I’ve mentioned on here a few times before, that John Ringo is one of my favorite authors. He writes truly great military Sci-Fi with tons of black humor, and he also has had lots of fun with different genres, like fantasy, and what could be called GURPS Black Ops, and just knocked them out of the park.
Oh yeah, Princess of Wands. Great book, and I hope like heck more in the series are coming.
For those of you that don’t know, GURPS is a table-top role playing game system developed by Steve Jackson Games, a set of rules that are supposed to be a ’generic universal role playing system’, meaning that you can grab the basic book, and then have rules for how fast characters can run, how much damage you take by being hit upside the head by a blunt object, that sort of thing. Then, you design your own setting, apply the rules, and away you go.
In reality, the draw of GURPS for me were the hundreds of books that laid forth special rules and background for various settings. GURPS Supers, GURPS Robots, that sort of thing.
And GURPS Black Ops was a world setting for playing special agents of a black ops department of the government that takes care of ‘things man was not meant to know’.
Think the movie Men In Black, but with the possibility that the bad guys weren’t just aliens, but could also be remnants of ancient civilizations, mythical creatures, time travelers, dimensional explorers, demons, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and anything else that could go bump in the night. Super agents vs Cthulhu. You know exactly what I mean.
I ran one GURPS Black Ops game once where the agents went down to Georgia to investigate a strange energy spike, and got tangled up in a plot that involved the Russian government, nuclear waste disposal, dimensional travel and space orcs. It was a lot of fun, and I spent many hours researching it, too.
Anyway, my point here is that John Ringo wrote one of his books, Princess of Wands, creating a brand new approach to the black ops concept that just blew me away, not just with the stories but with the character and the world setting. I wanted to play a role playing game set in that world, and I can’t wait to see more books in the series.
As great as his books are, though, one of the best things about John Ringo, to me, is his willingness to go places you just can’t believe he went, and then to wonder just how many folks read what you just did, stopped, and stared at the page in shocked horror.
Most of John Ringo’s books are perfectly appropriate for all audiences, well-written books of adventure and war, as long as that audience is mature enough to read about honor and duty, loss and sacrifice, and the death and dying that comes from being at war. The Posleen saga and There will be Dragons comes immediately to mind.
He writes novels that are filled with death and violence as men and women struggle in war and battle against terrorists, slavers, and genocidal aliens. You know, military adventure fiction.
Yet he is getting famous in some circles for the outrage his Ghost series has caused, because in that series he included his own version of sex scenes in the same way that James Bond books would normally have scenes of seduction in exotic locales.
Yes, I said outrage. Over sex scenes. In a book filled with people getting killed in battle. No, these aren’t picture books, either.
It’s the same kind of distorted sense of proportion you see when politicians and lawyers are outraged over the ‘Hot Coffee’ mod for Grand Theft Auto, a mod that let you play a sex based minigame, inside of a game that is about jacking a car and killing hundreds of people by running them over, blowing them up or shooting them.
I just want to scream sometimes… “You can’t stand the thought that gamers might see a naked breast… but stopping a car at gunpoint, yanking the driver out, getting in, and running over 40 pedestrians on your way to a drug deal is okay? Are you people INSANE?!?”
Not that I want the violence banned either, mind you… I’d just like a game, OR book, to be sold to the audience it’s designed for. If it says “M” on the box, then sell it to a mature audience, not a freaking 13 year old, hmmm? And if it says “M” on the box already, and it’s a mature audience that is playing the game, and you were okay with selling a game about killing innocent people while building your criminal empire in the first place, what the heck does adding breasts do to make it more inappropriate?
Anyway… off topic from the off topic, as usual…
Bottom line, John Ringo writes great books, and at the same time is becoming notorious for writing over the top sex scenes in the middle of some of his Ghost books, books that are filled with terrorists getting killed in gruesome ways, and it’s the sex scenes that prompt a shocked exclamation of “Oh John Ringo, NO!” Never mind that I think the writing of the Ghost series to be the best I’ve seen anywhere, for it’s sense of pure adrenaline super-spy anti-terrorist mercenary action.
This amuses me a great deal. And, as I have a particularly dark sense of humor, I saw with pride that there is a new shirt available from John Ringo’s website.
That’s right… you can now get a red shirt (to show that you are liable to die within seconds of your away team appearing on the planet’s surface) that proudly proclaims “Oh John Ringo, NO!”
The thought that this whole thing not only makes me laugh, but also makes enough other people laugh that someone created a shirt, raises it to the level of greatness.
By the way… if you are now worried that reading a John Ringo book might expose you to inappropriate material… well, then I suggest you just avoid the Ghost series, and either read Princess of Wands, the ‘Prince Roger’ series he co-wrote with David Weber that starts with March Upcountry, or the War with the Posleen saga that starts with A Hymn Before Battle (brilliant military sci-fi).
Those are all great books, and there will be nothing in them more offensive than people getting killed in battle. And maybe the possibility of all life on earth being eradicated by aliens. But at least the aliens don’t have sex, right?
Isn’t that a relief?
