gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
One of my favorite parts of writing is the world building phase. I love creating strange places and the people and things (and the things that are people) that inhabit those spaces. I steal gleefully from history for setting details and odd occurrences to throw in.

But I think my favorite thing is designing aliens. I'm using the word here to define anything other than a baseline human. Elves and dwarfs are aliens, as are those hyper-intelligent shades of green from Procyon. Because building these sort of things allows for great creativity.

One of the things I hate about most alien depictions is that they end up being humans in funny hats, to steal a line from TV Tropes. Oh, they might have weird heads or be CGI critters, but we can recognize their motivations and usually speak with them. Klingon honor is indistinguishable from human codes of honor. These are aliens! They should be, well, alien!

Take my favorite alien race from Traveller, as I was just talking about that yesterday. The K'kree. A hexapodal plains-dwelling race of militant vegans. The K'kree are gregarious to the point that just the thought of privacy makes them ill, claustrophobic as hell, and totally dedicated to the extermination or conversion of all meat-eaters in the galaxy.

You see, at the dawn of the K'kree's industrial age, a slower than light asteroid ship came to their world. Aboard were the G'naack (the K'kree name, means "carnivore" more or less) a species who saw Kiriur as an all you can eat BBQ. The war lasted centuries, and when it was over the K'kree were the survivors and they had a mission that had become beyond religious.

So tell me, would the K'kree trade with human kind? Exchange diplomatic pleasantries? Do anything other than send extermination fleet after extermination fleet towards the Third Imperium? Gateway Sector, where the Third Imperium and the 2,000 Words meet, should be a scene of near constant war, with smaller meeting engagements punctuated by horrific clashes of giant fleets. The worlds should be scoured of life as the K'kree fight to erase any human presence. A thriving trade in looting these shattered fleets and doomed world would attract adventurers willing to risk being stomped to death by K'kree military types in the hopes of striking it rich.

But instead we got a watered down version of this, where if you abstained from eating meat for several days, it was totally cool because the K'kree would ignore the existence of a few trillion meat-eating humans. That always bugged me no end.

Now when I do my own aliens, I look hard at what they are to begin to understand how they act. As an example, my race of sentient blimps (called Blimps by humans, their own language is a series of colors and shapes formed on their skin) evolved as grazers in swallow swamps and river deltas. They use long tentacles to grab both mooring points and food as they stride along. I decided that rather than having sex, Blimp females drop egg sacks in still waters, and males are attracted and fertilize them. Also, Blimps have distributed brain networks. Along with a large brain near the forward eye clusters, there are neural nodes all through the body. Blimps never sleep, completely. There's always some part of the brain that's awake. Which means that Blimps are awake and dreaming at the same time.

So here we have a race with no traditional family structure, as eggs and the spawn are community assets, a worldview that sees dreams and the waking world as one, and communicates by changing the patterns and colors of their skin. They are not going to have the same thoughts and goals as humans! Indeed, even once we figure out how to talk to them, it may be that we find them infuriatingly vague and other-worldly; while they find us to to be boring and rude. Artists would love the Blimps, and who knows, the Blimps might find some value in human visual arts.

Of course, Blimps use colors for mood enhancements. Since blue is the primary color of the swamps they live in, blue is the color a Blimp uses to hide, so it is associate with fear. Meaning they'd be quite confused by Picasso's Blue Period. Also, don't wear your red power tie to the meeting, Blimps use hydrogen to float, and they are a little touchy about fire-like colors. I love these guys, I just wish I could figure out how to write a book around them.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
As Hollywood has completely run out of ideas, we're seeing more and more reboots of older shows, and not so old shows as now there a proposed reboot of Babylon 5. Which I won't watch without Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas playing Londo Mollari and G'Kar.

But why, I ask, aren't the show makers looking back farther? To a property that is perfect for episodic television because it was episodic? To a glorious vision of good vs. evil, strong-jawed heroes and magnificent villains? A story that can last for years written on a broad stage?

