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  1. - Top - End - #1381
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    "...should have been on our list of assets".

    I think I detect a Princess Bride reference.
    I like how pretty much everyone has been trying to catch up with what schlock is doing.

    I also like how the frag-suits got personal fabbers. They were probably designed based on the Toughs' experience in the can full of sky, when they realised that being able to rearm and resupply people cut off was important.
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    Rockphed said it well.
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  2. - Top - End - #1382
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

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  3. - Top - End - #1383
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by tonberrian View Post
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    It IS alien clippy!
    Yeah, and about as trustworthy.
    The end of what Son? The story? There is no end. There's just the point where the storytellers stop talking.

  4. - Top - End - #1384
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    The weak parts have been going on for so long now that I sometimes wonder whether I ever liked the comic, which of course I did otherwise I wouldn't have read so much of it. I will be happy when it is finally over. (I could stop reading I suppose but I still want to see the end after this long.)

  5. - Top - End - #1385
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibrinar View Post
    The weak parts have been going on for so long now that I sometimes wonder whether I ever liked the comic, which of course I did otherwise I wouldn't have read so much of it. I will be happy when it is finally over. (I could stop reading I suppose but I still want to see the end after this long.)
    Preach it. I've been reading Schlock Mercenary for a long time. I've had my ups and downs with the strip, but I've been really trying to follow it lately. I don't think I'm particularly stupid, and I get that the idea was to have Ensby port in and take control of a Panuri warship, presumably to go after the Andromeda core generator. But the last few strips just do not make sense in any context. I can't tell what went wrong with the plan or why it went wrong, and it feels like the information that would let me figure that out is being deliberately omitted.

  6. - Top - End - #1386
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    As far as I can tell the warships teraported into the Milkey Way just right before Ensby ported into the ship. Hence that schlocks suit picks ups a lot of comms now.

    Doesn't seem like the Dark matter entity is piloting at the moment, probably still 'dead' from the teraport, so I think Schlock is going to hijack the warship....
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  7. - Top - End - #1387
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by PraetorDragoon View Post
    As far as I can tell the warships teraported into the Milkey Way just right before Ensby ported into the ship. Hence that schlocks suit picks ups a lot of comms now.
    That...makes a lot of sense. If only the strip had explained it so clearly and succinctly.

  8. - Top - End - #1388
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    That...makes a lot of sense. If only the strip had explained it so clearly and succinctly.
    Yeah, this shouldn't be guesswork on my part.
    Quote Originally Posted by Celestia View Post
    The British conquered the world in search of spices and then decided to use none of them.

  9. - Top - End - #1389
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Been listening to Writing Excuses, been loving Howard Tayler's commentary. Been thinking about reading Schlock Mercenary. Do you all have recommendations on arcs I could start with? Starting webcomics can sometimes be a slog for me.

  10. - Top - End - #1390
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Liang View Post
    Been listening to Writing Excuses, been loving Howard Tayler's commentary. Been thinking about reading Schlock Mercenary. Do you all have recommendations on arcs I could start with? Starting webcomics can sometimes be a slog for me.
    He recommends new readers starting on Book 10, "The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse".
    https://www.schlockmercenary.com/2008-02-29
    The prologue 30 comics or so will probably be a bit confusing, but after that it should be fine.

  11. - Top - End - #1391
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by sleepy hedgehog View Post
    He recommends new readers starting on Book 10, "The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse".
    https://www.schlockmercenary.com/2008-02-29
    The prologue 30 comics or so will probably be a bit confusing, but after that it should be fine.
    And if you like it, go back and read some of the rest, because there is definitely good material from before then.

  12. - Top - End - #1392
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    And if you like it, go back and read some of the rest, because there is definitely good material from before then.
    Although the art on the early strips...isn't great. He definitely improved with practice.

  13. - Top - End - #1393
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Thanks, all. I'll look into it.

