The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘geek’

Get Your Geek On – Day Five

Posted by BigWords on September 16, 2011

It is no surprise that games have played a large part in my life, though it may surprise some to learn that the games which have had the most impact on me were not the usual suspects – partly because of location, and partly because of finances, the early nineties wasn’t the Nintendo era for me – it was when I was getting into the classic games of the eighties. I had an Amstrad and a Commodore from as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until the notion of coding my own games that I really started to understand the appeal of gaming. Being in control of the world as well as the character on the screen was a massive step into the immersion. The first game I wrote was a horrible, truly awful side-scroller with half of the code lifted from the games around me – all in BASIC, with a number of gameplay issues which would take me a few years to fully understand. Aside from being completely broken, unimaginative and rather rubbish, that first game was exhilarating.

I’m probably going to reveal just how long I’ve been gaming when I say this, but the Batman game which came in the big box with two cassettes and a poster (I think it was the Joker and the Penguin, the villains of the game) was probably more instrumental in getting me to keep playing than any other. It wasn’t a pretty game, by any means, though it was probably the first I completed all the way through to the end. I worked my way through the back catalog of games from the 80s which I could pick up in small newsagents – and the thought of those spinner-racks full of games cassettes holds serious nostalgia value – then looked for something to fill the need for more complexity. I think I’m missing a generation there, but there wasn’t that many games on floppy for the BBC – or, I should say, I didn’t have that many of the games. One thing people might not remember is the long loading times, which I spent gathering together paper and pens for conspicuous note-taking.

Round about the time Windows 95 rolled along (though it would have been a year or so after release that I actually got my hands on the giant desktop) I went looking for games which would test me. Most of the searching was in vain, though a few games came close to appeasing the growing need for something more than shooting and jumping. Puzzle games have, for the longest time, irritated me as much as they have entertained me, and some of the worst offenders *cough* Tomb Raider *cough* fall firmly into the “PITA” category. There was a clutch of games released in the late 90s and early 00s which reaffirmed the notion that new things could be done with gaming, and – as joyful a kid who has found a new toyshop – I was back to playing for three or four hours a day. Hostile Waters, Thief, Half Life, Red Faction, and the sublime Deus Ex. Of all the games of that era, Deus Ex rose to the position of the game I would play when I needed cheering up.

Of course, with the addition of consoles, my collection of games required that (once again) I was putting things in storage whenever my apartment got too crowded. I’ve still got a lot of the games I bought, but I rarely look back to the older titles unless, as now, I’m writing about them. Deus Ex still holds up as an amazing achievement – moreso than the middling Invisible War – and it is one of the handful of older titles which I still play. And yes, I started on a mod for it. The complete conversion never quite got to the finished state I had planned, but that was more to do with the awkward toolkit than a lack of ambition. Over the years I have spent as much time tinkering with the games themselves as I have playing them, and the beautifully simple Half Life was the game which cemented my skills putting ideas to work. Lousy graphics, in retrospect, but oh what a joy to mess with.

My own game – the one which has been burning away for nigh on ten years, through several incarnations – is looking more and more like a side-project now, with the increasing complexity required to put together a decent game making it difficult to imagine completion, never mind a solid release date. As I add more details to the script (a hefty document with multiple pathways as it is), I get the feeling it may be easier to write “choose your own adventure” book rather than expend more energy on the increasingly futile effort of putting the whole thing together. But that, right there, is what being a geek is – it’s not the necessity to go build a game, but the enjoyment of all the stuff which happens when getting there. It’s the fun of making sound effects, and recording dialogue, and playing through the wireframe working builds with friends. Again, the community aspect of geekery is at the forefront of everything.

Oh, and all those notes I used to take while playing? Those came in handy for a few different reasons. I learned how the storytelling in games worked, and wrote more walkthroughs than anyone should ever consider writing.

All those words, and I didn’t get to the boardgames, or the fan videos, or the ARG’s.

Remind me to cover those next year, when Geek Week returns. I may even have come up with a nifty graphic to celebrate the occasion by that point. Don’t expect miracles.

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Get Your Geek On – Day Four

Posted by BigWords on September 15, 2011

Part and parcel of being interested in SFF and horror (along with the downright weird – I still haven’t come up with a catch-all term to cover shows such as Twin Peaks, American Gothic and Wild Palms) is the community which grows naturally with the scene. It isn’t just dressing up as Klingons for a convention, though people do that, but encompasses fanzines, game mods (and total conversions), fan videos, filk, role-playing and other RL activities and events. It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to do anything fun, which is why I always puzzle at the people who want to move out of the city to the “peace and quiet” of the countryside, so far from the places where conventions are normally held. There was a while when I was really into writing and drawing for fanzines, though that seems to be more and more an online thing rather than the glorious photocopies I remember – the likes of Sick, Happy, Idle, or Dek Baker’s wonderful Wargods Of Atlantis. Somehow, reading fanzines on a computer monitor is less interesting.

I fell out of the fanzine scene around about the time a bunch of misogynistic, racist, violent and poorly drawn material began drowning out the good stuff. It wasn’t an overnight decision to stop buying titles, but as I found more and more of the titles I was purchasing to be of a questionable nature, I slowly began to scale back how much I was willing to spend in any given month. Eventually the bad overwhelmed the good, yet I still have the good stuff. If you haven’t read The O Men or Psychosense, I suggest you go hunt for them. The writing is much, much better than in a lot of Marvel and DC titles, and the characters are sympathetic and interesting. See? I really do like superheroes, only not the overblown and endless stories mainstream publishers foist on readers.

