Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Flag of the Cherokee Confederacy

This is the flag of the Cherokee Confederacy. It comes from a world where the Spanish Armada successfully conquered England in 1588. While England did eventually regain its independence, the Spanish conquest severely stunted England’s growth as a world power, and lead to great political instability. As a result, England never became a demographic juggernaut during the colonization of North America. The lands that would have become the Thirteen Colonies are a patchwork of nations and colonies founded by numerous European nations. There are also several independent indigenous nations, such as the Cherokee Confederacy.

The Cherokee Confederacy also includes the Muskogee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw tribes. The Cherokee, as reflected by the name, were the founding tribe of the confederacy. The Cherokee Confederacy was one of the first indigenous nations of North America to implement westernization and industrialization programs. Today, most Cherokee dress in European-style clothing, but do wear traditional clothing on special occasions. Like most southern nations in eastern North America, the Cherokee historically practiced slavery. Slavery was formally abolished in 1885 as part of the modernization efforts. Racial divides and tensions still remain, but the Cherokee government has, in recent years, implement programs to help blacks integrate into Cherokee society.

The Cherokee legislature, known as the Tribal Council, is organized into a semi-parliamentary democracy, with a prime minister as the Head of Government, and a president as Head of State. The Cherokee Tribal Council is closer in style to the French National Assmbly, rather than to the English Parliament. The Cherokee Confederacy is centered around what would be western North Carolina, Tennessee, and the northern bits of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. The indigenous republics of North America, being sovereign nations, did not suffer an equivalent of the Indian Removal Act.

Historically, the Cherokee Confederacy has been rivals with the Haudenosaunee Federation. However, in recent times the two nations have been putting their rivalries behind them. In terms of good relations, the Cherokee Confederacy has historically been an ally of New Neatherlands, which in located in Virginia. The various nations of North America have formed a European Union-style economic union, and there are hopes that this will eventually leads to a federation. There is a general spirit of good will and optimism. That said, North America still has a ways to go before its nation states become united.

The flag contains seven gold stars in the shape of the Big Dipper, or Ursa Major, on an orange field with a green border. Ursa Major is an important constellation to several tribes within the Cherokee Confederacy. It also symbolizes how the same night sky shine over the entire Cherokee Confederacy. Blue would seem a natural color choice, but the Cherokee picked orange instead. There is some debate about why this is. Popular belief says that it symbolizes the Cherokee Confederacy’s ties to New Netherlands. However, the Cherokee actually picked orange to contrast with the blue flags several other North American nations use. The green border is to offset the orange.

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Audio File: The Luchador: 1000 Fights of El Fuego Fuerte

Sometimes, I like to wait a little bit before I review certain audio dramas. I want to make sure they don’t pull out any sudden surprises right as I’ve finished the review. However, sometimes there is an audio drama that just demands to be reviewed. No, I’m not talking about when people ask me to review their shows. What I means is that I listen to a show, and I know that I have to share it with everyone as soon as possible. Such is the case with the audio drama we’ll be taking a look at today. We’re taking a look at season one of The Luchador: 1000 Fights of El Fuego Fuerte

In Mexico City, generations of masked wrestlers, known as luchadores, have been the champions of the people. From the noble tecnicos to the jeering rudos, these athletic whip-smart warriors set aside their rivalries of the ring to keep their city safe from the dangers of this world, and beyond. Of all the luchadores, of all the ages past, none were as brave or as strong as El Fuego Fuerte: The Might Champion of Mexico City. These are his battles. These are the 1000 Fights of El Fuego Fuerte, The Lachador.

I first became aware of The Luchador thanks to the weekly tread of new Audio-Drama.com show links on the r/audiodrama subreddit. The Luchador sounded promising, so I decided to give it a listen. I only had two episode when I first started listening, but I quickly fell in love with it. The first season is now out in its entirety. I had considered waiting until season two was out, but I then I decided that I absolutely had to review this show right now. So, here we are.

From a young age I had been fascinated by the world of lucha libre. Admittedly, most of that came via cartoons I enjoyed. ¡Mucha Lucha! was one of my absolute favorite cartoons. Yeah, it was all exaggerated, and include several fantastic and unrealistic elements, but it was still awesome. There was also Jackie Chan Adventures. One of Jackie’s allies was a luchador name El Toro Fuerte; not to be confused with El Fuego Fuerte from The Luchador. Even other shows, such as El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, included some elements of lucha. On the live action side, I saw a few episodes of Los Luchas. It was basically Power Rangers, but with luchadors rather than Power Rangers. I didn’t watch it as much as Power Rangers or Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, but what I did see was fun.

