Monthly Archives: November 2015

World War 1 Fantastic – Video Games

We’ve looked at The Great War through the prism of sf and fantasy with novels and TV. Today we’re going to take another twisted trip through the trenches with video games. Once again, there aren’t as many titles dealing with the subject of World War 1 as there are with its successor. But the games are there, I’ve found them, I’m going to talk about them, and maybe you’ll end up playing them.

Note: Because many games have DLCs that take place in a WW1 setting, I will address those extras for another post.  For the sake of simplicity, I’m focusing on games that strictly take place during the war, not before or after (unless if that war never ended). I will also skip games that allow you to avert the war. I also am not, repeat, am not a gamer, so I don’t know much about the technological aspect of video games, so any corrections are welcomed.

Castlevania: Bloodlines (1994)

Castlevania_Bloodlines

Konami

Single-player platform

Dracula has a niece named Elizabeth Bartley, who starts World War 1 so that she can revive her long-dead uncle. In 1917 two men named Eric Lecard and John Morris join up to stop her.

NecrovisioN  (2009)

Necrovision_PC_US_ESRB

The Farm 51

First-person shooter

It’s 1916. An American volunteer named Simon Bukner is fighting for the British Army. During a counterattack against the Germans, he and his company are ambushed by machine gun fire and mustard gas. Simon collapses and wakes up in a world where he now has to fight zombies, hellhounds, demons and vampires.

Iron Storm (2002-2005)

Iron_Storm_boxart

4X Studios/Rebellion/Reef Interactive

First-person shooter

It’s 1964. The Great War is in it’s 50th year (yeesh!). You play Lt. James Anderson. Your mission: to stop Baron Nikolai Aleksandrovich von Ugenberg and his Russo-Mongolian Empire from developing nuclear weapons. And hopefully end this ongoing war once and for all.

1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg -“The Unknown War” (2011)

 

 

art09

Kriegsgraben und Stormvogel

First-person avoider/ horror survival

This game reminds me of Alien: Isolation you have to hide from the xenomorph and stay one step ahead of it. Ditto for this game. You’re in the trenches. Your goal is to find a ladder, collect some needed items – and avoid the dinosaurs. In the trenches. Your trenches. Yes you read that right. Yes, it’s scarier than you think. You can check it out on YouTube if you’re curious.

  Do you know of any other video games with a fantastic first world war setting?

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Filed under world war 1, world war 1 fantastic

Nazis Weren’t The Only Monsters

From the positive reception for Amazon Prime’s ambitious new show, The Man in the High Castle, to Jeb Bush’s recent remarks about killing baby Hitler, American pop culture loves to kick Nazi butt. We cheer when our heroes, be they Captain America, Wonder Woman, Indiana Jones or the Rocketeer, take on The Third Reich and help the Allies win World War 2. It’s understandable, the Nazis committed one of the nastiest crimes against humanity in history as well as plunged the world into an unecessary bloodbath for the second time.

But the problem with this is that they’re portrayed as the only villains of World War 2 and frankly it’s starting to get very predictable and boring.

The Problem With The Man in the High Castle

I’ve seen the trailers, clips and even the opening titles for TMITHC. I read the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick. And while the idea of pretending what the US would be like if the Axis Powers won WW2 is both fascinating and horrifying, I’m not too pleased with the way certain events are depicted in both the book and the series (but moreso the series).

For those not familiar with the story: it’s 1962 and the Axis Powers consisting of Germany and Japan have won. The Allies lost. To add insult to injury, the U.S. has been conquered by said powers and split in two. More than half of America (now called The Greater Nazi Reich) is under Hitler’s rule, while the West Coast (“Pacific States of America”) is under Imperial Japan’s thumb. While we read/hear about the further atrocities the Nazis commit to the rest of the world, a majority of the novel’s action takes place in I.J. – controlled California (For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to refer to the Japan of that era as Imperial Japan) and an untouched area in the middle where the Rocky Mountains are. And therein lies the problem.

