Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Trying to impeach Obama? About sodding time.

Finally got word that folks in Congress have decided that our current president has stepped a bit far out of line what with stomping on the rights of citizens like a carpet and spending ohmygoshareyoukiddingme-illion dollars daily, and are now trying to impeach him. They should have tried doing this during his first four years with that whole unconstitutional health care thing, but better late than never.

What amuses me is how wounded and surprised Obama and the democrats act at this thing. They wring their hands and say that they are now being punished for working hard and trying to do their jobs and why can't those meany weanie republicans focus on solving problems instead of being all cranky and pointing fingers. Of course, by problem solving the democrats mean shutting up and allowing more taxes to be laid out and approving other nonsense programs, and instead doing the smart thing and digging in their heels so that we don't run headlong over a sodding cliff. Well, what the heck did you expect you numbskulls? You've created a festering quagmire of problems and then started shoveling corpses into it, and now that people want to actually stop making the situation worse you whine and cry about people being unfair?

Speaking just from personal experience, ever since Obama took office my family was booted from our house, my dad lost his job, we've scrounged for food and fought daily to keep things running, and it is only through the love and care of our friends and church that we haven't resorted to eating our own pets to survive until the next day. In my short life span I've quickly learned how to detect when someone is actually skilled at something and is being sabotaged, and those who are just plain incompetent. I may be a low skilled laborer at the moment, but I can sniff this stuff out quickly.

I can say without a shred of doubt in my mind that Obama is the most incompetent, ignorant and pathetic excuse of a president in the last century. If that weren't bad enough he has shown outright contempt for the lifestyles and beliefs of many Americans. Things like faith, independence, protecting themselves, having freedom of choice, having nice things, all are things he has seemingly systematically attempted to eradicate from our lives. The man has fought viciously to pound the Second Amendment into oblivion and failed. I'm quite proud to count myself among the many people who foiled his attempts and then fed upon his tears as he pouted, wondering why all of us foolish peasants didn't bow and go along with his plans.

Maybe because we sodding know what's better for us than you. Anyway, that whole Obamacare thing has been an absolute debacle, as many of us conservatives said it would be. Freaking called it! But he rammed it down our throats anyway, and after treating the Constitution like toilet paper republicans are finally standing up and trying to oust this unbelievable failure. It'll take awhile for the paperwork to go through, sure, but this guy has to know that us citizens mean business. We aren't going to just fold up and follow along with his crazy schemes just because he holds an office and he said we should obey. We aren't subjects, we are citizens with opinions that can't be ignored. These dupes in office need to remember just who is in charge of this country, and that is We The People.

Now, Obama getting booted will just mean that Biden will assume the chair, but frankly I'm sort of okay with that. Well, not okay, but I'm willing to accept the consequences. Biden is a drooling moron and every time he opens his mouth he makes me feel way smarter than I actually am. I then get depressed because someone that dumb could actually get that far in life without swallowing their own tongue. But these people need to learn that they can't do whatever they wish and not suffer any consequences. Besides, I'd far prefer the impeachment process to any violence, which that twat seems just fine with stirring up.

And don't even begin whining about how this will cost millions of dollars for court stuff. Obamacare alone costs more than any of us will ever see in our lifetimes and do very little actual good. Need I mention that whole stimulus deal awhile back? Y'know? About one trillion dollars down the drain and nothing to show for it? Crap, if I'd been trusted with ten grand and wasted it like that I'd be flogged! And I'd deserve it! This is whole deal is pocket change by comparison. So stimulus? Fine. Obamacare? Fine. Impeachment to stop spending money like a drunk gambler with unlimited credit? Settle down there!

Feh. Let's get this thing over with quickly. We need to set a landmark about what happens to those who stomp on our freedoms.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Next Hobbit movie? Squeeeeee!

Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh, the trailer is here! The third and final installment of The Hobbit trilogy has at last announced its greatness!

Ahem, pardon me if I seem a bit... enthusiastic. But wow I'm loving this trilogy more than life itself. First one was darned fun. The second was eighteen flavors of awesome. The third? It should be unbelievable. I mean, we get everything here! Smaug attacking Lake Town. The Battle of Five Armies. Gandalf banishing The Necromancer in Mirkwood. How much more epic can this possibly get?

Please pardon me while I hide in the corner and squeal like a 13 year old girl that had her crush smile at her. Tee hee hee hee!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Review: Railroad! Volume One: Rodger Dodger

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To start off, I figured I'd get off my lazy tail end and actually start doing some more research and reading on the awesome Steampunk and Weird West genres to see what's worth taking a look at! Recently went on a spending binge on Amazon to see what various indy authors have put out there and hope to give a shout out to those who have been putting out good work.

