communi_kate: (Default)
 ..and these are the fics I wrote for [personal profile] lithiumdoll  for the apocalyptothon

All That Remains are the Arms of the Angels 
Fandom: Mass Effect
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Thane Krios has killed many things, but he's never killed a world before. 
I will spend my last breath reaching for the shore...

Alaska Route One

Fandom: Pacific Rim
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Stacker saves Mako. Mako saves Stacker.
Stacker felt responsible for having failed to prevent the plague, and even more responsible for having survived it...
communi_kate: (Default)
Matt Rhodes gives a masterclass in concept art on his blog here and discusses his work on Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Creators speaking about the creative process push all my buttons, I'm particularly partial to Mr Rhodes' art, and I love in particular his version of the Synthesis ending; a leap into that peculiarly Frost-ian spring light that's nether green nor gold.

Can you tell which ending I picked? *grin*

communi_kate: (Default)
Also, this awesome Mass Effect/Dr Who mashup fanart from DA's neveziel is worth a look. His/her gallery is seriously awesome.
communi_kate: (monkey)
So Reg's Mom has finally finished ME3 on Bioware According to Mom. God I love that game. So does she, by the look of things. I hope they do DA2 next. Aw.

In honour of the occasion, here's a link to my favourite post-game ME3 fic 'The Parting Glass' by spicyshimmy on AO3. Massive spoilers, obviously.

And a shout out to my current reading material: Penguin's abridged version of Al-Mas'udi's 'The Meadows of Gold'. Gotta love this book. Gotta love any book where the author discusses the importance of asking lots of questions and not accepting everything people say, especially the parts about baby rhinos sticking their heads out of their mothers' wombs to eat grass and then going back in for a rest. 
communi_kate: (monkey)

I first read Mary Gentle's Orthe series ten years ago, when I picked up a copy to take travelling.  Back in those days, before e-readers, a two-week holiday meant a book the size of a brick that would last the whole fortnight. Now, of course, you can load five or six new novels onto a Kindle or Kobo, but in 2002 e-books hadn't been invented. and I couldn't afford many new books. Orthe was definitely worth the cash-sufficiently so that the novel survived periodic paperback cullings whenever my books threatened to take over the house. It's been on my shelves ever since (you can tell I'm impartial here), and I recently reread the series with a more critical eye.

Orthe really is a doorstop of a novel. My 2002 volume comprises all three Orthe tales: 'Golden Witchbreed', 'Ancient Light' and the novella 'The Crystal Sunlight, the Bright Air', which is set in the same world but otherwise doesn't have much to do with the main novel, so I'll leave it out.

Anyway, the book tells the tale of Lynne deLisle Christie, a human envoy posted to the newly discovered alien world of Carrick V/Orthe. She promptly goes native and has various thrilling adventures (in Golden Witchbreed) and then returns to the world years later as a representative of a private company (whose business model appears to be based upon the corporates of Alien) and discovers just what Orthe's contact with humans has done to their society (Ancient Light)

Orthe reads like a travelogue or an autobiography rather than a novel. This is the book's greatest strength, but it's also its main weakness. The writing is incredibly immersive and engaging, but in true travelogue style there's a fair few parts where nothing much happens. It's like, you know that Indiana Jones must find time to have a cup of tea occasionally in between rescuing damsels and fighting Nazis, else he'd die of thirst? But somehow the movies never take time out to describe this, unless the tea happens to be toxic or the cup is the Holy Grail or some such? Well, the point I'm trying to make here is that in real life there's far more tea than Nazis, and that's the sort of book that Orthe is. The interludes aren't uninteresting-there's intrigue and politics aplenty, but sometimes Christie spends a lot of time hanging around trying to get an audience or recovering from whatever harrowing adventure she has just embarked upon: it all adds realism, but it's slow at times.

Fortunately Christie is the sort of person you enjoy spending time with. The book's first-person narrative is used to great effect and this adds to the absorbing nature of the novel. Christie is the first person who's ever been in extensive contact with the Ortheans, so you explore the world as she does and see them through her eyes. It's a great way of explaining the society without too many infodumps (more on that later). Christie is either a bit of a Mary Sue, though, or else merely extremely likeable-the resident xenoscientists refuse to socialise, openly criticism most aspects of the world and can't wait to leave the planet, but Christie gains admittance to Orthean society with relative ease. More, she discovers important information-such as the Ortheans' gender differences-in casual conversation, whereas the scientists who have been studying the Ortheans for months still haven't worked out their life-cycle. Maybe that's the point-the other scientists don't make friends with the natives, whereas Christie takes the trouble to do so.

