Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Suggestion for the Dragon Awards

Listen, I'm a lover of the Dragon Awards. As the only award truly given by the fandom, I think they're both important and interesting, not to mention fun. So under no circumstances should this post be misconstrued as a nerd rage or anything. I really appreciate what the Dragons do for Science Fiction and Fantasy in all of its forms. I mean seriously, who else gives awards for SF/F card and board games? I started this blog with the premise that the Science Fiction community needs to open the umbrella and let more people and their hobbies in. The Dragon Awards have done exactly what I asked for and they've done a better job at my mission than I have. It sucks to admit that to myself, but it's true.

So no, I'm not here to lambaste a group that doesn't deserve it. I do, however, think that maybe, just possibly, the World's Most Awesome Awards could possibly open itself up to just one more category. It encompasses a group of people who labor away talking about what they love and spreading the word, often with zero compensation. I'm talking about people who spend their time promoting many of the same works that get nominated and win Dragon Awards. I'm talking about people like me.

I'm talking about people who have fan sites. Seriously. I hear you laughing out there, but think about it. The Dragon Awards are a celebration of Science Fiction and Fantasy. They are the expression of love from a fandom that is at times contentious, but is united in its love of all thing Science Fictional. I think it's time to bring attention to those who bring attention to the super talented authors and game designers, movie directors, etc. that the Dragons have.

No, I'm not going to lie to you. I really would love to win a Dragon someday. I'm also not delusional. There are many sites out there with a much bigger following than mine. I might, if I'm lucky and/or my girlfriend is feeling generous that day, receive one mention on a nomination ballot. This isn't about me.

I'm not trying to take away from the amount of work it takes to write a one hundred thousand word novel. I'm not trying to denigrate people who direct movies with huge casts and crews that probably number in the hundreds or the writers who work just as hard as novelists to get their stories on paper. I'm just saying that those of us who own and maintain websites work hard too.

Just the other day I was freaking out about ever completing a novel. I mean, fifty or sixty thousand words is a lot, right? Sort of. My favorite publishing house is Baen and they require a minimum of one hundred thousand words. Good gosh, golly-gee, how could I ever write a hundred thousand words?

Then, I thought about it. This is my one hundred and sixty-sixth post. After my first few posts, I was told that it was better for Seach Engine Optimization purposes if I did posts that were at least one thousand words long. I've written to at least that length ever since. Some are like ten words over and others are over twice that. Out of one hundred and sixty-six posts, I'm guessing (and I'm too lazy to count) that there are at least one hundred and seventy five thousand words contained within this blog. That's a lot. I'm not scared to write a novel anymore. I haven't exactly finished one either, but nobody's perfect.

And that's just the amount of work that I've put into this blog. There are much larger sites that put a lot more work in than I do. I post a couple of times a month. I'm at forty-nine posts for the year and I'm on pace to write more posts in one calendar year than I ever have before. There are sites out there with multiple contributors posting daily. They're the people telling people about these books, movies and games. They're putting in their blood sweat and tears too. I'm just thinking they might deserve a little recognition as well.

Now, to be fair, I might limit it to people who don't have works eligible in other categories. I'm a huge fan of both Sarah Hoyt and Larry Correia. I buy their books. I read their books. I've reviewed them both here. I go to their blogs. The fact remains that, were it up to me, I'd make their blogs ineligible for a Best Fan Site Dragon. I wouldn't allow sites like Baen.com or Tor.com to compete in this category either. Ditto the official Blizzard forums for games like WoW or Hearthstone, etc. Make this an award for the fans.

I'm not saying to rule out all professionals though. I mean, IO9 pays its writers and I'd be perfectly okay with them competing. I'm just saying that we need to keep this to people who write about science fiction and fantasy instead of people who write science fiction and fantasy. It should be about those of us who ordinarily wouldn't get the accolades. Seriously folks, this is one for the people.
I hate to do this, but I have to give the Hugos props here. They have a “Best Related Work” category. Now, I wouldn't do it the same way they do. I know of SF authors who have been nominated for Best Related Work. I know that the Hugos in general are controlled by one small group of nominators who get their own elected every year. I'm not asking to have the award (if it ever happens) limited to one person who sits at the right table at the awards banquet every year.I just think we should be part of the discussion.

The Dragon Awards are given at DragonCon every year. DragonCon is, at the end of the day, about connecting the fans with the content creators and having a good time doing it.  When the rubber meets the road though, the people carrying the load and doing our best to promote the hobby are the people out there, like me, who write about it. How about a little love for us too?

Some links to DragonCon related products are listed below:






The Janitor Must Die by John Fulton

(Author's Note: Due to the fact that I'm reviewing a book by John Fulton, I currently have a Jonathan Coulton song stuck in my head. If this post gets too zany, blame them.)

The janitor must die. That guy has got to go. There can be no sparing him. We got to get 'im, got-got to get 'im. (Oops. That's an old Tribe Called Quest song. Sorry. Sometimes I confuse janitors with wallets. Don't we all?) I mean, Josh is a pretty decent guy but he's got it coming. I think. Right? There sure are enough things out to get him that it doesn't look good. Who is after him? The stuff in the book. You do know this is a book, right? Are you paying attention? You're sure? Riiiight. Anyway...