I'm talking about Flash Gordon. The tale of a trio of humans who find themselves trapped on Mongo, fighting the evil Ming the Merciless and his plans to add Earth to his empire! My updates to the classic characters:

"Flash" Gordon - Former USMC fighter pilot (call sign Flash) veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Expert fencer from his days on the USNA Fencing Club's team. At the start of the story he's trying to get into NASA.

Dale Arden - Journalist with extensive field experience. Met Flash in Iraq, where they started a casual relationship. Very capable and has a reporter's eye for details. At the start of the story, she and Flash are dating.

Dr. Hans Zharkov - Ex-NASA/DOD scientist. Considered a kook by most of his contemporaries. Manages to salvage a Mongo scout ship's drive and computer. Pretty much kidnaps Flash and Dale.

Mongo itself? I'm thinking mega-structures orbiting the stars in a K/M binary system. Not a ringworld or full Dyson sphere, but enormous platforms, thousands of miles across, each harboring a different race or culture. This also adds a potential plot point: the platforms are all ancient tech, and they are beginning to fail. Ming uses his monopoly on understanding the technology to keep the platforms enslaved by playing the various factions against each other. If only some hero would come to unite the peoples of Mongo and lead them to freedom!

Yeah, I'd watch 110 episodes of this, plus a few expanded universe movies. It's also make an excellent game setting.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Glare of Sarcasm)

  • My apologies for mostly vanishing over the last week or so.

  • The letter from the government telling me that I can work again and all my benefits were going away just kicked my butt.

  • I was seriously non-functional for eight hours after reading that, and barely able to operate as an adult for the rest of the week.

  • But things have been done.

  • We filed all the paperwork for a reconsideration.

  • We've contacted a legal group for assistance.

  • We've spoken with my doctor.

  • Which also led to another melt-down when it turned out that none of my referrals had gone through.

  • Which should be fixed now.

  • But we did enjoy FogCon.

  • Remember FogCon? We went to FogCon before all this started.

  • Nice, relaxing event.

  • I got the entire Mars series autographed by Kim Stanley Robinson.

  • The non-awards banquet was good.

  • Saw some old friends we haven't encountered in too long.

  • Next up, BayCon, where I will be a panelist.

  • We've learned that we need to get a room on site so I can retreat and rest.

  • This drama has also played merry hell with my workout schedule.

  • I either forget to go to the Y, or am too stressed to go.

  • That changes now.

  • The YMCA is now on my calender. Three visits a week minimum. Monday night aqua-aerobics with [personal profile] kshandra.

  • The change in my energy level since I started working out has been amazing.

  • My writing continues to improve gradually.

  • Working on a couple of things I might submit for publication.

  • The writing group I attend through Santa Clara Adult Ed has been amazingly helpful.

  • I'll probably self-publish my novel through Amazon, just so I can saw I wrote a novel.

  • Y'all are buying it. yes?

  • Still want to get back into gaming.

  • Thought I had a couple of leads on a group, but they fell through.

  • Anybody interested in a regular gaming night in the South Bay?

  • 20 days to Opening Day for your 2014 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants!

  • Who have the Best Commercial Ever.

  • LET'S GO GIANTS!!!

gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Thoughtful)
I watched the pilot for this new weird drama yesterday (hurray for DVRs!) and was mostly impressed.

The basic plot is that one night electricity stops working. Anything requiring electrical power suddenly and irrevocably stops working. The opening sequence shows that at least some people knew what was going to happen in advance and the immediate aftermath of the lights going out. Then we get a voice over covering the next fifteen years bringing us up to the time of the show.

Massive spoilers follow )

I'll keep watching for at least a few more episodes to see how this develops.

