Tosche Station Radio #153: Dragon Con 2016 Preview

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This week on Tosche Station Radio, we’re joined by Dragon Con’s Star Wars track director Brandy to preview the upcoming Star Wars programming at this year’s convention. Hosts Brian and Nanci also look at the panels they’ll be moderating and participating on. 

Tosche Station Radio is the official podcast of Tosche-Station.net and a part of Majestic Giraffe Productions. If you like what you hear, please leave a review on the iTunes Music Store and Google Play. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Nanci and Brian are the co-founders and writers of Tosche-Station.net. You can find Nanci on Twitter with the handle @Nancipants and you can find Brian with @LaneWinree.

This podcast has been brought to you in part by Her Universe and your support on Patreon!

Review: Star Wars #22

Stealing a Star Destroyer is such a time honored tradition in the Star Wars Expanded Universe that it was only a matter of time before the comics tackle such a feat.  The plan makes for a fun issue that really lets Jason Aaron flex his space battle writing muscles and creates a nice little challenge for Jorge Molina.  If there’s one thing that’s always going to look better on the screen, it’s a space battle but Molina certainly puts in a valiant effort.  There are X-wings everywhere though, including the pilots of Red Squadron, and we’re definitely a fan of seeing more of that around here.  One can only hope that Aaron will eventually tackle the story in which the current Red Five decides to form a rogue squadron of his very own…

What Aaron’s Star Wars definitely seems committed to is doubling down on the arguing between Leia and Han.  While I’m always a fan of their bickering, I’m a tiny bit (just a very tiny bit) worried that getting too much of their arguing will make it harder for readers to find their Empire Strikes Back love story that much more believable.  But hey!  Then again, we’re still in the pretty early days after Yavin.  I don’t think we’ve gotten the actual timeline but I suspect we’re not even a year out yet.  There’s still plenty of time for the bickering to shift into bickering-flirting.  In the mean time, we get to see Luke play the mediator which is always entertaining.  I’m also pleased to see that Sana is a continuing presence in the Star Wars comics and isn’t just being used as a one-off for that “Han’s wife” reveal.  The galaxy could always use another capable lady especially when she’s a woman of color.

On the art front, I’m not a huge fan of how Jorge Molina does likenesses.  It’s not a big deal for the characters we don’t know but Leia, Han, and Luke all just look a liiiiittle bit off but then again, the Big Three haven’t been the easiest for artists to nail in Star Wars comics since, well, the start.

The Harbringer arc is off to a good start and I’m intrigued to see where they go with it!  (Stormtroopers.  I bet there will be an elite group of stormtroopers.)

Star Wars #22: Jason Aaron/Writer, Jorge Molina/Artist, Matt Milla/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor

Tosche Station Radio #152: A Hot Slice of Krennic

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This week on Tosche Station Radio, the hosts catch up on the news and break down two all-new Rogue One trailers!

Tosche Station Radio is the official podcast of Tosche-Station.net and a part of Majestic Giraffe Productions. If you like what you hear, please leave a review on the iTunes Music Store and Google Play. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Nanci and Brian are the co-founders and writers of Tosche-Station.net. You can find Nanci on Twitter with the handle @Nancipants and you can find Brian with @LaneWinree.

This podcast has been brought to you in part by Her Universe and your support on Patreon!

Western Reaches #11

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This episode hosts Megan and Saf talk about books with AI, and indie games with and without dialogue, as well as Megan finally getting a Pokemon GO story! Our big topic is Ancillary Justice, and what we thought of the worldbuilding, the handling of gender, and the AI characters.
Books:
Updraft – Fran Wilde
Supernova – C.A. Higgins
Queen of Angels – Greg Bear
Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
Games: 
Kentucky Route Zero
Abzû
Oxenfree
Inside
Destiny

You can find Megan on Twitter with the handle @blogfullofwords and you can find Saf with @Wanderlustin. Be sure to subscribe to Western Reaches on iTunes/Google Play and subscribe to the Tosche Station Radio Mega Feed for more great shows, discussion, and commentary.

This podcast has been brought to you in part by Her Universe and your support on Patreon!

