Thursday, December 3, 2009

Review - AC-Mag Fall 2009

Alternative Coordinates (AC-Mag) a production of Zefram Media LLC and edited by Jeff Cochran, published the Fall 09 issue recently. I was very happy to read through the many fine stories published in this issue. My two favorites are "The Ferryman" by Tom Brennan and "A Good Boy" by Desmond Warzel.

I have mentioned before here on my blog, that the online e-zine world is here we will find the next Robert Howard, Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov. I haven?t found an author of that caliber yet, but we are getting close and with this issue of AC-Mag we are coming even closer to finding a name that will lite the fantasy and science fiction world on fire.

If you haven't yet picked up this issue, do so, and enjoy the stories. Following are my reviews, and yes these are my opinions so if you like one story over another, and think my reviews are lousy. Feel free to start your own blog, they?re free.

The search for the next big name in SciFi and Fantasy is still on, so good hunting. But for now the big name in bringing SciFi and Fantasy to us is AC-Mag. I can't say enough fro this e-zine, this is where the pulps of yesteryear are here today.

Child of the Pact by C.L. Holland

This is an interesting story about a boys struggle with becoming who and what he is destined to become. It is a fantasy story told from a first person point of view, that flows easily and reads quickly. It is evident that the classic hero?s journey is effortlessly used to tell this story.

I enjoyed the ease of reading this story and the authors writing, but it didn?t grab me until the last few pages and the ending was rather abrupt. Basically the hero laid out his two choices and picked one, all in about two sentences.

The Ferryman by Tom Brennan

A very good story, that tells about a Ferryman that takes travelers to an alien craft, for what we believe is their final journey. It is never stated in the story that this is the journey between life and death, but it is alluded to. The story is about the Ferryman his struggle with doing his job, and his struggle with going back to his previous life or taking the trip across the lagoon to the alien ship him self. In the end he is tempted by a passenger to leave his gondola and go on the alien ship.

The Ferryman is a great model of someone stuck in between, and a good allegory to purgatory.

I enjoyed the writing and it read very easily and caught my interest within the first page or so. It did leave me wanting to know more about he main character, but then I guess that is the mark of a good story.

Gate Weaver by Z.S. Adani

This story never grabbed me, and I have to say that I liked it the least of the stories in this issue. The story is full of fluffy writing that shows a lot, but I was always asking myself, where is this story going.

The Alien Embrace - pt. 2 by Frances Pauli

I enjoyed this story and the authors ability to write and to tell a story. I was a bit put off by the "Humans are an evil world destroying race," point of view that seems to be overly present in a lot of writing and movies these days. But none the less the author can write a captivating story.

I would definitely recommend this for most readers, and hope to see other material by Pauli, just keep the hidden agenda out of it and tell a story.

A Good Boy by Desmond Warzel

This is a very interesting story, and in my opinion the strongest of the stories in this issue of AC Mag. It is about a man that has recovered a runaway boy is in a hotel room waiting to deliver the boy to his parents. Both characters are very well developed and the writing is very good. Some of the back story is easily woven into the tale and provides enough depth for the reader to come to the conclusion at the end of the story.

If anything is missing in this story is that I think Warzel told a very easy story, and is capable of much more. I look forward to seeing more from this author.

A Quiet Corner of Time by Paula R. Stiles

This is another very strong story for this issue of AC Mag. It has been a while since I have read a good time travel story, and this certainly qualifies as a good one.

The story is about a girl, Moira, in the distant future which is attempting to finish her PhD. She has already been in the past to do research, and is now trying to find a quiet place to finish her thesis. Along the way we learn that she escorted some time travelers from the past (actually they are actors traveling around different times to make movies) that basically turned her in to her supervising professor for doing unauthorized research in the past. Moira lands a plumb job as a temporal park ranger in the Paleozoic era where she has all the time she needs to finish her thesis and in the end dispatch the actors that have been popping in and out of her life.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

EVONY A new way of online gaming

The free massive multiplayer online game EVONY, has surprised me a great deal. I have been playing it now for a little over a month, my Lord name is Kallian, on server 58 and I?m a member of FIRE alliance. Three things have surprised me; it?s free, it?s fun, and it?s deceptively easy.

What attracted me was the fact it was free. I wanted to see for myself if this was true, and how a company could stay in business and make money if it was free. You begin as a young lord building a kingdom from scratch, and this takes time. In the early stages of the game a farm can be built in less than a minute (I mean a real minute sitting in front of your computer watching the progress meter tick down the seconds), but as building increase in level they take longer and longer to build. Certain awards allow the player to speed up construction. They are gained during the daily spin of the Aries wheel or purchased at the Evony store. Yes, here is where the company makes money. A player can purchase with real money items that will help them increase their level in the game faster than those who are just waiting for the progress bar to tick down the seconds. For the most part purchasing items to move the game along faster are inexpensive, starting at about 5 cents and going up. However, what is exciting about the game is that purchasing these items is not necessary, the game provides everything the player needs all the player needs is patience, but if they lack the patience, they can pay for the quick and easy route.
Evony is fun and exciting. Building a kingdom, an army, are central aspects of gaming. However, the real fun and exciting stuff happens when the player is of sufficient level to start attacking valleys or barbarian villages, at the point the player sees the results of their kingdom building. After that a player can join an alliance and be part of a war on another alliance or help protect their own alliance members from attacks. At this point the game turns into a true massive multiplayer online game and the players interaction with others is just as important as building their kingdom.

Early in my review, I mentioned that Evony is deceptively easy. Anyone can log in and start building a kingdom with little research or help. Just log in and hit build. After that, it is an easy step to figure out that you need a barracks to build soldiers. Quests are a big part of the game, they lead the player in what construction, and research can be undertaken in order to get their kingdom up and running. Once again, this is easy, deceptively easy. About this time, the player wants to start attacking and here is when the deceptively easy part shows how deceptive it can be. Attacking can be easy, but winning a battle is harder. Here again is where the massive multiplayer aspect of the game and Alliances shine. As a member of an Alliance, the player has a built in network of experts, which I have found to be, eager to help their members. With an Alliance players do not need to attack a valley multiple times with different combinations of warriors to determine the best approach, for the most part it has already been done.

I enjoy Evony without spending a lot of time or any money on it, if you have to build something that takes twenty hours, just click build turn off your computer and check back tomorrow. I am excited about Evony because with it, I see a direction for gaming that is yet to be uncovered. I see potential for a company to make money by offering a free product, and I see the potential of spin off products, such as stories written in the Evony world.

Try Evony if you do not like it, you are not out anything other than the time you put in to it to find out for yourself whether it works for you or not.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review | Red Sonja Presents: Thulsa Doom #1

The debut issue of Dynamite?s Thulsa Doom! Proudly announces "From the pages of writer Robert E. Howard".

STOP the presses!

This should be a warning to all Howard fans.

This is your spoiler alert.
This is your warning to stay away from the issue. Don?t buy it, don?t pick it up, and don?t read it.

Ok, now that you know where I am coming from I will explain a little more. Even though the comic claims to be "From the pages of writer Robert E. Howard," the comic book reads nothing like a Howard story, nor does its main character Thulsa Doom come near to resembling the character created by Howard. This may seem minor, but Thulsa Doom is supposed to be a skull faced necromancer, not a steroid pumped up warrior.

What angers me most is that Dynamite has attached Robert E. Howards' name to this comic, implying that this story is canon and follows with what Howard created. This story should not be associated with or compared to anything produced by Robert E. Howard. I don?t have anything against Dynamite or the creative team that developed the story I just wish they would have named the main character something else, taken Howards' name off and let the story rise or fall on its own merits.

To give credit where credit is due the comic was written by Kull writer Arvid Nelson and illustrated by Lui (Red Sonja) Antonio, with Alex Ross as the cover artist.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Well I haven't been posting my reviews lately, and they are piling up. I haven't stopped reading, just haven't been writing. At least I haven't been writing reviews.