I say all of this to emphasize that, while I do admire lucha libre, I’m far from an expert on the topic. As stated, most of what I know comes from cartoons. All that being said, I still greatly enjoyed The Luchador: 1000 Fights of El Fuego Fuerte. Honestly, I successfully replicated those feelings I felt when watching all of those cartoons I mentioned. Series creator Daniel Valero Fletcher says that The Luchador was largely inspired by lucha movies from the 1970s. Again, never seen any of them in full, but I have seen clips from various lucha movies. They always looked like good campy fun.

Now, lets discuss a bit of wrestling terminology. People often say that professional wresting is fake, but that’s a bit of misnomer. True, the outcomes, and much of the choreography, of the matches are predetermined. However, all the stunts are very real. The bodyslams, atomic drops, piledrivers, people getting hit by folding chairs; all of that is absolutely real. As such, professional wrestlers deserve major respect, because they take a series beating for your entertainment. There’s kind of a willing suspension of disbelief among wrestling fans known as kayfabe. Basically, you know that wrestling is scripted, but you act like it is real. Think of this like whenever The Muppets get interviewed. Yeah, we all know they’re really just puppets, but everyone acts like they’re real. The wrestlers playing heroes are known as faces, with tecnicos being their lucha equivalent. Wrestlers playing villains are known as heels, with rudos as their lucha equivalents.

Obviously, things are a bit different in the world of The Luchador. The matches are depicted as having some scripted elements, but they’re also sort of depicted as being unscripted and real, for want of a better word. Though, from what I understand, this way of doing things isn’t that uncommon in wrestling fiction.

El Fuego Fuerte is, for all intents and purposes, a superhero. As with any good superhero, he adheres to a strict moral code. In this case, the rule of lucha libre. For example, during a car chase, El Fuego Fuerte refuses to shoot at the pursuers, for a tecnico is never the first to introduce a foreign object to the match. He also never appears in public without his mask on, because that’s a big no-no in lucha. Though, that said, El Fuego Fuerte does have a large collection of masks, such as dining masks, which he keeps for special occasions and appearances. However, we also get hints that El Fuego spent some time in America, and did some things that he isn’t proud of. That’s definitely going to play a role in the coming seasons. My guess is that he used to work as a heel, and possibly performed as a very stereotypical Mexican persona. El Fuego does say he felt that he brought same to Mexico. 

Of course, ever superhero needs villains For season one, El Fuego Fuerte faces off against undead Aztec vampire women known as cihuateteos. They are actual creatures from Aztec Mythology, and are said to be the spirits of women who died in childbirth. There’s a part where El Fuego pleads with the cihuateteos, and tells them that they are mighty warriors. Aztec women who died in childbirth received the same funeral rights as men who died in battle. The Aztecs viewed the act of giving birth as rescuing a hostage from enemy territory. So, El Fuego wasn’t wrong to call them warriors.

On the anti-hero side of things, we’ve got El Hijo de Lobo Sangre. He is the second luchador to hold that title, but he’s not the biological son of the previous Lobo Sangre. Rather, he was more his protege. Lobo is a rudo, but he’s willing to work with El Fuego if it means protecting Mexico City. He even develops a grudging respect for El Fuego Fuerte. So, Lobo is the noble demon character. Though, I should emphasize that he is not literally a demon.

Maria Amaya is an archeologist who works at the Museum of Anthropology. Naturally, El Fuego seeks out her help when researching the cihuateteos. She doesn’t really think too highly of lucha at first, but comes to appreciate it after spending time with El Fuego. We also a few sparks of romance between Maria and El Fuego. There’s a few other things I could mention, but that would be spoilers.

The narrator isn’t really a character, but he has an epic voice, and helps introduce new scenes. Daniel Valero Fletcher has said that he hopes that The Luchador might one day become a television series. If it does, the narrator absolutely needs to come along for the ride. The series just wouldn’t be the same without him.

Actually, while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the voice acting. Almost all of the characters are voice by actual professional wrestlers. Again, not my area of expertise, but I’m sure fans of professional wrestling might find this rather exciting. Overall all, everyone did a fairly decent job. El Fuego, Lobo, and Maria Amaya were the three strongest performances. There were a few characters who didn’t quite hit the mark, but I’m willing to cut the voice actors some slack. They’re professional wrestlers, not professional voice actors. The accents are all over the place. Some characters, such as El Fuego, sound believably Mexican. Others, such as the mayor of Mexico City, sound straight-up America. However, this is probably intentional. Like, presumably, the characters are actually speaking Spanish, but we hear it as English for our convenience. So, presumably the actors were all told to just use their natural speaking voices.

