Saturday, April 29, 2017

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Newspaper Dailies: Volume 1, 1929-1930 - pt. 2

More thoughts and observations on the early Buck Rogers.

Buck Rogers' future is a strictly Lawful society, but not necessarily a Lawful Good one. Participation and allegiance to the Orgzones -- municipal governments linked by a weak federal government -- is required and anyone who defies this is branded an outlaw. It is then legal to shoot these outlaws. The Orgzones made up the Federation Zone, which included all of Canada and all the U.S. east of the Mississippi, while the Mongol Empire controlled all the rest of the U.S. and Mexico.

If someone carries or wears two jumping belts, that person can fly off into space without extra ballast or letting go of one of the belts.

Eventually, it is no longer implied but explicit that airplanes 500 years in the future still run on gasoline.

The Mythic West exists even 500 years in the future. The cowboys of the future are Luddites who have rejected all futuristic scientific advancements and are suspicious of them.

For some reason I still can't figure out, MacGregor is a Canadian, but he dresses and talks like a Scotsman.

The North American Capital is Niagra, now a metropolis full of skyscrapers. People get around the capital on foot, or by rocket cars that can drive or fly (the police pilot rocket motorcycles). The city is powered by hydroelectricity and protected from Mongol invasion by "thousands" of giant cannons. Building security is maintained by sound detectors that can register the image of what made the sound thanks to echolocation.

Speaking of Alignment, it's very clear that the North Americans represent Law (though a pretty harsh Law) and the Mongols represent Chaos, which I suppose puts the Golden Dragons in Neutral territory. At first, this secret Mongol society aims to overthrow the Emperor for their own rise to power, but they throw in with Buck on first meeting him, and even put him in charge!

I have to say something here about Buck's Charisma score. I have never yet advocated exceeding the cap of 18 for ability scores, but Buck's CHA seems to be a 19. He's a man 500 years out of time, but when he shows up, people start putting him in charge of everything! It would be like if a man from the 16th century showed up today and the U.S. Army immediately made him a 4-star general. 

The Golden Dragons have an advanced disentegrator ray -- actually two disentegrator rays. They have a range of 1,000 miles and, wherever the two beams meet is an atomic explosion ("Don't cross the streams!"). 

Buck Rogers travels all over the place. It’s unclear where his original mine was except that it seems to be somewhere in the Midwest. He then heads west to California through the desert, then back across the country to New York to Niagra, then he pursues the Golden Dragons to the Cumberland Mountains, which puts them in…maybe Virginia? But their main headquarters is buried under a river in Iowa, near the ruins of Davenport (so that would make it the Mississippi River, or maybe the Rock River), accessible by what appears to be the conning tower of a submarine that rises to the surface like an elevator.


The preferred weapon of assassins in the 25th century is still the knife.

After Wilma and MacGregor, the next most prominent supporting cast member for Buck is Lanlu, a Mongol woman who keeps turning up in adventures. Her journey, going from jealous concubine of the Emperor, to Mongol spy in Niagra, to working for the Celestial Mogul’s treasure hunting company is an intriguing one and at least as interesting as Buck’s journey. Lanlu latter denies having aided Killer Kane in Niagra, which suggests that there might be more to her story than we even know (or this was one of the earliest retcons in comics).

Killer Kane eludes Buck in Niagra with the ol’ “disappear in a cloud of smoke” trick. This smoke bomb is enhanced, though, as it "paralyzes the senses."

The Buck vs. Killer Kane final battle is done by proxy, with each controlling iron robots (like the ones statted in Book II, but with tank treads and only pincer hands). These robots are completely remote-controlled and can make no autonomous actions. They are stronger than iron robots were statted as, being able to wreck through walls.

The "telev-eye" perfectly predicts the spy satellite. Rarely in literature, though, has a spy satellite been used to ram an emperor off the deck of a flying ship. Rarer still is a rocketship with an outdoor observation deck, for emperors who just want to see the view better while four miles high.

Another curious thing about future politics is the powerful nation-state of Chile that we encounter in the second storyline. Chile dominates, without controlling, all of South America, and its navy is the equal of the Mongol Empire's colonial forces in North America. Chilean submarines are super fast -- about twice as fast as today's nuclear-powered submarines. It isn't clear if this practice applies to all their submarines or just their command submarines, but the one Buck is a prisoner on uses two decoy submarines and a ring of radio-controlled torpedoes around the submarine to take fire -- like a hi-tech Mirror Image spell!

Chilean torpedoes come in two varieties, magnetic and lightning. It isn't clear how a lightning torpedo would work, but the magnetic torpedoes are just drawn to metal hulls, like a heat-seeking missile, and probably have a bonus (+2?) to hit. The lightning generator on the submarine seems extremely powerful when compared to a Lightning Bolt spell. The lightning starts in the clouds overhead -- a range of miles -- and then travels to the periscope-like projection on the submarine instead of from it. That could catch a lot of aerial targets.

The Chilean capital is inside an extinct volcano, accessed by subterranean water tunnels. Since there are about 100 volcanoes in Chile, this seems feasible.

The first of the American big rocket cruisers is three stories tall.

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