What have you been reading?

AsenRG

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Finished a round of the history of China and Japan. For China I really enjoyed The Cambridge Illustrated History of China by Patricia Buckley Ebrey and The Open Empire: A History of China Through 1600 by Valerie Hansen.

The first is a nice detailed overview of the entire history and is especially good as a resource for sorting out the details of Chinese history
prior to the rise of the First Emperor as many books can be scarce on details for that period. The second covers the same period but concentrates on slightly different topics such as short bits on the lives of artists and poets, so it's a good companion.
Hensen has updated her book to cover up to 1800 in a newer edition I don't have.

View attachment 9082

View attachment 9083

For Japan my favourite was Japan: Its History and Culture by W. Scott Morton and J. Kenneth Olenik. I felt it gives a concise account that nevertheless leaves you with a good overview of each period. In particular it has a good account of how the Japanese settled Japan and what we know of the rise of the Yamato clan who have served as the emperors from before 500AD to today. Also how their rise shaped the Shinto religion.

View attachment 9084
The Open Empire has been on my "to buy" list for a while:smile:. But for now, my reading is this, and I feel another kung-fu game brewing in my brain...


And I kinda feel a totally noble envy towards Dumarest's business sense in placing bids:wink:.
 

TristramEvans

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Hey @Endless Flight you seen this?

 

Endless Flight

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Hey @Endless Flight you seen this?

I have! I didn’t realize it was available for general purchase yet. Thanks!

One of my favorite pieces of Joe art is this poster with the thirteen original Joes on the battlefield.

6256CC3B-29D1-43D3-BCFB-51AA2BFCD0D1.jpeg
 
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Toric

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Been reading this Amazing Spider-man collection covering issues #295-310, Annual #22, plus Web #33 and Spectacular #133. Picked it up at a comic store for about $20. I'm about a third of the way through. This covers the beginning of MacFarlane's run on Amazing Spider-man with issue #298. Not sure I've ever read issue #300 featuring Venom's first full appearance but I just finished #299 and it seems sorta familiar. If I read these issues previously, it was probably 25+ years ago.

9531
 
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Toric

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For non-comic book reading, I've been reading a bit of Ray Hogan. He wrote over 140 western novels from 1956 through the 1980's. They are all relatively short (125 to 150 pages), fast-moving adventure stories. I picked up a HUGE lot of Ray Hogan westerns on Ebay (about 60 books) for a good price, after reading my first one as an Ace Double.

Almost finished with this one:
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This was the first one I read that enticed me to find more:
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Most of Hogan's westerns are set in New Mexico as that is where he lived for much of his life. Both of these are good, quick reads. @Dumarest - if you enjoy L'Amour, you'd probably enjoy these.
 

Dumarest

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Reading the IDW reprints of Marvel's 1982 G.I. Joe series. Looks like there are eight or nine volumes to date, each reprinting 12 issues plus G.I. Joe Special Missions and other concurrent material.
joe-complete-collection-hardcover-lot_1_5bd73aab847bc444722bafdc8819be62.jpg
(not mine)
 

deepthaw

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Presently reading Exhalation, the latest short story collection from Ted Chiang. He's the guy who wrote the short story the film Arrival was based on.

First several stories have been quite good, but The Lifecycle of Software Objects kind of dragged for me. Still enjoying it though.

Just ordered a used copy of Reamde, since apparently Fall, or Dodge in Hell is a pseudosequel. Have yet to read a Neal Stephenson book I loved as much as Snow Crash, but I keep hoping (Cryptonomicon was pretty good though.)
 

Endless Flight

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Reading the IDW reprints of Marvel's 1982 G.I. Joe series. Looks like there are eight or nine volumes to date, each reprinting 12 issues plus G.I. Joe Special Missions and other concurrent material.
View attachment 9560
(not mine)
I got those. I read the original issues so much as a kid I really don’t need to re-read them any longer as they are etched into my memory.

One of the greatest comic runs of the 80s, IMO.
 

