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TV Tropes Monday: Walking Tanks


 

Tweet of the Day: Doggie Keepsake 

When the giant robot craze started in Japan in the 1960s, the first robots were essentially gigantic robotic super heroes, a Japanese version of Superman but with missiles, photonic rays and piloted by teenagers with strange hairdos. In reaction to that, other animated shows, went the “real robot” route, where in the machines were treated as mass produced no different than say, fighter planes, and usually went up in flames just as readily. Only the superb skills of their pilots (and a heavy dose of plot armor) kept the hero from a fiery death. In reaction to that, American and British tabletop game designers countered with Walking Tanks, giant robots loaded with armor, heavy weapons, and ponderous gate. These were not more realistic than their Japanese counterparts, but seemed ever grittier while they turned fast robot duels into tactical matches that exploited terrain and superior unit tactics.

These trends might be influenced by history, especially the way the Japanese and Americans approached war equipment during WWII. Japanese aircraft were light, with long range, and heavy guns. Capable Japanese pilots flew circles around their slower enemies and delivered precise blows with a combination of cannon and machine guns. American fighters heavy machine guns, armor to protect the pilot, and self-sealing tanks that lower the chance of an explosion. Tanks on both sides followed a similar pattern, although the American Sherman tank was considered a medium tank at best in the Europe, in the Pacific it out performed the few Japanese tanks in every category.

That doesn’t mean that the these three types never mixed. Some fast mecha shows also featured slower ground units with heavier fire power, but not necessarily superior armor. At the same time, the tank on legs may look invisible until an infantry man, helicopter, or plane hits them in the right spot. And even fast mechs in space ended up being rather slow and ponderous on the ground. It was and still is up to the writer to decide which type or mix of type better fits their story.

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Space for Rent: Separating the Artist from their Art


Sometimes you can not separate one from the other so what are you suppose to do about it? I discuss my take on the situation below:

 

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Writers: When Writing About Mythological Gender/Sex


 

 

Tweet of the Day: The Complexities of Trans Gerudo Town

Remember that in most traditions, the Deities/Gods are pansexual for a variety of reasons:

1. They were the first beings at or before the creation of the universe. In order for the creation to make sense, the deities need to be flexible in a multiplicity of forms and that includes sex and gender.

2. Deities are metaphysical representation of concrete and abstract concepts. Most deities represent both a Chthonic  (an earth/nature) aspect as well as aspect of civilization. So deities of fertility, love, and sex embody multiple aspects of human gender/sexuality.

3. They are metaphysical beings that simply do NOT conform (although they tend to enforce) gender/sexual norms.

4. Sexual norms change over time and are different from culture to culture in ways that do not fit the Victorian/Modern/Western ideas/ideals of sex and gender. Some cultures practiced prostitution as part of religious rituals, others allowed and even encouraged homosexual behavior on the part of the young adults and yes even pedophilia (as disgusting as it is to us, for obvious reasons). Sexual mores do not follow a straight line of decline/improvement, they simply reflect the realities of any given society at any given time.

5. Also remember that all mythology is, for a lack of better term, fan fiction. We only have the accounts from second, third and even fourth hand writers and those writings will reflect contradicting concepts based on the those writing the surviving accounts.


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TV Tropes Monday: New Neo City


 

Tweet of the Day:  A Spell for You

 

Your colony ship lands in a virgin world and your crew is ready to create the first settlement upon it. But what should you call it? Do you name it after the leader of your star nation? Perhaps use the name of your significant other? Oh, no, you will name it after your favorite place in your home world! But you don’t want settlers to confuse the two so you name it New Neo City! 

Ironically there is nothing new about naming a city the New Something, just look at New York, or New Brunswick, or New Mexico…well you get the idea. If you are a science fiction writer you will switch New for Neo (the mean the same thing), because Neo is latin and latin sounds cool. Works just as well in fantasy settings, although the tendency there is to append the name to a city born out of the ashes of an old one or simply name the newer part of the expanding capital the New City, which of course makes the older part, the Old City (duh!)

As seen above, this trope is strongest in science fiction, perhaps because so many places in the Americas follow this naming convention and since many authors model space exploration of distant planets after the “discovery” of these continents by European explorers it follows that in the future human explorers would name cities, colonies, and even entire planets after old Earth locals. Makes it easy to introduce audiences to new locales through reference to old ones. Want a glamorous city full of art and architecture, call it New Paris. If your city is a the center of high-tech commerce, then New Tokyo might fit, and so on. It also inserts a sense of history, since in order to have a New City, you need an Old City somewhere, even if the old one lies in ruins in of a long forgotten world.


 

 

 

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TV Tropes Monday: Cassette Futurism


 

Tweet of the Day: The Ghost Veil 

Welcome to Y-398X.

Communicate across the Known Space through our proprietary PlanetServe system that provides vid-phone, electronic mail, and fax support to all our customers for the low price of 1crd per hour (+inter-systems fees).

