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Rogue Blades Presents: Who Was Your First Hero?

Rogue Blades Presents: Who Was Your First Hero?

Kirk-Spock-McCoyDo you remember your first hero? Any kind of hero. It could have been a hero from a movie or a book or a television show, even a hero from real life.

As a child of the 1970s, one might think Luke Skywalker was my first hero, but I would turn eight years old a month after the original Star Wars was released in theaters, and by then I already had plenty of heroes.

Re-runs of the original Star Trek TV show from the 1960s were still airing, and I watched every one of them. Of the crew of the Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk seemed the most heroic of the figures presented to us viewers, or at least he stood in the most traditional of the heroic modes.

Then there was the Six Million Dollar Man, starring actor Lee Majors from 1973 to 1978 on television. For those not familiar with the series, Majors played U.S. astronaut Steve Austin who was seriously injured in an accident. Not only did Steve survive his accident, but the government decided, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” And they did. Steve got some bionic legs and an arm and an eye. He fought crime. And Bigfoot. It was awesome.

Some might not consider Godzilla a hero, but by the time of my childhood in the ’70s, Godzilla was mainly a good guy, so he was a hero of sorts to many of us. For better or worse, my first Godzilla movie was Godzilla vs. Megalon, a film sometimes not remembered fondly by Godzilla fans. Either way, I was maybe five years old when my dad drug me into an old downtown theater to witness the spectacle of this movie, and again, I have to say it was awesome.

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Pop Dungeon: A Star Wars Pops Game

Pop Dungeon: A Star Wars Pops Game

SWPop_OneEDITEDMy son’s birthday is December 22nd. We’ve made sure that Sean, who just turned twelve, gets two events, and two sets of presents: we don’t combine it with Christmas. So, he’s pretty much buried in new ‘stuff’ for a week. This year, the day before his birthday, I took him and a friend to see The Rise of Skywalker. And that set him off on a Star Wars Pops buying-binge. He had a half dozen within a week. It quickly went up to eight, where it’s in a holding pattern.

Sean decided he wanted to be a Dungeon Master, and he created a new game to pay with me: Pop Dungeon. He pulled an oversized red die we had from some toy bin somewhere (it’s not from any game), and as a backup, he set aside two regular six-sided dice, though we rarely use those.

Grabbing a mish-mash of items from around his room, including a rope, a big AT-AT, some plastic apples, a Transformer, a tank, a baseball cap, and more and he placed them all around his room. Then he put six of the Pops  on his school desk, and proceeded to Dungeon Master me through a Pop Dungeon adventure!

Each Turn gives me two options: “Fight or run away.” “Search, or heal.” “Try to fix the jeep, or walk.”

I roll the ridiculously bouncy, giant red die. A 1 is catastrophic. 2 is pretty bad. 3 is not too bad. 4 means I accomplished what I picked to do. 5 or 6 means I succeeded with some type of bonus effect. It is RIDICULOUS how many times I roll a 1. I’m going to record it for one session some time, because it is waaaaaaaaay beyond statistically improbable!

There are a lot of Turns. And he gets to roll the die for his guys after two of my Turns. Even if I string together a couple successes in a row, a 1 or 2 (or a couple of them) knocks the party for a loop. The first couple sessions went an hour-plus, so I had to shorten them up.

Sometimes, the party members are killed and some aspect of the force reanimates them and they are on his team. I think in one adventure, Captain Phasma was killed from my party, then I had to kill her twice more when she was brought back on the other team. Though, Sean’s been thrashing me so soundly, he hasn’t had to do that lately.

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The Rise of Skywalker: A GREAT Ending to the Star Wars Saga

The Rise of Skywalker: A GREAT Ending to the Star Wars Saga

SW_RisePosterEDITEDI was ten years old in the summer of 1977, and my dad took me to Cinema East that summer to see Star Wars (A New Hope). Cinema East, then on Broad Street in Whitehall, but now long gone, had 70 MM screenings. I think it was the biggest screen in town.

