Saturday, September 30, 2017

Strange Maps

If you love maps, you'll love this. I'm inspired.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Eumenides

Elsewhere (here and here) I've shared my thoughts about the first two plays in the trilogy known as The Oresteia, surrounding the orgy of family-murder surrounding Agamemnon's return from the Trojan Wars. The final play is The Eumenides, and it wraps everything up neatly if not nicely. Orestes has murdered his mother, Clytemnestra, in revenge for her murder of his father Agamemnon with the help of her lover, who has seized the throne. Now, Orestes is pursued and hounded by a trio of vengeance-goddesses called The Furies. With the help of Apollo and Hermes, who have been in Orestes' corner all along, he escapes long enough to get to Athens where he stands trial under the authority of Athena. The goddess organizes the trial, said to be the first in Athenian history. The Furies and Apollo act as prosecutors and defense, and in the end the jury brings in a tie vote. Athena breaks the tie in Orestes' favor. She re-names The Furies "the kindly ones" (that is, The Eumenides), and convinces them to refocus their energies as spirits of vigilance and guard for Athens. The goddess then decrees that henceforth, trials are to take the place of blood vendettas. Frankly after the action of the first two installments in the trilogy, I felt like this one was a little boring - it just recounts and defends the various actions already taken, and smacks of civic pride and propaganda. That being said, it does wrap everything up in a nice little bow, and I'm glad I read the plays of Aeschylus. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Murgatroyd Mysteries

I wrote a collection of mystery stories set in the world our gaming group uses. I don't think the mysteries are all that unsolvable, honestly (I'd be a terrible criminal) but I think I did a good job with the setting and characters. It was a lot of fun.

The Fat Lady Screams & Other Mysteries

Monday, September 25, 2017

Beyond the Pillars of Hercules

Here's the first full-length record from 6 Demon Bag, which is Scott Chaffin and I. There are actually about seven thousand bands on bandcamp with the same name, proving once again how pervasive Big Trouble in Little China has been in my generation. This is not a rock record. It's an ambient/instrumental record. Enjoy.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Double Star

Continuing with my exploration of classic science fiction I've missed, I've tackled Double Star, by Robert A. Heinlein. Written in 1956, it won the first Hugo award for Heinlein, who'd go on to accumulate a large handful. Surprisingly, Heinlein manages to make "one of the oldest plots in literature" engaging and entertaining. It's essentially a political thriller with a strong sub-theme of what it means to be who you are (as opposed to someone else). At what point does pretense become reality? The hero of the story, an actor who goes by the self-aggrandizing title The Great Lorenzo, is recruited (more like blackmailed) by a spaceman who works undercover for Bonfarte, a politician who is currently out of power but very popular. Lorenzo despises him, because Bonfarte wants to give the vote to native Martians (the solar system is dominated by humans). A thorough racist, Lorenzo has a deep revulsion for Martians. Nevertheless, he finds himself impersonating the great man, who has been kidnapped so he'll miss an important political event, ending his career. Lorenzo manages to navigate important parts of the political campaign, and slowly, over time, becomes a believer, especially when Bonfarte is returned, broken by the trauma of his kidnapping. He eventually dies, leaving Lorenzo to take on his role permanently. How this all plays out I'll save for a surprise. I've not read much Heinlein, and I like this one better than some of the other stuff I've read. If there was a way to combine a hippie and a fascist I think it might be something like him. But Heinlein's reputation is certainly deserved. This book was controversial when it came out - mainly because of the emphasis on whether the Martians should have the right to vote, and the author's clear belief that they should. When you remember this was written in 1950s America, it's easy to see what Heinlein is really talking about, and his readers would have certainly recognized it. Social implications are mostly buried, however, in what is at heart a simple, rousing space-opera-type thriller.