Writing for fanzines was always a hobby, and I never thought of putting together anything too precious (Bellamy never appeared in those stories, not the Faerwither stuff), and when I went back to those pieces I struggled to find anything worth reprinting here. I’m sure most people would, at this point, make sure their early material never saw the light of day, but I am more perverse than that. It would be cruel and unusual punishment to subject you to the poetry, or the awful, awful RPG settings I put together, but the art isn’t all that bad – not brilliant, but not shame-worthy.

I’ve already mentioned the Babylon 5 mod I worked on, so it isn’t as if I have hidden the amount of fan-material I have produced. The revisionist Star Trek fanfic got bogged down in detail (unlike most fanfics, mine was a complete reboot), but that is probably going to appear online somewhere as well, possibly under a pseudonym to keep the ardent fans from baying for my blood. I should shut up now, before I dig myself into trouble…

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Get Your Geek On – Day Three

Posted by BigWords on September 14, 2011

There are a lot of different things which mark me out from the crowd, but the biggest mark is probably my adoration of all things old – there are geeks who only collect first issues of comics, or who have elaborate collections devoted to a single franchise (Star Wars probably takes the lead there), but I’ve always been more interested in the history and the feel of the things I look out for. The most attractive of the items in my growing collection(s) is British annuals – specifically those from the late fifties, with their wonderful painted covers and thick, white pages. Whenever I’ve spent time with American annuals, I always feel short changed, as they lack the length (a paltry 100 pages is about the best I have seen), the readability (no prose features? seriously?) and the robustness of their British counterparts. Back when I was staying in the apartment, their size and weight was something of a problem, but now I seem to be collecting them at a horrific rate.

When I mentioned how artwork was a consideration of mine the other day, I didn’t fully explain how much I have been influenced by art in my collecting habits. It’s hard to imagine these days, when so much of the geek landscape has gotten sleeker and more polished, but back when the British annual was at its’ height, the need for color interiors was minimal – the strength of the artwork was enough alone. I’ve spent a lot of time looking through the World and Purnell books, and I can’t say that I once missed the use of color in any of the strips. It’s probably why I took such a liking to The Walking Dead comics, with the pared-down, black and white style. The difference in tone which comes with removing unnecessary elements is very striking. Oh, and there we have the other major addiction of the moment. Zombies.

Moving around the UK so much, I’ve had to put things in storage occasionally, and one of the fun things about (slowly) unpacking everything is finding collections I had completely forgotten about (of course, I’m going to have to come back to that memory thing tomorrow – if I remember, that is…), such as the Pogs, or the trading cards. I have no idea why I started picking up trading cards, but there are a lot of old television shows represented in that particular lot. No superheroes, unsurprisingly, but I do have a couple of cards with artwork. Did Sorayama ever have a complete set devoted to his work? There are a few cards with his robots on them, but not a complete set by far. And there are flyers. Lots of them. Enough to wallpaper a room if I so wished. Mostly from comic conventions and fairs, though I have no idea why they were kept. The only thing I really wanted to find when I went through the analecta was photographs, but I have, as yet, to come across a single one. There are plenty of pictures of London (and you have no idea how homesick that makes me), but nothing of me.

I think that brings up a lot of questions I rather wouldn’t answer.

Anyway, the collections… It’s about time for a small gallery.

Having spent a long time working what to do with the non-fiction book I started at the beginning of the year, I finally came to the conclusion that it made sense to merge it with the embryonic notion for a British-centric guide along the lines of the Comic-Book Database – and to put it all online rather than struggle against format issues which kept me awake for longer than it should have. When I get around to it (and trust me, I will), the spiel about “geek privilege” will probably delve into the most inane circles of logic, but until then try not to think too hard about the sheer number of individual items I have to catalog for the database. It may take some more time than I initially allocated to the project…

(WordPress is acting funny again, so the pics are via Picasa)

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Get Your Geek On – Day Two

Posted by BigWords on September 13, 2011

Channel 4 has a lot to answer for – It was where I got my first taste of both anime and Hammer films. Hell, it was where, before The Big Breakfast began, Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors and Ulysses 31 would keep me amused during my early mornings when the BBC channels (only two of them back then) were being boring with news or Ceefax. Yeah, my insomnia was bad even as a kid. I suppose that is how I often found myself sitting in front of the television when normal people were busy sleeping, so the late-night horror films would have been an attraction I couldn’t resist. Yet again, my introduction to a staple of geekdom was roundabout and unconventional. The first horror film from Hammer I can clearly remember was The Curse Of The Werewolf, though I’m almost certain I had sat through the television serial version of Quatermass And The Pit by that point. The Quatermass serial was one of the first videos I went out and bought with my own money, so it certainly struck a nerve with me. The lasting influence was cartoons though…

Anime wouldn’t really become an obsession until I happened across Ghost In The Shell, but the look of these strange cartoons popping up in the television schedules was interesting enough for me to look out for more to watch. Of course, being stuck in the UK in the eighties, the choice of viewing material was severely limited, and I had to make do with a lot of rubbish badly stitched together, and dubbed by people who would rather be doing anything other than voice-overs. Thundercats wouldn’t be shown in the UK until 1987, by which time I had well and truly discovered the school library, so I only caught the latter part of the first season.