Listen, my cousin Josh was a janitor and he never had a day like this Josh does. Things go from frustrating to bad to worse to... Well, I don't wanna spoil anything. Let's just say that out there somewhere there is a person who got into a car wreck and had a day ten thousand times better than the day that Josh has had. Seriously.

Part of the problem of reviewing The Janitor Must Die by John Fulton is that I don't like to include spoilers. At the beginning of the book Josh, our hero and janitor extraordinaire (or maybe averagedaire) has no idea how badly things are going to go that day or how his whole world is going to get turned upside down. I don't want to give up too much here.

What I will say is this: If you are

A.) a janitor

and

B.) You forget your wallet on the way to work and can't buy breakfast

just turn around and take yourself back home. Preferably at maximum warp.

Oops. That was a Star Trek reference and this isn't a space novel.

*SIGH*

Listen, I warned you that this was going to be a weird one, okay?

And really, warp speed may be a massive understatement of how quickly I'd run away if I knew my workplace was going to end up like THAT. Seriously. Either you agree with me or you haven't read the book. Thankfully, there is an easy fix for this problem: Read the book and agree with me. See! Piece of chicken. (Oh God, none of you got that one.)

Part of the problem here, if we're being honest as that as good as The Janitor Must Die is (and it is a damn good book) it is kind of an interesting combination. It's kind of a big mass of "HOLY SHIT!" mixed with a bit of "What the FUCK?" crossed with just a little "Wait, what?" The thing is that there really aren't a whole lot of major plot twists. Josh really had no clue what was going on around him until things got crazy. And they go from zero to Joker levels of insanity in less time than it takes to talk about it. He's learning about the world around him as he goes and so are we. It's a bumpy ride for all involved. Some things don't fit at first.

This is a good thing as there is a lot in this first book (there is a note about sequels at the end but no time table given except "soon") and it's either a clueless main character or a series of info dumps. Fulton made the right choice here. This thing moves. The Janitor Must Die is a story that lives, breathes, and creeps. (Wow, the Oxford comma really does work.)  I have a vision of Fulton sitting at his computer with his word processor on and his hands extended from him as living words fly from his fingers and onto the screen, arranging themselves into an awesome book...

That sounds like fun. Maybe he'll show me how to do that. Seriously, because I'm all in. How cool would that be? Wiggle, wiggle, woosh, story. Done. Awesome.

It's actually a really good thing that there is a sequel or six million coming. There are a lot of things that seem to fit but  aren't completely explained. I'm hoping that further reading will elucidate certain aspects of an occasionally opaque tome which, while thoroughly delightful, is, at times, moderately insufficient in backstory. (Sorry, I thought this goofy post needed a super serious moment. Did it work?)

All trash talk aside though, it would be nice to see a little more of what motivates certain characters in future books. I'm not naming names, but the actions of certain characters would make a bit more sense of why they're doing what they're doing. I'm not calling for endless pages of exposition and long soliloquies to long lost lovers. I don't need to see a musical production describing the existence of  some classified government agency. Actually, The Janitor Must Die is probably better off without the screeching pimple-faced teenagers (UGH. High school memories) but I'd like to see maybe a flashback or two at some point in the future.

I'm really thinking of a couple of characters in particular here. I don't want to name names or give details because that would be very spoiler-y and I'm not trying to be like the peaches in your grandma's cobbler. Let's just say there are some very loose ends a possibly a very deep mystery or two that could use some light shed on them. Like about three very large star's worth.

That's not to say that The Janitor Must Die is a bad book because it's a very good one. At the end of the day, I'm left wanting more, and that's a good thing. Trust me. I tried to read Twilight once. After a hundred and forty pages I didn't want - as in couldn't take - anymore. This is not that book. I just wish there would have been a bit more here. I guess I'll have to read the sequels to find out more. I'm okay with that. I'm looking forward to it.

But for now, I'm off on a mission. Granted, I've had breakfast, lunch and dinner today, but I'm going to go eat breakfast again. Twice. Just to make sure. And I'm taking my wallet with me when I leave too.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Shotgun Shells

The Janitor Must Die
John Fulton
Full Ton Press, 2018


The Janitor Must Die is available for purchase at the following link:


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

David Ryker's Invasion: Contact: Book One

So, let's say that you're a prospective space fighter pilot. You're a member of a military that is dedicated to protecting humanity from alien threats, only they've never had an engagement. There are no known alien species. You're out among the stars testing to receive your wings. Command calls with a course correction. What happens next? If you didn't guess that two alien species would show up and start shooting at each other, I'm guessing that

1.) You haven't read David Ryker's Invasion: Contact: Book One

and

2.) You're having a better day than Cadet Eddie Pale.

(For the record, no, that isn't a spoiler. It all happens in like the first three pages.)

What comes next? I guess you'll have to read the book. Nope, I'm not saying. Ask my daughter how many times she fell asleep watching The Half Blood Prince before she found out who the movie/book was named after. I'm a stinker. Nope, no spoilers here.

What I will say is that Invasion:Contact is a masterpiece of military action and political intrigue. There is a lot that would go into fending off an alien invasion and Ryker nails it. There is always something going on. Someone is always up to something and it's not always helpful. Then again sometimes it is, or at least the character thinks it is.