Each season also brings the opportunity to win tickets to real life wrestling matches. This is part of El Fuego Furte’s Luchador Crime Club. At the end of each episode, a secret word is revealed. You then email the word to The Luchador’s email address, which you can find on the website, and you are entered for a chance to win the tickets. The official Twitter account for The Luchador frequently live tweets various professional wrestling matches. In fact, you could be forgive for mistaking it for a wrestling fan account, rather than an audio drama podcast account.

There you have it. Season one of The Luchador: 1000 Fights of El Fuego Fuerte is absolutely fantastic. It combines lucha libre with urban fantasy adventures in Mexico City. I can’t wait to see what future seasons have in store for us. Do not wait to listen to this audio drama. Believe me, you will not regret it.

Well, I think that should do it from me for now. I will see you guys next time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Flag of the United Provinces of Markland

This is the flag of the United Provinces of Markland. It comes from a world in which the Norse colonization of North America was more successful. The Norse expanded into mainland North America. Most of the settlements were founded by Christians. However, some pagans also established colonies in hopes of escaping persecution in the Old World. Unfortunately, Christians had a numeric advantage, and forced the Pagans further into the interior of North America. Still, the Pagans made the best of things, and there was some trade between pagan and Christian settlements. Christian settlements tended to be based around agriculture and fishing, while Pagan settlements placed emphasis on fur trapping and hunting. 

Knowledge of the Americas eventually spread to the rest of Europe, and other nations began to send their own expeditions. The indigenous peoples were exposed Old World diseases, but managed to recover their numbers by the time Europeans arrived in earnest. There are several independent indigenous nations, such as the Haudenosaunee and Lenape nations. Both nations are close allies of Markland. Christian Marklanders traditionally had a tense relationship with the indigenous peoples. By contrast, Pagan Marklanders were generally on more amicable terms with the Native Marklanders, and intermarriage wasn’t uncommon. This lead to a creation of a new culture of mixed race Marklanders. We might consider them akin to the Métis of our world.

In time, Markland began to view itself as separate from Scandinavia. This ultimately culminated in a war of independence. The Markland War of Independence saw Christians and Pagans fighting side-by-side to defend their homeland. This caused Christians and Pagans to view each other not as separate cultures, but as a single people sharing in a common destiny. The United Provinces of Markland includes most of what would have been the eastern provinces of Canada, as well as the New England states, Long Island, and New York City.

The United Province of Markland is governed by a bicameral legislature known as the Althing. The head of state known as the Speaker of the Althing. The Speaker is voted on by the people and serves a term of six years, and can be re-elected for only one more term afterward.

The Constitution of Markland places emphasis on protecting the rights of minorities, such a pagans. All provinces can declare an official religion, but they cannot penalize other religions, or lack there of. However, Pagan majority provinces are granted more leeway with what they are allowed to do, in accordance with the Constitution. Some conservative Marklanders grumble about this. They feel that pagans wield a disproportionate amount of influence in the Althing; especially given that Pagans only comprise about twenty percent of Markland’s population. However, most Christian Marklanders are perfectly willing to give small concessions to the Pagans.

Marklander Christianity is highly syncretic. Pagan Marklanders might bless a field by pulling a wagon with a statue of Freyr or Thor around it. Christian Marklanders would preform pretty much the exact same ritual, but with a statue of St. Olaf instead. The raven, rather than the dove, is consider the symbol of the Holy Spirit in Marklander Christianity.

This symbolism extends to the flag. The flag is based upon the famous Raven Banner. It is a grey triangle pennon with two ravens. The ravens represent both Christians and Pagans, and symbolize how Markland is the product of both cultures. Some conservative Christians, however, note that two raven could also symbolize Huginn and Muninn, the ravens of Odin. Conservative Christians have tried, unsuccessfully, to get the flag changed to include only a single raven. However, most Christin Marklanders are perfectly happy with the flag just the way it is, and think it look very nice.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Flag of the Gallic League

This is the flag of the Gallic League. It comes from a world where Carthage won the Punic Wars and crushed Rome. Carthage and Greece did establish some colonies across the Mediterranean, and even sent expeditions up the major rivers of Europe. However, neither created a vast spanning empire the way Rome would have. Gaul remained divided between numerous tribes and city-states. The southern regions saw lots of influence from Carthage and Greece as a result of trading ports. Greco-Carthaginian influence begins to tapper off the further north one travels. Over time, the city-states of Gaul began to establish a series of trading alliances with one another, and this would eventually lead to a political alliance. Thus, the Gallic League was born.