The native Ortheans are portrayed as roughly human height, with six fingers, and a nictating third eyelid, but they're close enough to humans for the protagonist to have sexual relationships with them (yes, more on that later as well) But there's a fine line between too alien and just alien enough for humans to empathise with your characters. Gentle falls into the same inescapable trap as many authors-aliens written by human authors are inevitably filtered through human perceptions and senses and often end up looking like us with bits stuck on. She does do a good job of thinking through the cultural implications of a society where children don't develop gender until puberty-much like Ursula K LeGuin, but with much more human characters.

Regardless of this, there are a lot of strong points in the novel, and swords and lost technology are always fun elements no matter which sandbox you play in. And Orthe really is one hell of a sandbox, despite its similarity to Earth. The novel really shines in its delicious descriptions of its world and the people who live there. If there's one reason why you should read Orthe, then it's the sheer lyricism Gentle invokes when describing her settings. Here's a passage from Golden Witchbreed that describes the ancient city of Kirriathe.

"Knife edged shadows lay across our path, the straight edged shadows that only occur in cities. The sun was low in the south behind us. Ahead there was barely anything left standing. Walls jutted up from moss covered hummocks. Pale-leafed scrub forced its way between the paving stones. The weather had rounded the edges of the slabs, worn them smooth. The walls might have been carved, once. Further on, open to the sky, there were only lines on the barren earth to show where walls had stood. A great flight of steps went down a slope, beginning nowhere and ending nowhere, growth over by a feathery silver-green weed. We stood on the steps. They were as rounded as if the sea had worked on them."

It's a fabulous description, and it's why the collected novels are 980 pages long. Orthe is a book that yearns for the Kindle.

If the descriptions are fantastic, then the society I found distinctly more prosaic. The world of Orthe is a post-holocaust, semi-mediaeval society whose denizens engage in many familiar activities; they fight with swords, sail ships very similar to Earth ships, wear similar jewellery, and the main character walks more or less unnoticed amongst the Ortheans by means of a hooded cloak. This allows for many cool scenes, but seemed rather clunky after reading more alien stories like 'TK'Tk'Tk' by David D Levine and 'The Legend of St Ignatz the Provider' by Samantha Henderson. Orthean society seemed very human in comparison, and I have to admit that Orthe doesn't feel as exotic to me at thirty as it did at twenty.

But the trilogy must be twenty or so by now, and maybe just having a female envoy as the protagonist in a sci-fi series was a bit of a step in those days. Regardless, the settings and societies depicted feel familiar enough that you could imagine the novel taking place in a hitherto undiscovered country on Earth. But Orthe is an immersive world and there's enough nice touches and exoticism to keep the setting from being too cliché-the eternal Hexenmeister and the mysterious town of Kasabaarde come to mind.

The weakest part however, is the relationships. Christie embarks upon a short-lived sexual relationship with an Orthean in the first novel. He's swiftly introduced and fades out within a chapter for no other reason, it seems, that to establish that it is possible. (his mother releases Christie from prison, but her motives have more to do with disagreeing with the faction that installed Christie there than helping her son's lover). Christie becomes friends with a mercenary, Blaize, who's one of the best supporting characters in a novel that's crammed full of them, but he ends up with the daughter of Christie's best friend, and by the time Christie realizes that she has feelings for the friend herself, it's far too late to do anything constructive about them.

It's a shame, because the characters individually are fantastic-each character has their own motivations, and minor players are described in loving detail. This seems to be a trait of Gentle's writing (anyone remember Grunts and its perverted halflings) and it's yet another thing I really like about her work.

Another thing I like is the morality. Everyone has a believable agenda: there are no good guys and bad guys. Orthe is grimly realistic in its depiction of colonialism; its exploration begins with a government team working for high-minded ideals and ends with the invasion of profit-led private corporations hungry for new technology. The company Christie works for in Ancient Light contributes to a civil war (most of it instigated by Christie's sheer presence as a trustworthy human) followed by a seemingly unstoppable onslaught of personal betrayals and an ending that's distinctly bitter-sweet. In that was the novel reminded me a little of ME3, but everything does these last few days.

Just like the Mass Effect series, the alien society is just human with bits on, but it's all so much damn fun you just don't care.
communi_kate: (monkey)
So I finished Mass Effect.

