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Friday, 9 March 2018

Love and a sense of wonder

Unless you achieved full consciousness prior to 1977, it's hard to explain what science fiction was like back then. For one thing it was called SF not "sci-fi". And there was none of the Errol Flynn stuff we see today. Well, that's not quite true. There were throwbacks like E.C. Tubbs' Cap Kennedy series. Don Wollheim sent me a stack of those books back in the mid-70s when I'd made a slighting remark about space opera. Little did either of us know that the whole bloody field was about to be set back forty years by George Lucas.

SF was proper, you see. Interesting. Literate. Diverse. Unsettling. Brimming with wonder. I liked it because it stretched me more than the adventure stories I read as a kid. At its best it could boggle the mind and the imagination. The nearest we've got to that these days, outside of books, is Black Mirror.

That's why I like this Kickstarter, In Other Waters, a game by Gareth Martin in which a stranded xenobiologist explores an alien world. That sounds exactly like the kind of perfect science fictional setup that exists on the cusp between the awesome and terrifying infinitude of the cosmos and the all-conquering power of science and reason. Bleak and hopeful, if that makes sense.

The game is relationship-driven, which immediately ticks another box for me, and as well as the game itself backers can get a book detailing the strange lifeforms of this alien world.
I'm slightly wary of recommending In Other Waters because the Kickstarter campaigns I like tend to plummet like Icarus. But Cultist Simulator did okay, so maybe the jinx is broken. This one has a week to run, so if you grok grown-up SF you know where to find it.

And while we're talking crowdfunding, another project you might want to take a look at is Chernobyl, Mon Amour, "a roleplaying game of love and radioactivity set in the Zone of Alienation". I couldn't resist that and plonked my money down right away, so hopefully the Morris Effect won't scupper it. This one is by Finnish designer Juhana Pettersson, who was inspired by a Ukrainian urban myth about a criminal who fled into the Zone and became so radioactive that the authorities had to leave him there.
"You know that there is no return from the Zone. Your crimes are such that society will no longer accept you, and the only thing you have left is the possibility of a new life in the radioactive forest. As you settle into the Zone and meet its inhabitants, you start to yearn for something more. You want love."
Chernobyl, Mon Amour is on Indiegogo, but only for a couple more weeks.


  1. Cool! :)
    I definitely wasn't even thought off in 1977; so TNG is kinda my SF as far as that goes. I LOVED. finding the old anthologies in our schools cupboards, especially from the sixties, seventies, still have a bunch. They were my intro to hard SF.
    Yeah it's too bad Science Fantasy never caught on as a title for the genre... it's much more fitting for the pop stuff. This game looks fun! I couldn't see the platform, will it be a Steam thing?

    1. I'm sure it will be in due course. In the meantime, there's some more about the game here: