Sunday, May 15, 2016

Some More Mini Pics

It's been a while since I posted some pictures of any finished miniatures: Here are some of my latest:

An Ahóggya from The Tékumel Club.

Bára, an Aridáni warrior, also from The Tékumel Club

Unfinished Arthurian/Romano-British from Westwind.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Some thoughts on H.P. Lovecraft.

"It's my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of 'em was one kinda sombitch or another."
--Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds,
Firefly, "Jaynestown"

Whether it's gaming, comic books, science fiction or fantasy, nerd culture is no longer the mainly-white-male-cis-gendererd-heterosexual-club that it used to be. As we welcome more and more non-whites, women, and LGBT members into our community of weirdos, there is bound to be some tension between our new brothers and sister geeks and those in the Old Guard who want to keep things status quo. Particularly contentious is how should we approach sexual and racial matters in our favorite media?  One of these issues that comes up again and again is how the various branches of geekdom should approach H.P. Lovecraft and his works.

Sigh... Lovecraft.

Over the years, I've come to be of two of minds about HPL. On one hand, I've enjoyed reading his stories and playing Call of Cthulhu and other related RPGs since I was in 8th grade. I love the Mythos: the cosmic nihilism, the tentacled alien deities and the diabolical cults that worshiped them, the strange blending of occult horror and science fiction. Certainly, there was much to admire about the man himself. He was quite intelligent and erudite. He loved knowledge, science, and appreciated critical thinking (at least in some things). He loved language--boy did he love language! He also loved cats. That's usually a big plus in my book.

But yeeeeah... On the other hand, he was a racist and xenophobe and a pretty vile one too by all accounts. According to his ex-wife, Sonja Greene, during his brief residence in New York City, he'd yell at any groups of immigrants with whom he came in contact with. His private letters defended Southern lynch mobs and initially spoke glowingly of Hitler. You can see his obvious disdain for anyone who wasn't a WASP—or, in his case, a WASA: "White Anglo-Saxon Atheist"—in stories like "Hebert West: Reanimator" and "The Horror At Red Hook." The cults of the Great Old Ones where usually filled with "degenerate" half-breeds and led by shadowy Orientals, secluded in China or the Himalayas. The Deep Ones were a conglomeration of Lovecraft's paranoia over miscegenation and his dislike for fish. He even named one of his cat's "Nigger Man."

So while I think he was an excellent, imaginative writer, I also think he was kind of an asshole.

Of course, like many fandom communities, there are those who will militantly defend HPL from such criticism then make lame justifications for his beliefs in a attempt to rehabilitate his image. Yes, you can say he was a product of his time, when casual racial bigotry was the norm. Yes, he had a sheltered childhood, raised by a broken family that was rapidly deteriorating both financially and psychologically (i.e. both his parents died in an asylum). Yes, he himself probably suffered from various mental health issues. Those are all very good reasons for Lovecraft's behavior, but I don't think they are excuses.

In my opinion, the best and most honest thing we Lovecraft fans can do with try to distill the positive products of Lovecraft's talent while openly acknowledging and condemning him for his foibles. No more excuses or justifications. It's entirely understandable why some defend him some vehemently. No one wants to think less of their heroes, especially when you are dealing with something as odious as racial and/or sexual prejudice. However, in the end, you're efforts to defend the indefensible will only further tarnish his reputation. It's best to know when you are on the losing side of a lost cause.

Personally, I see HPL as a-man-who-could-have-been. He was someone who had the capacity for greatness but is largely overshadowed by his flaws. I love the horror writer, I hate the racist "sombitch," and, most of all, I pity the human being who was Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gary Con After-Con Report Coming Soon

Sorry for the silence. I seem to have brought home some Con Crud from Gary Con and I been pretty tired the last few days. I have a belated report on all the fun I had in Lake Geneva in a couple of days.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Gary Con: Pre-Con Festivities

As I do each year, I made half-hour trip to Lake Geneva to pick up my badge. Once again, I drove through the rolling, snow-covered hills of southeastern Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine, this time to a new destination: The Grand Geneva Resort. In previous years, Gary Con had taken place at The Geneva Ridge Resort, but it seems that this convention is moving up in the world. Long ago, Grand Geneva had been a Playboy Club where two of the original Gen Cons took place, now it is Lake Geneva's largest resort.

Always a welcome sight!

After navigating the palatial resort grounds, I picked up my badge and took a quick walk around the facilities to get my bearings. I was used to the Ridge, but Grand Geneva truly dwarfs the former in both size and style. I shudder to think what the rooms cost per night, even with convention rates.

The Menzer Kitchen. A homey place.
Afterward, it was off to Sharon, WI for the annual party at Frank Mentzer's lovely house. Frank and his wife Debbie were, as ever, gracious hosts and everyone who came was treated to all manner of baked goodies from their well-appointed kitchen. I ran into many familiar faces and more than a few new ones graced the gathering. Frank treated us to an exhibition of his classic TSR wargaming materials, including vintage copies of Chainmail, Boot Hill, and an impressive number of the ill-fated "Warriors of Mars" game.

Frank at his desk, that used be be one of Gary's desks.
Around 10, my belly full of Italian beef and homemade Red Box cake, I said my farewells, hoped into the car and drove back to Muskego to grab some sleep before the big day.
I got one of the claws.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Gary Con is here!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, Gary Con starts tomorrow and this year I thought I'd take a break for GMing so I can take in the sheer joy of playing. As usual, events registration had a few technical hiccups, but I got everything I wanted. As usual, I'll try to keep you posted on the all fun and frovilics I encounter at what has become my favorite game concvention.