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Crazy Rich Asians, Mahjongg, and Madness

“I watched Crazy Rich Asians. There was a scene with this game with tiles. It was beautiful — the colors and the clacking….”

These are the words of a woman who clearly wants me to go out and buy a mahjongg set and a book and go crazy over the whole thing.

Games as story-telling tools are My Thing Lately, so I had to find the scene and obsess over it. Not really knowing the game, we get the point — older woman beats younger woman, but younger woman reveals she could have won and chose not to. But HOW? I MUST KNOW.

Mahjongg is sort of like rummy, if rummy scoring was more complicated and had awesome names for hands like “Catching the Moon from the Bottom of the Sea”. Match sets, knock before your opponents can get a good hand, score what you’ve got. I’ve got a book, so it should be pretty straight-forward, right?

The hands are presented for us to see clearly, which is nice. The elder’s:

And the younger’s:

And right from the get-go, I’ve got trouble. No idea what that bendy cucumber tile is in the elder’s hand (next to the three Nine Circles). But, the game has random unmatched tiles that give you points if you draw them, so maybe it’s just a different printing of one of those. (Cue frantic, useless googling of mahjongg tilesets.) I’ll just see what the book says.

Well, the book has seven different games in it.

If I take the Cantonese game, it looks to me like the elder wins. But that can’t be right. None of the other variations seem to work either.

Well, why not download an app that scores mahjongg hands? Couldn’t be simpler! Except for when the app is for Japanese-style scoring. The elder definitely wins that one.

Fortunately for me, someone who actually knows what they’re talking about posted about this. It doesn’t go into full detail on the scoring, but it does clarify that this is the Singaporean game.

http://blog.angryasianman.com/2018/08/what-was-really-happening-in-crazy-rich.html

It even explains the cucumber.

The author goes through the trouble of scoring the younger woman’s hand:

SCORING RACHEL’S HAND

If you’re really curious, here’s how Singaporean rules would have scored Rachel’s hand:

Half Flush (hand composed of all one suit plus honors): 2 points

Fully Concealed Hand (no pong or chow sets revealed in front of her): 1 point

Animal tile: 1 point

She scores no points under Singapore rules for the flower, since it’s associated with the 4th seat, which is neither her seat nor the “prevailing” seat (East is dealer in this hand).

That’s 4 points, out of a typical maximum per round of 5. Every player would pay her $16, for a total of $48 for the hand. Singaporeans play a low-stakes version of mahjong!

But what about the elder’s. Well, let’s try it: She has:

3 9 bamboo
3 8 bamboo
3 white dragon
2 red dragon
3 9 circles
The centipede

The three dragons = 1 point.
The centipede = 1 point.
Triplets hand = 2 points.

And I think that’s everything. So… equal hands. But the wikipedia article doesn’t take into account “fans” (doubling opportunities), as noted in the site listed as a reference. So maybe the elder won twice as much?

It’s worth noting that the they both have two red dragons hidden. Thus either could only get what they wanted (a valuable triple) if the other gave up and broke her pair.

Thus ends my adventure in trying to score mahjongg hands from a movie without knowing what I’m doing. I hope in Crazier Richer Asians they play again, but there’s a misunderstanding as to if they’re playing Old Rules or American, and they both have ridiculously good hands for their respective systems. If not I plan on stealing the idea. From myself.


New Game: Castlevania Genesys Mod

I don’t know if you had a chance out the Netflix Castlevania series, but I started watching it right around the same time I started playing a tabletop RPG using the Genesys system. Enjoying both thoroughly, I naturally decided to build a Castlevania mod. You can find it in the Games menu above.

I fear the Genesys make-your-own-setting system is going to prove extremely addictive. Just check out this forum for all the IPs and original concepts people have built already. You want Mass Effect? Dinosaurs and cowboys? The Prisoner? There’s… a lot.

More Tor and Nano

Another post on tor.com, this time about Tak.

A friend got my playing Tak before I had read the books. I… still haven’t finished them. I thought I’d go with an audiobook for the second one. I’ve been listening for a loooong time.

Also, I’ll be doing Nanowrimo again this year. Any year anyone says “hey, you doin’ nano?”, I immediately say yes. Just having conversations about our novels is worth the price of admission. Which is nothing!

Shakespeare, Asimov, Tor, and What’s Going On With Me

The latest news is a post of mine on Tor.com: https://www.tor.com/2018/09/13/asimovs-guide-to-shakespeare-exists-and-you-need-it/

It was a blast to write, and I am looking forward to having the chance to work more with them.

The last few seasons have been all about the job, which has meant precious little writing. I did pull myself together well enough to write a story recently, and am finishing up the latest draft of the novel I’ve been working on.

