First meeting in lecture blocks A or B.
Regular meetings in the Royal Ascot on thursday evenings
First Meeting in Lecture block A or B 7.30 monday 30-9.
Regular meetings same place monday evenings
We aim to produce about 3 or 4 issues per annum and fill them with stuff written by our wonderful membership on any subject that can possibly be SF, fantasy or games related. We include reviews, fiction, and articles in general. These should normally be given to the publicity officer in whichever form (hardcopy or floppy disc).
First a word from some of our committee members...
I've been asked in my official capacity as IFIS Chairman to write an introductory thingy for the magazine. However, I haven't a clue as to what to say so forgive any ramblings. Anyway, this is addressed to two different groups: returning members and potential new members. To the returning members, welcome back to another fun-packed, joy filled year that lies ahead of us. Any ideas you have for events, please tell the committee as soon as possible and then don't complain if we can't fit it in. We will do our best, and if you can do any better, then you organise it.
To the potential new members: I'm sure you are asking yourself why you should join IFIS, but if you watch any of the Star Treks, Babylon 5, X-Files, Doctor Who, Seaquest, Time Trax, Quantum Leap, Hong Kong Phooey, etc. Or read any Pratchett, Asimov, Adams, Donaldson, Brooks, Aldiss, Gemmell, or even The Simpsons comics, then we are the society for you. We are not just the science fiction society, but the science fiction and fantasy society. Plus we are probably one of the few science fiction and fantasy societies that meets in a pub (in other words we spend a lot of our time getting completely pissed!!). We do, however, do a few other things including regular video evenings, quizzes as well as our annual Christmas dinner organised by me (but paid for by you!!). Any suggestions for venue for this years Christmas dinner will be readily accepted and quickly ignored unless I think it's any good, and then I will take the credit for another successful dinner!!!
Anyway, that's all I can think of, so all that is left to say is WELCOME to the new members, and WHY?? To the returning members. So have a good year and make sure you spend the majority of it drunk!!!
What the hell is it?
The games society consists of people with interests in a large variety of games. Like what?
Well, for a start, there are the Collectable card games (CCG's). The most popular seem to be Jyhad, and Magic: the Gathering.
Then we come on to Role Playing games (RPG's). A number of Post graduates run RPG campaigns. The systems currently in use are Shadowrun (a cyberpunk setting), AD&D (which everyone must have heard of), Paranoia, (a gratuitously funny/silly/violent system), and undoubtedly some others which will be starting up shortly.
Well, the society also owns a large collection of board games, including some Games workshop stuff like Spacehulk, bloodbowl and both versions of talisman. For a full listing, check out the GameSoc web pages.
What about live stuff?
Okay. We will also be able to run Quasar and paintball sessions (assuming there is enough interest for these things). Additionally, if Adam Bob gets it sorted out, there will be a live Role-play session at some point.
ls that it?
And now a short article detailing the Babylon 5 story
Babylon 5 is just finishing its third season on channel 4. lt is now over halfway through its 5 year story arc and we have seen lots of changes in that time.
Surprisingly, this high quality program has been filmed on a shoestring budget in comparison with most other science fiction programs.
The story of Babylon 5 was thought up by Joe Michael Straczinski, about 10 years ago, and took a while to get into production as he has kept the overall story to himself, so Warner Bros had to trust him.
Babylon 5 is a space station in the mid 23rd century Its purpose was to be a meeting place to prevent misunderstandings such as the Earth/Mimbari war in which Earth was nearly defeated before the Mimbari mysteriously surrendered.
Babylon 5 is the last of the Babylon stations built by the Earth Alliance with funding help from the Mimbari and Centauri. The first three stations were damaged during construction and the fourth vanished 24 hours after going on-line.
On the station there is an ambassador from each race, the five major races making up the Babylon 5 Advisory council. For Earth Alliance there is Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, who is also the station commander. For the Mimbari, there is Delenn. For the Centauri Republic, there is Londo Mollari. For the Narn Regime there is G'Kar. And for the Vorlon Empire there is Kosh Naranek. There are also various other ambassadors that make up the League of Non-aligned Worlds.