Ryker seems to have a really good grasp of human nature. When the end of the world comes knocking and we all need to work together to preserve ourselves as a species there are those who look to their own personal benefit. That's realistic. Whether it's a US President known to "never let a crisis go to waste" or Winston Churchill using a war with the Nazis to gain the office of Prime Minister, that's how some people will always act. In a lot of cases, they're powerful people, because they've found and/or manufactured so many opportunities in the past and it's become habit.

Oh, and factionalism still seems to be a thing too. That also is human nature and it works. Something that has kind of bothered me in the past is that a lot of Science Fictional work assumes that something will happen and humanity will start all working together and it will instantly be all hunky-dory. With Star Trek it's the arrival of the Vulcans. With Robotech it's the crash landing of the SDF-1. It's like one alien shows up and we all join hands and start singing Kumbaya (or Internationale if you prefer, I guess). It wouldn't work that way. Groups will still have their agendas and will be working for their own benefit, even if they're working together in public. Ryker gets that.

But there's the other side of the equation too. Sometimes a Commanding Officer makes the wrong call. Sometimes he makes the right one. Regardless, there are times when an officer's decisions are going to result in the death of his subordinates. It's not pretty but it's the way the world works. The good ones will not the losses and keep fighting. They'll mourn when they can but they'll understand that the job requires them to keep fighting until then. That's a pretty good description of Red Hand Loreto, commander of the human fleet. He's hard but fair and he gets the job done. I like this guy.

Invasion: Contact is called Book One for a reason. There are at least two sequels planned to be released in very short order. In watching some of these characters develop, I'm wondering if Ryker isn't already showing us some future villains. I'm thinking of one character in particular who appears to be more than just a little disgruntled. I know we've all blamed the boss for something that went wrong before. I just think that some cases are worse than others and that sometimes people are in a better spot to do something about their anger than others. Time, and the next two books, will tell if I'm right or wrong, but I know which way I'm betting.

The battles in this book are mesmerizing. Ryker does a damn fine job of not only keeping it interesting, but also making it believable. Yes, things blow up. Yes, troops are lost on all side because that's how things work in real wars. Sometimes shots hit. Sometimes they miss. It all makes sense. And if I got a chuckle out of one ship's weakness well, hey, that just makes the story better.

The aliens in this book actually don't think like human beings. That's awesome. I mean, I mentioned Robotech earlier, right? Who can ever forget Exedore appearing and saying "Take me to your leader"? but I find it hard to believe that a species that evolved on another planet under separate conditions and with a totally different biology would think like human beings. I mean, look at the planet we live on. There are so many differences here and biologically we're all compatible. Why would something with a completely different brain structure think like us? They wouldn't. That's one thing that really works in Invasion: Contact. The motivations of one of the two alien species can be figured out, but their mode of communication is just not what any human being would consider normal.

That leads into my only really complaint about the novel. One of the alien races is pretty cardboard. We know that they're the attackers. We know that they're to be feared. We just don't know why. I mean, it's possible that they're just xenophobic and out to destroy all other life as a threat. If so though, it would be great to know that. As of right now, they're just targets with better tech than humanity has. I hope that changes further into the series. A mysterious villain works well but a truly evil one would be even better. So here's hoping. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy because Invasion: Contact is an absolute blast. David Ryker has hit it out of the park in his first book.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Rusty Fighters


Invasion: Contact: Book One
David Ryker
Self Published, 2018

Invasion: Contact: Book One is available for purchase at the following link:



Friday, August 17, 2018

Son of Cayn by Stormy McDonald, Alan Isom and Jason McDonald

Umm...wow. I just finished reading Son of Cayn and I honestly don't know where to start with this review. Don't get me wrong, it was a really good book. I enjoyed it. I'm just not sure where to begin because there was a lot in here. I mean, I guess I expected that. It's the first book in a fantasy series and those are frequently pretty busy. When an author (or in this case team of authors) has to not only introduce their characters but also their world, there tends to be a lot of information necessary. Every fantasy setting is different and when you couple in the setting and how magic works and what fantasy races exist.. Yeah, it's a lot.

The good news is that Son of Cayn not only very effectively manages to introduce the characters and show off the world, it also manages to do so without bogging down into infodumps and leaves room for later expansion. I'm an as yet unpublished fantasy author myself. I should probably go back and take notes on how they did it because they did a damn good job. I feel like I could go on a wagon trip (Most of the story is spent on the trail, facing danger while traveling.) along the same path the crew in the book did and not get lost. I'm not sure I'd wanted because I tend to be big on not risking my hide unnecessarily, but that's a separate issue.

If you're going to read Son of Cayn, and I recommend doing so, you had best be prepared for some pretty major twists and turns. Nothing is quite as it seems. Most people are not quite who they say they are. This is a very tightly plotted story and it turns on a dime. I enjoyed that. I'm reminded of a movie I watched with my dad back in either the 80s or 90s called Legal Eagles. It wasn't Science Fiction or Fantasy, but it had a great story and an ending that worked but that you never saw coming. My dad marked out because he couldn't figure it out and he was usually good at that stuff. It's that kind of a book.

Part of the surprises are people being precisely who we thought they were, even though they're nowhere near what we thought they were. Certain things happen that only make sense in retrospect. Sometimes a new talent emerges out of nowhere. Allegiances are sometimes a little murkier than you would first suspect. Seriously, don't trust any of these characters.