The human rights violations Imperial Japan committed before and during WW2 are never mentioned or discussed. While the main characters secretly harbor resentment against their imperial “overlords”, even calling them “Japs” behind their back, life under I.J. rule, is…not so bad, compared to the Nazis. But all of the American characters in TMITHC are white or Jewish. There’re no black, Korean, Chinese or Filipino-American characters in the story. How would these groups be treated under the Imperial Japanese? Considering what Japan did to China, Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines before and during WW2, I think it’s regrettable that Dick or Amazon didn’t incorporate references to The Nanking Massacre or Unit 731. I hold Amazon more accountable because in 2015 we have more historical evidence of these atrocities than Dick did in the 1960s. Would it have hurt Amazon to add some new characters of Chinese or Filippino descent who fear being rounded up and sent to units for human experimentation? Who harbor resentment towards Imperial Japan for killing their loved ones and destroying their lives in their native countries?

Some would argue that depicting the Imperial Japanese as villains would seem racist and promote another white hero vs. Asian villain argument, especially with regards to the internment of Japanese-Americans and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But these dark events in American history doesn’t excuse those dark events in Japanese history. Even though America has forgiven Japan, China has not. And to this day some still deny the existence of those events.

The Problem With Killing Hitler

Every time I hear someone talk about going back in time to assassinate/kill Hitler, I make one massive internal eyeroll, not because I believe in Hitler’s right to live but because killing him would only be cutting a slice of the evil pie.

The 20s, 30s and 40s were the era of dictators, two of them even deadlier than Hitler. Heck, the 20th century was full of deadly dictators.

Sure, you killed Hitler but what about Joseph Stalin, his contemporary? Did you know that he’s responsible for the worst famine in history? And why aren’t there more comic book superheroes beating the living daylights out of him? Why haven’t there been more movies about his human rights violations?

Or what about going back in time and killing Mao Zedong? Or Hideki Tojo, the man who orchestrated the Pearl Harbor attacks?

“But”, you might argue, “by killing Hitler I stopped World War 2 and Pearl Harbor from happening.”

Maybe. Maybe not. But you still have the problem with its predecessor.

That’s right, Tojo was born in 1884. Hitler was born in 1889. Stalin was born in 1878 and Zedong was born in 1893. What do these men have in common? They lived through World War 1 – the war that changed world and changed them for the worst. The first war to severely affect civilian life, the war that introduced the affliction of PTSD, the war that brought the first modern genocide.

Some are now saying that it would be better to go back in time and stop Gavrilo Princip’s bullet from hitting Archduke Franz Ferdinand instead. Then there’d be no WW1, no Armenian Genocide, no WW2 and no Holocaust.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But while there’s nothing we can do about the past, there is something we should do about the present. While we shouldn’t forget about the Nazis or the Holocaust, we should stop focusing solely on them and direct our attention to other villains of the past, whether we’re writing science fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, or comic books so that other victims and heroes can have their voices be heard.

Read: The Man in the High Castle: When a Nazi-Run Dystopia Isn’t So Dystopian

Watch: 10 Myths About the Nazis (some of the facts may shock you.)

 

 

 

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Filed under Alternate History, Philip K. Dick, Uncategorized

3 Short Stories Worth Reading From “Warm Worlds And Otherwise”

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“Who is Tiptree, What Is He?” asked the introduction to the 1975 anthology, Warm Worlds And Otherwise. It’s one of the most infamous introductions in the history of literature, because the author that wrote it made this now-awkward statement:

It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing.

I wonder if Robert Silverberg’s still eating his words.

James Tiptree Jr. was the pen name of Alice B. Sheldon, who published her first sci-fi story in 1968. She took the surname, “Tiptree” from a brand of marmalade and her husband suggested the title, “Jr.”. She chose a male name because:

A male name seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.

She kept up this ruse until 1976, when fans discovered that “he” was in reality a “she” and that’s when, according to Pamela Sargent: ” a lot of people had to reexamine their assumptions about the differences men and women writers.”

Four years after her death in 1987, fellow SF writers Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler, initiated the James Tiptree Jr. Award, an annual literary prize for works of science fiction and fantasy that explore the concept of gender.

But I’m not going to talk about that. Today, I’m going to talk about three stories from the aforementioned anthology that stood out to me. They are:

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In”: In this 1974 Hugo Award winning novella, a sickly girl named P. Burke is used by a corporation for product placement. Through electronic implants she “controls” an artificially grown beautiful girl named Delphi and becomes an international celebrity. But then everything unravels when she falls in love…

“The Night-Blooming Saurian”: A scientist promises a big game hunter that his team can go back and time and bring him back a dinosaur to hunt…

“Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death”: Poor Moggadeet! Because of instinct, his species go through a bug-eat-bug cycle (literally) every winter’s eve. He so desperately wants to break that cycle but nature is stronger than love… A 1973 Nebula Award winning short story.

