November 2023 Update



“If I had known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” – Billy Noonan

Good Lord, I’m officially a pensioner now. Got my state pension and everything. That’s weird.


48 weeks, 52 books. Achievement unlocked: Bookwyrm. Read 52 books this year. That became too much like work towards the end, so I’ll slow down for a while now.

  • The Future of Geography by Tim Marshall. I was very impressed by Marshall’s earlier work, Prisoners of Geography, in which he argues convincingly that a country’s geography dictates much of its economy and politics; I’d even call it a must read. In this follow-up, he tries to predict the impact of exploiting space on the world below. However, he focuses so much on the past and present of spaceflight that there’s little prediction to be seen. TL-DR: Right now it’s all about the satellites, but expect China and the USA to set up bases near the moon’s south pole in the next 10-20 years.
  • Trekking On by Deneys Dietz. This is the second volume of Dietz’ autobiographical trilogy, and covers his expulsion from South Africa after the Boer War, his adventures in Madagascar, and his First World War experiences in Africa and France. Dietz was a soldier, a lawyer, and a politician, and I really should read the other two volumes. Gaming: Deitz’s arrival in Madagascar and subsequent events, as well as the fighting in Africa during World War I, could be SF adventures on a colony world.
  • Venomous Lumpsucker by Ned Beauman. In a near-future Baltic, the venomous lumpsucker is an ugly little fish which may, or may not, be extinct. A mining executive will go to jail if it is, and a scientist wants it for her own dark purposes; the two team up to find the truth, and are drawn into a larger conspiracy. By turns satirical humour and depressing ecological forecast, full of ideas; my favourite of this month’s crop. Gaming: Useful material for your SF or near-future megacorporation, those it employs, the legal constraints on its profiteering, and how it evades them. The quest for the fish and the shenanigans leading up to it could make a nice couple of adventures.

Yes, OK, I’m watching TV again, or at least Netflix. The rot set in when my wife recommended I watch The Night Agent

  • The Night Agent. Action thriller; the protagonist is a junior FBI agent whose job is to monitor an emergency phone line which never rings, until it does, and he must protect the caller while unravelling the conspiracy pursuing her. Good stuff. Gaming: It’s easy to make one of your PCs an emergency contact and pitch them into this plotline; my first thought was a detached duty scout, but anyone with a connection to an organisation would do.
  • Make My Day. SF horror anime; the protagonist is a part-time prison guard in a convict-operated mine where they Delve Too Deep and find something nasty. Gaming: This would make a good scenario for Mothership, or perhaps Aliens, and is also notable for the gear used by the guards, including robots, drones, and clip-on strength augments for their environment suits.
  • Bodies. Time-travel murder mystery. Four detectives in different eras find the same body and try to solve the case. Naturally, there is a conspiracy protecting the timeline. I’m not sure how you’d do this in a game; the way the characters’ story arcs intertwine is quite well done, but why time travel works differently for different people is not explained well enough for me.
  • Season three of The Witcher. Mostly drawn from the second novel, Time of Contempt, and centred on the ‘found family’ of the Witcher, Yenefer the sorceress, and Ciri the Chosen One. I find the novels less compelling than the short stories, and in my mind Geralt will always be Henry Cavill, so since he has left the show, I might too. The production has a racially diverse cast, but in this case it fits the setting, as everyone else wandered into the elves’ world through interdimensional gates. Gaming: What if the Chosen One doesn’t want anything to do with the prophecy and is on the run from everyone trying to force her into fulfilling it as well as those who want to kill her to prevent it coming true?

Sessions this month (and year to date): The Arioniad 3 (3); the Dracula Dossier 3 (20); the One Ring 4 (25).


Weight: 87 kg. Since we returned to the UK, between the change of diet and not swimming 500 metres a day any more, this is even harder to shift than before. I can’t see it dropping much over Christmas. I’ll have to lose another couple of kilos next year.

In this month’s OK Boomer segment… Some years ago I was invited to a school reunion, and one of the things about British schools is that from the 1930s (maybe earlier) until the 1980s, they had punishment books; when a child was disciplined, their name, offence, and punishment was logged. The principal (they were called headmasters in my day) spent a little while going through the punishment books with us, demonstrating conclusively that our parents and grandparents did the same stupid stuff we did as children, and got broadly similar punishments. So when our parents and grandparents told us that unlike us, they were well-behaved and had respect for their elders, they were – shall we say – mistaken. I shall endeavour to remember that when talking to my own grandchildren.

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