The fight scenes in Son of Cayn are awesome. I have been known to play the occasional game of Dungeons and Dragons and I really want a couple of these weapons. I mean, they're pretty awesome. I have a sneaking suspicion that one or more of these authors might be roleplayers themselves and that part of the reason these characters get such cool weapons is wish fulfillment. I'm okay with that though. It's entertaining regardless.

As if I haven't already made it obvious, Son of Cayn moves. There always seems to be something going on. It may not be what the reader thinks it is, but it's happening. You may not get a chance to catch your breath, but do you really want to? What's the point of catching your breath anyway? No, Son of Cayn is a book you go through at Mach Two with your hair on fire. It's more fun that way. Slowing down is for sissies. I mean, if you want to know the truth, if I wanted boring I'd read romance. The authors of this one keep things interesting, most often in the sense of the ancient Chinese curse.

I'm also reminded of another movie when I read Son of Cayn. I know not everyone is a fan, but there is a strong leaning toward The Godfather 3 contained within these pages. It's not really all that clear who the enemy is. It's not exactly clear if our heroes really have a singular enemy. Events happen but even after reading the book I'm not altogether certain which ones were related and which ones weren't. I totally feel like Michael Corleone reading this one. "Our true enemy has not yet revealed himself."

I really did get a feeling that there are several major players still missing from the board. Somewhere out there, our true villains are hatching their plots. Somewhere out there, there may very well be someone, or maybe a group of someones, that are on our side as well. We're being led into a much larger world than either we or our heroes anticipate. It's obvious that it's there, but not how far it goes. I'm excited to find out because there is a Lord of the Rings feel here. Right now it's just the Fellowship, but there may be entire kingdoms out there that we still get to journey to. None of the heroes of the book are kings or even nobles (well, probably. I mean, given the surprises so far...) but I can't help but think that at some point in the future of this series we'll be meeting oodles and bunches of them. Or maybe I'm wrong but hey, I'm a fan I get to have my theory.

That leads me to my one complaint about Sons of Cayn. It doesn't really have a Big Bad. Our heroes are totally worth rooting for. They're honorable and they're a caravan of people off to simply sell some soap. Their goals are the everyday kind of noble: Money to be earned, families to feed, etc.
hey're normal people for the most part, at least until things start to change. But there is no one person or thing to hate as such. I'm no fan of thieves and brigands, but they just don't engender the type of ill will that a Khan Noonien Singh or an Emperor Palpatine can. That much having been said, there is a strong case for keeping the reader wondering. It's always good when an author's audience wants more. That's why it's a series, right?

Speaking of which, I published this review on the release date of the book. It's about twelve thirty PM my time. I wonder: Should I start bothering the publisher for the sequel NOW, or should I wait until after dinner?

Bottom Line:4.5 out of 5 Bars of Soap

Son of Cayn
Stormy MacDonald, Alan Isom, Jason McDonald
New Mythology Press,  2018

Son of Cayn is available for purchase at the following link:


Thursday, August 16, 2018

M.A. Rothman's Primordial Threat

We've all read stories with surprise endings. There's nothing new there. It's not like O. Henry was born last week. As a matter of fact, there are few things less surprising than a big plot twist at the end of a book or movie. It happens a lot. If it's done well it works, but it's been done to death.

What's a little more surprising is reading a book (I suppose it could apply to consuming any type of story, actually) and being surprised by your reaction to it. I mean, M.A. Rothman's Primordial Threat is a great story. It's well named. Things are constantly happening. Just when you think you've got a handle on the situation, things get worse. The primary threat has the potential to be world-ending. It's a miniature black hole that comes cruising right through the middle of the Solar System. It's going to end all human life and there is nothing we can do to stop it from going where it is going. The secondary threat is a group of religious fanatics that want to keep humanity from surviving the menace. It's a romping good time and oh my god is it intense.

The part that surprised me though, at least about myself, is that I love a good villain. I like to root against someone I can hate. Think about it. Have any of you read Dragons of Spring Dawning? (Spoilers, I guess. I mean, the book came out in 1985, so it's not like you haven't had the chance to read it yet.) Takhisis (queen of evil/Satan analogue) is about to arrive on the world of Krynn to commit genocide on the elves and enslave everyone else. Life sucks. We've spent three books leading up to this moment and our heroes are going to lose and let this evil bitch take over the world. Except it doesn't work out that way. The world is saved and the psycho hose beast is dispatched back to the Abyss where she belongs. Partly, I was happy that the good guys won. But I was freaking ecstatic to see that wench get hers. And that's the thing that surprised me about Primordial Threat.

The primary “villain” isn't a villain. It's a black hole. I'm not usually a fan of books with a mindless threat. There's a reason I don't talk much about the Dragonriders of Pern series. That reason is simple: It sucked. The threat from thread falling mindlessly from the sky was just not enough to keep me interested. I mean, the main characters are cool and it's fun watching old and new interact but UGH! Get a real villain.

Somehow, Rothman manages to make his black hole work though. I mean, you can't really hate the thing. It's a force of nature just doing what it does. On the other hand, you find yourself rooting for those plucky little humans anyway. Somehow, some way, a black hole is not a dud for a villain the way thread was. The threat is real. It's immediate and it's nasty. It just works.

