The Superversive in Games: Final Fantasy XV and the Power of Brotherhood

Final Fantasy XV took a decade to get to market. Its time in Development Hell is legendary, even for a business notorious for long delays and other production problems. When it arrived this year, the hype train had built up quite a bit of steam and its demo had shown some serious promise of both fun gameplay and a story that you will invest in. I won’t be talking gameplay here; that’s for another venue. Here, I’m talking story.

Is the story in this game good, as it “well-done”? Yes, to the point where some players who really ought to know better actually miss its key points due to their subtlety. I won’t name the guilty here, but one woman who finished the game had a ranting melt-down during her livestream while the credits rolled because she couldn’t get why the hero and his companions were so choked up at the end.

It’s Superversive because of two elements: the story, brick-to-face in its obviousness, is about sustaining and rebuilding the fundamental cultural institutions against a wicked enemy bent on their destruction. Your character is the crown prince, and his story involves undergoing the changes necessary to attain the maturity that a true and faithful king must possess to successfully fulfill his duty to his people and country. His companions are life-long friends, with him through thick and thin, even unto the end of all things.

The game’s theme features the power, strength, and necessity of brotherhood in the development of boys into men- such that the cultivation of virtue (without which overcoming the villain is impossible, thematically) is difficult, if not impossible, without it. If I recommend anything, it’s for fathers to play this game with their sons, because there’s something so strongly inclined to the male experience that it would be a waste to not take the opportunity to use this story to show what being a man is about- and that you should not do it alone.

Superversive? ABSOLUTELY! (The gameplay is solid for the franchise, so don’t worry there.) And once you hear Florence Welch sing “Stand By Me” at the end, you will never forget it. Best use of licensed music in a videogame this year, by far, and once you get to the end you will understand why. Recommended. Totally.

DragonCon 2017: Keeping the Peace: Liaison Characters in UF

Whether striving to improve communication & relations between supernatural & human communities, or between different groups within the supernatural world, our panelists’ characters often find themselves in the position of peacemaker.Panelists: Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Delilah S. Dawson, Kim Harrison, Nancy Holzner, Faith Hunter.

This is another one I couldn’t get into. Because, again, the hall was WWWAAAYYYY too small for Jim Butcher ALONE, nevermind all of the other authors.

And the audio is a little finicky at times. The farther away you get from the camera, the less you can hear people. Even with headphones, you might want to edge the volume higher and higher. That’s all.

amzn.to/2wF41P2

Signal Boost: New Fantasy From Peter Grant!

New fantasy from the excellent Peter Grant!

After decades of peace, war is threatening the Kingdom of Avranche. Its old foes are stirring, in a new alliance with darker powers. Black wings bring death and torture in the night.

Owain, former King’s Champion, hears rumors of sorcery. Visiting the grave of his sword brother, he stumbles into a deadly raid, and uncovers coded orders for a larger plot.

The kingdom’s enemies know Owain is now their greatest danger. He must race against time to find and deal with them… before they deal with him!

See on Amazon

Signal Boost: Writing Speculative Fiction

Writing Speculative Fiction:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror


Teacher’s Edition and Student’s Edition
By Lelia Rose Foreman

A new resource for writers and homeschoolers a like.

This textbook develops an 18-week program designed to guide prospective students through creating their own speculative fiction story, that is, a science fiction, fantasy, or horror story. Designed for homeschoolers and small-school settings, this textbook draws on excerpts from dozens of speculative fiction authors and writing experts. It gives detailed information about genre, cultural world building, physical world building, plot, character, character arc, heroes, villains, sidekicks, bystanders, description, conflict and tension, editing and revising, “your first chapter,” voice, words and worldview, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Each chapter in the course contains exercises for students, including extra credit activities, in addition to guiding the creating of an individual short story.

The teacher’s edition includes a section on scope and sequence and contains answer keys.

This looks like a nice resource for homeschoolers and beginning writers. The work of many eminent speculative fiction writers appear within this work.

Teacher’s Edition

Student Edition

Eta Cancri review

Please welcome Xewleer to Superversive SF, he is a new reviewer and you can expect a lot more from him. His review is cross posted from his blog millennialking.wordpress.com

Spoilers! It’s a great book, and worth reading.


I just finished Eta Cancri by Russell May. It was, surprisingly for an author who was not on my radar before, an excellent read chock full of delicious theology. It was a treat, to be sure. The characters are living and breathing with distinct personalities. The descriptions are on point. The science is a good medium-hard, with just the right amount of give for philosophical and theological conversations the teeth they need to grow. Ah… that more stories which pride themselves on science and philosophy would take this route!

