Dreaming of Arabia Terra

mars

Image: Wikipedia

Commander Amanda Nichols was disappointed as she opened the Mars lander’s hatch and saw that her helmet obscured much of her first view of the upland region of Arabia Terra. Major Terry Chang, the lander’s co-pilot who was standing behind her, always referred to the Martian terrain as “planet Nevada,” but for Amanda, the stark beauty and even the romance of Mars far outweighed a more objective observation.

This is supposed to be one of the oldest terrains on the planet, heavily eroded and very densely cratered, which is part of the reason NASA chose this part of the Arabia quadrangle as the landing site of the first human mission. There’s a distinct possibility of studying evidence of tectonic activity and even volcanism here, plus previous robot landers detected the likelihood of ice water under the surface.

To Amanda, the landscape before her looked like God had taken the ancient red crust, rock, and dust in her field of vision and etched, crumpled, and then pounded it, creating a texture and fabric that spoke of a life lived long and hard resulting in a face marked with character and even a hint of majesty rather than merely scars and age.

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Lying in the Sands of Time

hourglass

Image: Shutterstock

“I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind.
I left my body lying somewhere in the sands of time.”

-Brad Arnold
“Kryptonite”
Performed by Three Doors Down

How did I get here?

I’m on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, but it’s like 1970s Berkeley. There’s the Federation Trading Post. They were closed down decades ago after Paramount sued them. The Dark Carnival Science Fiction bookstore. They moved to some other part of Berkeley, on Shattuck I think. I didn’t even know they still existed.

“Oh excuse…”

What the…! I thought I was going to bump into that woman, but she went right through me like I wasn’t here.

How did I get here, anyway? I should be hundreds of miles away in Long Beach. That’s right. I live in Long Beach, not Berkeley. I haven’t lived here since the early 80s.

Here comes someone. Maybe they can help me. “Excuse me, sir. Can you…”

He walked right past me without looking at me at all. Is he deaf?

“Ma’am. Excuse me, I know this might sound crazy but…” She didn’t look at me either. Why couldn’t she hear me?

Another guy. I’ll make it impossible for him to ignore me.

“Sir, if you could just stop a min…”

What? I stood right in front of him. He didn’t stop or walk around me. He walked through me. Am I a ghost?

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I’ve Just Been Published at “Theme of Absence”

I’m proud to announce that an original piece of my fiction has just been published online at Theme of Absence, which is an online magazine of fantasy, horror, and science fiction administered by Jason Bougger. An original fiction short story and author interview is published every Friday at that website. Today, I’m the published author.

You can go to the site right now to read my story The Anything Box which you won’t find in print or online anywhere else including my own blog.

You can also read my author interview.

This is the first time I’ve had a piece of my fiction writing accepted and published. I’m feeling pretty good about it.

Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy

pluto x-rays

Image: NASA

From the Flight Log of Freighter Pilot Camdon Rod

I wouldn’t have known there were X-rays being emitted by Conlon’s Object if Cepravez hadn’t moved its jump point to the outer system. Technically Conlon’s is a dwarf planet, but when it was discovered centuries ago using a standard, ground-based optical telescope, the hunk of rock wasn’t deemed worthy of even that status, at least by Manx Conlon, the astronomer who first located it.

Oh, by the way, my name is Camdon Rod and I’m the owner/operator of the jump freighter the Ginger’s Regret. The Regret and I have been through a lot together, particularly since I discovered she was haunted, and by the real Ginger no less.

Of course, that’s practically nothing compared to some of our adventures like being hijacked in interplanetary space and me falling in love with a ghost.

But the part about falling in love can wait. It’s waited for a while now. It can wait a little longer.

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The Pilot Episode of “Supergirl” : A Retro Review

supergirlNow that the television series Supergirl has moved to the CW from CBS, giving it a second chance at life and a second season, I thought I’d dust off my review of the series pilot, which I wrote last year for another blog.

I hadn’t originally intended on watching the pilot episode of Supergirl starring Melissa Benoist in the title role, but it was online, it was free, so I figured, what the heck. I didn’t expect to like it all that much, but I was curious how CBS was going to adapt decades of Superman and Supergirl canon. My reaction is mixed.

I’ve read a few of the other reviews of the pilot, both before and after I saw the episode, and they range from “good but not perfect” to “triumph for everyone wanting a strong female hero for a change”. You can see examples at Yahoo News, IGN, The Mary Sue, and The Los Angeles Times.

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V for Vendetta: A Retro DVD Review

vYesterday, I reviewed the V for Vendetta graphic novel. I was generally impressed, but a lot of “dystopia” material came out of the latter half of the 20th century, so by the time I got around to reading Moore and Lloyd’s work, I found it hard to be overly impressed. Also, the length of the story and the numerous elements introduced made it difficult to follow at times. That figures prominently into my review of the film V for Vendetta (2005).

First of all, who wouldn’t be excited to watch a film starring Hugo Weaving (as “V”), Natalie Portman (as “Evey”) and particularly John Hurt (as “Adam Sutler”)? I was really looking forward to the experience but at the same time, worried because films almost never do justice to their original print or graphic novel source. This time, I’m not so sure the rule holds.

