Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Everyone no matter how perfect their life is, one occasionally gets the feeling that they need to get away. Sometimes that means hopping on a plane or driving of in a car, some time it means sitting in your favorite chair and spending time reading a book, watching a movie or playing a game. A good story is more than just a words and plots it is a slightly opened door to another universe. Have you ever put down a short story and wonder what else is happening in that world besides just the protagonists little corner?
I never got into the table top war game Warhammer 40,000 or its expanded universe of books, but I had friends who talked about the people in this fictitious setting the same way I spoke about real historical people when I was studying history in college. The characters in these books were to them ‘living beings’. I don’t mean that they thought that these fictitious characters where real or alive somewhere out there in space or on some other demission. I mean that they saw the Warhamer 40K-verse as a dynamic place with vivid endearing characters whose story lines were always in flux and my friends enjoy following their exploits and catching up on their adventures as they would real people.
A good story is addictive, but a good world is like heroine in print. You wonder what your life would be in this other-world. There are many imaginary realms that have survived the test of time, and held the imaginations of generations, Never Land, The world the other side of the looking glass, and Camelot. And many more recent worlds have drawn in numerous fans. There is a reason people dress up in Star Trek uniforms, and like Han Solo or Spiderman. Here are three great but sometimes over looked alternative fictitious realities.
Watch your back, shot strait, conserve your ammo, and never, ever, cut a deal with a dragon.
_The Shadowrun Credo.
Back in 1989 before pen and paper role playing gamers became almost as rare as a dodo’s egg FASA, the company behind Battle Tech and the original Dr Who RPG took the traditional fantasy gaming setting and fused it with the new-wave science fiction phenomena cyberpunk the two seemingly polar opposite settings came together like some sort of chrome plated bionic elf, and called it Shadowrun (1). Magic and dragons stood side by side with techno hackers and corporate cybernetic assassins. Players of this game took the role of Shadowrunners, freelancers who did mercenary operations striking a blow against the corporations. A mixture of Case from Necromancer, Boggie from The Maltese Falcon and the last of the cowboys.
Not only did FASA create a gritty street level environment for the games players to cause havoc in, they developed a unique meta-world, an. America that had been balkanized, with the return of magic. Native Americans took back most of the world west of the Rockies. With the exception of California which was occupied by Imperial Japanese Marines, and Seattle which was kind of a reverse white reservation.
In addition to the countless game supplements that covered things such as a Mexico rule by a diabolical corporation called Aztechnology, several Elven nations, and info on the world’s mega corps. FASA release many books and short stories (2) about individual living in what they called the ‘Sixth World”. The pages were filled with the plots of immortal elves, lycanthrope assassins, and children of the corporate elite thrown to the wolves to defend themselves in a world sans pity. Each story added to the established cannon of the mean streets of Shadowrun.
Over the last two decades the game’s license has been sold to several diffent companies. Each altering and building on the core Shadowrun world. Events such as the election of the first Dragon president. The populations of entire corporate enclosed cities just disappearing, and insect spirits invading the earth, kept the world alive and fresh.
I had left the dark alleys and bright lights of the corporate enclaves of Shadowrun over a decade ago but recently I read a review of the latest update on the SR world, and everything had changed. I didn’t understand over half of the back ground information the reviewer was writing about. In a way that is a little sad but in other ways it is good to know that there is still motley crews of Shadowruners out there still fighting the good fight, and the world of SR is still organic and living.
Basin City Washington.
Gail: Dwight… what have you done?
Dwight: Exactly what I had to… every step of the way.
Sin City (3)
OK, let’s just get this out of the way first; Frank Miller is the greatest living writer of dialog for the English language. He is the bomb. He is the man who single handedly took Batman from a campy charachtuer of Adam West and made him the dark brooding butt kicker he was meant to be. All hail Frank Miller. You got it I am a fan boy. And his crowning achievement is the Dark Horse Comics’ anthology Sin City.
Sin City is the hardest of hard boiled noir worlds. It as if Dashell Hammet and Mickey Spalane had a lovechild, and said lovechild was a sociopathic antisocial hard case, that had a thing for hookers and bars. In the words of the behemoth Marv “…walk down the right back ally in sin city…You can fine anything …”(4) And what we find is a world where manly men fight the greater evil using sucker punches, urban guerilla tactics and everything else at their disposal.
