Grand Thieves & Tomb Raiders book review

A fascinating account of British video game history.

Round about the same time I watched Micro Men, I picked up a book called Grand Thieves and Tomb Raiders, which proved to be a compelling account of the story of British computer gaming from bedrooms to boardrooms.

Back in the mid-1970s when two chaps from Hornsea (East Coast, represent) were dabbling in the creation of the Multi-User Dungeon – the pre-precursor to what we now know as the MMO – home computing was just getting on its feet as the afore-mentioned Micro Men made their bid to corner the market. While Chris Curry grew frustrated at his inability to get into the living room from the classroom, Clive Sinclair was still pissing about with his C5 transport instead of taking advantage.

But both men benefited from the games created by a generation of coders who had emerged from their bedrooms with some very special programming skills, like the fun and addictive Dizzy series by the Oliver twins, or the mind-blowing possibilities of space travel created by David Braben and Ian Bell’s Elite.

Grand Thieves and Tomb Raiders book

Grand Thieves and Tomb Raiders tells the story of these men and women as they went from amateur status to running some of the UK’s most ambitious software companies throughout the 1980s and 1990s. As well as the successes of the likes of Codemasters, who made a lot of money by annoying Nintendo at one point, there are the failures of companies such as Imagine Software, whose strident over-ambition resulted in their shutdown – captured during the filming of a BBC documentary about the booming industry.

As the US took hold of the market by luring the best of British talent Stateside there were still some success stories to be written – the book’s eponymous featured games being just two of the Brits’ best from DMA and Core respectively.

What strikes me the most about reading this book is the reactions of the British public and press as they gaze upon these wondrous programmes with awe. I’m familiar with a good deal of the games covered during the late 80s and early 90s (he said, showing his age) and I would have had that same enthusiasm for the games myself. Shown these very same games, people just a couple of years younger than myself (he said snobbily) would’ve snorted with derision at the comparatively basic games being wowed over back then. But there was a massive leap round about the time of the SNES’ release, that jump to the Super FX chip which brought Starfox to our living rooms, and our jaws to the floor.

The guys who invented that chip? Yep. British. But you’d have to read the book to find out more of British video games’ fascinating history, which has great interviews with many of the industry’s major players, then and now.

Worry Wart comic review

Worry Wart is an autobiographical comic written, drawn by and starring Dani Abram, whose other work Razarhawk has also been featured on this blog.

But while the star of that comic, Kitty Hawk, is rather the badass adventurer fighting monsters from inside a robot, this title is something entirely different; an honest and touching look at battling one’s own monsters.

worry wart comic dani abram

Dani was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder a few years ago, and while she struggled from day to day between treatments and juggling her work and social lives she also drew a comic diary to keep track of the biggest obstacles and sharpen her focus on getting better.

And it’s a great read. The comic diary is an especially bold form of expression as it’s a mix of honest imagery and even more honest dialogue that’s bound to make any normal person fear the idea of laying it all out there, but Dani bravely borrows from the spirit of the comic hero she helped create in Kitty Hawk to speak up – and readers will be all the better for it.

I really like the art in this book too – the ever so slight caricaturisation that Dani uses in illustrating the people in the book for me is a great touch in saying that these things don’t just happen to her, and as long as other people can see themselves in her shoes then the art should try and help that feeling along, which it does brilliantly.

As well as personal anecdotes on the big challenges which faced her, Dani also writes about some of the treatments she tried such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and various herbal products, as well as the physical and mental exercises she could take in order to feel less anxious and even a couple of apps and websites that helped her. It’s all laid out in great detail and Dani makes a great effort of showing how trying each thing affected her and whether or not she felt it worked.

worry wart dani abram comic

Mixed in with the saddest and most sympathetic moments are some unexpected bits of humour, adding an extra bit of personality into Dani’s character and making the reader care even more for her story.

And it is fortunately a happy story, but you really ought to find that out for yourself, as Worry Wart is a very moving look at what I can also personally say is a horrible thing to happen to anyone. And I probably wouldn’t feel brave enough to say that myself without having the inspiration I found in these pages.

You can find Dani’s blog here and order Worry Wart from the store.

Comic review – ‘House Party’ by Rachael Smith

Nostalgia is a big thing for geeks. Literally meaning ‘aching for a return home’ it’s typically used by cynics who will always tell you that things were better in their day. I felt a fair amount of it last night at a party as I listened to songs which remind me of the good old days.

