What is good science-fiction about? In spite of how much many of us love great space battles, mechas, sceneries of fantastical beauty and all of that, the fact is that the truly good science fiction boils to two very important aspects: characters and ideas.
This is because although the author has the right and the liberty to create whatever universes one’s heart desires, in the end science-fiction, like any good genre or even more than most, is truly about Humanity, and what makes us what we are. The humanoid robots, aliens, and all in between are, at their heart, expressions of our own individuality as people and as a species. And that brings us to the ideas, how well they bring our Humanity to bear, the truly great “ifs” and simply cool ideas one would love to see become true, and how they affect our place in the greater, unfathomable, universe.
Truly the movie “The Place Promised in Our Early Days” thrives in the duality between ideas and characters in science-fiction, and is, once again, a great example how this genre, done properly, can transcend the genre barriers and become something special, with something anyone can identify with.
The brainchild of Makoto Shinkai, it follows the footsteps of his previous work, “Voices of a Distant Star”, and features a plot that is centered around what is to be away from someone one’s heart holds dear. Hiroki and Takuya are best friends, and as teenagers, they saw the Tower, a mysterious artifact built in Hokkaido, which in their world succeeded from Japan and became part of the Union. In response to the presence of this ominous object, the United States of America occupy Japan and prepare to go to war with the Union. But the two boys are fascinated by the Tower, which seems to be something out a dream, physically impossible but there nonetheless. So they start building an aircraft, the Velaciela, for the sole aim of getting close to it. In the process they become friends with Sayuri, a girl by whom Hiroki falls in love.
But one day Sayuri mysteriously disappears and the two boys go separate ways. Several years later, when tensions reach their highest point, they find out what happened to Sayuri and the promise they once made to her will drive them to finish their teenage dreams.
The plot has several issues, though, and the ending feels too rushed, but, anyhow, it isn’t the story which really stands out in here. The characters are the main focus, and the ideas of parallel universes and their connection with choices, dreams and our place along those we care for, serves to link them and the feelings the main couple nurture for each other. There is a lot of philosophical debate regarding these issues and the characters’ monologues are, arguably, the most intriguing part of the film, engaging the viewer in their struggles and their feelings. The way these scenes are made is filled with simple scenes of daily activities, landscapes, and the always ominous presence of the Tower in the distant horizon. Makes you heart itch, your mind wander, and your senses twirl with the gorgeous animation and powerful soundtrack.
Technically the movie is very well made. The animation is not the best there is, but makes its work wonderfully, with the small gestures, subtle movements, and incredibly detailed backgrounds, making the trip feel engaging from the first scene to the last. The soundtrack also stands out. Made by Tenmon, who also made music for outstanding works like “Children who Chase Lost Voices” and “5 Centimeters per Second”, it’s a mesh of violin and soft drums that gives that extra edge to the strong philosophical message of this love story.
I’ve only managed to see the English dub, so no opinion regarding the original one. Even so, the dub is amazing! I mean, I admit I like English dubs and I defend them quite vocally. But this is among those that make their very existence worthwhile. With talents like Chris Patton and Jessica Boone, that’s no surprise.
All in all, this is a gorgeous movie about the emotions that make us so human, an outstanding example of good science fiction.
These last few weeks have been quite tense in the Russian-Ukraine border. Fascinated as I am for cautionary tales, I started thinking about some videogames which presented a somewhat similar scenario.
I have no intention of making political statements, only to provide some curious examples where reality seems to be imitating art, and what the respective artists had in mind at the time.
Lock On: Modern Air Combat (2003)
Maybe the most referenced videogame in the last few days and one which can provide the most assertive parallels to the current situation, Lock On: Modern Air Combat is an aerial warfare simulator of the extra-detailed kind. The storyline is mostly an excuse to put the players at the helm of some of the most advanced fighter jets currently in use, and engage in aerial dogfights against each other and bots.
The storyline involved a conflict for the control of the all-important Crimean Peninsula, which provides an advantage point over the whole of the Black Sea and the surrounding nations, involving Russia, Ukraine and NATO.
Point of Existence 2 (2006)
A mod for Battlefield 2, Point of Existence 2 has a less realistic storyline. Set after the first game in which Russia and the USA drained each other in a war for the control of Sudan’s oil fields, the game features a destabilizing Eastern Europe, where the Russians aren’t capable of exercise pressure. Thus Ukraine is dominated by strong nationalistic parties which launch a war against Belarus to stay in power. A reaction force is assembled and NATO, led by Germany and a USMC expeditionary unit, engages the Ukrainians.