TristramEvans

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Reading the IDW reprints of Marvel's 1982 G.I. Joe series. Looks like there are eight or nine volumes to date, each reprinting 12 issues plus G.I. Joe Special Missions and other concurrent material.
View attachment 9560
(not mine)

didn't know that was a thing, will have to grab those. Then I can finally sell my original issues.


EDIT: oh wait, wait....are they digitally "re-coloured" like those graphic novels from Dark Horse? Because if so, Frag that. Half the fun is looking at the Lichtenstienian dot-matrix colours with a microscope

What I really want is the entire series done in the Digest style of GI Joe comics magazines.

s-l1600 (2).jpg
 
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Endless Flight

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didn't know that was a thing, will have to grab those. Then I can finally sell my original issues.


EDIT: oh wait, wait....are they digitally "re-coloured" like those graphic novels from Dark Horse? Because if so, Frag that. Half the fun is looking at the Lichtenstienian dot-matrix colours with a microscope

What I really want is the entire series done in the Digest style of GI Joe comics magazines.

View attachment 9593
The other thing about those reprints is that the size of the pages are about 10% bigger than a standard comic.
 

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I've been reading the Prince of Nothing series. Actually, I finished the original trilogy and I'm on to the Aspect Emperor trilogy. Excellent stuff so far - the material is occasionally very explicit and bracing so it's not for everyone. And I hear that the second trilogy is even moreso, so that will be interesting.

 

Teyrnon

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I've been reading the Prince of Nothing series. Actually, I finished the original trilogy and I'm on to the Aspect Emperor trilogy. Excellent stuff so far - the material is occasionally very explicit and bracing so it's not for everyone. And I hear that the second trilogy is even moreso, so that will be interesting.
I've thought about picking these up several times over the years just to see what the bile is all about because the negativity about them is both contradictory and vociferous. There is so much else on the shelf to read and I haven't quite gotten around to it. What about them do you find enjoyable?
 

Edgewise

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I've thought about picking these up several times over the years just to see what the bile is all about because the negativity about them is both contradictory and vociferous. There is so much else on the shelf to read and I haven't quite gotten around to it. What about them do you find enjoyable?
Well, I can understand the criticism, and I think some of it is valid. But first, I'll mention what I enjoy.

First of all, the principle characters are very well-written, and the dialog is frequently witty and even erudite. The writing style is also very colorful, although I'll admit that it occasionally veers into ponderous. The books mix in a heavy dose of philosophy, and the make-believe metaphysics of the fantasy world are intriguing. But again, some very strong characters, and that's probably the most important thing for me in almost any story.

The story itself is excellent, and the genre trappings are well-thought-out and occasionally very novel. I don't want to ruin anything here, but for me, the story of the first trilogy had strong parallels to Dune, as well as Blood Meridian. Basically, it's the story of a religious crusade with lots of parallels to the actual Crusades. The story has a very broad scope, even epic, but everything flows out of the personal details of the characters. Sort of like Dune. Also, one of the main characters is basically the Kwisatz Haderach.

So there's a lot to like, but hard to describe without spoiling it. Let me start to get into the more controversial aspects of these books, because there's a lot I like about those, too, but it's more of a mixed bag. So...the big greased up elephant in the room is that sexual violence is integral to the story. There are some stomach-churning passages, and I wouldn't be surprised if some sick individuals got off on some of it. Punches are not pulled. I might not have started this series if someone had described it to me this way, but I'm glad I did.

As bad as it is, my feeling is that this is not without purpose, and it is not all for pure shock value. I could get into a long extended comparison of Blood Meridian and Prince of Nothing - in both books, you have a kind of ultra-violent travelogue, and each book proposes a different relationship between rapaciousness and reason. In BM, they are one in the same (i.e. Western culture and technology rape the American continent), while in PoN, the relationship is a bit more...complex. That doesn't mean that PoN is better than BM! But suffice to say, there's a deliberate exploration of some very dark themes.

So I'll defend the sexual violence (for now...we'll see how the next trilogy goes), but another criticism I've heard is that the female characters are not portrayed in an especially progressive manner (one is a helpless bimbo and the other is a prostitute). Now, this is the kind of criticism that I'm reluctant to agree with. One of these women (the prostitute) is clearly very intelligent, and she rises greatly in station by the end of the books.

