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Nathan Ilten

A Gem in the Confines of Computer Game Packaging: Stories of Life on the Frontier

Frontier II: EliteI recently moved to Berkeley from abroad, and my father, in his desire to free up some space in the cellar, sent me over 20 boxes of childhood gadgets and memories. While sorting through such goodies as my radio-controlled windsurfer/car and my Tolkien encyclopedia, I stumbled upon a diamond in the rough: Stories of Life on the Frontier, a companion book to the 1993 Gametek/Konami computer game Frontier: Elite II.

Frontier, the fourth and last computer game I ever purchased, was a milestone in space-adventure games, thanks in large part to the vast and diverse universe which the player is allowed to explore. The game's author, David Braben, did an incredible job of worldbuilding. The almost 100 trillion celestial bodies are complemented by a rich backstory which is woven into the fabric of the game. I spent many an hour smuggling narcotics to the Sol system, carrying out missions for the Federation, and fighting space pirates. Like many other games of the time, Frontier supplements the in-game story with additional media: a map of the galaxy, a gazetteer, and the aforementioned collection of short stories.

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Hugo Week: Connie Willis' Blackout/All Clear

BlackoutI'm a sucker for time travel stories. Doctor Who is on my list of must-watch television, I consider the Back to the Future trilogy to be a scifi masterpiece, and the scene of the Heroes episode “Five Years Gone” showing Hiro Nakamura's plan to change the past gave me chills from its sheer awesomeness. That's why when I heard about Connie Willis' time travel novel Blackout/All Clear, I knew that I should take a look, despite the daunting total of over a thousand pages.

Blackout/All Clear tells the story of a number of history students from the University of Oxford in the year 2060 who use time travel to research key events in World War II England. Merope Ward is observing evacuated children in the English countryside. Michael Davies plans to experience the Dunkirk evacuation from the safety of the Dover docks. Polly Sebastian's dream research project involves traveling to London during the Blitz. Their advisor, Mr. Dunworthy, is concerned about the dangerous nature of their assignments, and even more worried that time travel may be more problematic than previously thought.

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BSFME Contestant #2: Back to the Future II

This week at Fantasy Matters, we are writing about our favorite science fiction movies of all time.  Yesterday, Matt Rasmusson wrote about The Fifth Element, and today, Nathan Ilten nominates his favorite--Back to the Future II.


When recently asked to write something about my favorite science fiction movie, I realized to my slight chagrin that I wasn't completely sure which movie that may be. So I started thinking, and realized even more embarrassingly that I couldn't even think of that many good science fiction movies. To prod my memory, I headed over to Wikipedia, only to come to the realization that (a) there a very many science fiction movies; and (b) most of them are pretty bad — but this probably holds for any genre you choose. In any case, I had decided to go with my gut instinct: Back to the Future II (BTTF2) is my favorite scifi movie.

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