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Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition

Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition
Completing the 2020 Bingo Challenge: Short Story Edition
One of the rules of the Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge is that you can read an anthology or collection for any of the squares. I’ve always been a fan of short fiction, so I’ve occasionally used this rule to complete my Bingo Card (I used three collections outside of the Five Short Stories square last year, for example). When planning my card for the 2020 Bingo, I noticed that several of the squares fit quite well for some of the collections and anthologies I had (a Star Trek anthology for Exploration, books with colors or numbers in their names, etc.). “What if…” I wondered, “…I can do it for every square?”
Thus, my project is born: Complete my Bingo card using only books of short stories, following all the other rules of Bingo. I did not repeat a single author from one square to another, and I even made sure not to repeat editors, either.
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
A brief aside before we start, some terms I use that some may not be familiar to some:
  • Anthology: A book of short stories by multiple authors, usually assembled by an editor whose name is attached to the book (i.e. The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan)
  • Collection: A book of short stories by a single author (i.e. Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor)
  • Short Story Cycle: A book of short stories that has its own narrative (i.e. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood). Some similarities with “interlinked collection,” “mosaic novel,” and “fix-up novel” (The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury being a famous example of the latter).
  • Reprint and Original: Many anthologies/collections reprint stories published previously (reprint) vs. originally written for the book in question (original). Some collections will mix it up (such as a reprint collection with one original story to encourage readers who have read the others to pick up the new book).
Why? What did I hope to accomplish by doing this particular short fiction challenge? Some of my friends will complain about the Five Short Stories square (especially the hard mode requirement to read a book), and I wanted to spite them a little bit and also demonstrate that there’s a lot of different and interesting books out there to read in that format!
Planning: The hardest thing about this was the original planning, as several books I thought would be an easy match for the square didn’t work because another anthology I planned to use already included that author, so I had to dig a bit deeper to find something that didn’t repeat any authors. Also, in past Bingo Challenges, my cards are usually quite fluid as I shift books around throughout the year. Because of all the authors I was juggling, I couldn’t easily do that (though it was vastly easier to do with collections instead of anthologies, for obvious reasons).
Numbers: For this card, I officially read 32 books for the 25 squares: One of those books was quite short, so I read an additional three to meet the length requirement. For the original Five Short Stories square, I decided to be obnoxious and read five collections. These 32 books included 1 short novel (included in one of the collections), 8 novellas, 106 novelettes, 498 short stories, and 3 poems for a total of at least 2,739,975 words (the rough equivalent of reading the first nine novels of The Wheel of Time). I read 189 different authors. In addition to the 32 books above, I read 15 “pre-Bingo” books—books I felt I needed to read to be able to read the anthology or collection I actually used for my Bingo Card. Fifteen of the 32 books were ones I already owned. Nine books I checked out from the library. Five books I bought specific for Bingo, and three books were free (gifts or free online).
1. Novel Translated from Its Original Language:
There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (reprint collection)
  • Reason: I couldn’t read my first choice so I looked through my TBR list to find another SF/F collection I thought would be a translation. It also won the 2010 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection.
  • Favorite Story: “My Love” as I really liked how the characters grew apart and then back together again.
  • Recommended: Only if you like short depressing literary fiction that mostly hinge on dreams and ghosts.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, Pretrushevskaya is a woman.
  • Other Options: I really wanted to read Xia Jia’s A Summer Beyond Your Reach, but she had a story in another anthology I read. I also considered one of Ken Liu’s Chinese SF/F anthologies (Invisible Planets or Broken Stars). I read Jurado & Lara’s Spanish Women of Wonder last year. Etgar Keret’s Fly Already, Kenji Miyazawa’s Once and Forever, or Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge also looked promising.
2. Setting Featuring Snow, Ice, or Cold:
Frozen Fairy Tales edited by Kate Wolford (original anthology)
  • Reason: I literally searched snow and anthology and this was one of the early options.
  • Favorite Story: tie between “The Stolen Heart” by Christina Ruth Johnson and “Death in Winter” by Lissa Sloan; the first just felt great, and the second has this haunting feel I loved.
  • Recommended: Yes; a good selection of fairy tale-inspired stories. Read during the summer, though, it felt really cold.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, every story is in a snowy or cold setting.
  • Other Options: I’m kind of mad that I didn’t come across Snowpocalypse: Tales of the End of the World (edited by Clint Collins and Scott Woodward) until after I read my original choice. I like silly titles.
3. Optimistic Spec Fic:
Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson (short story cycle, 1 original to this book)
  • Reason: I’ve had a copy of this book for a couple years, and I needed an excuse to read it. It’s actually an omnibus of Henderson’s two People collections plus some previously uncollected stories. I’ve read the first People collection (Pilgrimage) several times people).
  • Favorite Story: I’ll say “Ararat” here, but the first six stories (the original Pilgrimage collection) are amazingly wonderful and heartwarming.
  • Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Zenna Henderson deserves more attention.
  • Hard Mode: Yes. <3
  • Other Options: If Henderson’s book hadn’t worked out, I considered Heiroglyph (edited by Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer) and Salena Ulibarri’s two Glass and Gardens anthologies (Solarpunk Summers and Solarpunk Winters), but that would’ve required juggling my card.
4. Novel Featuring Necromancy:
The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin (original anthology)
  • Reason: I asked Jared Shurin (pornokitsch) if he knew of any anthologies with a necromantic theme, and he rattled off five or six options before remembering that he himself had edited an anthology about mummies. I don’t know how you forget something like that.
  • Favorite Story: tie between “Old Souls” by David Thomas Moore and “Three Memories of Death” by Will Hill (non-SF/F)
  • Recommended: Yes, but it’s out of print! Several of the stories were reprinted in Paula Guran’s The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, including “Three Memories of Death.”
  • Hard Mode: No, through several do have mummies as protagonists.
  • Other Options: I was considering Brian McNaughton’s The Throne of Bones since the description seemed rather death-magicky. At this point, the Paula Guran anthology above would probably be a good choice.
5. Ace/Aro Spec Fic:
Life Within Parole, Volume 1 by RoAnna Sylver (collection, mix of reprint and original)
  • Reason: A friend found this on Claudie Arseneault’s asexual recommendations website, which was good, but I felt I needed to read her novel Chameleon Moon first to understand the collection. I’m glad I did.
  • Favorite Story: Reluctantly “Phoenix Down” as it felt the most self-contained.
  • Recommended: Only if you loved Chameleon Moon, which I only recommend if you like a sample of the writing. It’s amazingly diverse in representation, but my frustrations with the novel related more towards its pacing and worldbuilding. Plus I don’t like superheroes.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, half the stories have an asexual or aromantic protagaonist.
  • Other Options: My original choice was Common Bonds: An Aromantic Speculative Anthology edited by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver, a Kickstarter-funded book. However, due to the pandemic, the publication was pushed back, and I didn't want to wait any longer. I also seriously considered Chuck Tingle’s Not Pounded in the Butt.
6. Novel Featuring a Ghost:
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James (collection, mix of reprint and original)
  • Reason: I just searched ghost anthology, and this was a top result. I have actually never heard of M. R. James before this year, but I gather he’s a huge influence since he’s written so many ghost stories.
  • Favorite Story: “The Mezzotint” as it was the one that creeped me out the most.
  • Recommended: Yes, but only if you realize that it’s got an older style to them (since this book came out in 1904), and that most of these stories won’t creep you out in the year 2020.
  • Hard Mode: No, the ghosts are either antagonists or obstacles.
  • Other Options: I actually don’t know, I stopped searching after I found the book. M. R. James does have 3 more collections of ghost stories, though (all of 4 of which have been gathered in Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James).
7. Novel Featuring Exploration:
No Limits edited by Peter David (original anthology)
  • Reason: I read the first few Star Trek: New Frontier novels back in the late 1990s, but never finished it, so I got all the books for a personal readthrough. Star Trek is by definition perfect for the exploration square, so I read the books. However, I was reading them in publication order, so I had to read the first 14 books before I could get to the anthology!
  • Favorite Story: “Waiting for G’Doh, or, How I Learned to Stop Moving” is a rather funny story about the security officer Zak Kebron at the beginning of his career.
  • Recommended: Yes, but only if you’ve read at least the first six Star Trek: New Frontier novels (all the stories are set before the first book, but most of the characters aren’t really established until you’ve read the first four).
  • Hard Mode: Maybe, nearly all the stories feature exploration, but the plots are often about backstories for the main characters of the series.
  • Other Options: I considered James Alan Gardner’s Gravity Wells (his novel Expendable is a perfect exploration book, so I was hoping the collection would work). Past anthologies that would probably work is Federations edited by John Joseph Adams, Galactic Empires edited by Neil Clarke, and maybe Alastair Reynolds’s Deep Navigation or Galactic North.
8. Climate Fiction:
Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, & Joey Eschrich (original anthology)
  • Reason: A friend recommended to me as this theme was getting difficult for me to find, as all my other options included stories by authors I had to read for other squares. This book was produced from a short story contest run by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University and judged in part by Kim Stanley Robinson.
  • Favorite Story: “On Darwin Tides” by Shauna O’Meara, which follows a “sea gypsy” in Malaysia as she struggles in this new dystopian future.
  • Recommended: Only if the topic appeals to you—because it was a contest, the stories are mostly from amateur writers and the quality mostly shows. It’s free online, though, and there’s a second book, Everything Change II, which I’ve been told is better.
  • Hard Mode: No, most of them are apocalyptic or post-apocalypse.
  • Other Options: My original choice was Drowned Worlds edited by Jonathan Strahan, but there’s also Loosed upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction edited by John Joseph Adams, and I imagine a lot of solarpunk-themed books could work for this, too.
9. Novel with a Color in the Title:
The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (original collection)
  • Reason: I already had it (it’s available on Project Gutenberg)
  • Favorite Story: “In the Court of the Dragon” which felt like one of the creepier stories to me.
  • Recommended: Honestly, no. Only half the stories are SF/F, the other half are all stories about bohemian artists in Paris. This book is known for the stories involving “The King in Yellow” play, but they didn’t really work for me.
  • Hard Mode: Yes.
  • Other Options: I considered using Judith Tarr’s Nine White Horses, the anthology Blackguards, Jack Vance’s Wild Thyme, Green Magic, Walter Jon Williams’s The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories, Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow, or How Long ‘til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin.
10. Any Fantasy Book Club Book of the Month OR Fantasy Readalong Book:
Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker (reprint collection, 1 original to this book)
  • Reason: The Goodreads Book of the Month club picked it for June this year. I did own or read all the other options that were available at the time.
  • Favorite Story: tie between “And Then There Were (N-One)” and “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind”
  • Recommended: Yes! There’s only one story I would rate less than 4 stars in this book.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, I actually led the discussion for the book in June.
  • Other Options: We don’t read very many collections or anthologies for the Fantasy book clubs, so my only choices were Fritz Leiber’s Sword and Deviltry (Classics club, November 2017), Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin’s anthology The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories (RAB, May 2018), and we currently have Daniel M. Lavery’s The Merry Spinster for FIF (September 2020). There’s also the Dresden Files read-along which did two of Butcher’s collections, and the Uncanny Magazine Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Fantasy read-along (those would’ve been rereads for me, though).
11. Self-Published Novel:
In the Stars I'll Find You & Other Tales of Futures Fantastic by Bradley P. Beaulieu (mostly reprint collection)
  • Reason: I already owned this, it was basically the oldest self-published collection I had.
  • Favorite Story: tie between “Flashed Forward” and “No Viviremos Como Presos” – both dealing with a lot of emotions.
  • Recommended: Yes, the only other stories by Beaulieu I’ve read were 2 co-written novellas, and I felt this collection was better. I haven’t read his novels so I can’t compare.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, at the time of this post, it has 18 ratings on Goodreads.
  • Other Options: There are hundreds of options, but I could’ve read Lawrence M. Schoen’s recent collection The Rule of Three and Other Stories (his other collection, Buffalito Bundle, has stories featuring The Amazing Conroy and are lots of fun.)
12. Novel with Chapter Epigraphs:
Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson (short story cycle)
  • Reason: This was another difficult square, as I knew a short story cycle had the best chance of having epigraphs before every story. I finally found this book by Kate Atkinson. (Ironically, I realized later that my Politics choice also had epigraphs.)
  • Favorite Story: “The Cat Lover,” I guess.
  • Recommended: No, unless you like literary magical realism where stories just kind of end.
  • Hard Mode: No, all of the epigraphs are quotes from Latin or Shakespeare.
  • Other Options: Apparently, Retief! by Keith Laumer would’ve worked from my options. It really is a difficult thing because in a collection some authors might have an epigraph for a story, but not all or most of them.
13. Novel Published in 2020:
Shadows & Tall Trees 8 edited by Michael Kelly (original anthology)
  • Reason: I picked this off Locus Magazine’s forthcoming books list and bought it.
  • Favorite Story: tie between “The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell” by Brian Evenson and “Child of Shower and Gleam” by Rebecca Campbell – the first is creepy as hell, and the second is strange and lovely.
  • Recommended: Yes, if you’re comfortable with weird or darker fantasy stories.
  • Hard Mode: No, Michael Kelly has edited several anthologies before.
  • Other Options: I had planned to use The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu, but I needed Liu for another square. I also considered A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell, and I had three anthologies from Joshua Palmatier I could’ve used (Apocalyptic, Galactic Stew, and My Battery is Low and It is Getting Dark) but I needed another Palmatier anthology for another square. Any of the various “Best Science Fiction or Fantasy of the Year” type anthologies that came out in 2020 would’ve been appropriate as well (Jonathan Strahan, Neil Clarke, Rich Horton, Paula Guran, Ellen Datlow, Bogi Takács, and Jared Shurin all edit “Year’s Best” or “Best of Year”-style anthologies).
14. Novel Set in a School or University:
Sideways Stories from Wayside School; Wayside School is Falling Down; Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger; and Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar (short story cycles)
  • Reason: Strangely, one of the first books I thought of for this square. Plus, the most recent book had come out. I decided to read all four as each book is really short (only about 20,000 words per book). Only the first one or two was a reread.
  • Favorite Story: None, they’re all funny and good.
  • Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Maybe better for kids, but I smiled a lot while reading these.
  • Hard Mode: Yes.
  • Other Options: Witch High edited by Denise Little would’ve been good, but included a story by Esther M. Friesner whom I needed for another square. A Kickstarter-funded anthology, Schoolbooks & Sorcery edited by Michael M. Jones, would’ve worked, but it’s not out yet.
15. Book About Books:
Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore edited by Paula Guran (reprint anthology)
  • Reason: This was another difficult square because did you know that searching “book anthology” does not narrow things down at all?? I finally hit upon just searching “library anthology” which did the trick, but this one anthology predetermined at least 3 other squares because of its authors (I couldn’t use Ken Liu, Xia Jia, Amal El-Mohtar, and others because they were all in here).
  • Favorite Story: tie between “In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages and “Summer Reading” by Ken Liu. Klages’s story about “feral librarians raising a child” is just wonderful, and Liu’s is very, very sweet.
  • Recommended: Yes, absolutely. This also contains Scott Lynch’s excellent “In the Stacks” and I will never not say no to Kage Baker.
  • Hard Mode: No, libraries are an integral part of most of the stories.
  • Other Options: *gestures wildly* I don’t know!
16. A Book That Made You Laugh:
Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman (mostly reprint collection)
  • Reason: Alex Shvartsman edits an annual humorous SF/F anthology series called Unidentified Funny Objects (the 8th volume is out this fall), but even though I have them all, they all shared authors with other squares until I remember that I had two collections from Shvartsman, and this was one of them.
  • Favorite Story: “Things We Leave Behind” is a semiautobiographical story about books. Absolutely lovely.
  • Recommended: Yes, but I understand most won’t share his sense of humor. He also tends to write very short stories, so don’t read these for immersion.
  • Hard Mode: Yes.
  • Other Options: Books making you laugh is so subjective, so any author you like probably has something that could work (you only need one story to make you laugh after all). John Scalzi has a couple collections that could work, Connie Willis has a great sense of humor.
17. Five Short Stories:
  • Reason: To be obnoxious I decided to read five collections for this square (instead of just five short stories). I decided to read 5 that I already owned by women/non-binary people. I picked semi-randomly (Hand and McHugh), by older ones I owned (Wurts), and by a couple new ones I was excited about (Datt Sharma and Slatter).
Not for Use in Navigation: Thirteen Stories by Iona Datt Sharma (reprint collection)
  • Favorite Story: “Quarter Days” is a full third of this book, and it’s an interesting post-WWI setting with magic.
  • Recommended: Yes, they have an interesting outlook, and one of the stories has an Indian wedding in space.
Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand (reprint collection, 1 original)
  • Favorite Story: “The Least Trumps” should appeal to the booklover in every single one of us.
  • Recommended: These are definitely interesting stories, but I’d only recommend for “The Least Trumps” and “Cleopatra Brimstone.” She’s got a poetic style here that didn't always work for me.
After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh (reprint collection, 2 original)
  • Favorite Story: “Special Economics” which follows a Chinese girl trapped into working at a factory.
  • Recommended: Yes, though it’s also one of the few themed collections (versus themed anthologies) that I’ve seen, with every story dealing with apocalypse in some way.
Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter (mostly original collection/short story cycle)
  • Favorite Story: “Gallowberries” which features Patience from the Tor.com novella Of Sorrow and Such as a young woman.
  • Recommended: Yes, absolutely. Every story is in the same setting, and they all interconnect with each other. I can’t wait to read more from Slatter (I already have The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings).
That Ways Lies Camelot by Janny Wurts (mostly reprint collection)
  • Favorite Story: tie between “Wayfinder” and “That Way Lies Camelot” – both are great stories, the first a coming of age, and the other is bittersweet.
  • Recommended: Yes, definitely. In addition to the above, “Dreambridge” is also awesome. I wasn’t as fond of the three ElfQuest stories, but it was interesting to read Wurts’s 4 Fleet stories as I never realized she ever wrote anything close to straight science fiction.

