I have just returned from a meeting of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club, (the oldest science fiction club in the Southern Hemisphere) where the club had a “board games” night. I ended up on a table playing – you guessed it – Star Wars Monopoly.
Star Wars Monopoly is much like real Monopoly. Instead of Park Lane and various locations around London, you buy properties from the Star Wars films. You can have Tatooine, Endor, or the Imperial Palace. Instead of houses, you buy little replicas of the Millennium Falcon to put on your properties and collect more rent. And yes, these were adults I was playing with. The characters you move around the board can include Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and R2D2. I just had a crummy old Imperial Storm Trooper. I haven’t played Monopoly for 40 years, but soon remembered you have to keep a balance between buying properties and having enough cash on hand to pay the rent when you land on someone else’s properties. You can be asset rich but cash poor, and that’s not a good position to be in. I noticed that it’s “go to jail”, not “go to gaol”, and I wondered: did the original Monopoly have British or American spellings?
On another table, people were playing chess with Star Wars figures. The King was the Emperor, and Darth Vader was the Queen. That took some figuring out. Why wouldn’t Leia be the queen? I also noticed that one of my fellow players had a “Lord of the Rings” wedding ring. He had the elvish inscription about “one ring to bind them all” engraved on his band.
It was an odd night, and bought back childhood memories of playing with another family in my neighbourhood. My friend’s little brother got very upset when he discovered that someone had given him three tens for a fifty because he was too young to read the numbers and do the arithmetic. When he complained to his mother, she ordered the game closed down and everyone was sent home.
So what about you? Have you ever played a grown-up kids game? What was it ? What memories did it bring back?.
Jesus on Mars, by Philip Jose Farmer, has an astonishing plot premise. What if humans landed on Mars, and, in a hollowed-out mountain, found a human community who followed orthodox Jewish teaching? The humans were picked by up a space ship in AD 50, which rescued them from some dangerous situation. (We don’t get to learn much about the situation.). The space ship in which they landed on Mars is just near the hollowed-out mountain. Along with the Jews, they picked up the resurrected Jesus.
Although this book was written in 1979 there is nothing that “jars the reader” because Farmer tried to predict the future and got it wrong. The four earth crew who land on Mars include one Baptist, a Muslim, a lapsed Jew, and a woman who has been an atheist for many years.
They undergo a lot of internal conflict as they try to come to terms with Jesus’ apparent miraculous powers: making things levitate, having the head cut off a ram and then restoring the head to the animal, after which it walks off quite happily.
The Jesus announces that he will be coming to earth in the space ship that has been lying outside the mountain . This is broadcast directly to earth TV stations. That’s when the fun starts, but I won’t give away any more of the plot.
Science fiction is sometimes divided into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. Hard scifi gets all the technical and scientific details right, in great detail. ‘Soft’ scifi is mostly about the characters and their relationships, like ‘soapies’, Star Trek Voyager’ and ‘Star Trek the Next Generation’ were soft scifi. I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes “soft” science fiction. Some copies are available on Amazon.
In the meantime I’m trying to write a second one about a woman on the first manned mission to mars who keeps getting messages on her computer from someone who is able to predict what will happen on the ship. The trouble is, the messages keep disappearing, leaving her with now proof that she ever got them. She doesn’t know whether to tell anyone about them, and the sender urges her not to. Unfortunately, she had two uncles with schizophrenia, and she begins to worry that these messages aren’t real. The novel will revolve around “what do you do on a ship in deep space if you begin to doubt your own sanity?” Who do you turn to for advice when the very people you depend on for cooperation – and who will depend on you – need to feel they can trust you to act rationally, given all the difficult things they’ll have to do when they do get to Mars. (There’s going to be a twist at the end when we learn who the sender of the messages is.) But it’s turning out to be a lot harder than I expected. Writing the spy novel was a hard, slow process, despite several professional manuscript appraisals. It took 5 years before I put it away ad recently pulled it out again. This one is beginning to feel much harder.
Any readers who have suggestions: if you intentionally wanted to drive someone insane on a space ship, how would you it?