Of course, a cast of heroes is necessary to any successful story and this book has just enough of them to work. I really feel like Primordial Threat could have turned into some world spanning, nine hundred and seventy three thousand character book with a Dramatis Personae at the end but it didn't. Listen, I'm as big a fan of David Weber's Safehold series and I love just about everything that Harry Turtledove has ever published. The fact remains that not every story works like that and I don't think this one would have. Rothman gave us just the right amount of people to move things along and avoided using too many and bogging things down.

These characters all not all the perfect type either. We've got one legitimate nutcase, the guy who helped her escaped from the psych ward, a president that doesn't tell the public the whole truth because it's in their best interests to not be informed and all kinds of weird problems. It provides me with an interesting conundrum: I wonder if all of these people could work together if the literal extinction in the human species wasn't in the offing. If this were an attempt at doing everyday research and possibly winning a Nobel Prize could they all hold it together? I'm not sure and honestly, it's probably a more entertaining story this way anyway.

I don't have the background is science or engineering to really make an evaluation of the tech in this book. It sounds pretty well grounded in the hard sciences, but I'm the guy who only completed one year as a chemistry major and this is all tech that would be better evaluated by a physicist anyway. Suffice it to say that it seems to work and it feels right. There are a couple of major scientific advances featured, but it all seems to work the way it should from a layman's point of view. Part of it is even based on work by a scientist that I'm somewhat familiar with. I don't want to reveal more than that.

I do have one complaint about Primordial Threat. There is a real deus ex machina moment that I find a bit annoying. I mean, here we are with this all star team of scientists and engineers and that's what it takes to get the job done? It adds a lot of tension to the story, but I still find it annoying, especially since it kind of comes out of left field. Parts of it are foreshadowed, but parts of it are not. I found myself shaking my head for a minute at one point. As a plot device, it kind of works and it does get things to where they need to be but, yeah. It's taking things a bit far in my opinion. Honestly though, Primordial Threat does work up to that point and it's nowhere near being a story ruiner.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Wandering Asteroids.

Primordial Threat
M.A. Rothman
Self Published, 2018

Primordial Threat is available for purchase at the following link:

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Bitter Recollections - A World of Warcraft Fanfic by Jim McCoy

(Author's Note: A bunch of what follows is copyrighted by Blizzard Entertainment and has been used without permission. All intellectual property remains under their ownership.No infringement is intended. Battle for Azeroth starts tomorrow though, and I'm geeked!)

With a flourish of wings and the sound of hooves hitting pavement, the Forsaken Warlock grabbed his skull topped staff and hopped off of his mount, headed indoors to the Filthy Animal Inn. His purple, skull adorned robes and accessories swirled around him. As he headed into the bar, he was greeted by an Orcish female.

"Netherlord Capellini, welcome back. How goes the fight for the Burning Throne?'

Capellini saluted with his staff and spoke in a voice both harsh and scratchy, "Uda the Beast. I thought I might never see you again. I thought I'd never see any of you again. We killed him though. Argus is dead. Antorus is captured. The Legion no longer presents a threat."

Uda smile. "Such great news! For the Horde!" She spun around. "Great news!" she cried "Capellini has returned from the battle on Argus! We are victorious! For the Horde!"

"FOR THE HORDE!!!!!!!" The return cry was deafening. Drinks were lifted. Toasts were drunk. Everywhere there was merrymaking.

"I wish I was in the mood for a party." Capellini shook his head. "I need a drink. Have you heard the latest from Kalimdor?"

Uda shook her head. "No. What happened?'

Capellini grunted. "Darnassus has fallen. The Horde stands victorious there as well. The World Tree has been burned to the ground. Nothing remains of the Night Elf city. I was there. I used my magic to help ignite the fireballs that did the deed."

Uda took a step back, a shocked look on her face. "That makes sense. We received word this morning that there was nothing left of Undercity but a smoking hole in the ground."

Capellini's head dipped forward. He looked almost embarrassed. "I saw that as well. It was terrible. The fighting was fierce. The butcher's bill was too high. My home is gone. My people are scattered. Dark Lady watch over us all."

Uda nodded. "You've been busy."

Capellini shook his head once again. "I'm tired. It's been a long flight. I'm going to find a seat at the bar." So saying, he moved across the room. Many people stopped him along the way. Orcs, trolls, other Undead, Goblins, even the occasional Pandaren. Everyone wanted a chance to congratulate the Hero of Argus. Capellini just wanted to sit down.

Finally after much back slapping and rejoicing, Capellini managed to sit his old bones down on a bar stool. "Mato, old friend. We meet again."

Mato, a green-skinned male orc, nodded, "Welcome back, Cap. What are you having?"

Cap nodded, "I'll take a mug of Highmountain Tiswa and a slice of that food-burning Pandaren in the back."

Mato gave an orcish chuckle. "I wish I could, Cap. I'm afraid I can't be letting people eat my cook though. They'd get awfully hard to replace that way."

"Fair enough," Cap allowed, "I'll take the smoked elderhorn instead."

Capellini watched as Mato poured a glass of the brew out of a tap and headed back to the kitchen to grab the food. Cap drank and stared at the wall while eating his dinner. He was well aware many people found watching an undead eat unnerving. He was just past caring. The last few days had not been pretty. After a few minutes, he realized Mato was addressing him by name. "Sorry. Missed that."

