Grab Bag: Space Spies / Steampunk Assassins

How did my weekend go?

Well, my editor finished proofing the final revision of the anthology and had it in my hands yesterday afternoon. Having stuff professionally revised is always a weird experience, I (and a lot of writers, frankly) have a hard time self-revising because your brain knows exactly what you meant and will skip over errors that should stand out, unless you’re doing tricks like reading the manuscript backwards.

There wasn’t as much work as I anticipated, barely anything needed rewrites and it was much more about stringing things together a little smoother in the narrative voice. I have a bad habit of run-on sentences when I get into a topic that holds interest to me, echoing my spoken word habits. It’s something I can kind of correct for in my writing, but I rarely catch everything.

Keep in mind that “not as much work” here means about 8 hours of revising, sneaking in commas and colons, tweaking where stuff did not align properly in the formatting. So I was up until roundabout 3, 3:30AM having been up since just after 6AM. It took me another hour to settle down enough for the sleepiness to catch up.

I thought I would start reading Jerusalem just to have something to talk about in the blog today, but… I opened it and the first page was a crudely drawn skull and a giant, ejaculating penis over a warning that this is a true story.

I kind of put the book down in my lap, stared off into the darkness for a little bit, and then decided to give me brain a rest with finishing up the early-modern history of Saudi Arabia so I could finish off some of the background history in my novel. I gave myself a few hours of sleep and have been chugging coffee ever since.

As such I’m afraid I don’t have any new books to wax poetic about today. I’ll try to have something on Thursday/Friday, but the last push to get advance copies of the anthology out the door has just utterly drained me and I’ve spent my free time today sitting around, catching up on television, and idly playing video games.

So I guess I’ll just do a few paragraphs about each.

star-wars-rebels-wedge-antillesStar Wars: Rebels is continuing to impress on every level. This has really become the show that’s filled the Avatar/Gravity Falls-shaped hole in my heart, hitting the kind of storytelling that can be marketed at kids but is pretty much ageless. The first two episodes of the season have been heavily focused on the conflict between the Jedi and Sith ideologies, the inclusion of the Bendu and their Grey Force ways, and the repercussions of attempting to use the dark side to do good within the confines of the setting’s rules. It was great, brought back some old characters and introduced some new ones that flesh the whole thing out, and tackled some spiritual themes in a way I haven’t seen in Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda is training Luke for the first time. This week it’s much more of a military espionage story, the kind of thriller Clancy might write if he was alive and churning out licensed fiction. star-wars-rebels-season-3-sabine-wedge-antillesWe have now been introduced to Wedge Antilles, one of the pilots from the original trilogy who went on to form Rogue Squadron and explore the cloak and dagger aspects of Star Wars, at least in the old and outdated canon. Now we get to see him being built back up from scratch, starting as a trainee pilot in the Imperial Academy, a hotshot TIE expert who is beginning to doubt his allegiance to the empire and if that loyalty would ever be returned. Spoiler alert: no, Palpatine and his Admirals tend not to care for individual pilots at all, especially when they aren’t actively shooting down enemy ships.

Rebels has done something very interesting with Star Wars and made the Empire… Not sympathetic, but understandable. They’re still space fascists, but they aren’t so comically evil that you can’t see why the galaxy doesn’t immediately rise up against them. They keep the trains running, maintain a certain level of (human-centric) civilization, and their escalation of force is in direct response to the Rebel actions. The Rebels have no choice but to fight back the way they do, and that actually ends up providing propaganda to the Imperial agents. You can now tell your TIE squadrons to open fire on transports under suspicion that they may be preparing a sneak attack, and you can point to instances of this happening in the recent past. They try to harness an atmosphere of terror and end up driving away moderates while solidifying their own base that wants an excuse to act out like this. They’re bad guys but they believe that they’re doing the right thing, even as hatred fuels their actions. It fleshes them out and makes them compelling antagonists, even if it does boil down to them being a galactic army of faceless stormtroopers led by stiff, stodgy officers. It’s also a prequel piece, which means that the original trilogy shows off an Empire that has already embraced escalation of force to genocidal levels from a government that managed to pass itself off as necessary.

