Geeks of War

Review of "Hit Points: Gettysburg Generals" by Jacob Lindaman

Last October's 13th issue of The Cross and the Cosmos contains a parody piece with an odd mash-up of genres that works well for an easy-going comedic effect.  Lindaman's short story depicts the Civil War generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman in a loosely videogamey rendition of the battle of Gettysburg.  There is very little set-up before the narrative takes the dive into wild hilarity, but the comedy is not exaggerated to the point of awkwardness.  Grant's extreme irreverence and blunt practicality fuels much of the humor, while Sherman plays the comedic duo counterpart.  The premise plays with the MMO convention of respawning after death to touch lightly and good-naturedly on themes of death and salvation.

"Hit Points: Gettysburg Generals" is not so much a parody of any particular fandom or geek interest as of the impulse to play with and make fun of our favorite geek interests.  There is little focus or detail to the gaming homages.  The references to "hit points" in the title and in the story itself primarily evoke thought of roleplaying games, the equipment looting and implied multi-player environment creating a loose analogy to an MMORPG.  However, the descriptions of fighting appear more like the combat mechanics of a first-person shooter.  In particular, the plasma guns may be a nod to the popular Halo series.

I have not seen the popular machinima web series Red vs. Blue, based on and animated from Halo, but I remember its widespread popularity.  Fan parodies of individual franchises, as well as full genre parodies in traditionally published media -- such as Mitchell Bond's fantasy-superhero romp Hero, Second Class -- gleefully make fun of the thing being parodied, enjoying the conventions and stereotypes that define the franchise or the genre without apologizing for them.  "Hit Points: Gettysburg Generals" expresses the spirit behind Red vs. Blue and Hero, Second Class.  In doing so, it serves as a parody about the fun and enthusiasm embodied in the geek tendency to parody.

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