The thinking was that the city-states of Gaul could do more by pooling their resources than any of them could individually. The city-states are divided into a series of cantons, each of which has a high degree of autonomy. The cantons administer to their personal affairs, while the League government deals with diplomacy and international relations. The League capital constantly moves around. This way, no one canton can wield more influence than the others. The Gallic League has proven to be quite successful, and can easily stand as an equal to major powers such as Carthage, Greece, and Egypt.

The Gauls have developed a written language using a modified form of the Greek alphabet. Several Greek philosophers have opened schools on the southern coast of Gaul. The Gauls also learned shipwright technics from Carthage, and the first expedition across the Atlantic was lead by Gauls. Gaul established a few colonies in the New World, but the indigenous people were largely able to resist colonization. That said, many indigenous peoples of the Americas did become valuable trading partners for Gaul. Gaul gained considerable wealth by acting as the middle man to the products of the New World. On the whole, the Gallic League is one of the biggest success stories of the world created by Carthage’s victory in the Punic Wars.

The flag is a green pennon with a gold boar on it. The boar is consider the most important animal to the Gauls, and the green references to the lush forests and fields of Gaul.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Flag of the Inca Empire

This is the flag of the Inca Empire. It comes from a world where the Inca were able to defeat Pizarro and his troops, and resisted Spanish conquest. The naturally mountainous terrain of the Andes helped give the Inca a considerable boost in self-defense against other European powers. The Inca played the various European powers off of each other to preserve their independence. The Inca initially considered a policy of isolationism, but this would prove untenable. Though, initially, the Inca limited their interactions with the Europeans as much as possible. 

As time went on, the Inca began to study and replicate European technology and ideas. The first major change being the introduction of gunpowder weaponry, and the establishment of permeant standing army. The Inca also established a formal written language; with its alphabet largely based on the Latin Alphabet, but with some unique flourishes. The Inca had been ravaged by smallpox, and other Europeans diseases, though not quite to the extent they were in our world. Naturally, the Inca sought out the vaccine for smallpox as soon as it became available in the 18th Century.

The 19th Century saw the next major wave of reforms. The Incan government reformed into a parliamentary democracy, with limits set on the Sapa Inca’s powers. The first stages of industrialization also began at this time. The Inca adopted Western styles of clothing, but mixed in their own designs and color choices. Indeed, to this day, the Incan clothing is known for its unique mix of Western and Indigenous designs. However, more traditional style clothing can be found at important events, such as major religious festivals, or the crowning of a new Sapa Inca.

Today, the Inca Empire is a prosperous modern nation. Cusco, the nation capital, is a true global city. It is home to several universities, museums and art galleries, restaurants, and temples that are the envy of the world. The Quechua people are the largest ethnic group within the empire. However, the empire is home to many other ethnic groups including, among others, Aymara, Mapuche, Wayuu, Het, Polynesians, and even Amazonian tribes. The Inca Empire also receives many immigrants from around the world.

Incan citizens enjoy a very generous social safety net. Government-funded healthcare is provided to all citizens, though private insurance also exists. The Department of Employment provides jobs to all citizens who find themselves unemployed. In the event that a citizen cannot fulfill any available jobs, they are instead given a welfare payment until new jobs become available. The Department of Culture helps provide funding for the arts. Some citizens, of course, cannot attend performances of the arts due to their financial circumstances. In this case, they can apply for free vouchers from the Department of Culture. This all means that most Inca citizens have fairly high taxes, but most consider the trade-off worth it.