Again, deeper than you’d expect out of an animated Star Wars show. I’m really looking forward to Kallus inevitably turning on his masters, because we’ve already seen that the older generation of Imperial enlisted men are beginning to question the methods and motives of those higher up the food chain and further removed from conflict.

Dishonored-5.pngGames-wise, I’ve been getting back into Dishonored. The second game is due out next month and the first was one of my favorites of 2012. I played through it… geeze, probably 7 times of varying chaos levels, and I’ve beaten the DLC twice to check out each ending. I figured I owed myself a bit of a refresher course before I started reading The Corroded Man and picked up the second game. It still holds up magnificently. I love how they set up the chaos meter so it still rises even if you only target “bad guys,” because you’re still a horrible masked serial killer mowing down guards and nobles from the shadows, and the peasants really don’t have any reason to trust you won’t turn on them next. I love how it rewards creativity in nearly infinite combinations; first time through when I was kidnapping the scientist I meticulously planned my escape route, hit guards with sleep darts and hid their bodies outside of patrol paths, crept along the rafters, disabled traps… This latest time I knocked him out, chucked him out the window, jumped after him, blinked down to the ground and caught him before he could splatter. Same end effect, two completely different tones to the same level.

I’m very interested to see where they take the Emily character in the second game. In my “canon” playthrough Corvo starts off pretty clean handed but becomes increasingly murderous in the last couple levels of the game, ending up with a low overall chaos score but a lot of blood on his hands in Emily’s vicinity. She learns from him, as children do. She’s a smart kid and her mentor/role model has shown what you can get away with if you’re clever and ruthless. Throw one of the Outsider’s runes on her hand and I can absolutely imagine her being more brutal than Corvo was. Corvo’s still a spymaster with a lot of training prior to becoming the masked man, Emily is coming from a very early trauma and the rippling effects of that and the shadow-battle for Dunwall. When I play her I don’t think she’s going to have the same hesitation that I attribute to Corvo when things start getting really grim.

Her power set looks suitably horrifying, too. I was kind of afraid they’d only give her manipulation and mind-screwing powers compared to Corvo’s more physical ones, because that tends to happen to girls in games. Instead the trailers and gameplay footage showing how you can link a bunch of guards up by ghostly tethers, transform into a godawful crawling shadowmonster, eviscerate one and watch the same wounds appear across an entire room of people at the same time? Awful. I can’t wait.

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2 thoughts on “Grab Bag: Space Spies / Steampunk Assassins

  1. Re: manuscript. Good God man what kind of coffee do you drink to sustain those hours? Please share with the class, as I would like to try that coffee.

    Re: gaming. Having not played Dishonored, my curiosity is piqued! Sounds right up my alley, what with the varieties in how tasks can be accomplished. I presume you’ll be playing and reviewing number two?

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    1. Honestly, that late at night just the nescafe instant stuff but with triple the freeze dried powder for an extra kick. I don’t want to waste good coffee when I’m too bleary to enjoy it.

      Dishonored is really great. It’s the spiritual descendant of the Thief and Deus Ex games of the late 90s and probably tied with Skyrim for games I’ve replayed the most in the last decade. Just a great, unique art style and a storyline where you have the option to blaze through or poke around and uncover half a dozen levels of subplots. I have a running conspiracy theory that the benevolent trickster god who gives you your powers at the start of the game is counting on you to destroy human civilization with them and he may actually be the god/progenator of the giant whales that mankind is hunting and rendering down into oil for all their steampunk gadgets. This is largely based off hidden books, shrines and graffiti I’ve stumbled into way off the beaten path of the main plot. It’s that kind of game.

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