Hello, my name is…
1 - Medron - Happy New Years Well. Guess we’ve seen another arbitrary orbit of this spinning pinball of a planet around the glowing orb of burning flame we call the sun as it careens through the galaxy in it’s hopefully never ending quest to avoid hitting something large enough to kill it. Lots of people think that’s a good occasion to make some resolutions about how they’re going to change their lives for the better. I hear fitness centers love this time of year, because so many people sign up and never darken the doors again. I like to keep my resolutions achievable. So here goes. I think I’m going to write more stories. Yeah, I think I can make that one stick. So look forward to seeing more of Jack and friends as they kick Shang ass to the other side of the galaxy. And there may be a few more things that need kicking along the way.
So Happy New Year. I got you covered. ;)
2 - Medron - Oblivion I just watched Oblivion today. I know it’s fashionable to dislike Tom Cruise, but I can’t think of a single movie I’ve seen him in and not liked. I can now count Oblivion in that number. It starts several decades after a war with aliens. We kicked their asses, and took out most of the Earth while doing it. Mister Cruise plays a technician cleaning up the mess we left behind when the rest of humanity moved to Titan. Kinda like Wall-e, only with a lot more gunfire. Seems some of the aliens went feral on the Earth and are messing up our mopping up routine. Our protagonist’s job is to keep repairing the defense drones protecting humanity’s last remaining installations on Earth. They aliens keep taking them down, you see. There’s a lot more to the story, but that’s the fifteen-minute intro in a few sentences. The story keeps one engaged all the way through to the end. It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie to watch with some good special effects, some fun fighting scenes, and some good male-oriented romance. A bit of kissing and such mixed into numerous rounds of kicking alien ass, you know. All in all, a fun movie and I’m glad I picked it up. I watched it on a tablet via Vudu, with a nice speaker bar attached for better boom booms. Flawless experience except for the latency issues of watching over the networks that sometimes happens. Gonna try to the download and watch method next time. Gotta use that 64 gig SD card for something, you know…
3 - Medron - R.I.P.D. The Rest In Peace Department is a collection of all the best cops who ever lived, their mission to maintain the cosmic balance between living and dead souls on planet Earth. They are the best, the brightest, and the most dedicated men and women in the quasi-land between dead and alive, recruited in the moments after their death to continue their mission of protecting creation. And then there’s Detective Sergeant Nick Walker, crooked cop, and most recent member of the “shot in the face” club, given the choice to go on to Judgment on the dubious merits of his Pre-Death actions, or earn some brownie points by serving a term in the R.I.P.D.. He picks option number two real quick.
Too quick, as it happens, but that sets up the rest of the movie, a comedy-action romp through the streets of Boston. It seems there’s a conspiracy to rebuild the Staff of Jericho, a long lost artifact that can bring down the walls between life and death, and pretty much rain destruction down all of Earth. And incidentally end Nick Walker’s service in the R.I.P.D.. It would probably also mess up his hopes of building up enough brownie points to get a homie fist bump when Judgment comes. Assuming that’s still in the cards, of course. Eternal Affairs is understandably NOT AMUSED by these shenanigans, and sends all their best and brightest officers to deal with the situation, RIGHT NOW.
If you can’t guess where that puts Sergeant Nick Walker, then you haven’t watched enough Ryan Reynolds movies. It’s a fun movie to watch, though not with the deepest of storylines out there. It’s serviceable, and I can see how parts of its pedigree were later refined and used in Deadpool. R.I.P.D. is considered a commercial failure, but I found it to be fun and enjoyable, which is honestly about all I want in a movie. So it gets a solid homie fist bump of approval from me.
4 - Medron - Worldcon, the Hugos, and Sci-Fi I remember, when I was young, I would see that a book got a Hugo award and think…I have to read this. There were so many “what ifs” in those books. So many cool ideas. They influenced how I thought, and how I write. And it is my considered opinion that Hugo-award winning stories have changed the world for the better. They’ve made us think about stuff in ways we never would have otherwise.