I didn't mind the ending. (Synthesis, btw, although I'm still unsure if that was the 'happy' end or not.) But after hearing a NPC comment half way through that it was a miracle Shepard had survived for so long ,I wasn't expecting a pleasant resolution.  So Shepard died, and it was sad. I like poignant endings. Makes the story mean more.  

That said, I enjoyed the Mass Effect world immensely, and all its characters. The game wasn't perfect, but no game is, and I liked it enough to invest over a hundred hours of gameplay in the trilogy. More, if you count playing the first two games twice; after a short Xbox custody battle with an ex ended in defeat. The only other game I remember mainlining quite as seriously was Final Fantasy 8, the champagne bottle that launched me on the wide seas of  gaming at the advanced age of twenty-one. Jesus, beating Bahamut took me hours, back then, and the camcorder epilogue was the best thing there ever was.

Normally I'd deal with the ending by diving into fan fiction, but here's the thing with Mass Effect.  There isn't any. Oh, there's piles of the stuff, including some that I've perpetrated. But none of it's about my Commander Shepard.

You know the one. The guy (yes, I always play male characters given the chance, because if I've got to look at a CG arse for hours on end then I'd rather it be one I find attractive) with dark eyes, a severe military haircut, broad cheekbones, and skin a shade darker than David Anderson's, which to my mind gave their final scene together a special poignancy. The man who always did the right thing, even when, especially when, it was the hard thing to do, who romanced Liara, saved the rachni, who made peace betwen the quarians and the geth, who collected tropical fish and then forgot to feed them.The man who managed to sweet-talk his enemies into shooting themselves more often than not.

He was a good guy. I'll miss him.

So I guess what this all boils down to was that Mass Effect was a good epic. Perhaps even a great one. The writing hit the spot most of the time, the characters were engaging (MORDIN), and the epic space vistas and station corridors seemed to suit the Bioware graphics engine better than Dragon Age's trees and hilly landscapes ever did. Space opera of the most addictive kind, with the monsters from Star Wars, the pathos of Battlestar Galactica, an the spaceships from Star Trek.

Although if there's one thing it reminded me of, more than anything, then it's Roy Batty's soliloquy in Bladerunner. 

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire from the windows of the Citadel. I watched plasma beams glitter in the dark near the mass effect relays.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Time to die.

communi_kate: (monkey)

In Mass Effect 3 one of the sidequests is to fetch a kakliosaur fossil for a salarian scientist. The salarians clone the kakliosaur for the krogans to ride. As this is awesome, you never get to see it in the game. Fortunately [ profile] DuneChampion over on DeviantArt has drawn it. Awesomely.

Also, there are baby krogan, and if there's anything cooler than alien dinosaurs wearing spacesuits and riding other alien dinosaurs, the it's baby krogan.

communi_kate: (monkey)

riding a road of diamond dust to a moon where stations drift across a warm underground sea...

'Jinjing', second of a series of five illustrated short stories by Warren Ellis and Eliza Gauger about women in space. Reminded me of Mass Effect.
communi_kate: (monkey)
A afternoon Haiku of incredible frustration. 

Red rings on Xbox
How to finish Mass Effect?
Best find repair fast.
communi_kate: (ranting)
I'm thirty hours in to Mass Effect 3 and have a nasty suspicion that this game is going to rip my heart out and leave it bleeding upon the cracked and smoking deck of the Normandy.
Don't think I'm going to have any complaints about the ending, though.
communi_kate: (Default)
18,000 words. Almost done :D

Hooray! The infamous tumblr Dragon Age According To Mom has not vanished, but instead changed to BioWare According to Mom here.She's playing Mass Effect! One gem:

Mom: i'm saving teh world n ever1 wants me 2 do things
Reg: Because you're super effective?
Mom: more important things to do than find wife.

My thoughts exactly, Reg's Mom.

Talking of gems, go read THOR PUT YOUR PANTS BACK ON. I can wait.
communi_kate: (Default)
To celebrate reaching 14,000 words out of 20,000 on my [ profile] scifibigbang story, I'm posting some random links. True, it's fourteen thousand slightly different words than the fourteen thousand I started with this morning, but hopefully these are better words.

DA2 fans will know that Unreliable Narrator Varric Tethras' unreliable version of events is a major theme in the game. Aimo on deviantart mocked-up covers for several of his racier novels, including this, To Tame The Dragoness : caption 'He found the wildest witch-and got more than he bargained for!'
Dragon Age and Mills and Boone are surely two things that go better together.