Babylon 5 became operational in 2257. From this point onwards, many crises have had to be dealt with, including an assassination attempt on Kosh and the Norn's attacking a Centauri outpost. Psi-cops chased a rogue telepath onto the station. He had escaped Psi-corps after being experimented on to increase his abilities. After leaving the station, he moved to a higher plane and gave resident telepath Talia Winters a gift.
Jeffrey Sinclair discovered that, in the Battle of the Line, the final battle in the Earth-Mimbari War, he had been kidnapped and interrogated by the Mimbari.
Londo Mollari unknowingly enlisted the help of Morden, a Shadow agent.
Euphrates, the planet that Babylon 5 orbits, is discovered to contain a great machine which Draal, a friend of Delenn's becomes caretaker of at the request of the old caretaker; Vorn.
A distress signal from Babylon 4 results in its evacuation as it is dragged through time by The One to fight in a great war. At the end of 2258, a border dispute between the Norn's and the Centauri is settled when the Shadows destroy the Norn outpost there and Londo is given the credit. G'Kar goes to investigate the outpost's destruction.
Michael Garibaldi, the security chief and Sinclair's friend, uncovers a plot to assassinate the president. He is shot before he has a chance to pass on the information, and recovers enough to tell Sinclair just too late to stop Earthforce 1 from blowing up with President Satingo on board. Vice President Morgan Clark is sworn in as president. Delenn enters a device called the Chrysalis.
At the beginning of 2259, Sinclair is moved to Mimbar to become the first human ambassador there. Captain John Sheridan is promoted to Commander, and Lennier, Delenn's aide, tells them that Mimbari souls are being born into humans. G'Kar returns claiming an ancient enemy has returned. Dr Franklin revives Garibaldi using the alien. healing device. Delenn emerges from the Chrysalis as a human/mimbari hybrid. Lieutenant Keffer sees a Shadow ship in hyperspace.
Londo uses the Shadows to conquer Quadrant 14 (Narn territory) and starts the Centauri-Narn war. Sinclair tells Garibaldi and Delenn about the Rangers. Delenn is removed from the Grey Council by the ruling body of the Mimbari.
John Sheridan is kidnapped by the Streib, Kosh enters his mind. When he is rescued he enlists Garibaldi, Ivanova, and Dr Franklin to fight the new order appearing on Earth under President Clark.
Sheridan learns that the crew of the Icarus, including his wife and Morden were captured by the Shadows at Z'ha'dum and were killed if not willing to work for the Shadows. Kosh reveals that the Vorlons are the last remaining First Ones and are preparing to fight the Shadows. Nightwatch is organised on Babylon 5.
Lyta Alexander, the first commercial telepath on Babylon 5 returns and reveals that Talia Winters is a Psi Corps sleeper mole.
The Centauri attack the Norn homeworld with mass drivers, a banned weapon. The Norn surrender. Sheridan grants G'Kar sanctuary. Draal contacts Sheridan offering an alliance and Delenn introduces him to the Rangers and is given equal authority over them in the Babylon 5 region. The Centauri start invading other territories. Kosh reveals himself as a First One to save Sheridan from a fall. Lieutenant Keffler finds a Shadow ship that he has been looking for. lt kills him but not before he films it.
At the beginning of 2260, the film of the Shadow ship is shown on the news and Earth begins an investigation.
Sheridan takes command of a new ship called the White Star, a hybrid of Vorlon and Mimbari technology.
Londo tries to break from Morden but finds he can't. Morden is also working with Psi Corp and Earth Senate.
Vir, Londo's aide is sent to Mimbar as ambassador. Lyta Alexander returns after going into Vorlon space, she is now Kosh's aide.
Ivanova uses the machine on Euphrates to find other First Ones at Sigma 957. She also finds evidence that President Clark was in on President Santiago's assassination.
