Saturday, July 26, 2014

Vindication via Vance

Apparently, I'm a heathen for not being 100% enthused about this little read the first time I picked it up.

I am happy to report that I have since learned a few very important personal lessons:

(a) Don't try to hit up new-to-me authors of Appendix N - especially when going at it from a research point - at 3:00AM, particularly when expected to be functioning in another 5 hours. Hey, knowing my own limits is good.

(b) Do try to allot a time & location for perusal of such material that will allow uninterrupted reading. Seriously -- I got a maximum of 3 pages in before each new interruption every time I picked the thing up. (And it's an older book that hadn't been particularly loved or cared for; bits of pages flaked off at each touch. I was afraid it was going to disintegrate before I could finish it.) Toward the end of the story, I did growl more than once at those who would bug me, demanding to be left alone.

(c) Don't bother writing about it until it's finished. I daresay my "Brothers J" were tempted to disown me -- Judge Jim in particular.

So... Now that it's been fully digested...


It's not just the genre, but the style of writing.

My primary exposure to Appendix N in the past has been Lovecraftian. His works are more...ethereal, intangible. And gawdawfully wordy. (Caveat: Does not mean I don't enjoy it, but man, I gotta be in the mood to jump in there.) Once this one got rolling, I can see how a periodical re-read may be in order (if this copy survives being handled that much). The dark despair was present, but as more of an undertone than an overriding arc. I think my favorite part about Vance's writing is that not every new concept has to be explained immediately upon introduction. Syrup sacs, for instance, were mentioned half a dozen times before their function was described. Rather than frustrating, I found the earlier mentions leading to something I wanted to discover at the rate it was unfolding. And y'know, I'm intrigued to see if each of his pieces are created in a similar fashion.

I can also see the interest in studying his works and learning from them, as a new entry into the field. (Autobiography, anyone?)

No real time for away-from-desk time between here & Indy, so I'll hit some Vance on audio while I work next week. Hoping to soak in as much as possible, priming my brain for the craziness that is sure to explode at Gen Con (and "Doug Kon", the unofficial after-hours gaming that's becoming eerily official).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Eine kleine Nachtlese

Taking some forced time off from DCC this month. Due to the demise of three FLGSs in our area in June, I'm using July's hiatus to kick out as much work as possible while preparing for another long road trip around Gen Con...but I started getting twitchy when I realized it's been over a month since I've gotten to sit down and fully digest a good module as part of my Judge prep. So I made time last night to catch up on some of the smaller reads in the stack -- because we all know I'm gonna have to give a progress report on the next Spellburn recording!

First up: Crawling Under a Broken Moon, issue 1. Pretty cool stuff! I appreciate the post-apocalyptic feel vs. an out-and-out spacey theme. I'm grooving on some of the concepts, particularly the class offering. (It also reminded me that I really really *really* wanna get my paws on Mutant Crawl Classics, as the two would blend nicely.) 

Next: My first Vance. Should be commemorated, no?

An Ace Double book! You know you're
done with first one when you reach
the pages with upside-down print.
The first 3 pages could've been a short story unto itself. Wonderfully evocative, and I love delving into the "old language" that's since devolved into, "Like, y'know" and related tripe in today's mainstream fiction. I'll admit my reading speed suffered as I went into research/study mode, analyzing each turn of phrase, and sometimes having to re-read a segment because of a creative use (or lack) of commas. But the flavor kept me there.

The next couple of subchapters turned it from a self-contained landscape into a full story line. Even the Meks' creation, history, and current motivation were fully (and satisfactorily) explained within one page of third-person revelation. I actually wanted to read more about the precursors to an event. Brilliant. Taking notes. 

Then I got to chapter 3, which made me wonder if I was still in the same book. (Yep! I checked. I could tell because the text was still right-side-up in this little Double Book from Ace.) The chart on p.8 of tribes and families and the key at the bottom explaining how things will be abbreviated throughout the story from here on out...for a 40-page story...  Um. Suffice it to say that 3:00AM may not have been the prime time to try to jump this hurdle. For all of Mr. Vance's skillful painting with words, it feels like this piece started to take itself too seriously -- or, again, it could've just been my sleep-deprived brain -- but stuff like this is the primary reason I had a hard time getting into sci-fi/fantasy as a teen (I went the horror route instead). I glared at the cover's proud proclamation of its Nebula Award, started flashing back to terrible experiences of falling for award-winning books in the school library, and decided it might just be a good time to call it a night.

I'll try this gem again this evening. When done, I've got a stack of Curtis, Lee, Leiber, Moorcock, Norton, and Stroh waiting on me (listed solely in alphabetic order). I daresay the little yellow spines are in good company.