Very recently I finished reading Railroad! Volume One by Tonia Brown.
It is a delightful mix of Weird West and Steampunk, bringing some very fun stuff to the table that I haven't seen done elsewhere as of yet. I'll try to avoid spoilers and simply touch on the basics, which I feel are quite solid.

Let's start with the characters. Just about every one of them pops. I am easily able to attach names to characters, which is something I actually struggle with. For some reason I just really have a problem attaching names to characters in most books I read. It's rarely the fault of the author, but I often find myself halfway through a book and wondering "Who is this person again?" I don't have that problem with this book, so it's safe to say that Tonia has character representation down! Many of the characters are archetypes, but they are executed very well, so I have no problem with that.

The character that stands out most to me is a rather emaciated fellow by the name of Ched, who I won't say much about for fear of spoilers, but he really sticks out. Every character feels like they have a history together even though we aren't told about it, which helps them feel more natural and organic.

My only complaint is that the main character, Dodger, clearly has a shady past but it is laid down a bit too thickly in places. Just mentioned a bit too often is all.

Now for the techy bits! This is where I really started nerding out and salivating. We get to see some darned fun inventions that are very well thought out and interesting. Often I see it said that authors shouldn't do too much explaining on technology in their books, as it can be boring. Well screw that, here it's oodles of fun! I'm going to read and write about strange tech and like it! Take that snooty naysayers! Hahahaha!

I'm sorry, where was I? Oh, right! Tech. Let's start with the loco, named Sleipnir after the mythological Norse horse who had eight legs, which seems quite fitting. The engine and cars each have one letter of the name across it as a nice touch, but this is no ordinary train, no sir! This one works without rails!
Yeah, I know that sounds like a plane that flies without wheels or a boat that floats without a keel, but hear me out! I myself was wondering about the idea of a locomotive working without rails, and by golly the author makes a darned convincing case in this story! It lays down its own tracks that work very much like treads on a tank or bulldozer that run down the length of the train. The thing is even able to turn, which is right dandy! We even get to see some other nifty little innovations on the loco that the owner, Professor Dittmeyer, has invented and stuck on. If you find that boring, then the door is out to your left.

We only get to see a few of the cars following the engine, but they certainly have an air of mystery about them. I wanna hop on board to see what's inside! I wanna see more of the cool gadgets dangit!

Ahem. There are other cool gizmos such as some sets of special goggles that I thought were most amusing and a few other things, but one other thing in particular really caught my eye. The guns! The author really did her research to come up with something extremely innovative and cool yet at the same time realistic and practical. Nine-shooter revolvers!
Sit back down, I wasn't finished. The twin revolvers have three barrels and nine chambers in the cylinder in a pattern that lets each pull of the trigger fire three bullets. So you've got three shots before you're empty, but heaven help whoever is in front of it when it goes off! They even come with custom speed loaders! If that weren't awesome enough, they are master crafted and are described with such passionate detail that I almost started drooling on my Kindle screen. A casual observer of firearms can tell they are above average. To a gun nut like me I began coveting the imaginary weapons!

It looks a lot like this. Except more practical. And prettier. And not so... so... French.

I really have to tip my hat to Mrs. Brown here. She does an amazing job conveying the tech and weapons. She even gets the recoil down pretty well! And it's mentioned that there are other goodies tucked away or new things that will be invented. Gosh that gets me excited!

Okay, I'd best move on or I'm likely to dehydrate from salivating over the fun inventions. Pardon me.
I hesitate to even mention the enemies that we encounter in this first book, but suffice it to say that even I was taken aback by who and what they turned out to be like! And I'm one of those losers who has watched the crap out of The X-Files, Kolchak and more pulp than is healthy for someone my age. And these guys seem to only be the tip of the iceberg!

I also feel it necessary to mention that the dialogue while sometimes drawn out too much, is pretty good. But what really stuck out to me was what was given to Ched. Seemingly suffering from lockjaw, not spoiling anything, he has to speak through clenched teeth and the author conveys his impediment flawlessly. Folks, doing dialogue like that without making it indecipherable jibberish that you just end up skipping is extremely hard. Not only did I understand everything he said without trouble though, but it actually added more flavor to his character! This is a darned good indicator of the writer's skill.