Mato looked back at Cap. "Don't worry about it. I was just asking if you were okay. You're looking pretty rough right now."

"Another drink." Cap shook his head. "No. No, I'm not okay at all. I need a break. Do you realize what it's like to be a so called Hero of the Horde?"

Mato nodded, smiling. "Oh sure, I get it. Pretty girls chasing you all over. Piles of gold looted from dead enemies, glory, honor, respect. You've got it all."

Cap smirked and watched Mato take a step back in response. "Again: No. Do you know what I've seen? Do you know what I've done?"

Mato's eyebrows twitched, "Sure. You've taken on all comers and won. You're Capellini. The Netherlord. Slaughterer of otherworlders and Alliance alike."

Cap wiped the remains of the Tiswa he had just chugged off his lip. "While you're refilling this, I'll tell you what I've done. I was human once. I was killed and then resurrected in a graveyard just outside of Lordaeron. I fought my way across Azeroth. I've killed and eaten more enemies than you probably think exist." He quaffed his fourth Tiswa and spiked the mug on the ground. "Another."

Mato blanched. "Cap, do you really think that's a good idea?"

Cap sneered, "Do you really want to be known as the bartender that refused to serve a Hero of the Horde at the only bar in Windrunner's Sanctuary?" In no time flat, a full mug appeared on the counter in front of Cap.  He quickly drained this one as well and shattered the mug against the wall. The bar went silent. "Another."

The look on Mato's face was pure shock. "Mugs cost money Cap. You can't just smash them. It's not right."

Cap threw a stack of gold coins down on the counter. "Oh, so you want gold? Here's more gold than you'll make in this place all month. Take it buy more mugs, but GIVE ME ANOTHER DRINK." He turned his right palm upward. A green flame glowed within it.

Mato stammered. "Su...Sure thing, C-Cap. Just don't do anything crazy. We're friends, remember?"

Cap shrugged. "Friends, yeah we're friends. But understand this. You don't know me. You don't know what it's like. I've defeated Ragnaros twice. Have you ever been that close to the God of Fire before? Have you ever forced yourself to get closer even though your skin was burning and seen your sword wielding comerades patting on the flames on their clothes just to continue fighting? Were you there when Persifinee burned to death screaming in the Sunwell? Did you see Troof fall at the feet of Illidan and then have to work with him years later to contain the Burning Legion?" He tossed back another Hightmountain Tiswa and slammed the mug to the grounding, sending pieces flying. Mato obligingly put another one on the bar without being told to.

Cap gave a very un-Forsaken like giggle. "You're looking at me like I'm crazy and you're right.  I'm an Undead Warlock what else am I supposed to be? Do you know why though? I fought Kael'Thas Sunstrider in his own lair. I watched the weapons animate themselves and attack us. I watched Calindra fall under the blades. He was a hardened warrior, veteran of a thousand battles but he just couldn't understand what was going on. Then we had to pick up those weapons, still wet with our own blood, and use them to fight the elf. We barely beat him. I still don't know how we did."

Cap lifted the mug, then changed his mind. "Then the whole world lost its mind. Lordaeron fell. The Lich King enslaved my race. We fought him across a continent. I fought at the Wrathgate. I battled beside the Dark Lady and into Icecrown Citadel. The horrors we faced there. Diseases. Dragons. The airship battles. Our paladin got bitten by Blood-Queen Lana'thel and converted two others into vampires before regaining his wits. We had to kill the two people he bit when they freaked out and came after us. We killed everything that moved. I watched Varok Saurfang carry his dead son away in his arms sobbing and I couldn't cry. I don't have tear ducts. Then we slew Arthas himself in his throne room. I took the reins of his personal mount into my hands. It's tethered outside. It's a good thing the master wasn't quite Invincible."

Capellini unceremoniously murdered another drink, this time simply sliding the mug down the counter bottom first. "And do you know what came next? I had to stand next to that same paladin while he talked to each of the people who had been closest to Arthas and they cried about his death. Did you hear me, barkeep? They cried over the man that I had spend years chasing. He was the monster that they had created. He was the MAN WHO HAD ENSLAVED MY PEOPLE. And yet they stood there, weeping like a schoolgirl who had just had her advances denied by her crush, while I stood there, looking at the lifeless body of my friend Gumpystone. WHERE IS MY NEXT ROUND?"

After receiving another Tiswa from Mato, Cap went on. "Instead of getting better after that, IT GOT WORSE. The world was ripped asunder. Death cultists came out of nowhere. It was the Cataclysm. We spent month after month chasing Deathwing before we finally cornered him inside of the Maelstrom. It took Thrall and the Aspects to knock him out of the sky so that we could even fight him. When the fight ended, we looted the dragon's hoard and I buried my friend Norien. He was a druid. He said he was going to talk about meeting the Aspects for the rest of his life. He was right. He was dead two hours later. But we did it. We killed Deathwing. I rebuilt the World Pillar. The world kept existing. Then one day, a fleet gets lost..."

Capellini picked up his drink, sneered and threw it, still full, onto the ground. He was fully aware of the sounds of the bar emptying behind him, but he just didn't care. He had too much booze in his bloodstream and too much rage in his heart. "Pandaria. We had just found Pandaria. You'd think we would get some downtime after saving the entire freaking world, but no. We have to go conquer an entire continent full of whining Pandaren and Sha. It was the Sha of Fear that did Deathbrain in. He never had a chance. The Thunder King was even more powerful than we had anticipated. Twenty-five of us went into combat against Lei Shen. Twelve were left standing when we finished him off." Cap looked up.  "Really? Where is my next round? I gave you enough gold to buy the place."

