“This is griefing disguised as game design.”

— Shamus Young, on No Man's Sky's inventory 'improvements'

It wasn’t cheap, but I finally have a fully-functional keyboard on my MacBook Pro:

Yes, that’s a one-key mechanical USB keyboard with an Escape key. I wish the case were a bit shorter (the USB port’s on the bottom side of the board, sadly), but even with the extra height, it’s so much easier to work now. I may try to CNC something that lets it “clip” onto the side with a very short USB cable; longer reach but better height, might be worthwhile.

Forgotten SF Novels: Heroes of Zara Keep


The isekai genre that’s more-or-less taken over the Japanese anime and light-novel markets has a long history. You could argue about the precise definition, such as whether the protagonist is required to have been a loser in real life before being transported to another world, and whether or not it’s a one-way trip, possibly involving reincarnation. And whether the other world is specifically based on RPG tropes, including concepts like “levels” and “hit points”.

You could say that Edgar Rice Burroughs invented it in 1917 with A Princess of Mars, but it was certainly a familiar genre trope before Piper’s Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen in 1965, and it was only a minor novelty when Brian Daley brought modern military weapons into the mix in 1977’s The Doomfarers of Coramonde. By the time Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame series kicked off in 1983, it was old hat.

But a year before Rosenberg made the idea of living in a D&D world a bit less cool, Guy Gregory’s one-and-done novel Heroes of Zara Keep hit the shelves.

Left to right, that’s Flos, Jason, Lyca, Sax, and Culter. Perfectly ordinary young adults with perfectly ordinary names. Okay, Jason has a perfectly ordinary name, but he compensates for that by being the only one who’s not obviously ordinary, having Very Unusual Hands. By the way, the tiny speck under the author’s name is the massive, threatening dragon that the Big Bad rides, or maybe a pigeon.

It’s… okay, I guess. A generic wizard summons a group of Chosen Ones at the moment of their (mostly foolish) deaths, sets them up with mentors who have exactly the right skillsets, and then when the Great Danger arrives ahead of schedule, cuts short their training and arranges a meet-up in just the right way to cause Our Heroes to fight before becoming besties. Their pretty darn quick journey to Zara Keep to defeat the Big Bad provides precisely the challenges each was trained to overcome, while also providing precisely the situations needed to trigger each one’s PTSD over the manner of their deaths. But not so much that there’s any doubt they’ll make it there in time. Honestly, it took me about a week to re-read it, because I kept nodding off.

The module book wraps everything up neatly, with no loose ends, and happy endings all around for Our Heroes. The complete lack of a sequel hook is perhaps the most novel thing about it.

Guier S. Wright III and G. Scott Wright, Jr. share the copyright on this one, and about nine years ago a Guy Wright turned up on an SFFworld forum thread to mention that his dad wrote it, he had a bunch of copies in the garage, and to feel free to email him any questions. That pretty much sums up the Internet’s collective knowledge of both book and author.

Update

I just noticed that all five of Our Heroes are looking in different directions, and none of them are looking at the titular keep or the massive, threatening dragon.

Open for business…


The sign says “Heisei Girls’ Academy”, but most schools don’t have neon signs that are lit up at night, with another sign nearby offering DVDs…

(via)

As expected, 18-or-older young women do the educating at this ‘fashion health’ chain. But they do wear school outfits. Briefly.

Pixiv: my (original) girl


The uchi no ko (うちの子) tag is generally used to indicate an artist’s original characters, but sometimes seems to just be “my dream girl”, plus the occasional “girls I keep tied up in my basement”. That last group is not represented in this collection…

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3D Cheesecake 17


I’m way behind on adding names to these, but I’m even more behind on posting them.

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We fits


(via)

Forgotten SF Novels: Fane


Fane, by David M. Alexander, 1981:

Beyond the stars, a fool’s paradise lies waiting to be saved!

The planet Fane, inhabited by earthlings and native four-armed Fanists, is threatened when the wizard Greyhorn contrives a fiendish plot to conquer the world and enslave its inhabitants.

Greyhorn’s scheme lacks one essential ingredient, so the great wizard sends his bumbling newphew, Grantin, to find it. But when Grantin unwittingly foils his uncle’s plans, he is plummeted headlong into a strange adventure.

Evading bandits on lizards, pleading mercy from talking trees, battling poison-toothed demons, the unwilling Grantin journey through the Weird Lands into the domain of evil where the gorgeous Lady Mara is waiting to be saved…

But to save the Lady, the planet, and himself for the simplest pleasures of Fanist life, Grantin must rise to the occasion— and learn how to fight!

The cover picture is 100% accurate, except for the tights. The back-cover blurb, on the other hand, is batting about 0.300. Among its other problems, there’s a third race with a significant role in the plot (lower right), uncle Greyhorn isn’t the one trying to conquer the world (but he’s willing to help for a piece of the action), Grantin is just sent into town to pick up the essential ingredient from a courier, Mara doesn’t know that she needs saving until quite late in the book, and Grantin isn’t so much interested in saving her as in getting her to undo the mistake he made that sent him fleeing from his uncle’s wrath.

To my surprise, this one’s still in print and available for Kindle, as The Accidental Magician, under the pen name David Grace. The cover art is a bit less accurate (depicting uncle Greyhorn contacting the actual villain through a crystal ball), while the blurb is a bit more, so it balances out.

Is it any good? Mostly for the world itself and Grantin’s two alien allies, Chom and Castor. Grantin, Greyhorn, Mara, and the rest of the humans don’t have much to offer.

The Grooming Of The Raccoon Waifu


I’m finally caught up on 狸の幼妻の育ち上がり, er, “The Rising of the Shield Hero”. I like it, but it helped that I went into it with fair warning about the infodumps and enough episodes out that I could watch two at a time. And that I ignored the fan-wanking about how it was just awful compared to the manga and the light novels and the web novels, etc, etc.

(original image by yodane, here; titling by me; click for full-sized image upscaled with (appropriately) waifu2x)

Hopefully it will do well enough for a second season, because they can’t possibly wrap up even a highly-condensed adaption of the main story, currently spread across 20+ novels and not yet finished. Unless they blitz through the waves to a Type 1 Tenchi Solution in the last few episodes. 😁

Now all I have to do is come up with something else to watch while on the elliptical…