The plot itself isn't necessarily anything mind blowing, but that's perfectly fine. It's a bit slow, but it's more about introducing the characters and getting the series rolling. Think of it as a pilot episode for a TV show. I have very few complaints, but have a bit of constructive criticism. Some of the dialogue and interactions drag on a bit too long and coming to the point of some issues become a bit of a slog. I wasn't really tempted to skip, but I did feel inclined to smack someone to pick up on the obvious and just get to the point. Some of these could have been streamlined a bit, but they are by no means deal breakers.

I apologize if I seem vague on many points, but I only do that when I don't want to spoil a good read. I'm one of those kids who didn't want to peek at presents before Christmas. The anticipation is all part of the fun!

Overall, I recommend it to anyone interested in Weird West or Steampunk. It's a fun, imaginative and well written story that promises to only get more interesting with time. It is most certainly worth the money if you are into either genre. You can bet that I myself will be spending a bit of money getting the other books!

If you're interested you can find it right here:
You can read up for more info on Tonia Brown's blog here:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why is this man not in prison?

I am wondering quite often lately why Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the Department of Justice, has not been arrested. Most of you probably heard how a few years back the ATF was involved in an operation known as Fast and Furious, which did not involve high speed car chases, although in all reality it should have. You see, that group thought it would be a dandy idea to fight the cartels down south by telling gun shop owners to sell their weapons to known gun runners. At first the owners thought these greasy looking guys that were not native to the US were a wee bit suspicious and reported them, but instead of being given a pat on the head for actually doing the right thing, the ATF told them to get with the program and illegally sell the weapons to the gun runners anyway.

The store owners couldn't very well say no, because the ATF is the group that gets to say if they can have a store or not. So, obviously, the way to help put a dent in the violence down in Mexico is to arrest guys who they know darned well are illegally importing weapons for terrorizing citizens and fueling chaos, right? If you came to the same conclusion, then give yourself a pat on the back, because you are officially smarter than a number of people working in the government. Instead of arresting these dudes on the spot, the ATF virtually escorted them over the border, knowing that the guns they had would be used for Not Nice Things.

As you may have guessed, a truckload or two of weapons in the hands of violent Mexican drug smugglers wasn't exactly the key ingredient to a peaceful relations, and as a result a US Border Patrol officer was killed, but even worse, several hundred Mexican civilians were also killed with the smuggled weapons. This is what is known in technical terms as "A huge cluster****." Not only did the plan fail to catch a single bad guy, but directly resulted in getting people killed in two different countries, but also dragged plenty of other people into the affair. Basically it was a debacle, and I'm stunned that anyone thought that "Give guns to bad guys and don't arrest them" would somehow turn out well. These are the people we're paying folks.

In reality though, I genuinely believe that this was an attempt to make the bogus statistic of "90% of all illegal Mexican guns come from the US." First off, that thing is complete BS. Not all of the grabbed guns were even scanned. Many had no serial numbers at all, meaning that no one knows where the majority of the weapons came from. But that fact gets in the way of the Fed spewing out anti-gun hate. That aside, a few brave men within the ATF blew the whistle on this operation, and were promptly punished for daring to expose a completely failed and immoral operation. I salute those men and hope that they find better employment.

That being said, investigations were actually launched for once, and following the bread crumb trail they found that this entire plan led all the way up to Eric Holder. When demands were made that he turn over files to see who said and did what, he basically refused. He is now being held in contempt of court. Basically, he flipped the justice system the bird and keeps on doing whatever it is he's doing.

Okay, why has he not at least been relieved of his duties? I've seen people at fast food places get fired for less. And none of those involved helping cartel agents smuggle hundreds of guns into a drug war. This is kind of a frigging big deal. Someone in our government approved a plan that directly led to hundreds of deaths of civilian Mexicans just trying to make it from day to day without being shot. Because, you know, they don't have it hard enough already. If Eric Holder were a conservative he'd be accused of state-sponsored genocide. He had flat out refused to give up all the files related to this little picnic and he still has his job. Why!?!? Why has this man not been booted out and ostracized?

Good grief people! This is despicable. The main news outlets might forget the hundreds of people dead as the result of this operation, but not me. I want some justice dangit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Disney Music Department: A League of Evil Geniuses

I am now thoroughly convinced that the song writers and music makers of the more recent Disney movies have deduced some sort of scientific formula to create addictions to their songs.
I've seriously had the oh so popular song Let It Go from Frozen stuck in my head for the last four days! Every time I go to work it just pops in and plays over and over and over, not letting me rest. I mean, it's a great song, don't get me wrong, but this thing is like the auditory version of heroin! There's no escaping its grasp!

