Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular Activities, a short set in The Machineries of Empire series, by Yoon Ha Lee is a breezily written, as I understand, prequel that tells a bit of backstory about an interesting main character from the other novels in a richly developed future. The language is simple and not at all complex, so this short is an even quicker than expected finish. But, on the whole, the universe in which the story takes place has a beautiful complexity of culture and conception that proves ultimately this is worth more than the sliver of time it took to read.

The cultures of this fiction appear to be based on many social and aesthetic norms within various Asian nations, so if I were more versed in the history and those cultures then I may have recognized more analogy to the real world than I did just well-done fiction. It occurred to me while reading this that my personal immersion in Western and American culture, although I’d certainly claim to be at least cosmopolitan, helped to create a sense of otherness and alienness to the particulars of the story which I might not have felt otherwise. I wondered about the reverse of that experience for readers of sci fi from the East with so much of the science fiction futures that I’ve read have been my Western and American authors. Kinda obvious now that I’ve thought it, but I’m not sure I’d pondered that so specifically before, as I had while reading this. It occurred to me perhaps the world-building might not seem quite as inventive and novel for a reader within those cultures that seem represented in allegory.

It’s short, quick, cheap, and interesting. Plus, after reading this short, I’m certainly more interested than I was to read the full novels in the series. So, well done, author! Well done.

I made 2 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Extracurricular Activities

Iron Tides

Iron Tides by Crash Wave Games, which I supported in crowdfunding, and had a successful Greenlight, is out on Steam in Early Access and currently 15% off.

This “rogue-like Viking simulator” is an adventure at sea with epic tactical battles and dungeon-crawler elements. Conscript your warriors and prepare for a new raiding season!

Community Inc

Community Inc by T4 Interactive, from tinyBuild, is launching on Steam on Aug 3rd.

As a new Manager, build a happy community and trade with other races… for profit. Yes, that’s right, we need their happiness so we can power up our portals. The Lings, your workers, will obey you and help you with your village. But beware, they can cause a lot of problems too. If this is not enough, there are other creatures that will try to do the same, they can trade, fight or help you. Oh, don’t forget about the weather and some unexpected events.

Rogue One

I saw a Rifftrax tweet about how A Star Wars Story: Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards, with Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, &al., was on Netflix (for which they have a riff available). I’d been waiting for The Defenders in August to renew my subscription, but decided to do that early, for less than the cost of buying the movie on disc or download, and watched Rogue One belatedly but finally.

Aaaaaand … Holy crap, y’all. I loved it. This movie is a love letter by a soldier on the front sent home from the final battle but lost in the mail to only arrive decades later to fill for a brief moment a still heartbroken empty absence.

I admit it: I cried. A lot. This and the previous A Force Awakens really do it for me on a deep, probably psychologically significant, Hephaestus-archetype level. I felt this movie coursing in my blood like a jolt of caffeine and rattling my bones like the crack of a compound fracture.

I sometimes forget how much I am a child who was weaned on Star Wars. Without doubt I saw A New Hope in the cinema more times than any other movie (I lost count decades ago of times seeing the first movie in a cinema after around 27), and overall have seen the Star Wars saga together more than any others in total.

The movie is obviously a love letter to the Star Wars saga, especially A New Hope. There’s a tender and joyful use of momentary and interwoven callbacks without going overboard. Rogue One is also a stirring homage to Pacific theatre war movies and Chinese wuxia, in the way that the saga were also homages, the trilogy to Saturday morning serials and Akira Kurosawa, the sequels to teen dramas, like A Rebel Without A Cause.

The movie is also a visual love letter to the use of light and shadow, and especially the transition from shadow to light, a constant and stunning use of light as a visual metaphor for hope. There were many times I found myself wowed by this central visual cue throughout.

The story is convincing and solid, but moreover, not only a worthy installment in the Star Wars saga, I dare say that Rogue One transcends the inspiration. This film is full of new and novel takes on the source saga, builds on and expands the mythos in significant and welcome ways, and steadily climbs to crescendo with a searingly fantastic finale.