Sunday mornings were where Land Of The Giants, Planet Of The Apes, The Time Tunnel and other shows were given a fresh airing in the 90s on Channel 4, and BBC2 slowly shrugged off its’ academic stylings to embrace Star Trek, Farscape (the game of which is the only black mark against the franchise), and the severely underrated Seven Days. The 90s was a great time for genre shows, both old and new, though I never really understood the immense hype surrounding The X-Files. Far more interesting was Babylon 5, which (for reasons I still don’t understand) always seemed to be on at 2am. It didn’t bother me, with the almost sleepless state I spent most of the decade cursing, and I was able to watch and read a lot of unusual material which would otherwise have slipped through the cracks.

Both the increased attention I was paying to science fiction and fantasy, and the growing output of great shows, made me aware of the older material which was just out of reach. Before the widespread uptake of the internet, I had to contend myself with reading about a lot of the classic films and television shows which were still hidden away. Most of those shows are now, of course, available to watch online, but the 90s was a frustrating time to be interested in them. I picked up a slew of magazines such as Cult Times, Shivers, Dark Side, the late, lamented Samhain, and – importantly – House Of Hammer. The old Quality issues, mind you. Those, along with a few books which were of varying quality, showed me how interconnected the world of film and comics were, and the beautiful adaptations of Hammer films made me seek out the films themselves.

Everything, as I often point out, is connected.

The 90s was also the era I really got back into US comics – well… when they only cost one quid, anyway. After the mid-90s I began waiting a few months to pick them up for a fraction of the cover price, especially after the colossal waste of money which was The Death Of Superman. Image Comics bored me with shallow characters and a heavy focus on art, while Marvel seemed to be intent on insulting people with clones of Spider-Man and so many X-Men titles that it was impossible to follow even the most basic storyline. I retreated from the front line and took to collecting Gold Key and Dell, which had far superior stories than the superhero titles. It’s the largest of my collections, ranging from the mid-50s to the late seventies, and the one which I spend the most time with. I have spread out in recent years to Charlton as well, because those hundred-pagers are so beautiful.

The main part of that comic collection? Twilight Zone, Man From UNCLE, Boris Karloff’s Tales Of Mystery, and the other shows I mentioned desperately wanting to know more about earlier in this post.

I told you everything was connected.

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Get Your Geek On – Day One

Posted by BigWords on September 12, 2011

This is in response to Monica Valentinelli’s post. I had intended to do a single post reflecting on what it means to be a self-identified geek, but I quickly realized that I fall into a special category which doesn’t truly represent my fellow geeks. For a start, the way I moved around so much as a kid means that I am not as attached to specific elements of geekdom which others may find strange – I never, for example, thought of myself in terms of being a Star Trek or Star Wars fan (you can like both, apparently, but not love them both equally), nor had a preference for DC or Marvel. As for the television shows which mark people as being a geek- Oh boy, this really is gonna take a whole week to get through… I’ll try to link to the more obscure stuff, but if I drop something in here which I don’t explain properly, feel free to ask – I love explaining weird old stuff, and showing how much better it is than people would expect.

It’s best that I start with the biggest (and most important) discoveries which cemented my obsession with the geekier things in life. While most people might be expecting the big nudge to have been superhero comics, or the original Star Wars trilogy, or Doctor Who, it was actually the stuff above my reading age which prompted me to go hunting for more of the same. I can clearly remember reading Tarzan Alive before I hit high school (which led to my obsession with the Wold Newton concept, a love of Anno Dracula, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Tarzan Alive prepared me for the concept of American comics, rather than the other way around. That alone is a massive leap for a lot of comic geeks to believe, but I was an quick study, I was a bookworm, and I was infinitely bored at school. I also read Den when I was… Ten? Eleven? That led to a long trip through the fantasy bookshelves, where I found all the classics of the genre. It was all about the artwork to begin with, which is why I have defended Frazetta posters against casual ignorance over the years, but I soon learned that the language was just as important.

Lord Dunsany was the gateway drug from the fantasy of old, to the wonders of Lovecraft, which, I suppose, got me ready for Sandman and Swamp Thing. Having pointed out a few times that my superhero exposure was limited, you might find it strange that I look so favorably on those Vertigo titles, being borne from the superhero comics of the eighties, but here – again – I bucked the trend. The first comic I can clearly remember reading is Valerian. It is often stated that it is for teens, but I think I would have been eight or nine when I found a few of the albums, and they still hold more attraction that a certain throwback to forties serials. It wasn’t just BD which kept me busy (though I still flick through Spirou et Fantasio from time to time), but the oft-overlooked British titles. Does anyone remember Oink! or Scream? I have clear memories of picking up the first issue of Scream when it came out, and running around with the white plastic vampire teeth. I can’t remember if they glowed in the dark or not, but I can remember biting my brother with them. Ah… Memories.