Usually listening to a song that's stuck in your head a few times clears the problem right up. That hasn't worked for me so far. Darn it Disney, what hast thou wrought? Maybe they do have some sort of magic over there, because that song is going to become our next anthem if we're not careful!

How did they do it? How'd they make that song so darned addicting? I'd love to know so that I could use it for my own diabolical commercial self promotion help others remember good life lessons! Let It Go... Man, how I wish that I could.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger game recommendation

I'm astounded at how few cowboy video games are out there these days. You'd think a game that purports itself to let you play an awesome gunfighter picking fights and blasting bad guys in an Old West setting would sell like hotcakes! But for some reason in the last decade I think only two have come out, and only three decent cowboy games have come out since... well, ever.

Most gamers of course know of Red Dead Redemption, which I do concede is pretty fun and is one of the few games where I enjoy online play. Also you feel like a supreme bad-arse when riding about and have the Tremors 4 theme playing on the computer. ;)
But it isn't as strong on the whole gunslinging part due to the third person nature of it. Granted, it's really frigging hard to do decent ingame horseback riding or checking out your cool outfits from first person, but it's just a plain better medium for shooting.

When in absolute desperation a good many moons ago I picked up Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, and while a lot of the shooting was a bit clunky, it had a very strong Western feel and the story was amazingly compelling and still stands out to me even today. So of course the developers jumped onto the Machine Gun bandwagon and came out next with Call of Juarez: The Cartel, completely ignoring the whole cowboy game market that they sort of had pretty well pinned at the time and seemed to wish to compete with every other mindless shooter in existence.

This... did not work out well. Even I didn't check out The Cartel. Then, in an astounding case of a developer realizing what a stupid mistake they had made and deciding to not force a dumb sequel of a game nobody liked down our throats, went back to their roots with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. Obviously made on a pretty tight budget, I was ecstatic when I first heard about it and was eager for news. I was encouraged by some signs, such as when they released walkthroughs for three entire levels for onlookers to check out. A wise-ish man once said that when viewing game footage from a developer ask yourself "What don't they want you to see?" Usually they give you three minutes of a prototype level that you won't actually get to play, so what I found was darned encouraging.

Not to mention that this was a game at about sixteen dollars only! Now that is pretty darned good considering every other shooter I see is priced at sixty! And it was worth every penny.

To get right into it, this is by far the best cowboy shooter out there. You feel like an awesome gunslinging boss blasting away with revolvers, rifles and shotguns at poor fools standing in your way. While the gun loadout is sadly small, each has a unique feel and usage. The Ranger revolver feels like a real hand cannon, bucking sharply with every shot and giving a satisfying blast every time you stroke the trigger.
The cell shading is pretty good and gives the game a very gritty appearance where almost everything pops, and the baddies don't feel like the same clones coming after you one after another. There is no multiplayer, which I didn't mind, and the development team focused everything on the story, campaign, and two other small game modes.

You can also level up your character by performing special shots or stunts, which gets you more points and allows you to get new skills or tricks. This gives it a pulse pounding, adrenaline stoking arcade feel where you try to make use of every single bullet and make each one count in order to have that kill multiplier get even higher until you feel as if your thumbs are about to burst! They succeed magnificently in actually making the act of shooting the bad guys unspeakably fun! It's not gimmicky and you get exactly what you ask for, which is saying a lot in this gaming era.

The story is actually surprisingly good. Not as good as Bound in Blood, but still better than Red Dead Redemption. We follow the recollections of a man claiming to be a notorious bounty hunter by the name of Silas Greaves, and the voice actor gives an awesome gravelly delivery. Part of what is so much fun is that the gameplay takes place according to the perception of whoever is telling the story, which can make it seem unrealistically awesome or hilarious. It's actually quite clever how you think the fighting is going to go one way, but takes an abrupt turn that you aren't expecting.

In fact, the ingame audience listening to this often have direct input to the story which changes a few things. Unlike some games this one isn't afraid to have a few good jokes and knows to not take itself too seriously. They actually poke fun at some of the game design itself along with some of the supposed plot which I find to be quite endearing. Silas even makes fun of you if you happen to die, sometimes saying things like "Wait, I didn't die then! I'm sure of it!"