As I’ve said, this scenario lends little to realism, but still shows that some authors were thinking on what could happen as popular dissatisfaction grew in Ukraine at the time. These real-life events eventually brought the downfall of the President Yanukovych, but the Russian officials still claim the current government in Kiev to be of the kind presented in Point of Existence.
Rise of the Reds (2008)
A project still in development, although it has been slowly released since its inception in 2008, Rise of the Reds is what many fans believe to be the real Command and Conquer: Generals 2, especially after the cancellation of the official release by EA. Its storyline isn’t especially focused in Ukraine, per se, but features a Russian occupation of the territory as a means of the Russian leader to hold on to power after a series of crisis forced him into an hostile posturing to Europe. In this scenario Ukraine fragments into two halves as pro-Russian and pro-European forces fight for the control of the country. The Eastern half is eventually absorbed into Russia, an action the superpower justifies through the protection of the ethnic Russians, and the rest of the world compares to German annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia before World War II.
Furthermore, the development of new forms of energy by the European states cuts their dependency on Russia for combustibles, thus making that country’s position even more unattainable. After a series of military disasters around the world and a great famine, Moscow ends up attacking Europe, which is the point where the game begins.
Evidently that this story enters in the realms of futurism and actual science fiction. Again, the real-life parallels that we might find concern the opinion, presented by some Eastern European leaders, that the current occupation of Crimea is just a first step in the Russian ambitions to eventually overwhelm the region.
Personally I think Putin simply wants to make a show of force to the international community, solidify his power over Russia and, if everything goes to plan, even hold on to Crimea. More than that is going too far, and he knows that.
Of course these situations are ripe for someone to make a stupid mistake that will send the whole world ablaze. Let’s just hope everything is solved through negotiation and none of those fictional scenarios up there comes to be.
Although as the saying goes one shouldn’t judge a book for its cover, we still have a tendency to do so. Sometimes we’re right, many works of fiction are exactly what they seem to be, and as good as a first impression can led one to believe. In other occasions, though, we might be wrong and negate ourselves from seeing something truly special.
This is exactly what happened to me in regard to Oban Star Racers. When I first heard about the show and saw posters and the DVD covers, I actually thought it was just some other cash-in in the series of juvenile shows that came in the wake of Beybalde or Medabots. In this case what came to my mind was a show about kids collecting ships to become the very best or something among those lines. And, boy, was I wrong!
Oban Star Racers not only has nothing to do with those other shows, as it is a truly good science-fiction story, and a very special one at that. What is it about, then?
Well, in the future humanity has managed to develop FTL drives and spread across the stars. In the process it found that it wasn’t alone and soon found allies and enemies. One of the later, the Krog, had been engaged in a long war against Earth and it seems that humanity might be unable to win. Suddenly the Avatar, a being of great power, appears and summons the star faring species of the galaxy to participate in a series of races which would eventually bring them to the sacred world of Oban and the mysterious ultimate prize. Earth then starts forming its own team, which includes a great race manager, Don Wei, and also a team of mechanics, a young soldier, and the best pilot on Earth. Unbeknown to them, a young girl, Eva, the daughter of Don Wei, joins the team under the alias of Molly, a decision that would open her the path to glory.
From here onward the audience is driven through ha series of exciting races between an incredible set of imaginative racing ships, which includes the Whizzing Arrow of Earth Team, a ship that went directly to my top 5 of iconic ships. Surprisingly enough the way the different races unravel is truly surprising and victory is never guaranteed for the main characters. This makes for some true moments of tension and makes you want to root even more for Earth Team.
I really liked the concept, not only the imaginative storyline and characters, but also some basic concepts. The female protagonist feels truly fresh and likeable, and the characters around her, especially those who are more fleshed out, feel engaging too. For a show clearly aimed at young audiences, Oban Star Racers doesn’t shy away from some mature themes, which only makes it an even more emotional rollercoaster. The last few episodes, and even some in-between, can leave one honestly teary.
From a technical standpoint the show is also quite unique. A French-Japanese co-production, the creator, Savin Yeatman-Eiffel, went the extra mile to keep his more unique elements, even when the sponsors threaten to cut their funding (this includes the female protagonist- why can’t children’s shows have female leads, huh?). The main theme is up to the Japanese artist AKINO, and the French version, which mixes Japanese and French lyrics, is something worth listening to. The English theme, sadly, is rather forgettable. The animation is surprisingly fluid and the CGI ships and backgrounds tend to mix really well with the hand-drawn characters.