But I have one huge problem. No, not with the electrical failure, even the characters admit that it shouldn't have been possible, but with the weapons. It makes sense for the small farming communities to make heavy use of bows and crossbows (especially as it is stated that inside this particular police state owning firearms is a hanging offense) but seeing the militia using swords, bows, and freaking muzzle loaders made me laugh.

There are dozens of books about how to make smokeless gunpowder and primer. Handloading cartridges is common today. It would be far more labor intensive to clean used casings, but there's no reason why the militia shouldn't be carrying salvaged M-16A2s, or at least bolt-action deer rifles.
gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
Kirsten (texting): "Ah, San Francisco. Sign on an overpass: what have future generations ever done for us?"

Me: "Fought the Earth-Minbari War! Never stop anticipating their sacrifice,"

Kirsten: "Okay, you win."
gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
About a hundred bucks worth of John Scalzi books were delivered to me today. From Tor, in New York. One is autographed.

I have no fucking clue how this happened. I didn't order tham, and I certainly don't remember entering (or winning) any contests...

But I'm not complaining (grabs Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded off the pile.)
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Glare of Sarcasm)

  • What I thought was a mild cold/allergies blossomed into a full-fledged case of the Mongolian Death Yuk.

  • Had to miss two days of work simply because not only did I not feel safe driving to and from work, I didn't feel safe walking to the truck.

  • Up and down fever, the usual gastro problems, and just feeling like someone drained all the me out of my body.

  • Really pissed about missing work, as we're still short a person.

  • I'm feeling at least slightly more human today, and have managed to do laundry and the dishes.

  • Tomorrow, I may venture forth to do recycling, renew Darby, and get my head mowed.

  • On the bright side, finally read Deadline (did that Sunday at work. It was so dead I got almost the entire novel read there.)

  • But the best news of the week? Iron Maiden, August 3rd, Shoreline Amphitheater. I am so getting tickets for this.

  • It's 74 degrees. WTF happened to winter?

  • Giants are all reporting in Scottsdale now. Baseball is back!

gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
The Great Gazoo is part of the Q Continuum.

Discuss
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Believe in Shadows)
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George Lucas walks into his office only to find Darth Vader waiting there. As Vader Force-chokes Lucas to death, he says "I find your incessant meddling.. disturbing." *thud*

Luke walks in, and glances at the corpse. "I don't know why you're complaining; at least you got laid. You got laid, Han got laid... for all I know, Chewie was getting busy with the Ewoks. Me, I get my hand chopped off and become a Zen monk."

As Vader strides from the office he mutters "Holy crap, was I ever this whiny?" From the office Luke shouts "Based on Episodes II & III, hell yes!"

Vader spins around. "This!" he thunders pointing a shaking finger at Luke, "This is why Jedi are forbidden to have kids!"
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Baseball - Giants animation)
It's Star Wars Day at AT&T Park. Tons of people in costume. Looking at the pictures, I came up with what I'd need to do (assuming I had won the lottery at some point.)

Six stormtroopers with the Dodgers logo across their chests. Darth Vader in Dodger Blue with the "LA" logo on his helmet. And the crowning touch, Emperor Palpatine in a dark blue and white robe with LASORDA and a big 2 written across his back.

We'd be booed without mercy, and it would be awesome.
gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
Yadda, yadda, science fiction classics, yadda, bold what you've read, yadda, yadda, yadda )
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
I have been keeping up with my vow to start writing again. I've mostly being doing exercises like character studies, writing the same seen in different styles, and working on being more expressive in my descriptions.

But I've come up with what I think would be a good plot for a SF series: Napoleon III and the rise and fall of the Second French Empire. Short form: Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, nephew and heir of the more famous Napoleon, spends most of his early life in exile, returns to France after the declaration of the Second Republic, get elected President as a political outsider (gee does that sound familiar?) and few years later launches a coup and declares himself Emperor.. and the mob supports him. At first.