  • Hard Mode: … Yes?
  • Other Options: This is the most open-ended square for this particular Bingo Card, especially since at the time of this post, I own 121 unread anthologies and collections.
18. Big Dumb Object:
Alien Artifacts edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray (original anthology)
  • Reason: This was one of the books that made me realize I could do an all-short-story card. I thought the anthology’s theme would perfectly encapsulate the square.
  • Favorite Story: “Me and Alice” by Angela Penrose – a kid finds a strange artifact while digging at a site.
  • Recommended: Yes, though a few stories weren’t to my taste.
  • Hard Mode: No, while the classical BDO is present in several stories, most would fall in the wider definition being used for Bingo.
  • Other Options: I’m at a loss here, as I never looked for more after I found this.
19. Feminist Novel:
Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson (collection, mix of reprint and original)
  • Reason: I owned this already from a Humble Bundle.
  • Favorite Story: “And the Lillies-Them A-Blow” – a woman is inspired to reconsider her life.
  • Recommended: Yes.
  • Hard Mode: Yes, Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian.
  • Other Options: I had a few other books from the same Humble Bundle called Women of SFF. Most of them would’ve worked.
20. Novel by a Canadian Author:
The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint (reprint collection)
  • Reason: It appears I picked this up in 2014 for some reason (I’ve never read de Lint before this year). But he’s Canadian!
  • Favorite Story: There are honestly too many to say, but I’ll say “In the Pines” for now.
  • Recommended: Yes, yes, yes. I basically added everything he’s written to my TBR.
  • Hard Mode: Maybe, it was originally published in 2010 with Tachyon Publications, but in 2014 it was reprinted by de Lint’s Triskell Press (which is the copy I have), which would count.
  • Other Options: A friend sent me an anthology edited by Dominik Parisien called Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction, though I would’ve had to juggle square to get it to work. Nalo Hopkinson is Canadian, so Skin Folk would’ve worked, too. Jo Walton has a collection called Starlings.
21. Novel with a Number in the Title:
Nine White Horses: Nine Tales of Horses and Magic by Judith Tarr (reprint collection)
  • Reason: At the time, the only collection I had with a number that I could use.
  • Favorite Story: “Classical Horses” – an absolutely lovely story that mixes real life and fantasy, and appeals to my Classics nerd background.
  • Recommended: Yes! Tarr is a wonderful writer.
  • Hard Mode: Yes.
  • Other Options: I could’ve used The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman, Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R. A. Lafferty, and The Rule of Three and Other Stories by Lawrence M. Schoen.
22. Romantic Fantasy/Paranormal Romance:
Once Upon a Kiss: 17 Romantic Faerie Tales published by Anthea Sharp (original anthology)
  • Reason: My original first choice was a bust when I realized quickly that the stories involved love, but were not romance stories. This was an emergency backup as I was nearing the end of reading for this Bingo Challenge.
  • Favorite Story: “The Bakers Grimm” by Hailey Edwards, which is a sweet little story about baking under pressure.
  • Recommended: No. 99% of the stories are direct appeals to try to get you to buy their books. Many of the stories don’t even really feel like short stories. I had a friend who only read urban fantasy who was adamant that she hated reading short stories and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I do. Many of these read more like vignettes than proper short stories.
  • Hard Mode: No, the HEA Club hasn’t done any anthologies or collections for me to participate in.
  • Other Options: My backup would’ve been to find some paranormal romance series and look for a collection or anthology in that world, but it would’ve involved more prep reading.
23. Novel with a Magical Pet:
No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey (original anthology)
  • Reason: Valdemar is an easy setting to choose for this square, and even though I had stopped reading the yearly anthologies (they’re up to 13 or 14 now), I decided to grab the 8th anthology from the library.
  • Favorite Story: “A Dream Reborn” by Dylan Birtolo, a beggar girl with a gift grows a conscience.
  • Recommended: Only if you’re a Valdemar fan and you literally can’t get enough of the world (I’d recommend sticking with the novels up until the Collegium Chronicles).
  • Hard Mode: Yes, Companions can usually speak telepathically with their Heralds and a select few others.
  • Other Options: I’m sure there’s a themed anthology perfect for this, but I honestly don’t know offhand if there is one, since this was an easy choice for me.
24. Graphic Novel (at least 1 volume) OR Audiobook/Audiodrama:
Eerie Archives, Volume 1 edited by Archie Goodwin (original comic book anthology)
  • Reason: I searched “comics anthology” into my library’s digital catalog. This showed up.
  • Favorite Story: No real favorite, but I guess “Flame Fiend” by Eando Binder, about a man desperate to avoid fire.
  • Recommended: Yes, if you’re interested in 1960s horror comics anthology magazines. Each story is about 6-10 pages long, but many felt like cheesy horror to my modern eyes.
  • Hard Mode: Maybe, each story is standalone, but this book contained the first 5 issues of Eerie comics. I’m going with No because Eerie is a running series.
  • Other Options: I considered The Escapist (inspired from Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), a Mouse Guard comics anthology, and Thrilling Adventure Hour before finding Eerie. I also though the Eisner Awards were a good source of finding potential comics anthologies, since that's a category.
25. Novel Featuring Politics:
Retief! by Keith Laumer (reprint collection)
  • Reason: I knew the main character was a problem-solving diplomat, so this was an easy pick.
  • Favorite Story: “Diplomat-at-Arms” which is a great story of following an experienced old man on a mission, and “Cultural Exchange,” a really funny bureaucratic tale (and this one is free on Project Gutenberg).
  • Recommended: Yes, with reservations. They’re all stories from the 1960s, they’re bureaucratic galactic pulp fiction where Retief always knows better than his bumbling superiors and women only show up in secretarial or minor support roles. The stories also feel a bit repetitive as a whole, so if you read these, space it out.
  • Hard Mode: No, several of the stories feature royalty.
  • Other Options: I felt like this was a nebulous category, but offhand, I’d suggest Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defiance edited by Jason Sizemore & Lesley Conner and Resist: Tales from a Future Worth Fighting Against edited by Gary Whitta, Christie Yant, and Hugh Howey for two explicitly political anthologies, and maybe something like Harry Turtledove’s interlinked collection Agent of Byzantium for an alternate history take on a Byzantine special agent.
Favorites
  • Favorite collections: The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint, Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker, Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter, and Nine White Horses by Judith Tarr
  • Favorite anthologies: Ex Libris edited by Paula Guran and The Book of the Dead edited by Jared Shurin
  • Favorite overall short stories: In addition to my favorite stories in the books above, I’d also give a special place to The Very Best of Charles de Lint (“In the Pines,” “In the House of My Enemy,” “A Wish Named Arnold,” “Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery,” “Pixel Pixies,” “The Badger in the Bag,” “Timeskip,” “Into the Green,” “Birds,” and “Pal o' Mine”) and to Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea (“And Then There Were (N-One),” “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” “Our Lady of the Open Road,” “Wind Will Rove,” and “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide”).
  • An Aside: My father died suddenly in the middle of my reading for this challenge. The books I read from Zenna Henderson and Charles de Lint really helped me during this time, with de Lint’s book making me cry multiple times (in a good way).
The End
Sometime last year after touting one short story or another to my friends, I said, “Oh, I don’t think I read *that* much short fiction,” and they all looked at me funny for some reason.
Oh. Never mind. I get it now.
All joking aside, I’ve read SF/F magazines off and on growing up, and I always enjoyed the occasional Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology from Gardner Dozois, and Robert Silverberg’s Legends anthologies were rather formative to my growth as a fantasy reader (that’s where I read George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb for the first time). Some of my favorite writers have done amazing short stories (in fact, I think I like Alastair Reynolds better at the short length than the novel; witness my love for his story “Zima Blue”!). Even if you don’t read more than the usual five short stories for the Bingo Challenge, please consider branching out! I hope I’ve shown with my own card how much variety is out there.
If you’re not sure where to start, your favorite author may have some short stories of their own, either in an anthology or one of their own collections. Mary Robinette Kowal is one of my favorites, and I loved her collection Word Puppets. If they’re prolific enough, they may have a “Best of” book, like The Best of Connie Willis or The Very Best of Kate Elliott. Trying one of the Year’s Best anthologies I mention under #13, Published in 2020, is also a fun way to explore short fiction.
And even though I didn’t read any for my Bingo Challenge, there are tons of SF/F magazines out there to read from on a daily, weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly schedule. My personal recommendation is for Asimov’s SF, FIYAH, and Fantasy & Science Fiction for subscription-only options, and places like Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside, and Tor.com for free online stories. There are also some great magazines/sites like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Daily Science Fiction.
Looking at award lists is a fun way to get started, as most of the major awards also have short fiction categories. Find out where they were published and try out a magazine issue or an anthology.
I’ll end this with the following:
  • an interview by our own tctippens with Jonathan Strahan over at the Fantasy Inn Podcast where they discuss not only his new anthology The Book of Dragons, but reading short fiction in general.
  • Editor Jared Shurin ( pornokitsch ) just came out with The Best of British Fantasy 2019 this past June: check it out!
  • One of my favorite short story writers is John Wiswell, and I’d like to link two of his wonderful stories: "Tank!" follows a sentient tank attending its first SF convention, and "Open House on Haunted Hill" is a very sweet story about a haunted house trying to get sold to a new family. Both stories are quite short and you can read each in just a few minutes.
  • And finally… this is what the internet should be: Naomi Kritzer's "Cat Pictures Please"
submitted by FarragutCircle to Fantasy [link] [comments]

💎THE RESULTS: r/RomanceClub Community Survey!💎

💎THE RESULTS: RomanceClub Community Survey!💎
First of all, thank you very much to everyone who took part in the second ever Reddit Romance Club community survey! We mods were absolutely amazed by the high number of responses, so thank you for making this such a vibrant and engaged community! You all rock.
After grinding the (many) numbers, here are the results, which we hope you will find as interesting as we did.
Just a note: this survey was opened at the end of May and closed shortly after the June release, hence its questions only barely included Legend of the Willow and did not include Dracula: a Love Story. For this reason, we have not counted the (very few) replies that have been given in the "other" boxes mentioning characters that were not yet available as Lis/known as LIs in the May release (think Leo, Vlad, Kazu etc) as this would have not been fair to those who had answered the survey before the June update.
Having said that... buckle up for the ride! Lots of interesting info ahead.
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💎Question 1: Which RC story is your favourite?

