Hopes for the weeke– oh, right, free game!

Fallout_NV_logo I was going to mention this last, but I figured that was very much burying the lede; I have a spare copy of Fallout: New Vegas on Steam to give away. It’s an action/RPG, set in a post-apocalyptic retro-futuristic Nevada. It’s honestly a rather cheery setting; less the actual wasteland than an idea of the wasteland that might have been spawned from the ATOMIC SCIENCE of the 50s, crossed with Mad Max and given a cheerful jolt of early- and mid-20th century music.

If you think you might want it, there’s a more detailed summary here. That page also has the system requirements. If you do want it, drop a comment and we can figure out the logistics?

With that out of the way: yesterday work had an incident with spray paint fumes (for a pumpkin; yes, really), and I had been working long hours last week and this week both, so I am at home today. It will mean no headache and being at home.

Am optimistic about the weekend! In addition to Hallowe’en happening (either today or in several hours, depends on where you count from), tomorrow I’ll be making a trip out to Carp to visit the Diefenbunker. It’ll be a day trip; go early, visit the museum before they close it to get ready for their Hallowe’en tour, get lunch or something, and then go back for the Hallowe’en tour that explains just exactly what happened on the night of June 21, 1994.

…I have non-post-apocalyptic interests. I’m just not focussing on them right now, it seems.

And then Sunday is actually getting together with people and playing board games, which is something I enjoy that I just haven’t had a chance to do in months. I’m thinking of bringing a copy of Gloom, a cheerful little board game in which you try to get your own spooky gothic family killed off before the other players can kill off their own spookily gothic family. It’s entertaining.

A simple enquiry into what he has been eating or drinking…

Among the many lovely thing Roald Dahl wrote was Matilda, and among the many lovely scenes in that book is one where the evil principal finds out that a boy has stolen a slice of her cake and forces him to eat an entire chocolate cake. It is an amount of cake which should cause him to explode. (It’s Roald Dahl, so this might not have been purely figurative.)

But he doesn’t explode. He eats the cake. He eats the whole cake, and when the Principal loses her temper and smashes the platter over his head, he just shakes it off and keeps grinning. The line that describes him is something along the lines of “by now, he was so full of cake that he couldn’t have been hurt with a sledgehammer.”

The light of my life made a dinner tonight, modifying an existing recipe to be cooked in a crockpot. The end result is about as awesome as you might expect anything to be when it contains that much butter, cream, bacon, and cheese.

And having had dinner, I am really feeling very… equanamous. I mean really calm. Sedate. I feel mellow enough to catch up on some of the things I’ve seen online in the last couple of days[1], and the thought of reorganizing my office is considerably less tension-inducing than it has been for the last few days.

I recognize this isn’t a method that always works to ground a mood, but right now, I’m having a good night.

[1] Which have been fairly ugly in some cases. Moving on!

The quiet background.

A pair of hiking boots on rocky ground.
These boots were made for walking– and will take a skilled cobbler perhaps thirty work-hours to replace. When going among the radioactive hell-weasels, please try to get bitten primarily about the arms and face.

As surprises probably no-one, I am a fan of post-apocalyptic settings. (My boxed copy of Wasteland 2 came in recently!) But I was thinking lately about skillsets that would be useful in a post-apocalyptic setting that don’t get a lot of attention paid them.

Disclaimer: “post-apocalyptic” covers a huge range of stuff, from your generic brown whoops-the-bombs-fell-pass-me-my-gas-mask setting to Fritz Leiber’s chill dark “A Pail of Air” to the slow burn of On The Beach or Stross’s bureaucratically gleeful Mythos-drawing “A Colder War”. So yeah, not all post-apocalyptic settings require those skills, but they strike me as the kind of thing where it’s… hmh. Worth confirming that you don’t need them, if you don’t?

Cobbling. I mean, honestly, there is so much walking in so many of these settings; driving too, and the occasional ornithopter, but… shoes. Sooner or later the pre-existing shoes are going to be scavenged, or you’re not going to be in a spot where you can get more, or you’re just a really common size and everyone else got there first. And yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of a cobbler in a post-apocalyptic setting. Everyone’s too busy selling spit-cooked rat or something.