Review: Poe Dameron #5

Black Squadron keeps reminding me more and more of Wraith Squadron and that’s definitely a good thing. Sure they’re all damn good pilots but they’ve also got some mad skills down on the ground too. (Wait that didn’t come out right… oh you all know what I meant!)

What really resonated with me this issue was how we finally get more insight into Jessika Pava. This is the first time that I’ve really felt like we’ve gotten to know who she is beneath the surface. Charles Soule doesn’t give us much—just a page—but it’s enough to have a lasting impact on the reader. These are the sort of character moments and revelations that I was really looking forward to in this book. Hot-shot pilots are great but I can’t really love them until I know them.

Of course, you can’t have an X-Wing book without some loyal and capable droids there to back their pilots up! BB-8 may have to take the crown of King of the Droids away from Tonin. (Hey, I told you this book was giving me more and more Wraith vibes!)

It’s worth continuing to point out the elements that continue to rock issue after issue in this book. Phil Noto’s artwork is a continuous delight and Agent Terex is so good at being bad that you can’t help but love him. The only other comment I have to make is that while Issue #4 felt like there were a hundred things happening in those 20ish pages, this issue almost felt too short. That’s not necessarily a criticism, just an observation. It’s almost the nature of comics– they’ve got to keep you coming back for more each time!

As it continues through its second arc, Poe Dameron is definitely a comic you should be picking up every month.

Poe Dameron #4: Charles Soule/Writer, Phil Noto/Artist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor

Review: Darth Vader #24

Darth Vader #24 goes by fast. And I mean really fast.

Look, there’s nothing that you can’t see coming in this issue. Or at least the general ideas of it. No wait, I take that back. The last page made me go “Oh snaaaaaaaaaaap” and then made me cranky that I don’t have Issue #25 in my hands right now. If you think I’m going to spoil that ending for you here though… boy oh boy are you looking at the wrong review.

One of the best things about Kieron Gillen’s work on this book has been how he hasn’t shied away from the Prequels. It’s news to no one that the Prequels are controversial and there is a subset of fans who enjoy yelling about how bad they are and how they should be ignored. Delightfully, Gillen does the opposite and godamn it could not be clearer that Darth Vader definitely used to be Anakin Skywalker and still is at his core. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t still be haunted by the memories of Obi-Wan and Padmé. Despite those internal struggles, Darth Vader is still a force to be reckoned with. Cylo may have activated the kill switch in the suit but it is a gesture that is insignificant against the power of the Force.

There’s not much more to say here. Again, it’s a good issue that is a very fast read. Salvador Larroca does some neat stuff with a page full of lightsaber dueling but beside that… everything’s leading up to the final issue. Everything. How can we possibly wait patiently for that last issue when we know SO MUCH IS GOING TO GO DOWN?

Darth Vader #24: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Salvador Larroca/Artist, Edgar Delgado/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor

Of Dice and Droids Side Episode #2: The Siege of Higher Moff Mantooine Mantooine III

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THE SIEGE OF HIGHER MOFF MANTOOINE MANTOOINE III

The Rogue Podron crossover

It’s sweeps week here at Of Dice and Droids, which means the crew from Rogue Podron are joining us for a special episode featuring a little adventure written by Brian. This game takes place in the Legends universe between The Krytos Trap and The Bacta War

The Cast:

  • Brian, the GM
  • Nanci, various NPCs
  • Danny, Jym Erso (no relation)
  • Saf, Gayla Cha
  • Megan, Daichi 
  • Heath, Kel Revik
  • Jay, Wor’st Id’ea

This podcast has been brought to you in part by Her Universe and your support on Patreon. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes/Google Play to hear all of the adventures! You can also subscribe to the Tosche Station Radio master podcast feed for even more great Star Wars  and geek culture content. 

This podcast has been brought to you in part by Her Universe and your support on Patreon. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes to hear even more adventures! You can also subscribe to the Tosche Station master podcast feed for even more great Star Wars content. 

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Finding (Virtual) Love: Queerly Represent Me

The world is filled with amazing and diverse people and relationships. Why should video games, a medium that often reflects the real world, be any different?

Short answer: they shouldn’t be, and as time goes on they’re increasingly not. With the Sims 4’s recent update removing gender restrictions from sim creation, and companies like Bioware making it a standard across their games to include same-sex romance options, it’s clear that considerations of gender and sexuality have moved very much into the mainstream.

