yeloson: (pic#459018)
Stars Without Number is a tabletop rpg where you travel around the galaxy to different planets and get into adventure and intrigue. (The link goes to the free PDF ebook version). It uses an old-school-ish system with some really smart updates, and great rules for generating different worlds and conflicts.

It's not Hitler's Future

So, you know at this point our expectations for rpgs and representation is pretty much bottomed out. SWN does the following things right:

1) Images of POC are in the book!
2) No default assumption about the cultures that you'll encounter
3) ...backed up by the name list in the back! There's several name lists, divided by culture, with a few paragraphs about clothing or food, and the acknowledgement that odds are good that what was traditional for us in the 21st century would be a massive throwback by the 31st century. The full cultures listed include: Arabic, Chinese, Nigerian, Indian, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, English. Obviously not entirely comprehensive, but the fact that it's not euro-centric is awesome.
More about the game... )
yeloson: (Default)
Though I've been sick this whole week, I saved up my energy reserves to go see Attack the Block at a free screening. I was worried that given all the hype, it would be "just ok", that I'd be expecting too much.

Wrong. That shit was filthy.

The action moved at a good clip, I never felt like anything was dragging, and all the kids' personalities got a chance to shine a bit. I like the fact that we don't get the kids' names until a third of the way through the movie, because there was never a reason for everyone to be yelling each others' names all the time. I really liked all the references that reminded you that these are teenagers ("I shoulda stayed home and played FIFA", "Call us back when you're done playing Xbox" etc.)

I also like the fact that the kids were never held up as "ZOMG GHETTO URBAN PLIGHT" children, but just kids who happened to live here and have stuff to deal with - they even had parents and not all evil orphans who exist because ghettos spawn children magically.

Action: Awesome. Acting: Awesome. Cinematography: Awesome. Soundtrack: Awesome.

Go see this movie, give them money, and tell your friends to do the same.
yeloson: (pic#459020)
This book started off promising enough. But, ugh.

The story takes place in a very cyberpunk sci-fi future. At some point, people developed a form of warp drive... but found out too late that it was causing long-term genetic mutation. Earth decided to cut off the colonies for fear of genetic contamination and give up on space travel.

A few centuries later, the mutant colonies have developed a better warp drive that involves jumping into an alternate dimension, and basically set up a massive plan to re-contact all the colonies. So you have this galactic civilization of "aliens" who are all really human mutations - "Variants"

The story follows Jamisia, a young woman who Is Being Tested On By An Evil Corporation For Mysterious Ends (TM), who escapes, and is being chased around the galaxy for the Mysterious Stuff Locked Inside Her Head.

What turns out to be a bit more interesting, is that she suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder as a side effect of the testing, which is pretty much unheard of at this point - gene modification has gotten to the point where mental disorders are all removed in childhood. Instead of simply painting this as "Augh! You crazy!", the story flips it a bit by showing off how her other personalities are able to work with her, as a team to help her.

I kept reading, thinking, "Ok, she's going to go from running scared to becoming this awesome Avengers-Unite! leader of her MPD and unlock her Awesome Hidden Powers, right?" Instead, she spends the entire book without agency, running for her life and depending on men to make decisions for her.
How to write a novel about a woman who's really a walking MacGuffin )
yeloson: (Default)
I just finished reading Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai. The story follows Miranda, a girl in a dystopian future, and her memories/incarnations/hallucinations? of being Nu Wa and a girl in 1800's China... and her girlfriend, The Salt Fish Girl. The writing is deeply evocative, literally sensuous, scent, food, texture, everything just comes alive in the writing.

Lai balances all the futuristic and mythical with a very down to earth banality- people trying to live their lives, people making mistakes... but also the banality of evil- nothing ever feels safe, it's all fleeting. This happens without being hamfisted, and what isn't described or explained leaves a combination of mystery and unease. It never goes for the cheap threats, everything is looming and terrifying more if you think about context, rather than any specific bit that is written in the narrative.

It manages to hit on a lot of things, lesbian love, patriarchy, medical experimentation, cultural assimilation, white approval, the ways in which folks internalize and oppress each other and themselves, without getting heavy handed or stupid with it.

I think the book is a 4/5, though I don't know if I'd be up to reading it again. I generally like light, fluffy fiction, and while this is a quick read, the sense of unease in the book sticks with you.

Cut for spoilers, deep spoilers, and discussion about the themes in the book. )
yeloson: (pic#459020)
I'm thinking a bit about the classic American Cyberpunk Dystopia genre. Although often pointed to as a critique of capitalism and consumerism, it really seems a lot of these are more about white middle/upper class fears...

The lone (usually white, usually male) protagonist walks down the street, past the many stores and people that aren't in English, past the red-light district with non-mainstream prostitution, past the scary looking homeless people, and gets threatened by thugs.

Most of these people are simply Others to show this New World Order that has no room for the "normal" white guy, many are threatening, and few others get names or personalities, and the truly good are victims that need the special protagonist savior to rescue them.

The protagonist might live amongst all these "people", but certain isn't one of them. He has (special skillz, tools/equipment) that set him apart- that put him above these people and gives him a chance at "Fighting the Man" who happens to be usually some cool, collected, and smug CEO, who is a threat not because he has had a hand in creating the dystopia for everyone, but because... well, some vague reason about corporations destroying the world and society, despite the fact that the movie/book/comic just showed you a montage of shittiness all associated with anyone EXCEPT the Corporations.

Usually, the corporate "crime" which is supposed to rile up the audience is that the privatized government future limits the flow of information, GASP (Even more because Protagonist is a speshul snowflake who is a genius whose ideas NEED TO BE HEARD).

The fact that -this- is usually the "outrage" point, and not say, the people trying to get food to eat, the dead ocean sitting under an ozone-less atmosphere, the system that freely kidnaps children for organ harvesting... that a special someone didn't get heard?

Uh huh.

I'm not saying all cyberpunk falls into this trap, but there's plenty of common genre tropes there, that basically point to the same things that make "dystopia":

1) White folks no longer dominating the space. Other languages! Scary!
2) Poor people! Everywhere! Scary!
3) Poor + Not White? = Crime! Scary!
4) Sexuality! = Scary!
5) Not getting to know everything/spread your BRILLIANT IDEA? Unforgivable crime that outweighs genocide, planetary destruction, etc.

I know many people are advised to "write what you know" but really? It's kinda icky seeing the same privileged narcissistic fear stories over and over.

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