I’ve been granted a few days off work, and waiting for me is a stack of books eighteen inches high. But there’s time now. Time enough at last!
First is Man of Gold, a fantasy from the early 80s but clearly belonging to the bevy of 70s fantasies written in the long shadow of Tolkien. Set in a fantasy India (not Europe) with aliens filing the role of Greeks and Parsis, this is the adventure of a young scholar who specializes in deciphering dead languages. The author is a language scholar who wrote the book from the notes he made while developing a setting for a paper-and-pencil role playing game. I recommend having a dictionary on hand when you read it.
Physics on the Fringe, a fun survey of the world of amateur and heterodox physicists. I’ve already read ahead a little, and as you might expect the trouble begins when all the autodidacts get together to talk about their idiosyncratic Theories of Everything and find that they don’t agree on a single point, except that conventional physics is wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m all for open-mindedness, but there’s vanity in being skeptical only of conventional wisdom and credulous of everything else, don’t you agree?
Two books I’ve had for a while but have stalled on are Three Musketeers and Before They Were Giants. The latter is an anthology of first publications by well-known science fiction authors. (The cover art is a typical Jungian space hero battling a Freudian tentacled orifice monster). It’s published by Paizo, whom I knew only as a role playing game imprint.
Speaking of games, I’ve finally read through my GURPS basic rules, so now it’s time to do what (I assume) everybody else does to start: try to build a Mr. Spock for less than 200 points. (GURPS would be a good system for the Man of Gold setting: there are rules for insectoid creatures and for creating unusual scholarly skills.) The whole system runs about $75, which feels pretty steep to me, although it’s now about the same as a tank of gas. In New York City they used to say that a Subway fare and a slice of pizza always cost the same, so that when one goes up the other is sure to follow; maybe there’s a similar rule for role-playing systems and gasoline.
Later today I have to pick up my copy of BattleTech Historical: Liberation of Terra vol. 1. This is the book that I and about 5000 other fans have been waiting for since 1990. Will it be everything I dreamed? Not possible! Will it be better than I ever dared hope? Quite likely!
If you listened to the latest Moocast, you heard Castor and Pollux say they’re leaving the store unminded for a while, and I’ve got time to burn. Stay tuned, Moo-fans!