It's nice to have a game that isn't trying to be like The Dark Knight and is willing to take it easy at points. Quite relieving actually. There is a twist in the story which I shan't spoil, but I really liked it and it left me with a very strong frisson and instantly wanted to play it all over again, which I've done multiple times now. Silas is a load of fun too, as his stories seem to change tone as he goes through his adventures. It does take a bit too long to get to one of the focal points, seeming to wander for a bit, but the game is good enough where I don't mind it too much.

At first Silas seems like a humble man who is worn out by the years and trying to play down his exploits, then it seems as if he is trying to play himself up as a hardcore warrior of legend. As he gets more booze in him over the course of the stories it then looks like he is too drunk to keep the story going straight and is just making stuff up for free alcohol. After that you start to wonder if he's just jerking everyone around for laughs, trying to tell absurd BS stories just waiting for everyone to call him on it. And then it takes a dark tone where you wonder if the poor man is actually quite insane. This isn't inconsistent storytelling, but rather taking you through lots of twists and turns to keep you interested and enjoying yourself.

There is a heavy element of "This is what really happened" story, which some fans of history may find grating. Although a big student of the Old West, I myself didn't find it very grating, partially due to the fact that the game itself sort of points out that some of the ideas are pretty silly and even when it's over sort of keeps you guessing.
I know that the writers did their research however, as they add a "Nuggets of Truth" collection game which gives you real historical info on the events they talk about. Obviously the versions we deal with are highly romanticized and overly dramatized, but I think that adds a bit to the overall charm.

Overall the game is just plain fun! In a day and age when 99% of new releases don't even make me blink, this one shines out as an example of a team focusing on what is important, perfecting the crap out of it, and then selling it at a reasonable price. It's a tactic I think more game companies should follow, trimming down the gimmicks and focusing more on the core gameplay at a rate that your average consumer can afford.
Techland, if you're reading this, know that guys like me appreciate the crap out of this game and hope that you make another in the future! This is a franchise I'm just waiting to throw more money at.

If you're a fan of the Old West or just want a shooter game that is actually worth the money you spend, then look this game up. It's available for download only, so for you console gamers you'll have to make a transaction or two with a sturdy internet connection. For PC guys, here's a link up right here!

The Salem Mary Sue Trials

It's hard to say when the Mary Sue witch hunt started in this modern time. I'm sure that it's happened before when the term was first established, but it seems as though lately it has gotten way out of hand. You can't swing a dead cat in a literature world without hitting someone that is accusing one character or another as a Mary Sue and is therefore crap.
In the link above you'll find the basics of what constitute a Mary Sue, but like some other terms it seems to have been losing its original meaning and can mean anything from a character that seems utterly perfect, one that is too similar to the author, or one that is extremely bland with a few similarities to the author. It is being abused pretty badly these days, and it is often being applied incorrectly.

For the purposes of this article, I'll be identifying the idealized overly perfect version of the Mary Sue plague. The character that most often gets this missile launched at them is a competent, skilled, likable and moral person who is most often the protagonist. If a male then he will often have women fawning over him left and right.

Now, if you haven't shut yourself up in a Vault with no form of media whatsoever, then I'm sure you've heard of this type of character at least once. If you haven't then I can only assume you just broke out of a concrete bunker where all human contact came in the form of someone slipping your tray of food in through a thin metal slot beneath the door, probably using you as a form of experiment. (If this is the case, then let me know how you learned to read and enjoy your freedom.)

Anyway, you may wonder why this type of character mold is so common, and the answer is simple: Most people like reading about strong characters that overcome resistance put before them. The adventure is a test of their mettle, and if we like them then we wish for them to succeed. This is very basic of course, but it still bears mentioning.
This is one of the absolute key differences between a strong, competent character and an idealized Mary Sue: If it's a Sue, then everything is easy, and therefore boring. There is no challenge, and thus no tension or room for growth.

Many people criticize characters as Mary Sues on the grounds that they are too perfect, when in reality this might not be the case. Often I've seen people advise others "Your character has to have flaws." This could be in terms of competence, skills or morality. I don't find this to be the case. At this point you're not working on an organic character with a backstory and personality, you're filling out a check sheet. A formula can help establish a framework of a character, but readers can pick up on if you're doing this and it feels fake. Some might like it, but I don't believe you should go down a check list to make someone.

This can also lead to the Anti-Sue, which is an obvious effort to be very flawed, not terribly skilled and morally questionable. In most circles this translates to something known as "An unlikable jerk." They aren't terribly sympathetic. This can be done, but there still has to be something to like about the character, or at the very least identify with. I don't know about most of you, but I can't stand characters that whine and cower as everything is going on around them, complaining that life sucks. I don't identify with people like that. I prefer characters that suck it up and forge on against opposition in spite of their problems.