A political officer called Musante arrives on Babylon 5 to take joint command. Sheridan refuses to accept joint control. Musante leaves when the evidence against Clark is broadcast. G'Kar gives Garibaldi the book of G?Quan to read. G'Kar uses a drug called Dust to enter Londo's mind after attacking him. He has a vision about his father and G'Lan. Kosh is present when thishappens. G'Kar is put in a cell for 60 days for attacking Londo. He starts writing about his experience.
Dr Mary Kirkish arrives on Babylon 5 to explain to Sheridan and his friends an incident on Mars involving a Shadow ship several years ago that Garibaldi and Sinclair witnessed. She also informs them one is being excavated on Ganymede. lt is destroyed by Sheridan using Jupiter's atmosphere to crush it.
President Clark installs martial law, arrests the senate, and takes full control of the Earth Alliance.
General Hague tries organising a counterstrike against President Clark.
All off-world security is assigned to Nightwatch and Garibaldi is replaced by an unwilling Zack as Chief of security. Martial law is brought into effect on Babylon 5. The Nightwatch is removed by Zack, Garibaldi, Sheridan and G'Kar. The replacement security is a Narn and human force.
Lady Morella, the third wife of the Emperor, a seer, tells Londo that he will be Emperor and so will Vir.
Babylon 5 secedes from the Earth Alliance. Two destroyers on the run from Earth Alliance arrive at Babylon 5. Earth Alliance attacks Babylon 5 and is repulsed but one of the destroyers is lost ramming an Earth Alliance destroyer.
More Earth Alliance destroyers arrive, but three Minbari cruisers also arrive led by Delenn in The Whitestar and the Earth Alliance destroyers retreat hastily.
Delenn and one of the Minbari captains are kidnapped by Nightwatch members. After they are rescued Delenn presents the Babylon 5 crew with new uniforms to replace the Earth Alliance ones. Vir is found to be saving Norns by bringing them to Babylon 5 by Londo. His posting to Mimbar is revoked.
The non-aligned worlds agree to help defend Babylon 5. It is discovered that telepaths can stop Shadow ships. Bester, a Psi Cop, agrees to help Babylon 5 as human telepaths are being given to the Shadows by Psi Corp and one is his lover.
Delenn tells G'Kar about the Shadows and the rangers. The Shadows start attacking openly. The non-aligned worlds won't unite until they see a victory against the Shadows. Sheridan forces Kosh to tell the Vorlons to attack the Shadows. They do, but Morden is on the station and his Shadow escort kills Kosh. As Kosh dies he apologises to Sheridan.
Sinclair returns to Babylon 5 and, using the great machine, he takes Sheridan, Ivanova, the ranger called Marcus, and Delenn back in time to Babylon 4. On the way they are joined by Zathras. Zathras explains that Sinclair, Sheridan and Delenn are The One. Sinclair and Zathras take Babylon 4 back 1000 years to the last great war to save Babylon 5 from being attacked by too powerful a force as the last war would not have been such a success without Babylon 4. On the way back Sinclair enters the Chrysalis to become Valen, the person who set up the grey council and sets up the prophecies.
Sheridan successfully uses telepaths in a small engagement against Shadows, so telepaths are recruited. Delenn replaces Sinclair as the leader of the Rangers. Lord Refa is set up by Londo so that G'Kar can kill him, because Lord Refa has posed a problem for Londo. This leads into the last two episodes which have not been shown at the time of writing. (They ended with a bang- ed.) This is only a brief summary of what has gone on and skips a lot of stuff to do with character development as time has gone by.
Season 4 is already being prepared, so Babylon 5 will hopefully return to Channel 4 sometime in the future.
Did my title say short? Sorry, I lied.
This is the 18th Discworld novel and the third to feature the watchmen 1 of Ankh-Morpork. It is also one of Pratchett's lesser efforts. It does contain sequences at the very high standards set by the likes of Mort and Pyramids, but these are the exceptions. A large part of the reason for this is that whenever the situation begins to get interesting, Pratchett takes the narrative to another set of characters for no readily discernible reason. This interferes with Pratchett's normally excellent characterisation and interrupts the natural flow of the story.
