Author Topic: There's Something About Miriam by Tom Chick  (Read 4529 times)

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There's Something About Miriam by Tom Chick
« on: August 23, 2012, 07:27:40 AM »
I have recently met a very effective co-conspirator who has introduced me to Sister Miriam Godwinson. The name of the co-conspirator is Alpha Centauri, a game created by Firaxis' Brian Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds is the genius (I don't use the word lightly) behind Civilization 2. He introduced me to Sister Godwinson. But I feel close enough to her to call her Miriam.

Miriam lives on Alpha Centauri, the home of seven competing factions carving out the future of humanity on an alien frontier. Her neighbors are a treacherous lot. Commissioner Lal of the United Nations Peacekeepers is a simpering advocate of democracy and compromise. There's no room for his slavish devotion to the tenets of humanism and conciliation on this harsh world. He can almost always be counted on to roll over for a strong opponent, but he's a great guy to keep under your boot when the Planetary Council rolls around. Nwabudike Morgan is almost as much of a pushover as Lal, but he has money and knows how to use it. This former diamond tycoon is a terror with well-financed Probe Teams. Similarly, Zakharov is an insidious imp, who will often sit quietly in a corner until his ivory-tower labs have given him a definitive technological edge. Although he can be a nasty enemy, he's an invaluable ally, especially if you can get him to loosen his grip on advanced research.

Then there's the fascist Colonel Santiago and her Spartan drones. She's oh-so-predictable, even when she's launching a surprise attack against you. The vaguely sinister serpentine Chairman Yang, who's most likely to ignore the call of a commlink, seems second only to the Gaians when it comes to spreading across Planet like a cancer with no regard for the sanctity of borders. Finally, there are the Gaians and their self-righteous arrogance, thinly disguised as love for Planet. Lady Deirdre Skye may come across as a poised and noble woman, but she's really a zealous conqueror; don't let her mystical mumblings fool you into mistaking her for a futuristic Walt Whitman.

It was in this arena of Alpha Centauri's competing ideologies that I first met Miriam, the leader of the Believers, the remnants of the Christian States of America (being a Southerner, I have a weakness for nations with their acronym). She demanded technological secrets from me. Somewhat amused at her fervor and knowing she would have a hard time keeping her Believer datalinks up to speed, I relented. So what if she mastered Industrial Automation? Besides, I didn't want her fanatic zeal pointed at me, if I could avoid it.

I was the leader of the University, so we made a perfect match. My research and her expansionist tendencies complimented each other nicely. But it turns out that Miriam is no mere Luddite. As she wrote in The Blessed Struggle, "Evil lurks in the datalinks as it lurked in the streets of yesteryear. But it was never the streets that were evil." Miriam doesn't hate technology; she's just keenly aware that it increases our capacity to sin. So it is with her disdain for the plebeian voice of democracy: she commands enormous confidence from her people, but she doesn't misplace her faith onto them.

I'll never forget the time she helped me out by loaning me money after I'd poured my resources into research and found myself running a deficit. And I got a lump in my throat when she agreed to enter a Pact of Sisterhood with me. Then there was the time Yang landed his forces on my continent, threatening several undefended cities. Like God's angels, Miriam's sunset-orange Needlejets swooped in from a nearby sea base and smashed Yang's Chaos Speeders into burning hulks. My heart melted and the music swelled, as I cranked the volume on the Gino Vanelli CD I was playing.

Eventually, Miriam's sea bases cradled my continent, serving as a buffer from the marauding Hive forces. She protected me, almost maternally, and allowed me to continue my research unmolested. Over time, she unveiled her territory and I saw her bases with their vivid beautiful names: Belly of the Whale, Noah's Rainbow, Redemption Base, Terrible Swift Sword, Fisher of Men, The Holy Fire, House of Martyrs, He Walked on Water. I'm a sucker for a woman with her unwavering certainty and reverent flair. I'll bet she digs C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton. She probably even knows what the word "exegesis" means (I sure don't, and I have a degree in theology). She's a redhead, too, so I can forgive that helmet haircut and pious scowl. I was sad to leave her behind during my Ascent to Transcendence. "We'll always have Mt. Planet," I told her.

In games since, I've had a weak spot for Sister Miriam. She doesn't seem to remember how close we were, but that doesn't matter. If I have to choose between cozying up with her or with another faction, she wins out. As Melvyn Douglas tells Paul Newman at the end of Hud, "The country changes because of the men we admire." So goes the terraforming of Alpha Centauri, a strategy game with a unique capacity to shape this brave new world that has such people in it according to their ersatz personalities. Of course, there's nothing here but a ream of algorithms, but Mr. Reynolds has disguised it nicely within these approximations of human beings. Miriam wouldn't pass any Turing test, but that doesn't make her any less real to me than Helen, Isolde, Magdalene, Anna Karenina, or Ripley.

Source: next-generation.com
Anyone else feels like it's time to fix the faction graphics bug?

Offline Green1

Re: There's Something About Miriam by Tom Chick
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2012, 10:22:32 PM »
Im think I brought this up on another forum somewhere. Actually, it was a Fantasy TBS game forum where we were talking about memorable characters and AIs for games.

I believe Miriam's agressiveness and character is based on the atmosphere at the time SMAC came out. For those too young, I will take you back to those days.

In 1999, there was internet, but it was in the domain of well off people. The computers were very expensive and the carriers like AOL or Compuserve were paid by-the-minute. If you did not live in a major city with a local access number or a local free BBS you would pay long distance charges on top of that as most of these were dial up. Information was still limited to books and magazines and maybe 20 channels on cable.