While others may take pleasure in imagining (and sometimes writing) their perfect DC or Marvel stories, I always found more meat in the British characters. For the longest time I thought about reviving a bunch of old characters which had been features in various Denis Gifford guides, but Grant Morrison – and then Paul Grist – went and made that notion redundant. The bastards… I still have my notes, and the material might come in handy at some point, but using anything which has been linked to either Zenith or Jack Staff seems parasitic and pointless. The two characters I associated with most, and who formed the pillars of my idea, were Zom of the Zodiac and Marsman, who represented the difference between magic and science. With the similarities and differences between their outlooks I placed mankind in the middle of their eternal war (and managed to work out a way to use Robert Lovett in a way which was respectful and yet unique). Maybe I’ll post some of the ideas in the future, but it’s still in comic-book script format. A lot of the influences which make their way into my writing are from those early introductions to fantasy, science fiction and horror, and a lot of the blame is down to me being left to my own devices for swathes of time. If I had more supervision I probably wouldn’t have discovered a lot of the things which have stayed with me all these years.

I haven’t covered Hammer, British television or anime yet, so I’ll get to that tomorrow.

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A New Star Trek Continuity (By Wold Newton Means)

Posted by BigWords on September 5, 2010

Star Trek. One of the most successful science fiction properties of all time, and one of the universes which gets a disproportional representation within the SF community, has always had problems. I’m not referring to the twisted around ideas which led to stardates (there is a certain logic to the notion that relative time can be kept, then squared against a central database), nor the mess made of warp drive numbering (that is covered by Science Marches On in-universe), but more esoteric aspects of the timeline which cannot be easily reconciled without heavy editing of the facts as they are presented to us. Having never been the most obsessive nor reasonable fan of televised SF, I’ve often looked outside of canon for explanations to the things which bug me, but this time I think I may have crossed a line in my attempt to rationalize some of the things which don’t make sense, or which need greater expansion.

This has taken me a while to work out (and there are still bits and pieces that I’m adding, changing, tweaking and blatantly ignoring), but I think I know most of the reasons that Star Trek doesn’t work for me. This is, of course, pushing my interpretation of Star Trek farther from the one which most viewers will be familiar with, but if it makes sense to me, then I can live with any irritation I raise in others. First and foremost amongst my problems with the universe is the timeline, which has been so completely screwed over by multiple re-tellings, contradictions, reset button-pushing and blatant lies, that it no longer resembles a stable progression of events as much as it does a hodge-podge of ideas thrown together by various disparate groups within the controlling group of writers, making a mockery of how people appreciate the events which led to the creation of an interstellar society able to function independently of Earth.

Lets see if I can shed some light on how I perceive the world of Picard, Sisko, and Captain ‘Crazy Janeway’ as filtered through a Wold Newton-inspired interpretation of things which might make up for the problems in the accepted history. It’s going to annoy the hell out of purists, but it is the only way that I can watch the show and not feel the need to to scream profanities at the screen. I’ve ignored some elements considered canon by both the show and the fans, and introduced things which are possibly heretical but which are very, very cool. This may turn the bright, happy future envisioned by Gene Rodenberry into a Crapsack Universe, but it is one in which I would much rather spend time. The dates are rough, though I’m sure someone with a tad more patience could make it all hang together if they consider the events I have decided to include – some of which actually make sense of the logic which Enterprise and the recent film reboot have thrown out of the window, fetched back inside, crapped all over, then thrown out of the window again.

Before anyone decides that the following is entirely too dumb, spend five minutes flicking through the reviews of DS9 and Enterprise episodes on The Cynic’s Corner, and try to reconcile the multiple given histories of the Federation. Try it. You’ll go insane in the attempt. Better to start afresh, and use all the basic story points as a way to fold in some of the better ideas from outside of Star Trek canon, because the franchise is in desperate need of a shot of adrenaline. It’s more apparent when you watch episodes back to back, but even a casual viewer there are problems. Consider this along the same lines as Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, where things are similar to the original stories, but told afresh and with a more coherent ethic – well, at least as Ultimate was in the beginning. The Ultimate Universe managed to contradict itself mightily as it went on.

The Pre-History Of Space Travel

1969 – 2025

In the two-part Voyager episode Future’s End it is shown that Henry Starling has had access to 29th century technology from as far back as the 1960s, which he has been using to push Earth’s software and hardware knowledge far in advance of where such knowledge should be. This, more than any other aspect of Star Trek‘s timeline, is the crucial point at which we ought to separate from our own history – the “real” history of Earth. Voyager‘s only notable contribution to either entertainment or logic was this one story, as Starling’s existence suddenly makes a lot of other things fall into place neatly. It is with his mangled understanding of 29th century technology which allows both the creation of the experimental S.A.I.N.T. robots [1] (which eventually leads to the T-1 [2]), and – eventually – the technology necessary for the integration of mechanical elements into Officer Murphy [3]. The robots were nuclear powered at this point, as the advanced power cells had not been completely understood.

While many of the elements of the future technology were able to be reverse engineered by in-house scientists, some of the advancements were so esoteric as to preclude direct understanding of the way they operated. A significant amount of the research into matter transportation was given to Seth Brundle through a dummy corporation named Bartok Industries [4]. His interpretation of the software would result in his untimely death, and his research would not be continued until Dr. Emory Erickson (in the Enterprise episode Daedalus) perfected the means by which to transport living tissue.

That doesn’t mean that there weren’t subsequent accidents, though. One of the most notable situations erupted on a Mars “mining” station, when a transporter opened a portal to another dimension, which led to the deaths of a number of researchers continuing their exploration of future technology [5]. At some point in the early 1980’s, an Antarctic research team is attacked by an unknown alien which has been extricated from its’ ship [6]. It was whilst searching for the remains of this vessel that a group of researchers would later encounter the frozen remains of Borg.