The book switches through various characters’ POV. My personal favorites were Ed and June, along with the AI Archie. Each one has a solid voice and drive that breathes life into this book more than could be expected. Indeed, books that switch perspective live and die on this sword. I could tell that the POV shifted through the author’s choices in word play, character focus and other hints almost instantly.

The conceit of the story, which involves demonic possession, bacteria and genetic modification, was well done and quite unique to this author from my experiences. Though I have experimented and read up on demonic possession and stories about it, this is the first time I’ve seen it used in such a broad and interesting way. Nothing triggered any sort of violation of the suspension of disbelief. It holds up the story incredibly well. This is dreadfully important in this genre as Russell did it. If the suspension of Disbelief is violated, then the entire book will fall over itself and the threads that he depends on to carry the story forward logically will be lost, unable to be gained back.

Though there is no part of the story I groaned at the reading of, I did feel fatigue about halfway through on chapter 3 or 4 (?). The story before and after focuses on multiple characters, the evil of the Demon Legion, the science, philosophy and theology mix and POV shifts. This middle bit has nothing that really sticks out too hard. The story sticks to Pierce the techno-everyman and doesn’t shift too much. There’s just too much dialogue and not enough cool stuff to give us a rest between theological questions. Not that I was exhausted by the questions, I just wish the heady brew was cut a little with soda. Even a bit where Ed deals with his crazy and preps for the ship coming in, or June sees something which heightens our horror at the actions of Legion would do much for the pacing and general interest. I’ll point out that Ed has no reason to not succumb or struggle with Legion’s influence and a decent POV could have been written comparing and contrasting his belief in Dame Fortune and the belief in God, which is touched upon later but not to my satisfaction.

I’ll point out that, theologically, what we call Dame Fortune is the Will of God. That the saved man has free will is not something I debate or question. I question how much Dame Fortune impugns it. (I use Dame Fortune as a conceit from the story. Mentally, I use the term ‘Fate’) Does a belief in Fortune change how free will operates as we continue in Christian Free Will or Willfulness Against God? I think that there might have been an excellent few points to be made there between Ed and Father Justinian, more than was done in story. Though, there is a sequel in the cliff hanger, and I will be purchasing it as soon as it comes out.

I also wanted a little more debate on the nature on Transhumanism. I am not fond of it, as I believe that the body has the critical mass to keep the soul ‘Human’ and that, at a certain point, the ‘I as I’ that is ‘You as you are’ becomes warped into something that could be described as ‘ME’ 2.0. Also, what is morality to someone who is neither permanent or baseline human? (Though those points are touched on) June seemingly has no contrast in character, but rather is June personality as June soul is June without much debate despite much lycanthropy. Various ideas are presented with authority, but I don’t feel it is earned. The matrons producing ubermenschen in the asteroid belts are not properly repudiated in a manner that I call an argument. Rather, it is just presented as wrong. I dig, but I’m really hoping for a similar thing to Ed in the sequel.

I’ve not gone into the plot because it’s quite simple. A colony goes dark and a ragtag group of cyborgs, everymen and mercenaries go to figure it out and cleanse with fire whatever’s in there. Just about right, really. You don’t need fancy pants intrigue for stuff like this. Most of the characters are moral, upright and probably one of the best portrayals of Christians I’ve seen in Science Fiction. I’m sorry John C. Wright, but sort of randomly turning Mickey the Witch into the Space Pope of the Seventh Humans because of his wife without a redemption scene just doesn’t compare to baptism after flamebroiling demonic abominations with improvised explosives created by a literal Biblical evil. But it’s different scopes. That scene doesn’t compare to the Cathedral of Luna in the 4th book of Count to Eschaton. Ahhhh it’s perhaps differences in scale. But I’d be very interested in talking with Russel May some time to break down what he believes and what his reasoning is.

I wanted MORE, if you could believe it. I find that I have a hard time reading philosophy directly, so I have a better time consuming it if its regurgitated through literature, especially when the author provides examples within the story to provide a more definite framework for the reader to investigate. It really does wonders for the most artistically inclined philosophers, who may not be able to as readily read the great works directly. Of course, this assumes the reader is able to properly manage things that are presented vs. their origin points. Counter and counter-counter is appreciated through the characters of Archie, Father Justinian and even Legion. Legion’s absolute Nihilism is well presented without the usual tropes in plain evidence. There’s always a fresh horror from him. His unfetteredness and nihilism make an excellent baseline for the ‘evil’ of the universe. Nihilism is a hell of a drug, kids, and leads to madness.