I’ve read some great stuff, and am currently relishing Hard in Hightown, an in-world noir novel from Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s the first time I’ve seen this particular brand of meta, and I recommend it.

Stay strong, friends!

Quill White Box – Dwarf Karlsek to the Dark Tower Comes

The latest thing in Quill is the White Box, which adds some RPG elements and changes the setting to a classic fantasy world. Adventure follows!)

Karlsek Haukrison, motivated dwarf from the Parliament Of Beggars who is tracking down the treasure his father died trying to find. (name from donjon, background from WTFIMDC.

Adventure: The Demon Haunted Tower

To Guhlo Chom, Keeper of Tomes, member of the Parliament of Beggars,

All librarians are like to us dwarves, after a fashion. You know the value of quiet, of darkness, and of old things well-used. This natural kinship was clear as new crystal when we met in the shadows of the Haunted Forest, and it is on the bond forged in those dark events I must now rely. I write you for aid, one old Beggar to another.

I continue to search for the treasure my father failed to find, and my path has led me to a village. I thought at first a blight had fallen on the land. The little town is ringed with farms bearing no more than miserable dead crops, and this at the height of the harvesting season. But as my feet carried my past this tragic scene and into the village proper, the ill cause became evident.

A grim tower of obsidian looms over the village like stalagmite ready to fall. The people of this poor place, drenched in dread, tell me the building appeared full-formed on a moonless night some weels ago, and that they have suffered since. The crops withered. The livestock froths and stamps itself to death. The children have grown silent and cold. The dogs are gone. A clever woman like yourself knows what this must mean.

Rumors echo around this place as to who lives atop this poisonous fang, but I have come to believe a sickened weaver of magics is the cause of this. I heard tell of a band of broad-backed youths who tried to approach the tower and were surned away by an invisible magic defence. I have seen such things used by those practiced in the arcane arts.

There is one precious book in particular which has the information this suffering town needs: the Spire Libiris. You know me to be a dwarf who respects the knowledge of elders and would treat this book as the invaluable treasure it is. I must borrow it, Guhlo. This town needs to kill that blasted wizard, and I must help them if I am to find the information I need. As a Beggar, and as a one-time axe-mate against the dark creatures of the forest, I beg your aid. I ever be,

Yours,

Karlsek Haukrison

Result: Guhlo wishes Karlsek well but cannot send the book. Instead he has scratched out a relevant page from the book to help. Karlsek enters the tower, faces many trials, and faces the wizard. Despite his power Karlsek finally bests him, and he agrees to leave and never return. (see QWB for details)

Quill – Suspicion

ScenarioThe King
CharacterThe Knight
SkillInspiration

To His Majesty King Gerald, Master of the Independent State of Prian,

Please forgive me for writing you, Gerald, and not one of your underlings. This is a matter of importance. It will not wait to be passed along by bureaucrats who will only do so when it they can gain some advantage from it. I hope that the fact that we have met face to face will excuse my directness. You and I spoke for a moment at the Lights Festival three years past, when you commented on my horse’s grooming. I do not mean to insult with over-friendliness after such a brief encounter, but I have seen something frankly alarming.

I was on my way to patronize my blacksmith yesterday evening. The path from my estate into the city leads down from the fields and along the farm fences of some half-dozen of my peers. I have ridden this path scores of times. I recognize every building, every rick, the children of every farmer. As I passed the weatherworn barn that belongs to the Ninstock family, I saw something I did not recognize.

Just inside the door there was a funny hooded man crouching over something. The first thing I noticed was that he was a dreadful big bloke. I’m not one who looks for a fight, but if one finds me I prefer it to be over quick, and I’ve no need to prove myself by squaring off against some giant.

I leapt my horse over the stile and rode up to the barn door. A lot of times just the sight of an able man on horseback is enough to scare off any vagrants or bad-doers. This fellow, though, just straightens up and looks at me. This gave me a good look at the blighter’s face, which might be useful. He’s got a deeply buggered face, all scars and burns. Out of that messed-up skin he still managed grow a furry lip.

He grins at me and tries to run past me. He’s a fast one, but I manage to get hold of his cloak as he darts past me. To my shame, I lost him in the fields. I thought he might have been some thief, but I found sneakily hidden in a pocket of the cloak a bottle of what I think must be some evil poison! I knew then he must have been an assassin on his way into the city to kill you. Who else would carry such a thing? I wrote you straight away. Please heed my warning and set your guards looking for a man of that description for your safety.

Your loyal knight,

Sir Antoine de Feuille

Result: The King does not respond. Several days after Antoine sent his letter, he is visited by the royal guard and brought to prison for his disrespectful letter.