The plot hangs from two threads; the Patrician is being poisoned, and golems are apparently committing murders. These are both extremely problematic for the denizens of the city watch. To further confuse them, it also transpires that Nobby (see footnote) may well be Earl of Ankh Morpork, and rightful ruler if the Patrician gets snuffed out like a candle.
Other than a couple of niggling details, the book is intelligent, funny, and well worth reading.
This is the novel I'm talking about, not the TV series. (They're both by Mr Gaiman so its not that important a distinction.) Some bastard stole my telly so I haven't seen it yet. However if the book is anything to go by, the TV version should be very worthwhile.
Neil Gaiman is probably best known for writing 'The Sandman' 2, the only comic ever to win a literature award (World Fantasy award for best short story). The book therefore arrives with a good pedigree. To stretch a metaphor, (to about a mile past its breaking point), it then rolls over onto its back to have its tummy tickled, makes cute little endearing noises, licks one's hand, fetches one's slippers, saves ten children trapped down a mineshaft (despite the fact that the nearest mineshaft is 100 miles away), and even demonstrates good toilet training. The plot moves along nicely, with plenty of twists and turns and several surprises along the way. I can't really go into serious detail here because, if you the reader are watching Neverwhere on telly, you do not want me to tell you who's employing Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar. I just love that pair of villains. They are so cute.
Very quickly though, I think it is safe to tell you that a young man who is desperate for a decent direction to take his life in, and whose name is Richard Mayhew, helps a young girl who is being hunted by the aforementioned Vandemar and Croup and soon regrets it when he slips into an alternative London and finds his life threatened also. The characters he meets there include Islington (an angel), the Marquis de Carabas (a shady dealer), and Door (the previously touched upon young lady who has a remarkable talent).
In some ways, this isn't Gaiman's highest standard, but allowing for the fact that this is the first time he's written for TV or written a solo novel, it is more than adequate. In fact, it is very good indeed.
Role-play gaming is very similar to group storytelling; each player takes on the "role" of one (or occasionally more) of the Player Characters (PC) in the story, much like an actor in an improvisational play. Differently from watching a film or reading, which are both passive, a player in a role play game takes an active part in the story, participates in events, and influences the progression of the plot.
In a Role-Playing Game (RPG), unlike a novel, there is no fixed plot-line, no certain outcome; just as in real life, you are never sure of how events are going to turn out in the end.
You will experience the excitement of the story through your character's adventures. When your character succeeds in some task, or solves a riddle, it will be your success as well. You will find it a uniquely satisfying form of entertainment.
If you keep two fundamental questions in mind, you will be able to pick up the basics of role-playing:
Role-playing is a very social form of entertainment. It makes you interact with your fellow players. Co-operation is often necessary to ensure a successful outcome to your adventure. Most role-playing games require the players to make the characters interact as a "party". In general it is the Party that goes on adventures and not single characters. At its best, role-playing encourages research and additional reading in areas that you would not usually read about (history, astrology, or pagan religions as examples) as you seek to improve your personal background knowledge and therefore help to bring your characters to life. This extra knowledge gives your characters an edge during the game and makes it more enjoyable.
In every RPG, one of the players takes on a particular role; they act as the Gamesmaster (GM) - also known as the ref, the dungeon master (DM) or sir! The GM directs the flow of the story action by managing the other player's participation in the game. The GM fabricates setting and plot elements as needed along the way. The GM integrates the actions of the characters into the game, including their interactions with the environment, informing the player about what their character hears, sees, smells, tastes, touches, and, if applicable, senses supernaturally.
The GM also provides non-player characters (NPC's) which are people and animals with which the player characters interact during the game. It is the player's questions and answers which provide the momentum for the plot to keep it moving. The trickiest part for the GM is to mentally stay five minutes ahead of the characters, keeping track of the potential plot twists, NPCs the characters might encounter and things they might see. They also have to cope when the players take a different track to any the GM might have thought of. This can sometimes result in a GM just ditching several months worth of planning and desperately improvising to nudge the party back onto the plot-line!
