• Remembering the Future

    I got a chance to run my semi-dormant Traveller game this past weekend. The campaign has been running for a while; the earliest session notes I still have are from 1984. These days I only get to run it on rare occasions. Our last session was about a year-and-a-half ago. The game went well, the crew of the Whatever3 managed to find trouble again, shot up another science outpost and probably got themselves added to someone else’s enemies list and everyone had a good time. I was glad to visit the old galaxy again but after it was over I felt a bit let down. Some of the shine seemed to have gone. The future just isn’t what it used to be. I discovered the game way back in 1978 but I always associate the game with the 1980’s. And that’s what it feels like, really; it’s the 1980’s with fancier gadgets. Sure, you have interstellar travel, fusion power and antigravity, but that’s really about it. Take those three things out and it would be hard to find a scenario you couldn’t run as a game set on Earth in the present day. Wrist computers and personal communicators don’t seem so unusual when half the players are tracking their characters on iPads while checking in on a cell phone. I suppose this is an inevitable result of any tech-focused science fiction. What seems advanced initially seems quaint later on. The best science fiction of course is about people, how the

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  • Review – The Breach

    The Breach by Patrick Lee Ex-corrupt cop/ex-con Travis Chase, recently released from prison, is hiking through the Alaska wilderness and trying to figure out how to get his life back together when he stumbles across the crash of an unmarked 747. Inside the crash he discovers that everyone on board has been executed, including the First Lady of the United States. A note in her hand sends him in search of the two survivors of the crash, who are being brutally tortured to force them to reveal the location of an object that could lead to the destruction of everyone and everything on Earth. And thus begins Breach, the first novel in a new thriller series by Patrick Lee. While many thiller novels by such writers as James Rollins, Jeremy Robinson or Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child skirt the edges of science fiction in their novels, Patrick Lee embraces it wholeheartedly. While it is marketed as and starts out as standard thriller fare, make no mistake; this is a science-fiction thriller. Travis soon rescues Paige Campbell, the last survivor of the crash, and learns what is happening. (Warning: Minor spoiler for the first of the novel.) Paige works for an international government organization known as Tangent. Thirty years ago, an experiment beneath Wyoming opened the “Breach” of the title; an opening to… somewhere. Various artifacts (which they call “entities”) have been coming through the Breach at regular intervals since then. Some of these entities are benign, some are very dangerous

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  • It’s Not Reality, It’s Just a Fantasy

    I took a swing through a bookstore the other day, the first one I had been through since the demise of my local Borders, and as usual went to check out the SF section. What I found, also as usual of late, was that most of it was actually fantasy. Mostly Urban Fantasy, actually; so much urban fantasy. I didn’t find anything (my reading pile is still big enough that I don’t need to grab anything just to have something to read) but as I left I started wondering what happened to the Science Fiction shelves of old. I remember when Science Fiction and Fantasy were two different areas in the stores and the SF shelf was the larger of the two. No longer. Of course, part of it is the popularity and success of such things as the Harry Potter and Twilight series which of course have spawned their imitators, but this just changes the question as to why these series became so popular in the first place. I think it is because that, based on what Science Fiction promised us, Science has failed. I’m not talking about “where’s my flying car?” here. Up through the 1950’s and 1960’s, everyone thought that science (Science!) would solve all of our problems. Robots would remove all need for menial labor. The Atom would provide all our energy needs. We would be living in a utopia fueled by the fruits of science. Reality didn’t match that. We are constantly told of the

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  • Dragon*Con 2011

    I went down to Dragon*Con this past weekend and spent some time wandering around. Here are some pictures from the con. If you want to see then entire set, here are the pictures I took while wandering around the con and here are the rest from the parade. Enjoy. American McGee’s Alice with the Queen of Hearts Doctor Venture Chel and the Companion Cube Vader. Darth Vader. Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb! Doctor Who upgrades the TARDIS

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  • The Man Behind the Curtain

    When she arrived in the Emerald City, Dorothy and her companions were groomed, dressed and prepared for their encounter with the Great and Powerful Oz. Upon entering his chamber they were awed and frightened by the Great Oz floating before them, wreathed in smoke and flame. Of course, Toto then finds the man behind the curtain who is running the whole thing. Like a villain being unmasked by Scooby and the Gang, the Great and Powerful Oz is revealed to be just a con man from Kansas. The con man then gives her companions what they want and Dorthy is shown that she has the ability to go back home herself and she returns to Kansas. I have always wondered… why is this considered a happy ending? Sure, she is happy to be home at first, but she will wake up the next morning in her black-and-white world, knowing that the bright, colorful world she left behind was only a dream and that the only magic in the world was the work of a man hiding behind a curtain creating an illusion through smoke and mirrors. I’ve been thinking about Dorothy and that man because DragonCon is coming here to Atlanta next week. I’m planning on going this year, for the first time in around a decade. You would think that I, as a long time Atlanta resident and Science Fiction fan, would have been a regular attendee but that hasn’t been the case. Actually, I haven’t been to any

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  • Review – Hull Zero Three

    Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear A man awakens in a dark room to find a child pulling him to his feet and telling him to hurry. The room is freezing. There are bodies everywhere. He follows the girl who awakened him only to see her apparently killed my some sort of creature. He is alone, he does not know where he is or even what his name is. He only knows that he is a Teacher. So begins Hull Zero Three, the latest novel by Greg Bear. We and Teacher soon find out that he is on a starship, traveling slower than light and on a centuries-long voyage to another star system, and that something has gone very badly wrong. We also learn that “Teacher” is not unique. There have been other Teachers before him and all of them are dead. Will his fate be different. In many ways Hull Zero Three is about discovery and exploration. At the start, Teacher knows no more about what is going on than we the readers do. He even has trouble remembering basic words and concepts (like what those tiny points of light outside the ship are). He learns about the situation on the ship as we do. And the situation is complicated. It becomes apparently quite rapidly that the ship is damaged. Less rapidly we learn that a war has taken place, and perhaps is still underway. Teacher and the companions he finds along the way must both determine what happened

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