And it’s the good old days that the main characters in Rachael Smith’s new graphic novel ‘House Party’ are out to recapture.

Rachael Smith House Party comicFinding Michelle, Siobhan, and Neil now we learn about each of their passions and how real life has taken them down a different path to the ones they’d rather be on. Michelle used to be a writer and the darling of the university cool kids but now she works in an office and misses that great inspiration, while Siobhan’s art and Neil’s stand-up have gone much the same way.

In order to regain their rockstar status, the three decide to throw one of their legendary house parties, just like the old days – and with Smith’s compelling mix of relate-able characters, humour and drama you’ll find out how that turns out for them.

All my life, nostalgia is something I’ve struggled to get my head around. Even when those best times of my life were supposedly happening, no doubt I’ll have been too busy fretting about something or other to properly enjoy it. This near-existential angst is a universal experience and within the pages of House Party, Smith has expressed brilliantly those exact same struggles and curiosities we all feel about the way things used to be and how we strayed so far away from them.

Rachael Smith House Party review

As I mentioned in an earlier review – for the equally wonderful I Am Fire – you wouldn’t expect such deep and meaningful issues to hit home in a comic when there are far weightier books to do the job, but here as always Smith has created a full and frightening world in which the reader can understand and sympathise with her characters as they make the hard decisions and express their turmoil very effectively, with great writing and art working so well together.

If you’re of that certain age where life was just better back then, dammit – I can’t recommend House Party enough.

Dungeons & Dreamers: a book about global gaming

You kids, with your Halo and your hip hop – you don’t know what real gaming is.

Well before you were telling your console to switch itself on, or before you could physically wave your controller like a tennis racket, or even before you were holding funny-looking pads with buttons in your hands, there was a kind of pad where the deepest, most immersive and imaginative kind of gaming got played – on a notepad.

Gaming legend Gary Gygax came up with the miniature wargame Chainmail in 1971, which was based simply in medieval times, and devised rules of combat among ordinary men. However, Gygax’s fellow gamer Dave Arneson would add elements of fantasy into the game, bringing spells and mythical monsters into the mix. One year on this modified version of Chainmail would be repackaged as a standalone game called Dungeons & Dragons, and the rest is history.

The unique combination of fantasy and role-playing elements was something that inspired video game designers and programmers through the years as advancing technology began to produce all kinds of weird and wonderful computer programmes. As computer gaming became more popular, it was the hardcore groups of D&D gamers of these times – close-knit communities brought together to slay dragons and forge long-lasting relationships – that tried to find a way to bring people together online to enjoy their hobby.

It’s this struggle to unite questing gamers from the 1970s to now which is covered in Dungeons & Dreamers: A Story of How Computer Games Created a Global Community – an extremely insightful book that explores the role of games in bringing together players from all walks of life to the same dungeons, space stations and virtual worlds to bring (massive) multiplayer fun.

Dungeons & Dreamers

The narrative of the book is seen in turn through the eyes of key figures in gaming history such as Richard Garriott of Origin Systems, and the two Johns – Carmack and Romero– at id software (whose Quake title was a character from their regular D&D games). It contains plenty of informative reporting on world events which shaped the industry such as the Columbine shootings that tried to vilify games as forms of violent escapism, alongside great insights on the industry itself whose users wanted the very best in technology and design to enjoy fresh new worlds – leading to innovations like Ultima Online, World of Warcraft and Second Life.

There’s also plenty of discussion going to show the dedication of the players who found a new calling in life through these offerings, like the annual QuakeCon events which continue to attract Deathmatchers from all over the world. Much as I enjoyed seeing from the creators’ point of view how their games matured and became new worlds of their own, it’s great too to read about how the players found themselves a part of these worlds.

One other thing which struck me was the great comparisons drawn in which two of the featured companies told the story of relocating offices across country as if living in Frontier times – changing their own landscapes in order to create more of their own, with Origin splitting their bases across Texas and New Hampshire, and id hitting the trail between Louisiana and Texas to form their company. (Romero also worked in New Hampshire for Origin at one point!)

Dungeons and Dreamers is a great read if you’re interested in how gaming got to where it is today in terms of reach and the pursuit of that killer multiplayer experience, written so knowledgeably and with real reverence for its subject matter.