I also think the book is missing a carnival scene. But then again, I’m a sucker for them. I also wanted more crazy bomb stuff fight scene flip outs from Michaud and Lars, but ah.

The combat scenes are fresh, well done. The weapons properly treated with excellent extensions of characterization through them. The creativity that Russell displays drives the story forward with brazen steps. Lar’s and the rest of the characters’ spirituality treated so delicately as to be art. Ah! There are few flaws and many boons to reading this book!

Overall this book is mos defs a purchase soft-cover, maybe hard-cover kinda book. Sadly, there are only kindle copies available at this time. It is worth a read! It is SUPERVERSIVE. I hope with fervent prayer that we are coming to an era where the dominant voice in Sci-Fi is Christianity! If Russell May joins the luminaries of the Superversives, Castalia House and others, shall not the glory of God be expanded in this genre of atheists, science worshippers and deviants?  DEUS VULT!

Xewleer

I, even I, drink ink like wine.

Review: Writing Down the Dragon

Tom Simon’s “Writing Down the Dragon” is an excellent resource of essays, musings and research on Tolkien.

 

This body of essays covers a wide variety of elements that go into Lord of the Rings and related works. There are essays on Tolkien’s love of language, and linguistic feats involved in his works and characters. There is also a great deal of serious and deep thought on the nature of good and evil in these works. My personal favorite was the in-depth thought into the morality of Elves, Orcs and even Dragons.
Tom goes into an analysis of the morality of Elves, where they are superior beings, representing beauty and an unfallen state. He also goes into a detailed account of how they have changed from other Elves, the Elves and Fair Folk of myths before, and how innovate a chance Tolkien made. Both sorts of Elves, Tolkien’s, and the original myths, still shine most of the faerie folk of later literature, all too often lacking in depth are anything of the otherworldliness of the older Elves.

 

Orcs pose a significant moral question: can they be good? Since Morgoth who made the Orcs cannot create, only twist and warp that which is, Tom gives serious consideration to the morality of these accursed beings. His gives a serious study on neurology and psychopathy, and postulates that the Orcs may be the result to turn a whole people into psychopaths.

 

Dragons come off not so much as having morality, but being definitive of mental concepts. Smaug, for example, IS greed, and nothing more. Personally, I thought there was a great deal of pride and wrath there as well, and the corrupt old worm seemed to actually relish having someone to talk to (before he ate him, naturally). There is a great piece about the pet dragons of popular literature, and how likely the master/pet relationship would be reversed in any realistic telling. Examining the Asiatic dragons, he integrates myth and the philosophy of the far east to create a very believable nightmare scenario of a dragon empire.
Carefully thought out, deeply researched, and entertaining to read, this is an excellent addition for the Tolkien lover.

The Princess and the Goblin/ Curdie

(Originally posted at the Castalia House Blog)Princess-and-curdie

Part One Part Two

The Princess and the Goblin and its sequel The Princess and Curdie are quite different from the previous two books I’ve reviewed, in that they have strong characters and relatively well-crafted, engaging plots. They still have their weaknesses, and writers like Lewis, Chesterton and Tolkein far surpassed MacDonald in these aspects of writing, but these two books are a marked improvement. In some ways, they pair up like “The Golden Key” and Phantastes, in that the first book has children as the protagonists and a more child-friendly plot, and the second has adults (or near-adults) as the protagonists and many more mature themes and greater drama. The difference, of course is that in this case rather than merely exhibiting various parallels, the second is a genuine sequel to the first, and the protagonists are the same, only having grown up.

The worldbuilding in these two latter books is far more solid and consistent than in the former two. In “The Golden Key” and Phantastes, there is a normal human world in contact with a separate and a weird fairy world.

In The Princess and the Goblin, the goblins (also referred to as gnomes, kobolds or cobs) are former humanlike creatures who after harsh treatment by the human king in ages past retreated underground and have lived there ever since, over the generations becoming increasingly grotesque as well as cunning and bitter towards the humans and the king’s descendants in particular. The titular Princess Irene is the eight-year-old daughter of the current king, who due to her mother’s ill health had her moved from the palace to a large half-castle, half-farmhouse halfway up a mountain. He is frequently away from her on kingly business across his very large kingdom and a careful watch is kept on her to prevent the goblins from reaching her, so much so that in all her life she has never seen the night sky.

One day she manages to sneak away from her nurse into a distant corner of the half-castle, climbs its tower and discovers a mysterious magical grandmother figure, who reveals she is the princess’s great-great grandmother, and also named Irene, since the Princess was named after her. She is hundreds of years old and lives on pigeon’s eggs. No-one else in the house knows she is there (and as it turns out later, no-one else can see or hear her apart from the king).