Still, a gamer searching for queer representation in the games they play might often find themselves disappointed by what can seem to be a barren wasteland. How amazing would it be to have a database of games including diverse sexualities and genders? A place to find games that represent who you are?

That’s where Queerly Represent Me comes in.

Founded by Alayna M Cole primarily as a place where the work of academics researching queer representation could be collected and shared, Queerly is described as a “database for games that represent sexuality, gender, and relationships.” Queerly Represent Me contains not only an exhaustive and ever-expanding list of games that explore these areas, but also resources for those interested in these topics, including the results of the Queer Representation (2016) survey.

This ain’t no top-ten list, this is some serious business. Looking for games with romanceable non-binary characters? Queerly’s got you covered. What about games that explore the formulae of typical dating sims with regards to relationships? Yup. What about a dating sim based off of that one time-travel game that you wish was gayer? Absolutely.

Basically, there are a lot of games there, from big AAAs to tiny little indies. This site is a valuable resource not just for research, but also for gamers looking for representation and game developers who have worked to put that representation into their games in some way.

a-normal-lost-phone

A Normal Lost Phone, a point-and-click game jam game exploring gender.

There are pages of examples within Queerly’s categories (sexuality, gender, and relationships) showing that diversity exists within games, which is perhaps encouraging to those looking to find themselves in what they play, or include queer characters and relationships in their own games.

Whether a researcher, a gamer, or a developer, Queerly Represent Me is a valuable resource for anyone even slightly interested in representation within video games. Why not check it out today?

The Princess, The General, and the Story Group: in praise of old favorites in new canon

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well that I’m not altogether fond of the way that the new post-ROTJ canon has treated Leia. By the time we see her in The Force Awakens, her career is shattered, her marriage is strained, and her only son has become a Vader-worshipping genocidal maniac. These are not the kinds of things that I ever would have said that I wanted for my favorite character. Half the time I go around sad for her fate and the rest of the time I go around scared for what the future of Star Wars storytelling has in store for her. But this is not an article about that. This is…well… the opposite.

One of my chief complaints about the (much beloved) Legends universe of storytelling was that Leia’s character seemed to be difficult for many writers to nail down, and even more difficult to keep consistent across multiple series and authors. As much as abuse as the new canon has heaped onto Leia, that particular violation is gladly absent from her current portrayal. One of the best things I have found about the new canon and the work of the Lucasfilm Story Group is the fantastic job they’ve done with the internal consistency of the universe- not only as it pertains to the events in the Galaxy as a whole, but also in the portrayals of the passions and the motivations of the individual characters.

Aftermath: Life Debt. DelRey Books 2016Having recently read (and re-read) Life Debt, the second book in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series, I couldn’t help but be struck by Leia’s portrayal. Leia is my favorite character, she’s the reason I ever cared about Star Wars to begin with, so it’s only natural that I paid special attention to her in Life Debt. Her arc over the course of the book is both believable and well expressed, but that alone is not enough to warrant my unmitigated joy. The thing that has me cheering (and writing very involved articles) is how her actions in this book give me answers to questions I had after having read Claudia Gray’s Bloodline (four times) earlier this year. Gray’s exquisite novel chronicling Leia’s life and career nearly a quarter century after the battle of Endor left me with lots of questions as to the intervening years. There is very little in the world that I love more than a book that makes me think that much. Bloodline is the kind of novel that I could have enjoyed casually just for its surface awesomeness, but the fact that it was so thought provoking just made it that much more of a win in my esteem.

Bloodline. DelRey Books 2016

When Ransolm Casterfo says to Leia in Chapter 8 of Bloodline that it’s a pity she never stood for Chancellor because she’s “a powerful leader, someone with lasting moral authority,” I was left asking why: why a person with such strong convictions, a person who has a clear path to leadership, a person who has spent a lifetime in the service of the people of the Galaxy would never have risen to any sort of position of power within the New Republic bureaucracy. Even Han says to her in Bloodline that he doesn’t see what she gets out of politics. Going into Life Debt, I have to admit that I was asking basically the same brand of question.  