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No one will be surprised to find out that Heaven's Secret is the top story in this community right now, chosen by over 45% of the respondents. Our nostalgic heart is very happy, however, to see some old favs still make the podium - albeit trailing significantly behind. Moonborn and Shadows of Saintfour score second and third place, only separated by a handful of votes at around 11%, but newer release Chasing You is already breathing on their neck at 10.7%.
A healthy mix of new and old stories follows: Sails in the fog is in fifth place with 7.8% of the preferences, while Legend of the willow, after only a few episodes, already scores a very good sixth place, in a tie with Seduced by the rhythm at 4.3% of the votes. Queen in 30 days is seventh with 3.5% and My Hollywood Story is eighth with 1.2%.
Last place goes to Wave Patrol at 0.4%, which sadly doesn't come as a shock given the general feeling that the romantic/reputation points system was too complicated.
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💎Question 2: Who are your favourite LIs?

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HS being the most popular story unsurprisingly propels some of its main LIs onto the podium with supersonic speed.
Bad boys rule, with Lucifer taking the crown with a whopping 65.7% of the votes and Alexander (CY) taking silver at 49.3%. The nice guys are not too far behind, though, with Dino in third place at 47.4% and Max (MB) only just about missing the podium in fourth place at 45.3%. We go back to bad boys with Brandon (SBR) in fifth, but soft spoken Sam (CY) is ready to balance things out again with his sixth place.
The most surprising result on top of the rankings is Jake (WP) who makes the top ten with a very healthy seventh place. He is really hard work, but obviously we all think he's totally worth it!
Old favourites Michael (SOS) and Victor (MB) still hold onto the hearts of their fans by scoring eight and ninth place respectively. First among the women - and the only female LI to make the top 10 - is the delightfully devilish Mimi (HS).
Waves' mate Sebastian misses the top ten only by a hair, placing himself in 11th place with a healthy 20.7%. Bodyguard Adam is the most favourite LI in Q30 in 12th place, followed by a row of SOS boys, with John, Derek and Aaron scoring very similar percentages in 13th, 14th and 15th place respectively. Sweetheart Ray is no longer the most favourite LI to come out of MHS, as in this round he ends up in a tie for 16th place with none other than his almost polar opposite, rough and ready Captain Jeff.
Leonard from Q30 (17th place) ties with Cherry from SOS but at least he beats his brother Richard (20th place) in the heart of the readers - and we all know that he'd be pretty pleased with that. Claire (SBR) is the second most favourite female LI in 18th place, while mysterious Luke (SOS) completes the top 20 in 19th place.
Here are the rest of the Lis who placed lower than the top 20:
(21) Carlos (SBR) 9.2%
(22) Justin (SBR) 8.6%
(23) Benny Bart (MB) 8.4%
(24) Tarino (MHS) 8.1%
(25) Gino (MHS) tied with Stephanie (SOS) at 7.8%
(26) Dante (MB) 6.9%
(27) Andy (HS) 6.3%
(28) Mike (MHS) 6.1 %
(29) Alek (WP) tied with Dante (CY) at 5.9%
(30) Kayla (WP) 5.3 %
(31) Alex (MHS) 3.9%
(32) Chris (SIF) 3.4%
(33) Frances (MB) 3.2%
(34) William (SIF) 3.1%
(35) Trisha (MB) 2.6%
(36) Charles (SBR) 2.1%
(37) Orlando (SBR) 1.8%
(38) Chris the bodyguard (MHS) tied with Adi (HS) at 1.6%
(39) Ellen (MHS) tied with Manta (SIF) at 1.2%
(40) Masked Man (SOS) 1.1%
(41) Ellia (CY) 0.8%
(42) Mermaid (SIF) 0.6%
(43) Simon (MB) 0.4%
(44) Charles (WP) tied with Emma (Q30) and Jackie (SIF) at 0.2%.
These lower rankings include some LIs that, based on the discussions we see on the subreddit, we were not expecting to get as many votes as they did - and vice versa. Dante from CY has more votes than Orlando from SBR? And Chris the bodyguard (MHS) beat the Masked Man (SOS)? Say what... Also: Jackie (SIF) definitely deserved a lot more votes! We might have to start a hashtag or something.
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💎Question 3: Which non-LI character you’d romance in a heartbeat?

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Here are the top 15 most desired LIs in this community:
To absolutely no one's surprise, Geralt (HS) takes the top spot with 39.1% of the readers eager to unbuckle his sexy neck belts at the first occasion. Dreamy Xander from MB takes a very respectable second place with 23.2%: we will forever long for his full lips and crisp linen suit. Another MB favourite, Prince Ethan Wood completes the podium with his Matrix-style coat and intense eyes, but sassy and sexy demon Austie (HS) is not very far behind in fourth place.
Vampires Dustin Chase in fifth place and - although at quite a distance - Sophia in sixth join the ranks of the many LIs who sadly never were in MB. Cute lifeguard Zoey from WP ranks seventh, and no worries if you don't remember who she is: her screen time was about 5 minutes total - but enough to end up in a tie with angelic mentor Misselina from HS. Frenemy Candy from SOS makes eighth place, while evil stunner Monica from MB clutches ninth. To complete the top 10 is no one else but grumpy Angel Fencio (HS) - we obviously all want him to show us his collection of talismans - tied with Bean from MHS, who sadly had the audacity to get married to someone else.
In 11th place is SOS great friend Bobby, whose bravery in the face of untold horrors gave him a special place in all our hearts, in a tie with another WP lifeguard, Ryan (yeah, we have little recollection of him as well). Party-loving and OSHA nemesis Anthony Wood (MHS) is in 12th place, while scheming yet gorgeous Julia (Q30) takes 13th.
In 14th place is no one else but our dear Sailor Bobby - an option that was added as humorous but instead raked up a fairly respectable 14% of votes. As they say, if you are not handsome you should be handy, and no one is a better dress maker than Bobby! Plus, how can we forget when he disguised himself as a tribesman to save Adelaide from becoming soup? He ends up in a tie with a fan favourite, sweet angel Sammy (HS). Completing the top-15 is another HS angel, the ethereal Leeloo.
This question also had an "other" box, where people could add names that were not included in the list. For all those (quite a few!) people who wrote Dino (HS), Sam (CY) and Orlando (SBR)... we choose to believe you misread the question, but if you didn't... oh boy, have we got good news for you!
A few people also wished for Rachel (CY) and Hiro (SBR) to be LIs, so that's another happy ending there as per the latest release.
Some also wished for Diego, Baron Samedi and Jackie from SIF, and Joseph, Christian and Gustavo from SBR to be LIs, and we are happy to say that, although their routes might be a bit hidden and not all of them can be endgame LIs, you can most definitely already hookup with/romance all of them. Check the wiki for details!
A few people asked for the coffee shop owner in CY... we have the feeling that we know who at least one of them is, and truth be told, that beard is dreamy so we can see their point! More bearded LIs please!
Those who asked for Fyr... far from us to kink shame here, but let's just hope he turns out to be human at some point! We also have some Seraph Crowley (HS) and Angel Mora (MB) fans amongst us, as clear proof that no one is ever too old for love, plus WP Agent Phillips' manbun has also scored him some eager fans.
But that one person who asked for Sean from MB... we hope for your sake you are also about 12 years old because otherwise you need an old priest, a young priest and also a police officer.
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💎Question 4: Which LI do you think is overrated, and why?

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Here are the top 10 most overrated LIs in the game according to our community.
You know how they say never rest on your laurels? In a surprising (or maybe not?) twist of fate, some of the most liked LIs also topped the most overrated rankings, which goes to show that the beauty of our community is that we all have different (and sometimes opposite) opinions! So please let's not fight in the comments, haha.
The most overrated LI crown goes to Lucifer with the 21.9% of the votes, (which is almost as him winning an Oscar and a Razzie on the same evening) mostly due to his behaviour, which many identify as "toxic", "abusive" and "triggering". Many readers are "not comfortable with his choking/manhandling of MC", and his "lack of respect for personal space". "Being treated poorly in the hope to finally reach a hidden soft side does not seem worth it". Some think "he needs therapy", and wonder "why he's still behaving like a teen while he's possibly thousands of years old". A reason why many dislike him however, is also "the daily flood of fanart that features him": we might all be a little Lucifered-out here on the subreddit!
Tied in second place (pun fully intended!) are Alexander (CY) and Victor (MB) at 11.5%: the reasons given for both of them are surprisingly similar. Both boys are into BDSM but neither seem to "truly know the rules of consent" and people think that they "overstep boundaries a little too often". Both have been described as "creepy", "controlling" and "plain weird". Victor is also guilty of being "boring" ("I asked for a tea not for your life story in India!" - someone wrote). Both have been invited to "drop the Christian Grey act" and some people think "they would be arrested in real life if they acted this way". Oh boy.
Justin (SBR) completes this unflattering podium at 9.1% because of his "obnoxious outbursts" and the way he treats MC. He is "rude" and "mean" and people seem to be willing to "pay diamonds to put him in his place". Hopefully that won't be necessary!
Jake from WP is fourth at 7.8%, the main reason being that he is "too difficult to romance", "too expensive and still rude", and that "we have to solve the Da Vinci code to get him" - as someone hilariously wrote.
Bad boy Brandon (SBR) scores 6.1% of the votes landing fifth place, with the word "jerk" being the most recurrently used to describe him. He is "arrogant", a "vanishing act", and "he is never nice to MC for long". Come on, Brandon! You can do better!
Unclaimed Andy (HS) takes sixth place with 4.5% for being "jealous" and "annoying" - although we would maybe argue that he's not really that overrated, as far as we can see from the sub...
In seventh place is Max (MB) at 4.1% but we are confused by the person who mentioned "his abs being too perfect" as a reason for disliking him. Of course, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, so... fair enough? Other words used are "too boring", otherwise many people voted for him but did not really give a reason why. Max needs to work on his PR clearly!
Another tie in eight place sees Adam (Q30) and Dino (HS) score 3.7% of the votes. The Royal bodyguard is described as "a barbarian" and his behaviour as "possessive" and "controlling", while the main complaints against Dino seem for the vast majority to be directed to his looks: comments range from "his eyes look disproportionally big compared to his head" to "his hair seems separated from his face" to some people calling him a "Fabio lookalike". Beauty is in the eye of the beholder indeed!
Gruff Captain Jeff (MHS) makes ninth with 3.3%, mostly because of "the dodgy power dynamic between him and MC" and his "bullying": "I like puppies is not a free get out of jail card!" someone wrote. The fact that SOS Luke "drugged MC" bags him unanimously the tenth spot with 2.8% of the votes.
Not in the top ten but voted often enough to deserve a special mention are John (SOS) because of his "murderous tendencies", Derek (SOS) because "people only likes him for his glow-up", and Leonard (Q30) as "he took Emma's spot as the third main LI in the story" and "that was a cop out!" Plus "he seems so good only because the other two are the worst", someone quipped.
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💎Question 5: Which LI do you think is underrated, and why?