Most role-playing games consist of two parts: a description of a world or setting designed to inspire adventure, and a collection of rules for generating and playing a character. Through this character, you may explore and interact with the environment and inhabitants of the role-play world. In most RPGs only the GM is required to be familiar with the setting and any NPCs. In general, it is usually better if the players discover it through successive adventures.
In addition to the rules for Character generation, most people should be familiar with the basic rules that affect the ways in which the characters interact with that particular universe. New players can and do learn the rules aided by the more experienced players in the group. The GM provides the players with the sensory information that their character gleans from the world around them. The GM also mediates and ensures that all the players abide by the rules of the system. If you are interested in starting role-playing or if you are already a role-player then there are usually people at Games Soc who are running assorted campaigns. So pick up your dice and come into the exciting worlds of new adventure.
The year is 2274. For 240 years, American politics has been dominated by the Church of the New Revelation, who believe that Christ has really come again, and is alive and well and living somewhere in Florida. But the scandal surrounding the Schwartzchild revelations and other problems with the church caused them to lose power as the '60's drew to a close.
The now legendary Gold Beach Free Festival in '69 is considered to have been the turning point, where the whispers of revolution became an open call. When people who attended this festival talk of it, much is said of philosophy, magic, and spirit - but for historians the important result was that the revolutionary force, the Reapers, declared open war on the church, and on the state for protecting it. Within weeks the revolution had left its cradle in Southern Oregon and crossed from coast to coast to march on Capitol Hill. A coup d'etat followed, the president disappeared, and a period of unrest followed.
Now, four years later, the revolutionary President Stephanie Wilson is in the White House, and is shortly to stand for re-election. But, although the revolution has been won, things are still not stable. The States are fragmented, and in a state of civil war. The Southern States, never content with the government of Washington, have declared independence, and the Confederacy exists once more. The boy-general Robert Lee Minsford commands the Virginia Volunteer Militia: considered by some to be the most effective fighting force on the continent. The Free State of Quebec, the only part of the North America to remain outside the US for its entire history, has invaded Ontario and threatens the St Lawrence Seaway and the whole industrial zone of the Great Lakes. Native American Nations have reclaimed many of the National Parks and other wilderness areas, making these places mysterious, magickal, and very dangerous. Atlantic raids from European pirates, particularly pirates from Cornwall, Brittany, Wales and the Hebrides, compete with remnants of the church to make the East Coast a very restless place. Meanwhile, the states of California, Oregon, Arizona, and Chihuahua have elected to be governed by a mysterious political entity called the Administration, which some hold to be governed by aliens from a parallel universe, intent on bringing all thinking people everywhere into a Utopia ruled by the power of thought control.
Suitable parties could be drawn from almost any place in this mishmash of conflicting interests. Government officials working with the FBI or the CIA need to do all they can to preserve what is left of the US, and bring fugitives and war criminals from the church to justice. There are many reports of strange and spooky things going on, both on the West Coast and in the Native American strongholds. United States diplomats and Embassy staff need to tread very carefully, avoiding open war with these rebels and counter-revolutionaries until a way of winning can be found. Alternatively, a party could fight against the Revolution, as Confederates, Native Americans or their mysterious wilderness allies, as Californian or Quebecois trouble-shooters, as foreign diplomats or military advisers of almost any hue, as random mercenaries, as European pirates or even as fugitive fragments of the evil inner cults of the Church of the Revelation.
As a referee, I am more interested in characterisation and entertainment, so I will cheerfully give players characters with unfeasibly large amounts of power if I think it will lead to entertaining role-playing. Good players have ended up leading religions, or large groups like the CIA.
Come let me know. Most of the old hands know how to find me, or Richard, or Jenny. Alternatively I can be contacted by telephone (431998), by E-mail (simon@) or via my campaign web pages (http://www.lucid.co.uk/~simon/campaign/).