During the 90’s, a salvage operation mounted on a Russian naval vessel resulted in the crew of the tug being attacked by a disembodied alien presence which used human parts and machinery to create a physical presence for itself on Earth [7]. Later investigation would associate this entity closely with the Borg hive-mind, though notable differences would be recorded for further study.

After 2000, with advances far outstripping ‘real’ history, the US government, seeing the valuable technological advancements being made by Starling’s Chronowerx Industries, requests assistance in coming up with solutions to some of the problems it is facing. Researchers who have studied the advanced database use their knowledge to create a stable wormhole which allows for a limited  glimpse into the future [8], and an AI to interpret massive data input now being collected by the military branches of the US intelligence community [9]. It is the spectacular failure of the AI which leads to further advances in AI being halted until more is understood about the technology, though one last-ditch attempt to integrate AI leads to the creation of a satellite defense program dubbed Skynet, which is one of the primary reasons for future problems [10].

The medical database from the future also provides for the creation of a breathable liquid, which plays an important part in one of humanity’s early extra-terrestrial encounters [11]. Spurred on by the existence of beings living on other planets, more of the future technology is plundered to create the ground-work which will lead to the genetically-engineered Khan and his followers. This is also around the time that things start to go seriously wrong with society. The slip into anarchy begins with a few minor problems, but left unchecked the mysterious Quitters, Inc [12] and Consumer Recreation Services [13] soon lead to rampant anarchy in the streets as people release tension created by the existence of genetically superior individuals being created. It is from these dark days that the Eugenics War erupts into full-blown war.

The Deep Space Nine episode Past Tense shows what has happened to the US by 2024, with large sections of cities cordoned off to provide housing for ‘undesirables’ – a technique replicated in France, among other countries [14]. Some cities, such as Detroit, prefer to deal with their social unrest by handing over their policing to corporations, which results in the creation of the RoboCop program [3]. Other locations fall into complete unrest as “entertainment” such as The Running Man [15], Death Race [16], and other shows allow the population to be kept entertained and (largely) kept under control. The foundation for these openly-violent shows being broadcast is the underground snuff shows which were broadcast (and circulated) by Lionel Starkweather [17]. It was during this time that Scotland was walled off from the rest of the country so that the inhabitants could die off due to a plague that was threatening the UK [18].

The Fallout From The Eugenics Wars

2025 – 2200

(note: I’m pushing the Eugenics Wars to the 2020s to preserve some sort of cohesion in the timeline)

Taking refuge in the stars was not the sole preserve of the genetically engineered super-soldiers, as others decided to abandon Earth. As Picard pointed out in the TNG episode The Neutral Zone, cryogenic stasis had long since been abandoned as a means of interstellar travel, but in the early days of space travel it had been employed routinely. One of the mining vessels which was operating in deep space encountered an alien life form which killed the entire crew save for its’ Warrant Officer [19]. Another cryogenic vessel was considered lost, with its’ occupants awakening after hundreds of years, submerged under the ocean of an alien planet [20]. Yet another ship was considered lost, though later turned up having traveled into a region of space that had sent its’ occupants mad [21]. Occupants of other ships were not so lucky [22]. These disasters resulted in tighter controls being made on the design of astronavigation systems.

Zefram Cochrane’s warp flight brings the attention of the Vulcans, but also alerts a race of predatory aliens that the mildly interesting hunting grounds on Earth had become immensely more interesting. Taking to the still-devastated city of Los Angeles, the alien manages to evade both police and a secret agency under the directive of Section 31 [23]. It is also around this time that the full horror of what Skynet has become is made clear, and with the assistance of Vulcan technology the rise of the robots is prevented [10]. From this point on, all research into advanced robots is banned in an international treaty. (And you wondered why there were so few instances of cool robots in Star Trek, didn’t you?)

At some point before 2100 the world is pushed into a fully-blown war due to the unbalanced resources available on Earth, ending only when nuclear weapons are deployed. In the utter devastation which follows, mankind is slow to rebuild, though a few individuals take it upon themselves to give hope to the communities which have gradually coalesced. One such person dons the uniform of a postman [24], whilst another, shattered by his experience at the hands of a biker gang, decides to take revenge on the evils plaguing society [25]. Yet another wandering force for good makes use of his extraordinary martial arts abilities to destroy a gang which has overrun a formerly-peaceful region [26]. The Vulcans once again step in to take care of mankind, before we untimely destroy ourselves.

The NX-01 is launched, though the dedication ceremony is marred by some truly awful music…

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Additional notes:

With the technology required to pass themselves off as aliens, I would also fold in the IMF to the WN Star Trek timeline, as their lifelike masks seem to possess all the requirements needed for covert operations on alien planets. Backtracking to a point where they could conceivably be placed in a position to take part, I would suggest them being the groundwork for Section 31, renamed as of a point somewhere before the year 2025. (Mission: Impossible)

The increased time travel related episodes of Star Trek, where the Starfleet Time Police, or Temporal Investigations (or whoever Gary Seven and Daniels were working for), seems to suggest that they began as a much simpler organization. It makes a sort of sense that the events of Timecop could be the shaky beginnings from which the Federation would spin out its’ time protection force. Not sure where that would place events of the film, though sometime after the stable wormhole was created [8] seems about right.