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Let's all cheer ourselves up with the opposite end of the spectrum! Here are the top 10 Lis that the community think deserve more love! The answers in this question were a lot more fragmented, with a lot of random characters getting very few votes, so the ranking percentages are significantly lower than in other questions.
A few people chose to write "every female LI" as this question's answer, and this is reflected in the rankings below, where way more female characters are mentioned compared to other questions. So RC, we need more screen time for badass, gorgeous, interesting female LIs!
HS still carries its weight as the most popular story, with three of its main LIs topping the rankings, all lamenting the fact that they are "unfairly overshadowed by bad boy Lucifer". Andy tops the list with 8.5% of the votes: players think he is "a really good guy", "sweet", "cute", "caring", "thoughtful". They admit "he has flaws" but he "will help if you need him" and "will stand up for those he cares about". It's nice to see him getting some love!
Devil cutie Mimi ends up as a close second with only a few votes of difference, at 8.1%. She is "cute", "badass", and "so cool". Many people wrote they don't usually romance female Lis but they chose her nonetheless because she is "a great LI in every way". Someone wishes RC would "flesh her out a little more" and "give her more screen time". Third spot is for Dino: a "sweetheart" and "the cutest man in the game".
Jake from WP nabs fourth place with the 4.9% of votes. Players thinks the focus is too much on how hard he is to pursue, while "he is totally worth it", because after the initial coldness he becomes "sweet", "kind" and "caring". His "love for his family is another big plus", and he is always "supportive", "mature", "loyal" and "intense". Someone also wrote that "his sex scenes are amazing".
Gorgeous dancer Carlos from SBR is in fifth place: he is described as "cute", "great personality", "respectful" and "the sweetest". One to watch for sure! Prince Leonard (Q30) ties with Claire (SBR) in sixth place. Leonard is "complicated", "interesting" and "clever", while Claire is "sweet", "mature" and "loyal". Seventh position is for Michael (SOS) - "cute", "affectionate", "funny" - and Kayla (WP) who's "really nice" and "one of the first female LIs that didn't seem like a complete afterthought".
Eight place goes to Sam (CY) - "wholesome", "the right amount of naughty and nice", "a sweet and likeable guy" - in a tie with Chris (SIF) - "funny", "strong", "loyal", "always has your back". Ninth place is another tie between Sebastian (SIF) - "sweet" and "supportive" - and Alex (MHS) - "amazing personality", "really helpful".
Last but not least the tenth place is a foursome: William (SIF) gets some love for being "good", "solid", "loyal" and "fun", in a tie with Charles (SBR) - described as "perfect", "romantic" and "caring", as well as "hot", "sexy" and "gentle" - Jackie (SIF) - "an under-appreciated king", "handsome" and "fun", and Frances (MB) - a "real badass" and "one of the best LIs in MB".
So, time to replay your favourite book and try out one of these Lis instead than your usual one!
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💎Question 6: If you could eat or drink one thing from the RC universe, what would you choose?

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Max (MB) might no longer hold the crown of most loved LI in the game, but his cooking skills still hold strong. A whopping 37.2% of the people in this community would eat anything he prepares. Getting drunk on Glyft at the HS Academy takes second spot with 23.1% of the preferences, while a sugar rush after a light BDSM session in CY is all what the 13.2% of us want, completing this delicious podium.
In fourth place is pizza with a bunch of MHS friends, fifth is potential death - as long as ice cream and Jake from WP are involved - and sixth is Anthony Wood's juice at one of his epic MHS parties.
Dinner at the SOS circus is seventh, chosen by a fearless 3% of the community, while canapés at a jewellery fashion show in Q30 score the eighth and last place.
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💎Question 7: If you could spend a weekend in any RC story, would you:

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An entire weekend in the RC universe! What mischief is our community planning to get up to?
It looks like HS is once again top of the list, with over 38% of players willing to test their wings and get some strange and possibly corrosive blue liquid down their unclaimed throats. But LOW's gorgeous backgrounds and atmospheric setting have convinced the 16% of us to go explore a Japanese village, and possibly meet some mysterious cutie. Adelaide and her SIF crew navigate steadily in third place: 10.7% of us would follow them over the edge of the world and beyond.
In fourth place is a spot of murder mystery fun in CY, as 10.3% of us would happily explore a British family mansion - bloodshed possible but not guaranteed. A diplomatic trip with the Q30 Sagar Royal Court appeals to the 6.1% of us, especially if a romantic sunset is on the bill. The quaint and frankly unsettling SOS woods do not scare the 5.7% of us, but as long as no one picks up a nice bouquet of flowers, we should all be ok. In seventh place is our favourite vampire popstar Benny Bart (MB) performing at the Taste of the Night, while eighth is a dance marathon in SBR, inclusive of a trip to romantic Paris. Tarino's somewhat unusual directorial skills in MHS score ninth place, while hot surfers in WP's Miami end up last.
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💎Question 8: If you could get more episodes of a series that has now ended, which one would you choose?

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It's time to go down memory lane! We loved all the stories that RC has now completed, but which one we miss the most?
Side note: SIF and WP were still ongoing when this survey was first opened hence they are not featured in this list.
Horror story SOS takes a clear lead, with over 47% of our community wishing we could get more adventures with MC and her friends. MB is second, with a healthy 34% of readers wishing to spend more time in the company of vampires and werewolves. Q30 is third, with 13.3% of readers missing its Royal Palace and all the intrigue coming with it, and last but not least is comedy MHS, which is missed by 5.4% of this community.
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And now, some questions about this community's gaming habits:
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💎Question 9: How do you usually approach LI relationships?

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This question had a fairly split response between those who date a few LIs but ultimately choose only one (48.9%) and those who are fiercely monogamous from the start (42.4%). A healthy 8.7% of the readers prefer instead to play the field and date as many LIs as the gameplay will allow. And with so many great characters to choose from, that's hardly a surprise!
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💎Question 10: Would you play a book that has a male MC?

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We all know that at the moment all RC stories are gender-locked with a female MC. But what does the community think? Would we play a book with a male MC? The majority is in favour, with 61.9% of the responders answering with a resounding YES.
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💎Question 11: Do you use the RC wiki on Fandom?

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Our amazing fan-written Romance Club wiki recently celebrated 100 pages!
It sounds like a whopping 78.8% of this community uses the wiki, while about 14.1% did not know it existed (so we hope you are using it now!) and 7.1% are true daredevils who play without any wiki help.
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💎Question 12: What genre of story do you enjoy the most?

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With new stories always coming up, we were curious to know which genres this community enjoys the most.
Despite the game being called Romance Club, the top of the genre ranking goes to Fantasy, with a striking 74.1% of preferences. But no worries: Romance is a steady second with a great 70.8% of the votes. Third place goes to Mystery with 65.7%.
Adventure comes fourth with 55.2%, followed by Horror (42.5%), Historical (35.1%), Science Fiction (29.1%) and finally Comedy (26.4%).
A very small number of people (too little to make percentage) also asked for drama, thriller, detective/crime, heist/spy, high school/teens, superheroes, zombies and time travel. All great ideas!
The community has spoken though: RC, give us elves and gnomes and medieval tales of debauchery and magic!
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💎Question 13: How long have you been playing Romance Club for?

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We were curious to know for how long we all have been playing this game we love. The survey showed a good mix of old and new readers, with a clear tendency towards long-term reading, which makes us so very happy to know we are all just equally addicted.
36% stated that they have been playing for over a year, 23.6% for more than six months, 17.8% for more than three months, 16.1% for more than one month and 6.4% for less than a month. Welcome one and all, we hope you are all going to be here for the long haul!
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💎Question 14: How did you find out about the game Romance Club?

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The main way in which our community has found out about RC is through the app store/google play store (70.9%). Another subreddit is a source for 13.5% of us (we probably have to say thank you to our friends at Lovestruck and Choices!) while a friend recommended the game to 8.7% of us.
Instagram (3%) and Facebook (1.5%) are also popular sources, but 2.4% of us arrived to the game through adverts, which is to us the most interesting data since in the mod team we haven't personally seen any adverts for this game - ever - so if anyone has screenshots, please post them in the comments, we are super curious!
Some users (too few to make percentage) also mentioned videos and memes on TikTok or Youtube, Google Search, Tumblr, Twitter, Vkontakte or even their own sister(s) as a source.
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💎Question 15: Which operating system do you play the game on?

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The majority of this community plays on Android (57.7%) while 42.3% play on iOS.
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💎Question 16: Which other story games do you play?

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Here are the top-10 story app games we play in this community, aside from RC.
Unsurprisingly, market leader Choices comes first with 53.3% of the votes. Another giant in the field, Episodes, comes second - although with quite a substantially smaller percentage of votes, clocking at 28.1%. The top-three is completed by UK TV show-inspired Love Island with the 24.6%.
Chapters is the fourth most played game at 24.2%, followed by Lovestruck and Love Sick - tied at 16.1%. Moments is sixth at 13.1%, new entry on the market Stories: Love and choices follows in seventh with 5.3%, Journeys is eighth with 4.7% and The Arcana is ninth with 2.6%. The top-ten is completed by Tabou Stories: Love Episodes in a tie with Originals - both at 1.2%.
Some also reminisced about Storyscapes (gone too soon but not forgotten!) and many other game apps were mentioned but by too few people to make up for an accountable percentage. We surely discovered some games we had never heard of before, though, including: Fictif, Heart's Choice, Everlasting Summer, Fancy Love, Romance: Stories and choices, Secrets: Game of choices, Fictions: Choose your emotions, Mystic Messenger, City of Love and many, many more... so thanks everyone for all these new suggestions!
And to that one person who selected half a dozen games and then commented with "it is a problem!" ... trust us, you are in very, very good company here!!
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And lastly, some demographics:
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💎Question 17: Where in the world are you from?

https://preview.redd.it/wi54oynj7y951.png?width=742&format=png&auto=webp&s=67fd4ef85a56518876e64f5f1e35d704dc5d241a
We are a very international bunch, that's for sure! Here are the numbers:
45.5% of this community lives in Europe, 24.3% in North America, 16.9% is in Asia, 5.7% is in Central/South America, 5.3% is in Africa and 2.3% is in Australia/New Zealand. Welcome one and all! We are so happy you are here.
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💎Question 18: How old are you?

https://preview.redd.it/hgiuu3dq7y951.png?width=785&format=png&auto=webp&s=106185756ec1cfd67c4c1bb94a8bda1ce6f5a6d3
How old are we? The survey has spoken: 44.7% is between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.1% is between 25 and 35; 21.1% is 17 or younger; 6.1 % is 36 or older.
We must admit that we did not expect so many people to be on the younger end of the spectrum! But we hope everyone - of all ages - will always find this subreddit to be a safe, welcoming and friendly place where to discuss this game we all love. We mods work hard every day to keep this the most relaxed and fun RC space on the net and we feel so lucky that you are all as awesome as you are!
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💎Question 19: What is your gender identity?

https://preview.redd.it/kkr5bm1x7y951.png?width=810&format=png&auto=webp&s=90068fd1b9c2762f5b181b56af647848529c14e2
The overwhelming majority of this community (93.5%) identifies as female, while 4.6% identifies as male, 1.3% is non-binary, 0,4% identifies as genderqueer and 0.2% marked themselves as confused.
The fact that MC is gender-locked female and that LGBTQ routes are limited in the game is certainly one of the reasons why our community is not more diverse. Hopefully RC will expand their stories to include more diverse gender choices in terms of MCs and LIs, so to allow more people to enjoy their great storytelling skills.
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💎Question 20: What is your sexual orientation?

https://preview.redd.it/iskgfuk38y951.png?width=749&format=png&auto=webp&s=0d0cd01d9bedfb1f577206939bc22b959bc6921e
Here's the sexual orientation of our community:
70.1% identifies as Straight/Heterosexual
22.5% identifies as Bisexual
1.9% identifies as Lesbian/WLW
1.7% identifies as Pansexual
1.5% identifies as Gay/MLM
0.4% identifies as Aromantic
0.3% identifies as Aromantic/Bisexual
0.3% identifies as Asexual
0.3% identifies as Demisexual
0.2% identifies as Asexual/Biromantic
0.2% identifies as Asexual/Heterosexual
Once again, we hope that future plots featuring more diverse MC/LIs will attract more diverse players to our community.
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That's all folks! We hope you found these results interesting and we look forward to a new survey once we hit 5000 users! Until then... happy gaming and thanks for making this awesome community as great as it is! :)
💎 RomanceClub mods 💎
💎u/LauraVi 💎u/swankytutu 💎u/directormmn
💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎
submitted by LauraVi to RomanceClub [link] [comments]