What I have been working on lately is story. The story revolves around the Mirrorman aka Stanley Robinson. In the story he is attempting to rescue a young girl that was sold to the zombies. So far his obstacles are getting into the zombie zone, which is present day Compton, CA, and then into the zombie tower. Once in the tower he must confront the zombie lords. The zombie lords are too powerful for the hero, that is Mirrorman, so he gets help from an unlikely source, I haven't quite decided what the source will be, but that is part of the fun of writing.

Anyway I'm about half way through the rough draft and I'm pretty happy with it so far. Here is the opening paragraphy.

"A shadow stretched across the city like the head of an axe cleaving the breast of a bloated beast. For the vigilante that stood watch over the city it loomed like an ancient threat portending doom and destruction. The building rose from the cityscape like a jutting spear out of a rotting corpse, the upper reaches of the tall tower reflected the final rays of sun, while the lower levels were already bathed in gloom."

I'll review some comics and stories soon.

I did go see "The time travelers wife". I was surprised and enjoyed the movie, I went in with some apprehension since I'm always leery of science fiction that has been written by someone who is not a fan of the genre, they just use it because the vehicle works. I liken it to someone who detests gambling but win a big jackpot and doesn't give it away. Anyway the movie was much better that G.I. Joe a true spit on America movie if I ever saw one.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Movie Review - G.I. Joe Rise of the Cobra

Directed by Stephen Sommers

Weapons expert James McCullen, played by Christopher Eccleston, has created a nanotechnology-based weapon capable of destroying an entire city. He sells the warheads to NATO, and then attempts to steal them from NATO. Duke played by Channing Tatum and Ripcord played by Marlon Wayans were responsible for protecting the warheads when his team is wiped out by the Baroness played by Sienna Miller, who is also his Duke?s ex-fiancee Ana, and her team. Duke and Ripcord are rescued by Scarlett played by Rachel Nichols, Snake Eyes played by Ray Park and Heavy Duty played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. They take the warheads to the G.I. Joe command center in North Africa, and are met by General Hawk played by Dennis Quaid. Hawk takes command of the war-heads. Duke reveals that he knows the Baroness, and is retained by the Joes for the time being.
From the beginning of the movie I was disappointed, particularly with Tatum?s portrayal of Duke. The scene that sets the tone of Duke, he is addressing his troops before leaving on the mission of protecting the warheads. He calls his group to attention, in one of the most leisurely ?hey guys lets go drink some bears?, way possible. Right off the bat this guy does not have a command voice and acts like he really doesn?t want to be there. But this was just a precursor to the rest of the movie which was just a lifeless and wishy washy as Tatum?s portrayal of Duke.
McCullen is revealed to be using the same nanotechnology to build an army of soldiers with the aid of the Doctor played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, planning on using the warheads to bring about panic and thereby a new world order. McCullen locates the G.I. Joe base and sends Storm Shadow played by Lee Byung-hun and the Baroness to retrieve the warheads with assistance from Zartan played by Arnold Vosloo. After the fight, Storm Shadow and the Baroness retrieve the warheads and take them to be weaponized, after which they use them to destroy the Eiffel Tower in order to send a message to the world. The Joes pursue them through the streets but are unsuccessful in stopping them from launching the missile. Duke manages to hit the kill switch which stops the nano-mites from destroying Paris, but in doing so he is captured and taken to McCullen's base under the Arctic. The rest of the Joes are arrested by the French. G.I. Joes put up their hands and surrender to the French. All I want to know is; how much did the French government pay Stephen Sommers to put this scene in, or is it that he just hates America so much he wants to make the G.I. Joes look like a bunch of G.I. Jokes. Perhaps he is on the same apology tour as obama is and he just wanted to show that Americans know how to roll over and show their throats. As Sommers said in an interview this is an obama world, I guess that is synonymous with pathetic.
Back to the twisting plot. G.I. Joe locates the secret base and fly there as McCullen loads three missiles with nano-mite warheads. After Snake Eyes takes out one, Ripcord pursues the remaining missiles in a prototype Night Raven jet while Scarlett and her group infiltrate the base. Scarlett and Snake Eyes attempt to shut down the Arctic base, Heavy Duty leads an attack on Cobra's forces, Duke learns that the Doctor is Rex Lewis, the Baronesses brother believed to have been killed on a mission led by Duke four years ago, when he was trapped in a bunker with Doctor Mindbender played by Kevin O'Connor, disfigured in the blast which everyone presumed had killed him. The Baroness tries to free Duke but the Doctor reveals he has implanted her with nano-mites which has put her under his control for the past four years, he is amazed that she is resisting the programming. While attempting to kill Duke, McCullen ends up being facially burned and flees with Rex to an escape vessel. Duke and the Baroness pursue him while the Joes fall back when Rex activated the base's self destruct sequence.
Rex then heals McCullen's burned face with nano-mites, encasing him in silver as he christens McCullen "Destro" and assumes the identity of Cobra Commander before they are captured by G.I. Joe soon after. On board the supercarrier USS Flagg, Baroness is placed in protective custody until they can remove the nano-mites from her body. Afterwards, the Joes are shown walking with General Hawk to a waiting troop transport. Zartan, having been earlier operated on by Rex, infiltrates the White House during the missile crisis and assumes the identity of the President of the United States.
At the beginning of the movie you think McCullen is the head bad guy out to bring about a new world order but in the end it turns out to be Rex, the doctor that had been working for McCullen. So was Rex behind McCullen the entire time, or is Rex going to take off on a different attempt to take over the world? I?m confused, and you will be to.
I used to think that I could get through any movie no matter how bad the story, plot or acting, as long as there was a lot of action and good special effects. This movie proved me wrong. G.I. Joe had great special effects, awesome gadgets, and plenty of action, but the movie fell badly. It is a movie I truly felt I lost two hours of my life I?ll never get back. The story was horrible, unless you like seeing movies where America is shown in a negative light.
My recommendation is stay away, see Harry Potter for the second time, or catch a Chick Flick. The action isn?t worth it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Review - Conan The Cimmerian # 3 - Dark Horse Comics

Issue # 3 of Conan The Cimmerian by Dark Horse Comics written by Timothy Truman, the artist is Tomas Giorello and Richard Corben, colorist Jose? Villarrubia, letterer Richard Starkings and Comicraft, cover artist this go around is Frank Cho, Dave Stewart as the cover colorist.

A young Cimmerian woman Caollan and Horsa cross paths with Conan as he makes his way across the frozen mountain passes en route to his homeland in Cimmeria. During the flashback section of Conan?s grandfather, Connacht, we see how he rescues a wealthy merchant from thieves and for a reward he is employed as a blacksmith. It appears Connact is happy with this life in the city and catches the eye of a young slave.

Moving at a dynamic pace the story pits Conan against nature as much as it does the enemies he encounters. The relationship between Conan and Caollan has sexual tension and hints of unrequited love.

The cliff hanger ending of both stories hint at sacrifice and Black magic. Conan faces a evil witch that is preparing to cast a spell, and Connacht sees the young slave he fancies being led to stake prepared for burning.

The artwork by Tomas Giorello is top notch shows the intricacies of the story line in detail. As the story goes on, I?m becoming more comfortable with how Giorello draws Conan, and his presentation is beginning to take hold as the quintessence of a Conan caricature.