Holiday Reading – Quick Reviews (2)

More quick recaps of what I was reading while off in a different country, not getting tanned or drunk. (Actually, that’s a lie. I was drinking while reading but that’s part of the charm of a holiday innit.)

David Thorne Spider

David Thorne – The Internet Is A Playground / I’ll Go Home Then, It’s Warm And Has Chairs

These were the first two purchases I made for my Kobo, from the Australian humourist who went viral by trying to pay a bill with a picture of a spider that only had seven legs. Two books made up of material from David Thorne’s site plus some unpublished email discussions with colleagues, co-workers and other people who have slighted him in person, it’s some of the funniest stuff I’ve read in years.

Douglas Coupland – Generation A

Oh, I really wanted to like this. Really I did. Whenever I get hold of a Coupland book my first, sad reaction is to wager that I won’t like it as much as Microserfs – the first of his books that I read. Sadly, I’m always right because that book strikes such a chord with me – it smashes that chord to pieces if I’m being honest – because I was at just the right age and it came along at exactly the right time to be one of my all-time favourites. It’s tough for anything at all to top that, let alone something else by the same author.

The book follows a group of people who, following the near decimation of the planet’s bee population just a few years from now, are stung by bees and become world-famous for possessing something that others don’t. In their words we’re shown the distinctive cultures and practices of each country of origin and how they try to work out where to go next. There’s something in every Coupland book that gives me simultaneous feelings of despair and hope for the future, but all these years later I’m starting to feel like I don’t get it any more, and that bums me out even more whenever I finish one of his books.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

I’m stunned that I’d got this far in life without reading this book; not ashamed, just stunned. While not quite up there with having never seen Star Wars or similar, this brilliant mix of whimsical science fiction with a distinct British sense of humour is something that’s definitely influenced a great deal of the things I consider myself a fan of so I am surprised that it’s evaded me all this time, knowing the high level of esteem it’s held in in all its forms. (Except the film. I did see that. Meh.)

Reading this book made me think of Davies-era Doctor Who rather a lot; how Eccleston and Tennant tried in every episode to get over how inconsequential our planet is in the Grand Scheme of Things, but how in the end all we really should be bothered about is getting Bernard Cribbins out of that glass box. Not to spoil Hitchhiker’s too much, but within five chapters the planet Earth is literally bulldozed out of existence – that’s just to set the initial scene for the book. It’s why I appreciate Douglas Adams’ nonplussed approach to sci-fi storytelling all the more, and it’s bloody funny to boot.

 

Right, back to the football music later this week then, I reckon. Hope you’ve enjoyed these capsule summaries – I’m set to get stuck into the rest of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series!

Holiday Reading – Quick Reviews (1)

I have returned, and with nowhere near the amount of tan I wanted. I stuck my face out from under the big umbrella plenty over the past two weeks but nope, my shoulders went red and that’s about it.

Browning issues aside, I did manage to get through plenty of reading material during our stay in Gran Canaria thanks mainly to the sweet e-reader my good lady gave me for my birthday. Although strictly a paperback kind of guy, I can definitely appreciate the new tech as it will save me both physical room in my bag and extra money on not buying properly bound books. Comics though, forget about it, I’m not missing out on the smell of ink for anyone. Speaking of which, they’ll be the first two quick reviews I’m gonna give in this post of what I read during my spring holidays.

Note: this wasn't actually taken on holiday.

Note: this wasn’t actually taken on holiday.

Mass Effect: Evolution

The second in the series of Mass Effect comics from Dark Horse, Evolution fills in just a couple of the gaps of the Illusive Man; wayward protector of humanity and a bit of a rebel in his day. This story takes the path from one of his final missions as a mercenary to his seat of power in front of loads of computer screens giving out that he’s our last hope against the rising alien threat.

Although it’d have been dismissed as non-canon by Disney right about now if they were getting ready to make a Mass Effect Part VII movie, I do kind of like what the writers of these comic series have done to paint in some broad strokes about the Illusive Man – but that’s the thing really; half the fun of the stories of in-game characters is leaving you to imagine what went before, and without Shepard there really isn’t much you can feel involved in as the universe plays out without your direct involvement as the protagonist. I’m not hugely into the art either and the dialogue’s a bit clunky but it’s a great bit of peripheral vision for the already epic story of the game trilogy.