How is it that Leia, who the Legends universe had running the galaxy within a decade of the victory at Endor, is spending the new canon sitting idly in the Senate for a quarter century? How does that even make sense?

I found my answers in Life Debt.

We learn in the first Aftermath book that Leia has become the visible symbol of the New Republic. Not only is she the heir apparent to Chancellor Mon Mothma, but it’s a hologram of her speaking that’s making the rounds of the outer rim planets- telling hopeful citizens that the New Republic is coming for them. Leia is the face of galactic liberation. Leia is the voice that’s reaching out to far-flung systems telling them that freedom from Galactic Tyranny is at hand. And in Life Debt when Mas Amedda comes to Velusia to surrender what’s left of the Empire, and to symbolically put an end to that tyranny, he brings himself before the combined forces of Mon Mothma and Princess Leia.

At this point in the story, Leia is clearly in league with Mon Mothma. She’s playing a key executive role in the fledgling New Republic government. She is being treated with the same deference and reverence as the Chancellor herself; even being encouraged to take on a protective detail (which, in true Leia form, she sharply declines). The New Republic Senate is seated, and it’s made clear that Leia is welcome to address the body- as she mentions to Han Solo in the opening scene of the book. And yet we can discern from that same conversation as well as a comment made in later in the book, that Leia is not sitting in the Senate full-time. It becomes apparent early in the book that Leia’s position during this transitional period, although largely symbolic, is very much in the upper echelon of leadership. So is it any wonder that I had questions as to the direction her career took in the years between this moment and the events of Bloodline?

By the end of the book, I was no longer wondering. In fact, by the end of the book I had answers to questions that I’d had since TFA (the second time; after the first time all I could do was cry over Han Solo).

By Chapter 29 of Life Debt (a little more than two thirds of the way through the book), Leia says that she feels like one of Mon Mothma’s “discarded instruments”. When Leia makes it clear that she will do what is right over what is politic, Mon Mothma (who, strangely enough, just prior to Amedda’s failed surrender asks Leia what has happened to her idealism) seems to be absolutely shocked that Leia would “injure the New Republic” over her strong convictions pertaining to the liberation of Kaskyyyk. Leia’s answer to that: “I would burn down the whole galaxy if I thought it was right.”

During this period in galactic history, Leia is barely into her twenties. She has spent the entirety of her brief adulthood engaged in open, front-line warfare against the Empire and that has forged her into a person who can’t sit idly by and wait for bureaucracy to address injustice. Even Ransolm Casterfo, as her political adversary in Bloodline, sees that in her; declaring her to be someone who knows, “when to stop debating and take action.” That’s the Leia we see here in Life Debt. We see that when Leia said in Aftermath that “the New Republic is coming to help” systems suffering under the Empire, she meant it. And in the events of Life Debt, we see that she means to make good on that herself if she has to- starting with the citizens of Kashyyyk.

“We have fought to be good,” she reminds Mon Mothma, “to be heroes! But now?” she challenges, “You want to negotiate this middle space. You want to dither about in the gray.” Dithering about is something that the Leia of Life Debt and the Resistance General in TFA both have no patience for.  General Leia serious

Mon Mothma tries to explain that the reality of the transition to peacetime means that they cannot continue to behave with the impetuousness and autonomy of the insurgency that up until recently was their SOP. She says that as a proper, functioning administration that they “are beholden to the whole, to the machine of government.” Leia is not ready for the reality of being beholden to the machine of government. Spending her young adulthood fighting a war has left her with no patience for that machine. She also has no patience for the idea of negotiating those things that she finds non-negotiable. But as much as Leia insists that issues are as cut and dry as good and evil, Mon Mothma and the New Republic establishment see it differently. To Mon Mothma, it’s politics as usual. She will handle things the correct way, even if it allows suffering to persist in the mean time.

“Meet the new tax collector, same as the old tax collector,” Han Solo says to a fellow scoundrel in the Legends book Honor Among Thieves.  And in response to Leia’s holographic message of forthcoming liberation in Aftermath, Sinjir declares, “One conqueror replaces another.” The rest of this exchange between Leia and Mon Mothma shows us that Leia is starting to view the New Republic in this same light.