Sigh. Like life isn’t difficult enough without trying to find more things to be offended by. I used to watch violent, gory movies and TV shows all the time. Since Alex was born, however, I don’t watch anything with blood, guts or gore if there is the slightest chance he could come into the room and see it. That means we watch Top Chef, basically.
If I want to watch something, I wait until he’s tucked away in bed. Or go see it in the theater. I’d love to take him to see Iron Man, but some of the early battle scenes are a little more than I want my five year old to see. And I’m pissed at Transformers, because the movie toys are all marketed at his age group, and he loves the toys, he knows exactly who Bumblebee and Ultimus Prime are, but there is no way that I want him to see a Marine base in Iraq torn apart, and the Scorpion spearing Marines to death. He’ll just have to watch the cartoons. I wish that wasn’t necessary, all his other five year old friends seem to have seen it, but that’s the way it is.
So no CSI, no NCIS, and no Matrix or Dirty Harry or Platoon or Starship Troopers. He doesn’t need to see people getting torn apart or cut open and their brain removed at the age of five. Why? Because I am mature and able to tell the difference between fiction and reality, but he isn’t. And, as I am the adult, (cue the laughter), it is my responsibility to make that decision for him.
Every time someone tries to ban something outright as being inappropriate, whether they be a politician or an outraged parent, the message they are sending me is, they think that I am a child and unable to make decisions for myself, that I cannot tell reality from fiction, and only THEY are mature and wise enough to make those decisions FOR me.
Oh John Ringo, NO!
Thinking about my strong feelings towards people telling me what I should or should not believe, has reminded me of a Storytime… but it’s short, so I’ll tack it on here.
Warning, this is another note in the “Big bear is not a nice person” file.
There was a very strong ‘born again’ congregation in Yucca Valley, CA, during my brief stay in the area back in the late 80′s. It was very common to see groups of earnest young missionaries hanging out in public areas, looking for Marines.
The group of four to five young people would, upon seeing a Marine of an imperssionable age leaving a gas station, or movie theater, or grocery store, surround the said Marine and start with the opening line “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior”, and move on from there.
Now, while I certainly have nothing against the sentiment, it was the approach, the surrounding, isolating, and pressure inherent in the way they would try to seek converts amongst the Marines off-base that I found personally offensive.
I found out about this because I had a good friend, a PFC that played in my role playing group that we nicknamed “El Destructo” because there wasn’t a single challenge he wouldn’t try to find some way to blow up, that was pretty upset by a run-in he had with them. He was genuinely scared at the way they surrounded him and treated him, because when he told them he was Jewish, he said they got pretty ugly and threatening. And to be fair, he wasn’t scared because he thought they were gonna hurt him, as much as because he knew damned well that if he got into a fight off-base with civilians, for any reason, his butt would have been in big trouble. When you’re a PFC, you dread ever being in any kind of trouble.
So yeah, I had a chip on my shoulder after I talked to him, and I planned in advance what I would do if I ever ran into that kind of trouble in Yucca.
And of course, I did have the pleasure of running into some of them… they accosted me as I left the movie theater in town, after watching the latest new release, Predator. Looking at IMDB tells me it came out in 1987, so that pins down when this happened.
They were very clean, young, somberly dressed men and women, a nice group of people, really. They certainly didn’t look like they were the kind of folks that would cause a disturbance, or start a fight. They’d been hanging out in teh parking lot of a gas station that shared a parking lot with the theater.
One of them, I guess the spokeman, walked up to and in front of me to block my way to my car, while the rest circled and closed in. It felt pretty threatening, they were well within what we think of in the states as our ‘personal space’. And the spokesman asked me the line I will never forget, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”
And I replied immediately, having previously thought long and hard about this exact situation, and what I would say if I had the chance. I can’t remember exactly anymore, but I practised it enough that I remember what the high points were. And I know that I was so happy that I had practised what I was going to say, that I was grinning in my most menacing way. Which, sadly, probably isn’t all that menacing, but you do what you can.
“I am a believer in the coming of Nyarlathotop, the deep old one of ancient times, the Goat with a Thousand Young. I am one of the true chosen ones that will serve to usher unto the world the great return, when the skies will turn to blood and the unenlightened shall be eaten by the mighty, and the balance of power on this world shall finally be restored to the dark gods as spoken of in the Books of Blood and the Necronomicon”.
They ran. They really did. It wasn’t the spokesman that started it, but as I kept going on, they broke and ran to their car and got in.
El Destructo laughed, and laughed, and laughed when I told him.
Ah, good times. Good times.
I do think of those kids every so often, and wonder just what they thought. Did they really think I was serious? Do any of them still remember that? Do they tell stories in hushed voices around the campfire of the day a dark cult of devil worshippers revealed their existence? Do they make plans?
Well, as the New Testament says, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
These days, I am much more boring. If I was accosted in the same way now, I’m far more likely to just say, “Thanks, I’ve got to be somewhere, you guys have a nice day though,” and move along.
Hey, enough rambling. Go buy a shirt! Or a book!