A day or two later, the Princess and her nurse are out on a walk, but through the princess’ pleadings to go just a little further, they find themselves in the open after sundown, eventually hounded on many sides by goblins. They are rescued by the twelve-year-old son of a miner, Curdie, who shoos the goblins away with a rhyming song. (Being unable to sing themselves, they are repelled by the sound of singing, especially songs involving novel rhyming).

The goblins are somewhat comic villains, but they do present a genuine threat and are quite thoroughly fleshed out. They have relatively clearly laid out anatomical differences from humans that gives them different weak spots from human bodies, some of their perspectives flow directly from their anatomy, environment and day/night cycle, there is even a scandalous rumour among them about the anatomical results of interbreeding between goblins and humans, this aspect of the story feels almost science fictional.

Curdie and his father are often working down in the mines, occasionally working past sundown on the surface, at which time the goblins can be heard working on their own diggings, being nocturnal creatures One night, Curdie is down in the mines by himself and finds that the shaft he has been digging is right next to one of the goblins’ workings, so much so that he is able to overhear the conversation of a goblin family, in which they mention their anatomical weakness, as well as part of the diabolical plans they have for the humans. Curdie opens a small hole from his workings to theirs, and follows the family to a meeting with the Goblin king, where it is clear that the backup plan they have should their first plan fail, is to flood the mine that he and his father have been working. He tells his parents about the goblin plan and they start thinking about ways to foil it.

Several days later, Curdie goes out on various explorations of the goblin tunnels, trying to find out what their more immediate plan is, and on one of these missions he is captured by the goblin queen. Then comes one of the parts of the book for which it is famous, where the princess Irene comes and rescues Curdie instead of the other way around. This she does by following a magical thread given to her by her great great grandmother that only she can detect, which not only leads her directly to Curdie’s location but also shows her the way out. After leading Curdie to safety, she tries to introduce him to her grandmother, but he can’t see her or any of the beautiful furnishings of her room, and gets angry with the princess for making a fool out of him. I’m pretty sure this scenes inspired Lucy’s interactions with Aslan (and her siblings disbelieving her) in Prince Caspian.

There’s a lot more to the story, which ends with the Goblins’ plans being foiled and Curdie choosing the honest life of a miner over being made a member of the royal court, with both himself and the princess still being children. It’s an enjoyable and satisfying read, and fun for children.

The Princess and Curdie picks up a few years later, when both Curdie and Princess Irene are well into their teenage years. The princess left with the king and over the years Curdie has given in to cynicism. His hardened shell is broken through when he is teaching himself to use a bow and arrow and shoots down a pigeon, which as its life fades gives him a look that reminds him of the princess.

Distraught, he considers that perhaps this is one of the great-great grandmother’s pigeons and he seeks her out and finds her. She treats the pigeon, begins to teach him and gives him a test of obedience and wisdom. He passes the test and she invites him back to her tower, where she purifies Curdie’s hands in her magical fire and sends him on a mission to the king’s court. Curdie’s hands now have the power to tell whether someone is on a downward spiral towards becoming a beast, or are honest and good (this turns out to make some aspects of the story a little too easy and less satisfying).

He sets out on his journey, and reaches the capital, finding it full of arrogance and corruption, with many of the palace staff conspiring against the king, keeping him sick and confused through some sort of drugged (or perhaps poisoned) wine and trying to get him to sign a document that would abdicate all power to them. Curdie discovers the plot and together with the princess and the few loyal palace staff tries to rescue the king and salvage his kingdom, assisted by all manner of weird and wonderful creatures.

There are a great deal more little inspirational asides and poetical flourishes in the second book than the first, though not nearly as many as in Phantastes. There are a lot of fun things in this book, together with some aspects that don’t work quite as well, and an ending that is surprisingly downbeat. After saving the kingdom and eventually becoming king and queen as you would expect, they have no children of their own and leave no legacy behind. After they pass away, selfish and shortsighted kings take over and the kingdom eventually utterly destroys itself, disappearing from all human memory. It is an odd choice, perhaps MacDonald wanted to make sure that there would be no demand for more sequels, or perhaps he wanted to parallel the story of the last good king of Judah before the exile, who knows.

Anyway, I think the pair of them are worth a read, I might try reading them to my kids in the near future, and I have grown to appreciate some of Lewis’ admiration for the man and his work. When the rush of writing commitments has calmed, I’ll probably seek out some more of his work to try out.

I hope this little series of reviews has been as eye-opening to you all as it has been for me to explore this little corner of literature, which has proven to be a lot bigger on the inside than it appeared from the outside.