While we’re on rats and food… Food preservation is going to come up at some point, unless there is no way to ever raise, grow, hunt, or gather more than you need on a day to day basis. I, for one, have no idea how to can or preserve food (I think you boil it and then pour wax on it; I think I’m missing some critical steps), and would fully expect meat to rot before it became jerky.

Pharmaceutical training, too. Medical skills are a given (again, remember, this is not a discussion of skillsets that are obviously useful, it’s a discussion of useful skillsets that aren’t often paid attention to; this is why mechanics and doctors haven’t and won’t be mentioned), but even just knowing how drugs need to be stored and what interactions you can expect would be useful. Pharmacies in Canada at least often don’t print expiry dates on the prescriptions they dispense; it’d be nice to at least know where to look to find those.

Speaking of knowing things? Archival skills. It’s awesome that you have a printed copy of… well, Wikipedia and the Mayo Clinic site. But even leaving aside that modern paper tends to be acidic, what’ll you do when the black mold gets in? How’re you going to make more copies (where will you get the ink)? If it’s a single huge print-out, who’s going to index this in a useful way now that you can’t just click on a link?

I mean, I am sure there will be workarounds, and I’m not saying a post-apocalyptic setting needs these things, or needs to dwell on them. I am saying it is possibly quite cool to examine the possibilities of developing these things.

There are more, but I really do need to run off and Do Things. I just wanted to note this down while I had a moment.

Mnemosyne will this offset.

Bouncing around links, as one does, I ran across this post and while I am not currently speaking to the second point of the post[1], I think the first point is extremely on-point:

When you read an x-men book today, you’re not reading it because of what is in the actual book–you’re reading it because it’s the X-men and the feeling it gives you reminds you of positive memories you have of the very best of the x-men stories.

(No, obviously not exclusively!) But.

I read that and I remembered trying to explain what I felt about the second Hobbit movie, and why I’m probably going to go see the third. It wasn’t that it was good, really. It wasn’t that it was deeply moving, or well-paced. And I was trying to explain my reaction after and what I came out with was “It’s not that it’s good! It’s that it looks close enough to something that was good, when I read it when I was a kid, that I can use that to get back to how awesome it was back then.”

It’s like air being blown into a bouncy castle. >.> (An incredibly dignified image, I am sure you will agree.) It doesn’t have to be good air. It doesn’t have to have the whisper of summer-evening meadow-flowers, or the far-off breath of the sea, or have strains of far-off dwarven chanting[2]. It needs to be uncorrosive enough to not rot the bouncy castle from the inside-out. (And a nozzle that matches the valve on the bouncy-castle, I am sure, but here the metaphor is getting overcomplicated again.)

Just figured I would note down that particular case of a well-articulated point that clicked for me, because it is so bloody frustrating to not be able to set something out clearly.

[1] I am not disagreeing that it amy lead to a non-aspirational escapism, but I am disagreeing that a non-aspirational escapism deserves to be called “the worst” kind. But at that point you get into judging the values of escapism in terms of personal growth vs expansion of perception vs self-care, and I absolutely do not have time to do that at this point, so I will end this footnote now.
[2] “Gold, gold, gold, gold.”

Slow, sad, and mad

Bedlam vol. 1Bedlam vol. 1 by Nick Spencer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(written several months back, and published now that I am cleaning out my drafts)

…I haven’t been so hooked by a graphic novel since I picked up Uzumaki, Vol. 1. And exactly like when I picked up Uzumaki, I am swearing because the comic book store has closed for the day, and now I have to wait before I can see about getting the next one in the series.

Spoilers for the first twenty-odd pages follow.

Like it says on the tin: the generically utterly evil technically-not-supervillain-because-no-superpowers-but-come-on-now Madder Red has, after years of therapy, apparently been cured of his anti-social drive.[1] Now he’d like to do some good.

I picked it up expecting a crime story. In the first fifteen pages, it had me blinking a little at what was being depicted (villain cheerfully slitting a child’s throat in front of the hero), and then twisted the standard “ha-ha, holding the city hostage by means of threatening something terrible” schtick into an entirely new direction.