The mid 19th century was a wonderfully chaotic period in Europe. You still have Hapsburgs running around loose, Italians are agitating (and fighting) for national unification, and the Prussian Kaiser with the help of some dudes named Otto, Helmuth, and Albrecht, setting up an empire of his own. All marked by wars, intrigues, espionage, blackmail, and the ever-popular Paris mob.

Make Terra and her possessions France. Prussia and the Germanic States can beSigma Draconis and the nearby systems. Do the same thing for the various other states. Tweak the back story a bit to get rid of a lot of the royalist baggage. Make the Great Houses commercial enterprises. Many on Earth supported the first Napoleon (a Star Fleet Admiral) when he seized power and pledged to unite humanity under Terra's banner. Many Terrans still feel that as humanity's birthplace and still home to the largest population of humans, they are better than the other colony worlds. The colonies, many of whom have been settled for centuries, disagree.

In structure it would be more Stackpole than Weber. No Grand Admiral Duchess Steadholder Dr. Honor Harrington! Instead, follow several lead characters from different factions and see all sides of the intrigues. Along with the major players (and I'm really intrigued at the thought of a space-based von Moltke) I think my main viewpoint character would be an officer in Terran Naval Intelligence. One with enough "Bonapartist" ties to get him on the inside of things, and be handed the interesting portfolios.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Dalek SMA)
I'm just a wee bit drunk. Kirsten, as is her wont, quoted the classic Dr. Who episode Horns of the Nimon, "Soldeed.. how many Nimon have you seen today?" I replied "28."

Which led me to imagine 28 Nimon Later. In which a British coma patient awakens to find out the world has been overrun by cheap minotaurs.

So, let's see what you can do when you replace a word in a classic title or movie quote with a Dr. Who monster.

Have fun!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Space - Solar flares)
that fan-made trailers are so much better than the real ones? For example, say you went to see Thor, and this was the first trailer:



But who would you cast as Louis Wu and Teela Brown? Who would you get to voice Speaker to Animals and Nessus? For Halrloprillalar, I'd want someone trained in dance. She has to be both human and very alien.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Carpe)
Having finally finished my work on the religion stuff (Islam? Heretical sect that believe that Law is the supreme virtue. Except for the western Sahara and Spain, it has a similar spread.) I need a break before tackling the political layout and history.

I've been jonesing for some good old-fashined Space Opera. Between reading the Ultramarines Omnibus and re-watching Babylon 5 I'm in a mood for fast ships and handy blasters. and when I say Space Opera, I mean Space Opera, FGU's epic RPG. Where Traveller took a semi-hard science, toolkit approach to mechanics and setting, SO gleefully threw in everything they could think of, including the kitchen sink. You could play a lightsaber-wielding Vulcan fighting the Arachnids from Heinlein's Starship Troopers without having to add a single house rule. Did I mention that the Vulcan is also a Lensman? Yeah, great game.

Very amused to see that my spell-checker recognizes lightsaber as a correctly spelled word.

Space Opera had one of my all-time favorite easily misinterpreted rules. One section of the character generation rules lists all the goodies characters get from their previous careers. Several of the space related careers had the following phrase inserted into the list: "one complete ship, Summer and Winter uniform," As a power gaming 14 year old, you can see how I read that one. Especially as the list was a block of items set apart by commas.

Along with the Vulcans (called "Transhumans" in the rules) there was also the usual animal people aliens. Dog people, Caqt people (two versions, the MekPurr and the savage Avatars), bear people, bird people, lizard people, etc., etc. Even as a kid raised on Star Trek this bugged me. We're the upright, tool-using animals we are because of how we evolved. Even assuming that an effective predator like a cat would evolve full intelligence, the odds of it having the same body plan as we have is remote at best. So, being me, I've written a solution.