An analysis on Penguin Magic user reviews

Hello,
To practise some programming, I made an analysis of the user reviews left on penguin magic. I thought you could be interested in some of the results. It made me check a lot of products that I did not know about.
I excluded the reviews for expos and gift cards to analyse only physical items and tricks. I investigated only the items with at least one review. I combined items as Penguin did. This left me with 87761 reviews for 11318 items.
50 Most Reviewed Items
Item Rating Review Count
Born to Perform Card Magic by Oz Pearlman 4.87 556
Invisible Deck 4.70 506
Self Tying Shoelace by Jay Noblezada 4.74 373
Melt 2.0 by Matthew Johnson 4.65 348
Marked Cards 4.67 344
The Stealth Pen presented by Rick Lax 4.73 327
Coffee Break by Gregory Wilson David Gripenwaldt 4.65 320
Torched and Restored by Brent Braun 4.83 252
All Seeing Eye by Dan Harlan 4.75 244
The Poker Test 2.0 by Erik Casey 4.44 236
Binary Code by Rick Lax 4.78 236
The End by Rick Lax 4.64 225
Starcle by Dan Harlan 4.85 220
OneTrix by Mario Lopez 4.50 214
Close-Up Illusion by Larry Jennings presented by Michael Ammar 4.70 206
Hummes Whirling Card 4.36 195
Two Dollar Window by Jay Noblezada 4.80 191
GREED Starring Daniel Garcia 4.54 190
Modern Transportation by David Regal 4.88 187
Vuja De by Rick Lax 4.78 181
DRESSCODE by Calen Morelli 4.75 181
Predixion by Max Maven 4.89 178
Color Monte 4.87 173
The Secrets of Magic by Rick Lax 4.67 173
In the Beginning There Were Coins Starring Jay Noblezada 4.76 170
Panic by Aaron Fisher 4.77 168
Or Not by Dani DaOrtiz 4.74 165
Bicycle Elite Edition Playing Cards 4.72 165
Super Soft Deluxe Nest of Wallets 2.0 by Nick Einhorn and Alan Wong 4.66 162
Tornado by Justin Flom and Rick Lax 4.82 161
BWave DELUXE by Max Maven 4.84 160
Bently by Chris Hanowell 3.60 159
Binary Code 2 by Rick Lax 4.88 159
Copycat by David Parr 4.88 157
BITCOIN by Rick Lax 4.57 157
Muldoon Match by Paul Gordon 4.77 156
ID7 by Rick Lax 4.37 155
Monkey in the Middle by Bill Goldman presented by Magick Balay 4.76 154
Little Door by Roddy McGhie 4.61 153
SPONGE Starring Jay Noblezada 4.80 152
Eclipse by Dave Loosley 4.60 152
Peter Turner LIVE 4.52 152
Position Impossible by Brent Braun 4.83 150
Clutch by Oz Pearlman 4.67 144
Zoltar by Shaun Dunn presented by Lewis Le Val 4.38 144
BANDIT by Darryl Davis & Daryl Williams (a.k.a. The Other Brothers) 4.80 144
The Known by Thom Peterson 4.47 143
The Ultimate Three Domino Monte 4.14 143
Psypher PRO by Robert Smith 4.73 142
Mnemonica Trainer by Rick Lax 4.81 141
25 5 Star (5*) Items
There are a lot of (3245 to be precise) items that received only perfect 5* reviews. But of course, that could be only one reviewer giving 5* and that would not mean a lot. The following table shows most reviewed yet still rated 5* items.
Item Rating Review Count
Diamond Jim Tyler LIVE 5.00 73
Carisa Hendrix LIVE ACTS 5.00 52
David Corsaro LIVE 5.00 30
Halloween by Natalia Silva 5.00 29
Howard Hamburg LIVE 5.00 25
Daniel Chard LIVE ACT 5.00 22
Sibyl by Phedon Bilek 5.00 21
Ian Rowland LIVE ACT 5.00 16
John (Fast Jack) Farrell LIVE 5.00 16
Morgan and West LIVE 5.00 16
Red Pill by Chris Ramsay 5.00 16
Jay Noblezada presents HTG LIVE: Hypnosis Training Group 5.00 16
NX11 :: The Noblezada Experience 5.00 16
QA Masterclass by Bob Cassidy 5.00 16
Takamiz Usui LIVE 5.00 15
Venom Cube by Henry Harrius 5.00 15
Move Zero (Vol 1) by John Bannon and Big Blind Media 5.00 15
Tom Wright LIVE 5.00 15
TC Tahoe LIVE 5.00 15
Jonathan Pendragon LIVE 5.00 15
Jan Forster LIVE ACT 5.00 14
13 Steps To Mentalism (6 DVDs) by Richard Osterlind 5.00 14
Jermays Mind (DVD Set) by Luke Jermay 5.00 14
Phoenix Deck 5.00 14
Tarbell 77: X-Ray Eyes and Blindfold Effects 5.00 14
50 Top Rated Items
I'll list the top-rated items. I'll include only the items that have at least 20 reviews. (This leaves us with 995 items to order).
Item Rating Review Count
Diamond Jim Tyler LIVE 5.00 73
Carisa Hendrix LIVE ACTS 5.00 52
David Corsaro LIVE 5.00 30
Halloween by Natalia Silva 5.00 29
Howard Hamburg LIVE 5.00 25
Daniel Chard LIVE ACT 5.00 22
Sibyl by Phedon Bilek 5.00 21
Diamond Jim Tyler LIVE 2 4.98 56
David Williamson LIVE 4.98 109
Drew Backenstoss LIVE ACT 4.98 83
Jay Scott Berry LIVE 4.97 37
David Hira LIVE 4.97 67
Toibox Card To Box System by Jonathan Kamm 4.97 133
Jason England LIVE 4.97 33
Dyno by Joe Rindfleisch 4.96 27
Paul Gordon LIVE 4.96 27
Roberto Giobbi LIVE 4.96 25
SvenPad® Minis Black Cover Pair 4.96 24
Mark Mason LIVE 4.96 23
Marc Paul LIVE ACT 4.96 23
Joshua Jay LIVE 4.96 23
Brent Braun LIVE 4.95 22
Seth Kramer LIVE ACT 4.95 21
Robert Temple LIVE 4.95 20
Bandwidth by Greg Wilson 4.95 37
Stegosaurus by Phill Smith 4.94 49
TRIUMPH Starring Oz Pearlman 4.94 31
Banachek LIVE 4.93 59
Fiber Optics Extended by Richard Sanders 4.93 29
Name and Place by Bob Cassidy 4.93 71
The Special Assortment Deck 4.93 28
Cody Fisher LIVE ACT 4.92 26
Blank Face Bicycle Deck 4.92 26
Richard Osterlind LIVE 2: Pocket Mentalism 4.92 38
Scratch by Chad Long 4.92 24
Caught Red-Handed by Michael Mode & Arthur Ottney 4.92 24
Modern Coin Magic by J.B. Bobo 4.91 46
Dave Loosley LIVE 4.91 23
Mark James LIVE 4.91 22
Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz 4.91 22
Acrobatic Knot (with DVD) by Daryl 4.91 22
DMC ELITES : ROUGE marked deck 4.91 22
Shin Lim LIVE: Visual Magic. 4.90 21
Tornado REFILL 4.90 31
CLEAR CHOICE by Thinking Paradox 4.90 81
Choose Five for 99 4.90 79
True Triumph by Paul Cummins 4.90 29
Eugene Burger LIVE 4.89 57
Predixion by Max Maven 4.89 178
Bill Malone LIVE 4.89 36
25 Least Liked Items
Following table shows the 25 items that have the worst ratings and at least 10 reviews.
Item Rating Review Count
Phantom by Peter Eggink 1.44 16
RETRIEVE (Gimmick and Online Instructions) by Smagic Productions 1.56 16
Penciltration by Jesse Feinberg 1.70 10
Force of Will by Dave Hooper - DVD 1.71 17
Phone Phreak by Jeff Prace & Paul Harris 1.81 16
PK Coin by Nathan Kranzo 2.11 28
POST_NOTE By Antonio Smith-Plata 2.24 17
Never There by Morgan Strebler - DVD 2.29 14
Spirit by Arnel Renegado 2.33 12
The Gecko by Jim Rosenbaum 2.39 36
The Incredible Shrinking Finger by Dan Hauss (Additional handling by Paul Harris) 2.40 10
The Wizards Flip Book 2.41 17
Phone-omenon by Doug McKenzie 2.44 16
Elevator by Peter Loughran 2.47 15
BLAZE by Thinking Paradox 2.53 19
Ambitious Finger by Mario Lopez 2.53 53
Absolute Zero (Gimmick and Online Instructions) by SansMinds 2.53 15
Cheese Smile by Smagic Productions 2.55 11
Liquid Metal 2 by Morgan Strebler 2.57 14
Sealed by Menny Lindenfeld 2.57 61
GREEN FACES by Dalton Wayne 2.58 12
Ice Cold: Propless Mentalism (2 DVD Set) Limited Edition by Morgan Strebler and SansMinds - DVD 2.58 12
Nathan Kranzo LIVE 3 2.60 10
Jay Sankeys ORIGINAL Wrap It Up! (Trick Only) 2.62 21
Sharp This by Vanishing Inc 2.64 11
30 Most Controversial Items
I tried to measure controversiality with a ranking system. If all the reviewers gave the same rating for an item, then the controversiality is calculated as 0%. And the most divided option, where half of the reviewers rate an item 1* while the other half reviews it 5*, is rated as 100% controversiality. Here are the most controversial items with at least 10 reviews:

Item Rating Review Count Controversiality %
HACAAN 3.07 27 92.46
Chris Mayhew LIVE 2.94 16 90.63
Sharp This by Vanishing Inc 2.64 11 89.26
Justin Miller LIVE 3.05 22 88.64
CARD IN THE KEYCHAIN by Stefano Curci 3.20 10 88.00
Cut 2.0 LIMITED by Ran Pink 2.88 16 86.72
P'INK by Ran Pink 2.88 82 84.62
Ice Cold: Propless Mentalism (2 DVD Set) Limited Edition by Morgan Strebler and SansMinds - DVD 2.58 12 84.03
Winner's Dice (Gimmicks and Online Instructions) by Secret Factory 3.38 13 84.02
Stained Glass by Adam Grace 3.10 10 84.00
Joe Monti LIVE 3.36 14 82.14
Elevator by Peter Loughran 2.47 15 81.33
Strongman by Jimmy Strange 2.88 16 81.25
GREEN FACES by Dalton Wayne 2.58 12 80.56
iMove by Oliver Smith 2.67 12 80.56
Jay Sankey's GEMINI POUCH (Trick Only) 3.45 11 80.17
Nathan Kranzo LIVE 3 2.60 10 80.00
Titan's Finger by Titanas 3.63 16 79.69
vACAANt by Area52 3.42 24 78.13
Triple C (Red Gimmicks and Online Instructions) by Christian Engblom 3.70 10 78.00
The Switch by Shin Lim 3.67 18 77.78
Memoria by Luke Jermay (Instant Download) 3.64 11 77.69
Rudy Hunter's Total Control with Cards 3.77 13 77.51
Phone-omenon by Doug McKenzie 2.44 16 77.34
SansMinds Sharpie (DVD and Gimmick) by Will Tsai 3.00 13 76.92
Derren Brown LIVE 2.74 105 76.87
Hidden Hand by Sean Fields 2.84 51 76.62
Harlan's No Tape, No Glue, No Scissors, 20-second Setup Torn & Restored Newspaper 2.76 17 75.78
Darryl Vanamburg's "Black Widow" 3.77 13 75.74
Absolute Zero (Gimmick and Online Instructions) by SansMinds 2.53 15 75.56
submitted by VolkanOzcan to Magic [link] [comments]

2048: The Mongrel's Tale part 2

The words ‘Logic Is Optional’ loomed large over Laura’s head as she walked through the revolving glass doors into the lobby of the central dome. While waiting for the elevator she greeted her coworkers with a friendly ‘cursed be the seed’, and they responded in kind. As in every building there was an enormous mural of The Superior Mother but here, with all the Mongrels locked away, The Motherhood could afford to present her softer side. She was shown relaxing on a plumply cushioned lounge with her three non gender binary children, ‘It’, ‘Thing’, and ‘Object’ affectionately sprawled across her. Rumours abound that It has since adopted the name ‘Being’ and Thing has chosen to be called ‘Entity’. It seems that Object is still too young to object.
A highly organised person, Laura had placed a hook on the wall of her cubicle to hang her bag, she wore no-nonsense round framed glasses and all her work was filed and piled in a manner that demonstrated her capacity for order and clarity of thought, a trait that had seen her rise quickly through the ranks of The Empowerment Directorate. She had started her literary career as an Incinerator, stomping around in a P.E.N.I.S finding and burning any text that was obviously written by a man, such as William Shakespeare, Dillon Thomas and George Elliot, while saving texts obviously written by womben such as Mary Shelley, Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh. But turning words into ash was not satisfying, she wanted to write, and eventually landed the job in the Cliterature Department, producing stories for mass publication and quick consumption by the womben of Landing Strip One.
At first it was gratifying to see a paperback she had composed on the Novel-writing Machine being read and enjoyed by ordinary womben on the train and in parks, and she enjoyed the autonomy of having complete authorial control. She would turn one knob to choose a genre, another to select a setting, several more to choose characters, and still more to set the sequence of events in the plot. When all that was done she flicked a switch which activated an algorithm that put it all together and spat out a book, which Laura was required to proof read. At first she was conservative in her writing, avoiding anachronisms and shunning cliche, but she quickly became giddy with the boundless creativity of it all. In one novel Boudicca and Jane Goodall teamed up to rescue chimps from the clutches of evil male poachers in Brazil. In another book Katherine Johnson invented the wheel and formulated the mathematics for domed pyramids as a monument to Anne Boleyn, succeeding despite by Guy Fawkes’ attempts to blow up the quarry. In yet another composition Joan of Arc invented the electric guitar and with Marie Curie on drums started a rock band called ‘The Rosetta Stones’. Laura’s most famous work involved Margaret Thatcher and Whoopie Goldberg as highly trained secret agents parachuting onto the deck of the Titanic to rescue the women and girls before taking a celebratory bath in an ocean full of drowned men and their frozen tears. This ending elicited a hand written letter of appreciation from the Superior Mother herself. It didn’t matter that the stories were nonsensical, only that they were empowering to womben, and the cognitive dissonance that produced was slowly driving Laura mad. Happily, her efforts had been so prodigious that she had flooded the market, and The Motherhood decided to turn her intellectual gifts to a far more substantial text.
It had been a mammoth task, but Laura had finally finished improving the Bible, aligning it with the ideology of The Motherhood. The names were the easy part, all she had to do was remember what she’d learned in primary school; ALL men are rapists. Adam was ‘the first defiler’, Mary was ‘Madonna the Unraped’ and her infant son was ‘The protorapist Jesus Christ’. The Crucifixion was easy, too, all she had to do was remember what she’d learned at Highschool; ALL men are toxic. With this in mind his death was nothing more than a vile expression of Toxic Masculinity, with his last words corrected to, ‘Don’t forgive them father, they know exactly what they’re doing and there are no excuses’. She balked a little when she reached Judges 4:21, concerned that Jael hammering a tent peg into the head of the sleeping Sisera was a crime too severe to excuse, but a little application of the Singlethink she learned at University let Laura conclude that Sisera was a member of the oppressive Patriarchy so the cold, calculated murder was in defence of herself and her sisters, absolving Jael of all guilt. And anyway, he was a Rapist so he deserved it. Such simple substitutions were dull drudgery, but what exercised her mind was the logic and attitude expressed in the grammar. Laura agonised over Genesis 5:3 and the semantic difference between ‘Adam committed rape and begat Seth’ and ‘Adam was a rapist who begat Seth’; the first one named the crime, the second labelled the criminal. In the end she decided on the second option because it specified ‘rapist’ and as she had been told all her life, that’s what ALL men are.
Laura had read and revised her work and was now confident that finally the word of God was politically correct. She was proud of her efforts, but something nagged at her, despite her long years of schooling in the doctrines of The Motherhood there were pangs of doubt, a nagging concern that something didn’t quite add up. The file finished uploading to the system and was ready to go. Her finger hovered for a second, then she clicked on ‘Submit to The Superior Mother’.
Rising to leave at the end of the day Laura accidentally bumped the hook that held her bag, which fell open on impact, spilling its contents onto the floor. On her knees to gather it all up she reached under her desk and retrieved her hand cream and wedged under the leg of her desk found a curious object that she barely recognised; an ordinary ball point pen. But it was more than that. Laura all at once saw it as an anachronism, a curiosity, a phallic symbol of The Patriarchy, and a banned object that she should have instantly destroyed. But she also recognised it as an instrument of communication too precious to snap and crush beneath her heel. After a nervous glance over her shoulder she resolved to insert it into her purse and never speak of it to anyone.
submitted by WillieOMacDickerson to antifeminists [link] [comments]