I really enjoy the artwork of Richard Corben, where Tomas is fluid and evocative. Corben hits you like a left to the stomach and a right to the jaw. You know you have been hit by something powerful, but you aren?t quit sure where it came from. The pictures tell the story in a two fisted way, that Robert E. Howard would have been proud of.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review - Conan - The God in the Bowl - by Robert E. Howard

The "God in the Bowl" was first published in 1975 several years after it was written by Robert E. Howard, it is a fine example of the evolution of Conan in Howard?s mind, and back story on the political and economic philosophy he was creating in the Hyborian age. I need to mention again that I am exceedingly pleased with Del Rey and how they were edited. The editor of the book tried to produce the stories as close to the original text as written by Howard, and if changes were made, they were noted in the back of the book, giving the page number, line number and word that was changed or a note as to how the text was changed. This is why I like this book so much. For the most part the only changes made were minor grammatical changes, if the original text had a misspelled word; they changed it in the text, but noted how Howard originally spelled it. If you are interested in purchasing this book the bottom of the page contains a link to Amazon, so if you haven?t got a copy yet, pick one up.

Ok, enough advertising for the book; I?ll get on with the review. The story "God in the Bowl" starts with a guard discovering the dead body, Kallian Publico, the owner and curator of the museum. Soon Conan enters the scene and the guard seeing Conan comes to the conclusion that he must have murdered the man, and sounds an alarm. Conan is quickly surrounded by other guards along with Demetrio, the chief of the Inquisitorial Council of the city of Numalia, and the prefect of police Dionus. The rest of the story revolves around questioning Conan, and the guard telling the story of how Publico went to town and returned in his chariot, how the guard watched him enter the museum, where no others could have entered because the doors were locked. Howard wraps the story of a criminal investigation being done on the spot, and then brings in a mysterious bowl. During the investigation Conan mentions that he entered the building for the soul purpose of stealing an object and that it was a job, but he maintains his incense when it comes to the murder of Publico. Howard increases the tension by implying that a mysterious and deadly beast was contained in the bowl, but only the clerk, Promero, believes the beast exists. The story reaches a climax when the nephew of the city's governor, Aztrias, arrives on scene. Conan recognizes him and names him as the one who hired him to steal a gem from the museum. When Aztrias does not support Conan's claims, even though Demetrio offers to sweep it under the rug, Conan becomes enraged kills Aztrias and disarms and maims the remainder of the guards. Suddenly Promero appears in the hallway from the chamber he was thrown in, he screams and dies. When they inspect him they find that he has no wounds. Conan enters the chamber sees a head and strikes, severing it from its body, when he looks at the body of the beast it is that of a huge serpent.

One of the things I notice about the way Howard wrote this and other Conan tales is that Conan is almost a side bar to the story. What I mean by that is that most of the action happens with out him. For instance in this story Conan shows up and is accused of the crime, yet most of the story is retelling about Publico's movements, the guards movements, and back story into the daily life of Numalia. Conan only shines in the last three pages of a seventeen page story, but otherwise stands off to the side while the investigation goes on, only providing short direct answers in his own defense. This comment is not to dissuade any one from reading the story or any other story by Howard, it is merely an observation. Howard wrote a remarkably mysterious and tension filled story, which resulted with Conan winning a battle with the guards and killing the beast. I would say that if this was the only Conan story I had ever read and I didn't know Conan?s history, I might be asking myself, "Why do I care about this character?" Very little is provided to make the reader really care about and want Conan to succeed, he is just a brooding Barbarian standing off to the side. The obstacles he encounters continue to increase and things look more and more desperate as the story unfolds, but through out it all he stands by the side and lets it develop around him, until Aztrias infuriates him.

I really enjoy how Howard makes Conan utterly independent. He is a man who holds in high regards the freedom of the individual. And as a reader who has read Conan stories and know the history of Conan, I like how Howard stood Conan off to the side while the story drove on with out him. This illuminated Conan's complete confidence in his abilities to handle the guards. It also showed how Conan impressed the guards, since they never tried to disarm him. Additionally it showed that Conan had a regard for the law, believed in some sort of code of conduct, and had a deep belief in honesty. His belief in honesty can be seen in two separate events, he willing says that he came there to steal a gym, and that he didn't kill Publico, also when Aztrias does not come forward about hiring him, this is what sets off Conan and ultimately results in him killing Aztrias. This shows us that Conan the barbarian is more honest and noble than the nephew of the governor. I like how Howard sneaks in the concept of a mans is only as good as his word, and how he turns the concept of strength in numbers upside down and shows the power and greatness of the individual.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review ? In the Forest of Villefere ? by Robert E. Howard

This is one of the first horror stories written by Robert E. Howard as it is found in the collection of stories by Del Rey "The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard". First published in Weird Tales, August 1925, ?In the Forest of Villefere," is very different from the Conan stories I have read and reviewed thus far. I really went into these stories with no expectations, but what struck me from the first few paragraphs was it seemed to be forced, as if he was trying to write like someone else, later in reading I realized it sounded a lot like Edger Alan Poe.

Being a horror story its main point was to frighten, and that it did. I didn?t make me keep the light on at night nor didn?t it stay in my mind and work mess with my mind on a subconscious level, it was scary although on a level that it could be read to an eight year old without to much of a worry about scaring them for life.

"In the Forest of Villefere", is a very short story, barely 4 pages long. But, the story is tight in that it; introduces the main character de Montour of Normandy, puts him on a dark road at night that is known for strange happenings, and strange creatures. de Montour meets a mysterious traveler along the way, who tells him a legend about werewolves. The traveler attacks de Montour and when he pulls a mask from his face, he realizes he is a werewolf. According to the legend if a werewolf is killed in wolf form it is dead, if it is killed while in the form of a man, then the half-soul of the wolf will haunt the killer for the rest of his life. de Montour defeats the werewolf but doesn?t kill him right away because he is in man form, he watches the moon come close to is zenith, and the mans body begin to turn into a wolf. de Montour picks up a sword and hacks it to bits, and runs off into the words.

As I said earlier this is a very short story, but worth at least two reads. I was tripped up by the language Howard used, since he was writing as if the characters were speaking old English with a dash of French thrown in, but after a second read it was much easier, and the story seemed to develop more substance. Additionally I read it for a second time after I had finished the story "Wolfshead", which I will review shortly and is very much related to "In the Forest of Villefere".

Here is a link to purchase the book through Amazon, ?The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard?, pick it up and following along with my reviews, and if you have any comments please post them.

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Boss at NASA: Part I

In the first part of my Screaming Ramble about the new NASA director Charles Bolden, I neglected to mention what in the i09 blog caused me to want to write in the first place. What made the topic personal to me was a quote by Mr. Bolden. He mentioned that when he would tour schools in 1980, and asked who wanted to be an astronaut, every hand went up. But, if he asks the same question today, he might see three hands.

This took me back to high school and junior high and grade school. I graduated high school in 1982 and at that time, would have still answered yes to the question, about wanting to be an astronaut, but if you would have asked me when I was in grade school it would have been emphatically yes. Once I got into college my ambitions changed, I started taking a harder look at life and what I wanted to do with it. The first shuttle disaster occurred, Challenger disintegrated shortly after launch, January 1986, and with this occurrence my feelings about being an astronaut changed. I can?t say that it was this event particular, it was a culmination of thoughts and feelings, being an astronaut had lost its maverick appeal, and with the disaster it felt more like a tragic commuter accident than humans testing the bonds of Earth. Not to mention the cold war was thawing and the Soviet Union was no longer the threat they once were. Space just didn?t have its allure.

I have high expectations for Mr. Bolden. One: that he will lead NASA out of Low Earth Orbit and back into the business of space exploration. Two: that he will lead the nation in desiring space exploration, bringing back that sense of wonder that everyone had when they saw Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The New Boss at NASA

I'm going to take a break here from my reviews of Robert E. Howard stories, and off the Comics, and off movies, I'm going to take a break from aspects of this blog I enjoy, to dive back into my Screaming Ramble of the would've, should've, could've of space explorations.

I realize that is what this blog was supposed to be all about, but I found that ranting about why we haven't sent humans back to the moon and beyond and the politics around all of that, well, it was depressing me so I escaped back into stories and started reviewing them, don't worry I will be back to reviewing shortly, but I came across an item on io9 that got me back into my old habits.