I call this "A butt-kicking hero." This is typically the most popular type of protagonist, by the very virtue that they are people we aspire to be like. They set a high bar that we hope to one day reach. Many of my favorite characters in books and movies are of course chiseled warriors that do what needs to be done in order to finish the job.

Now, this is NOT to imply that all characters should be the paragons of goodness and valor. There are many, many levels of character and all can be sympathetic and likable, or at the very least interesting if they are implemented well. This is key in any story. But like I said, we're working around Mary Sues at the moment.

Often characters like Tarzan, Conan and other hunky warriors are accused of being Mary Sues, and for a time I myself was confused, because this is where the lines really blur. In pulp you see guys who are the best of the best, matched only by perhaps a few other men in the world. They are called on to fight vicious armies, shadowy warriors, clanking robots, slithering beasts, anything you can think of! So I wondered heavily as to why I like these guys and not some others. And that's when the revelation above hit me: These guys succeed against their enemies, but it's hard!

Everything is stacked against the heroes. They are outnumbered, given inferior equipment and weapons, infiltrating enemy territory where they have the home turf advantage, and manage to win only by the skin of their teeth after exhausting amounts of effort. Their awesomeness is measured only by the adversaries and obstacles they must overcome.

A Sue on the other hand doesn't have to deal with all of that pesky effort stuff. They master things quickly and instantly without requiring much practice or learning. Now, some characters can learn things darned quickly, and that's okay, but the big problem here is if the conflict is just a walk in the park. I recall awhile back reading a Western that I initially thought was a Louis L'amour, but quickly picked up on the fact that it was a different writer due to the writing style and language. Of course, I could have just looked at the cover to see who had actually written the sodding thing, but this somehow escaped me. Don't ask how, even I don't know.

Anyway, the protagonist was a beefy strong gunslinger with hot Native American wife. At first this seems like a decent hero, but what bothered me was how they had friends absolutely everywhere in positions of power who went out of their way to help the hero and step on the bad guys, or even guys just trying to do their job who happened to not be part of the friends. One poor guy was locked up in a ship's brig for three days for having been rude and bigoted at the front counter to the hero's wife. I actually felt bad for the guy. Sure, he was kind of a jerk, but he was also doing his job and tried to protect himself when some stranger woman set a huge dog on him and then put a gun in his face. He didn't deserve being locked away and miserable for that.

Heck, if memory serves me correctly, the hero was only shot it once! Good grief, in most Westerns you can't serve breakfast without someone taking a shot at you. Everything was so heavily stacked against the bad guys that the hero felt more like a mob boss with ties to people in government power, swaying the law in his favor rather than a brave fighter trying to deal some justice. By the end of the book he hadn't even been required to expend much effort and I felt bored. Everything was just too darned easy. Half of the bad guys killed each other off or just didn't have the common courtesy to get shot in the face by the main character.

See what I'm getting at here?
Another difference between typical pulp heroes and Mary Sues is that pulp guys grow up in their craft from childhood, so they've had a lot of time to master it. Tarzan knows how to do tracking, fighting and survival because he was born in the African jungle and was breaking his back from the time he could walk. Conan grew up in the hills of Cimmeria among a tribe of barbarians who's national sport was Warfare, and the harsh climate forged him into a durable warrior. They aren't the most heavily burdened of people in terms of personality, but you understand their history, motivations, and know how they react to a situation. Sues will find something new and begin to master it after a short period of time, or almost instantly. Again, this can actually be done well, but there must be urgency, effort or something else to ad tension. It can't be easy!

As a further example, I just came across a fantastic statement made by the author of Fargo, a darned good Western if I've ever seen one.
"Always, the stronger the villain, the stronger the hero, the stronger the conflict, the stronger the book."

Such strong wisdom in so short a statement! He is of course, absolutely right. If it feels like our hero is far more likely to lose than win, and that defeat lurks around every corner for him, that creates tension and thus excitement. Heck, with this you can actually make the villain likable! Not every character should be the same, but there is one adamant rule that is absolutely inviolable when making a character that is going to show up for any amount of time, and I frequently reject the idea of "Rules" in writing, so pay attention: The character must be interesting.

Of course, since we are humans, even the best written character will be disliked by someone or come across as boring. It's going to happen and there's not much you can do about it. The character must have some sort of intrigue that makes them interesting to look at and follow.