Forty-two years and seven movies later this past Saturday, one day before my son turned twelve, I took him to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I have liked some of the series, and the ‘extra’ movies, and the animated shows. I didn’t like others. But I can value that generations have been able to share the Star Wars universe. That’s something powerful in our increasingly shallow culture.

I’m going to write a short, relatively spoiler-free post. I liked The Force Awakens, even though it seemed rather unoriginal. But after the second trilogy, which I didn’t care for, I was happy to enjoy a Star Wars movie again. And then came The Last Jedi. Had I not taken my son to see it, I probably would have either fallen asleep, or left before the end. It was a dull, plodding movie. And I feared the saga was going to limp to its final end.

But I’ve approached every Star Wars film with an open mind. I don’t have an agenda, or any strong feelings about it. I watched the first three movies, read a few books like Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.  But I wasn’t overly big into Star Wars. I was more interested in fantasy than science fiction. I’d rather read Michael Moorcock, Terry Brooks, or Terry Pratchett, than dig deeper into Star Wars.

And The Rise of Skywalker was an excellent ending to the epic cycle. I don’t think they could have done a whole lot better in putting the original movie series to bed. It’s a movie about hope, redemption, courage, perseverance, honor, and commitment. It’s cool in our Dark Knight era of superhero movies (a genre created for kids and totally taken over by adults who really need to lighten up and examine their lives a bit), to denigrate uplifting, feel-good stories.

Rise is a return to the values, themes and messages of the original trilogy. It brings closure to a story begun over four decades ago. And it does it in a way that lets the movie-goer walk out of the theater satisfied. Especially someone who has been watching Star Wars for decades.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Star Wars

The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Star Wars

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The Balrog Award, often referred to as the coveted Balrog Award, was created by Jonathan Bacon and first conceived in issue 10/11 of his Fantasy Crossroads fanzine in 1977 and actually announced in the final issue, where he also proposed the Smitty Awards for fantasy poetry. The awards were presented for the first time at Fool-Con II at the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas on April 1, 1979. The awards were never taken particularly seriously, even by those who won the award. The final awards were presented in 1985. The Film Hall of Fame Awards were not presented the first year the Balrogs were given out, being created in 1980. The SF Film Hall of Fame was given to two films each in its first and final years.

George Lucas’s film Star Wars isn’t just a film, it is a cultural phenomenon that has much longer tendrils than most people realize. Star Wars and its sequels have touched all aspects of film making, marketing, computing, culture, and more. A list of the companies that were founded because of Star Wars’s success is absolutely staggering. Obviously, there was LucasArts, ILM, Lucasfilm Animation, Skywalker Sound, Pixar, THX, Kerner Optical, and dozens more. The massive footprint of Star Wars makes it a little difficult to write about in the same way other articles in the series are structured.

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The Last Jedi: The Creature of the Lagoon Trashes the Toxic Tropes (Porg is a Verb)

The Last Jedi: The Creature of the Lagoon Trashes the Toxic Tropes (Porg is a Verb)

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“Don’t try to porg me!”

(Spoilers after the cut. But seriously, if that matters to you, look at the date! You should have seen the movie by now.)

I liked The Last Jedi.

We liked The Last Jedi: my wife, my 14yr old son, my 10 yr old daughter, and me, I liked it.

It wasn’t prose Military Science Fiction, so we didn’t hold it to the standards of a Tanya Huff or Jack Campbell novel. Nor was it Mundane SF, so those bombs didn’t bother us. Rather, we sat down and enjoyed it the way we also enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy.

Last Jedi Bleep This
“BLEEP this! BLEEP this also! And this in particular. BLEEP this guy…!”

It was less EC Tubb than the last instalment, and more (according to my son) like an RPG campaign that kept changing GMs and (so I reckoned) flipflopping between Traveller and FATE.  My daughter loved seeing girls having adventures (though, being 10, she rather takes this for granted), liked the light saber fights, and also the porgs. (“Porg” is now a verb in our house, as in, “Don’t try to porg me into giving you more chocolate ice cream.”)

I’ll admit I also enjoyed the very thing that seems to have upset so many knee-jerk critics: it went through the tropes the way the Creature of the Lagoon goes through scenery and people in that hilarious NSFW mashup on YouTube:

BLEEP this! BLEEP this also! And this in particular. BLEEP this guy…!