As I mentioned in some of my early blogs I like Charles Bolden as the nominee for the next NASA administrator. I feel he has the technical background, political connections, and inspiring oratory skills needed to take NASA out of Low Earth Orbit and back into "Manned Space Exploration". What waits to be seen is if he has the vision to do this, or will he cater to the current administration and put all of the money and resources into studying global warming. As I have said before all the research into "global warming", or "climate change" ain't going to amount to crap when and asteroid plows through the atmosphere and unleashes a billion mega joules of energy that devastates the planet and destroys not only the humans that inhabit the Earth, but every other living thing. Hm, maybe if we had a permanent presence in space and had space ships that could have intercepted the asteroid and pushed it out of the way (or some other means) we would still be around.

We shall see if he has the vision needed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Review | Conan The Cimmerian #2 Dark Horse Comics

Issue #2 of Conan The Cimmerian by Dark Horse Commics written by Timothy Truman, the artist is Tomas Giorello and Richard Corben, colorist Jose? Villarrubia, letterer Richard Starkings and Comicraft, cover artist this go around is Frank Cho, Dave Stewart as the cover colorist.

The story continues where issue #1 left off. Conan is listening to the tale of his grandfather, Connacht, as told by the hermit. The tale has Connacht taking care of the two boys he rescued, and stopping at a farm house during their travels. During the night the farmer questions Connacht at the end of a pitch fork, Connacht easily disarms the farmer, and agrees to help him look for his missing daughter.

Connacht finds the bloody remains of the farmer?s daughter and is attacked by a huge man like wolf, he fights with it, and is about ready to be killed by the beast when another one comes in and defends him but looses an eye in the fight. Connacht is able to get the better of the first wolf that attacked him and cuts the beast in half at the waist. The beast turns into one of the boys who Connacht had rescued the other wolf turns into the other boy, but is now missing an eye.

The story jumps back to Conan who takes the rapping from the hermits face and realizes he is the boy his grandfather rescued years ago. The hermit goes out to be with his brothers the wolves and leaves Conan looking out onto a frozen wind swept valley.

The story arc was ok. It gave some back story about Conan?s grandfather Connacht, showing that he has a heart for kids in harms way, and is a competent fighter. It also show that there are werewolves in Conan?s world. But overall the back story about Connacht tells us very little one how it makes Conan who he is.

The art work is truly the best part of this issue and the story arc in general. The vistas displayed are sparse, desolate, foreboding and cold, relaying the true experience of living in this world. Corben?s artwork is easily identified and gives the gritty look of history in the telling of Connacht.

All in all I would give this a 4.2 out of 5.0 on my comic rating scale. I encourage anyone that hasn?t started reading this series to start, and to pick up the previous issues, particularly issue #0. The rolling banner overhead takes you to where you can order the issues through Amazon.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

News Flash ---- Alternative Coordinates Publishes Summer 2009 edition

Alternative Coordinates

Here is a quick blast to let you know that one of the best Science Fiction E-zines has published their second issue. Alternative Coordinates released Summer 2009 issue a few days ago. As I have said before and I will say again, this is the fertile ground which will produce the next generation of authors to go down in history. In these fledgling e-zines that take risks and are not biased towards publishing in large part, "established authors", will discover the next Robert E. Howard's, Heinleins, Asimov's and such.

Here is the list of who they have to offer this time;
Tomb by Z. S. Adani
The London Incident by Jennifer R. Povey
The Heart Of The Dragon by Brian Dolton
The Alien Embrace - part 1 by Frances Pauli
A Hissing Sound by Neil James Hudson
Atlantic in Shadow by Benjamin Farthing

A new aspect to the E-zine is that the editor Jeff Cochran has added the ability to download the issue in PDF format, I'm a huge fan of this and really enjoy the ability to print or not to print. Additionally the cover can be down loaded as wall paper, in several different formats.

I'll review as I get the chance to read.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Review | Conan The Cimmerian #1 Dark Horse Comics

Ok here is the real first issue, which is #1, not a psych of #0 but a real first issue of Conan The Cimmerian by Dark Horse Commics. It is written by Timothy Truman, the artist is Tomas Giorello and Richard Corben, colorist Jose? Villarrubia, letterer Richard Starkings and Comicraft, cover artist this go around is Dave Cho, Dave Stewart as the cover colorist, and if you happen to have the alternate cover the artist is Joe Kubert.

This starts up where the last issue ended. Conan is helped by an old hermit, and once in his cave he begins to the story of Conan?s grandfather. The story centers around two boys he rescues from being murdered by their tribe. In addition to the story of the two boys, the reader learns more about Conan?s grandfather, particularly that he was not from the North originally, but has wandered all around the world. His grandfather is a hunter, and a very adept hunter, but nothing on the level of Conan. The art work is good; I still don?t count it as being exceptional, but good none the less. The art sets the mood of the story very well; it is somber and depressing, like the land the story is taking place in. However; the art does not change when the mood of the story changes.

I give this issue a 4.2 out of 5.0 on my comic rating scale.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Review | Conan The Cimmerian #0 Dark Horse Comics

The first issue, which is #0, of Conan The Cimmerian by Dark Horse Commics, is a special issue. It is written by Timothy Truman, the artist is Tomas Giorello (who also did the cover), colorist Jose? Villarrubia, letterer Richard Starkings and Comicraft, and Dave Stewart as the cover colorist.

I must say I really enjoyed this first special issue. Here come the spoilers, I?m going to tell you how the comic is set up and just about everything about, so if you just want to pick it up and read it, then stop reading this review. Otherwise read on.

The comic shows Conan returning to Cimmeria some years after he had left and traveled the south lands. He is attacked by a group of Vanir, and easily kills them. This would be an incredibly short story if not for one thing; the battle is played out with the back drop of Cimmeria being explained by the poem written by Robert E. Howard, ?Cimmeria.? Each page has a few words from the poem or large sections in entirety, the backdrop is somberly depicted to be harsh and cold, and a feeling of despair lurks on these pages. The artist changes style and color brightens when the poem tells of Conan?s travels, thereby changing the mood. I am very pleased that the authors and Dark Horse, preferred to bring Conan?s world to light by using the full text of his poem ?Cimmeria?, thereby rooting the series on Howards? model instead of just their own interpretation,.

To further link this comic to Howard, the first page of the comic shows a small room with a desk an old manual typewriter and a few issues of Weird Tales sitting on it. A few other items lead the reader to enter not Conan?s world but the world of Robert E. Howard. Boxing gloves hang on the wall; a book on the crusades sits on the desk. These are pieces of Howard?s life that made him who he was and coalesced in his mind that which would become the most famous Barbarian of all times, Conan. Once again at the end of the comic, the author and artist transitions from the world of Conan back to that of Howards Texas with a depiction of him writing the poem ?Cimmeria? on a wind swept Texas hill about Frederisksburg.

Lastly on the letters page is a short piece called ?The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob; True Stories from the Life of Robert E. Howard.? Here is text taken from Howard?s correspondence with Clark Ashton Smith, regarding the writing of Conan.

As I said I am pleased with this comic and the background it provides on Conan?s creator Robert E. Howard. The art and color are very much in keeping with the mood one gets in reading the words of ?Cimmeria?. If there is one complaint it is with the artists rendering of Conan himself, which to me looks to be to much caveman like and not enough intelligent barbarian. When I read the description of Conan I see some of the noble savage, but more to the point I see a very intelligent brooding fighting machine, of supreme confidence, neither arrogant nor whimsical. All in all I would give this a 5.0 out of 5.0 on my comic rating scale.

Adding a new review topic - Conan the Cimmerian Comics

In addition to reviewing the Conan Stories written by Robert E. Howard, I will also be reviewing Conan The Cimmerian comics produced by Dark Horse Comics. Some Robert E. Howard purist may find the comics distasteful and not worth the paper they?re printed on. For all I know that thought may be an accurate accounting for the comics, but I will read through them and give you my opinion, biased in one way or another, on what I think of the comics.