Listen to the latest synth-hits in your portable High Density Micro-CD system that can carry a whooping 80 megabytes of data per disk!

Play the latest generation of ultra realistic 16-bit graphics virtual reality mega game consoles!

Download the newspaper every morning on you 4800 baud color fax and print up to date stock reports on your color dot matrix printer!

Wait…what?

This is suppose to be the 40th Century? Yes it is, if you wrote your story in the last quarter of the 2oth century or at least anywhere from 1975 to 1990. Then again, you have an aging population (ahem!) that is now stuck in a nostalgia kick and likes to reminisce about the cool things we expected to have today (I’m still waiting for my jetpack). Either way, you have been struck by Cassette Futurism. Excellent examples of this trend are the Alien franchise, Star Wars (specially Rogue One), sprite based games (originals or newer indie tittles) and anything from the original cyberpunk explosion such as anime, books or movies.

A clear reminder that science fiction is not about accurately predicting the future but a mirror into a present forever slipping into the past in a current of never ending time.

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TV Tropes Monday: Expospeak Gag


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Tweet of the Day: Kittens, Just Kittens

Today we will write about a literary device commonly employed in media, such as, but not limited to, movies, television, books and video games. This literary device serves to explain to the audience a key feature of the setting construction, such as the inner workings of said setting fictitious magical system or the speculative theory behind faster than light travel. When such explanatory device serves to set up a humorous situation it is called an Exospeak Gag.

Wwo, still with me? Because that was doozy! Essentially, whenever a character goes into a lengthy description about a thing or a situation where a few common words would do, you have this trope. Very common in sci-fi and related stories, specially by The Professor or their equivalent. Also common in military themed stories but that is because the military loves their jargon. Take for example the military alphabet.

A-Alpha

B-Bravo

C-Charlie

And so on.

You can imagine the possibilities for jokes such as, Sierra Hotel India Tango!  Usually the setup to the gad is a jargon filled statement which people who are familiar with the jargon will get first and the punchline is the every day words the jargon set up. Of course, like any gag or trope, it can go horribly wrong in a variety of ways:

  • Abuse: A character or characters use this way to much, slowing down the narrative.
  • Get the expospeak wrong: The technical terms either don’t make sense or are the wrong ones. People who know groan, those that don’t just scratch their heads.
  • The gag crashes on landing: Simply put the required delivery doesn’t work, making the whole thing a groan worthy non-starter.

So thread with care creator of speculative fiction about future events or those set in alternate realities to our own. This is one sure way to crash and/or burn.

 

 

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TV Tropes Monday: Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future


Alien: Isolation

Tweet of the Day: Screaming for Vengeance

Have you ever watched an old sci-fi movie, even a classic like Star Wars and thought,”Wait a minute, computers don’t look like that!”

Welcome to Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future!

The obvious answer is that movies like Star Wars, Blade Runner, and Alien (and its sequel) were made at a time when, while home electronics existed, such as video game consoles and home computers, not even the most powerful supercomputers at the time could project smooth round shapes, let alone animated 3D models (outside of wireframe vector graphics). Fully rendered 3d consumer graphics would not reach Western homes until the second part of the 1990s and they looked something like this:

Virtua On screengrab from the SEGA Saturn, 1995

Virtua On screengrab from the SEGA Saturn, 1995

Very blocky by today standards. In fact, most consumer computers, be they PCs, home computers, or video game consoles could display text or graphics but not a lot of both. So either games had lots of text but few graphical flourishes or they had very colorful characters and backgrounds with little or no text. The reasons go beyond just the power of the processors at the time. Storage media had a lot to do with it as well. The switch from solid state or magnetic media to optical media allowed for bigger software packages and improved graphics. In fact, movies like TRON, set in an virtual world inside a computer network (a form of the internet, although it was not called that way at the time) relied on hand drawn animation with a handful of computer graphics for a few shots.

Today movies shower us with bright displays full of fast moving graphics and animations, but these exist not for the benefit of the characters in the fiction, but the viewers since a) it allows to convey a lot of information in a few frames, b) it fits their expectations of what the future would look like. However, most business and military applications, even today lack the kind of focus on graphic fidelity you find in modern games. The first reason is cost. If you need 100 machines to run basic business applications such as word processors, spreadsheets and data base software, why would you spend upwards of $1,000 per machine, when a $400 machine can do all that and still run the most graphically demanding software the machine would need, a web browser, with ease.

Military users are even more limited. It takes years to set the requirements and acquire the equipment, equipment that needs to operate under the types of strains that would nuke your iPad in two. So while these systems are digital, in some cases they are so streamlined in function that they work like analog systems and years out of date compared to their commercial competitors.

And then you have the odd case of sequels to the very movies above. Going back to the well decades after the original means attempting to emulate the look and feel of the earlier iterations. That means paying careful attention to such details as computer displays otherwise your prequel is going to look more advanced that product that canonically precedes.

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