by Jolie Mason
Gaming is a huge influence on everything I write. Specifically, the Mass Effect franchise. For those who are not yet “Woke” to the gaming world, ME comes in two hero flavors. The first trilogy featured Commander Shepherd and the Reapers. The most recent release is Mass Effect Andromeda. They are essentially a scifi romance story wrapped in an interactive game environment, as well as my own personal demon to overcome.
Novels and video games have completely different needs in world building, but they have the same goals in storytelling. In ME, the story of mankind’s journey begins with their FTL, the mass effect drive, and the ever excellent story device they call the omni-tool.
Need a door opened? Well, that’s what the Omni-tool is there to do for the player. It’s tech driven by biotic implants, not unlike the worlds of many of our cyborg authors. It’s a computer interface, used to hack our way through barriers and move us around the world with ease. It’s their cell phone, if we use a modern day comparison.
Mass effect relays were built by a long extinct race, and they have ushered in for humankind an accelerated age of growth and technology upon their discovery. Using element zero, a universe specific substance that powers the drive core of their ships, humans have peopled other worlds, only to find a whole host of life out there just waiting for them to catch up.
Video games need devices with which a player can interface and move the game forward. It’s just not that different from what we do, minus the coding and cool factor with our kids. Most SFR worlds have a technology pushing them forward. For mine, it’s mechs, massive machines of war that have pilots and explosives to spare.
The ability to turn humans into machines or Psi operatives or mutants lies at the heart of scifi stories. They are plot devices on the surface, but the themes that lie underneath have been there since the early days of scifi. Cyborgs question what it is that makes us human. Psychic and biotic powers make us look seriously at the question of absolute power. Technology that can potentially destroy the world forces us to think about the cost/benefit of our consumptive selves, and question our place in the universe.
This brings me to the bestest element of the ME franchise, THE ROMANCE. You are a lover and a fighter in this game, and it is glorious.
For the same reasons we adore the addition of the romance element to our scifi themes, ME explores the relationships of each character and gives them the ability to progress almost anywhere. Isn’t that just what SFR authors do?
The added layer of the relationship a novel is working through takes the big themes someplace deeper, makes those questions more intimate in nature. So that, the cyborg is worried, not just about his humanity, but his ability to give and receive love. The alien race determined to destroy us isn’t just a representation of the evil we face in ourselves, it’s also a threat to all that is dear.
Most of us have been scifi fans practically from birth. The romance factor in our writing brings the themes we love home to us in a different way, and that’s why we love it. It’s why we’re fans before we’re authors. We are the audience.
There’s a real change in the way the next generation looks at science fiction that has given rise to our genre, both in books and in games. It’s no longer about the science and tech exclusively, but about the people and relationships. I, personally, find the demand for games like Mass Effect a good sign for those of us who have more SFR stories to tell.
This post is all the opinion of the author and in no way reflects the opinions of the SFRB.
Jolie Mason is an author of SFR novels and novellas in a universe teeming with corruption, mechs and splosions. You find out more about her work at her blog, Future Fairytales.
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