Aimo also has a neat line in cute sketchcards-check out this sweet M Shepard/Joker example here (warning: guys kissing)

Check out a review of Throne of the Crescent Moon on i09 here

read Penny Arcade's take on Mass Effect 3 here

and watch a guy who loves Jack Bauer far too much sing about it here

And yes, I should do more writing but I can't post it until bloody June 30th anyway.
communi_kate: (Default)
Happy ME3 release day! Have another link to wonderful ME3 concept artist Matt Rhodes' blog here. I love the pic of Shepard taking back the Normandy.In fact I flat-out adore Mass Effect and would be buying it right now if I hadn't managed to delete all my ME1 and 2 saves accidentally in an abortive attempt to transfer them to my new XBox.

communi_kate: (Default)
I wrote [ profile] masseffect secret santa fic for [ profile] susako!

You have to love livejournal challenges. This fic took me ages, partly because the prompt (Anything wintry with the Mass Effect crew) that I chose was so broad and mostly due to my own lack of imagination. After a month of writer's block I sat down at my computer and this came out. I also started a Christmas-themed AC Malik-centric fic, but that's beside the point.

Title:The Company of Stars
Fandom: Mass Effect
Spoilers: None
Warnings. None. It's completely PG!
Summary: The Normandy crew make an unexpected discovery in deep space, and Garrus nearly shoots down Santa Claus.

Read more )
communi_kate: (Default)
I have [ profile] masseffect secret santa fic from [ profile] doomhobbit , whose wonderful Xmas gift included mixes for my ME fics Cities In Dust and The Importance of Names, as well as the epic fic Diary of a Space Hamster. 

Go read the fic here!
Music mixes for those who are interested are here.
communi_kate: (Default)
Back in the UK, for a while at least. And damn, it's cold.

The last two years have been rather peripatetic, consisting of a year of summer with brief pauses for two weeks of winter and four of monsoon, followed by six months of what passes for spring in Australia, the UK and New Zealand.

This (of course) got me thinking about my most recent ficathon signup: the [ profile] masseffect secret santa exchange.Many of the prompts are winter or Christmas themed,and yet the more travelling I do the more obvious it is that the 'traditional' snowy, decorated Christmas is something of a rarity. Growing up in the UK meant that Christmas day for us was chilly, grey and wet, and as we grew older, increasingly family-orientated rather than secular. I celebrated last Christmas in Cambodia with a few expats and large quantities of alcohol, and the windup to Xmas in Australia this year featured surfing Santas in thirty-degree heat and Christmas undies. Usually it's just an excuse to play holiday-themed music, which I adore. This season's playlist features Vienna Teng's Atheist Christmas Carol, Twisted Sister's version of O Come All Ye Faithful and Thea Gilmore's cover of the St `Stephen's Day Murders.

So winter or, for that matter, Christmas on a spaceship two thousand years in the future probably wouldn't be quite as we know it. And that's without mentioning Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Solstice et al. I'm not sure where I'm going to go with the theme, I just know that it'll probably feature jokes about frogs freezing solid and people crawling into tauntauns to keep warm. 

So what does winter mean to you? Card games with grumpy relatives wearing badly-knitted sweaters, snowball fights, surfing or just the shortest day of the year? And,most importantly, what songs are on your Christmas playlist this year?
communi_kate: (Default)
Title: Strange New Worlds
Fandom: Mass Effect
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Suffers from a severe lack of actual sex.
Summary: Written for the masskink prompt:'Joker comes across a really, really old collection of vids of Samara, doing inappropriate things-to lots of people.' 

I don't think that's safe for work... )
communi_kate: (fic)
Title: Stardust
Fandom: Mass Effect 2
Rating: 15
Warnings: Non-explicit xenophilia
Summary: Written for the masskink meme prompt 'Thane/Samara; gentle tender sex + biotics' Turned out more 'Thane and Samara engage in exquisitely polite conversation about life, the universe and everything. Also, they bone.'

We are stardust... )
communi_kate: (Default)

Title: The Importance of Names
Fandom: Mass Effect 2
Spoilers: Not really.
Warnings: Mild profanity-but then, this is Jack.
Summary: Jack has a history, and Commander Shepard's determined to discover it...

This isn't poker. And you're not stripping... )
communi_kate: (monkey)
It's come to my attention after posting the link to the AC Critical Miss comic on the Escapist that there's an even better Critical Miss where they parody the Old Spice ad with Garrus from Mass Effect.Check it out via this link.
....I love the internet sometimes *dies* But I have to go...I'm in the middle of some calibrations.


communi_kate: (Default)

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