Friday, June 19, 2015

The Brilliant Jeffro Johnson, Hugo Nominee

This is SUCH a long overdue blog post, and there are multiple reasons for it. I'm going to toss out quickly that I had a series of hardware failures, followed immediately by pneumonia. And then I'm going to confess that it goes much deeper than that.
See, I'm a BOOK reviewer. I review BOOKS. And other written things, like novellas and short stories. I don't review PEOPLE. I review BOOKS.
Now, it is ABSOLUTELY and wonderfully the case that my book reviews have given me the chance to interact with people, lovely people, people who write books, and people who read books, and, oh, just LOTS of wonderful people with whom I carry on snerky little conversations about life, the universe, and everything. But mostly, I review books.
Then, the Hugo Nominations come out, and to my delight, THREE of my friends are in the running for Best Fan Writer: Dave Freer, Amanda Green, and Cedar Sanderson. I know them in their fan writer identity, because I follow their blogs, individually as well as their posts at the Mad Genius Club. I also know them in their pro-writer identity. Dave Freer has been a favorite for years, ever since I stumbled across "Bats, Rats, and Vats." It's great stuff, great stuff, even better than organic superlube.
It was an easy step to decide to review their works on my blog; and I did. Then I read Laura Mixon's contribution, which has come to be known as the Mixon Report, and I was flabbergasted at the amount of good research technique she threw into that thing. Had I known in advance that she was an engineer, it's likely I would have expected the degree of precision, because engineers HAVE to get it right, or people die, dams collapse, and other double plus ungood things happen. It's a dynamite bit of writing; since then, I've read some of her other stuff just for fun.
BUT: who the heck is Jeffro Johnson? I never HEARD of this guy. Fortunately, my friends had, and they directed me to his work at Appendix N. And, they told me: he reviews games.
REVIEWS GAMES? What...who...HOW am I going to review a reviewer who reviews GAMES? I don't know SQUAT about games. I've got an ancient copy of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri that I crank up and play from time to time, and long, long ago in the days of dial-up I pooted around with something that involved killing tigers and pigs and then monsters, but that is IT. I had to watch Jeopardy to find out who Leroy Jenkins was and why he was famous.
At first, I didn't think I was up to it. But with a little bit of encouragement from my friends, I gave it a whack. I went to Appendix N, and I read some of his work, and...
...and I was dead in the water. I did not understand a single thing he said. It was as if I was having my own personal Tower of Babel experience. This happened to me once before, in some classroom at UNC-CH in 1987, and that's when I decided I was going to drop out of the Ph.D. program in Organizational Behavior.
So, I did what I could: I emailed Jeffro, and explained my problem. He very patiently and kindly gave me a list of articles that even a non-gamer could appreciate. Here's one:
Screamin Addictive Insanity

And he was RIGHT! I COULD understand it (although I did have to consult the web for a Neal Postman reference he made to me in private), and not only could I understand it, I had actually witnessed it. Some 30+ years ago, I started to worship at a Mennonite Church in my area, and got invited to their homes after church, and there I saw those card games he described. He points out that the games serve the purpose of allowing the unmarried males and females to interact under supervision, and that exactly fits with my experience.

He gave me another look at the gaming world, which really reached way beyond gaming, in his article Are you the author ? Here, he dissects the interactions on a forum, and shows how mealy-mouth trolling works, and once again, this is consistent with my experience.

Some of his articles required more background. However this one doesn't at all. It's a very incisive analysis of what condescending outsiders do when they are trying to be nice, sort of. As in, good boy, go lie down and I'll give you a cookie.

And now we come to the end of this blog, and I have to fully 'fess up. You know how Larry Niven describes the hyper-space travel experience? If you look up, the gray spot expands until it takes over, and then you have no idea, AT ALL, of what you have been looking at? Well...
...I still don't understand WHAT the HECK he is talking about, five minutes after I read the article. I TOTALLY get it while I'm reading it, I really do. He is a HECK of a good writer. He tosses in classical references, he gives citations and then expounds on them, and all the while I'm reading, I'm going, yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it...
And right now, at this very INSTANT, I could not tell you what ANY of the articles is talking about (MILD exaggeration for impact, okay?). I retain the memory that I have been somewhere, with a great and competent guide, congenial and accommodating, but  I just don't have enough hooks to hang things on.
Look, I'm 62 years old. I missed the whole D&D thing. I was in the Army or pre-med and working or WHATEVER and I only saw a board ONE time, when my brother, Dr. Steve Patterson of the Gophers, showed me the layout. It's rather a shame; I loved playing Alpha Centauri (still do on occasion) and it MAY be that gaming would give me that same thrill. I'm going to claim that I just never had the time or opportunity. And maybe there is a certain window I missed.
Don't take my word for it, but Jeffro Johnson is a freken genius. For a moment, he took this blind, deaf, dumb, anosmic cripple, and he let me see the most beautiful mountains and hear Debussy and smell roses while I ate turtle cheesecake. It is no fault of his if I return to an isolation tank, with respect to games.
Don't take my word for it; read his stuff.
This is about something

And this is about something else

And this is about Lovecraft. I DID get that much....never read Lovecraft though; I scare too easily. Maybe that's the problem: I scare too easily. I was terrified by the Banshee in Walt Disney's "Darby O'Gill and the Little People " when it came out in 1959, and never, ever, ever wanted to get into spooky stuff. Which probably saved me from doing a lot of dope in 1970, because the crowd like to smoke dope and tell ghost stories. Me? I'm a 17 year old running home screaming for mama, and making the dog sleep in my room that night.

Well, what you loose on the merry-go-round, you pick up on the swings. I have no idea what that means or if it applies, but I had to end this somehow.

Sorry, Jeffro. I did the best I could.

No comments:

Post a Comment