Parenting in the Post Apocalypse: Fallout 4

fallout_4_cover_artOver the winter, I played a succession of three video games that involved characters in a parenting or protective role: Fallout 4; The Last of Us; and The Walking Dead. And if parenting in today’s world is hard, it’s even worse once the world goes to hell.

Today I’m writing about my parenting experience with Fallout 4.

Spoilers for the game follow.

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I’ve reached Peak Underwood

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Antagonists Frank and Claire Underwood

With the newest season available on Netflix, the Underwoods are less a pair of anti-heroes and more the antagonists of their own show. Season four of House of Cards gives us more of the ongoing antics of a trio of psychopaths: Frank and Claire Underwood; and their attack dog Chief of Staff, the bootlicking Doug Stemper; and surrounds them with a gaggle of people either crippled by their own corruption and moral compromises, or else compliant sheep, like the Vice President.

Spoilers follow.

I found myself cheering for Lucas, knowing he’d fail, because his assassination attempt came too early in the season to have the possibility of succeeding. I even found myself tempted to cheer for the vile Governor Conway. Tom Hammerschmidt is really the character I wanted to succeed. He’s the only protagonist I really thought might have a chance. And he does strike a possibly mortal blow to the Underwoods, who cross over into cartoon supervillainy by the end of the show.

I know that House of Cards is supposed to be some dark funhouse mirror on what happens in Washington when powerful people set their sights on a goal. But with the real life possibility of an impending Trump presidency, I don’t know that I need a fictional series about these horrible characters. I don’t want another season of them terrorizing everyone around them and having things break their way. If House of Cards isn’t about the Underwoods’ downfall, I don’t know that I will be tuning in for more House of Cards.

Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer – Book review

51dp9x2f0sl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer comes with a full freight of compelling ideas, one after another, and an intriguing set of twists and reveals. Excellent reading. Robert J. Sawyers always make me think, and in this novel, Mr. Sawyer deploys a modified narrative style to convey a densely-packed series of ideas. He’s cut down on the number of “info dumps” that often put me off hard science fiction. Instead, as he discussed at a recent book launch event in Waterloo, he’s content to let the reader put the book down and delve into  the ideas in more depth on their own. It’s a concession or accommodation to the way most of us are a few taps away from Google on our mobile devices. This both speeds the narrative along without a break for a lecture and allows for him to pack in a greater number of ideas.

The editor in me spotted only 1 typo, which is really clean for a first edition (or I missed others in reading it so fast). There were really only two issues I had with the book: one was the number of pop culture references I thought Jim Marchuk had that didn’t fit with his age and year of birth (but that’s subjective); the other was a plot thread that seems to have been left hanging. However, again in my rush through the novel, I might have missed its resolution. I’ll need to check back into the book to be sure.

My high esteem for the book comes from the book speaking to my conscience as a Q3. Or maybe, as a Q2, I’m rating it highly to try and get something in return from the author. Maybe still, as a Q1, I’m merely providing a response to a stimulus. Read the book for yourself and find out what the hell I’m referring to.

A weird stand on immersiveness in Fallout 4

There’s a mod for Fallout 4 PC version that makes children in the game killable, in case you want to, you know, kill kids. By default they’re not mortal. Once of the reasons this exists, according to an article on Kotaku is to increase the immersive factor in the game.

Immersiveness.

That’s a weird hill to plant your flag on.

Consider for a moment that people who want this mod want a game that’s more immersive then consider some of the very gamey game mechanics that would still remain:

My in-game character, who isn’t very strong, can carry 230 pounds and still run. He packs about 10 different guns, which he can access mid-combat almost instantly. Ridiculous. He lives in a world that contains ghouls, which are supposed to be the radioactive remnants of people who’ve been affected by radiation and turned into something that’s effectively a zombie. Ridiculous. There are a number of other game mechanics that break immersiveness, such as healing through stimpacks, ammo that has no weight, and just the amount of junk you can carry around.

So are you really going to base your sense of what’s immersive on whether you can kill children in the game? What the hell is up with that?

Halloween Short Story

An excerpt from a short story I’m working on, just under the wire for Halloween:

He started in bed with the call half heard from sleep, and from instinct he was half out of bed.

Again, a little girl’s drawn out and plaintive cry. “Daddy.”

Fully awake now he froze. She was dead. Buried in her grave soon after Halloween when she’d died. He seized on the conviction this was the dream of a mid-January night, or the whiskey having its revenge, or the duloxetine.

“Daddy?”

His scalp tightened and his stomach clenched.

“Daddy, I’m cold.”

In the dim moonlight he pressed himself back against the headboard. Through his open door, across the hall, from what had been her room, she called again.

“Daddy, I’m cold. And it’s dark.”

He shivered now, and his skin crawled. “Let me wake up.”