  14. - Top - End - #1394
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    That...makes a lot of sense. If only the strip had explained it so clearly and succinctly.
    Quote Originally Posted by PraetorDragoon View Post
    Yeah, this shouldn't be guesswork on my part.
    It seemed rather obvious to me.
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  15. - Top - End - #1395
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by PraetorDragoon View Post
    Yeah, this shouldn't be guesswork on my part.
    To be fair, they did have a strip with characters in the Milky Way saying roughly "they're coming here, to the core, soon, like any strip now".


    As for (@Liang) where to start reading: honestly I still think the very early strips are some of the funniest. Very pun based, sure, but funny. And while they don't have the well thought out world building of the newest strips they have several cool alien species, aliens being a thing that's fazed out a bit in the middle before coming back in the later arcs. I was going to type up some specific books or story arcs to check out, but honestly it's all pretty good. The whole Serial Peacemaker saga, the self contained (mini-)arcs like the Schlocktoberfests and the sharp sticks thing...

    Starting at book 10 does have the advantage of getting you to book 11 more quickly (the one with the circus and the mall, for people who read it), and that one has quite possibly the best buildup, planning and storytelling of any part of the comic before or after. It's just a bit short on payoff if I have to find a point of critique. The books around it have a similar style, story based but relatively self contained and easy to follow. From roughly book 14 on the story shifts towards the current style, having more connection between the arcs and trying to incorporate not really a message but certainly more food for thought.
    Last edited by Lvl 2 Expert; 2020-03-04 at 03:10 AM.

  16. - Top - End - #1396
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibrinar View Post
    The weak parts have been going on for so long now that I sometimes wonder whether I ever liked the comic, which of course I did otherwise I wouldn't have read so much of it. I will be happy when it is finally over. (I could stop reading I suppose but I still want to see the end after this long.)
    I've been thinking about it, and I think I can pinpoint one specific point that heralded the downhill, at least in my view: the challenge coin.

    There's been merch shilled in-comic before (the t-shirt with Tagon's head sticks out to me), but the coin specifically felt out-of-place. Multiple days spent explaining it, clear focusing on and boosting of two new characters using the coin, and one point where the coin became an arc symbol. It felt forced and weird to me.

    It's also around the point where I started not really being able to care about the overarching plot, and found more enjoyment in the little moments. This one still sticks out to me: https://www.schlockmercenary.com/2013-12-16
    but the AI brain-swapping and the PTU-selling since then has mostly been blended into a sludge.

    But that could just be me; what do you guys think?

  17. - Top - End - #1397
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    I think being willing to take weekends off at some point along the way would have helped Howard avoid burnout... I get the impression that Schlock Mercenary as a job overtook Schlock Mercenary as "art", somewhere along the way.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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  18. - Top - End - #1398
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I think being willing to take weekends off at some point along the way would have helped Howard avoid burnout... I get the impression that Schlock Mercenary as a job overtook Schlock Mercenary as "art", somewhere along the way.
    Actually, I think a big part of the change has been more towards Schlock Mercenary as 'art' and less towards Schlock Mercenary as 'fun.' Using 'art' here in terms of a high-concept impactful story rather than a series of jokes, gags, and wacky hijinks loosely built around a series of story arcs.

    Schlock Mercenary began as a 'comic space opera,' basically a campy, hyper-violent Star Wars knock-off. However it gradually, and its was indeed very, very gradual, became infiltrated by two major conceptual ideas that are dominant in 21st century speculative science fiction: superintelligent AI and the consequences of digitization and life extension. As these became more and more important to the plot the strip transitioned into more of a campy, hyper-violent Culture Universe knock-off (note that the seeds were planted quite early, with an explicit Culture reference all the way back in Book 5).

    The strip employed various measures to delay the speculative science fiction ideas taking over the plot - most explicitly wiping the Toughs' memories at the end of Book 9 and thereby banishing both Petey and life extension from the plot for a solid two books - but this was temporary and Book 14 does represent the moment when Howard seems to have leaned in to fully embrace the idea. The entire Oafan civilization is exactly the sort of thing a Culture book could be centered around (and in fact corresponds in many ways to the Culture novel Matter).