All in all, this is a true gem, and it’s s shame Oban Star Racers isn’t more well-known by the science-fiction fans, because it truly deserves a spot in the genre’s hall of fame.
I will put this out: I’m a great defender of Fanfiction. That’s where I started and where one can find both new talents and also some quite imaginative concepts. It’s not rare for me to search Fanfiction recommendations when I feel the need to find something new and exciting to read.
This is because I truly believe some Fanfition authors, unbounded by any professional worries, can really indulge into the sheer lunacy of total literary freedom and do whatever they feel like with the universes and characters they love the most. While it most of times bring us some of the train wrecks the media is mostly known for, sometimes, just sometimes, the light of sheer brilliance glows through the cracks and brings us something so unique, so incredible, we find ourselves asking why didn’t we find something similar in the book market already.
“Tamers Forever” by Daneel Rush is probably one of such examples. I’ve came somewhat late to this boat, as the story was written and published between 2002 and 2004, and I really feel ashamed for never having read it before. An unofficial follow-up to the Digimon Tamers TV show it starts as a shipping fanfic and ends up becoming something truly epic and actually quite fun to read.
The story is available in the Fanfiction.net site and I believe all those interested should really check it out ASAP.
Hey guys, great news!
I’ve published yet another story through Kellan Publishing. This time it’s “Dreams of Realities Forgotten”, an exciting science-fiction novella about time-travel and, as per my own tradition, strong female leads. Here’s the synopsis:
“Reality is like a tapestry of light, endless lines of possibility intercrossing each other in an infinite pattern across the void beyond. But the Pattern is under threat and is up to Clio, a lone messenger from a ruined timeline, to find the answer behind the erasing of Time itself.
Now, in one more desperate attempt to set the past right she stumbled upon Zak, a young medic who is unwittingly dragged into her fight. Clio will need to gain Zak’s trust so together they can save the world from the dark powers conspiring against it. And in the meanwhile she will also find something else that will change her life forever.”
Get the book here:
I think it had to happen, someday…
I can’t believe that more than a year had already passed since I started working with Team Wandering Samurai. These few months were amazing in several ways, and in several ways they’ve shown me how much I needed to improve and in which directions I needed to move as an artist. More than that, they presented me a set of diverse and interesting people who I owe a lot and with whom I would like to keep contact for as long as I can.
But, what happened, you ask?
What happened is that, finally, MechWarrior: Living Legends had to shut its doors. After working so hard and so much to make the best MechWarrior experience ever put on a computer, after so many years, they were finally forced to stop when there was so much yet to do.
It’s rather sad actually. Anyhow, the final build for this amazing Crysis Wars mod is available, and you can get it here:
What does this means for my ongoing MW:LL novel, anyway? Not much!
As far as I know, I’m not prohibited of working on fanfiction, after all. That would be bad news for everyone involved in this form of art, and you know you are many and one of the lifebloods of fictional universes everywhere.
So I’ll keep working on it in my free time until it’s finished.
Sadly the game it’s based on will remain incomplete, although the fun factor is all there.
Thank you for the opportunity and fun ride, guys.
See you around.
The novels can be obtained here:
I must thank to my family and friends, who helped me out so much for all of this time and I hope to be with them for so much time more. Thank you guys! There’s more cool stuff to come in the future, I know it!
So, give a peak at the publisher’s webpage! I will be worth it!
It was published this month the book Alicerces from the Grupo de Amigos Fotógrafos Amadores. It’s a project which aims at gathering funds for a House for the project Acreditar in Oporto. I was part of the 42-strong group of writers who created short texts to present beside 42 photgraphs. It truly was a challenge, but I believe it created an heartwarming project.
The book can be acquired in the following site:
It was with great pleasure that I got involved in the development of the April 2012’s Aeroubi magazine, contributing with an article about the Brazilian FX-3 Program.
I must endorse my thanks to the entire editorial staff for the opportunity to take part in this project, and solemnly hope for new contributions in the future.
After several months of hard work, my first “official” book finally reaches the vast ocean of the Internet!
MechWarrior is a novelization for the Crysis Wars mod “Living Legends” and must be one of the first novelizations ever made for a mod.
It was incredibly fun to work on this project, and I hope to return to it very soon.
The novel itself can be found for free in the following sites:
You can also get the game that originated it , for free, here: