The ship casts an unimpressive visage with its cobbled together skin of garbage cans, road signs, and miscellaneous debris, but that’s part of its charm. Thunder Road from The Explorers was more than just a vessel with which to sail the skies. It was a symbol of childlike wonder and adventure. Much like my real life attempts to create a spaceship from stuff laying around my house, the ending of the movie was a letdown, but the tone it hits never left me. The idea that a couple of kids around my age could put together a starship and break through the atmosphere was the fuel for many of my adventures in the woods surrounding my family home. Proof positive that looks can be deceiving.
You can’t very well have a list of top videogame spaceships without folks like us needing to offer a second opinion. So, in honor of Starship Week, Brandon Cackowski-Schnell, Tom Chick, and Nick Diamon fill some holes in official Quarter to Three list. We also discuss the birth pangs of Grand Theft Auto Online, we celebrate the revival of Bioshock 2, and we stage an intervention from Marvel Puzzle Quest.
“The catch is, a boat this big doesn’t exactly stop on a dime.”
The Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov has three things going for it that made me immediately fall in love with it the first time I saw 2010 in a theater in 1984. First, it is massive. I love a massive ship in space, just as I gravitate to the largest ships in water. There is something comforting about an aircraft carrier, or even a cruise ship. A couple years ago I was on a cruise ship out in the Atlantic and that sense of being out in the middle of the ocean was awe-inspiring. I would sit for hours out on the tiny little stateroom balcony and just stare out at the ocean and the horizon and the unfathomable expanse of what was before me and feel this amazing sense of relaxation slowly move in over me like a tide. Having been on a small boat out of sight of land, I have to say that bigger is better. It just feels like so much can go wrong out there on a small boat, and if it does…well, let’s just say my imagination was fertile as a young boy, and this was decades before I would see the movie Open Water. I had already seen Jaws.
After the jump…it’s also the motion of the ocean Continue reading →
Hello, my name is Brian Rubin, and I’m a space gameaholic (Hi Brian!). I’ve had a love affair with space gaming ever since playing Lunar Lander using a freaking cassette tape on a Radio Shack TRS-80. For the top ten videogame spaceships, I’ve first of all chosen more than ten, because there’s no way there are only ten. To pick the most historic and memorable ships, you need at least 11 slots. And since I’ve mostly played computer games, Star Fox isn’t on here.
After the jump, the top ten (or so) that aren’t Star Fox Continue reading →
This is Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone … Mayday, Mayday … we are under attack … main drive is gone … turret number one not responding … Mayday … losing cabin pressure fast … calling anyone … please help … this is Free Trader Beowulf … Mayday …
–cover of the original Traveller game box
One of my favorite books as a child was this oversize picture book called Space Wars Worlds and Weapons. It’s basically just a big book of paintings of science fiction stuff: aliens, planets, and lots of spaceships. There is some desultory text trying to tie these themes together, but it’s really all about the pictures.
The book starts out with a section on “space vehicles,” and the text quickly bogs down.
However you call it — star ship, rocket ship, space machine — the space ship is the foremost, some would say ultimate, sf symbol. If science fiction is all about other worlds, then the space ship is a part of that other-worldliness, connecting solar systems and universes … the public transportation factor.
After the jump, space fare Continue reading →
The USCSS Nostromo was a starfreighter, not a starfighter or even a cruiser. It was nothing but a space tugboat, used to push loads of cargo between the stars. It just goes to show you that you can’t judge a ship by its looks, because the Nostromo may not have been much to look at, but it served one of the most important roles in Alien, acting as a floating Amityville Horror, Camp Crystal Lake, and 45 Lampkin Lane all in one. Alien was basically a slasher film in space. While it’s true that in space, no one can hear you scream, no one can run away either. The Nostromo’s oppressive blend of cramped quarters, hissing steam valves, dripping pipes, and cat hidey-holes made it as much of a character and as much of a scare generator as the xenomorph that roamed its halls.
It also featured killer dinner entertainment.
There’s one last element to the scenario — a huge Titan bearing down on a space colony — I didn’t mention yesterday, and that is that the space lords have sent us a relief force!
Roll one die at the beginning of the End/Repair Phase and record a running total. When the total is equal to or greater than 12, the TDF player receives reinforcements (BCH, BC, CA x4) within 2 hexes of (E). This happens once per game.
Oh but it’s not here, yet.
After the jump, I’m sure it will arrive any minute. Continue reading →
The Gunstar from The Last Starfighter is an amazing craft, fitted with several lasers, a proton beam, and several banks of photon bolts. It has been known to win desperate battles against incredible odds. Its tandem control system allows a navigator to pilot and maintain the craft while the starfighter focuses on delivering the formidable weaponry. One Gunstar in particular was fitted with a prototype weapon known as Death Blossom. In the battle for Rylos against the Ko-Dan Armada, it eliminated what was left of the Armada’s fighter compliment. The ship is still used as a front line fighter in protecting the frontier to this day.
Or so I’d like to imagine.
Sci-fi? Sure, I like it, but only the trashy stuff. Not so much trashy as phony. The kind I can dip into between shifts, read a few pages at a time, and then drop. Oh, I read good books, too, but only Earthside. Why that is, I don’t really know. Never stopped to analyze it. Good books tell the truth, even when they’re about things that never have been and never will be. They’re truthful in a different way. When they talk about outer space, they make you feel the silence, so unlike the Earthly kind — and the lifelessness. Whatever the adventures, the message is always the same: humans will never feel at home out there. Earth has something random, fickle about it — here a tree, there a wall or garden, over the horizon another horizon, beyond the mountain a valley … but not out there.
–Stanisław Lem, “Tales of Pirx the Pilot”
I have always thought that science fiction, despite being forever linked with fantasy in the “fantasy/sci fi” section of bookstores and libraries, was actually best appreciated by adults. Unlike traditional* fantasy, which is wrapped up in quests and knowledge acquisition which are essentially coming-of-age concerns that resonate best with adolescents and young adults, science fiction at its best challenges our notions of what is possible by stripping away all the things we find familiar, and thus letting us examine fundamental beliefs and assumptions we have spent a lifetime constructing. It also taps our fascination with the unknown, specifically, that of distance.
After the jump, how far is far? Continue reading →
It’s Starship Week! Which means we’re going to take a long adoring look at our favorite ways to travel the stars, from games, movies, and maybe even TV shows (books not eligible because nobody reads books anymore no matter how many clever spaceship names Iain Banks thought up). This week we’ll bring you a movie spaceship of the day every day, a series of articles from Dr. Bruce Geryk based on his experience crewing spaceships, videogame spaceship expert Brian Rubin’s list of top ten videogame ships, and more from some special contributors whose names you might recognize. Punch it, Chewie.
(Note that spaceships are too big to be contained in a single week. So according the laws of physics as proved by Einstein and other leading scientists, Starship Week actually lasts for two weeks.)
After the jump, your Starship Week hub Continue reading →
Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful sci-fi thriller, Gravity, lets us re-appreciate what it means to see movies in a theater. And Sandra Bullock. You can skip Gravity spoilers by rocketing to the 58-minute mark, where this week’s 3×3 hits on the issue of head injuries.
Next week: Captain Phillips