I hope you enjoy my reviews of the Conan The Cimmerian comics. Please feel free to leave comics, and let me know what you think, whether good or bad, or if you would like to like to add your two cents ? two dollars when corrected for inflation ? that is fine with me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review: Robert E. Howard's "The Frost-Giants Daughter (Gods of theNorth)"

This is a short tale, which takes up at the end of a battle between the wolves of Bragi and the Vanir on icy plains in the frozen Nordheim. After Conan kills the last enemy a woman, Atali, appears before him. She is nearly naked, covered only by a gossamer veil. She taunts him, whereby Conan chases after her. Conan is led into an ambush where Atali?s frost-giant brothers attack him. Conan defeats the frost-giants, after which Atali fleas in fright. Conan chases after her and finally catches her; she pleads for her father the Frost-Giant god Ymir, to saver her. Atali disappears in a pillar of blue flame, and Conan is rendered unconscious. Conan is awakened by allies who arrived at the battle site after the battle was over and tracked him across the frozen waste. One old fighter tells the tale of how the daughter of the Ymir haunts battle fields in order to lure men, weak from battle to be slain by her brothers, and their victim?s hearts given to their father as a sacrifice. The men don?t believe the old fighter, and believe Conan is suffering the effects of a blow to the head received during battle. But the story ends with Conan still holding the gossamer veil; he tore from Atali?s body before her father spirited her away.

This story is short and easy to read, and is largely derived from Greek mythology. It is one of the first stories written by Howard to chronicle Conan?s life. The story was not published in Howard?s life, but has appeared in different versions and in some times with different heroes since 1976.

What is Howard telling us about Conan in this story? Within the first few paragraphs Howard shows that Conan is by far the best warrior. After this Howard brings in Atalia, and shows Conan captivated by her beauty and taken over with desire to have her, all of the sudden the powerful warrior is subject to the charms of a woman. At this point Conan is depicted as supremely confident and powerful when in battle, but in affairs of the heart he is lead by his libido. At this point Atali clearly has the upper hand and is in control of the situation. When Conan meets the frost-giant brothers and defeats them in battle, Howard once again shows how ultimately superior Conan is on the battle field, but this is quickly negated when he runs after Atali heading to his libido. It can be argued here that Conan is more animalistic and less of a thinking human, but I would disagree since at this point there is alos a subtle change in Conan?s reason for chasing after Atali, lust is still a primary factor, but now it is tinged with revenge and retribution for being led into an ambush. When Conan proves that his constitution is superior to Atali, but chasing her across the frozen land and capturing her, she is left with only one means of escape, she calls on her father, Yamir. At this point Conan has his prize taken from him by divine intervention and is left unconscious. Howard shows us that Conan is a worthy opponent to godlike beings; yet, what is interesting here is that Conan does not even know himself that he is a worthy opponent. Although Conan doesn?t defeat Yamir in physical combat he defeats his champions, which in and of itself is worthy of legend.

A lot can be said on what this alludes to and questions that arise. If Atali is the daughter of a God, how is it that she is captured by Conan? If the brothers are sons of a God, how is it that Conan is able to kill them so easily? What is Howard trying to say about Conan? It almost appears as if Howard is implying that Conan is similar to Hercules who was the offspring of the union between a human and a God. As the history of Conan goes he does not bear Godly blood, even though time and again he battles superhuman beings and wins. I believe Howard was merely using these super beings as justifiable threats against Conan, and as a way of giving the character a mythical foundation of which to write further tales. Conan is the classic hero, and this story is an excellent portrait of what a hero should be. He is strong in battle against his enemies, yet he can be overcome, and in this case it is his desire for Atali that gets him in trouble.

The Frost-Giants Daughter is told with a fine mix of dialogue and narrative, allowing Howard to paint a very visual and detailed landscape for the reader to enter.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Aliens: The New Dark Horse Comics

Review by Jeff Cochran

It’s been years since I’ve seen that dark and foreboding image of the tall, slender, biomechanical body with the extended, arch shaped, bug like head. Until last night, that is. After reading the newly released Aliens from Dark Horse Comics, I had to watch the movie again. Hollywood is scrambling to reboot everything under the sun. I guess it was just a matter of time before Dark Horse rebooted its Alien franchise, and I must say I like it.

A small group of archeologists enter a backwater star system to take possession of their claim; an ancient artifact of alien origin. When the team makes planet fall, they are met by a small group of miners, who are meant to escort them to the find. Instead, the miners kill the team; apparently directed by some other intelligence.

John Arcudi spends a good amount of time setting up the characters, just to kill them near the end of the first issue. However, there are indications on the last page that these characters will be back for more. I don’t know about you, but I like these kinds of mysteries. The set up for what’s to come has me hooked and I already have issue two ordered.

The artwork is incredible, each page laid out in a logical manner that keeps the story moving forward. It’s been my experience with comics that it’s easy to loose your place in the story because the panels just didn’t quite work, or the dialogue bubbles were out of place. That is not the case with Aliens. The story kept my interest from start to finish without any annoying interruptions to make me forget I was in a story.

The art combines the talents of Zach Howard (Pencils and Inks), Mark Irwin (Inks), Wes Dzioba (Colors), and Blambot!, A.K.A. Nate Piekos (Letterer). The art is amazing, utilizing a perfect balance between line work and color. The ink is used more heavily in the action sequences to add some edge to the work, but then gives way to the color during the more quite sequences of the story. The color is a combination of washes and airbrush, giving the work a superior, illustrated effect versus many comics you see. This team is obviously very experienced visual story tellers.

My only complaint is the cover. I would expect something more painterly than this. The work is nice, don’t get me wrong, but I would have expected something grander for the Aliens debut. Perhaps time or budget constraints kept the publishers from anything more.

The book is printed in full color on a heavy, high quality stock. The publishers did a very nice job producing this book. I highly recommend you dive back into the terror that is Aliens. Order your subscription here:

Chew, a very satisfying read

Comic review by Jeff Cochran

If you enjoy gross and humorous in the same sitting, you’re going to love Chew, the new comic series released this month by Image Comics.

Tony Chu is a Vice Cop with a unique gift; he gets psychic vibes from anything he eats. He bites into an apple, he knows where it was grown, a hamburger, how the cow was slaughtered.

The story opens with a chef preparing the ingredients for a pot of soup. During the slicing and dicing, he accidentally cuts his finger, adding a little of himself to the recipe.

Cut to Tony Chu’s and partner’s stake out of a black market chicken joint. That’s right, a chicken joint. In this world, the Federal Government has outlawed all poultry and fowl because of a Bird Flu epidemic.

As Tony and partner are preparing to close down the joint, they are approached by an F.D.A. Agent and asked to halt their activities; the chicken joint is under Federal protection. The two cops are even invited in for a meal.

As he samples the chicken soup, Tony suddenly receives information about a serial killer, who happens to be working as a chef in the kitchen.

Tony and partner raid the kitchen to catch the killer, who cuts his own throat to avoid the jail time. What happens next will be left to your own reading enjoyment.

The writing of John Layman is superb; well crafted and witty. Rob Guillory provides wonderful, very stylize art that looks similar to an old Saturday morning cartoon, but darker and edgier.

This is a fun comic! The ending sets Tony Chu up for many wild adventures to come and I loved the social commentary about the Bird Flu. I can’t wait to see what these guys come up next. I hope you’ll take the time to read Chew, visit Things From Another World to order your copy today.

Jeff Cochran is the publisher of Media Explorer, a blog offering reviews and essays on genre fiction, and Alternative Coordinates, an online Science Fiction magazine.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Review of "The Phoenix on the Sword" by Robert E. Howard

For those that are fans of the original Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard, and those who may be interested in them, I will be writing reviews, critiques, editorials, and anything that happens to come into my mind based on the stories I?m reading.