Sin City is pure testosterone and id. It’s is hard to excuse all of the misogyny and violence, but I do. More than half the female characters are prostitutes. And I cringe at the violence infected on them. But I don’t see them as week. Even if they do occasionally need to be saved by Marv. Dwight, and Wallace, but then the people of Gotham and Metropolis, of both genders, also need to be rescued Batman and Superman on occasion. And well yes brutal and terrible things happen to the female protagonists, but this is frickin Sin City, brutal and terrible things happen to everyone.
The Girls of old town, are much more than victims dressed up in Kinky cos-play wear.(5) They have built up their own fiefdom using the tools they have moxy, smoldering sexuality, strained political alliances and automatic weapons. And they will do whatever it takes to keep their sisterhood safe and their turf secure. And when it comes down to it they are able to take care of their own, like a serial killer called the Cowboy found out.(6)
Comic books are marketed to the male adolescent consumer, so it is not surprising that this noir title is chalked full of good looking sensuous dames. But one character steps out of this mold, Deadly Little Miho. Miho is the only Female character in Sin City whose primary characteristic is not her sexuality. (Even Marv’s elderly mom is defined by the fact that she is a mother.) Miho is Frank Miller’s (and my) favorite character in the series. When of all people Quinton Terrintino says you got a fetish like relationship with your creation maybe you should step back a little bit.(7)
Though not in your face sexy like Eva Lord or the twins Wendy/Goldie, Miho is an attractive character for her sheer willpower and tenacity. (It isn’t hurt that she is played in the original movie by the former face of Versace Devon Aoki) Though she lives with prostitutes she isn’t one. In fact there is no reason to think she isn’t a virgin. (There is no reason to think that she is not sexually active except that she never shows any interest in anyone in the books) The only male she has any kind of relationship with is Dwight and that is based not on love or lust but respect and professional admiration. In a world where cops literally shot each other in the back, the Dwight/Miho dynamic is the only true partnership in Sin City. Miller has said that she is a Kami, (Or as he calls her a ‘good demon’)(8) a spirit of vengeance and protection. And she protects her girls with deadly efficiency.
Sin city isn’t for everyone but if you want to escape your boring hum-drum real world life. Slip on that damned fine leather overcoat that you took from the hit man who thought he was better than you. Get in your car preferably a ’hardtop with a decent engine and make sure it’s got a big trunk.’(9) And head up coast from Cali going to Canada and take the off ramp to Basin City, the girls of old town are expecting you.
The Dr Who Universe.
“There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.” – Fourth Doctor(10)
For several generations of English children as well as some of us across the pond have hidden under the covers and held their breaths, while watched the mysterious time traveler known only as The Doctor saved the universes. Even in its earliest incarnations the show had just the right mixture of horror, camp and was topped off with a whole TARDIS load of fun.
And that is why I would love to travel the universe with the Doctor ,he and the show are FUN (With a capital F-U&N) At his best no matter what actor is playing him the Doctor never lose his sense of awe at discovering new things. Even if those new things are reptilian humanoids that want to lay eggs in your thorax.
Such a luminary as Queen Victoria I, once felt compelled to call out the Doctor and Rose for there lack of seriousness as they fought extraterrestrial werewolves.(11) But we forgive the temporal twosome because, that sense of fun is what keeps us coming back. Let’s face it for what is thought of as child’s program Dr Who is rather horrifying. They have an extra and guest star body count that would make Josh Wheadon envious. We have seen the end of Earth, mankind’s destiny thrown of course and what we thought was the world’s one honest Politician Harriet Jones lie to us. But we all ready know that entropy will befall the universe, no one lives up to their potential and will politicos suck. But at least in TARDIS-land we got the Dr. to swoop in at the last moment and save us, and to do it with a sense of style and whimsy.
(3) Sin City, Robert Rodriguez, 2005.
(4) The Hard Goodbye Frank Miller Dark Horse Comics Milwaukee Or, 2005.
(6) Behind Door Number Three, Frank Miller, Short Story in The Babe Wore red and Other Stories Dark Horse Comics 1994.
(7) Sin City Robert Rodriguez (2005) Commentary Track.
(8) wikipedia.org/wiki/Miho_(Sin City)
(9) The Big fat Kill, Frank Miller Dark Horse Books, 1991.
(11) Dr Who, Tooth and Claw, Series 2, Episode 2.