Cap grabbed the next mug by the handle. "Then came the Siege of Orgrimmar. I respected a lot of the people I killed that day. Never was there a more loyal Hero of the Horde than General Nazgrim. I don't know why he chose to back Garrosh, but he died screaming, my green flames igniting his armor. Then do you know what we did? We kept going. He was one of the greatest generals ever and we left him there and kept fighting. I never even found out what happened to his body." Cap took down about half the mug and wobbled. "Then came the big fight against Garrosh. We got pulled into this weird nightmare place. We were in this weird place that looked like Stormwind but wasn't.  The leaders of every HORDE RACE were hanging from the walls. When he died, his bloated purple corpse fell on my friend. I never even knew his name. He just called himself "Demon." It killed him. We had won the war. Garrosh was dead and one of my best friends would never rise again."

Cap gave a tearless sob, his chest jerking. "It seems like it was only five minutes after Garrosh died. Orgrimarr wasn't rebuilt yet. The Dark Portal opened anyway. Once more, Orcs poured from it. We had to go through them one clan at a time to win that war. Somehow, and I'm not sure how, we ended up locked in battle with the demon lord Archimonde and I had to kill him for the second time. He took two friends from me. RIP Xenira and Resta. The Horde is weaker for your loss."

Cap grabbed the side of the bar to hold himself up. Mato reached over to help steady him. "And then came the Dark Shore. We damn near lost the whole Horde that day. Sylvanas saved all of our asses when she sounded the retreat. We were outnumbered and surrounded. They were still bringing in reinforcements. The Alliance was pissed because Varian died, but who gives a rip about some human king anyway? Invasions were everywhere. We couldn't kill them because they kept resurrecting. We've fought our way across these islands and onto another planet. I watched Ysera, my ally from the Deathwing fight become corrupted. I had to help kill her. I was part of the expedition that rescued Malfurion from Darkheart Thicket only to see him slaughter Horde troops at Darnassus. We went to Argus to take the battle to the enemy . We won. It should be over, and yet..."

Cap put both hands on the bar, very obviously struggling to keep his face from crashing into it. "Now this war starts. Darnassus has been destroyed. Lordaeron is a crater. Years of battle to keep that dog Genn and his followers out of our home wasted. Who knows what comes next? Who knows who we'll lose this time?" The Netherlord looks Mato straight in his face. "What if it's me? I've been around a long time. I could be the next one down. It's war. You just never know, do you? Second death could come for me at any minute. I'm not scared. I know what the consequences of a life of battle are. That doesn't mean I want it to be me."

"All of this," Capellini gave an unearthly sounding hiccup. "All of this for my warchief and my Horde.  And I'll be right back at it again tomorrow. Do you know why, Mato? Do you know why?"

Mato nodded, "For the Horde."

"For the Horde." Cap nearly fell over. "I think I need to lie down now."

Cap began to stagger toward the door, then changed his mind and turned back toward Mato. "Take this." Cap tosses Mato a bag of gold coins. "The whole crew will be here in a bit. Myronath, Kaestell, Zenjah, all of them. Make sure they all get good and drunk. I don't want to be the only one hung over on the trip to Zandalar tomorrow. I'm gonna go get a room at the Ledgerdemain. Oh, and could you feed my mount out of that?"

Mato nodded, his eyes googling out of his head. Capellini, Exalted Argent Champion of the Horde, Liberator of Orgrimmar, Light of Dawn and drunk undead shuffled across the street to sleep off the worst drunk in the known history of Azeroth.

Battle for Azeroth
Blizzard Games, 2018
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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Desperate times/Desperate Measures

Did you ever feel a need to write something and try to stop yourself? Did you ever feel like sharing something with the world and know it could get you into trouble? Did you ever look at your fingers typing out a message that you knew you should probably never show to anyone because it was decidedly not on the nice side? Did you ever read something that set you off and wish you hadn't?

This is me writing the piece that I shouldn't. This is me saying what needs to be said even though I know it should come from someone else. This is me, having read the impassioned plea of a good man and just not agreeing with him, not because he's a bad person, but because he may very well be a better person than me. That much being said, sometimes the world needs a person that is not nice. Sometimes, telling the evil people to go away isn't good enough. Sometimes, negotiation is not a good thing. I may be an asshole for writing this, but at least I won't be Neville Chamberlain.

This weekend, Youtuber and gaming enthusiast Jeremy Hambly went to Gencon with the intention of playing some games and hanging out with his fellow nerds. I get that. I've gone to cons myself. For those of us who grew up as nerds, they're like heaven only better. You get to hang out with other smart people. You get to spend time with people who have the same passions you do. People at cons seriously GET THE FREAKING JOKE! Either you get what you just read or your nerd card is permanently revoked. That's why it's worth it to go to a con.