It seems likely that there is room to fit Barb Wire in somewhere around the 2020s, though I didn’t think about it until I had already written most of this up. It’s such a minor film that I can’t be bothered re-numbering everything, so just pretend I added it.

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The Pre-History Of Space Travel

[1] Short Circuit (1986) dir: John Badham
[2] Terminator: Salvation (2009) dir: McG
[3] RoboCop (1987) dir: Paul Verhoeven
[4] The Fly (1986) dir: David Cronenberg
[5] Doom 3 (2004) id Software / Activision

[6] The Thing (1982) dir: John Carpenter
[7] Virus (2002) dir: John Bruno

[8] Déjà Vu (2006) dir: Tony Scott
[9] Eagle Eye (2008) dir: D.J. Caruso
[10] Terminator (1984) dir: James Cameron

[11] The Abyss (1989) dir: James Cameron
[12] Quitters, Inc. by Stephen King (1978, Doubleday)
[13] The Game (1997) dir: David Fincher

[14] District 13 (2004) dir: Pierre Morel
[15] The Running Man by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) (1982, Signet)
[16] Death Race (2008) dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
[17] Manhunt (2003) Rockstar North, Rockstar Games
[18] Doomsday (2008) dir: Neil Marshall

The Fallout From The Eugenics Wars

[19] Alien (1979) dir: Ridley Scott
[20] Pandorum (2009) dir: Christian Alvart
[21] Event Horizon (1997) dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
[22] Dark City (1998) dir: Alex Proyas
[23] Predator 2 (1990) dir: Stephen Hopkins

[24] The Postman (1997) dir:Kevin Costner
[25] Mad Max (1979) dir: George Miller
[26] Fist Of The North Star (1995) dir:Tony Randel

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A Quick Word About New Projects

Posted by BigWords on December 1, 2009

There’s always something going on, and it can be hard to remain focused on what I’m meant to be doing, so I thought I would share some of the things which have been bubbling under the surface and are almost ready to begin work on properly. This does, of course, mean I am taking on yet more commitments, though I have enough material stashed away to prevent them overwhelming me. Hopefully. I can’t guarantee that things will go smoothly, but I can guarantee that there will be a wealth of information available from my archives very soon. Both of the not-quite-ready blogs I am getting ready to add to my blogroll are going to be based around reviews and associated material.

The first of the blogs will appear at some point in the next week or so, with the second added when I get the chance to dig out the reference work I have been gathering for the last few years. The addition of two new blogs doesn’t mean that I’ll be ignoring this slice of insanity on a regular basis, nor does it mean that the book blog will be pushed to one side. If anything, the addition of two new blogs will allow me to put more material online than at present. It will also allow me to cover material I haven’t yet taken the opportunity to spend any time thinking about, adding links throughout all of the blogs to tie everything together in one meta-blog. Did I just come up with a brand new term? Quite possibly…

I have considered adding a fifth blog to the weekly duties, specifically centered on artwork I like, though that might wait a while. Diluting my free time with things to do is part of my attempts to keep busy while everyone else is asleep, ’cause the insomnia is really beginning to affect the way I spend my time. It really isn’t healthy to spend so much time arguing with the radio and causing mayhem around the net. I need constructive work to keep my idle hands from giving the devil work to do – or something.

I’ll finish up here with another pic which I like.

I didn’t draw it, so the blame can’t be pinned on me.

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The Future Is What You Make It

Posted by BigWords on October 29, 2009

Some of the strange notions that pop into my head can be disregarded as meanderings, but when I happened to mention a super-internet idea to a friend (the concept of which is really hard to explain here, but I’ll try) there were some aspects I had to concede were good. Maybe not to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, but to me they seemed a sensible way forward once the kinks could be worked out. It is, of course, gonna play into my NaNo novel, but the idea of creating a customizable and completely interchangeable internet experience needs expounding…

How many social networking platforms are out there? Too many. In the future of my NaNo there will be an identity card style homepage for everyone, where they can use whatever they want to share with the world. Compatibility issues will be a thing of the past, and the entire internet will be one large social networking scene that has multiple sub-categories for individual likes and dislikes. Into comics? There will be a check button to join that category. Into films? Yeah, check button. Into mind-altering substances? You guessed it, another check-button…

Forums, which I kinda have an addiction to joining – and spend all night surfing for great threads to haunt – should be one area which future software can really improve on. I like a lot of forums the way they are, with maybe the exception of really slow ones like the NaNo set-up. A meta-forum, where millions of different forums (yeah, I’m not using fora here, just ’cause) will merge into a single entity would be great for hot discussions. Threads splitting and merging and splitting again as the number of commenters adding their voices increases…

A person would never have to join another forum again. Join one, and you join them all. A geek’s dream come true.

E-mail, which has been getting tweaks and nudges ever since its’ creation, would – I am certain – be replaced by an IM / SMS-type communication between individuals. When processing power has achieved the ability to create real-time VR, which is quite a few years off even yet, we will have avatars speaking for us in voice communication so real that it would appear animals could talk. This is something I really want, even though I know I’ll probably never live to see the concept realized… Damn limited human longevity we currently have to accept.