It’s a murder mystery, sure. It’s grim and fast-paced and makes a creepy kind of sense. It’s beautifully drawn; the story weaves along between modern-day (full-colour art) and flashbacks to various points in the past (black and white and red all over). I am going to go reread it, once I am done posting this.

But beyond that, it feels thoughtful in a way that comics about characters like this–characters that are like how Madder Red started out, I mean, he’s quite different in the modern day setting–usually don’t, and for “usually don’t” read “never have”.

Series was apparently cancelled after enough comics to make two graphic novels. I am saddened by this, but… I guess it ups the odds of being able to convince other people to read the whole thing?

[1] Dead kids. Lots of dead kids. And dead women. (He hurt and killed woman and kids by preference.) And dead cops. And along the way, dead cats. His backstory rap sheet is drawn in in relatively few pages, and remains the kind of thing which is jaw-droppingly violent in a way I cannot recall having previously seen in comics.

View all my reviews

Post-apocalyptic vs post… well, post-something-else.

By Thibault Fischer; click for a better look.
By Thibault Fischer; click for a better look.

A while back, I got into a discussion with someone about post-apocalyptic settings, and they referred to A Handmaid’s Tale as post-apocalyptic. It didn’t seem to meet the definition, but I didn’t have a chance to sit down and actually hammer out what I thought the definition was until now.

I think (and this is possibly heavily influenced by what I currently take for granted) a post-apocalyptic setting has two elements; an apocalyptic event[1], and a destruction of the larger social infrastructure. That might be because there are too few people left to sustain it, because the roads were ruined in the earthquake and roads are kind of essential, because the things that have lovely Victorian clothes and far too many teeth are coming through every fifteen hours and twenty minutes[2] and it’s completely shot everyone’s focus to hell… For whatever reason, the larger social infrastructure is gone.

(By the way, the Fractured anthology has some very good post-apocalyptic stories. Just saying. Also you can currently see it on my GoodReads feed, down in the widget corner.)

If you get an apocalyptic event without a destruction of the social infrastructure, then what you have is either a reconstruction setting or a dystopia, depending on how people reacted. (This is how I’d classify A Handmaid’s Tale or 1984 if they’d been precipitated by an apocalyptic event[3]. This is also how I’d classify Deadlands, actually, with a side-order of monsters so deep in the shadows that almost no-one knows that there’s been an apocalyptic event.) There’s an apparently stable and effective government operating on a federal level over a huge territory; if that is post-apocalyptic, it’s so far post-apocalyptic that the apocalypse has become irrelevant.

I don’t think a reconstruction setting needs to have that large or effective a government, mind. I’d call Fallout: New Vegas more reconstruction than post-apocalyptic, with the world starting to knit itself together again, and the territories claimed by the various factions certainly aren’t continent-spanning.

(Also, I will just note that I still have a spare Steam copy of F:NV to give away, because I collect them expressly for that purpose.)

If you get the destruction of the social infrastructure without an apocalyptic event, then what you have is… well, it’s rather cynical, and I can’t think of cases where I’ve actually seen it. But if it doesn’t have an apocalyptic event to have happened after then it’s by definition not post-apocalyptic, dammit.

Just some thoughts, I guess. Feels good to get them down, even if I’m not sure where they’re going yet.

[1] I am absolutely willing to count slow or soft events as apocalyptic–total economic collapse, widespread drought or famine, humanity becoming sterile[4], etcetera. Doesn’t have to be bombs or plague.
[2] I’m short-changing Bob Leman’s “Window” horribly, here.
[3] I personally wouldn’t classify the event precipitating the Republic of Gilead’s creation as apocalyptic, but I understand that if you find the story focuses closely enough on the US, you can consider it to be so.
[4] See [3]; if you turn the narrative focus from “things potentially affected by an apocalypse” down to the narrower focus of “humanity”, you can tell an apocalyptic story even when the vast majority of life on earth will be fine. See also “There Will Come Soft Rains“, and yes, that was a deliberate link to the poem and not the story.