However, that's actually part of the problem, for me. Bakker is actually making some deliberate pro-feminist points in his books through this character. I'd be OK with his short shrift of the female characters if the story was indifferent to feminism, but since he actually seems to be engaging with it, I think he could have done a little better. The story absolutely doesn't need an Arya, but it's got a kind of half-assed feminism thing going, and that could have been more fully assed. If the series had started in 2014 instead of 2004, I think this element would be different.

Anyway, I hope that helps.
 

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I've been reading the Spider-Woman three issue mini-series from 1993, that I picked up for a dollar at some weird little local comic con last weekend. It's about the Julia Carpenter Spider-Woman, not the Jessica Drew Spider-Woman.

It's... not great. I mean, I certainly didn't expect great from a 1993 superhero comic, and I was not wrong. It is okay though. I don't mind the art. In issue 1, bad guys attack Spider-Woman, putting her family in danger. Issue 2 is a backstory issue, where we find out that Spider-Woman's origin as we knew it was not her actual origin, and learn the real origin. Comic book writers love their retcons! Since I've either forgotten Julia Carpenter's original origin, or I never knew it, any emotional impact the retcon may have had was lost on me.

Haven't read issue 3 yet, but I assume that's where Spider-Woman will make a comeback and kick the ass of the bad guys from issue 1.
 

E-Rocker

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Turns out it's actually a 4-issue mini-series. There were only 3 issues in the bag I bought. Aww, man, how am I ever going to know how this mediocre comic book story from two and a half decades ago ends?? Other than, you know, reading a summary online, or seeing if it's available digitally on Marvel Unlimited, or seeing if any of the vendors at the comic con I'm going to this weekend have it...
 

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I just finished reading C J Cherryh's Cyteen which I took to read while minding our two pre-schoolers. Cherryh isn't the lightest of reading, and trying to read it in spurts around two demanding children was perhaps not the best way to tackle it. However, it really did shine and it's my favourite work of hers to date. Cyteen picked up a Hugo and several other gongs, and they were well deserved. Cherryh loves her political intrigues and Cyteen was no exception - it remains taut for its 600+ pages and ranks amongst the best sci-fi I've ever read. The characters are plausible and richly developed, the plot stays taut until the end, and she does a good job of thinking through her mcguffinite.

For a 30 year old book it has aged very well. 5/5 - this is an A-list work.
 
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Dumarest

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Mainly fishing for ideas for Merc or Dogs of War, but it's also entertaining adventure fiction.
3024217.jpg
 

tenbones

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I'll toss in a couple of coppers...

Well, I can understand the criticism, and I think some of it is valid. But first, I'll mention what I enjoy.

First of all, the principle characters are very well-written, and the dialog is frequently witty and even erudite. The writing style is also very colorful, although I'll admit that it occasionally veers into ponderous. The books mix in a heavy dose of philosophy, and the make-believe metaphysics of the fantasy world are intriguing. But again, some very strong characters, and that's probably the most important thing for me in almost any story.
Yeah. The use of anagogic and analogic philosophy as a magic-system underpinning (and a form of western-Gnostic mysticism for the Psukh School) is simply sublime. Those conceits actually are a *huge* underpinning about what is really going on in the series which gets delved into in the second trilogy to conclusion.

There is a lot of metaphysics that consumes the backdrop of the story, as it grows to Silmarillion-like levels. Those flashbacks are particularly powerful.

The story itself is excellent, and the genre trappings are well-thought-out and occasionally very novel. I don't want to ruin anything here, but for me, the story of the first trilogy had strong parallels to Dune, as well as Blood Meridian. Basically, it's the story of a religious crusade with lots of parallels to the actual Crusades. The story has a very broad scope, even epic, but everything flows out of the personal details of the characters. Sort of like Dune. Also, one of the main characters is basically the Kwisatz Haderach.
The Dune parallels are almost unavoidable. Especially due to the analog conceits of the religions and nomenclature. Though Kellhus and Muad'Dib might have similar roles and powers. Their motives are different as are their moralities.

