I owe them much

When I look at the world around me, specifically the political nonsense of the last four years, I often find myself saying, “This is all what they warned us about! How can people not see this?”

Tonight, I remember why. Kris Johnson and I are rewatching the old V miniseries from the eighties. It holds up well, and I am more aware of this issues that they bring up: anti-science to promote ignorance and domination, control of the media, shades of Nazi influences.

But I was a child when I watched this. I was a child when I read my first Asimov, a teenager when I encountered Harlan Ellison . I read 1984. I read Animal Farm. My literary and media education what lined with all the lessons that allow me to recognize history repeating itself. I learned that education and questioning authority is everyone’s right, everyone’s duty.

I was a well-read nerd, taught by writers who saw evil, and used stories to teach me how to recognize it. This is the “they” I am forever indebted to.

And now, when I look around my community, I understand better how people don’t see it. They’re the people who didn’t have my education and the words of these writers. They ones who made fun of my bookish ways, who never heard the warnings. The ignorant, who see no threat because they think all this will benefit them. They don’t know how the worm will turn, because they do not know the stories.

It is a love/hate relationship I have with the human race. I am an elitist, and I feel that my responsibility is to drag the human race along with me — that I will never pander to, or speak down to, or play the safe game. Because my immortal soul will be lost.

Harlan Ellison

New Books! New Games!

It’s been a good week for books and games in the Vermiller household. A number of new goodies have arrived.

A display of Vaesen, a Nordic horror role playing game.
Vaesen

The big excitement is a game I kickstarted arrived. Vaesen is an RPG based on Nordic horror myths and legends. In the game, you and your party are a group of individuals in the 1800s. You each have the Sight, and have come together in Uppsala Sweden to re-establish The Society, a conclave of people researching the supernatural world.

The authors have done a masterful job of making a system that is familiar (there are similarities Fate, Call of Cthulhu, and World of Darkness), but it’s decidedly not about combat and conquering. Adventures are called Mysteries, and … you go solve them. The world of the Society intersects with the world of the Vaesen, creatures of story who are going about their own lives – not good, not evil…just doing whatever it is they do. But the two worlds are not always compatible, and things can get out of hand when humans interfere with the Vaesen, or vice-versa.

A stack of five books

I’ve been a bit fan of Belt Publishing since they spun off of Belt Magazine a few years ago. My latest haul from them contains four titles from their Belt Revivals series: books that have fallen out of print but which shine a light on midwestern life or showcase forgotten midwestern talent. The fifth is one of their contemporary titles, Midwest Futures.

  • Midwest Futures by Paul Christianson – “A tour de force of high-flying writing and fiercely independent thought, PhilChristman’s Midwest Futures grapples with grace and dark humor with the past, present, and future of the country’s most misunderstood region.”
  • Stories of Ohio by William Dean Howells – “Nicknamed the “Dean of American Letters,” William Dean Howells was a remarkable literary figure. A novelist, critic, and playwright, he forged friendships with luminaries such as Mark Twain, Henry James, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Though Howells is best known for his East Coast novels The Rise of Silas Lampham and A Hazard of New Fortunes, he never forgot his Ohio roots. In Stories of Ohio, Howells recounts the history of the state through short vignettes — from the Native burial grounds of the Serpent Mound, to the first European settlers on the frontier, to the Civil War generals and presidents the state birthed in the late nineteenth century.”
  • The Artificial Man and Other Stories by Clare Winger Harris – “Clare Winger Harris (1891–1968) was an early science fiction writer whose short stories were published during the 1920s. She is credited as the first woman to publish stories under her own name in science fiction magazines. Her stories often dealt with characters on the “borders of humanity” such as cyborgs. A native of Illinois, she died in Pasadena, California at age seventy-seven.”
  • One of Ours by Willis Cather – “One of Ours was considered a failure by some male critics of the day: H. L. Mencken said it “drops to the level of a serial in The Lady’s Home Journal, fought out not in France, but on a Hollywood movie-lot,” and Ernest Hemingway panned Cather for not having experienced the front-line herself. However, the Pulitzer committee considered it the greatest novel of the year, and this accessible, dramatic novel sold many more copies than Cather’s more famous ones, O, Pioneers! and My Antonia. “
  • The Marrow of Tradition by Charles W. Chestnut – “On November 10, 1898, a mob of 400 rampages through the streets of Wilmington, North Carolina, killing as many as 60 citizens, burning down the newspaper office, overthrowing the newly elected leaders, and installing a new white supremacist government. The Wilmington Race Riots—also known as the Wilmington Insurrection and the Wilmington Massacre, is the only coup d’etat on American soil. The violence was prompted by the increasing political powers African Americans in the town were gaining during Reconstruction. The Marrow of Tradition is a fictionalized account of this important, under-studied event. “