What We Talk About When We Talk About Sexy Robots

Speculative fiction is, at its best, a tool for presenting complex concepts in easily relatable packages. From Star Trek modelling a post-racial world for 60s audiences, to Alien Nation and District 9 discussing immigration and integration and prejudice, to Battlestar Galactica's attempts to reconcile faith and science, and its explorations of artificial longevity and serial incarnation, good science fiction, meaningful speculative fiction, has always tried to do something with its premise beyond the merely spectacular.

Ex Machina is very good science fiction, indeed.

A lovely alternate poster, courtesy of Francesco Francavilla


Must See TV, Indeed!

I've talked about The Expanse, before; a book series, written by James S. A. Corey, that deals with intersecting storylines surrounding events that begin with the disappearance of a wealthy dilettante and the destruction of a cargo ship, and ends with... well, given that it's a still-ongoing series, and given what's happened in the series up until this point, it's hard to say where it's going to end.  Though given how quickly things spiral out of control once it really gets going, it's safe to say that it's certainly not going to end with anything that looks all that much like where we started.  The Expanse is brilliant, it's massive, it's detail oriented without being impenetrable, and it's vast without losing track of those all-important human relationships.  It's definitely one of the best book series I've read in a long time.

And now, it's one of the best television shows I've seen in a long time, too.


The Fandom Re-Awakens

Really, is there anything else I could write about for my grand re-entry into the blogging world?

That's right. We're going to talk about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

(The film will now pause for ten minutes while the audience applauds wildly.)
Although I could, of course I could, I'm going to restrain myself from talking about the movie in relation to the history of Star Wars; the prequels, the old Expanded Universe, all those sorts of things. I absolutely will go into those issues at some point, because good heavens is there ample fodder for discussion there! But it feels appropriate to start with the movie, not as the obliteration of nearly twenty-five years of continuity (that's right, I count from the Thrawn Trilogy; suck it, Splinter of the Mind's Eye!) or the rectification of the poor choices and missed opportunities of the now-decade-old prequel trilogy, but as nothing more or less than a movie in its own right. Because ultimately, it has to stand and fall as that.

So, The Force Awakens. Is it any good?


Gamification - If You're Not Using It, You're Not Trying!

One of the most interesting developments in the last few years in creative circles has been the increasing ability to weave non-traditional concepts through the metric of gaming. Rather than simply being a platform in which player intention is irrelevant and the outcome is a purely binary win/loss states, gaming has started to demonstrate the ability to expand storytelling beyond the limits necessarily imposed by purely linear works like oral or written storytelling.


For Christmas, Give Your Enemies ALL the Bullets!

Games Workshop is feeling festive this December, but in its own way; rather than just giving gifts, it's decided to offer you the chance to buy them.  How generous!

But seriously.  They're doing an 'Advent Calendar' for December, with each day offering up a new digital download for purchase.  The downloads are in the $4-$5 dollar range, just right for an impulse purchase.  December 3rd's was of note for me, because it contained a new Tau Empire formation, one that just so happened to match exactly the contents of a large box set GW just recently put up for sale.

How convenient...

The Firebase Support Cadre has to contain an XV104 Riptide and two squads of three XV88 Broadsides, though the drones are optional.  It costs no additional points, and curiously, can be taken in addition to Allied forces, without requiring the player to run a core Tau force; you could, if you wanted (and could somehow find the points for it all), run a Marine army, with Inquisitor warlord, Allied with Imperial Guard, backed up by a Firebase Support Cadre.  40K is getting weird, guys.


And Not A Single Lens Flare, Anywhere!

Almost Human, a science-fiction detective series on Global, premiered last week with a two-day event. Last night saw the third episode air, and at this point it feels safe to draw a certain number of conclusions. Pilots can be rocky, but a couple of episodes should give you a good idea of at least the bones of a series, especially one as relatively straight-forward as a buddy cop action/drama piece. Shows can get better, of course, or collapse mid-season, but usually they begin as they mean to go on, until the studio declares they're not allowed to go on any longer.

And I am happy to say that Almost Human has begun almost perfectly.


Relics of Treasure - Week 9

Round 9: 2500 pts
Graham (Grey Knights)

Grey Knight Brother Captain
Callidus Assassin
10 x Grey Knight Strike Squad w/Psybolt, 2 x Psycannon
10 x Grey Knight Interceptor Squad w/Psybolt, 2 x Psycannon
5 x Grey Knight Terminators w/Incinerator

You may have noticed that Graham was fielding slightly less than the full 2500 points. The reason for this is because it was decided that, for the league's grand finale, my Tau would seek to disrupt the Grey Knights' hold on the orbiting space station, a tile Graham had held without interruption, under constant challenge, for three weeks in a row. The space station is a series of interlocked corridors, like a game of Space Hulk, rather than an open field, and since the internal space is so much smaller the games were likewise scaled down. For the final week, it was only a thousand points, with the further restriction of no vehicles, and nothing that couldn't physically fit inside the corridors (so no Riptides or Dreadknights or Dreadnoughts). On top of this, the peculiarities of the station had a number of effects, including prohibiting Deep Strike, Infiltrate or Outflank.

Relics of Treasure - Week 8

Round 8: 2300 points
Anton (Space Wolves)

Wolf Lord w/Thunderwolf, Artificier Armour, Power Fist, Storm Shield
5 x Wolf Guard w/5 x Thunderwolf, 5 x Storm Shield, 3 x Power Axe
Rune Priest
10 x Grey Hunters
10 x Grey Hunters w/2 x Meltagun, Drop Pod
10 x Grey Hunters w/2 x Meltagun, Drop Pod
10 x Grey Hunters w/2 x Meltagun, Drop Pod
6 x Long Fangs w/5 x Lascannon
Dreadnought w/Twin-Linked Lascannon, Missile Launcher
Land Raider

Yet again I found myself going up against the forces of the Imperium, and for the first time since week two there were wolves on the far side of the table from me. Anton's forces were drop-heavy, as is common amongst the wolves of Black Knight Games, but with three heavy support choices and a pack of wolf-riders, he had a strong on-table presence from the beginning. I expected a tough fight, though I was hoping it wouldn't be quite as tough as the last time I went up against the wolves.

Relics of Treasure - Week 7

Round 7: 2100
Hammer and Anvil

Thom Morden (Chaos Daemons/Chaos Space Marines)

Great Unclean One w/Mastery Level 3, Greater Reward, Exalted Reward
10 x Plaguebearers
10 x Plaguebearers
15 x Flesh Hounds
Soul Grinder w/Daemon of Nurgle, Phlegm Bombardment
Daemon Prince w/Mark of Nurgle, Mastery Level 3, 2 x Greater Reward, Daemonic Flight, Warp-Forged Armour
Daemon Prince w/Mark of Nurgle, Mastery Level 3, 2 x Greater Reward, Daemonic Flight, Warp-Forged Armour
Chaos Lord w/Burning Brand of Skalathrax, Mark of Nurgle
7 x Plague Marines w/2 x Plasma Pistol, Chaos Rhino, Havoc Launcher
Heldrake w/Baleflamer

Having missed out on one of the league nights owing to an unfortunate personal issue, I was lucky to get a make-up game in against Thom on the weekend. I wasn't all that eager to throw down with the daemons again, particularly that brick wall of a Great Unclean One, but beggars can't be choosers. And it's not like Thom isn't a good guy, so a game with him, even a loss, is pleasant enough. Plus, I had a certain new weapon up my sleeve...