So there's a lot to like, but hard to describe without spoiling it. Let me start to get into the more controversial aspects of these books, because there's a lot I like about those, too, but it's more of a mixed bag. So...the big greased up elephant in the room is that sexual violence is integral to the story. There are some stomach-churning passages, and I wouldn't be surprised if some sick individuals got off on some of it. Punches are not pulled. I might not have started this series if someone had described it to me this way, but I'm glad I did.

As bad as it is, my feeling is that this is not without purpose, and it is not all for pure shock value. I could get into a long extended comparison of Blood Meridian and Prince of Nothing - in both books, you have a kind of ultra-violent travelogue, and each book proposes a different relationship between rapaciousness and reason. In BM, they are one in the same (i.e. Western culture and technology rape the American continent), while in PoN, the relationship is a bit more...complex. That doesn't mean that PoN is better than BM! But suffice to say, there's a deliberate exploration of some very dark themes.
The scary part of this is that the "sexual issue" strikes at such a powerful core of the book on *multiple* levels. The problem with people that want to read into sexual politics today are missing the even scarier implications that are **driving** the motivations of both protagonists and antagonists not just from the physical sense, but the cultural, moral and ethic - not to mention the intense interpersonal ramifications of the various "incidents". There is a tremendous loss of fidelity to the story when critics dwell on just the obvious (which you're not doing here - I'm talking about the most vociferous critics online about this aspect of the books). Yeah some of it is *soulcrushing* and disturbing. But I understand why it's happening.

Unfortunately... yeah I understand. I do think that the story could have been told without the sledgehammer levels of cruelty in which the topic is used, but Bakker seemed to really want to enforce this point consistently and logically. Which is what made it so goddamn disturbing.

So I'll defend the sexual violence (for now...we'll see how the next trilogy goes), but another criticism I've heard is that the female characters are not portrayed in an especially progressive manner (one is a helpless bimbo and the other is a prostitute). Now, this is the kind of criticism that I'm reluctant to agree with. One of these women (the prostitute) is clearly very intelligent, and she rises greatly in station by the end of the books.
In the first trilogy - Bakker said that his weakness is writing female characters. I felt that too, just like you. The woman in question - is clearly supposed to be a Mary-like analog character in the first Trilogy. But take it with a grain of salt.

However, that's actually part of the problem, for me. Bakker is actually making some deliberate pro-feminist points in his books through this character. I'd be OK with his short shrift of the female characters if the story was indifferent to feminism, but since he actually seems to be engaging with it, I think he could have done a little better. The story absolutely doesn't need an Arya, but it's got a kind of half-assed feminism thing going, and that could have been more fully assed. If the series had started in 2014 instead of 2004, I think this element would be different.

Anyway, I hope that helps.
The second trilogy is *much* better in this front. In fact despite the levels of atrocity that gets enacted, one of the true shining characters at the end is a female character that I felt stole the whole show. I want her to have her own book-series now. You'll know who she is when you get there.

While I don't recommend "Prince of Nothing" to everyone, I do it because today it's a "dangerous" read and easy to misinterpret for those with poor critical thinking skills. But more importantly, it's so goddamn dark despite the wonders and intensely powerful ideas it evokes. I believe it is a true milestone in the Fantasy genre. But it serves as a warning to anyone who happily walks into fantasy looking for the "Triumph of Good over Evil" type story... a trope that ignores the obvious which is:

For Good to Triumph over Evil... it necessarily mean Evil has to have already triumphed over Good. This is how that happens...
 

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Got the latest of the Anno Dracula books by Kim Newman on Audible. Not usually a big fan of series but this one is so clever and witty and each book stands well on its own. This time it is vampires in Japan.