Anyway, back to the thing about Mary Sues, are they really all that evil? I think only if they are boring or annoying. The lines really get blurred in some forms of literature, depending on what the writer is trying to accomplish. But wow things have gotten out of hand with people casting fingers at every character and decrying them as being a Mary Sue and therefore the entire book is crap and must be crucified. For Pete's sake, calm down people. There are way bigger things to worry about in books. If a character is decent and somewhat likable, then what's the problem?

It's also sad that this is often hurled at female authors trying to put out cool characters from their imaginations and have other people latch onto. Honor Harrington comes to mind, as a good friend let me read one of his pieces, and I read the first of the Harrington stories. It wasn't quite my style, but it was darned well written, and Harrington could certainly inspire young girls to be something other than another decoration in Bowzer's castle. You guys know who you are, so stop picking on people trying to inspire others with a pulpy icon.

Bella Swan obviously doesn't count though. Rip her up as much as you want. Bleh.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Indipendence Day!

Time again to celebrate the only revolution that didn't make things even worse after the fact, whoo hoo! Grab your lighters and pyrotechnics, it's the 4th of July!

As I sit here I let my mind drift back to the year of 1776 and imagine the thrumming booms of cannon fusillades, the clash of sabers among cavalry, the cracking of muskets and Kentucky rifles, black powder smoke obscuring the battlefield as columns of troops march in lock-step.

Every time I look at the history of the Revolutionary War I marvel that it lasted past the first year. By all rights the Revolutionaries should have been stomped into the ground beneath the heel of the British Empire within the first few months. Almost everyone in command was hopelessly inexperienced, supplies were scant at best, and soldiers could hardly keep together and offer coordinated resistance.

The Brits on the other hand brought a monstrous fleet who's cannon salvos would have shaken even the steadiest nerves and even imported German mercenaries, as if their red coated soldiers weren't enough from the start. I've also been reading up on plenty of occasions when the Brits enlisted the help of natives to gang up on the already vastly outnumbered Americans.

I'm an unashamed patriot, but wow during that first year we really got our teeth kicked in. And yet somehow, with all of the odds stacked against those rag-tag Americans, they were able to repel the greatest military force in the world at the time, something that was almost unheard of. Giving even a cursory look at the details of the conflict I still find myself speechless that we made it past the first year alone!

The Founding Fathers believed that they had been helped by God to make America a free land, and it was only by his hand that they prevailed. I am of the same opinion, unpopular though it might be.

It was also the war that showed to the world just how potent rifles could be in the hands of men who could use them. In these controversial times I've seen many people trying to downplay the utility of the Kentucky rifle in the Revolutionary War, and how the riflemen weren't at all special at the time. Oh how wrong those gents are!

On the contrary, at the time there was no other group of people in the world who could compete with the arms and skill of the American backwoodsmen and their sleek long rifles. Average infantry with muskets of course did most of the heavy lifting and had to fire in organized volleys, but the lethality of the skirmishing riflemen was even more deadly than I had first thought. Many who are uninitiated perhaps think that the best most riflemen of the time could achieve with muzzle-loaders firing round balls would be around 150 yards. Sounds pretty good, right?

That is until you take into account that British officers were being picked off at 400 yards! And this isn't just boastful claims put forth as propaganda back then or now, as even the opposition, the British, confirmed that many of these wily riflemen had an unnerving capacity for precision at long range. It is true that the British too had their own riflemen, but they weren't nearly as many or as deadly.

One officer, Major George Hangar of the British Army was a stout soldier and a fine shot himself. As he was scouting about on one occasion an American spotted him, took to the prone position and took a long range shot. Perhaps mercifully for Major Hangar, the shot didn't hit him, but slew the horse of his aide. In the Major's own words "Now speaking of the rifleman's shooting, nothing could be better. I have passed several times over this ground and ever observed it with the greatest attention; and I can positively assert that the distance he fired from at us was full 400 yards."

He may have been a redcoat, but he sure was an honest gentleman! He seems to have been of the breed who appreciated and respected men of skill, even if he was fighting against them. Indeed, after speaking with hundreds of American riflemen and examining their weapons, he declared that both were the best in the world at the time. Hangar was no neophyte, as he possessed skill with the long rifle as well and was familiar with all European rifles. The man certainly had pluck, as there were plenty of backwoodsmen taking shots at him and his fellow officers!

The American riflemen didn't win the war singled handedly however, as most were far too wild to take orders or act in a coordinated manner. It was up to the organized infantry to do the bulk of the work. But even so, the feats of those woodsmen were heard far and wide. It convinced almost every other organized nation that these fancy guns with rifling and sights were just too darned lethal to be ignored and was the first major historical step towards establishing the rifle as the dominant weapon as we know it today.