[OC] Building an NFL Draft Model using Machine Learning

Happy Sunday nfl. Like most of the users here, I get draft-obsessed every February when the Combine comes around. Well, this year I decided to do something about it by building a draft model. If you're not interested in the details, you can stop right here and click the links below.
 
Model outputs from validation can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-ooQ4UTafyFOTWDtbYGmPgdHfspY8bci45tUS6I5-LU/edit?usp=sharing
Album of select draft prospect profiles: https://imgur.com/a/SCdkLj1
I've created some simple player visual dashboards which present position-specific percentile rankings in performance and athleticism. Each of these refer to either neutralized statistics, or engineered features, so "Tackles" is more accurately "Neutralized Tackles per Game" and "Speed" is actually "Speed Score". If anyone has requests to see other players, let me know and I'll try to cover all of them.

Research Goal

To build an NFL draft model capable of producing meaningful player predictions. I had originally planned to do so using a fuzzy Random Forest trained on NFL Combine and Pro Day physical measurements, individual and team college statistics, and engineered features. The model produced superior results when treating physical measurements as crisp rather than fuzzy, which was surprising but nonetheless forced me to change my approach.
Random Forest model is appropriate for this dataset because of the relatively small number of observations (roughly 250-300 players per draft class) and the highly non-linear relationship between the input and output variables. Random Forests are fairly robust against overfitting, which is a concern when modelling noisy data.
Player performance is impacted by round and team selection in the draft - first-round selections receive more opportunities than seventh-round selections, different schemes fit some players better. Because of this the model performance can be greatly improved by including some regression to draft selection or, in the case of test data, public rankings.

Model Output

I've decided to take the novel approach of using player ratings from EA Sports' Madden video game franchise as a proxy for player production, skill, and value. This is beneficial for a number of reasons. The first is that these ratings provide continuous output on a consistent scale across both years and positions; a player rated 99 overall is considered to be elite at their position, regardless of the unique responsibilities or challenges in quantifying performance specific to that position. The second reason is that Madden ratings predate modern quantitative evaluative metrics like those provided by Football Outsiders or Pro Football Focus.
Madden ratings explained - https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/madden/#
Overall ratings are calculated using position-specific formulas that weight individual attributes like speed, strength, and tackling. Ratings are updated each year through a Bayesian-like process of weighing new information to update old. To aggregate ratings for each player, I use a 5-part mean which includes ratings in Years 1-4 and Peak rating.
NFL rookie contract length is 4 seasons (along with a fifth year club option for first-round picks), while the average career length in the NFL is less than 4 years. As such, when building a draft model is makes sense to only consider production accrued during the first 4 years of a player's career.
Year 1 represents the Madden rating given to each player following their rookie season. For this reason, the final year for which complete data is available is the 2014 draft class (with Madden 19 providing Year 4 ratings). This decision was made to better capture NFL success, as rookie player ratings are highly dependent on draft order. For example, in Madden 2008 rookie #1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell was awarded an overall rating of 82, just 1 point lower than #3 overall pick Joe Thomas. The next year, Russell's rating was 83, while Thomas was a 97 overall. By Madden 2010, Russell was given a rating of 72 overall, while Thomas maintained his 97 overall rating. Year 3 and Year 4 ratings have been given double weight for the same reason, with the added effect of lowering the ratings of players who were not able to stay in the league for at least 4 years.
While this metric on the whole does a good job of ranking player talent and production, it is blind to players who peaked later in their careers or those who had short careers. Notable examples of each include Eric Weddle (84.6 rating, eventual 2x All Pro, 6x Pro Bowl) and Jon Beason (95.4 rating, 1x All-Pro, 3x Pro Bowl). Weddle did not reach his peak until after re-signing with the Chargers as an unrestricted free agent prior to the 2011 season, and could have presumably reached his peak while playing for another team. Beason suffered an Achilles injury during the 2011 season and eventually lost his job with the Panthers, starting in only 26 games in the years following his rating window. Beason would have been eligible to sign as a free agent following the 2011 season had the Panthers not offered a contract extension.
In the NFL, the drafting team maintains the exclusive right to employ each player for 4 years following their selection, thus it is incumbent upon the team to select and develop players who provide the most value during that period. For that reason I stand by the decision to evaluate draft selections only on a player's first 4 years in the league.

Dataset

I wrote several web scraping programs to pull data from NFL Draft Scout (an excellent resource for Combine data, and the only source I'm aware of that includes Pro Day data), Pro-Football-Reference, and CFB Reference (both Sports-Reference-operated sites, easily the best sources for football statistics in the NFL or FBS).
The dataset covers the 2006-2014 draft classes and includes players who were ranked in NFL Draft Scout's top 300 in their draft year. I have removed all quarterbacks, kickers, punters, long snappers, and fullbacks due to the relatively small sample sizes or extreme specialization that each position requires. It might be valuable to evaluate these positions later – particularly quarterbacks – but for now the model focuses exclusively on 13 "skill" positions, bucketed into 7 position groups.
The dataset restrictions exclude some notable players ranked outside of the top 300, both drafted and undrafted, who went on to varying degrees of success in the NFL. At the top extreme are 4-time All Pro Antonio Brown and Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman. But while many players on this list never played a down in the NFL, it is important to be aware of which players are excluded and it may be worthwhile to expand the dataset in the future.
I have removed players from the dataset whose NFL careers were cut prematurely short either voluntarily or involuntarily (due to injury, not ability). These players' ratings (or lack thereof) are not representative of their production and thus only serve to complicate the dataset and confuse any modeling attempts. Examples include Aaron Hernandez, Gaines Adams, and Chris Borland. The list is as long as it is depressing.
There is also a subset of players who drastically changed position upon entering the league. This is contrary to less extreme position changes (tackle to guard, cornerback to safety), which occur frequently. These players have been removed because their college statistics create noisy data. Examples: Denard Robinson, Devin Hester, J.R. Sweezy.

College Statistics

College statistics have been collected and cleaned at the FBS level from Sports Reference. Using college statistics is important because they provide information on a player's in-game performance. However, college football styles vary greatly among teams and have changed over time. Therefore we must control for differences in pace and style of play when considering college numbers. Rather than attempt to fit a model on raw season total statistics, I've decided to use neutralized per game statistics under the following parameters:
 
 
To illustrate this point let's look at Calvin Johnson and Michael Crabtree, who were both highly productive college wide receivers selected early in the first round.
 
 
The two statlines appear very similar without context. It's easy to make this distinction empirically, but little effort has been made to translate college statistics into more informative data. Johnson and Crabtree put up similar overall numbers, but Crabtree did it in an air raid style offense that relied heavily on passing while Johnson played on a more balanced offense.
 
 
When we neutralize both players' statistics, we can better compare each player's level of production.
 
 
Compare those numbers to each player's NFL career statistics:
 
 
This is a cherry-picked example but it does well to show that while raw statistics are not to be trusted, college data when put into the proper context can be made more predictive. On a larger scale, we can compare RMSE of the model when including raw college statistics compared to pace- and schedule-neutralized statistics. Controlling for strength of schedule does not improve the predictiveness of the model, but controlling for pace and style of play does have a significant effect.
 
Neutralization RMSE
Raw per Game 8.065
Pace-Neutralized per Game 8.029
Pace- and Schedule-Neutralized per Game 8.058
 
Here's the full stat list, with a few notable performers:
 
Offensive Statistics
 
Defensive Statistics
 

NFL Combine and Pro Day Measurements

The final major inputs of the draft model are the physical measurements taken at the NFL Combine and university Pro Days. Pro Day measurements are harder to come by due to their decentralized and often scarcely reported nature. Fortunately, NFL Draft Scout has maintained a database of reported Pro Day measurements spanning the years in our dataset.
There is an enormous benefit in using Pro Day measurements in a model like this. It allows for a larger training set by including data on players who were not invited to the NFL Combine, but also provides much more complete data because not all players who attend the combine perform the full slate of workouts. This lessens the need for imputation and reduces uncertainty.
However, there is bias observed in Pro Day measurements. Pro Days are typically scheduled in the weeks following the NFL Combine, giving players more time to train for the specific physical events. Furthermore, they often take place at the players' home campuses in environments in which the players feel more comfortable. Lastly, many events (most notably the 40-yard dash) are hand-timed at Pro Days, leading to better reported times than the electronic times at the Combine. Each of these factors contributes to improvement in every event among the population of players who participated both at the NFL Combine and at their university Pro Day.
 
Players who participated in both NFL Combine and Pro Day
Measurement Combine Pro Day n Sigma Adjustment
40 Yard Dash 4.80 4.70 831 0.076 + 0.07
20 Yard Split 2.79 2.71 733 0.065 + 0.06
10 Yard Split 1.68 1.62 739 0.057 + 0.04
Bench Press 20.0 reps 21.7 reps 254 2.556 - 1.2
Vertical Jump 31.7" 33.6" 593 2.342 - 1.3"
Broad Jump 112.9" 115.2" 481 4.356 - 1.6"
20 Yard Shuttle 4.46 4.42 424 0.155 + 0.03
3 Cone Drill 7.34 7.22 342 0.223 + 0.08
 
In order to correct for this bias, I've (somewhat arbitrarily) chosen to shift recorded Pro Day measurements by 70% of the mean delta. Even when we correct for some of the systematic bias observed in Pro Day measurements, we must also recognize that most physical measurements aren't static. Some players aren't performing at maximum physical capacity on the day of the Combine, occasionally players injure themselves during their workout, and the measurements aren't always recorded with perfect accuracy or consistency.
A dataset with this much uncertainty lends itself well to fuzzy set theory. In simple terms, this will allow us to consider not only a player's recorded 40 yard time of 4.40, but will also consider some probability that their "true" speed is 4.39 or 4.43. So when the model attempts to predict NFL success given a player's 40 yard dash time, it's not based on a singular number but rather a distribution of times centered around that number.
Fuzzy Set Theory explanation - https://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~nd/surprise_96/journal/vol4/sbaa/report.fuzzysets.html
My approach is to generate a random forest model on the discrete data, then fit n iterations on randomly shuffled data to generate a distribution of outcomes for each player. This "shuffling" will occur randomly for each measurement using a normal distribution centered around the discrete number, with sigma equal to half of the standard deviations recorded above.
In a single random forest, data is crisply split by decision trees based on discrete information. But with enough randomly shuffled iterations, the trees are no longer binary decisions but rather probabilistic ones centered on each measurement's distribution. This is particularly relevant for players who may have measurements near decision tree boundaries. Two players with sprint times separated by mere hundredths of a second are not appreciably different in speed, but a random forest might classify them as such. The purpose of shuffling is not to fundamentally change each player's physical characteristics, rather to acknowledge measurement uncertainty. My belief is that this will improve the model outputs over a large enough number of trials.
We have a wealth of NFL Combine and Pro Day data but not every player has participated in every drill, so we'll need to fill in missing values. Because many of these physical measurements are correlated and most football positions require some degree physical specialization (size, speed, etc.), I've chosen a k nearest neighbor imputation method. The belief is that if Players A and B are similar in terms of position, size, speed, and quickness, then the two players will also have similar strength or jumping ability. The exceptions are draft age and wingspan, which can be reasonably predicted using population means.

Engineered Features

Perhaps the most essential component of a machine learning model is feature engineering.
Modern feeling toward physical measurements taken at the Combine is highly dubious, and I agree that each measurement taken in isolation cannot alone adequately define athleticism, much less predict success. However, there exist more complex metrics which can better perform both tasks across a large enough sample.
 
