Fighting For Utopia: Revisiting Classic ’90s RPG Phantasy Star IV

Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium is an ambitious JRPG that is the perfect end to the series, taking the best elements of each of the previous games and weaving together a “phantastic” journey. It easily goes toe to toe with its more famous Square contemporaries like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. Coming after the radical departure from the series Phantasy Star III was with its medieval setting and art style, PSIV (1993 JP, 1995 US) was a welcome return by Director Rieko Kodama and her Sega team to its science fiction roots. It also exemplifies how to do a sequel, as PSIV doesn’t shy away from its ties to the previous games the way III did, but instead, embraces them.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Ethan of Athos

Here’s the thing about Ethan of Athos; I LOVE IT. It had been a long time since I read it, and I didn’t really remember anything about it in any particular way, so I picked it up last week after I finished writing about Cetaganda, and not too long after that I put it down again because I was done. My only regret about the time in between was that there wasn’t more of it. I do not, at this moment, feel equipped to authoritatively state that this is the most lovable book in the Vorkosigan Saga, but it is definitely a very strong contender.

And I know what you’re thinking right now, blog readers—you’re thinking I like it because Elli Quinn shoots stuff. You’re not wrong. She does shoot stuff. She shoots stuff with stunners, and puts trackers on people, and gets people drunk and she’s fearless and I love her. But I do not love this book for her alone, because Ethan is no slouch either, in the fearlessness department. He’s not what I would call traditionally fearless—he has some fear. But he powers through in the service of things that are more important, even when it gets him smacked around. They’re a good pair. And Terrence doesn’t drag them down—he’s brave and self-sufficient despite being all alone in the universe. Plus also good-looking.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

The Stone Heart

Kaidu and Rat have only just recovered from the assassination attempt on the General of All Blades when more chaos breaks loose in the Nameless City: deep conflicts within the Dao nation are making it impossible to find a political solution for the disputed territory of the City itself.

To complicate things further, Kaidu is fairly certain he’s stumbled on a formula for the lost weapon of the mysterious founders of the City. . . . But sharing it with the Dao military would be a complete betrayal of his friendship with Rat. Can Kai find the right solution before the Dao find themselves at war?

The sequel to The Nameless City, Faith Erin Hicks’ graphic novel The Stone Heart is available April 4th from First Second—read an excerpt below!

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Power Rangers is Charming as All Get Out

If you watched the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in the 90s (*raises hand*) you were aware that the show was nothing but a formula: five teens hang out at dojo, teens have personal problem, Rita wants to wipe them out because she’s the villain, she creates putties to give them a lukewarm fight, Alpha says “Ai-yi-yi” because he’s a funny robot, Zordon gives advice and/or pep talk, Finster makes Rita a monster, Power Rangers morph, get in dino-bots called zords to fight monster, are forced to form mega-bot to stop it, kill monster in one broadsword stroke, Rita is angry and vows revenge. The end.

How did you turn that barely conceived paint by numbers premise into a good movie? How? she screams into the proverbial void, knowing that none can answer this age-old (i.e. about twenty year) riddle.

Then I saw Power Rangers. And somehow, I want to watch it again.

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Beyond the Siege Perilous: Andre Norton’s Witch World

In Witch World we have one of the great portal fantasies of our genre. Simon Tregarth, World War II vet fallen on hard times, finds himself on the wrong side of the wrong side of the law. The bad guys are coming for him, and the only escape is through death—or through a mysterious magical portal guarded by the equally mysterious Dr. Jorge Petronius. It’s none other than the Siege Perilous of the Arthurian canon, and for the small price of everything a man owns in this world, he can be transported to “that existence in which his spirit, his mind—his soul if you wish to call it that—is at home.” There is a catch: The door only opens one way. There’s no coming back.

Simon is desperate. The bad guys are coming. He takes Petronius’ offer.

At that point the Fifties-style Mob thriller ends, the Arthurian echoes die away, and the real genius begins.

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Can Life Tackle Alien Horror Better Than Ridley Scott?

Alien casts a very long shadow. Ever since Ridley Scott’s movie came out (a frankly horrifying number of years ago), its long, spiky fingerprints have been all over science fiction horror cinema. People in jumpsuits, interpersonal conflict, a betrayal or three, a near total party kill, an action sequence in a near vacuum, aaaaaaaand scene! Relatively easy to replicate, not so easy to build upon, although several notables have tried. Personally, I like the hard left turn that Event Horizon takes into full-on horror, for example, but it’s an acquired taste.

