Archive for Vehicles

Freeway Fighter – interactive fiction

Freeway Fighter

Title: Freeway Fighter
Author:Ian Livingstone
Year published: 1985
Genre: Post-apocalypse
Threat: Deadly plague
Two words: Interactive Apocalypse

 

 

 

 

 

If you grew up in the 1980s, and had any interest in sci-fi or fantasy fiction or gaming, you’d be no doubt familiar with the Fighting Fantasy books. Usually concerning Dungeons and Dragons territory, the series were ingenious single-player games continued in a short piece of literature. Freeway Fighter was a detour from the typical world into a future apocalyptic landscape. A rare post-apocalyptic book where you are the hero!

What’s Freeway Fighter all about?

Taking obvious overtones from Mad Max, Freeway Fighter follows the main character, you branching out across a desert wasteland to connect your tribe of survivors, New Hope, with another. It is a breakneck mission to re-establish civilisation – and, sadly for you, it seems everyone outside these two civilisations is less than a savoury egg. Making life or death choices with every chapter, you have to drive a load of supplies via motorbike gangs and seductive thieves, all the while continually running out of petrol…

 

What’s special about Freeway Fighter?

Freeway Fighter exudes the post-apocalyptic archetype laid out in Mad Max, from the motor-punk setting to the weird metal outfits the apocalyptic survivors start donning. It’s full of kitsch artwork celebrating this imagery. A work of deep, thoughtful literature it might not be – but it does have a unique place in our hearts as a gaming book, something where the narrative depends a little on your uninformed choices, and a little on luck. It’s more than a story, it’s an interactive experience, and something of a maze to get through.

Even as a Fighting Fantasy book, it should be noted, this entry was something special. Not only does it deviate from the usual fantasy realms, for the post-apocalyptic setting, but it also gives the player a more developed gaming mechanic, as you have a car to worry about (leading to both regular fights and vehicle combat – what!). For something a bit different, or even just for a bit of nostalgia, it’s well worth revisiting, even 30 years on.

 

Start reading Freeway Fighter

 

Iconic wasteland machinery: the gyrocopter

gyrocopter wasteland machinery

The gyrocopter, otherwise known as an autogyro, or rotaplane, is a popular image in post-apocalyptic and wasteland settings, as a light machine often appearing to be made from scraps. These light aircraft usually use a single fixed propeller to lift an unarmoured vehicle above the ground. They fit into the apocalypse as an aircraft that is light enough to still be fuelled, but weak enough to offer a hazardous journey – the perfect balance of risk and reward.

The gyrocopter was popularised by its iconic appearance in Max Mad 2, flown by Bruce Spence (who was known only as the Gyro Captain, and re-appeared in the third film, as another pilot). It was a nippy but vulnerable vehicle, a spluttering little engine full of character, and inspired many imitations.

mad max gyro captain

The gyrocopter has appeared in numerous other works of fiction, apocalyptic and otherwise, because of that same haphazard charm – it was Batman’s original aircraft (seen in 1939) and provided an easily shipped light aircraft for James Bond in You Only Live Twice. Skimming low across the ground, at a speed leaving it open to attack, it’s popular in model games like Warhammer, and computer games. The wasteland homage Borderlands 2 includes similar craft called Buzzards, following the same principles, albeit without the propeller – though this delightful concept art demonstrates the gyrocopter attitude behind them:

bordlerlands 2 buzzard gyro

Similar vehicles can be found in fiction, such as the forward thinking flying machines in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The gyrocopter makes an appearance in my novel Wixon’s Day, where it informs the nature of the story’s central characters. The gyro captain in Wixon’s Day, the stalking scout Qait Seyron, is an individual with stealthy, agile advantages but an aversion to direct confrontation – qualities reflected in his choice of vehicle, and qualities that later give him the opportunity to massively affect the plot of the novel. The chapter in which the gyrocopter and its captain are introduced is a turning point in the story, as the crew of the protagonist’s canal boat become hounded at a frantic pace. For this brief introduction, and a chance to read an extract from the novel itself, please visit this site.