As promised on the cover, a competition. Not as promised on the cover, the prize is a copy of the first Shanarra trilogy by Terry Brooks. The prize is not negotiable, though I could give you another competition as well. Yes, that's it.
Competition #1 Seduce the film star of your choice into bed with you. The prize in this game is for us never to believe another word you say after you claim to have won.
Competition #2 Write an entry for the Encyclopaedia Galactica, (or the Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy, I don't care) on the subject of a life form which does not exist on Earth (or at least not on any Earth you've been to). The winner will be the most original and funny entry to reach me by mid-November. I am incidentally Chris Lyth and I can be found in the Ascot most Thursdays.
For your delectation and delight, I humbly present an example of the sort of thing I am referring to.
The Outer mongolian lesser Spotted Pondoozzlewazzle ant-eating elephant is so called for several reasons. It is described as outer mongolian because it comes from Outer Mongolia. It is described as a pondoozzlewazzle ant-eating elephant because it is an elephant which eats pondoozzlewazzle ants. lt is described as lesser spotted for three reasons. Firstly it has stripes. Secondly, it is only two and a half centimetres tall, making it very difficult to spot. Thirdly, it is extinct and is therefore spotted only by those people who are either lying or smoking something illegal.
The reasons for extinction are manyfold. Mating habits are a very important contributory factor. The female comes into season once every five years and emits her mating call. By an unfortunate co-incidence, this call is at exactly the correct pitch required to make any male within earshot spontaneously combust.
Another important factor is the feeding habits. lt appears simple enough. The outer mongolian lesser spotted pondoozzlewazzle ant-eating elephant eats pondoozzlewazzle ants. One major problem here is one of scale, and it is well demonstrated in the painting "pondoozzlewazzle ant eating an elephant of the African variety" by Alu Na Tik the strange Tibetan mystic. In short, a 2.5cm tall outer mongolian lesser spotted pondoozzlewazzle ant-eating elephant is going to have more than a little trouble hunting and killing a 20 foot tall pondoozzlewazzle ant. Another problem is that the pondoozzlewazzle ant lives in Inner Mongolia. (For scientific interest, the correct name for the pondoozzlewazzle ant is in fact the inner mongolian greater spotted pondoozzlewazzle ant. This would however entail referring to the outer mongolian lesser spotted pondoozzlewazzle ant-eating elephant as the outer mongolian lesser spotted inner mongolian greater spotted pondoozzlewazzle ant-eating elephant which is obviously unwieldy)
Because the pondoozzlewazzle ant lives in Inner Mongolia it is necessary for the outer mongolian lesser spotted pondoozzlewazzle ant-eating elephant to migrate each day in order to eat. Its diminutive size makes this difficult, and so it is forced to hitch a lift on the back of the only living creature which does not kill the outer mongolian lesser spotted pondoozzlewazzle ant-eating elephant on sight, (the violent tendency of other creatures towards this poor victim of nature's perversity is yet another cause of extinction). Unfortunately this animal is the lemming, and a lemming passing through Outer Mongolia is probably not just there to admire the beautiful clifftop views. In spite of all these adversities one plucky little outer mongolian lesser spotted pondoozzlewazzle ant-eating elephant did one day come across the corpse of a pondoozzlewazzle ant. It then found out that due to the massive improbability of the outer mongolian lesser spotted pondoozzlewazzle ant-eating elephant ever finding food, nature had entirely neglected to give the poor creature a mouth. Nevertheless this animal became a hero to its entire species until they died out. (About a week later)
(This text is upside down on the original Printing) THIS WAY UP
The grammar check on this program tells me that 'watchmen' is 'gender specific' and I should consider changing it, (Just my luck to have a PC PC). OK. The watch contains humans, trolls, dwarfs, a werewolf (female), a gargoyle, and Nobby (disqualified from the human race for shoving). I don't think I'll bother.
The grammar check strikes again. Sandman is also gender specific. I should therefore call Dream of the Endless, King of the Dreamland and Lord of Nightmares, the sleep fairy or the sand fairy. Mmm.. I'll think about that for at least two seconds.