So, if anything you do as a filmmaker is going to be compared to Alien or its ilk, you’re faced with two choices. Either do something as original as possible, or make the best possible version of the movie that people are expecting to see.

Life does the latter. And still throws in a couple of surprises along the way.

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Imagine and Survive: Resistance Through Speculative Fiction

An omnipresent figure in speculative fiction is the extraordinary, heroic child, or the ordinary child who goes to extraordinary places and does heroic things. It’s not hard to understand why. A tremendous number of us grew up in uncomfortable circumstances, dealt with major social awkwardness, probably bullying, shunning, and the feeling that we didn’t belong and didn’t know how to do so. Imaginative children usually don’t have the easiest time of it. Very few children do, but some clearly have a harder time than others.

It’s in so many of our stories. Because of our imaginativeness, we took some of the very things that were making our lives difficult and we made use of them as coping devices. When the world around me was unbearable, I read stories and I told myself stories of my own.

This is how so many of us survive.

What’s important to understand about this particular mode of survival—often labeled “escapism”—is that it’s not only about escaping the unbearable present; it’s about imagining a future where things are bearable and where, in some way, we’re more than we are. It’s a promise: things won’t always be like this. Things might get better. Hell, things will get better. Hang in there. Be strong.

[They don’t see you for what you are. But you are.]

DC’s Greatest Heroes Come Together in this Trailer for The Justice League!

Batman and Wonder Woman are calling the Justice League together! Aquaman (Jason Momoa) The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) all get a few moments to shine in the trailer, and we also get tantalizing teases of Amy Adam’s Lois Lane and J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon.

As expected, Aquaman is a delight—look at him up there, standing on top of the Batmobile—and The Flash gets a great comic moment.

Click through for the full trailer!

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Holy Rewatch Batman! “I’ll Be a Mummy’s Uncle”

“I’ll Be a Mummy’s Uncle”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by Sam Strangis
Season 3, Episode 23
Production code 1725
Original air date: February 22, 1968

The Bat-signal: King Tut is being treated at the Mount Ararat Psychiartric Hospital. Tut has gone on and on and on and on about his problems for so long that his shrink falls asleep, giving Tut the opportunity to make his escape. He immediately hits the Rosetta Stone Company (according to their sign, they are manufacturers of cornerstones, curbstones, cobblestones, and milestones) and steals $47,000.

[“Why me?” “Why not you?” “That’s logical.” “I’m nothing if not logical.”]

Series: Holy Rewatch Batman!

John Scalzi is Optimistic about Cockroaches, Novels, and the Future of Science Fiction

John Scalzi made his reputation when he serialized Old Man’s War online, and attracted a huge readership and the notice of Tor Books’ Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Now he’s tackling a brand new space opera, The Collapsing Empire. He recently spoke with the good folks of The Verge about his new book, the future of publishing, and the power of optimism. Check out a few highlights below!

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Reminder: Last Day to Download The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson for Free is offering a free download of the ebook edition of The Way of Kings, the first volume of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, on March 23rd and 24th, 2017.

The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making. The new book in the Stormlight Archive series, Oathbringer, appears this November.


This free ebook download is only be available until 11:59 PM ET, March 24.

Download The Way of Kings, Book One of The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

Note: This offer is only available in the US and Canada. We apologize for the geographic restriction, unfortunately it is required for various legal reasons.

If you’re having issues with the sign-up or download process, please email [email protected].

NASA Might Make High-Speed Space “Internet” a Reality

As NASA looks more towards exploring our solar system (and beyond) and sending astronauts to Mars, they’re also rethinking the way we will communicate with spacecraft, satellites, and astronauts.

Currently, NASA uses radio-frequency (RF) signals to communicate with space. These radio waves are a reliable, tested technology, but they have their downsides for deep space. First, signals degrade en route to the Earth; by the time we receive them, the quality has eroded. Second, they require giant radio receivers on the ground to receive these transmissions. Third, the quality of the signal severely affects data transfer speeds and bandwith.

This is why NASA is studying new communication technology, and it may have found it with the Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD). This new technology, still in the testing phases, uses lasers for communication. Currently radio transmissions only provide a limited bandwith for spacecraft to send data, which is why they must do so in very small packets. LCRD technology offers the equivalent of high speed Internet in space.

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