    I think the core problem is that campy hyper-violence melds far less effectively with high-concept science fiction than it does with space fantasy adventure, to the point that many of the core characters - most obviously the titular Schlock - have little reason to be involved in the story at all. This is not helped by the fact that most of the members of the initial Toughs roster have been promoted over the years and have grown into new responsibilities with greater maturity and restraint, making them less effective in carrying the comedy elements. Also, writing high-concept science fiction and doing it well is simply harder than writing a cheesy space fantasy adventure, and that part is something I do think has contributed to burn out on Howard's part.
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  19. - Top - End - #1399
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Actually, I think a big part of the change has been more towards Schlock Mercenary as 'art' and less towards Schlock Mercenary as 'fun.' Using 'art' here in terms of a high-concept impactful story rather than a series of jokes, gags, and wacky hijinks loosely built around a series of story arcs.

    Schlock Mercenary began as a 'comic space opera,' basically a campy, hyper-violent Star Wars knock-off. However it gradually, and its was indeed very, very gradual, became infiltrated by two major conceptual ideas that are dominant in 21st century speculative science fiction: superintelligent AI and the consequences of digitization and life extension. As these became more and more important to the plot the strip transitioned into more of a campy, hyper-violent Culture Universe knock-off (note that the seeds were planted quite early, with an explicit Culture reference all the way back in Book 5).

    The strip employed various measures to delay the speculative science fiction ideas taking over the plot - most explicitly wiping the Toughs' memories at the end of Book 9 and thereby banishing both Petey and life extension from the plot for a solid two books - but this was temporary and Book 14 does represent the moment when Howard seems to have leaned in to fully embrace the idea. The entire Oafan civilization is exactly the sort of thing a Culture book could be centered around (and in fact corresponds in many ways to the Culture novel Matter).

    I think the core problem is that campy hyper-violence melds far less effectively with high-concept science fiction than it does with space fantasy adventure, to the point that many of the core characters - most obviously the titular Schlock - have little reason to be involved in the story at all. This is not helped by the fact that most of the members of the initial Toughs roster have been promoted over the years and have grown into new responsibilities with greater maturity and restraint, making them less effective in carrying the comedy elements. Also, writing high-concept science fiction and doing it well is simply harder than writing a cheesy space fantasy adventure, and that part is something I do think has contributed to burn out on Howard's part.
    I can't really find much to argue against there on first read.
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  20. - Top - End - #1400
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Are members of the Toughs still judging Ventura by her age after everything? Granted there may be things to genuinely judge about her, but her age shouldn't really be one of them anymore.
    Last edited by Lizard Lord; 2020-03-12 at 12:27 AM.

  21. - Top - End - #1401
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Lizard Lord View Post
    Are members of the Toughs still judging Ventura by her age after everything? Granted there may be things to genuinely judge about her, but her age shouldn't really be one of them anymore.
    Are you saying that because they should know her better by now, or because she's older now?

  22. - Top - End - #1402
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Lizard Lord View Post
    Are members of the Toughs still judging Ventura by her age after everything? Granted there may be things to genuinely judge about her, but her age shouldn't really be one of them anymore.
    Ennesby appears to be judging her by age, but he's an AI and probably has a different concept of these things anyway. Although, when she first signed on the AIs who knew about her were absolutely scared stiff of her, so bit surprising Ennesby doesn't see it the same way.

  23. - Top - End - #1403
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    No, he very much IS scared of her but is being sarcastic.
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  24. - Top - End - #1404
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Sounds like Ennesby is about to become Petey's counterpart in Andromeda.

  25. - Top - End - #1405
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Actually, I think a big part of the change has been more towards Schlock Mercenary as 'art' and less towards Schlock Mercenary as 'fun.' Using 'art' here in terms of a high-concept impactful story rather than a series of jokes, gags, and wacky hijinks loosely built around a series of story arcs.

    Schlock Mercenary began as a 'comic space opera,' basically a campy, hyper-violent Star Wars knock-off. However it gradually, and its was indeed very, very gradual, became infiltrated by two major conceptual ideas that are dominant in 21st century speculative science fiction: superintelligent AI and the consequences of digitization and life extension. As these became more and more important to the plot the strip transitioned into more of a campy, hyper-violent Culture Universe knock-off (note that the seeds were planted quite early, with an explicit Culture reference all the way back in Book 5).

