Tagged: science fiction

Stars Without Number – the Characters

I’m playing a pen and paper rpg again!

The game is Stars Without Number, an Old School style science fiction rpg with a cool setting, written by Kevin Crawford and available via rpgnow, etc. The other night we sat down to build our characters and even got a little bit of gaming in, and it felt good. Too early to really declare an informed opinion (we were only half-using the rules, since we didn’t arrive planning to play and hadn’t prepared), but we had a lot of fun. We’ve got 5 of us playing, with CP running the game, and in classic scifi style, we opened with a jailbreak. Our players?

P – Ashok, a weak but pretty confident wanderer that seems to have both a knack for getting into trouble and a talent for talking himself back out of it.

MM – XLT to be Decommissioned (Decom for short), a medical robot that was manufactured with an assassin’s body by mistake. He seems unsure about where his destiny lies.

MR – Weesah, a victim of a misogynist tech-based caste system that was drafted into a revolution and trained in explosives and terror tactics

CD – Asdon, an illegal salvager that’s apparently got some aggression issues and a *very* lax moral compass.

Me – Jaeger, a pilot from a dysfunctional and once-powerful family heavily involved in technology R&D, especially where space travel is concerned. Recent events have left me alone and broke, supporting myself via contract work.

After a contract gone wrong, we all found ourselves locked up in a Star Command prison cell. A riot broke out elsewhere in the prison and we were able to get free of our cell. Weesah hacked some systems, Ashok distracted and misdirected some guards, and Jaeger retrieved or belongings from some lockers before piloting our impounded disaster of a ship out of the prison and to safety.

Decom ran interference and provided support, and Asdon shot a couple guards in the back so he could take their Star Command shuttle. After arriving at a nearby moon known as Luke’s, Jaeger stripped a few useful upgrades out of the shuttle and then Asdon sold it for parts.

We’re a strange crew; it’ll be interesting to see how these characters develop…

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Movie Night – She (1984?)

Haha, this one was bonkers! It claims to be a post-apocalyptic version of H Rider Haggard’s She, but that’s a pretty ridiculous stretch. There is indeed a character named She, and there is a journey undertaken by a couple of friends, but that’s about as close as it gets. The first chunk of it was pretty much just a mess, but after about 20 minutes it leveled off a little; the movie remained pretty insane but the plotting turned into something relatively followable.

It all starts with Tom, Dick, and Tom’s sister Hari (can’t make this up) traveling to a neighbouring valley to sell soap at a post-apocalyptic market. Unfortunately the Norks (kinda nazi footballers) show up and kidnap Hari. The movie flits back and forth between Tom and Dick (spending their time getting poisoned and sold and mostly running around in circles) and She, the living goddess of the something-or-others (a clan of amazon warriors). They mostly seem to be buying or stealing men for her to sleep with and then kill. Eventually Tom and Dick convince She and her right hand woman to assist in their quest to rescue Hari from the Norks, which is where the movie finally finds its plot. It’s not an amazing plot – mostly it just follows our intrepid heroes as they stumble from one band of weirdos to another – but it’s simple enough that the movie finds a certain bizarre groove to settle into.

Cruel mutants, hippie werewolves, a weird cult led by a telekinetic, a strange ‘doctor’ with a tutu-clad giant for an assistant, and of course our Nazi footballers/gladiators/punks. Lots of escapes and mediocre fight choreography serve to shove Tom, Dick, and She (and her right hand, to a lesser extent) from one weird post-apocalyptic community to the next.

It generally doesn’t make a whole lot of sense; this one seems to fall more along the lines of ‘viewing experience’ than ‘tour de force’. Eventually our heroes find their way, disguised, into a gladiatorial arena and nearly kill each other before recognizing one another and stealing Hari away from the Norks. They make their escape from the Nork fortress to a nearby bridge (where they earlier fought a duplicating man), and set a series of traps while the Norks delay pursuit. I’ve already forgotten why they delay. The Norks are certainly in no hurry. Probably busy generating inspired graffiti.

