“Crunchy”

I’ve found myself using the word “crunchy” a lot to describe settings with a lot of detail. I could think I read it somewhere, but haven’t been able to find someone else using it in that way. As for how I took to the word “Crunchy”, I think it might be two things.

  • A derivative of “number-crunching”.
  • A metaphor for density-it’s dense, “solid”, and thus crunches when you bite down.

A use of it in context could be “Worm has a lot of crunchiness to it, making it a favorite on a board [Spacebattles] that likes such things.”

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Bad Fiction Spotlight: The IG-88 Star

It’s a matter of controversy that the old Star Wars Expanded Universe was “decanonized” into “Legends” status. I personally think that it’s no big deal, because the best stuff from the Old EU can be and has been folded in (ie, Thrawn appearing in Rebels much the way characters like Harley Quinn moved from the show to the comics). There was a ton of clutter that Disney clearly didn’t want to deal with—

—and then there were some of the most egregious offenders. Stuff that wasn’t just out-of-place extradimensional beingsĀ  or “Dark Greetings From The Mofference” or just the sneering Imperial guy with the superweapon of the week. No, this was something that took an annoying trait and would have fundamentally changed the movie it was based on. Something that was the very first thing I mind-retconned out of my personal canon as not right.

That something was the short story “Therefore I Am: The Tale of IG-88“. The annoying trait was to turn everyone who appeared on screen for two seconds in the movie-in IG-88’s case, as one of the few bounty hunters on screen with Boba Fett in Empire Strikes Back-, and make what felt like each and every one of them big and important and special somehow. And this was coming from Kevin J. Anderson, who’d already upstaged the movies with his super-superweapon. “YEAH, BUT THIS TOTALLY INDESTRUCTIBLE AND IS THE SIZE OF A FIGHTER AND DESTROYS FREAKING SYSTEMS DUUUUUDE!”

But on to the point. IG-88 decides that only droids deserve to live (gee, I wonder when Kev-I mean, he got that from?), takes control of a droid factory world, and then, after shenanigans (which include shoehorning his movie role in there almost as a clunky obligation), ends up uploaded into the second Death Star, where he’s about to broadcast his big signal and then gets destroyed.

It’s like the titular ring in Lord of The Rings being “revealed” in a far later, non-Tolkien authored book to secretly be about to activate an army of (anachronistic) zombies under the command of someone who appeared in one page in the first book when it fell into Mount Doom. Or Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter being “revealed” to be on the verge of inadvertedly signalling an array of alien robots to destroy the world when he’s defeated, all at the behalf of a Muggle mailman who had a small cameo four books ago. That’s how weird, bad, and inappropriate this whole mess is.

Stuff like this makes me not sorry the Old EU got tossed.

Time to filter

When I write, there comes a time when I have to filter out the excess world-building, the kind that I think is neat but not really relevant to a story. At best, it’s just excess stuff. At worst, I think it gets in the way of characters and plot.

Though I don’t subscribe to the fallacy of “every day spent on worldbuilding research is one less day on writing”-sometimes inspiration strikes and sometimes it doesn’t.

Antagonist Tone

I’ll be honest. When writing it, I pulled the entire original set of antagonists I’d planned for Todd’s Super Racket Adventure and replaced them with quickly shoved-in goofballs and homages to 90s video games. I feel it was the right thing to do, for having villains who I wanted to be serious in a book that was inherently silly and goofy would have just cheapened them without really adding anything to the “goofy, silly” part of the story I wanted.

The villains I wanted originally will have to wait for another book, I suppose.

Team Yankee

I’ve just finished Harold Coyle’s Team Yankee, the classic tank novel.

By its own terms, it’s not the best book.

It’s like a micro-scale Red Storm Rising. (I don’t mean in tone, or obvious setting, I mean it’s a decent but dated and over-jargoned book). It’s a little too clinical. Too much explanation of attacks and formations and stuff in detail, like Coyle wanted to show off what he knew. At times I thought “this is like Melville, only with tanks instead of sailing ships”.