Mysterious But Significant Parentage went up in a puff of wasted fan theories. As did Dark Lord, Wise Mentor, Heroic Sacrifice Saves the Day, Ancient Wisdom, Epic Redemption.  (“BLEEP this guy, BLEEP those books, BLEEP in particular this tree…“)

The movie even trashed some of the things fans mock about Star Wars. The Jedi really aren’t the good guys. Darth Emo really is a boy in a stupid mask.

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GenCon 2017, Pt. 2: Science Fiction Edition

GenCon 2017, Pt. 2: Science Fiction Edition

starfinderScience fiction themes were front and center at GenCon this year, in a way that surpasses what I have seen in previous years. Usually the science fiction games are almost entirely tied into existing property lines, like the various Star Wars miniature battle lines produced by Fantasy Flight Games. These were certainly present, but they were matched by new science fiction games that had an appeal independent of being tied to well-established and beloved properties.

I’ll dig into several of these games more deeply in future full reviews, but for now here are some high-level looks at some of the new science fiction-themed games and expansions from GenCon.

Starfinder

The release of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game was one of the central events of the convention, the science fiction/space fantasy game set in the distant future of Paizo’s Pathfinder universe. We’ve spoken about Starfinder previously (see here, here, and here). I’ve been enthusiastic about the prospect of this game since the day it was announced, so it’s a pleasure to see that its release was an astounding success. As Erik Mona of Paizo explained to me, the company had looked at their past records and brought more copies of the Starfinder Core Rulebook than the number of any previous book they’ve ever released at GenCon … and it sold out in less than 7 hours. (The PDF, however, is available through Paizo.com for only $9.99!)

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Rogue One: I Am One With the Force and the Force Is With Me

Rogue One: I Am One With the Force and the Force Is With Me

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A most excellent hero for this movie

When I was eight years old, some friends of the family gave me The Star Wars Storybook. Back in 1979, there was just one movie (and a confusing, once-seen Christmas special), and the action figures.

Everything I could learn of the larger universe of the movie that had changed my life was in that book. I wanted to know about the rebels, the past of Darth Vader and Kenobi, and who were these alliance pilots and Grand Moff Tarkin?

Some questions were answered in Empire, and Return of the Jedi, and others I got through comic books (I really enjoyed the Marvel Star Wars comic series started in 1977). And of course, we have the Jar-Jar infected prequels, which, with just enough denial, can be watchable for the light saber fights, or shown to children, who love them.

But it was only yesterday, when I saw Rogue One, that I saw the world I’d glimpsed when pressing my face against the glass as an eight-year old. I watched Rogue One with my brother, his eleven-year old son, and my own eleven-year old. And I really enjoyed it, in a complex way.

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Review: The Force Awakens (and its Roots in Vintage Space Opera)

Review: The Force Awakens (and its Roots in Vintage Space Opera)

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The Force Awakens is a movie we can be proud of. We can point to and say, “This is why we read books with lasers and rocket ships on the cover.”

(Mild spoilers below the cut.)

The John Williams theme pounded out, the yellow opening crawl rolled up the screen and I wept a little.

I was eight when I saw the Star Wars in the cinema. Now my daughter was eight and beside me seeing the new one. Full circle. A real Country and Western moment.

The word was that this was not the debacle that the prequels were, but a proper SciFi movie where Stuff Happens and other Stuff Gets Blown Up.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

This was Star Wars as it should have always been, with The Empire Strikes Back as a benchmark, a grown-up family movie with few concessions to the younger audience… no jarring Jar Jar Binx… no slapstick farce, just comic moments arising from the plot. Even the stupid looking beach-ball droid makes a kind of sense.

So we can be proud of The Force Awakens. We can point to and say, “This is why we read books with lasers and rocket ships on the cover.”

It’s also playing our tune. The “we” of “our” being fans not just of Star Wars, but of Vintage and Pulp Science Fiction, and of Science Fiction in general.

Let me explain, but behind the Spoiler Shield (though the spoilers are oblique).

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