The Invincible Iron Man: My Monsters

This series has quickly leapt above my other occasional trade paperback buys to the front of the collecting queue; I love everything about Matt Fraction’s writing and Salvador Larroca’s art in this run of Iron Man comics, but sadly this particular volume bucked the flow a bit.

As it’s inclusive of issue #500 of the Iron Man series and an annual (which is weird since the directly preceding issue was #33, bloody renumbering) it strays from the ongoing narrative to tell some one-off stories which go into the overall mythology without being strictly necessary reading – and this is disappointing because it means they get to run what’s basically a What If? story set in the future…which I happened to think was a bit rubbish, plus a long story about The Mandarin being a dickhead which doesn’t directly affect the life of Tony Stark or the world he is tasked with saving. I am still psyched to get back into the run proper with volume eight though so it’s all good.

More to come this week!

Disgusting Bliss: The Brass Eye of Chris Morris

The semi-official biography of Chris Morris is well worth a read.

Aside from my pinko, liberal, lefty parents, it was probably Chris Morris who first taught me not to take everything I saw and heard at face value – to poke and prod and, when watching the news, think to myself “just because he’s wearing a suit and has nice hair doesn’t mean everything he says is the truth”.

Disgusting Bliss

Which is exactly why watching The Day Today for the first time was such a huge revelation for me. Morris has the sharp suit, the stern expression and, above all, the Paxmanesque voice, but the humour comes from the fact that Morris and his no-nonsense team just happen to be talking complete bollocks; sending up the fact that these sharply-dressed newsreaders could be saying anything and we’d likely believe it.

 

During his decade-long career in local radio Christopher Morris had learned the language of radio, its tone and mode of address, and used his keen mind to manipulate the message without changing the way it was delivered; fooling anyone who didn’t care to stick their head up and listen closer. He moved onto BBC Radio 4 for On The Hour as part of a team which included The Thick of It and Veep creator Armando Iannucci; playwright Patrick Marber and Steve Coogan – an award-winning writer, actor and comedian still best known for his Alan Partridge character created for these programmes. On The Hour became The Day Today for its TV run in 1994; three years later Morris began on what would be his masterpiece: Brass Eye.

Taking its cue from the over-the-top docu-news series which plagued British screens in the 1990s, Morris joined up with new writers to produce six programmes which debated the issues of modern Britain – and shockingly, Morris found that a slew of fame-hungry celebrities were only too happy to promote the fictional causes he purported to represent.

 

(This is real. Dr Fox thinks he’s really standing up for something here; as did the comedian Bernard Manning who actually said the words “Cake is a made-up drug” without realising.)

The Paedophile special broadcast in 2001 (and featuring an uncredited cameo from Simon Pegg, who humbly explains that he wouldn’t try to sleep with Morris’ son simply because he doesn’t fancy him) brought Morris to the attention of the national press; one paper declaring him the “sickest man in Britain” on one page while eagerly awaiting a teen pop star’s coming of age on the next. It’s that very same hypocrisy which Morris cuts swathes through in his most subversive work – and the very thing which makes me admire him.

In order to have the anonymity he needs to work under the radar like this, Morris has maintained a low public profile; he very, very rarely gives interviews and shuns any participation in publicising his projects. As such, this book by Lucian Randall doesn’t contain any official word from Chris Morris, though he did give permission for the writer to speak with his closest colleagues from the past twenty-five years including Iannucci, Marber and Charlie Brooker, with whom Morris co-created Nathan Barley – a sitcom spin on the turn-of-the-millennium media hipsters and youth culture. Fortunately the pieces of the puzzle fit neatly enough around the Morris-shaped hole to tell the story of an amazing career built simply on the foundations of being smart and asking the right questions of all the wrong people.

I enjoyed reading this account of Morris’ career simply because so few of them exist in entirety – it neatly fits together his works on both TV and radio, as well as providing good insight into the unique brand of humour which his work has brought. Definitely worth a read – though I’d start by getting up to speed on Morris’ work if you aren’t already.

Rachael Smith’s House Party – Kickstarter Update

The new book from ‘I Am Fire’ creator Rachael Smith has been funded!

A few days ago I was pleased to discover details of the new project being launched on Kickstarter by Rachael Smith, creator of ‘I Am Fire’ which I read last year and really enjoyed.

