Michael R. Underwood. The Shootout Solution: Genrenauts Episode 1. New York: Tor.com, 2015.

Advanced review copy provided by the author.

Genrenauts is a geek empowerment fantasy, and while the first episode plays with the Western genre, it’s rooted in references to science fiction and fantasy books, television shows and movies. This is one of the niches Mike Underwood has carved out for himself among many, thematically related to his Ree Reyes series and to Ernest Cline’s brand of 80s nostalgia mining—related enough that Underwood has been singled out alongside Cline for accusations of pandering. To my mind, that pairing is a bit unfair: Underwood’s writing is more skilled than Cline’s, and he’s more interested in his characters and the implications of storytelling than the unthinking celebration of trivia and early computer geek culture found in Ready Player One. As for pandering, well…that’s inevitable here. Underwood constructs a premise wherein a character who consumes a lot of chosen media, here, genre fiction, all of the sudden finds that knowledge, once mocked and derided, is so important it can save the world. Admittedly, I’m more sympathetic when the skill set is having read a lot of books instead of growing up in the 1980s and playing Pac-Man, but the guiding principal is the same.

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I pop on over to Marie’s Iatropexy podcast to talk about the time in the 1980s/1990s when people in North America thought a Devil-worshipping cult was stealing children.

This was recorded before I bought a new microphone, and my old one was on its last dying legs. You can tell.

Download the Podcast (right click and select “save as”)

Original post

Over at the Book Smugglers

I write about Stefan Grabiński, a Polish horror author from the early twentieth century.

We egoize about Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 classic, The Dispossessed.

Download the Podcast (archive.org page)

Marie’s blog

Episode 10 – The Left Hand of Podcasts

Source of our theme song

Incidental Music: Danse Macabre – Big Hit 1 Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

I spent more time as a teenager than I’d care to admit tracking down DOS games based on Tolkien’s work (many released before I was born), including Mike Singleton’s attractive-looking-but-not-particularly-good War in Middle Earth (1988). The failure of that game seems odd now, since a couple of years earlier the same guy put together perhaps the best “Tolkien with the serial numbers filed off” game of all time, the justly famous Lords of Midnight.

I decided to give Lords of Midnight a whirl after reading an article about its creation on The Digital Antiquarian. The original game came out in 1984 for the Sinclair Spectrum and ran on a mere 48 K from a cassette tape. It was revolutionary for the time, letting you take first-person control of multiple characters and walk them around a dynamically shifting fantasy landscape trapped in a long winter A Song of Ice and Fire-style. Though I have to express my scepticism over how people who write about old software characterize computer graphics in the 80s as looking impressive at the time. I’m pretty sure people who regularly saw photographs and paintings could see the shortcomings of pixel art like this:


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My steampunk parody novella series Zeppelins are what Dreams are Made of wrapped up on Saturday. It’s time for Jennifer Asten to take a well-deserved rest.

You can read from the beginning here if you’re so inclined.

A short, impromptu review of The Witches of Lublin, the holiday radio play “by Ellen Kushner and a bunch of other people in the cast.”

Download the Podcast (archive.org page)

Marie’s blog

The Witches of Lublin website



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