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IT'S DEM ZERG BOYS

31 July 2010

Being the creator of Captain August, I think it’s a safe bet that I have a fondness for science fiction. Perhaps in a disturbing, alternate version of our reality I would have made Captain August as some sort of twisted therapy to explore the things in life I loathe. Fortunately, that’s not so. Send someone off on some bucket into space and I’ll buy the DVD (I’m sorry, BluRay of course).

For non-science fiction fans it may come as a surprise that there’s a sizeable niche within the genre for western-themed sci-fi. In the mysterious way that linked westerns to Japanese samurai epics (look it up), there’s also a bond of friendship between dusty desperados and sterile outer space. Perhaps because space is usually so clean, so unsmitten by mankind’s grime, it becomes an irresistible lure to mix it up with hardcore cowboy fiction? Regardless, Firefly was far from the only milestone in the niche. 1998’s Starcraft gave us a fully fledged backwater redneck theme, Texas drawl included.

From two-wheeling marshals to high-and-mighty generals, they all had uncle Jesse genes in their DNA. Starcraft 2 picks up that old theme and takes it to its full conclusion. Jim Raynor, protagonist and full-time agonized soul, spends his first days in the game slouching around in a saloon, digging deep into a glass of whiskey. Even further up on the campaign, once the setting takes on more futuristic trappings, there’s an ever-present feeling that at any moment a ye olde bar fight could break out. It just has that high noon duel feel, and Jimmy’s the perfect guy for that.

Allow me to break the theme of this rant to express my gratitude towards Blizzard for making the right choice in developing the emotional charge of Raynor’s love for lost Kerrigan, making it the central theme for the character. Why am I so relieved with this? Because Blizzard once turned a blind eye for this sort of thing and chose to bury the budding tragic romance between Arthas and Jaina in Warcraft III with so many bullshit. It is the single most confusing and disappointing thing in Warcraft lore: why set up their relationship (in ways not too little reminding of Raynor and Kerrigan!) only to pretend it never happened? Instead of it being a tale of tragic love, a worldwide conflict beautifully captured in the metaphor of two doomed lovers, Arthas’ tale became one of boring fantasy tropes, Epic Characters and Bad Attitudes.

So it wasn’t at all a certainty that Blizzard would make the right choice with Starcraft 2. But they did. And as a result, we have a beautifully tragic romance to stand at the root of some serious, western sci-fi-ing. Take another sip, Jimmy.

Roderick