I’m guessing that most gamers write at least one specimen of fan fiction in their lives. In the Marathon community, this usually takes the form of the terminals on a new scenario. However, there are some traditionalists who express themselves through the time-honored medium of print. The Marathon Fan Fiction Archive is the de facto home to these pieces, with other fringe sites like the Marathon section of Fanfiction.net and, occasionally, our own Pfhorums providing additional material.
With those places in mind, I’m going to point out several pieces, explaining their strengths and weaknesses as I go along.
Note: I will not be discussing any of Assassingao’s work here; the only person well-studied enough to explain his deep and often confusing prose is Thermo, and we’ll just have to hope he gets to work soon.
SPOILER ALERT: this entry might give away critical plot details. Don’t read past the synopses if you want to discover the stories on your own!
Synopsis: an unexpected crossover, mixing Marathon with my favorite science-philosphy masterpiece, The Matrix. A lowly worker on the starship Marathon must question his existence when a black-vinyl-clad woman interrupts his reveries…
My thoughts: What can I say? I’ve been waiting for a Matrix crossover since I saw the film in 2000. Bonilla handles the transition well, creating a sense of continuity and—yes—wonder that I think Double Aught strove for (but never achieved) in their flawed chef-d’oeuvre Infinity. Eloquent writing is mixed with glimpses into the improbable, fantastic realm of a shared Matrix/Marathon universe. The temporal looping, the circular nature of the story, succeeds where Infinity failed. Never before or since have I wished so much that someone would create a scenario based on a relatively short story like this.
“To whom is she talking to?” I wandered. Was this an insane girl, even by terrorist standards?
“Everything is back the way it should be,” I said to myself and I reached for my pocket computer to start this recording. I do not know if somebody is going to hear this, and if they do, what their reaction will be. To be honest, I do not care… The terminal is ringing. I have nothing else to say.
Synopsis: Tau Ceti has received an upgrade. Humanity has advanced as far as Tau Ceti III, home of a dangerous breed of parasites that has been contained on the science deck of the Joyeuse. But will the containment last long when the the artificial intelligence Phobos begins to think for himself?
My thoughts: “Phobos Rising” takes an old concept and makes it new again. In this case, it’s a peek into the mind of a soon-to-be-rampant AI. But this is no mere copy of Durandal. While the venerable Sword of Roland unleashed his—and the cyborg’s—powers for selfish gain, the intelligence named Phobos sees fit to eradicate one form of parasite (humanity) with another (the newly-discovered and quarantined Zygos Reptans). There is an extreme element of mystery here; mentions of other things as-yet-unexplained (like the unidentified host creatures—Neo-S’pht?; or the “large monitor”—a metaphor of God?) make me long for more chapters.
A large monitor sits on the wall, displaying a panoramic view of the known universe. The image is replaced by text, being typed onto the screen.
Defend them. Defend life they view as valuable. Important. Why? So they can continue to fight among themselves? So they can spread across world after world and subdue it?
With me as their willing slave…
Synopsis: An avant-garde piece, “Marathon the Assualt” plays with style, presentation, and theme in new and exciting ways. A soldier’s nightmare just got a lot more real.
My thoughts: I usually eschew works that stress presentation more than content, and so I was at first quite skeptical of Assualt. However, after reading the piece, I can firmly say that it holds its own in both respects. The unexpected underline formatting makes everything important; sporadic apostrophization creates an air of the alien, not unlike the various Pfhor and S’pht names in the original Marathon series. It all serves to immerse the reader in a dream: a dream of reading a soldier’s dream. My own original piece “Sleepless Scim” attempted something similar, but I am man enough to admit that Assualt took the concept one step farther.
Unexpected things happen. You’ll know soon. Because you’ll become one of them…
“That nightmare. It’s back. But it never finish’s. Never. I wonder why.” The marine said. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep. But his dream he had was not just a nightmare.
“You think that’s it?” Mike asked. “Don’t know, what about you Zac?” Todd looking around. “I have no clue.” Zac said.
Synopsis: A dwindling community fights its hardest to survive. During the constant in-fighting and attacks from without, the members of the UESC’s MSB might need a new kind of savior.
My thoughts: I have a firm belief that one must be able to laugh at oneself in order to be a complete human being. However, this story only condenses the disgusting behavior of some of the worst members in the entire community. The story, like its petty characters, is only saved by the good graces of Johannes. I wish I could make myself enjoy this piece, but it only reminds me of why the Pfhorums exist, and that’s never a good thing.
All: “SHUT UP!”
I hope you enjoyed my brief reviews of these stories. I may do more in the future, but until then, let’s look forward to Thermoplyae‘s thesis on the Gao Legends.