If you want to learn more about Alice Sheldon, see the book, James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips

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Filed under dinosaurs, feminism, Short Stories Worth Reading, speculative fiction

Campbellcon 2015

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I’ve never been to San Diego Comic Con and honestly, I have no interest in going. I’m uncomfortable with flying and I think SDCC is too commercialized.

But I’ve been to a few toys and comics shows with celebrity guests in the CA bay area. I’ve been to a toy. comics and collectibles show in Pleasanton, Alameda and San Jose. Campbellcon in (where else?) Campbell, CA was my first trip to this lovely city.

I first learned about Campbellcon through an advertisement at a local toy shop in Union City. It said that some Star Wars: The Clone Wars voice actors would be there. As a Star Warrior, I wanted to meet these actors and I wanted to buy some comics and some SW action figures to my collection. So I paid for a ticket online ($21.94) and printed out driving directions to Campbell.

On November 7, I headed out towards I-880 S. After some distance (and getting a little lost – but not too lost) I reached my destination. The con was held at the historic Campbell Community Center which used to be a high school. It’s a very nice building as seen above.

After I was allowed in, the first thing I did was go to the celebrity table. I forgot to mention that most of the CW actors I wanted to meet had canceled their appointments. But there was still one SW actress that showed up: Debbie Lee Carrington, who played Romba the Ewok in Return of the Jedi was there signing pictures of her in the saga and Total Recall. But before I stopped at her table, I went to see another actress: Lana Wood, sister of Natalie and former Bond Girl. I wanted to ask about her time on The Wild, Wild West. She had guest-starred twice on the classic sci-fi western, “The Night of the Firebrand” and “The Night of the Plague” as two different characters. I had hoped that she would have a photograph from the show that she would sign (hopefully one with Pernell Roberts) but, alas she didn’t. However, she offered to send some pictures to my e-mail address. We had a nice chat, took a picture and I ended up buying a wonderful picture of her and her legendary older sister which she signed.

Then after much browsing and buying only one trade paperback, I went straight to Ms. Carrington’s desk. She noticed my Xena tin lunch box (where I was keeping my money) and told me that she was friends with Lucy Lawless (“she’s a wonderful person, very down to earth”). I picked a still of Romba and she signed “Greetings from Endor!” (how cute!) and shook my hand.

Now for the low points of Campbellcon: merchandise-wise, it was very disappointing. As I said earlier, I bought only a comic book: Young Justice. Most other comic books available either didn’t interest me or I had already read. And as regards to finding the Star Wars action figures I’ve been desiring, forget it. A majority of the SW toys were from The Force Awakens. You see, I’ve been craving that new Black Series Ceremonial Gown Leia, that Hasbro had to push back a couple of months because that’s one of my favorite Leia dresses. I’ve also been hoping to find that Vintage Collection Ahsoka Tano action figure but there wasn’t any. Oh well. Keep searching and you will find…

But there was another positive realization I came to at Campbellcon, especially when it comes to Star Warriors.

There were a couple of cosplayers in attendance and most of them were dressed from the prequel or EU era. One person was dressed as a clone trooper. There were some men in jedi and sith robes selling lightsabers (I think it was the Saber Guild). Another young man was dressed in a sith robe with a double-bladed lightsaber, (but judging by the hilt design, it wasn’t Darth Maul’s or Bastila Shan’s). And as I left, I passed by four teenagers in jedi robes. It taught me that there is a difference between the internet and real life. While the internet may have you believe that “fans” have a seething hatred for the direction the saga took in recent years, those “fans” spend most of their time raging on the internet while the more positive fans are out and about expressing their devotion and having fun.

Another thing I learned is the importance of attending your local sf/comic book convention. Why go to San Diego, NYC or Anaheim every year when you can show your support for a pop-culture related event, no matter how small. It boosts morale. It’s good for your local economy. I’m looking forward to the next available toy and comics show.

unnamed unnamed (1)

unnamed (2) carrington

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Filed under fan events, fandom