This all came about when I picked up a new compilation of the classics, published in three books by Del Rey and titled ?The Coming of Conan?, ?The Conquering Sword of Conan? and ?The Bloody Crown of Conan?. The stories appear in order of publication and in some instances the synopsis or outline of the story written by Robert E. Howard is included. As a fan of the craft of writing this was of particular interest to me. So armed with the books I began re-reading the stories I enjoyed many years ago.

In becoming re-acquainted with these stories, and in some cases I am experiencing them for the first time, I am outfitted with a more aged outlook on life, perhaps a little less of the wonder I felt when I first read them years ago. But nonetheless as time passes by and one gets older, you can?t help but have a change in attitudes as life has a way of hardening your outlook on reality. However, if this first story is any indication, they still spark wonder and excitement; they cause you to hold your breath, and your heart to beat harder. This is the same exhilaration I felt when I first experienced these stories many years ago.

As you enter the Hyborian world for a brief escape of reality, it is a protected world, a world unlike the world of science fiction, it is a world that is not influenced by scientist saying ?it will never work?, it is a place where scientist are not allowed to tear down the place of dreams. It is a place where one can become Conan, and like Den said in the movie, Heavy Metal?
?On Earth I?m nobody, but here I?m Den.?
Through the words of Robert E. Howard we can all be more than what we are on Earth.

?The Phoenix on the Sword? by Robert E. Howard

I always wonder how it came to be that this was the first story Robert E. Howard published in the Conan saga, since it takes place in the later years of Conan?s life. Yet it has a depth such that it was the conclusion of a long career of writing and developing, the characters history through events written in the story of his life.

The setting of the story shows Conan as the king of Aquilonia, and attempting to settle into that role, instead of that of an adventurer. It is alluded to early on that Conan is much better suited to wielding a sword than politics, that he is more comfortable facing enemies, than the affairs of court, and that he is in essence a noble savage.

The story revolves around four conspirators who plan to kill Conan. However, two separate and unrelated events spell doom for the rebel gang, 1) Conan meets an ancient in a dream, and is warned of a serpent in the midst of his kingdom, the ancient aids Conan by placing a powerful symbol of a phoenix on his sword, 2) In another part of the city the enslaved wizard Thoth-Amon from stygia regains his ring of power and sends a conjured beast to kill his master, Ascalante, who is also one of the four conspirators.

The four conspirators along with a group of soldiers attack Conan. Conan is close to being defeated, when the conjured beast bursts into the room attacking Ascalante and killing him. The beast starts to attack Conan, but Conan uses the sword with the phoenix symbol on the beast and it dissolves into nothingness.

The story has an excellent mix of dialogue, narrative, and poetry. Everything goes to tell this story, to set the mood, place, and time. Although many aspects of Conan canon are missing from this story, nothing in this story requires the reader to know the history of Conan.

Very little is discussed of where Conan comes from, and it is only briefly mentioned of how he got to the position of king. For the most part this is the story about a group of rebels that try to kill him, Conan is still very much the main character, but this is not fully showcased until the end with the battle against the rebels and the conjured beast.

This is not one of the great stories from the Conan series but it is a very good one, and I enjoy it very much. It contains exciting, easy to read story telling and it gives only enough back story to move it along and make the reader want to know more.

In the story Conan appears to be almost super-human, but not quite. Physically he is superior to the men he encounters, but just barely, and with enough forces arrayed against him he can be, and is, brought down. It also implies that Conan is favored by godlike entities, as seen when Epemitreus a Sage who has been dead for fifteen hundred years appears to help Conan. But it doesn?t say that Conan is favored by the gods. All in all Conan appears to be an everyday guy that excels at what he does and asks nothing from anyone else.

After reading this story over again, and learning more about Robert E. Howard it amazes me that he wrote this when he was twenty-six, committed suicide four years later at age thirty, and in those four short years he produced twenty-one completed stories, four unfinished documents and a number of untitled synopses for Conan stories. In addition to this Howard wrote in numerous and diverse genres. Whatever demons haunted him, and kept him from finding peace in this world, he didn?t let that stop him from being a hugely prolific writer. The worlds he created are more alive today than when they first appeared within the pages of Weird Tales, and have given many people through out the world a place to escape.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Movie Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine, starring Hug Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Dominic Monaghan, Ryan Reynolds.

The movie begins with a young boy James Howlett (Wolverine) discovering he has mutant abilities. It quickly tells how he and his half-brother Victor Creed live through the American Civil War, World War I and II, and Vietnam. In Vietnam their mutant abilities are discovered, they survive a firing squad and are recruited by Major William Stryker to join Team X a group of mutants including David North (Agent Zero), Chris Bradley (Bolt), Wade Wilson (Deadpool), Fred Dukes(Blob), and John Wraith. James leaves the group when he begins to question their actions.

A few years later James ? now using the name Logan - is a lumberjack living happily in Canada with his girlfriend Kayla, when Colonel Stryker appears with a sharply dressed agent zero, to warn him that someone is killing Team X members. Soon after Kayla is killed by Victor, and Logan is beaten by his half-brother while trying to exact revenge. Logan agrees to undergo a process to have his skeleton fused with adamantium. At this point Logan takes on the name Wolverine. As the painful process of fusing the adamantium to his skeleton is finishing, Colonel Stryker orders to have Wolverines memory erased, Wolverine hears this and escapes.

With the help of Wraith and Dukes, Wolverine locates Remy LeBeau (Gambit) who knows the location of the facility Colonel Stryker is using to perform experiments on mutants. Wolverine convinces Gambit to help him, and take him to the facility, which is at Three Mile Island.

The cinematography is good, the special effects are good and the direction is good. I can?t say that any one of those aspects of the movie jump out. What make this movie most entertaining is Hugh Jackman?s acting he, as a star should, carries this movie and makes his character believable, human and give him life. The other point of the movie that worked for me was the chemistry between Wolverine and Sabertooth, Hugh and Live Schreiber pulled off the love hate relationship brothers often have. This was by far much more powerful and believable than the relationship between Wolverine and Kayla (Silver Fox).

The Soundtrack by Harry Gregson-Williams is exceptional. This sets the mood for the entire movie and is most powerful during the opening sequence.

I would recommend this movie to just about anyone. It gives a basis in the origin of Wolverine and the Marvel Universe. With so many Marvel comic characters coming to the big screen, and the potential for characters to jump from one file to another, will we ever see Wolverine show up in an Iron Man movie, maybe or maybe not? But the potential exists and this movie, as well as being stand alone action adventure movie, offers grounding in what could be coming to a theater near you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Alternative Coordinates Review

I posted a blog recently Where I introduced a new E-zine called Alternative coordinates. I have finally made it through the stories in the issue and the following comments. If it appears that I don?t give a lot of detail, well, that?s because I?m not. I want you to go to the website and pick up an issue. It?s only two bucks, and well worth it.

Bedbugs by Edward McKeown - A bug fight on an unexplored planet with a love story. Good character development and depiction of the planet. I struggled with some of the uses of Earth historical references, but enjoyed the read.

Before the End by Abby "Merc" Rustad - This is the story about a father and his daughter on his last day. An average story, I never felt connected with the story and its characters.

Displaced by Doug Hewitt - A man disbelieves religion and finds that parts of his reality are disappearing, he openly discourages his daughter from anything religious or metaphysical. A good story, the end still has me trying to figure out what was the message intended by the author.

The Pressure of Ectasy by T.D. Edge - a new virtual reality system. A good story.

The Sentinels by T.M. Crane ? This is a bug war story with a twist through out, and a surprise ending. I enjoyed the story for its pulp appeal.

City of the Gods by Aliette de Bodard ? This is a fantasy quest story. The style is very readable. This was my favorite of the E-zine.

