Micheal Cobley

Interstellar Tactics




Truer Grit

Funny thing – getting my daily BBC News24 sampler (just to see how the formerly worthwhile public service broadcaster is treating headline topics), there was a segment on how immigrant Polish workers will be voting in the local and council elections held in England and Wales  on May 1st. The piece pointed out that Poles and other east europeans were very aware of the political options, while giving a spot-interviewette to one polish woman who`s learned the `oh I don`t know anything about politics and doesn`t it all sound the same` yawnery happily trotted out by substantial numbers of British citizens as their excuse for not voting or thinking about voting (although I do bet that if ol` Farmer Brown banned, say, Big Brother from the airwaves, these same apathyheads would be out on the pavement in a trice, demanding the return of their lowbrow gagfests. Just a thought).

Anway…east europeans is the focal point here, namely their take on things fantastic and skiffy. As some may know, I do like the odd computer game…now and then, just break up the months, ye know…and a couple of favourite recently have been STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl and The Witcher, the first a post- apocalyptic FPS shooter-type game, the 2nd a 3rd-person style fantasy RPG/action game (although a cunning little file obtained online allows you to play it as an FPS. Kewl!). STALKER was produced by a Urkainian games developer called GSC Game World, and The Witcher comes from CD Projekt in Poland; both have a noticeably gritty, naturalistic approach to the depiction of their respective game worlds, whether its a radiation-scarred wilderness and abandoned towns of the former or post-feudal medieval culture of the latter.

And all in all, quite different from similar titles developed here in the corrupt west. Comparable fantasy games might be Dark Messiah, a first-person fantasy action game from Arkane Studios (French), in which the depiction has far stronger colours. Then there`s Morrowind and Oblivion where the virtual worlds are immense and highly detailed, yet lack a certain character depth and idiosyncrasy, the kind of thing which shines in The Witcher. But then, The Witcher game is based on a bunch of short stories and novels by the Polish writer, Andrzej Sapkowski, whose books are just starting to appear in their english translation. I`ve yet to get my hands on one, but its on my list, just as soon as I`ve read Joe Abercrombie`s newie, Ian Mcdonalds Brasyl, a new novel by a good friend, and Scott Lynch`s Red Seas… The point is that east europeans have quite a bit to teach us about grit and hard living – when the Soviet Union fell apart, the West just basically stood back, folded its arms and let the whole shooting match crash. Our leaders weren`t in the least bit concerned that millions of people were facing ruin and the disappearance of social support systems run by states that were broke (after all the prevailing doctrines in Europe and America were only concerned with investment opportunities, not the lives of real people, regardless of whatever guff was spoken in public). So poles, czechs, ukrainians, moldavians, romanians, etc, are all deeply acquainted with hardship and the loss of security, and this is bound to come out in the fictions that they write. We could learn a lot from them.

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