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TV Tropes Monday: Second Law My Ass


Tweet of the Day: Industrial Fantasies East and West 

Asimov’s Three Law of Robotic Ethics are as follows:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

These “laws” seem pretty reasonable. After all we wouldn’t want our robot servants to turn into murder machines with a misspoken command or a press of a button. But if your goal is to create a interesting robotic character, then your robot buddy will simply say, “Second Law My Ass!” A perfectly obedient robot makes for a boring, and therefore, poor character. However, if you introduce time tested servant tropes to the mix, such as the snarky butler with little apparent respect for his “master” then you have a better dynamic. It also sides steps the idea that an intelligent construct who “must” obey every order given to them is essentially a slave.

Yes, it is as bad as it sounds, and then some.

So give the old law a swift boot to the rear and inject your robotic characters with a heaping dose of personality.



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TV Tropes Monday: Synthwave


Tweet of the Day: Star Trek and Nostalgia 

Synthwave, what we thought the future would sound like back in the 80s, but wait…it is the far away future of 2017!

I am confused. Amused? Yes, but also confused. If you remember the 80s (like old geezer me does) you remember the soft saxophones, the electronic beeps of early home/personal computers, and the ever present beats of a million Yamaha synthesizers. It was also the decade of Reaganomics, Red Scares, Cyberpunk  ™ (by CD Projekt Red), war in the Middle East, and the last bloody hurrah of the Cold War. But like any retro-inspired movement, it not quite the 80s, just an above average imitation of the era. What sounded cutting edge back then now is quaint. Some of the sounds of the 80s were due more to the limitations of the technology as well as the colliding social trends that a deliberate attempt to create a genre. And as synthesizers plus electric guitars infused pop culture, there was a backlash that led directly to alternative rock music scene of the late 80s which then exploded in the first half of the 1990s.

But the reality is that like many rethreaded concepts of the not so distant past, it is people like me, who remember our childhoods as we pass through our collective mid-lives, that power such genres and those who are hearing them for the first time and sounds fresh to them. With so many other icons of the decade such as Aliens, Ghostbusters, Transformers, and Star Wars coming back a second time around, it is no wonder that memories of the music that served as a score for the decade also linger on.

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TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–Start Small

Great article about starting small in both RPG games and in writing in general.

Tales to Astound!

mars-1280x800-planet-space-12178 One Planet Can Be a Whole Lot of Adventure

Traveller presents a specific, terrifying possibility for the Referee based on two facts.

The two facts are:

  1. Space is big
  2. The Player Characters can go anywhere

The terrifying possibility is that the Referee will be responsible for creating literally hundreds of worlds before proper play can begin.

I would offer something else: Start small.

“But,” you might say, “space is big. The Third Imperium is big. How can you be playing Traveller if you start with something small?”

Since the Third Imperium is big we’ll use that setting as an example. I’m not saying this is the only way to set up a Traveller setting. But I do think is both efficient and sanity preserving for any Referee who wants to get a game of Traveller up and running.

Part of the lure of…

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TV Tropes Monday: Mundane Dogmatic


Tweet of the Day: Becoming Deviant

How hard is your science fiction?

That is a question that lurked in the shadows of the genre since the beginning. For some anything beyond 20 minutes into the future is sci-fi, even if it had elves, psychic magic, and teleportation. For the futurist, science fiction was a window into our future, an extrapolation of what we knew into what could be. Today they stick to the Mundane Dogmatic, a set of self-impose rules that show case how hard or “realistic” their view of the future is or should be.

This raises a few questions:

  1. How accurate is the science employed in the work?
  2. What happens when science inevitably marches on?
  3. What narrative possibilities, if any, were lost in the pursuit of accuracy?

I find the whole concept a straight jacket, but other might like the challenge. It is up to each writer to decide how close they cleave to this set of self-imposed rules.

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TV Tropes Monday: Walking Tanks


Tweet of the Day: Doggie Keepsake 

When the giant robot craze started in Japan in the 1960s, the first robots were essentially gigantic robotic super heroes, a Japanese version of Superman but with missiles, photonic rays and piloted by teenagers with strange hairdos. In reaction to that, other animated shows, went the “real robot” route, where in the machines were treated as mass produced no different than say, fighter planes, and usually went up in flames just as readily. Only the superb skills of their pilots (and a heavy dose of plot armor) kept the hero from a fiery death. In reaction to that, American and British tabletop game designers countered with Walking Tanks, giant robots loaded with armor, heavy weapons, and ponderous gate. These were not more realistic than their Japanese counterparts, but seemed ever grittier while they turned fast robot duels into tactical matches that exploited terrain and superior unit tactics.

These trends might be influenced by history, especially the way the Japanese and Americans approached war equipment during WWII. Japanese aircraft were light, with long range, and heavy guns. Capable Japanese pilots flew circles around their slower enemies and delivered precise blows with a combination of cannon and machine guns. American fighters heavy machine guns, armor to protect the pilot, and self-sealing tanks that lower the chance of an explosion. Tanks on both sides followed a similar pattern, although the American Sherman tank was considered a medium tank at best in the Europe, in the Pacific it out performed the few Japanese tanks in every category.

That doesn’t mean that the these three types never mixed. Some fast mecha shows also featured slower ground units with heavier fire power, but not necessarily superior armor. At the same time, the tank on legs may look invisible until an infantry man, helicopter, or plane hits them in the right spot. And even fast mechs in space ended up being rather slow and ponderous on the ground. It was and still is up to the writer to decide which type or mix of type better fits their story.

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Space for Rent: Separating the Artist from their Art

Sometimes you can not separate one from the other so what are you suppose to do about it? I discuss my take on the situation below:


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Writers: When Writing About Mythological Gender/Sex



Tweet of the Day: The Complexities of Trans Gerudo Town

Remember that in most traditions, the Deities/Gods are pansexual for a variety of reasons:

1. They were the first beings at or before the creation of the universe. In order for the creation to make sense, the deities need to be flexible in a multiplicity of forms and that includes sex and gender.

2. Deities are metaphysical representation of concrete and abstract concepts. Most deities represent both a Chthonic  (an earth/nature) aspect as well as aspect of civilization. So deities of fertility, love, and sex embody multiple aspects of human gender/sexuality.

3. They are metaphysical beings that simply do NOT conform (although they tend to enforce) gender/sexual norms.

4. Sexual norms change over time and are different from culture to culture in ways that do not fit the Victorian/Modern/Western ideas/ideals of sex and gender. Some cultures practiced prostitution as part of religious rituals, others allowed and even encouraged homosexual behavior on the part of the young adults and yes even pedophilia (as disgusting as it is to us, for obvious reasons). Sexual mores do not follow a straight line of decline/improvement, they simply reflect the realities of any given society at any given time.

5. Also remember that all mythology is, for a lack of better term, fan fiction. We only have the accounts from second, third and even fourth hand writers and those writings will reflect contradicting concepts based on the those writing the surviving accounts.

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