Review: Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe

I first encountered this long running radio serial back in college. The mixture of science fiction, New Age and Classical symbolism, and detective noir stuck with me. Recently I decided to track the series down and reexperience the magic of Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe. Then I discovered I’d only heard the third of nine stories.

Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe

by the ZBS Foundation, written by Thomas Lopez

Ruby focuses on the titular character, a noir-ish female detective living in the 22nd century on the alien world Summa Nulla. Ruby possesses the unique power to slow down time. The tone is slightly tongue in cheek with plenty of puns (like in series 1 with the mole people and their leader’s dance partner Moleena), innuendos (a sample episode title is How to Activate a Male Android), and repeating gags (for example Ruby’s ally Professor T. J. Teru has a habit of collapsing ceilings down on himself).

The first series focuses on Ruby’s investigation into who is manipulating the planet’s media. Along the way she tangles with androids (“frankies”), tentacled aliens, techno-witches, ancient alien “games”, and more. Someone wants to keep her from the truth and arranged for the slimies (bio-engineered assassins) to kill her. Ruby however is tough to kill. Though the trail eventually goes cold, Ruby and listener put together who or rather what is behind this as well as learning their desire to hide until the inhabitants of Summa Nulla have advanced spiritually.

The imagery used in Ruby is fantastic. The narration is mainly first person, usually by Ruby. It keeps to short but evocative descriptions. The world described could fit into any fantasy game. In the series the listener encounters several alien races, pick up some slang (slimies, reptilian assassins who hunt Ruby for much of the first series), explored a few locations (like the Utopias, a chain of islands where people have tried to build a series of ideal societies) and experienced some of the world’s entertainment (via the interlude segments given by the Android Sisters).

Each segment of the series is very short, a few minutes each. It might be a bit too short for me, but it is much easier to concentrate on a scene at a time than some hour-long episode when you are juggling a couple of kids, a job and house chores.

Overall the series is a great listen. I intend to listen to the rest of the Ruby series as I have time to do so. What I really like however is the deeper weirdness going on. The New Age material can be found here with discussions of the philosophy of work, appearances, and clues to enlightenment.

As far as gaming uses, I’ll definitely be using some of the ideas here in my future Mage: the Awakening game. The Utopias might become a section of the Astral. I also like the idea of ancient and deadly “games”left behind by the ancient masters of magic to test and train future generations of willworkers.