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Dumarest

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First one actually turned out to be quite badass and hard-nosed aside from some "what a stud" silliness here and there (very infrequent) and a totally unnecessary flashback to his failed marriage and kid. Ignore those bits, which I daresay make up less than 1% of the story, and Mercenary: Thirteen for the Kill was a really good story of a mission gone awry from the outset and how it's salvaged and then what else goes wrong. Won't say more in case someone else tracks it down to read. Definitely has a scenario worth stealing for a military/mercenary RPG, and easily adaptable to anything from AD&D to Star Wars. Now moving on to the next one, Mercenary: The Secret of San Felipe.
FPB0655.jpg
 

Edgewise

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Just finished Bakker's second series, the Aspect-Emperor quadrilogy.



Although it's only four here, they are preceded by the Prince of Nothing trilogy, so that makes seven books. You'd think that would be the slog of all slogs, but it went relatively quickly. I will say that Bakker's often-florid wordsmanship can stretch things out.

There's some great storytelling and compelling characters, here, as well as some top-notch worldbuilding. I'm surprised there's no official RPG setting for these books. It's got its own unique take on some standard fantasy tropes, like the dying race of a great and decadent civilization (i.e. "elves"), fantasy religion, evil fodder creatures (i.e. "orcs"), and the like.

This is also some really super duper gritty writing, too. Not everyone is going to enjoy the unceasing drumbeat of atrocity. Among other things, these books are about a final crusade to stop the end of the world, and there's a lot of ugly stuff justified by the need to forestall Armageddon. There's actually a bit less sexual violence than the first trilogy, but if anything, it's a tougher read for sensitive readers. "Caveat emptor, motherfuckers."
 
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AsenRG

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I just don't want to engage with the critisms of Bakker before I've read the series. But I'm already suspecting my conclusions might be quite different. Just sayin'. I've got a pile of books I puchased on the (twice-)annual Sofia Book Fair this year... and they're calling at me.
When I get to the last 3, I'm ordering* Prince of Nothing.


*The previous order failed for unrelated reasons.
That said, I just finished a couple of books...they're meant to be a trilogy. The author is writing, though.
And if I ever get to my project of publishing a game in Bulgaria, I'd probably contact him and ask him whether he'd like me to use his setting:grin:!




Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi (again) and Tekumel (first time)
1) Thumbs up...I admit I'm on the verge of deciding to stop mentionning this kind of books in the thread, though:smile:.

2) Which version of Tekumel did you get? EPT, Bethorm, or some of the less-known ones:wink:?
...Oh wait. Bundle of Holding:grin:?

First one actually turned out to be quite badass and hard-nosed aside from some "what a stud" silliness here and there (very infrequent) and a totally unnecessary flashback to his failed marriage and kid. Ignore those bits, which I daresay make up less than 1% of the story, and Mercenary: Thirteen for the Kill was a really good story of a mission gone awry from the outset and how it's salvaged and then what else goes wrong. Won't say more in case someone else tracks it down to read. Definitely has a scenario worth stealing for a military/mercenary RPG, and easily adaptable to anything from AD&D to Star Wars. Now moving on to the next one, Mercenary: The Secret of San Felipe.
View attachment 9868
...or Traveller?
Won't track it down for now, just in case my hunch is right:shade:!
 

Raleel

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Oh wait. Bundle of Holding:grin:?
this one.

book of five rings is one I have not read in more than 20 years, and needs a revisiting. It's also a good speed for my other purposes
 

AsenRG

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this one.

book of five rings is one I have not read in more than 20 years, and needs a revisiting. It's also a good speed for my other purposes
Do the other purposes include a gym*, or an RPG:grin:?

*Possibly with a fancy Asian name, or without.


That's always a good idea.
Indeed:smile:!

I didn't run into any showstoppers.
I mean "different from the conclusions of the critics":wink:. Yes, I made a Google search.

That blows!
Nah, you've just expended more emotion than I did (I didn't lose the money). I'd have had to put it "on hold" anyway... I've got something like 3000 pages more to read, especially if we include the books on martial arts, history and martial arts history:tongue:!
 
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Endless Flight

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How do some of you read so fast? It takes me about a week to read a 400 page book, at a couple hours a day. I have to admit that I tend to re-read paragraphs sometimes to get a better handle on what I’m reading.
 

tenbones

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Just finished Bakker's second series, the Aspect-Emperor quadrilogy.