If bleeding-edge technology lives up to the promises of various experts, we will see a rise in e-commerce that will make even the largest internet companies of the modern world seem like fly-by-night operators. Hundreds of billions of transactions made every minute, with exponential growth thanks to a subservient robot workforce that can load in new software to accomplish even the most complex of tasks. This will, naturally, see the end of shopping centres as a place to buy product, but it might just reestablish the locations as a place to congregate with friends. I’ve never been one to believe that a completely digital existence will ever come to pass.

I’m still undecided on cybernetics as a point I should bring up in my novel, because the issues which arise from medical procedures to augment human bodies is one which has been covered to thoroughly – and so well – elsewhere. William Gibson is the standard SF text for that kind of thing and, along with Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, is in no need of a reheated and half-hearted answer from myself. There may be minor allusions to the procedures available, but the more I think on the things which would need to be addressed the more I worry. It’s not enough to parrot accepted ideas… My story has to go somewhere new.

The one area I will be completely avoiding, due to the terribly complex and ever-shifting debate on, is the file-sharing one. Never have so many intelligent people been involved in an argument with so many half-assed assumptions in the history of the internet. I can’t even begin to explain why some of the utterances made my music chiefs are so stupid, because every time I begin to make a balanced argument for file sharing they decide to change their objections… “We’re losing money,” (no, you really aren’t) “It’s immoral,” (and the music industry is?) “File-sharing is evil,” (and music producers are all saints?)…

Added to the confusion which exists about copyright, and you have an impossible task wrapping a fiction around the subject which is less stupid and unbelievable than the truth.

You will, of course, be able to see whether I have managed to think this concept of a super-internet through thoroughly enough when November rolls around. Ye gads, two and a bit days to go… I’m gonna have to sit down and really think about the opening scenes if I have any hope of sounding at least semi-coherent. Time has flown by so quickly that I haven’t even managed to begin working out where some of the jokes and references I want to use can be dropped in…

I may just pop over to Microsoft to talk with someone about setting the internet to rights after November… I kinda like the idea of putting Facebook out of business.

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Five Ponderables

Posted by BigWords on August 23, 2009

#1 Does Every Writer Secretly Want To Be An Actor?

I’ve just watched the episode of Veronica Mars with Joss Whedon as a car rental guy, and I’m wondering just how many writers have the need to spread their time into other areas. Quentin Tarantino’s acting talents aren’t exactly exemplary, though Joss managed to deliver his lines perfectly well. Kevin Smith, another geek-favorite, has managed to carve out a nice sideline in acting jobs, though if you were to base any opinion of his talents on Die Hard 4.0 or Silent Bob appearances then he doesn’t seem so cool.

Is this normal? Gee, I must be a freakish mutant, ’cause I have no intention of wasting a day to deliver a couple of lines. That isn’t lowering the importance of television or film, it’s just a fact that both media take so long to set up scenes that it doesn’t seem worth the hassle. I’ve never had the urge to get involved in front of the camera, but scriptwriting isn’t too bad. The most fun is probably to be had in writing series-bibles or coming up with new formats for old ideas.

Stephen King, who really doesn’t need to do anything but sit on his ass and watch the money accumulate in his bank account, regularly appeared in movies based on his novels. I never thought about this much, but now it seems a strange way to stamp authorial importance in the audience’s minds, exactly the same as the cameos Stan Lee gets in every Marvel feature film. I’m slightly less impresses with Lee, mostly because of the way he claims credit for every good idea to come out of Marvel since he kick-started their Silver Age output.

What is the appeal? Is writing unfulfilling for some people?

#2 Red Faction

Playing Red Faction: Guerrilla reminded me of the original, which was better than Half Life in many, many ways, but there was one aspect of the game I never really understood. In the extras there was a enclosed cave / cavern thing which had a giant greenhouse sitting in the centre of the map, but it was never explained what was meant to occur there. I blasted tunnels in the walls, using infinite ammo cheats to get as far as I could go, but there was a limit to the length of tunnel that could be created.

I tried exposing all of the supporting beams under the greenhouse, to get the building to collapse, but this – again – was impossible. So I gave up trying to work out why the map was there… until the second game was released. I wasn’t partial to Red Faction II because of the shallow gameplay and annoying menu interface. Still no clues as to the reason for the damn thing. Then Guerrilla came along, and I’m still no clearer as the the purpose of that glass building from the original game.

#3 Mystery Disks

America has long been used to double-sided disks, but I’m beginning to get rather fed up with the use of them I have the bad habit of not returning DVDs straight back to their boxes, and I’m finding that the double-sided disks are beginning to gather into a large stack beside the television. The ones which have the tiny little writing near the center are bad enough, but there are some which have no writing whatsoever to identify the film on the disk.

Who decided that it was a good idea to release a product that was impossible to identify unless the consumer wastes five minutes putting it in their machine and checking the content? It isn’t rocket science, and even a schoolkid could tell them that there would be trouble in store if some kind of identification isn’t provided on the actual disk. Am I alone in this? Whenever I think about buying R1 DVDs I always check on various websites to see what the specs are now, just so I am not landed with another mystery disk.

#4 Paper Wastage

There’s so many film guides that it can be hard to choose between them, but I’ve been thinking that the days of giant tomes may be over. With imdb.com and the hit-and-miss Wiki pages devoted to films, what are the purpose of film guides these days? Are there still people buying these books, and – if so – what are they getting from the books that they can’t find online from equally reliable sources?