So our friend Jeremy, who is an open Conservative, walks into Gencon and begins enjoying himself. I'm not sure exactly what his day looked like. I wasn't there and, even if I had been, I wouldn't have been following him around taking notes. So here he is, doing his thing when a fellow fen walks up and asks if he is Jeremy Hambly. Jeremy confirms that he is indeed himself. Then Jeremy gets sucker punched several times by Fandom Asshole A who flees the scene afterward. Cue the normal BS about "Nazis" and "Fascists", etc. That's bad enough.

What makes it worse is that Gencon has refused to address the matter. They've gone so far as to ban people from their Twitch feed for speaking out about the beating. They actually locked their Facebook page so that no one could comment on it as well. I'm sorry, but this is clear evidence of a cover up. They're supporting Hambly's attacker by refusing to denounce him. Their reaction makes it clear that they wish to see more Conservatives take beatings at their con. If they had a problem with violence at their con, they would have made the fact public by now.

I'm trying to be careful here, because Hambly himself has asked people not to come down hard on Gencon but I'm failing miserably. I get the fact that everyone wants to calm the situation. I get the fact that things are getting out of hand. I know Hambly, and Richard Paolinelli who I linked above, want to put the genie back in the bottle. It's a normal human reaction. I just don't think it's going to work.

I am, myself, a student of history. I've got a Bachelor of Arts in History from Oakland University, class of 2010. I've studied both "The History of European Nationalism" (where I wrote a paper about the use of Nazi propaganda during the fighting in the East) and "The History of Europe Since 1915." Throw that in with a semester of "Capstone in European History" that was Holocaust themed and I've learned a lot about both the Nazi Party and the true Fascist Party, which was Mussolini's party in Italy.

Would you like to know what the true, defining characteristic of Fascism is? It's the use of violence against political opposition. Hitler's SA, also known as the Brown Shirts, and Mussolini's Black Shirts were both movements of men who walked around physically beating and intimidating people whose opinions they disagreed with. The closest analogue to either in the modern American political context is Antifa, and the fact that they claim to be against Fascism is irrelevant. Oh, and the Italian Fascist Party did not have racism as part of their platform so Antifa is no better there either. Held up to the light of a dispassionate analysis, Antifa is no different than their methodological forebears.

Which brings up "Bash the Fash." Even leaving aside the fact that Antifa are the true Fascists, this is the wrong type of attitude. Beating someone for their political beliefs leads only to totalitarianism and oppression. That's as true for us as it is for them. Both sides have the right to spout what they believe wherever and whenever they want and regardless of who feels offended. So yes, if some Leftist comes at you screaming some kind of typical Lefty SJW nonsense then they can do that. Don't get me wrong. You have the right to walk away. You have the right to argue with them, even if they accuse of you "violent language" like such a thing even exists. You have the right to get all butthurt and offended. Yep. People on our side do it too. You do not have the right to silence them. You damn sure DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO PUT YOUR HANDS ON SOMEONE JUST BECAUSE THEY SAID SOMETHING YOU DON'T LIKE.

But guess what you do have: A right to self-defense.

And guys, I'm telling you now that self-defense is a right that we all need to be ready, willing and able to use in the near future. As a student of history, I am aware of absolutely no incident where two sides of a political dispute stopped going at each other after a single act of violence. You can speak of turning points and what might have been prevented, but it has never happened that way. There is no reason to think that this one will. Things have been escalating for too long and if our opponent is willing to use physical violence, our only chance at victory is to be better at it than they are.

There are those among you who are not going to want to read what comes next. This is your chance to click the eject button.

Do not start the real violence, by which I mean physical action as opposed to "violent words." If, however, it becomes necessary to defend yourself do it to the best of your ability. Prepare yourself for violence before going to a con. Physically most fights don't last long so know where to hit someone to put them down quickly. The mental aspect is harder. Most people don't like to hurt other people. Think your way through the problem. Force yourself to realize that if someone is coming at you they don't have your best interests at heart. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that yes, you may feel bad about hurting someone afterward but you have to be alive to feel anything at all. And most of all, find a way to arm yourself. If you have a license to carry a concealed pistol, do so. If you have a Gandalf cosplay wear it and don't forget your staff. If you're going as Thor, get a five pound sledge and make it look like Thor's Hammer. If nothing else, find a rock that fits in the palm of your hand. It'll add weight to a punch and make your fist more solid. Don't let anyone know what it really is unless you have to use it. And if, heaven forbid, you're forced into a self-defense situation do what is necessary. Put that threat down HARD. A person that is still standing is still dangerous. Keep them down once they're there.

Also, as far as the mental aspect of things goes, remember this: No one ever won a war (and we're most likely headed for one if we're not already there) by limiting themselves to the level of violence that their enemy was willing to use. If you're not willing to hurt them worse than they hurt you, you've already lost.  The key to winning using "proportional warfare" is to remember that you're using violence proportionally to your objective, not to what the enemy is using. Don't do what feels good, do what works well. It sucks, but there it is.

For the record, I'm not hear to celebrate or excoriate Jeremy Hambly for what he says on his Youtube Channel. I've never watched a single episode. I can, therefore, not comment about it's content whatsoever. It's not about that for me. It's about the fact that a man was assaulted for his political beliefs and that the con was okay with it. It's about the fact that this isn't going to stop just because we said it should. It's about the fact that the only way to prevent an attack is to be prepared to defend against it. It's about the fact that being prepared to defend yourself may not be enough and you may have to actually defend yourself. God help us all. He may very well be the only one left who can.