Tiny!fic – Clockwork

Yoon Ha Lee’s doing some tiny!fic writing prompts on Patreon. Here’s one of mine.

 

“Either your information is bad or you’re a plain idiot.” The enchanter’s knuckle-runes glowed a shade darker as he whispered, making the sheets of metal the green of old glass. “This is spring steel. The Cadois aren’t making weapons out of this.”

The spy smirked. An enemy ship’s hold was no place for an argument. “Just do your job.”

As the ‘chant worked his fingers and mumbled his spells, the spy did the thing he hated most — he explained himself.

“The Great Horloge needs a new mainspring, and this metal is going to be used for it. Every clock in Cadogna is set to the Horloge. Your enchantment is giving us control over the entire country’s time. So do it right.”

Review: Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom by Bradley W. Schenk

Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom by Bradley W. Schenk

Advance reading copy provided by publisher

 

I came across Schenk’s work through his illustrations, mainly the Pulp-O-Mizer cover generator (if you haven’t tried it, rectify this omission immediately). Given that, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the novel; how would the style of Retropolis make the transition to a full-length piece?

A little background first. Retropolis is a highly-stylized retrofuturistic concept based in the adventuresome fun of old pulp sci-fi stories, and that light, tongue-in-cheek style is handled with great discipline and consistency. The rules, as I see them:

  • Technology and science are fun, not evil. No Ewoks in Retropolis.
  • Chrome glistening in the sun, not oily old hulks.
  • It should all seem plausible based on 1940’s technology, with the addition of some big leaps (lighter-than-air metal, e.g.)

Given that by design the work is meant to remind us of slim, disposable volumes of tales featuring derring-do over character, how does this translate to a contemporary novel?

The answer: quite well.

Schenk presents a healthy smattering of fun characters, each with their own take on a world of impossible technologies. I mean, there’s a guy who keeps a slide rule in a hip holster — awesome. The humor is wit, not camp. As we slide steadily toward a world of AI, the moral question of the book (no spoilers) is timely and well-handled. And Schenk’s prose is absolutely lovely. This is an action-packed romp with more heart than grit.

If you’ve ever sat up watching old B-movies and laughed at the titles, go pick this book up.

Apex Revive The Drive, ft. Story Review and Signed Copy

Apex Magazine’s annual subscription drive is back, including all manner of goodies for your enjoyment, One of these goodies features me!

This item includes a short story critique by Glitch Rain author Alex Livingston. It also includes a signed copy of Alex’s Apex novella Glitch Rain!

Alex will do a thorough critique of one short story (up to 7,500 words) with editing notes on story structure and grammar left throughout the manuscript via track changes. When he returns your story to you, he will include an email detailing what he believes to be the strengths and weaknesses of the story, as well as suggestions on how to make the story stronger. If you have questions about any of his notes, he will be happy to go over them with you, working with you step by step to make your story the best it can possibly be.

I’m very happy to offer my services for the fine folks at Apex. Check it here!

Review – The Fortress at the End of Time by J. M. McDermott

Review copy provided by the author.
A quiet man takes a position in a lonely place, finds both the job and the people he works with aren’t what he expects, and finds a way to craft his own destiny despite the staggering inertia of isolation and depression. Sounds like a Prestigious Literary Novel, and not what you’d expect from a space novel, right? McDermott tosses the pew-pew-laser-laser cliches directly out the window and presents a character-driven novel where the interpersonal and introspective conflicts take the helm. You should check it out.
The choice between resigned despair and desperate action forms the tension in the book. Assigned to a crumbling coffin of a space station, Ronaldo Aldo repeatedly has his hopes for his life dashed by bad luck, by the anger of people who have little outlet for it, and by his own failings. He is unable to find any satisfaction in work, prevented from making any real change to his condition, and disallowed from any true emotional connection. The only apparent alternative to the demeaning drudgery of the assignment is taken all too frequently — the suicide rate is high.
Anyone who has been (or at least felt) trapped by circumstances can immediately relate. I could just run away, go AWOL, punch my boss in the mouth and let him try to catch me. But if I quit, how will I live? The world (or galaxy) is cold and indifferent; what if I can never find work again? Am I better off staying with what I have? Or am I simply not brave enough? Am I doing this to myself?
Soul-searching is not the reaction I have to most spacefaring fiction. McDermott’s world is filled with galaxy-spanning political and economic complexities which he shows not from the POV of the crack starship captain with a disregard for the rules or of the sharp-eyed heir-apparent to an oligarchic shipping dynasty, but through the small-scale experiences of people who can only wonder why the Powers That Be have seen fit to keep them cold and endangered at the far limit of human civilization. Their struggles, their foibles, their myriad ways of reacting to the same harsh truths of life are memorable and ring consistently true.