As an aside, I desperately needed a unicorn chaser to soothe my heartache after the end of this movie and watched a couple episodes of The Worst Witch (2017), and was reminded that Rogue One star Felicity Jones played Ethel Hallow in series one of the earlier rendition of The Worst Witch (1998) and the sequel Weirdsister College.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Rogue One

Galaxy of Pen & Paper

Galaxy of Pen & Paper from Behold Studios was just released, on Google Play, Steam and so forth. Though, apparently the Linux release was delayed.

THE ULTIMATE ROLE-PLAYING SIMULATION GOES TO SPACE!

Galaxy of Pen & Paper is a turn-based, space meta RPG about a group of players rolling dice in the year 1999! Create your own game master and dream RPG party, explore distant planets, fight weird aliens and save the galaxy in the era of dial-up internet and floppy disks!

TURN-BASED COMBAT SYSTEM
Assemble the party of your choice, picking your players, races and classes! Unlock new content with the blood, sweat, and luck of your party’s ingenuity and dice rolls!

CUSTOMIZATION
Will your party include a Slayer Simian Savage or a Thinker Green Medtech? Customize everything from your battle encounters to your Game Master’s table!

EXPLORE THE GALAXY OF QUESTS AND LOOT
Gather your adventurers and travel trough a galaxy of pen and paper, and discover the newest threat as they leave Earth. All the fun of a pen and paper RPG with none of the lost dice!

COMPLETELY NEW GAME
Prepare to be amazed with so much new things! Spaceship battles, stories with multiple decisions, sci-fi classes and races, side-way battles, planet navigation and exploration, and of course, traveling through space and time!

TO BE RELEASED IN 2017 FOR PC, MAC and LINUX.

Legionnaire

Legionnaire, book 1 of the Galaxy’s Edge series, by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole is Generation Kill in space. In spite of the science fiction setting, the particulars are thinly veiled allegory for recent military misadventures, with all the usual suspects and situations. The danger didn’t quite reach the Hidden Fortress level of impossible-situation plot-twists, but it was an entertainingly constant chaos of complications.

For me there was cringingly uncomfortable racist overtones to the description and conception of the main alien species, with the double whammy of being both Innsmouth-look-ish (which for me added a whole other genre can-of-worms by reference) and clearly Middle Eastern inspiration, on the planet where the action takes place, but if you can get over that, or accept it as littérature vérité, the rest is a pretty strong and stirring story about the common (hu)man trying to survive a vertically-integrated perpetual-motion military-diplomatic clusterfuck.

The epilogue felt wildly out of place to me because that little story-within-a-story went completely wibbly-wobbly Flash Gordon science fantasy pastiche. I’m not sure how that bodes for the rest of the series. I hope that was just an anomaly. Otherwise this was a solid first installment in a series with promise for worthy visceral commentary on recent global political-military history through a very thinly-drawn distancing lens of uncomfortably-close-to-real fiction.

I made 7 highlights, but 3 of those were notes about errors.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Legionnaire

John Carter tabletop gaming

Modiphius, who recently have launched Star Trek Adventures, sent out an email with details about their upcoming crowdfunding effort for a John Carter tabletop gaming line. This will include an RPG, miniatures, and a board game. They’ve been working with the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate and they seem to be serious about trying to do it right.

In the email, which you should go read now, they shared some pictures of suggested page layouts and miniatures, and there’s some gorgeous stuff happening, so I’d say sign up and stay in the loop for when the crowdfunding campaign starts up, they say in just a month or two!

The roleplaying game will be a gorgeous deluxe edition landscape book with stunning long artworks taking you across Barsoom whilst the miniatures will bring your favourite characters, villains and brave crews of their ships to life. Beyond that a board game will let you explore the adventures of John Carter and friends in new ways!

We’re making a final push now before aiming to get the project live at the end of August but our goal is to be able to ship the book and miniatures soon after the project so this date will shift to ensure we’re fully ready. Please bear with us, it’s going to be worth your wait.

I wonder if there’s going to be the equivalent of the Borg Cube Collector’s Edition for STA, which is awesomely out of my price range? Maybe a Martian airship? Also, this will use the same 2d20 system, so I’ll hope to hear about some riotous crossovers.