But, because there was so much to do as opposed to the 1980s and information was coming via the ever growing number of folks online, church memberships began to decline. For those few nerds in the know, there were massive gatherings called "conventions" in most areas at least once a year. Many nerds began to gather on Sunday in basements with 2e DnD books or minis and do wargames rather than sit in a hard pew singing 200 year old hymns with folks they had nothing in common with.

Many of the more hardline Christian figures did not like this. Using the newfound technology of cable TV, guest were sent on to discredit the wargaming and particularly the pencil and paper RPG community. Patricia Pulling, a lady who had a son with a mental disorder who committed suicide that just happened to like to pretend to be an orc and roll dice made appearances and even acted as "expert" testimony in lawsuits. I personally had wargaming and DnD books consfiscated at a prochial school I attended. There were even folks who claimed to be "former members of the occult" that claimed harmless games were some sort of training program for Satan.

Sid and the guys at Firaxis, of course, had close ties to wargamers and the con crowd. With almost weekly attacks on Cable and big book companies banning books, it did appear at least in 1999 we were heading towards Miriam's Christian States of America particularly if you were in the southern US.

Now, most of this was sorted out eventually as by 2004, internet got really cheap and more information was out there than cable TV or whatever books were not banned or needed a trip to a hip bookstore out of town to get. Most of the figures from the 1990s attacks on gaming were discredited and online gaming in the form of Civ, Ultima Online, and others made the ranks of the gaming nerds swell. In fact, most of the anti-occult propoganda and book burnings actually lead to a fad growth in occult new age movements 2002 to 2003 in major cities. Wicca was the fashion trend of gamer nerds and i saw a lot of pentagrams in the day.

Miriam is not only a memorable character. She is a HISTORICAL figure of a bygone time. Now her kind may recoil from the light of good information, but even in 2012 there are those like that.

I would dare say Miriam is one of the top most memorable characters of any TBS even to modern day.

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Re: There's Something About Miriam by Tom Chick
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2012, 11:00:23 PM »
I got the D&D Basic set for Christmas in 1980; a week later, I took it to the New Year's Eve youth lock-in at church, my brother and I set up a table in the furnace room in back of the fellowship hall, and taught a bunch of the boys how to play.  This became a regular thing for us at youth functions - the Youth Director asked me, much later, "What do you guys do back there?"  "Worship the Devil" I shot back.

The weird thing?  We never got so much as a funny look.  Now, this wasn't exactly what you'd call a liberal church; if Reagan had stayed out, I might still be going.  But, while I certainly heard about Miriam in the news media, I didn't go to church with her.  In fact, she rode my buss; her name was Maria, she was a red-head and a Jehovah's Witness.  Truth.


Offline Green1

Re: There's Something About Miriam by Tom Chick
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2012, 11:22:12 PM »
You were lucky. I had the opposite, BU. I grew up in Jackson, MS and went to a Baptist academy.

The oppression was horrible here.

We used to even have compulsory chapels at school where these "former occult" figures would come in. Nothing was safe. They even handed out a magazine called "the Evangelist" that said classics like the Smurfs, He-Man, and the Thundercats were pagan. I really guess it depends on where you were at the time. I heard up north it was not as bad.

It was not until much later in life when i moved to New Orleans (1998) that i was able to game with impunity and ran into a lot more folks like myself. Ironically, it was one of those gamers that introduced my to SMAC. I noticed him and his room mate were staring at the game for hours upon end. Did not see the major deal with it till i picked up the Planetary pack at the Virgin Megastore that used to be in Jackson Square. It, along with Age of Wonders:SM has been on the hard drive of every computer I have owned since 2000.

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Re: There's Something About Miriam by Tom Chick
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2012, 11:31:13 PM »
I was lucky about the D&D.  I got to watch the Southern Baptist Convention, which used to be a big tent that upheld the priesthood of the believer, turn into wing of the Republican Party.  Just in my own church, people were jumping up and declaring for Reagan all the time like a Democrat better not dare show his face in there.

Reagan has a lot to answer for, but the thing I'll never forgive is that he should have stayed out of my church.  I strongly considered throwing, no exaggeration, a "Regan's First Christmas in Hell" party the year he died...

Offline Green1

Re: There's Something About Miriam by Tom Chick
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2012, 11:48:24 PM »
Exactly!

For many of the folks I knew from that day, it turned some into diehard Miriam zealots and others into straight out Atheists or Agnostics. It continues to this day.

On my facebook, I have many folks from the Baptist academy there from a reunion attempt. I also have many folks from New Orleans. One time, one of the Kool Aide drinkers chastised me over a comment I made on facebook. He said it saddened him how ignorant I had become and had not come to Jesus and was living in a city of sin or something simular. I was even told Katrina was sent to punish me. I wanted blood after that comment, and I am usually a peaceful person.

I told them next reunion, I am going to bring a guy I know that is gay to be my black homosexual lover and my teenage daughter is coming with piercings, a blue mohawk, and goth clothes! That shut em up (though I am not gay..lol)

The comment started a war on FB as friends from New Orleans started flaming them. I think like 20 folks defriended. Not that i care for them now and they were asshats back then.

In fact... i remember one of these folks. I played football because of peer pressure. Now, I sucked at it and hardly got to play. There was a program at this school by the cheerleaders where the cheerleaders were to cheer you towards Jesus as well as on the field. They would leave "inspiring" notes in your locker. Now, I was offended. The cheerleader assigned to me was a jerk who would not normally give me the time of day since I did not drive a nice car or was part of the cool kids. I went to the cheerleader sponser with my concerns and was lambasted for not wanting to be witnessed to. I did get it stopped, but the gaze of the righteous was upon me from then after.

 

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