Monday, 29 May 2017

Fallout: Home Counties - Introductions

The New Model A.R.M.Y have taken over the forbidden City of Westminster.
The Chiltern Hundreds are excavating the secret vaults underneath Chequers.
There’s a bounty on your head put there by The Three Sabres Mercenary Company.
The Brethren of the White Horse continue their battle against smugglers from a hidden base on the Isle of Thanet.

The Forgemasters of Hammersmith are in a trade dispute with the Shepherds of Shepherd’s Bush, The Temple of Blackfriars are sending out crusades from their fortresses on the Embankment and the Barbican against the sinful Circuses of Piccadilly and Oxford, strange things that go on all fours have been seen near Limehouse and Battersea, something Yellow and Feathery is lurking in the Docklands and nobody knows what’s going on in Mornington Crescent.....
Welcome to Fallout: Home Counties

That was how it started.  A simple enough tongue in cheek little remark. All those on the FB feed for the Terrae Vertebrae game were well enough versed in Computer RPGs; including the Fallout series – principally Fallout 3 and New Vegas, I shall confess.

But the joke was one that stuck; taking the violent, devastated, barbaric world of Fallout and throwing it into the Home Counties. I am aware of the views this blog gets and know that some of you are Canadian or American (Hello! You are most welcome!); therefore, to explain things a little. The Home Counties are those English counties directly around London, forming a heart, a centre – a homeland. The cultural impression the phrase ‘Home Counties’ elicits is one of wealth, with the well-to-do enjoying the country life but working in Greater London, or the comparative Arcadia that is not so very far from the Metropolis in the Cotswolds.

Now, these genteel elements are scarcely the whole truth – there are less than pretty places in the Home Counties, as well as less than wealthy people - and there are a few sizable cities. But the air of country quiet persists nonetheless in Kent, Essex, Sussex and Hertfordshire. So the gag – Mad Max gangs and road chases through country lanes past drystone walls and thatched cottages – is at heart terribly simple.

But once one has recovered from the sheer hilarity of all this, the mind dwells on it a little. The sheer Americanness of Fallout is difficult to ignore. After all, the starting premise is rather good, relying as it does with the tensions implicit in the United States in the 1950s: post-war optimism, wealth and science-fiction wonders brought to life – contrasted bleakly with the looming Cold War, Racism – as expressed in laws and in the deeds of the citizens-, McCarthyism and all that followed it. This isn’t just in the background as setting details, it is a primary part of the aesthetic: finding oneself having a shootout with Buck Rogers ray guns over tins of food in the ruins of a white-picket-fence American suburb.

It’s a strong contrast, and a powerful setting for a story. There are a few things like it in the popular mind; of all things, one might point to Austin Powers, with the contrast of suave Sean Connery espionage and its enduring cool with dated 1960s fashion trends. Played for comedy rather than tragedy, of course, but nonetheless an effective contrast. Those pieces of steampunk literature that one might call relatively Hard (in the SF sense of the word) also play this up; the splendour and wonder of Victorian discovery and glamour contrasted with the squalor of the age and the fact of what that power might do in the hands of a world whose morals we now so frequently decry (The Difference Engine might be the best example of this.).

Anyway, I had lived all my life in or near the Home Counties (at the time we were all in Kent) and had a good working knowledge of some of the cultural influences one could draw on. There was some online discussion, but a certain amount of it was (I believe I may say) all my own work.

The following premises guided me.

  • Firstly, it was in response to British 1950s themes and experiences – and would draw to a certain degree upon the Science Fiction of that time (a separate post for that later).
  •          ….though the key elements of Fallout canon would be there: IE, the laser rifles work on roughly the same principally and patterns – even if there might be different models produced on different sides of the Atlantic.
  •          Speaking of such canon, if Washington DC isn’t just a crater, neither is London. The theatre of operations is the South East of England – including the ruins of London. But those areas once though rural will have a vitality and life that the centre does not.
  •          Following in the footsteps of one rather persuasive critical video, the importance of having a world that made some logical sense was important.
  •          In the Nuclear War, the fallout was blown to the north and east of London; quantities of farmland were preserved fairly well in the Home Counties. Kent especially did well; it was surrounded on three sides by the sea, and was subject to fewer incursion from raiders and similar desperate fellows than other regions.
  •          This has resulted in a number of factions forming around London in the Home Counties. These factions are, in the fashion of New Vegas various shades of grey rather than black hats-white hats.

So, that’s something in the nature of a starting premise. Whether everyone would latch onto the same things I did in the creation of what eventually came about is another matter. More on that to come.

Finally, I came up with the following little conceptual recipe: One Part Fallout to One Part The Napoeleon of Notting Hill. Stir well. Pour in a measure of Wyndham and allow to settle.

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