Short Story – Across the Stars, I Love You (Part 1)

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This story, initially written as a brief idea, ended up significantly longer than initially planned. It has also shifted between being a properly researched bit of backstory for my Heavy Gear army and being a generic 1980s mecha anime inspired bit of pulp sci-fi. It still wears all its inspirations – Heavy Gear, Metal Armour Dragonar, Armoured Trooper VOTOMS, etc – very obviously, but it is rather more my own universe than any existing one.

Consider this the first episode of a television series’ arc, or maybe even the first half of an episode.

Pictured above are its principal characters, kindly illustrated for me by request by an artist taking suggestions for drawing topics.

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“Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter” – Parents in Fafner Episode 3


It is impossible to talk in too much depth about the plot of Fafner of the Azure at only three episodes in; it is a series that, like Rahxephon, holds its secrets close and plays on the characters’ and audience’s different levels of knowledge for dramatic effect. At this point the viewer knows next to nothing about the enemy, or even about the status quo. Using implication and secrecy for dramatic effect is something an awful lot of anime tries to do, and with highly variable amounts of aptitude; I abandoned my weekly write-ups of Macross Delta because it became apparent that it had reached a kind of stasis of plot; very little happened to progress the story, and the progress of the characters in discovering mysteries was not interesting. Currently it is too early in Fafner to comment on this aspect in relation to the whole series, but there is something its third episode does which I feel stands out as taking the technique in a fruitful direction.

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Writing Prompt #003 – “First Child ~ Hesitation”

The writing prompt here was “describe a time you felt very uncomfortable.” A lot of these prompts are autobiographical, which I don’t really want to write. So any autobiographical prompts will become stories about a fictional character in that situation.

I have also been watching a series I really thought I hated, Soukyuu no Fafner, and discovering it is not as bad as I initially thought. However, it did get me thinking. It is a series very much about showing teenage mecha pilots as even more “ordinary” than, say Evangelion (which is very much about someone who has never had a normal life being put in ever-greater stress). It is not quite as good as Rahxephon but I feel it is trying to do the same thing.

Something I can’t help but feel is that the idealised stylisation of anime characters makes impossible outfits look good even on “plain” characters. I wanted to write something a bit more embarrassing.

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Tabletop Game Review – Dropfleet Commander


As much as Battlefleet Gothic was an often entertaining game, it suffered from a number of issues that I feel show its age, and show how wargame design has developed; while its factions have numerous flavourful rules and are very distinct, most of these rules do not work particularly well to create a fun game. There is absolutely a place for a game which focuses on flavour and narrative over strict statistical balance, but BFG never, I felt, committed enough to doing this and what was left was a game with two well-thought-out factions balanced against each other and a number of strange, often very thematic but not fun to play or face factions. There were numerous other mechanical idiosyncrasies that got in the way of it being a good game; small ships were unviably weaker than large ones and the special order system added far too much unnecessary variation to games by requiring a leadership test on often randomly-generated leadership.

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Writing Prompt #001 – “A Letter”

It must be fate that led to this being written. In efforts to stop procrastinating and start writing in earnest again I bought a book – “642 Things To Write About”, published by the 826 Valencia writing school. The book is pitched to younger writers than I, but it has an interesting mixture of genres in its prompts, including a lot of surreal or speculative choices which appeal to me.

I bought the book, opened it at a random page, and received:

“If you had to make a robot, what would it do? How would it help you?”

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Closing Thoughts on Trails in the Sky


Having now finished both halves of Trails in the Sky I feel it is a game that does very little new, but does almost everything incredibly well and with enough charm and character that it is consistently enjoyable to play and highly engaging. I have explained in previous articles how its escalation of scale from small personal problems to an ultimately nationwide threat is well-paced (over around 60-80 hours of gameplay across two games) and turned into a key piece of character development. What is more, the personal aspects (which are what make the game memorable) are very well-woven into the main plot; characters appear in sidequests and then become plot-significant, for example. In a game where a good amount of the story is about trying to work out from zero information what is going on, having the NPCs feel like they are people living lives and carrying out plans that intersect with the party’s travels is a good, immersive touch.

NB: This review touches on plot details from Trails in the Sky SC and FC, and discusses the game’s themes and storyline in some depth.

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Thoughts on the new White Dwarf Magazine

I have not played Games Workshop games for quite some time; the latest rules revisions of both Warhammer Fantasy Battle (now rebranded Age of Sigmar) and Warhammer 40,000 were not to my taste. It is fair to say my initial negativity towards Age of Sigmar has softened somewhat as subsequent updates and revisions have added more to it and addressed my initial complaints – however, while it has become a solid, basic wargame with a quite distinct aesthetic it remains a game I would not choose over the various competitors on the market (and I do question whether it being introduced as a wholesale replacement for the very different WHFB was the best course of action). Nevertheless, I have been following GW‘s shifting strategy as a company and I think they are going some way to improving; while their prices remain comparatively high, they are introducing bundles like the “Start Collecting” sets which seem sensibly put-together and represent a significant discount over buying things individually. Similarly a return to boxed games and the rumoured return of “Specialist Games” ranges like Blood Bowl seem to be reflective of what consumers have asked for, and so it is heartening to see a positive shift in direction.

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Macross Delta Episode 20: Nobody Knows What Is Happening Any More


In my previous Macross Delta article I was highly critical of the series’ massive plot revelations, saying they felt hugely unsatisfying and shutting off potentially interesting thematic readings of the franchise as a whole. These were obviously contentious, but reading the very well-put rebuttal posted by a reader of this blog I re-evaluated my position and think my actual response is a more nuanced one. I still feel that episode 19’s revelations are not personally interesting to me, and are indeed in my opinion a little underwhelming as some great explanation of Macross. But I think this is a lot to do with how they were conveyed robbing them of gravity and wonder. I found myself thinking back to Do You Remember Love, which has a similarly immense moment of epiphany for Hikaru and Misa – the discovery of the song Ai, Oboeteimasu ka?, the discovery of the true nature of the Zentradi and the discovery of the ruined Earth. Those are equally earth-shaking discoveries, for sure.

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Short Story: The Precipice From Which One Can See Hell

After a good friend on Twitter mentioned this idea, I felt I had to have a go. We had been discussing the anime Kaiji and Armoured Trooper VOTOMS and the possible interest in a story that combines the grim, dramatic world of cheating and vice that runs through a number of sports and gambling stories with the mecha trope of the gladiatorial robot-fighting arena. VOTOMS has Battling, Heavy Gear has its arena, Battletech has Solaris VII, Infinity has Aristeia.

It seemed a natural fit, and so I tried to write my own arena-fighting story.

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