The flag includes a stylized depiction of the sun god Inti. The Inca still largely follow their traditional religion; though secularism is on the rise. The blue symbolizes how the same blue sky stretches over all parts of the empire. In the corners of the flag are four chakana; a common geometric shape found in art across various Andes Civilizations. They are in the four corners of the flag in reference to the Inca Empire’s official name, Tawantinsuyu, which means Land of the Four Corners.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Alt-Hist File: Prototype World of Tomorrow: The Infinite Journey

I’ve been on a roll reviewing the latest seasons of several audio dramas. We find ourselves once again at Prototype World of Tomorrow, a show I utterly adore. Not much more to add, so let get on to the main event. We’ve taking a look at season three of Prototype World of Tomorrow: The Infinite Journey

Just to recap, Prototype World of Tomorrow is set in a world where Walt Disney’s dream to build an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow became a reality. Everyone in Progress City is gearing up for the Eleusinian Tournament. It is a competitive video game tournament, and Tim E. Less is determined to win with a little help from his friends. This year, the players will be dematerialized, and reassembled within the game itself. It might seem like fun and games, but lurks around every corner within the digital world. Tim’s fellow private investigator, Eve R. Moore, wants him to help her investigate the companies behind the Eleusinian Tournament from within. Hold on tight, Tim and the gang are about to take a journey beyond their wildest imagination.

I think by know that it should be obvious that I absolutely adore Prototype World of Tomorrow. It started off strong with season one, and continued the momentum with season two. So, how does season three do? Quite well indeed. As usual, there are numerous references to Disney Park attractions. Specifically, there are numerous references to all three incarnations of Journey into Imagination. Contestants exit the game through a rainbow tunnel, as a nod to how Journey into Imagination featured a rainbow tunnel. Fun fact, the Journey into Imagination tunnel also appears in one of Michael Jackson’s music videos. At one point, Tim and company meet a computer program that takes the form of a purple dragon. Obviously, this is meant to be Figment, and I shall refer to him as such from here on out. Figment mentions that he used to have a friend, but hasn’t seen said friend in a while. This is a reference to Dreamfinder, and how he was absent from both the Journey into Your Imagination and Journey into Imagination with Figment incarnations of the ride. Speaking of which, Ron Schneider, who played Dreamfinder, once again returns as one of the computer voices.

This segue’s nice into my next point. The game for this years tournament is partially powered by the players’ own imaginations. Oh, there are servers, very powerful ones, but part of the computing power is offset by utilizing the players’ own minds. For example, when Tim and his teammates look at a berry, it looks different to all of them, because everyone has their own mental image of how a berry should look. Though as mentioned, the servers do play some role. For example, all of the trees share the exact same four designs. Honestly, using the contestants’ own minds to generate the game was actually kind of brilliant. I haven’t really seen anything quite like that in fiction about virtual reality. I especially liked some aspects of the game being subjective based on the players’ own imaginations. Let it never be said that Ben Lancaster is lacking in creativity and imagination. Also, the part where the announcer says “right now there’s not a whole lot going on in your imaginations” was a nod to Journey Into Your Imagination, when Eric Idle says the same thing.

Oh, and one more reference. In the first episode, Tim is excited that his friends got handwiches. Handwitches were a short lived Disney food item. They were billed as the sandwiches of the future by then Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Handwiches were bread cones which held a variety of both sweet and savory fillings. Unfortunately, pretty much only Michael Eisner thought they were a good idea. Even the people working the handwich stands were skeptical of them, and handwiches died a swift death. Still, handwiches developed a minor cult following. In fact, they became a minor meme after Defunctland made a video about them. It also occurs to me that Bonnie, the waitress at Tim’s favorite greasy spoon, might possibly be a reference to Bonnie Appetite from Kitchen Kabaret.

Now, lets talk about the new characters. Tim’s team is down a player, so they take on Pauline, who works at the same company as Tim’s girlfriend Annie. At first, Tim doesn’t want Pauline on the team, and it was at this point I worried that this season was going to become one of those preachy “gamers are sexists” stories. Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case. Tim just want to have a chance to play alongside his buddies, and proudly admits to having lost to numerous all-female teams in the past. Pauline has a true passion for retrogames, but Tim and his team initially dismiss her because of this. And yet, not too long after this, they mention that past Eleusinian Tournaments have incorporated elements of retrogames. So, one would think that they wouldn’t be so quick to brush her off. Initially, Pauline comes across as introverted, shy, and slightly dorky. In fact, at first I wondered if perhaps she might have autism. You don’t often see women with autism depicted in fiction. However, once everyone gets into the game, she becomes far more confident and in her element.

I also really liked Tim’s friend Morris. He’s a huge paleontology nerd, and is very excited that this year’s game has a dinosaur theme. He can name all of the dinosaurs, and other prehistoric animals, and rattles of a list of facts about each of them. He must be really good at the game right? Yeah, no. He get’s killed in the tutorial of the game, but he emerges from the game with little more than a bruised ego. Yeah, that would be me in that scenario. I also have a deep love of prehistoric animals, and with my luck, I’d probably get killed in the tutorial as well.