Body Mass Index (BMI)
 
Speed Score
 
Height-Adjusted Speed Score
 
Vertical Jump Power
 
Broad Jump Power
 
Quickness Score
 
Weight-Adjusted Bench
 
Catch Radius
 
The models also include several features designed to summarize the collection of college statistics being used.
 
Offensive Usage
 
Defensive Disruption
 
S&P Market Share

Cross-Validation and Tuning

I've tuned the model using stratified k-fold cross validation, leaving out each draft class as OOB observations. As a result, every player has been included in both the training and validation sets. Each position group has been fit with its own unique hyperparameters to optimize predictions.
 
Hyperparameters by Position Group
Position Number of Trees Max Depth Max Features Min Leaf Samples
WR 100 5 10 3
FS 250 5 10 1
CB 50 10 20 2
SS 40 10 10 2
ILB 30 15 5 2
RB 40 10 10 1
TE 20 10 3 2
EDGE LB 50 5 10 2
EDGE DL 250 15 10 2
C 50 5 5 3
DT 100 3 10 1
OT 20 5 3 2
OG 20 10 5 2
 
Additionally, the model performed best when aggregating predictions from 3 randomized sets, as shown in the plot below. However, this fuzzy approach failed to outperform discrete features during cross-validation. I expected the opposite, but it seems treating each measurement as precise leads to the best fit.
 
RMSE Using Various Methods
Method RMSE
Discrete 8.027
1 Random set 8.122
2 Random sets 8.069
3 Random sets 8.063
5 Random sets 8.098
10 Random sets 8.115

Results and Further Research

By and large the model does surprisingly well considering the lack of more traditional evaluative inputs. NFL teams have the resources of scouting departments providing more detailed player evaluation, experienced coaching staffs evaluating personnel fits, and front offices to balance financial considerations and positional value. Each of these factor into draft decisions and improve ranking methods beyond the scope of this model.
 
Model results by position
Position RMSE n Most Important Features
WR 7.523 314 Underclassman, Usage, Age, Srimmage Yards, Total TD, Receiving Yards
FS 7.621 128 S&P Share, Age, SOS, 20-Yard Shuttle, Height, 40-Yard Dash
CB 7.604 292 Age, Quickness Score, Height-Adjusted Speed Score, S&P Share, Height, 20-Yard Dash
SS 7.437 107 Run Stuffs, BMI, Defensive Disruption, Quickness Score, Tackles, TFL
ILB 7.649 291 S&P Share, Age, Tackles, Height-Adjusted Speed Score, Vert Power
RB 8.121 194 Rush TD, Rush Yards, Age, Total TD, Scrimmage Yards, Height-Adjusted Speed Score
TE 8.097 139 Scrimmage Yards, Receiving TD, Receiving Yards, Offensive Usage, Hand Size
EDGE LB 8.846 90 S&P Share, Disruption, Catch Radius, Tackles, Weight, Age
EDGE DL 7.445 190 Age, TFL, Weight, Height-Adjusted Speed Score, Quickness Score, Underclassman
C 8.948 82 3-Cone, Weight, Broad Jump, Quickness Score, Hand Size, Age
DT 7.823 211 S&P Share, TFL, Tackles, Disruption, Run Stuffs, 3 Cone
OT 8.882 222 Age, Vert Power, Arm Length, Speed Score, Weight
OG 8.819 140 Adjusted Bench, 20-Yard Dash, Catch Radius, Quickness Score, Age, Weight
 
When properly optimized, the model can achieve RMSE below 8 during cross-validation. Unsurprisingly, it struggles most with offensive linemen, who lack individual statistics. In particular it struggles with centers, whose responsibilities in the NFL are as much mental as physical. Interestingly, NFL teams have had great success evaluating centers, as 4 of the 5 first rounders were named to All-Pro teams in their careers, and all made the Pro Bowl at some point.
As mentioned in the introduction, the model could be improved substantially by including draft selection or consensus rankings. Furthermore, team-specific random effects could likely explain some of the residuals. I may eventually explore these research questions, but my short-term priorities are on visualization and presentation of data.
 
If you've made it this far, check out my github for the source code: https://github.com/walt-king/NFL-draft-research
This was created using Python for web scraping, data collection, modelling, and visuals. I used R to create the player dashboards. Comments, thoughts, and feedback all greatly appreciated.
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2019 Offseason Review Series: Day 18 - The Carolina Panthers

Team: The Carolina Panthers

Division: The NFC South

It’s that time of year again! After a season that could best be described as “a hangover you don’t deserve”, we watched the Panthers soar to a 6-2 record. After a beatdown of eventual playoff caliber Baltimore, It finally looked like we were poised to shrug off our non-consecutive winning streak habit. But it was not meant to be. A combination of shallow defensive depth and a lingering shoulder issue for Cam Newton saw us collapse down the stretch, and we ended 7-9 winning only a single game. After watching the sharp downturn of our fortunes, questions surrounding our QB’s health and a major exodus of our most tenured veteran talent, one could be forgiven for a glum outlook on the franchise’s future going into this offseason.
But despite the spirit in which we entered it, this offseason has been a resounding success. And one that leaves little doubt that we’re an improved team despite our more prominent losses. What follows is a point for point breakdown in how we made the transition from collapsed contender to potential comeback story.

Coaching Changes

None whatsoever.
From both the commentator sphere and other fanbases, the Panthers were pretty roundly rebuked for hiring offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Despite alarms being raised over 7 step drops and an over reliance on deep shot, Turner was a revelation for our offense. He apparently meant every word of emphasizing high completion throws and taking pressure off of Cam, and we began to see looks for our QB that were totally absent in the Mike Shula era. He’s now had a chance to throw dump offs, and to have reliable comeback options. Cam, prior to breaking down, was enjoying one of the best seasons of his career and despite the shoulder injury, still finished with a career high completion percentage. Christian McCaffery, our other offensive mainstay, saw his rushing efficiency go from 3.7 YPC his rookie season to 5.0 yards in year two, with his total scrimmage yardage upticking from 1,086 to 1,965 in Norv’s new passing and blocking system. Turner’s tenure thus far has been an unmitigated success and a refreshing change of pace from the stale, dull system we fell into under Shula.
The other transition, from Steve Wilkes to Eric Washington at defensive coordinator, yielded decidedly more mixed results. Washington, simply put, was not good in his transition from the DL coach. In over his depth. He struggled all year, culminating in Rivera assuming defensive playcalling down the stretch. The turnaround in our defense once he did was remarkable, though by that point, Cam was falling apart so visibly that what happened on that side of the ball no longer mattered. Washington has been retained for the upcoming season, but Rivera’s going to keep the playcalling duties.
And captaining the ship is Rivera himself. Despite a call for his head among our fanbase’s more frustrated elements, Rivera was kept for 2019. And I’m glad for it. All or Nothing (though I’ve not had a chance to see it) provided a window into his management style, vindicating some like me who pushed back against narratives that he was a dispassionate robot. And while I’m a bit higher on Ron than many, I don’t think it’s unsafe at all to say that none of the coaching hires would have represented an obvious upgrade. At the end of the day, Rivera lead a squad to 6-2 before his QB’s season derailed, which is not really on him. He could maybe be criticized for letting Washington fail for too long, but at the end of the day, few of our woes from last year can be solely attributed to him. While this is certainly a put up or get out year for Rivera, I have little doubt that he’ll be leading the gang come 2020 as well.

Departures

Thomas Davis, LB - Now we get into the stuff that hurts. And this one really, really hurts. I understand it. We needed to figure out whether Thompson could stand on his own like, yesterday so we can decide his long term potential. Davis, while still playing at a high level, is an old man for the position he plays. Letting him walk was a logical decision. But none of it changes the fact that Davis has been the soul of this defense for over a decade, and was easily one of the most beloved players and leaders over the 14 years he spent with us. He will be missed, both for his play and his spirit.
Julius Peppers, DE - Speaking of franchise staples, long time DE and future Hall of Fame inductee Julius Peppers’ watch has ended. Unlike Davis, who we simply allowed to leave, Pep has called it a career. And what a career it was. Though almost every single article about our defensive adjustments leads off with “With Peppers retiring, the Panthers no longer have anyone who can rush the passer”, the reality is that Pep did far less than his opposite in Mario Addison to that effect. Though he came back to us in 2017 with a monster 11 sack season, that number was always misleading given how few pressures he accomplished it on. Last year, he came back down to earth. It was time, and while I wish we could have given Pep one last, Super Bowl winning hurrah, a new direction was needed.
Ryan Kalil, C - Ryan Kalil rounds out our list of beloved departing veterans. The anchor of our offensive line for 12 years has hung up his cleats. Of all the offseason changes, this was by far the scariest, as the difference between Cam with and without a good center of the course of his career has been stark and terrifying. Kalil was a damn good player right up to the end, though the rash of injuries he suffered between 2016 and 2018 clearly took their toll on his performance. And while we have replaced him (and debatably upgraded), Kalil was both a locker room leader and a damn good contributor that will be missed by all.
Devin Funchess, WR - We now get into the departures who will be less missed. Funchess, admittedly, gets a bit of a bad wrap from our fanbase who often talk about him as though he were trash. While not trash, he is at least very replaceable. In fact, Funchess replacement began well before the expiration of his contract, as he had been fully supplanted by rookie DJ Moore and sophomore Curtis Samuel down the stretch last year. By the end, he was a healthy scratch. While I’m sure he’s going to put up numbers in Andrew Luck’s offense, Funchess is no sort of elite talent. He’s a big body who fails to gain separation and who inconsistently leverages his size to his advantage. I view his upside as a Brandon LaFell type of guy. And that type of guy is no longer a fit for what we’re trying to do.
Matt Kalil, OT - If the Carolina fandom is ambivalent about Funyun’s departure, we’re positively giddy about this one. Cut with a June 1st designation, Kalil saved us the money that allowed other moves to be possible. Though the shine has come off the diamond that was Gettleman’s tenure with us, the man often doesn’t get the credit he should. He did do a great deal for us, particularly his completely unheralded building of our OL (No less than 3 of our 5 starters this coming season will have been Gettleman acquisitions). But by far the biggest mistake in his tenure was the massive albatros of a contract he doled out to Matt Kalil, who could not have failed more spectacularly (or predictably) to live up to it.
Mike Adams, FS - I speak on behalf of the fanbase when I say that we have nothing but respect for Adams. He was a solid player and a veteran leader who spent his last two years giving lift to a secondary that hasn’t seen a great safety tandem since the Clinton Administration. But your eyes don’t deceive. We really were running his 37 year old ass out there as a free safety. And that simply could not be allowed to continue. I wish Adams the best, but it was time to move on.

Arrivals

Matt Paradis, C - Here’s the fun stuff. After losing Kalil to retirement, we signed former Broncos safety Matt Paradis to replace him. At only 29, Paradis represents a significant youthening at the position, and for a guy whose upside is top 5 at the position, we got him at a significant discount. Obviously that discount was due to medical risks, which prompted his release by the Broncos in the first place. But Paradis’ has been fully cleared from day 1 and avoided the PUP list. By all accounts, he’s in tip top shape. We’ll obviously see how that holds up as the season gets underway, but Paradis is definitely one of the steals of the 2019 free agency period and I could not be happier to have him. His arrival is enormous for our prospects, and has turned our biggest positional question mark into an area of strength.
Daryl Williams, OT - It’s a bit disingenuous to call Williams an arrival, as he never actually left. But that he never left is nothing short of remarkable. After a 2017 All Pro season, Williams suffered a major setback of an injury in 2018 training camp that eventually turned into a season ending injury after he tried to rush back. Still though, the League is constantly hungry for All Pro level OT talent and I was sure Williams was going to get scooped up. Instead, he signed a 1 year, $6 million deal to come back to us, and short of black magic I’m not entirely sure how Marty Hurney pulled it off. Williams is a terrific player who can play many parts of the OL. He can slot in at LG if rookie OT Greg Little can win the LT job, but also provides insurance at LT if he can’t. He and Moton playing opposite one another represents the best OT tandem that Cam Newton has ever enjoyed.
Gerald McCoy, DT - Awwwww yeah! My all time favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneer is now a Carolina Panther. McCoy is a rock solid DT who truly needs no introduction from me. How we plan to use him is a bit murkier, but use him we definitely will. I suspect to see McCoy playing DT opposite Kawaan Short in our 3-4 looks (more on that in a minute), to line up next to him in our 5-2 looks, and to work with him on pass rushing 4-3 sets. He adds more juice to a pass rush that already saw a healthy injection of talent this year, and is more consistent in the run game than some of the other DL on the roster, which was a notable area of weakness last season. He fits the versatility first mold that’s going to allow Rivera to mix up our defensive looks as transition fully to a hybrid, and is a terrific leader in the locker room besides. Our beat writers have described him as “joined at the hip” with Kawaan Short, and I fully expect the pair to make one another better.
Bruce Irvin, OLB - Perhaps the first real signal that this wasn’t going to be the Carolina defense of yesteryear, Irvin is a vet leadership, change of pace signing. In moving to a hybrid defense, we acquired a number of rookie talents to complement OLBs like Marquis Hayes. Irvin rounds out that group, and provides us with a valuable cog in pass rushing sets and a good leader for the younguns. Though he’s not as disruptive as he once was, Irvin is a rock solid player who provides us with quality depth and leadership.
Chris Hogan, WR - A graduate of the Patriots Random White Guy Academy, Hogan flashed serious potential for his first couple of years in New England before getting gradually phased out of the offense. I’m not expecting much, but he has the potential to help us on deep balls and it’s generally never a bad thing to have more talent at WR.
Aldrick Robinson, WR - Robinson does one thing and one thing only, which is catch touchdowns. Conveniently, that’s one thing we struggled with last season. But with Greg Olsen now fully healthy and a sudden wealth of other options at WR, I would give Robinson long odds of making the roster.