Although it's only four here, they are preceded by the Prince of Nothing trilogy, so that makes seven books. You'd think that would be the slog of all slogs, but it went relatively quickly. I will say that Bakker's often-florid wordsmanship can stretch things out.

There's some great storytelling and compelling characters, here, as well as some top-notch worldbuilding. I'm surprised there's no official RPG setting for these books. It's got its own unique take on some standard fantasy tropes, like the dying race of a great and decadent civilization (i.e. "elves"), fantasy religion, evil fodder creatures (i.e. "orcs"), and the like.

This is also some really super duper gritty writing, too. Not everyone is going to enjoy the unceasing drumbeat of atrocity. Among other things, these books are about a final crusade to stop the end of the world, and there's a lot of ugly stuff justified by the need to forestall Armageddon. There's actually a bit less sexual violence than the first trilogy, but if anything, it's a tougher read for sensitive readers. "Caveat emptor, motherfuckers."
I've considered the possibility that if I were to do a licensed product for a setting. This would be the one I'd go for. But it's pretty intimidating to do it justice but I love the challenge. Plus I've been considering whether or not to create a whole system for it? Or do in Savage Worlds... as my formal entry into Savage Worlds products.

It's been rolling around in my head and nagging me for years. But the subject matter is just so damn dark... and you know the inevitable politics that attempt to smash it. But then... that is a good reason why it needs to be done. It really is a worthy setting, and for that alone deserves love.

I mean who wouldn't want to learn Dunyain Logos? The Surillic Cants? The Scyth of Gottaga? Walk the skies beneath the Nail of Heaven and cast fires down from the heavens? Learn the mysteries of the Quyan masters? It has amazing potential.

So what did you think of Swayal Sisterhood?
 

Raleel

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Do the other purposes include a gym*, or an RPG:grin:?

*Possibly with a fancy Asian name, or without.
actually
  1. to refocus my work a bit. I've leveraged a bit of the philosophy in my work, and I always liked Musashi for focus.
  2. to demonstrate to my child I read books, and I enjoy them. We have to fight with him a bit, even though he's a fine reader.
I'm also fond of the 36 stratagems for tactics, and I do try to think like that. Had a good discussion with an interview candidate, made reference to the resurrection of a dead figure and I think she got it. She is one of the smartest people I've ever interviewed, and with one of the keenest minds I've seen. when asked my opinion for hiring her I said "who do I have to kill to get her"
 

Edgewise

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But the subject matter is just so damn dark... and you know the inevitable politics that attempt to smash it. But then... that is a good reason why it needs to be done.
I put some thought into various kinds of adaptations. If I was going to adapt the series for, say, a prestige HBO series, I would massively tone down the sexual violence and replace it largely with the cannibalism that comes into play towards the end.

It's not just about politics. Some material is not appropriate for some venues. That's why nobody is clamoring for a pornstar RPG. Do you really want to be in a session where a PC gets raped by a Skin Spy but can't help but enjoy it? I think there are very few groups that would feel comfortable having that happen at the table. Would you want to read out box text about Sranc copulating with corpses? Just say no!

And can you imagine that as a TV series? It's one thing when it's in a book, but let's be honest...you'd have sickos beating off to that stuff.

Sometimes we get caught up so much in the politics of the moment that we can lose track of the basics. I'm not a prude - you notice that I really enjoyed these books. But I wouldn't want to see a faithful TV version of Prince of Nothing with my human eyeballs. And I wouldn't want to play out some of those book incidents at the table.
I mean who wouldn't want to learn Dunyain Logos? The Surillic Cants?
I was thinking about it and one issue is that a lot of the character types would be hard to balance. Balance can be overrated, but you've got the classic Jedi PC problem here. The Dunyain, in particular, would be extremely hard to know how to play and probably too OP for a lot of situations. Sorcerers are also extremely powerful. I'd definitely leave the Logos for NPCs only, and sorcerers would probably come with a bunch of caveats about how you might need to run a troupe of sorcerers like Ars Magica. You can only have so many Chorae in play before it starts to feel deliberately nerfed.
 
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