Norks have horses, so they’re loaded with pursuit confidence, I guess.

She, Tom, Dick, and Hari go all Swiss Family Robinson on the Norks until She’s right hand turns up out of the blue (she left the party about 35 minutes ago and hasn’t even been mentioned since) with the entire Amazon army and kick the snot out of whoever’s left.

Happy endings ensue.

Certainly not one to watch with any seriousness, but as a goofy parade of chaos it was decently entertaining. I expect I’ll watch it again some day.

Any recommendations for weird bad scifi/fantasy films I shouldn’t miss?

Oscar Night SciFi Superfest 2018

It’s that time of year again already! M trekked across the street for her annual Oscar party, and I settled in for some science fiction flicks that I’ve somehow managed to never see. First up?

Primer (2004).

Primer must be one of the most recent movies I’ve ever watched on Oscars night, but it’s still been on my list for entirely too long. If you’re not already aware, it’s a super-smart independent time travel film. This particular DVD has been sitting on my shelf for the better part of a decade; I knew it was complex and intelligent, so I didn’t want to sit down and only half watch it, as I knew I’d get lost doing that.

I’m glad I gave it my attention. Partly because it was really solid, and I liked it a lot, but also because I’d heard right… this movie had some serious expectations for its audience. I paid attention throughout, and I’m no dummy, but I still checked online the next day to make sure I’d caught everything (I did pretty well if you’re curious). Really glad I finally got around to seeing this.

This is the first year that I actually invited other people to join me for Oscar night. Life being what it is I still ended up mostly soloing the first and last films, but I had a couple other viewers for the most anticipated movie of the evening:

Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1985)

Daria and Tesa, ready to fight back.

This was pretty much just as amazing and bad as we all expected it to be. Chunks of plot seemed to exist purely so they could justify the title, and it was way beyond cheesy. High points included the bickering androids using ‘robot voices’ to accuse one another of shirking work and tattling, the completely random insertion of a ‘phantom zone’ (full of zombies, for the record, and no phantoms at all), and a villain that – from about 2/3 of the camera angles – looked like an uncanny-valley clone of Christian Bale.

Creepy, right?

The plot is ostensibly a ‘most dangerous game’ sort of deal, but it takes most of the movie to get to the game itself, and the main hunt only lasts about 20 minutes. We were all very entertained, though, so we’ll call this one a win this time around.

Daria leads Rik back to the castle, after a long night of setting up two traps that will accomplish little to nothing…

Silent Running (1972)

This is probably the youngest I’ve ever seen Bruce Dern. He cares for one of the Earth’s last forests, in a dome attached to a spacecraft. The other 3 members of his crew don’t care so much, and when they receive orders to jettison and nuke the forests so that their ship can be converted into a commercial freighter, poor Bruce is the only one not thrilled with the orders.

Careful, Bruce. You’re going to start freaking them out.

Tragedies occur, things go south, and Bruce is left trying to care for a single surviving domed forest with the help of three squat little bots; he renames them Hughie, Dewey, and Louie. Tortured and alone, he eventually reprograms the drones for medical needs, poker playing, and other useful skills, and goes a little stir crazy while he’s at it.

I liked this one as well (it was a good year for SciFi night), and I’ve been meaning to watch it for ages. It’s on tons of ‘you need to watch these’ science fiction film lists, but it always got bumped for other things. No more! It wasn’t exactly a fast-paced film so it may not be a great fit for everybody, but it certainly feels timely (environmental issues haven’t exactly faded into oblivion over the last few decades), and was a fine closing to 2018’s Oscar Night SciFi Superfest. Here’s to next February!

Oscar Weekend SciFi Superfest 2017

Well, last weekend was the Academy Awards, which of course means M went across the road for her friend’s Oscar party, and I sat down at home with a bunch of Science Fiction movies I hadn’t seen (generally because they were before my time). This year I started with Time After Time, and it was delightful!