There is an obvious comparison to TRON with this season taking place in the digital world. However, while the programs interact with humans, their appearance isn’t as anthropomorphized as programs are in TRON. It is explain that the processing power of the severs is far faster than that of a human mind. I looked it up, and that does check out. As such, a human mind can’t be plugged directly into the computer mainframe. Thus, programs are rendered as series of geometric shapes.

Well, mostly. We do meet a program who looks suspiciously similar to Eve’s supposedly dead fiancé. We don’t get confirmation as to whether or not it really was him. That having been said, many strange things have been shown to happen in Progress. Personally, if I was the gambling sort, I’d put money on it actually being him. I’ll be genuinely surprised if it turns out it wasn’t actually him. But I guess we’ll have to wait and see what future seasons have in store for us.

The virtual world setting does provide some humorous moments as well. At one point, Eve hacks into the game, and enters via the microphone she gave Tim. However, because Tim swallowed the mic, Tim winds-up vomiting Eve into the game. This is one of those time that it is good that Prototype World of Tomorrow has no visual component. That scene would probably be pretty terrifying in a visual medium. There were points were it seemed that something would go wrong, and the characters might get mutated or glitched somehow. My personal speculations was that somehow everyone would switch bodies. It would be interesting to see the actors portray each other’s characters. But it would seem that I was wrong.

I liked the part where Tim and company muse on the fact that the game contains temple ruins. Does this mean that humans and dinosaurs coexist in the game? Or did the dinosaurs develop their own religion? My take? Probably a nod to how early video games often featured ruins that often seemed to have no function beyond being ruins. There’s also a scene at a digital circus where Pauline eats some peanuts, and notes that she’s a allergic to peanuts in the real world. She finds them to be okay. 

Series creator Benjamin Lancaster has a deep love for the original EPCOT theme park. That loves really shines through in this season, even more so than usual. 

And so there you have it. The Infinite Journey, season three of Prototype World of Tomorrow, keeps up the momentum of its predecessors. Prototype World of Tomorrow has bowled a turkey; three-for-three for great seasons of alternate history science fiction goodness. I can’t wait to see what surprise season four will have for us. From the looks of it, some exciting stuff is on the way.

Speaking of exciting stuff, I’d like to take a moment to talk about one of the projects Brian Ballance, the voice of Tim, is up to. He has recently started a podcast called The Interesting Podcast. As the title says, he interviews people he thinks are interesting. For example, he interviewed, Callie Wills, the voice of Eve. I would encourage everyone to go checkout Brain’s podcast.

Well, I think that should do it from me for now. I will see you guys next time. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Audio File: The Program: Part 3

Well, here we are at Part 3 of my review of The Program. Just a recap, for those of you joining us for the first time. The Program is an anthology show of sorts, but the stories all take place in the same world. It takes place at some unspecified point in the future. The Singularity has come to pass. The world has been completely transformed by an app known as The Program. It has combined money, government, and religion into a single entity. Each episode follows one or more ordinary people making their way through the extraordinary world of the future. You can find Part 1 over here, and Part 2 over here

I was first made aware of The Program when I was contacted by series creator Ivan Mirko S over on Reddit. I frequently post and comment in r/audiodrama. Whenever anyone ask for recommendations, I chime in with ever larger lists of various audio dramas I enjoy. Ivan noticed that I'm quite the connoisseur audio fiction, and recommended his own show. He also asked if I might give it a review. I did, and kept reviewing it, and had to split the review into multiple parts to make reading easier. And here were are at part 3.

For our first episode of this segment, we have Counterprograming. It is a series of reimaginings of popular works of fiction, in this case The Iliad, The Lion King, and The Bible. The Program changed them to better reflect the values of its new society. Though, the originals weren’t lost or destroyed, merely fell out of popularity. The resulting edits are rather humorous.

Well, that was unexpected. We start off with an interesting reimagining of the story of Helen and Paris, and then the other two segments turn into an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I can easily imagine the dialogue from the Bible segment appearing in The Life of Brian. The Lion King segment reminded me of the part of Holy Grail where the peasants on the commune debate the merits of different forms of government, and point out that soggy tarts handing out swords in no way to found a proper government.