Soon after their defeat in the New World the British established what could be considered some of the first "Special Forces" of the day, namely the Rifle Brigade or The Green Jackets. Unlike other soldiers of the British ranks these gents were given green and black uniforms, some of the earliest camouflage on a large scale, and were armed with the famous Baker rifle. Operating in small groups, often in pairs, they would harass larger enemy formations with aimed fire, knocking off officers or other high value targets. They were used to deadly effect during the Napoleonic Wars and even inspired the Sharpe's book and television series.

Take that naysayers! ;)

Anyway, everyone have a splendid day! Take care not to lose any fingers and smile a little wider. :)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Modern Westerns have been changing a wee bit

As is my custom in the morning after waking up and telling five of my younger siblings no you can't come into my room and ruin my stuff, I booted up my computer and started scrolling across a list of blogs that I follow that frequently provide interesting information. One of which is the Bayou Renaissance Man, who if you haven't yet read up on then you'd best haul your rear over there and correct that problem.

Anywho, he is a darned decent indie author and does an obscene amount of research, so of course I was interested when I came across this article:

Seeing as how he looked up his writing genre, I thought it would be kind of fun to see what the Ebooks are looking like in the Western area. For research of course, and not because I wanted to see all kinds of pretty book covers with cowboys shooting at each other with guns made of honest to goodness blued steel and American walnut wood.

I racked up around 10,000 Westerns on the Kindle Ebook system, but I found quite a few... um... "variations" on the traditional Western theme. Maybe it's just me, but I thought most books set in the gritty Old West involved trying not to die, bandits, gold, that kind of stuff, y'know? Sure, there is almost always a fair damsel awaiting our brave hero by the end, but I never considered romance to be an integral part of any gritty gunfight.

Now don't get me wrong, there's no shortage of that up thar, but wow, I had no idea there were so many romance versions! Good grief!

I can't go one page without seeing at least one cowboy without his shirt, a light sheen of sweat glistening on his heavily muscled body as he embraces his true love, his hot breath stirring her shining locks of hair...
Man oh man, did I just never see this stuff on previous searches? My brain must have automatically tuned that stuff out, cuz I don't remember this being so popular!

I hope there's still a hungry market for old fashioned, gritty, nail biting action!
Anyway, I thought this would make for a decent laugh. Shoot straight fellow readers!

I don't think that's as bad as you think it is

Saw this in my inbox here recently, and there is quite a bit of fuss over it, so I thought it would only be right to throw in my two cents since I know quite a bit about the subject.

Hunting in Africa isn't as simple as some think. When they say "Hunting Endangered S...pecies" you have to understand that this is a very misleading term. The way the Endangered Species Act works is that if an animal in one territory has a dangerously low population, then the entire species is declared Endangered.
Basically, the way it's rigged, humans could be listed as Endangered.

Absurd you say? Well, look at how many humans are at Antarctica. Hardly any. Ah, but you say that there are BILLIONS of humans elsewhere! And you are perfectly correct! And thus you see the flaw of the ESA.
Some animals are dangerously low in population in one area, but in another there might actually be way too many! Which is why you sometimes see that someone hunts an endangered animal. But you know what else? To hunt those you have to pay an absolutely absurd fee for a tag. The numbers reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. And you know where that money goes?

Straight to protecting that animal. All of a sudden the local governments have the money and incentive to throw rangers out there to crack down on poachers and make sure there is enough food to keep the animals alive. Not to mention the money you have to pay for your professional guide and staff, which provides very stable and well paying jobs for Africans in third world countries.

Some scathe this young lady on the grounds that she doesn't eat the meat that she gets from these animals. Well, how do you know? How do you know she doesn't eat any of it? But what I can tell you is that if she doesn't, then all of those local Africans who are a bit low in meat will get it. There are actually programs that see that every bit of various animals are used to keep the people fed with that surplus meat and the hides used for other stuff.

So in reality, she's actually helping out a LOT of different parties. From what I see this young lady is going out into some of the most harsh territory in the world, hunting some of the most dangerous animals alive on foot with a rifle. She's got guts, and instead of chewing her out as some no-brain pretty girl, we should be cheering her on for doing what women have wanted to do for centuries but were held back due to social constraints.
You go girl! Show all those arm-chair tough guys and snooty women what a truly strong woman can really do!