Draft

Pick 1.16: Brian Burns, DE/OLB - I am still in shock that Brian Burns was available at pick #16. I wanted him very badly, but I was certain he’d be an Atlanta Falcon. Instead, people allowed him to fall all the way to us and I couldn’t be happier. Burns is the apotheosis of what we’re trying to accomplish with our defensive transition. He’s a guy as comfortable upright as he is with his hand in the dirt. While he lacks strength as a run defender, he has incredible burst off the edge and a ludicrously high ceiling as a pass rusher. I think he landed on a terrific team to turn that potential into reality and I’m extremely excited about what he can do with us.
Pick 2.37 Greg Little, OT - Every description I’ve ever read of Little has described him as “Pro Ready”, and the team clearly drafted him with an eye on starting at LT. Luckily, we’ve hedged that bet a bit with the Daryl Williams signing, but Little still projects as a talented young player with a high floor and a well rounded skillset. If not the LT starter this year, he’ll almost certainly have the job to himself next season.
PIck 3.100 Will Grier, QB - Boy did this piss people off at the time. Though cooler heads have since prevailed, this pick was seen by one group of reactionaries as an indictment on Cam’s health, and another as a wasted pick on a player who will never produce for us. The reality is neither. While Cam’s health is in good shape (put a pin it), we were put in a position last year in which he needed to rest a clearly deteriorating shoulder, but we had no faith in the men behind him to win games. If that’s the state of your backup, you need a better backup. This is a team that has seen playoff runs hinge on a game or two that Derek Anderson filled in for. So even as high as pick 100, Grier was a worthy investment. In terms of his playstyle, Grier slots as an accurate QB with a good deep ball and a cerebral style, but average arm strength and mediocre release.
Pick 4.115 Christian Miller, OLB - Like Burns, Miller projects as a do-all DE/OLB who can play either upright or down low. He’s an athletic prospect whose game is a bit raw, but who checks all the measurable boxes. Likely a top 50 player before injuries kept him out of the pre-draft process, Miller represents a hell of a value at 115. I suspect we’ll see he and Burns as long term staples of the pass rush.
Pick 5.114 Jordan Scarlett, RB - This was a bit of an odd one, but I’ve warmed to it over time. Scarlett is a bruising, violent running back who I’m almost certain was drafted to lend a hand in the red zone. As a change of pace to CMC, the two could not be more different. But coaches thus far have raved about his conditioning and power, so the pick may not have been as crazy as it looked at the time. Having said that, while I don’t think anyone should ever get upset over a 5th round pick, I do think we could have found better value at this position. Scarlett wasn’t likely to be gone by the time we selected our next player.
Pick 6.212 Denis Daley, OT - I like this pick quite a bit. Daley had a rough statline in terms of sacks allowed when facing a veritable who’s who of elite college pass rushers (Jachari Polite, Josh Allan, Clelin Ferrell among them). But in spite of that, scouting reports consistently cite both his physical gifts and his improvement as the season went on. If he can cut down on his most egregious habits (most notably his overeager lunging at edge rushers), he has legit starting potential.
Pick 7.237 Terry Godwin, WR - Godwin’s whole game is predicated on speed and football IQ. At 5’11, it’s certainly not coming from his physical measurables. But he was by all accounts a high work ethic, smart players who contributed admirably in his four years as Georgia starter. Godwin’s ceiling is likely a Curtis Samuel backup, but his early rapport with Cam makes me think he’ll stick on the roster despite his late draft spot.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Offense - With Cam’s health reportedly looking good (particularly his ability to throw deep; something he was never capable of throughout Camp) and the team adapting so well to Norv Turner’s system, I think offense as a whole is a good place to start. Though I said it last year, only to be hilariously wrong, Greg Olsen is operating at 100% as well, which provides a boost to our red zone effectiveness that is difficult to measure. By the end of last year, both DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel appeared to be on the cusp of a major breakout, both proving themselves so reliable that Devin Funchess was a healthy scratch by week 17. Those two should continue to grow, and Jarius Wright has proven to be a valuable slot receiver. And, of course, there’s CMC, who will continue to be our best offensive weapon not named Cam Newton. With good health and plenty of diverse options, I suspect the good times to continue to roll as we enter year two of Turner’s stewardship.
Offensive Line - I can’t emphasize this enough, but our offensive line is nasty. With Williams’ return, we now have an All Pro OT to pair with breakout sensation Taylor Moton, which makes for an excellent tandem. Matt Paradis replaces, and if we’re being honest, provides an upgrade over Ryan Kalil, and Trai Turner is as effective a RG as ever. LG will likely be manned by whichever of Williams or Little doesn’t win LT, and Greg Van Roten (who’s performed admirably at the position) is still in the building as well. This is a very solid group of players, and a massive upgrade over what we had to work with last year.
Pass Rush - This was a major area of concern last year, but I’m happy with where we’re at now. The transition to a hybrid defense was the right call for our personnel set, and between the draft and free agency, we’ve upgraded across the board. McCoy is a huge boost to our interior pressure and Brian Burns should contribute immediately. Efe Obada will likely continue to grow, and the new system is a much better fit for talented sophomore Marquis Hayes. Irvin is solid rotational addition as well, and Mario Addison is as stalwart a pass rusher as ever. All in all, we’ve gone from an extremely one dimensional pass rush to one that is versatile and capable of throwing multiple looks at our opponents. We will be hard to predict and hard to stop when we come at the QB next year.
Weaknesses
Run Defense - Though I’ve seen little attention paid to it, I’m very concerned about our run defense this year. Although we’ve beefed the hell out of the defensive front, few of these pieces excel in run defense. McCoy has mostly staked his reputation on being a 3 tech. Hayes, Miller and Burns were all flagged as prospect that lacked run support talent. Poe was miserable in defending the run last year, and it’s never really been Short’s bag. In terms of yards per carry, we finished 8th overall which sounds good. But this was mostly on the strength of changes when Rivera took over the playcalling, as backs tended to run over us consistently early in the year. As long as we have Luke, our run defense will be solid. But I do worry that with so much (needed, mind you) emphasis put on rushing the passer, we’ve left off this part of the game.
The Secondary: As always with us, the secondary is a concern. It is, to be fair, less a concern than in previous years. Donte Jackson and James Bradberry both enjoyed very solid campaigns last year, and the former has allegedly done a lot of growing over the previous season. Eric Reid represents a good, solid strong safety. But free safety is, as ever, a mess. The job is going to sophomore player Rashaan Gaulden, but I think his capturing the position unopposed has less to do with what coaches see in him, and running out of money after doling out contracts to Paradis, McCoy and Williams. Our secondary, while improved, was inconsistent last season and was the primary reason we finished in the middle of the pack.
And honestly, that’s about it. This is one of the strongest rosters Carolina has fielded in the Riv-Era, at least on paper.

X Factors

Cam’s Health - Those of your who frequent nfl have likely seen my refrain on this many a time, but Cam’s health is not as dire as last season made it look, and the Andrew Luck comparisons have always been, frankly, crazy. In 2016, Cam tore his rotator cuff. He rushed his recovery in order to play in 2017. This created a buildup of scar tissue which, when coupled with a minor bone spur, caused a great deal of swelling this year that put Netwon in pain and limited his range of motion. It’s one of those injuries that, while not terrible by any means, does require either surgery or a great deal of rest. Cam, by virtue of being alpha and omega to this team, had the luxury of neither. The swelling persisted until he could barely throw. While that looks scary, the actual diagnosis was not that grim, and a simple shoulder scope as cleared the damage. By all accounts, he’s 100% and even making throws that he was incapable of these last two years. Bill Voth, who was the first (and for a long time, only) writer sounding the alarm on Cam’s strength as far back as 2017, has said that he’s making throws that look like his old self routinely.
However, we are putting him on a pitch count. This like likely vet maintenance rather than a source of genuine alarm. But after the last couple of years, he does make you sweat a little.
OL Health - The major fly in the ointment when it comes to Carolina’s optimism over its OL is that big if healthy caveat. If healthy, Paradis is a top 5 Center. If healthy, Williams has All Pro talent. 4 days into camp, however, neither is participating in serious pass rush drills and only today suited up in pads. It is possible that they’re just being eased along. They did avoid the PUP list, which we were almost sure was going to get Paradis at the very least. So they appear to be alright. But if they’re not, or they reinjure again, we go from being an extremely strong team to a fatally flawed one. A great deal is riding on the health of those two players, and the entire house of cards could fall apart quickly if they’re unable to deliver.
Greg Olsen - The one health flag that I do have complete confidence in is tight end Greg Olsen. Suffering a series of foot breaks, he is now moving around at 100% capacity and has been medically cleared for all activity for months. Bone breaks are, when all is written, temporary injuries that often heal stronger when they actually get a chance to heal. Our most trusted beat writers, Voth and Rodrigue, have both been crystal clear that he looks like his old self and that his connection with Newton is as faithful as ever. What I’m less clear on is his role in the offense. For years, Greg Olsen was the pivotal piece of our passing game. But with his largely being sidelined with foot injuries over the last two years, the game has moved on. Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore are both going to receive plenty of targets, and McCaffery will be a critical element to the passing game. Greg will undoubtedly be our principle red zone threat, but the growth of other options has downgraded his loss from catastrophic to merely unfortunate. What role he carves out, and what boost he’s able to give our offense, will be very interesting to watch.
4-3 No More: Much has been made of the Carolina's transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this offseason. And most of it is crap. We aren't exactly moving in a direction that binary. IN the past, we have strictly been a 4-3 team throughout the Riv-Era. That is about to change, but not to a 3-4. What Rivera showed last year is a willingness to mix and match personnel sets. There were 3-4 looks, 4-3 looks and even 5-2 looks. What we're moving toward is thus not a single, codified base, but a hybrid defense that can throw out a number of formations and switch between them quickly. We want players who can play OLB and DE. DTs who can play DE. LBs who can drop into coverage and rush the passer. A modern defense is one that doesn't limit itself, which is why such a premium has been put on players with positional versatility. On paper, our personnel set is very well built for this. How it pans out in practice remains to be seen. It's a very radical transitioning happening over a short period of time, and while I think our defense has the potential to be excellent, there will doubtless be some growing pains as we navigate the transition.

Positional Battles

Very little to speak of. The premier battle is going to be between Greg Little and Daryl Williams at LT. Apart from that, the timeshare that forms in different defensive sets will be intriguing. But for the most part, the roster is set.

Win Loss Predictions

I hate this part, particularly since the NFCS is a murderers row at present. The Panthers have a shot at a serious playoff run if all the chips fall right, but the Falcons are likely going to be resurgent (god you have no idea how much it hurts me to type that) and the Saints aren’t going anywhere. The Buccs I’m sure will do their best.
That alone makes pinpointing what our season looks like in terms of Ws and Ls difficult. But this year, we’re also playing the equally enigmatic AFCS, whose teams look like contenders or middlers in turns. Even our other divisional draw, the NFCW, is difficult to find the pulse of.
So rather than pretend that I know what each game is going to look like, I’m going to do what I always do; Likely wins, likely losses, toss ups.
Likely Wins: TB, @AZ, JAX, @TB, @SF, TEN, WAS
Likely Losses: LAR, @NO, @IND
Toss Ups: @HOU, @GB, ATL, NO, @ATL, SEA
So that’s 7 likely wins, 3 likely losses and 6 toss ups.
If that seems like an unusually high degree of uncertainty, that’s because it is. Last year started off strong and fell apart for reasons that are both obvious and cautiously behind us. We’ve only improved over the offseason and should be formidable. But the schedule is grueling and many questions are yet unanswered. I said in my last offseason review that last year was likely going to be a tough season, and should be viewed mainly as a proof of concept for the new ideas we were incorporating via Turner’s offense and our gradual move away from a 4-3 defense. Well, it was a tough year for reasons of which I had no inkling at the time, and it was a proof of concept. And for the most part? The concept was proven sound. So this offseason, we’ve built on it and patched over the holes that developed in it.
I know that “This offseason is a major turning point” is one of those things that gets thrown around a lot. It’s like how every Presidential election gets described as historic, as though choosing the leader of the free world could ever be anything but. But in a very real sense, this franchise has hit a turning point. Cam has to bounce back this year or he’ll face major doubts about his future contract. Rivera has to bounce back this year, or he’ll be out of a job. GM Marty Hurney has done an excellent job restocking the cupboards, but we’ve been down this road of defensive transition and an offense that eases things on the quarterback before. Last year, both ideas mostly worked, but this is the season where we must commit to them and see them through if we want to succeed with the parts we have. Thus the Panthers find themselves where we always seem to. We are a team that is as capable of going on a deep playoff run as we are forcing a total rebuild in the next two years. But for what it’s worth, I think it’s going to be a strong, “Eureka!” type season where everything finally comes together. For the sake of Rivera and company, I hope it does.
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