I liked the more serious tone of the Iliad segment. In fact, it reminded me very much of Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller; a novel I greatly enjoyed. Though I found Circe, the follow-up to Song of Achilles, was a major step down in terms of quality. Don’t believe the hype with Circe. Well, on the one hand it is a bit sad that the original Iliad and Lion King have fallen out of fashion. But I suppose stories are always being imagined and reinterpreted. Lion King itself is, in large part, a reimagining of Hamlet. Song of Achilles hews closer to its source material, but it is also a reimagining. I like to think there would be at least a few people who would still enjoy the originals.

Also, how does intellectual property work? Was it abolished by The Program, and all of fiction is now a fanfiction free for all. Or does it still exist, but it a much less restrictive form?

Let it never be said that The Program lacks a sense of humor.

Next up we have Homepage not found. It follows a very disgruntled man who is attending a meeting of a Neighborhood and Home Owners Association. He is concerned about the lack of affordable housing available in the neighborhood. He also feels that the Home Owners Association is drowning out the voices of anyone who opposes their clique. He feels that working individuals, unmarried individuals, and pretty much anyone who isn’t wealth or well-off, is being ignored. How will be make the NIMBYs listen to him?

Brief note, NIMBY stands for Not In My Backyard. Now, The Program has never exactly been subtle about its views. However, I would argue that it succeeded because it wrapped these messages in creative thought experiments and excellent storytelling. This reminds me of the afterword to Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. The point of the afterword is that it is important for books to have good writing as storytelling, not just good messages. Kindred is an excellent example of this. It is about a black woman from 1976 Los Angles who, for unknown reasons, travels back in time to 19th Century Maryland. Specifically, to a plantation where her ancestors are kept as slaves. Obviously, there’s a lot of emphasis on the horrors of chattel slavery, but it never feels preachy or moralistic. Kindred is an excellent novel, I recommend it if you haven’t read it already.

Now, I bring this up because I feel that this episode ran a bit foul of that adage. I mean, it was about a subtle as a baseball bat to the face. I want to emphasize that I don’t think this episode was bad per se. It was far better than the first few episodes of The Program from way back when. However, it does feel like it was taken out of the oven before it had a chance to properly bake. I’m sensing some potential autobiographical elements with this one. There was a lot here that felt like insider baseball at times. There was some stuff I was able to parse out. I’m familiar with the sorts of nonsensical regulations that home owner associations impose upon neighborhoods. I also appreciated the satirization of…well, let’s call them Latte Liberals. Those suburban progressives who mouth along to left-wing causes, and make a lot of noise, but when the chips are down don’t put their money where their mouths are. Bourgeoisie Bohemians is another terms that I suppose would work here. However, I did feel there was a lot of stuff that sailed over my head, and maybe I’d understand it better if I was Canadian.

This almost felt like a parody at time. Like, it was what The Program would be like it you sold it to a major network, or put someone in charge who didn’t fully understand what makes the show work. It also kind of feels like what would happen if The Program emphasized getting out episodes as quickly as possible instead of taking time to ensue quality.

This was a nice rough draft, but as an actual episode I feel it leave something to be desired. Once more I must mention that it is important to have good stories, not just good messages. Oh, and there is a quiz that accompanies this episode. It deals with questions related to Home Owners Associations. I played the quiz. I thought the trick would be that they were all real, but it seems I was wrong. Give the quiz a try and see how you do.

Our next episode is Jakob's notebook: Antivirus solutions for home and business. This is another of Jakob’s many stories. It tells of Earth being visited by aliens known as the Baci. The Baci warn humanity about a horrible galactic plague that is about to befall Earth. Human doctors believe that the plague can be contained with face masks, social distancing, and vaccination. The Baci, however, insist that the plague can only be stopped by brain implants.

I’m not sure how I feel about this one. It had its funny moments. I liked the part where the Baci get kicked out of China because they acknowledge Taiwan as a nation. Or the part where they says that humans smell of elder berries. I also get that this story was meant to be a satire of the pandemic, and how it has been handled. But I just couldn’t quite get into this one.

The parts where the Baci tell humanity to not wear masks and not to use vaccines just felt awkward. I get that it was meant to be ironic, but with all anti-vaxx and anti-mask propaganda floating around, it just felt kind of uncomfortable. It was like the episode was simultaneously pro-vaxx and anti-vaxx. Like it was saying to listen to experts, but that the experts don’t know what they’re talking about. Maybe it was just a victim of bad timing.

I will say that this episode did a way better job satirizing then pandemic than Don’t Look Up did. It didn’t stretch the joke out way too long, and it wasn’t smug and conceited. Not a very high bar to jump over, but I appreciated it.