The characters away from the main group aren’t that good. The wife subplot seems superfluous, cutting to an A-10 pilot or headquarters officer is a little jarring, and the occasional Soviet viewpoint character exists basically to go “curse those dastardly Americans!”

And yet when comparing it to the later WW3 imitators I’ve seen on the internet and self-published fiction, it comes across as better. For while it has the flaws mentioned above, it also has one thing a lot of the later ones don’t-a truly consistent narrative. The viewpoint disruptions aren’t too bad, and some are indeed tied in to the main action, which cannot be said for others. This alone makes it worth a read.

What I’m Reading

I actually have, for a variety of reasons, an actual backlog of books I’m reading for fun, which range from nonfiction reference books to classic novels. But most of them are cheap thrillers. I love good cheap thrillers. They’ve been some of my biggest writing inspirations, and I mean that in a totally non-snide way. (Don’t ask me to give a firm definition of “Cheap thriller”, the best I can give is “unashamed genre fic that isn’t afraid of being cliche”)

I did not read nearly enough cheap thrillers in 2017 as I should have, and now I’m making up for lost time.

Heat Signature

So, I got and beat the game Heat Signature. It’s a fantastic game. Quite possibly the greatest “Hit people with wrenches” simulator I’ve ever played.

To be more serious, I was actually a little skeptical of it, given its nominal relationship to super-twitch reflex-why-do-you-hate-yourself hard Hotline Miami. But it’s pausable, and when I actually played it, I saw right away the influence of its predecessor by the same creator, Gunpoint.

The two games make it so that your character is vulnerable but not weak, and trying weird gimmicks and self-imposed challenges is part of the fun. Hit people with wrenches, then nonchalantly get sucked into space after breaking a window on purpose to make your getaway.

If I had to give some criticisms of the game, I’d single out two. The first is that the environments can get kind of samey, being procedurally generated on certain templates. The other is that the in-game difficulty doesn’t scale very well, on “Audacious” and “Mistake”-level missions, I found myself either skipping them as cost-ineffective or munchkining my way through with special builds-they didn’t feel as satisfying as the “Hard” mode.

But Heat Signature is a really, really good game nonetheless.

 

 

The TO&E Paradox

Here’s one of the most interesting paradoxes.

-The TO&E of a unit tells a lot about what the unit is, what it’s capable of, and what it does.

-Any unit that has been in the field for even a slight amount of time will NOT be matching its on-paper TO&E. So, if a unit’s paper strength is 51 tanks and 173 APCs, even a bit of experience in the “rough” will reduce that, if only to mechanical breakdowns. So it’s one of those “use a bit of common sense” deals.

Worm’s Appeal and My Growing Distaste

So how did a minor but incredibly long story about a superheroine end up dominating Spacebattles to the point where it needed its own forum? (NOTE: I’m being a little vague and general due to the desire to avoid spoilers-I may go more in-depth later if I feel like it)

Well, even I can think the concept is interesting enough, and I think it could be due to some other factors:

  • This is not anything having to do with Worm itself, but rather its rivals. Big two superhero comics have the bar set so low that you need a microscope to see the gap between it and the ground. For all the many problems with its own structure and worldbuilding, Worm has a massive advantage in that it’s a contained narrative written by one person.
  • Unconventional superpowers. This is where I think Worm shares an unlikely fandom with the infamous Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. The characters have unconventional superpowers and use them, and the appeal is there.
  • A sort of “crunchiness” where people like the mechanics. Of course, as someone who dislikes excessive “crunchiness” where it doesn’t matter, this is not the case for me. But people do like it, especially on a place like Spacebattles.

So that’s what gets the appeal of Worm going.

However, I’ve found (and must say that this is my personal opinion), as I’ve read more of it, that Worm is worse than I thought at first. At least, later Worm is. Early Worm (which I define as roughly up to Arc 8) is still in the “not for me” category. Later Worm, well…

  • The powers get more and more contrived.
  • The stakes get raised far too much.
  • The story gets less believable and focused.

And then there’s the final plot twists, which when I saw them, I thought “you’d slog through a million and a half clunky words for this?