Rachael Smith House Party comic

‘House Party’ tells the story of university graduate twentysomethings Michelle, Siobhan, and Neil, who are having trouble adjusting to life in the big wide world. They hatch a plot to throw an old-style house party which would get them back into feeling like the rock stars they were at uni, but things don’t quite go to plan.

Rachael Smith House Party comic

What I loved about I Am Fire was the mix of realism and surrealism, a balance which Smith struck brilliantly with quirky characters and real-life issues coming together to make for a memorable read. If anything I think this more ambitious project will turn out even stronger for it.

I‘m looking forward to reading the next slice-of-life offering from Rachael Smith, and the good news is – it’s already been funded! At the time of writing it’s achieved the goal with almost a month left for additional funds which, according to an update on the Kickstarter Page, will go towards “adding pages, producing extra goodies and making the finished product even more beautiful.”

The 92-page graphic novel is being published by Great Beast Comics, the ongoing concern founded by Adam Cadwell and Marc Ellerby, who it gives me great pleasure to disturb and annoy each year at their usual table at Thought Bubble – and are pretty psyched to be helping out on what’s sure to be a great read.

If you wanna get involved, get over to the Kickstarter page above and stump up to be a part of it! 

The Dark Knight Returns – Animated Movie part 1

DC Comics continues its fine run on animated adventures.

We have this running joke in my family where, if we’re buying a present for someone that we’d definitely be interested in watching/playing ourselves first, we wrap it up in clingfilm before wrapping it as if to say “no, this is the original shrinkwrapping, of course I didn’t use it first”. So when my brother gave me a clingfilmed copy of TDKR Part One for Christmas, I wouldn’t have blamed him if he actually did get a viewing in before me.

TDKR animated movie

Based on the seminal Batman graphic novel of the same name, TDKR takes up the story of a Gotham City that hasn’t been protected by the Dark Knight for a decade. As Commissioner Gordon prepares for a peaceful retirement, it seems he’s spent the last ten years trying to keep Bruce Wayne in his own. But the itch to live dangerously and do the right thing keeps on needling at Wayne and, with the rise of a criminal youth known as the Mutants, Wayne decides to don the cowl once again.

Although a non-canon contribution, so much of the current general consensus of Batman’s background, themes and motifs come directly from Frank Miller’s original work; a lot of the Nolan trilogy owes itself to the comics too – which is why I was initially nervous about this animated movie which features the voice acting of Peter Weller as Batman/Wayne; in much the same way as I get nervous about remakes, reimaginings, sequels and prequels (see Weller’s other famous work, Robocop for example), is my panic justified?

On this occasion, no, I really don’t think so. DC knows how much of Batman’s resurgence in the late 80s was owed to TDKR, and so it knows how this source material needed to be treated with respect. I really enjoyed this version and, although I’d tell anyone to read the comic first, it does serve as a great introduction to anyone who puts the Nolan trilogy’s dark overtones above any of the camp sensibility put up by the previous films.

It works precisely because it’s so faithful to the comics – there are no unexpected sharp diversions from the original text or additional characters sprinkled in to mix up the pot some. This reverence works to its extreme credit, with great pacing and tone that’s as fast and furious then in turn dark and brooding as the comic itself. At times I was reminded of watching an anime like Akira in terms of style; it’s probably a standard feel for the translation of any comic to animation – and no bad thing at all to compare it to. That pacing is what makes for such a good build. While the dialogue has been updated for the modern age (the comic’s nearly as old as I am…no, not that old) it still doesn’t take away from the exact thing it’s trying to convey; the world is trying to move on without Batman, but can it really survive without a protector?

One character that’s always torn Batfans is Carrie Kelley; the plucky teenager whose life Batman saves from a Mutant gang, and ends up donning her homemade Robin costume in an effort to assist Batman in fighting the young threat. I think she’s a fantastic addition in the comics – the missing link between Batman and a new kind of Gotham which grew up without him – and I liked her just as much in this film, although her initial streetwise attitude was a little much at first.

Batman, of course, is Batman – and very well voiced by Peter Weller to add just a slight waver of uncertainty to the voice of his new campaign of justice. I do wish that the film included some of Wayne’s inner monologue from the comics though – his cursing himself for making elementary mistakes and blaming it on age.

The Dark Knight Returns so far is absolutely worth a watch – I stopped writing this review after one paragraph to go and order Part Two. Read the comic first though!