Look at that font! That name! That blue smoke! I can already tell this is going to be good… 

This one’s been on my list for years, but kept getting pushed aside up make way for other movies. I’m super glad I finally at down and watched it. HG Wells (Malcolm McDowell) chases Jack the Ripper (David Warner) through time and space to 1970s San Francisco, and meets a lovely and independent young lady (Mary Steenburgen). Madcap adventure, romance, and comedy ensue. Wells is charming and wonderfully naive, Jack is cruel and confident, you get the idea. I totally recommend this. 
It was so good that I decided I could go high risk with my next selection, and that is how I found myself watching Metalstorm: the Destruction of Jared-Syn.

3d, PG, 1983. I almost feel like that’s saying enough. This is one of those post-apocalyptic road rage movies that were so prevalent in the wake of Mad Max. Mostly they just make you realize what a genius George Miller was/is. Everything feels slow and unimpressive, the vehicles look lame, you get the idea. Maybe that’s more accurate though… What are the odds that everybody working on a car after the apocalypse is some sort of monster garage hero? This one isn’t what I’d call actively bad, it’s just not at all good. The bad guy is filling a giant crystal with stolen souls, the good guy always leaves his helmet in the tank-car, there’s a girl and a scoundrel and an honorable subvillain. It checks all the boxes, but does so with a crayon. 

The final movie in this 2017 Oscar trifecta was The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and what a closer! Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) is a rockstar/scientist (and brain surgeon?) who uses a rocket car and a black box to punch a dimensional home through a mountain, inspiring an interdimensional alien exiled/trapped on Earth to rally his War of the Worlds compatriots and steal the black box, triggering an interdimensional incident that could result in global thermonuclear war. Along the way we meet Buckaroo’s fan club slash militia, a romantic interest that seems to be the long lost twin of hours ex-wife, and a series of ever-less useful bureaucrats and aliens. I definitely enjoyed it, but I think I mostly just love that it exists; it was a very different era for truly creative endeavours. 

That’s it for now. I’ve gotta say, I’m truly excited to see what I dig up for next year. 

Why doesn’t everybody know about Finder?

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I work at a bookstore, and a while back we got something in called the Finder library. It looked pretty cool, it had apparently won an Eisner award,  and it was being released by dark horse, who may not be perfect but are responsible for the english version of Blade of the Immortal. This fact alone is enough to convince me to at least look at their stuff (Blade remains the only comic book series of any length that I purchased and read the entire run of).
So I bought it. And I read it. And I was floored. It’s huge and amazing and staggeringly deep, and I reread it fom cover to cover only a week after reading it the first time. I read it a third time before the second volume came out, at which point I read it a fourth time so I could read them back to back.
I have made the entire series (two ‘Libraries’ and an additional arc called Voice) my most prominent staff pick at work, where I keep it permanently in stock so that other people can experience it. The fact that it’s a graphic novel seems to scare some people, while the fact that it’s science fiction concerns others, but it’s so much more than either of those labels conveys.
It’s also incredibly deep, and layered, and complex, but it reveals itself to you as you read. Just hang on and enjoy the ride. And for those of you that need the plot? It follows Jaeger, half-Ascian finder and sin-eater, as he weaves in and out of various lives, some of which we get to know more intimately than others. It takes place in a far-flung future where much of civilisation is made up of a few genetic lines, with everybody else living on the fringes. It explores more issues than almost anything I can think of and does it better than most. It builds a world so big you’d swear it had to be real, and introduces you to it a piece at a time.
Finder is one of the best things I’ve ever read.

But don’t take my word for it. Strange Horizons calls it “bar none, the best SF comic being published today.” Warren Ellis calls it “completely fascinating,” and names it as one of his “treasured favourites of the last ten years.” Seriously, read the book. The whole thing. And when you’re finished, tell me you aren’t amazed.