I’m not counting the hilarious histories (there is an account of Cannon which is a terrifying read for any accountant) or the biographies which scrape away myth and PR bullshit, but the alphabetical listing of films, with their release date, cast, crew and a brief plot.

A million years ago I thought of writing a film guide which would cover all of the films which hadn’t been mentioned in print for five years, which would have been the most obscure text on film ever written, but with the advent of so many sites covering obscure films it no longer seems remotely possible. Every dirty little corner of film history seems to have been picked to death by expert and amateur hands alike. I’m not impressed with most blunt little reviews anyway, which often miss some great moments.

#5 The Odyssey

Remind me – was Telemachus the annoying kid or the silly red robot?

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Even though I tried to ignore them, I have the awful feeling I have created another meme. Ugh. Whatever – if you have five ponderables to get off your chest, then go ahead. Just make sure you give credit where credit’s due.

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A Little Bit Of Tape And A Dab Of Glue

Posted by BigWords on July 21, 2009

or, How To Create A Cohesive Universe From Disparate Sources

There is a litany of characters already firmly established in Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton concept, but I thought it might be fun to tie together some of the wilder and weirder ideas in one place. Why? Well, why not? Lets see how far this can be taken…

The incorporation of ‘lost islands’ is one which is incredibly difficult to reasonably incorporate into the overall WN ethos. There are very few places on planet Earth that have not been comprehensively mapped, analyzed and placed on charts and maps, and those (very few) places where no studies have been conducted at length are so small in comparison to the ‘known’ world that inclusion of some of fiction’s most recognized islands is largely being eroded in the WN “canon” (a hotly disputed concept in itself).

I propose an elegant solution to placing ‘lost islands’ in a sideways dimension so that they may still be referred to in Wold Newton fiction.

We have some idea of the layout of Alice’s Wonderland, and Godzilla’s Monsterland (Site Omega if you have seen the 90’s cartoon) has been explored enough, so some rough geographic features can be aligned. Yup, that all adds to the reality for the concept. But the most important aspect to the WN idea is the pruning away of unnecessary additions. Meh. Bring on the fun…

The whole ‘secrecy’ subject relating to the locations poses a problem if they are located in physical areas which can be easily accessed, and from which creatures and characters can enter real locations. The solution I propose involves the removal of all these places to an ‘other’ reality, separated from our own by a means of hidden ‘doorways’.

Time flows at different rates in Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, where an hour on earth can represent a few seconds, a minute, a week, a year or longer in that realm. I get the feeling that Narnia, with weird time dilations and characters who know of Earth, is somewhere in Dreamland. Lovecraft’s magical dimension is also a good entry point due to the nature of the natural inhabitants, who can be considered immortal as long as they don’t or disease. This would give us room to place the mythical Olympus (and thus all of the Greek gods) firmly within its’ environment.

If the archipelago of strange locations is actually located in another dimension, then it is safe to say that Gulliver would have somehow managed to end up there for his adventures as recounted by Jonathan Swift. I’ll come back to Noble’s Island, from The Island Of Dr. Moreau, later on. We’ll just stick everything else here too: Valhalla, Olympus, Avalon, Gort Na Cloca Mora and other mythical places all located in this dimension. Simple.

I like the idea of adding a few comic book and television characters into the Wold Newton line as well, so Torchwood (which already has the concept of The Rift in place) can get added. The old Warlord comic-book, which is itself set in a kooky dimension, lends itself easily to inclusion, as does Shangri-La (which ties in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and The Champions TV show). Bulletproof Monk is in the mix as well, though I can’t recall offhand if it was specifically mentioned as Shangri-La he came from.

The Savage Land, home to KaZar, seems to be King Kong’s home as well. Turok (Gold Key comics) probably passed through here as well at some point, and Tarzan is a logical anchor to the Wold Newton family tree, so he gets to play with the giant animals as well. This is where I come back to Dr. Moreau, and his experiments. I pointed out the strange time-bending properties of the Dreamlands a few paragraphs ago, and it makes sense that Moreau was one of the earliest visitors (chronologically) to the island. His experiments, and their descendants, are the monsters which pop up every so often. I figure that The Savage Land would probably be near the centre of the island chain due to its rain-forest appearance in the comics.

With Turok, his original appearances being the ones I concentrate on, we get aliens as well. Fine. That opens up other planets in both this dimension and in the Dreamlands. I’m liking this idea.

There is nothing to say that a person entering the Dreamlands in 188? will appear thousands (or millions) of years in the past or future when they enter the dimension, so it doesn’t discount the myths, legends or fables which are tangentially tied to this concept. The seas around the islands can also accommodate underwater beings, as well as the not-yet-submerged Atlantis. And we can use this to add Namor, The Man From Atlantis (TV) and Aquaman. Which, of course, ties back into Conan and a bunch of Lovecraft ideas anyway.

So, in short, we have gods, dinosaurs, mutated monster-men-creatures, the dead, the undead, extinct creatures, ‘aliens’ and a whole host of problems for a clean introduction into the WN continuity. There can be no (or, at the least, limited) interaction with the wider world from these locations. It is hardly conductive to maintaining a sturdy world-view if there is a stream of ‘exotic’ creatures running around. There is a need for their inclusion in the overall continuity to maintain the stories in which characters appear as canonical, but enough distance needs to be created so that their existence is maintained shrouded in secrecy.

Not that I’ve thought about this much…

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