I mentioned before that I believe Moore was a bit too lengthy in his writing of the graphic novel. It made it difficult for me as the reader to be able to grasp and hold all of the various threads he introduced and have them all come together in a cohesive manner by the last page. As a film where everything had to be introduced, expressed, and resolved in 132 minutes (the film’s running time), brevity and economy was forced upon the story, making the movie version of “V for Vendetta” quite a bit more efficient than the print version. Of course, part of the motivation behind cutting down the length was to accommodate modern audiences, both in how long they can tolerate sitting on their bum in a movie theatre, and in appealing to a wider population than might be attracted to Moore’s and Lloyd’s production.

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Review of the Graphic Novel “V for Vendetta”

vI’m repurposing another review I posted sometime back on another blog.

When I wrote this review, I hadn’t yet seen the film V for Vendetta (2005) starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving but I just finished Alan Moore’s and David Lloyd’s graphic novel (originally a ten-issue comic book series) and thought, given the wide use of the Guy Fawkes mask by “hacktavist” group Anonymous and some protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement (which is worn in both the comic book and film versions of the story by the main character), that it was high time to look at the source material for these modern, real-life responses to what we think of as oppression in our world.

The original comic book series was developed and published in 1985 by writer Alan Moore, a self-proclaimed anarchist, and artist David Lloyd. Essentially it is one in a long series of dystopian dramas set in the near future (the late 1990s in the comic book series), this time in England. A nuclear war has destroyed much of the developed nations of the world but left England untouched, at least directly. In response to the war, a totalitarian government has come to power, styled after the Nazis, and has seized total control of the country. Much like Orwell’s 1984, omnipresent government surveillance observes the public, while a propaganda campaign continually feeds the citizens the usual “the government is on your side” messages, underscored by threats for thinking otherwise. Headed by “the Leader” who uses organizations called “Nose,” “Ear,” and “Mouth” as detection and communication conduits, and an information system called “Fate,” every aspect of an individual’s life is monitored and controlled.

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The March of the Stuffed Animals

stuffed animals

Image: weplayreplay.com

The Fifth Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosial Dragon: A Children’s Fantasy Series

One by one, the plethora of stuffed toy animals in Landon’s bedroom came alive. It was late at night and the seven-year-old boy was fast asleep. Everyone living at his Grandpa’s house, Grandpa, Daddy, his baby sister Dani, and even Buddy and Ambrosial Dragon, was enjoying pleasant dreams and resting up for the coming day.

But in Landon’s room, it was virtual pandemonium, if you’ll pardon the pun. A stuffed dragon was flying and puffing out smoke clouds. A stuffed crab was crawling on the floor in search of a tidal pool. Stuffed bears were dancing together, a giant stuffed dog was huddled in a corner not sure if he could believe his eyes, and all manner of other stuffed creatures were roaming, walking, spinning, sailing all over Landon’s room.

And then the little boy woke up.

Everything was quiet. All the stuffed animals were exactly where Landon remembered them being when he went to bed. The only thing missing was Buddy. What was his best friend at this time of night?

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Robot News Roundup

News about robots is abundant today. It looks like automation or human-robot relationships are represented by the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

robot

Image: The Los Angeles Times

A story reported by the Los Angeles Times states “Man vs. machine: L.A. sheriff’s deputies use robot to snatch rifle from barricaded suspect, end standoff”.

You’ve probably heard about how last summer a robot was used to kill the Dallas Black Lives Matter shooter by exploding a bomb. The decision was made to take the shooter out in this manner to minimize the risk of sending police officers after a heavily barricaded suspect. A great deal of debate ensued discussing the ethical and moral issues in eliminating a human threat by remote control making police use of robots seem ill-advised.

In the L.A. Times story, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies used a robot to observe an armed and dangerous suspect who was hiding in a dirt berm surrounded by shrubbery and wire fencing in a remote field in the Antelope Valley.

Deputies observed via the robot, that the suspect had his rifle resting at his feet. Using a number of different distractions to get the suspect’s attention, the robot was sent back in to grab the rifle with its claw and carry it out of the area.

The suspect, 51-year-old Brock Ray Bunge, didn’t notice his firearm was missing until the robot returned to remove the wire fencing.

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Batman: Under the Red Hood, a Retro DVD Review

red hoodYes I know, this is old. The animated film was released in 2010, but sometimes I don’t get around to watching things right away. Actually, I’m repurposing an old review I wrote for another blog. Time to let it out for a breath of fresh air.

This review is loaded with spoilers, so if you haven’t seen this video yet and you want to preserve the mystery, don’t read any further. You’ve been warned.

OK, it was fabulous, and I don’t give out compliments lightly. The suspense in this tale had even me twisting in my seat. I was actually nervous about how it all would come out. Go figure.

Several major pieces of Batman comic book history are adapted for this story.

First, Jason Todd, the second Robin, being killed by the Joker. That happens right at the beginning and is the set up for everything else. Jason is beaten to a pulp with a crowbar, left for dead, and then, before Batman could get there, the place blows sky-high. No fake death. Batman gets to the site of the explosion less than a minute later and picks Jason’s broken body out of the rubble. He’s dead. No faking it.

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