'll be checking out Fleabag this weekend.
May 16, 2019
The Prisoner premiered June 1, 1968 on CBS after airing in the UK in 1967. In America it was a summer replacement for the Jackie Gleason Show a program that my Dad loved. While browsing Amazon Prime I discovered they had it and I just watched the first two episodes.
You know, Number Six lived in a community with 24 hour surveillance and he went to great lengths to avoid it. Twelve year old Kevin would be very disappointed to learn that sixty three year old Kevin paid Amazon $100 to buy a surveillance speaker that now lives in his living room. Number Six had one that he couldn't turn off and in one episode he put it in his refrigerator to avoid listening to the inane music the thing was playing. But you know what? Fuck twelve year old Kevin.
The themes in the show hold up nicely after 52 years but it was not meant to be shown on a 65" television, occasionally the seams show. But that doesn't matter and I'm looking forward to the next fifteen episodes. In my younger years I'd tell people that The Prisoner and The Lord of the Rings shaped my world view. I'm not sure that's the case any more and I didn't intend to watch the show before I stumbled across it. It's a lot like meeting an old friend you lost track of years ago. You have a few drinks at the airport bar and then go your sperate ways, hopefully with a nice nostalgic glow.
May 14, 2019
Tim Conway's Elephant Story
May 14, 2019
I don't know exactly when Newton was born but for official purposes his birthday is October 1, 2013. I got him in April of 2014 and while he was cute, he was also a pain in the ass (as kittens sometimes are). After a few months some, but from all, of the kinks were worked out and when he turned one I bought him a bed for his birthday.
Newton can be an asshole but ingratitude is not one of his flaws. He loved his bed and his purrs got higher and higher until he sounded like a bird chirping. It was nice to make someone so supremely happy.
That's not the original bed, Marie and I were in the mall over the weekend picking over the remains at JC Penny's. On the way out there were cat beds, Marie pointed them out and I snagged one for Newton.
He'll use it for a month and then abandon it for a few months more before making a nostalgic return to it for a couple of weeks. Then that's it and eventually I'll buy him a new one, that's the way things work around here. But for now he's enjoying it.
May 14, 2019
A Sudden Realization
I've started the third episode of Blood: Fresh Supply, just me and my beer zipping along with a 90s shooter. And I just realized that games in the 80s and 90s lasted so much longer for me because when I got stuck I was shit out of luck until I figured it out for myself. Sometimes that took weeks. I've been stick in Blood twice so far and I went to a very helpful walkthrough on YouTube to get me unstuck each time.
And no, I don't miss the old days one bit. I'm on blood pressure medicine for fuck's sake and don't want to be raging on the same level for three weeks.
May 13, 2019
Blood: Fresh Supply
Every first person shooter is descended from Wolfenstein 3D, made in 1992 by John Carmack, John Romero and Tom Hall. That game established the whole genre.
I played some, but by no means all of the major first person shooters in the 90s. One of the ones I missed was Blood. It came out in 1997 for DOS. But by 1997 I was playing GL Quake a remaster of Quake designed to take advantage of the 3dfx Voodoo Graphics card. I had one of those things and once saw how Quake looked I was no longer interested in shooters using older engines.
Like last year I've been messing about with some older games, waiting for something to really catch my interest and I saw on PC Gamer that Blood had been remastered for modern computers and was only $9.99. I picked it up and over the last couple of days I put seven hours into it and I'm having a really good time. I don't know if you'll have a good time with it, not only will it depend on your love of 90s shooters, it will depend on your tolerance for graphics that look pretty dated.
By the way,that's not me playing it, my recording tool, OBS, can't deal with it and at 3:30 in the morning I'm not in the mood to troubleshoot.
May 12, 2019
The Reefs of Earth
That's the name of a shortish novel by R. A. Lafferty and the first one to show up for the Kindle. Lafferty died without leaving any mention in his will about his literary estate and the family had been fighting over it for years making his books difficult to find. But The Reefs of Earth appeared in Kindle format a month or two ago and I just preordered Past Master, another novel and I'm hoping this means that his entire corpus will be back in print. The prospect of that makes me giddy with delight.
May 12, 2019
The Circus of Dr. Lao
When I was about 12 I saw 7 Faces of Dr. Lao a fantasy movie staring Tony Randell as Dr. Lao, the Mysterious Visitor from China. The Doctor runs a circus with attractions like Apollonius of Tyana; Medusa; Merlin and Pan, Randall playing them all. It's not that bad a movie if you can tolerate Tony Randall playing a Chinese magician.
A year or two later I read a review of R. A. Lafferty's book, The Devil is Dead, in Fantasy & Science Fiction. The reviewer, maybe Fritz Lieber, raved about the book and he finished with, "Artzybasheff, you should be alive to illustrate this book like you did for The Circus of Dr. Lao. That's how I found out that it was a book, a book that I read in the Avon paperback edition. That came out in 1974 but I think I read it much later, getting the book from a used bookseller via Amazon.
The Circus of Dr. Lao was written in 1935 by Charles G. Finney. It won the very first National Book Award for Most Original Novel that year. Boris Artzybasheff was the fellow Lieber was talking about and he did the illustrations for the novel. I never really knew who Artzybasheff was until much later, as it turns out he's quite famous.
That's from the book, Pan wasn't in therek but there was a satyr in Lao's circus and Artzybasheff shows him with Miss Agnes Birdsong.
When I read the book the first time it clashed quite a bit with my memories of the 1964 film. I put the book aside and that was that, until this week when I wanted to reread it. I discovered there was a Kindle edition with the Artzybasheff illustrations. So I picked it up and it's next on my list.
You know, I'm not very proud of this but I'm fairly inflexible. If I approach a book with one set of expectations and the book turns out to be something different, I can't really adapt. But after a time, sometimes decades I go back to the book and appreciate it. I was fortunate enough to know what Lafferty was like before read him, if I approached him blind I might have recoiled and my life would be poorer for it. I read Charles Finney thinking of the 1964 movie (the last film George pal directed) and Finney suffered for that.
And I just put Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem. That's another book that wasn't what I thought it would be, it deserves a second chance. And when you're in your 60s it's healthy to revisit things with a new perspective.
May 11, 2019
This has been a Whenpigsfly production.
Any questions or comments can be directed to email@example.com.
Logo courtesy of Mrs. Silverman.