Can you recommend any other DC animated movies for me?

Redshirts, Red Dwarf and Reflexivity

Sci-fi parody only works if you’ve established the generic conventions properly – Redshirts doesn’t hold a candle to Red Dwarf in that respect.

And so, my new blog begins just the way I wanted it to – a massive bitchfest about an underwhelming science fiction trope.

As I’ve mentioned before, I found the sci-fi book Redshirts rather disappointing; as Ez from Geekocracy put it even better in the comments: “the whole thing sank under the weight of its own meta-smugness”.

Redshirts TV series adaptation

The book aimed to show a new side to the poor unfortunates who meet their grisly deaths on Away Team missions. These are the eponymous Redshirts who, as per the trope established in the original Star Trek series, were basically expendable; played as they always were by non-speaking actors who joined the major characters Spock and/or Kirk as they beamed onto alien planets to establish what evil alien presence they were dealing with each week.

Giving these expendable people a voice and a shipside life of their own is an amusing touch that I’m fairly certain should’ve been done by now in various spoofs and parodies. If it hasn’t, then Hollywood’s missed a trick. The additional layer of meta arrives by the bucketload as we discover along with Ensign Andy Dahl that they are, in fact, these very same minor characters in a script that’s being written for them as part of a TV show in another dimension.

My main quibble with the book’s ‘meta-smugness’ is that, in itself, being a purposely expendable character in a decades-old science fiction programme is all well and good, but having an entire story revolve around your, well, pointlessness, isn’t really much of a thing.

So I was quite shocked to see that, according to Deadline, some rather impressive Hollywood types will be adding a limited-series adaptation of Redshirts to their impressive CVs; including Ken Kwapis who worked on The American Office.

I see how Kwapis wants to be involved; he made (well, helped adapt) a brilliant sitcom that focuses on making ordinary people extraordinary; namely the staff of Dunder Mifflin/Sabre, so there’s plenty that can be done on making these ordinary ensigns into the masters of their own destiny.

With good writing and direction, it’s even feasible that this could be entertaining enough to work out as a TV series. My one main worry is that Paramount/Viacom/whoever owns Star Trek are just going to, plainly and simply, sue the shit out of them.

Redshirts doesn’t exist without Star Trek. That’s a fact. So how do they expect to make a programme out of the source material, especially if they hope to make it an effective enough parody that doesn’t just lift directly from Gene Roddenberry’s extremely well-established universe?

Parody, pastiche, whatever you want to call it – all things much better done from as broad a base to borrow from as possible. The trope-within-a-trope that is, Redshirts die on Star Trek, isn’t something which can necessarily carry across any range of story or breadth of genre. Is it enough of a thing to rip from if you don’t own the entire rest of the generic conventions to fit in alongside it? Does the parody hold much weight when it’s been entirely supplanted from something else?

One example of something which pulled off a much more convincing meta-collapse for me was the Back to Earth mini-series of British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, produced in 2009 to celebrate the programme’s 20th anniversary. (Incidentally, celebrity fan Patrick Stewart claims he once took one look at an early episode and tried to call his lawyer for Trek infringement.)

After eight series of blundering through space, avoiding swirly things and rubbish puppet monsters, the crewmembers realised halfway through this special visit to a far-off distant Earth, the home planet of last human Dave Lister, that they, too, were being written into – and soon out of – their very existence. (Even this included a great, great many nods to Blade Runner (which in turn came out of a book)).

The difference in Back To Earth was that, having followed these cult characters for a decade onscreen in their own universe and missing them for another decade off, the joke was on all of us: the crew found out that they did not truly exist in their own reality; nor did they have a reality to exist in. Lame as the joke turned out to be, it took a showdown between Lister and the bloke who plays him (on the set of the latter’s one other notable work) to let it sink in.

reddwarfcorrie

So the joke may be a letdown in the end, but at least Back To Earth fully satisfies the requirement of self-reflexivity to be something ‘meta’ in the first place – emphasis on self; it built up its own, albeit rather large pile of playing blocks over 20 years before knocking them down by itself. Redshirts, on the other hand, requires a whole new set of playing blocks off a lot of other contributors – in this case, pretty much exclusively the entire set of generic conventions and tropes laid down by one single text that doesn’t belong to them – before it can start knocking them down.

Not very original.