Mirror of My Mind by Z.S. Adani - An intrusive government, cloning and space colonization. Good world and character building. This is another very good story that lends itself to further adventures in the setting.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Two Curious Blogs

I came across a two blogs while doing a search on zombies. They are fictional blogs about Obazy, a half human half zombie, and Mirrorman a costumed crime fighter.

The blogs are fairly new only about two months old, but the entries are pretty interesting. The writer is using his characters to comment on current events.

Here are the links.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Alternative Coordinates publishes first issue

Another resource for new, exciting science fiction, fantasy, horror and speculative fiction, has recently hit the ether.

The name of the e-zine is Alternative Coordinates edited by Jeff Cochran. Its website is (I also have a banner add to the right that you can click on and follow.)

The site is easy to work with, first off you need to register, which is as simple as clicking on register and filling in the spaces. Once that is done you can access the free story ?Bedbugs?, by Edward McKeown. You can pay $2.00 and receive all the stories in the issue. Two bucks is pretty cheap for good Sci-Fi that hasn?t gone through the old media sausage grinder, just to spit out stories that surprisingly sound alike or at least have the same underlying theme.

I like this site, already have the first issue, and I?m currently making my way through the stories.

If you want to know when new issues come out, you can hover over the Magazine Information button, and click on updates in the drop down box that appears. Also if you are a writer you can follow the same drop down box in order to access the submission information page.

I?m ecstatic to see websites like this appear, it harkens back to the old days of the pulps, where the masters of Science fiction speculated on what the future held, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Bester and many others. Robert E. Howard gave us Conan the Barbarian, and he almost exclusively published in the pulps. E-zines are the new pulps and it is here that we will see the emergence of science fiction and fantasy, and it is here we will see the birth of the new Superstar Authors that will give us a fantastic and awesome future.

Best of luck to Alternative Coordinates, I look forward to seeing more issues.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Classic - Short story review - "Let's Be Frank" by Brian Aldiss

?Let?s Be Frank?, is a short story written by Brian Aldiss, originally appearing in Science Fantasy, v 8 #23, 1957.

This story was published in 1957, and is a fine example of the writing at that time. It has little science, but a lot of historical fact. It is told almost entirely in narrative, has very little scenery, but is easy to read, understand and enjoy nevertheless.

The story was different, and thought provoking. It is not a hard science fiction story, neither is it a fantasy or space opera. It merely asks the question ?what if, what if a shared consciousness was born and that shared consciousness kept propagating until it was the majority consciousness in the world?

The author doesn?t take a long in-depth look into the developments that could have happened and the inevitable socialism that would have ensued. Instead Aldiss short circuits that discussion by adding an additional shared conscious competing with the first, and the first shared consciousness building a space ship and leaving for space.

The last paragraph has the twist ending that truly puts this story in the science fiction realm, but I will leave it to you to find a copy of this story and read it yourself.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A postponed decision can be far more damaging than a bad decision

During times of instability and (I cringe at the word I?m about to use) change, it is crucial for administrations such as NASA to have a leader in place. This is one of the reasons the president upon taking office makes his nominations for critical posts immediately. This gives congress the time it needs to approve or deny the request, and if it is denied for the President to make another nomination.

When critical organizations have a leader in place, it maintains stability, shows the importance of that organization, and enables it to have a voice.

The question must be asked, why hasn?t obama put forth a nomination for the NASA director? Unless he wants to undermine the stability of the organization, show to all Americans and the world that NASA is of little importance to him and his administration, and wants their voice silenced.

NASA has already been damaged by obama?s lack of character and true colors, in not picking someone to head up the organization. He has effectively kept NASA out of staking a claim during the budget hearings at congress.

I fear that obama does not care at all about NASA and what it does. He doesn?t understand how many jobs are created by a robust space program. He doesn?t understand the benefits we gain from the science done by a manned space program. All obama sees is an organization with a large budget that he can tap into for social programs.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Jetsons

The other night I was watching an episode of the Jetsons, yes one of those old cartoons from my youth. It rekindled the feelings I once had for a future with space travel, technology at our fingertips, and robots. Unfortunately as the episode ended to did my belief that I may one day see those things.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Too much news to little time

There is a lot of news out there that I would like to comment on, hmmm excuse me, to scream about and ramble on. But at the present time, I don't have a lot of time. My wife and I are awaiting the birth of our second child, any day now, and that is why I don't have much time to write. Unfortunately it is not like I will have a lot of time after he is born to ramble either, but I hope to get a post in here at least once a week.

Please leave a comment if you read through these and have anything to say.

Still waiting for the big news from the obama admin. as to who the NASA director will be. I'm not holding my breath, I think we're stuck in LEO for the next four years.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What is America Doing?

In an article on Scientific America
Iran claims to have launched a satellite into space. With Iran’s stated purpose, and Iran’s true desires set aside, this launch is truly disquieting.

This launch by Iran of a satellite, which shows that they are building a space program of there own, should be disquieting to all Americans. But not for the reasons of National security or the threat of Iran gaining a nuclear bomb and sitting it atop a space capable rocket. It should be alarming because it shows in dramatic fashion America’s complacency with its space program.

1957 – sputnik is launched and the space race between America and Russia is on.
1958 – The U.S. launches its own satellite and catches up with Russia.
1959 – Russia puts a craft on the surface of the moon.
1961 – Russia puts a man in space, merely 3 years after the first satellite is launched.
1961 – A month later, America sends their first astronaut into space.
1964 – America puts a craft on the surface of the moon.
1969 – America lands on the Moon.
1972 – America’s last mission to the moon.

What have we done since? Not very much, we have given a lot of technology away. We have stood by and watched, and in some instances helped others gain space.

It’s out!

Ray Gun Revival has published this months issue, and it has the story I wrote “Terror Ride to Work”.

You can find Ray Run Revival at The issue is currently on the front page.

Issue #50, check it out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Do not go gentle into that socialist dream

I have been waiting to hear who obama will appoint as director of NASA, and vacillating between feelings of dread and feelings of horror. I am slowly coming to the realization that who ever is appointed, they will be given explicit direction by obama, “Prove global warming exists.” Forget about space flight, after all what does NASA? I don’t know but it defiantly doesn’t have anything to do with space anymore. What NASA does mean to the incoming administration is this, give the people a global threat to keep them occupied (recycle or die) while we take over the banks, industry, redistribute wealth, and seize religious properties. It’s simple, make it big enough and scary enough and people will do anything, follow anyone, pass any law, to feel safe. I bet obama is hoping scientist find an asteroid is heading our way, he ought to be able to turn that into a law that see him being installed General Secretary of the Democratic Party of the United Socialist States (no elections allowed).

Well this thinking made me sick and upset so I looked up the history of the Soviet Union and was amazed at what I found. Take a read, and let me know what you think. I’ve highlighted a few passages for you.

The Bolshevik revolution was part of the Russian Revolution that began with an armed insurrection in Petrograd as a coup d'état by the worker and soldier masses. It was the second phase of the overall Russian Revolution of 1917. The Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the Russian Provisional Government and gave the power to the Soviets dominated by Bolsheviks. It was followed by the Russian Civil War (1917–1922) and the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922.

The revolution was led by the Bolsheviks. Bolshevik armed forces began the takeover of government buildings on 24 October when the Winter Palace, the seat of the Provisional government located in Petrograd (modern day St. Petersburg), was captured.

The mounting frustration of workers and soldiers erupted in July with several days of rioting on the streets. This event was sparked by the June offensive against Germany, in which War Minister Alexander Kerensky sent troops in a major attack on the Germans, only to be repelled. The rioting was also sparked by the workers' anger at their economic plight. A group of 20,000 armed sailors from "Red Kronstadt", the naval base on the island of Kronstadt located near St.Petersburg, marched into Petrograd and demanded that the Soviet take power. The high density of Industrial workers in the cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow, also provoked the revolution adding to the scale of the event. The capital was defenseless for two days. After suppressing the riots, the government blamed the Bolsheviks for encouraging the rebellion and many Bolshevik leaders, including Lenin and Grigory Zinoviev, were forced to go into hiding. Although the Bolshevik party had to operate semi-legally throughout July and August, its position on the far left end of the political spectrum was consolidated. Radical anti-war social democrats, who had joined the Mezhraiontsy earlier in the year, merged with the Bolsheviks in August. Many of them, particularly Trotsky, inspired the mass of workers and soldiers.