    The strip employed various measures to delay the speculative science fiction ideas taking over the plot - most explicitly wiping the Toughs' memories at the end of Book 9 and thereby banishing both Petey and life extension from the plot for a solid two books - but this was temporary and Book 14 does represent the moment when Howard seems to have leaned in to fully embrace the idea. The entire Oafan civilization is exactly the sort of thing a Culture book could be centered around (and in fact corresponds in many ways to the Culture novel Matter).

    I think the core problem is that campy hyper-violence melds far less effectively with high-concept science fiction than it does with space fantasy adventure, to the point that many of the core characters - most obviously the titular Schlock - have little reason to be involved in the story at all. This is not helped by the fact that most of the members of the initial Toughs roster have been promoted over the years and have grown into new responsibilities with greater maturity and restraint, making them less effective in carrying the comedy elements. Also, writing high-concept science fiction and doing it well is simply harder than writing a cheesy space fantasy adventure, and that part is something I do think has contributed to burn out on Howard's part.
    Makes sense and I think the need for at least one joke (often in the form of a character quipping) per strip doesn't really fit the new format. It lacks the gravitas to get me really invested in a serious plot but isn't good for light hearted entertainment anymore either. (Though the main problem is that it does a whole lot of telling instead showing to work at the larger scale.)

  26. - Top - End - #1406
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibrinar View Post
    Makes sense and I think the need for at least one joke (often in the form of a character quipping) per strip doesn't really fit the new format. It lacks the gravitas to get me really invested in a serious plot but isn't good for light hearted entertainment anymore either. (Though the main problem is that it does a whole lot of telling instead showing to work at the larger scale.)
    One of the things about high-concept speculative fiction is that it inherently involves at lot of telling instead of showing. As a story moves further and further from the common frame of reference of the everyday experience of the readers the author has to shunt more and more information across to explain the context of what's actually happening and there simply isn't enough space to show it all. The 'brief history of the universe' series of strips that opens book 20 is a good example. It contains a lot of background information the audience needs to know in order to appreciate what's going on (and while the more educated portions of the audience probably already knew all of that already, Howard can't rely on that assumption).

    If you read a lot of stories in this vein you get used to this stuff, and interludes that are basically 'here is how X story essential concept works' are something you learn to spot and accept (this isn't limited to science fiction either, highly-detailed fantasy sometimes does this. Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive has many passages that as basically just ecology and magic system explanations). Traditional space fantasy, however, tends to avoid them as much as possible, even to the point of ignoring the implications of present day technologies like cell phones or infrared cameras in order to make classic adventure serial plots work.

    I fully agree that the constant need for jokes works against the new story focus. Jokes embedded in contextual framing, necessary exposition, and setup tend to be disconnected from the overall plot and from whatever subject is being addressed to the audience, making them one-off low-impact quips that don't land with any punch and are broadly unnecessary. The jokes at the opening of Book 20 are a perfect example of this, especially as several involve complete cutaway panels. I would also add that several of the characters introduced later in the storyline, or the new versions of older characters following significant character development, simply aren't funny people and their quipping and other remarks are regularly forced and flat. Sorlie is the most obvious. If you try to transport her back to Book 1 you realize that she simply doesn't belong in the universe of early Schlock Mercenary.
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  27. - Top - End - #1407
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Eh exposition about the world and philosophical discussions (I consider characters discussing concepts showing usually because how they treat it is the interesting part) are one thing but current schlock has more than once just told us about normal action, like look at the schlock Infiltration we get significant parts of it by them chatting about it afterwards. Now it is a large scale conflict so getting into some detail of minor actions could be prohibitively time consuming but that works better with the right view point. It continues using the mercs as pov characters but tends to be brief on them acting.

  28. - Top - End - #1408
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    The universe is now one crowbar short of being saved.

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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary VIII: insAIne in the mAInfrAIme

    Quote Originally Posted by diremage View Post
    The universe is now one crowbar short of being saved.
    The last guy with a hazmat suit and crowbar didn't accomplish much.

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