Archive for October, 2015

What if Blade Runner is set in the Pokemon universe?

October 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Rogue Thought File #4472
So in Blade Runner almost all the animals seem to have been destroyed within living memory by some unspecified calamity* and the chief test for whether you’re properly human or not is whether you feel empathy (or nostalgia) for them and whether you’re OK with imagining being cruel to them.

In Pokemon it appears there are no ordinary animals, just fireball-throwing demonets that can be conveniently stored and retrieved in plastic balls and computer systems, and they are systematically exploited to fight each other.

What if Blade Runner is set in the Pokemon universe, 20 years after Ash’s adventures, when almost all the Pokemon have destroyed each other in forced gladiatorial combat and the humans feel belatedly sorry about it?
Or what if Pokemon is Blade Runner’s future – the generation that mourned the animals has long died off. All that’s left is a vaguely-remembered cartoonish virtual approximation of old animals, used as mascots, Michael Bayified, and the natural cruelty of the humans has re-established itself in their ritual competition and humiliation?

Charles Stross’s A Colder War: a less friendly review

October 15, 2015 Leave a comment

In the category of “SF that everyone apart from me has already read,” I just finished listening to the Audiotext reading of Charles Stross’s A Colder War. The audiobook presents like a cartoonish parody of a nerd-love product – chapter heads are read through a robot voice filter, the rest is delivered in an affectless harangue like a Pathe news piece, which kind of suits the bleakness of the material but flattens the writing something horrid.


The story itself is half Cthulhu, half Iran-Contra scandal, and the mashup is ingenious. The Cthulhu elements are lifted pretty directly from the source and therefore don’t really bring anything new to the table, although the way Stross sidles up to them sideways is a nice demonstration of writer’s craft.

The real gold – and Stross’s real enraged disgust – is reserved for the band of shitheads around Oliver North and Admiral Poindexter. They manage to destroy the world, of course. Between Cold War paranoia, sheer pigheaded governmentality and toothy-grinning adventurism, it’s obvious they shouldn’t be trusted with sharp pencils, let alone alien tech which the aliens might still be monitoring. But the crowning moment, which I think is probably the reason Stross decided to write the story, involves a ruined, poisoned soldier stepping out of a submarine in Antarctica. He has traversed light years and strange stars through an Old Ones’ gate. He has brought down ruin on Earth. All in order to transport a briefcase of heroin from Afghanistan to the hands of the conspirators.

It’s pretty cold and darkly funny, if you can forget the merciless extent to which Stross pursues the consequences (he definitely isn’t playing it for laughs). If you can forget the actual Iran-Contra bullshit. In the end, I rather think A Colder War was Stross’s way of dealing with the depths of stupid depravity that the Iran-Contra affair revealed: a way of trying to make sense of freakish crimes that resolutely resist it. As the story advances it refers in passing to a whole series of other government scandals, building up an eerily prescient dark mirror of American weltpolitik concerns – written in 1997, it places the epicenter of global meltdown in Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti’s back yard.

Kind of sort of recommended if you’re in a good mental health place to begin with. Definitely not if you’re either desperately trying to find some redeeming good in humanity or seeking confirmation for your pessimism.