Worldbuilding is my crack. )
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Smiling)
A Talent For War - Jack McDevitt

A couple of years ago I picked up Seeker, which is the third Alex Benedict novel. Really enjoyed that one, and was pleased to learn it was a series. A Talent For War is the first book in the series, and is a joy to read. Alex, the protagonist, is an antiquities dealer living about 9,000 years from now in a galaxy of loosely-allied human worlds. When he learns that his uncle has perished in the disappearance of an interstellar liner, he is charged with finishing his uncles last archaeological quest.. What makes this book great is it takes a very human approach to investigating a mystery. Alex doesn't even know what he's looking for, and has to piece together his uncle's actions, do research, quiz people, and all along you are drawn into the action. A parallel story is that of Christopher Sims, legendary leader of the Resistance during a war 200 years ago. His story is revealed through Alex's investigations, and it becomes clear that whatever Alex is after, it has to do with the near-myth of Christopher Sims and his ship. To say more would spoil things. This isn't so much a science-fiction novel but a mystery novel in a SF setting. Excellent, engaging, and the revelations at the end are satisfying. This is a book for people who enjoy heroes who solve problems with brain power and methodical work and preparations, rather than their fists. Five penguins.

Cyber Clean Electronics Cleaning Putty

If you're like me, you live in front of a computer. Especially now that I'm on disability, I tend to spend a lot of time camped out in the Command Papasan. I eat here, scratch my beard here, sneeze and cough here.. which means my keyboard is a mess a lot of the time. Compressed air and wipes work OK, but I wanted something to really get the crap out from between the keys. Order thi9s stuff from ThinkGeek. Out of the jar, it looks like it should be starring in a 50s SciFi shlock monster movie. But it works wonders. Press it into the keyboard, pull it up, and all the crap comes right off with no residue. The surface doesn't even feel damp or tacky. I've used it to get the last bits of dust off the monitor as well. Very useful, and worth the price. Especially if you use your GeekPoints to get it. Four penguins
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Carpe)
Well.. we were going to go to Costco. But when we pulled in, there were two guys in safety vests waving everyone away from the parking lot to the other exit. Then we saw the sign. "Power Out." Sucks to be them, can you imagine the revenue they lose each hour they are closed on a Saturday?

But GameKastle is right across the street, and it was flea market day! Found The Ultramarines Omnibus for $5, Chez Grunt for the same, and Kiri snagged a Sandman book. I also found a guy who was liquidating his gaming books in favor of PDFs. A lot of Traveller stuff, including Ground Forces. I went into sneaky author mode.

"Y'know, I think this book is autographed."

"Really?"

"Well, it could be."

Nice dude, we have some friends in common.

From the main store I picked up the Pathfinder GM's screen. This may be my last hardcopy purchase. I love supporting my local game store, but for most things I just need the PDF. I may get the Bestiary in hardcopy, just so I can reference things during the game. One fun thing, there was a copy of Misfit Monsters Redeemed out of the shrink wrap. Along with having tongue firmly planted in cheek, they too the book as a challenge to make these really stupid monsters legitimate contenders. Sort of Gordon Ramsay's Monster Nightmares. This is on my want list, if only because I want to hit the party with Flumphs riding Flail Snails.

We did need food, and we could see that CostCo was still out of service. Smart & Final it was! Where I passed a display of minced garlic on special. I'm supposed to avoid garlic. It was a hard, hard thing, but I didn't grab a jar. I did get a news kind of salsa, Herdez Caesera. Allegedly hot. I appreciate the simple ingredient list (tomatoes, onions, serrano peppers, iodized salt and cilantro) but the result is weak, watery, and pretty flavorless. I'll eat it, because we can't afford to waste food, but disappointing.
gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
http://stephenhunt.net/?p=403

Read this.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Dr. Who - The REAL Master!)
I hear any of them, and I'm 14 again, watching KTEH at 11:15PM on a Saturday night. Greatest theme music in history.



So, which is your favorite? You never forget your first love, so the first Tom Baker intro is a special thrill, but either the second Jon Pertwee or Sylvester McCoy's are my favorite.

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gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
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