It seems to me from what we see in the latter half of Life Debt that Leia is not as committed to the New Republic government as she thought she would be. She remains committed to what she fought for, but less so to what it’s becoming. We come to understand fully over the course of the book that Leia is, at her core, much more concerned about what is right than what is “correct” and that she is angered that the government that she fought so hard and gave up her youth for is not the government that she is getting as the war draws to an end. The new tax man looks an awful lot like the old tax man.

Mon Mothma finds this proverbial gray area even on things that, in Leia’s eyes, are morally absolute. And any ability to turn a blind eye to the plight of a suffering people while allowing bureaucracy to take its time in making things better feels to Leia like the way the Empire would behave. And for Leia, who equates the Empire to absolute evil, seeing any shades of that in the new regime is unacceptable.  Although her path at the beginning of Life Debt seems to be set in the same direction that she took in the Legends universe, by the end of the book, the office of Chancellor (and in fact the whole business of the way the government is operating) has left a bad taste in Leia’s mouth. When we hear her say, “I’d rather be alone than with you, Chancellor,” we get to see a princess and politician taking her first steps away from the line she was raised to tow and onto the path that leads straight to a leased hangar full of detonators on Hosnian Prime.

By the end of Life Debt, we are seeing a Leia who is ready to walk away from Mon Mothma and the New Republic government altogether. So then I asked myself why a person whose been through those things- who has had their dearly held convictions and their life’s mission challenged by the realities of bureaucracy- would spend the next quarter century participating in that reality. I found those answers in Life Debt as well.

From Marvel's Princess Leia VOL.1

Leia will always look after the people of Alderaan

 In an interlude meeting the officers serving in the Alderaan Flotilla, we see that much of the Alderaani diaspora still hold a great deal of admiration for and devotion to their surviving Princess. But they are concerned for their future and displeased at having no current representation in the Galactic Senate. Knowing as we do the fact that she was their elected representative for years before the destruction of their planet, it’s easy to predict their asking her to serve them in a similar capacity under the New Republic. And knowing as we do (from the events of the Princess Leia comic series) the power of Leia’s devotion to her people, it’s only natural to presume that she would perform that duty when called upon. It’s the Leia of the comics who agrees to sit in the Senate and who spends a large portion of her life dealing with the gridlock and the political quagmire, but it is the Leia of Life Debt who gives it all up and walks away to form the Resistance.

These two versions of Leia: the woman who is solely committed to the ideals for which she fought and the woman who spends a career working within the less-than-ideal government that resulted from that fight are two sides of the same coin. She is the Princess and the General. She is the warrior and the politician. We can see clear the path that Leia sets herself on in Life Debt coming to fruition in Bloodline; up to and including the moment when she finally gives up entirely on being part of government and strikes out on her own. Looking closely, we can see the birth of the Resistance from the end of Life Debt. When Leia climbs aboard the Moth and admits that she is joining the mission without the blessing of the New Republic administration, we get an early glimpse of General Organa. What a great gift to Leia fans. It’s a welcome change from the Legends universe where she was often times unrecognizable from the films and almost universally inconsistent from one book to the next. Having this consistent portrayal of the character- one wherein we can draw a straight line from where she is to where she is going- is a gift that I don’t take lightly.

When the canon was rebooted, we fans were assured over and over again that there would be quality and consistency in the new expanded universe. At this point in the journey, I could not be happier with the result.

 

The Story Group represented at the Future Filmmakers Panel at SWCE. Copyright 2016 Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

These people are awesome.

Tosche Station Radio #151: Celebration Europe was Artistically Done

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This week on Tosche Station Radio, Brian and Nanci are joined by friend and Celebration Europe attendee Jen to break down the news, sights, and sounds from the convention. We also dive into some of the news out of San Diego Comic Con and get caught up on the other fandom news to make the rounds. 

Tosche Station Radio is the official podcast of Tosche-Station.net and a part of Majestic Giraffe Productions. If you like what you hear, please leave a review on the iTunes Music Store and Google Play. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Nanci and Brian are the co-founders and writers of Tosche-Station.net. You can find Nanci on Twitter with the handle @Nancipants and you can find Brian with @LaneWinree.

This podcast has been brought to you in part by Her Universe and your support on Patreon!