I also enjoyed the voice acting. I kept thinking why the Baci sounded familiar. At first, I thought they sounded like Minions, but then I realized that they sounded like the Mexican Squash from VeggieTales, who’s name escapes me. Well, they sound like the Mexican Squash with a vocal filter, but still. That made the American politician come across as even funnier, since he sounded like the old pickle dude, I think his name is Mr. Nezzer. This was probably unintentional, as I seriously doubt the dudes who made VeggieTales would want to act for The Program. It probably goes against their religion.

Also, the Baci got the island of Great Britain as their homeland? Does that mean that Scotland and Wales were considered accomplices in all the colonialism that England did? Also, does Northern Ireland exist as a rump state of the United Kingdom? If so, wow, apparently the United Nations looked back at The Troubles and were like “There was a lot of carnage and bloodshed, but I think we can do better here. Let’s see how many more bombs were can goad them into setting off. Place your bets now!” Well, on the plus side, at least they didn’t give them Israel and Palestine. Or did the displaced British flee to the Isle of Mann an the Channel Isles. A European Taiwan, if you will.

Anyway, this episode wasn’t for me, but maybe other people will enjoy it.

Our next episode is called Overclocking. It is set in a world much like our own. However, the people of this world have known that they are within a computer simulation since ancient times. Human took comfort in known that the Admin watched over them. Unfortunately, by the 14th Century CE, scientist discovered that the simulation is running out of computing power. The mere act of existing takes away computing power from the simulation. Worse, the Admin has mysterious stop responding to communication requests. The world is literally coming apart at the seams, and horrific glitches spring up everywhere. It is admits this backdrop that our two protagonists are embarking on a great journey. You could, perhaps, even call it a pilgrimage. They have enlisted the help of a ferryman to bring them on a journey to the terminal. Once there, they hope they will finally be able to speak to the Admin. Danger lurks round ever corner. Our heroes must maintain their faith in the Admin if they are to find salvation for their dying world.

At ninety-three minutes in length, this is the longest episode of The Program yet. However, don’t let the length of this episode intimidate you. Like the intro said, after the first ten minutes, this episode flies right by. The first ten minutes are what we need to set-up the world of the episode. IMS said that he wanted to create a movie-length audio drama episode, and he certainly succeeded.

I see that this episode is meant as a reinterpretation of The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. You’ve got two protagonists set off on a great journey from a land that is doomed to be destroyed. They hope to find salvation, and meet their “God” once they reach their destination. They must literally traverse the Valley of the Shadow of Death. One of them is carrying a heavy load, much as the character Christian did. It also didn’t escape my notice that the current year is said to be 1678 CE, the same year that The Pilgrim’s Progress was first published. The Ferryman can even been seen as a combination of the characters Atheist and Hopeful. He doesn’t believe in the Admin, despite overwhelming evidence, but he finds meaning in the struggles he undertakes. It was very interesting how this episode took a classic work of Christian literature, removed pretty much all the Christian elements, and yet still managed to remain true to the core and themes of the work. That is some quality writing, and another argument in favor of a strong Public Domain. A strong Public Domain allows us to reimagine, reinterpret, and re-examine works to classic literature in new and innovative ways.

The notion of a world coming apart at the seams, and that simply existing causes the destruction of the world, brings to mind entropy. Eventually, our universe will run out of energy, but that will be billions, if not trillions, of years in the future. In fact, for most of its existence, our universe will be a fairly dark and inactive place. So, whenever you feel down and out, take joy that you live in a time when the universe is full of stars and planet, and teeming with light and life. This episode almost feels like a way to bring the concept of entropy to a more human scale. And in doing so, make entropy, and an idea, more relatable for us humans. I was very much reminded of the short story “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang, which approaches entropy in a similar manner.

I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it wouldn’t have been too out of place in the original Pilgrim’s Progress. Though, the idea of people within a computer trying to reach a terminal, in hopes of contacting their creators, also bring to mind TRON. Oh course, that’s rather interesting, as many have noted that TRON works surprisingly well as a Christian allegory. This was the first movie-length episode of The Program, and it did not disappoint. It is just as creative, engaging, and philosophic as a typical episode of The Program. The added length was more than necessary to do this episode’s story proper justice. You can always count on The Program to be innovative and try new things. 

And so that is all of the episode of The Program out so far. It never ceases to blow me away with the consistent quality, and how it keeps getting better. The Program is a tale of ordinary people making their way through the extraordinary world of The Singularity. Check it out today. You'll be glad you did.

Well I think that should do it from me for now. I will see you guys next time.