The Kornilov Affair was another catalyst to Revolution. Alexander Kerensky, who held positions in both the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet, felt he needed a trustworthy military leader. After appointing Lavr Kornilov, Kerensky soon accused Kornilov of trying to set up his own military dictatorship. It is still uncertain as to whether or not Kornilov did engineer a plot of this kind or not. Kornilov, convinced Kerensky was acting under duress of the Bolsheviks, responded by issuing a call to all Russians to "save their dying land!" Unsure of the support of his army generals, Kerensky was forced to ask for help from other quarters- including the Bolshevik Red Guards, even providing them with arms. Kornilov's supposed attempt to seize power collapsed without bloodshed as his Cossacks deserted him. Kornilov and around 7,000 of his supporters were arrested.

The social and economic changes in Russia also produced a new educated middle class of professionals and industrial managers such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and other white collar jobs. The presence of this new class also contributed to the revolution, as citizens began to see that life could be better. World War I also had a large impact on the society of Russia. Russia had huge losses during the war that plunged its citizens into deep poverty. The citizens put their anger upon the current regime. This attitude set the stage for the rise of the Bolsheviks who promised change and presented themselves as strong leaders.

The Second Congress of Soviets consisted of 670 elected delegates; 300 were Bolshevik and nearly a hundred were Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who also supported the overthrow of the Kerensky Government. When the fall of the Winter Palace was announced, the Congress adopted a decree transferring power to the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies, thus ratifying the Revolution. The following day, the Congress elected a Council of People's Commissars as the basis of a new Soviet Government, pending the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, and passed the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land. This new government was also officially called "provisional" until the Assembly was dissolved.

The Decree on Land ratified the actions of the peasants who throughout Russia seized private land and redistributed it among themselves. The Bolsheviks viewed themselves as representing an alliance of workers and peasants and memorialized that understanding with the Hammer and Sickle on the flag and coat of arms of the Soviet Union.

Other decrees: The Russian banks were all nationalized. Control of the factories was given to the government. Private bank accounts were confiscated. Religious properties (including bank accounts) were seized. Wages were fixed at higher rates than during the war and a shorter, eight-hour working day was introduced. All foreign debts were repudiated.

The success of the October Revolution transformed the Russian state from parliamentarian to socialist in character.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Assembly Line Space Program

A question occurred to me while I was reading an article
about whether to go to Titan or Europa? Why don’t we go to both?

I understand that the answer is simple, money, it cost billions of dollars to send a probe to one of the outer planets, or their moons. But let us think for a moment, of how to bring down costs and do more. Ford did it with the assembly line to produce automobiles, in which created the driving revolution. This approach should be used and ultimately must be used if we as a nation and as a world are to conquer space.

Imagine you want to send a probe to our moon, mars, mars’ moon, Venus, Mercury, a few asteroids, some moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and let’s even send some to the outer planets. Now say that of all those probes you want to send out, they each have ten experiments’ that are basically the same. NASA would only have to do research and development on ten experiments’ that could be used on fifteen or more missions. Now produce that experiment package on an assemble line, and don’t just produce the ones needed immediately, make a few more. If you start producing more; productions costs come down, expertise in manufacturing increases, and people become experts.

Next look at the environment the probe will be operating in and develop a system to operate in that environment. Once it is developed keep using it, and refining it, don’t jump from one exploration vehicle to another just because it looks sexy and new, go with what works and improve it.

There is a universe to explore, we need to get on it and explore. Building a probe for a very narrow and targeted exploration takes a lot of money and a lot of time, and by the time the probe gets there, the scientist are saying “I wish we would have put this experiment on board.” Just create a basic experiment package that can be fit in one of a few different types of delivery/exploration vehicles and send them out. Whiles those probes are out there doing their thing, design the next experiment package (which can utilize the same assembly line as the first experiment package) and send it out there.

More worlds explored, more data gathered, more knowledge, and more expertise.

Since we are destined to be stuck in LEO for the next four years, we may as well start up an assembly line and become expert producers of probes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A sad day, for it is midnight in America

Today I would like to talk about two topics, Science Fiction and the Military. Together we often see how the military is portrayed in the future, and at times it seems impossible to imagine a future without a military. But instead of talking about the; would’ve, should’ve, could’ve of science fiction as it relates to and is portrayed by Science Fiction, I will talk about how they came together.

Science Fiction and the military came together in the Author Robert A. Heinlein. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis on 1929, and served in the United State Navy until he was discharged due to a medical condition in 1934. In 1939 he began writing science fiction stories in order to pay the bills, and quickly became one of the most prolific writers in the field. During World War II he tried to return to active military status and was denied due to his medical condition. The rejection by the Navy to return him to active duty, never agreed with him, and wanting to due his part he did aeronautical engineering for the United States Navy at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Pennsylvania. During World War II he didn’t produce any science fiction, but after the war he started putting out more and more copy, stepping out of the short story market and breaking into novels.

Robert A. Heinlein gave us classics in the genre; Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, etc. In many of his books the military is nothing more than a side note, but in Starship Troopers the military takes center stage and it is in this book the combination of a master writer with his military background gives a plausible example of the military in the future. The book moreover gives a framework of what people should do in order to make the country strong and resilient; it also gives an example of what the country should do for the people.

It is a very sad day in American history when Science Fiction has lost the allure of the future, and become disconnected from the Military. They both need one another, and we need another shining example of an amalgamation of Military and Science Fiction.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Politics and Space Exploration Don't Mix

For the most part my latest screaming rambles have been about the incoming administration, a slight divergence from the topic of this blog which is what happened to science fiction and our space program.

With the latest news coming from the incoming administration it looks as if I will be set up for more screaming rambles. But now it more closely follows the topic of this blog, particularly the “what happened to the space program section”.

Let me start off with a little backstory. One of the first names bandied about as on the short list by the incoming administration to head NASA was Chalie Bolden a former astronaut that flew on four shuttle missions, and had an extensive administrative background and a solid technical background. I looked into his bio and was pleased to see what he would bring to NASA. Then came the environmental scientist Charles Kennel, whose was the director of Mission to Planet Earth, during the Clinton era. A fairly strong administrative background but his science emphasis since his academic work was in Earth science, and I could see the writing on the wall. NASA was to be the flag bearer for the war on global warming, and space flight at most would be stuck in Low Earth Orbit. Forget going to the moon or Mars during this administration, and forget about laying the ground work for going there during future administrations. With Bolden being put on a short list of directors for NASA my fear of our space program being dismantled surfaced and I began to read deeper at what was coming out of the incoming administration. Somewhere I read that obama had a plan to put the return to the moon portion of NASA under DOD, the reason being that the DOD had rockets that were proven and the technology wouldn’t need to be developed as with the current course. Hmmm where is this going.

Yesterday I read that the short short list name is retired Air Force Major General Jonathan Scott Gration. Gration did a year as a White House Fellow working for NASA's deputy administrator at the time, Hans Mark. He has a BS in Mechanical Engineering, and a Master of Arts in national security studies. But he was one of the first high ranking officers to openly support obama and he was military advisor to obama during the campaign. This to me smelled like a pay off to a friend, but at a deeper level it looked as if a set up for a hit man, and the target was NASA.

So now during my screaming rambles about “what happened to the space program”, I can look back to this moment, and know why we haven’t returned to the moon, why we haven’t gone from mars, and why China is looking down on the Earth from their permanent base at the sea of tranquility.