But a few years ago, seemingly out of the blue as far as I knew, some very good authors questioned whether or not the Hugos were still like that. They suggested that the Hugos had a political bias, and suggested that people vote for stories they enjoyed, not those designed to push the political narrative they said the Hugos were supporting. I didn’t know what to think about those charges, but Worldcon’s response was amazing. They brought out the guns and started a full media-onslaught against the questioners, designed to label them as Nazis or worse, and anyone who supported them in any way as the wrong kind of fan to be involved in Science Fiction at all. And what happened when the members of Worldcon voted for the stories these questioners suggested? Worldcon added a new option. The No Award. The ability to vote to give out nothing at all, and to blanket reject the nominations of their own members.
Looking at this as a fan of Science Fiction all my life, and as a published author in my own right, I saw this as a sad day for my genre. I black mark. A dividing line had been cast that would be a long time in healing, if ever. Well, this week, another line was cast in the sand. Worldcon banned one of their members from coming to the con at all. From coming to the convention grounds, or any hotel that did business with the convention. Why? Well, he was planning on wearing a body cam to the convention.
You see, he promotes himself as a leading Hispanic, Conservative, Christian, Science Fiction author, and voices have been raised against him. He reports that threats were made against him. Enough that he was asking for people to walk with him at the con so he wouldn’t be alone, and enough that he said he was going to wear a body cam, in case somebody confronted him.
This week, Worldcon reduced his paid membership from “attending” to “supporting,” and told him over e-mail that he was banned for “expecting and planning to engender a hostile environment.” They would remove him from the premises if he arrived at the con or any hotel working with the con. They told him their decision was final and there would be no appeal. And at the same time, they announced on numerous public Internet venues that he was banned from the convention for violating their code of conduct.
Once again, I think this is a sad day for Science Fiction in general. When a major Sci-Fi convention wants to run a published Sci-Fi author out of their space, it generates more division in the community itself.
We’ve always asked “what if?” We’ve been a community that speculates about the future for over a hundred years, going back to the greats who wrote stories about going to the moon or about Martians invading Earth. We’ve included real life scientists writing about the possibility of alien contact, we’ve speculated about ring structures on a solar scale, and dragons flying on alien worlds. We’ve seen so much, written from so many different angles and beliefs. Our very strength as a genre has been based on our acceptance of ideas that seem…well…alien. Different. Many of our best stories have been based on the idea that something is fundamentally different than what we initially perceive.
I think it is a very bad day for all of us when those differences are demonized. I think it misses the point of our entire genre when we are told not to think different thoughts, or believe different things. And I think it hurts us all when we shun those who think differently.
And when that happens, it is a sad day for our community, a wound that will be a long time in healing, if ever.
5 - Medron - Jonah Hex Before Josh Brolin played Thanos and Michael Fassbender played Magneto, at least three movies were released where Confederates build a super weapon they plan to use to destroy the Union and end America in the late 1800s. That is the main story of Jonah Hex, and I’m sorry to say that it was done better in Wild Wild West and the Legend of Zorro. And those two movies had the advantage of having likeable protagonists. Jonah Hex does not.
Don’t get me wrong, here. Brolin does a good job playing Jonah Hex. And Fassbender does an amazing Irish mad bomber, but neither one is likeable. John Malkovich plays an excellent bad guy with a touch of crazy. Ok. Make a whole bucket full of crazy. And Megan Fox does her usual acting job. Keeps her mouth shut most of the time, arches her back to show off her best talents, and otherwise shows that anybody who wants to get close to her is a whole WAGON load of crazy. Most of the characters are actually acted very well. I have to give the actors props on doing a good job of bringing a lackluster story to life the way they did. And the special effects were pretty cool.
But in the end, this is not a movie that goes on my recommended list. It’s not as fun to watch as Green Lantern or Constantine, the two underrated superhero movies I use as a general bar for whether or not I like a movie in that genre. I didn’t like any of the main characters. And I was more relieved than anything when the credits rolled and I could get back to an exciting day of work. OK. That might be a little harsh. But honestly, I doubt I’ll ever watch this movie again. I certainly hope I never will, because I have other things to do.
Now I’m not going to ask for my time back, here. I’m glad I watched it. Because I have now finally answered the burning question of whether or not I would enjoy the movie. And for that, I’m happy to have spent the time to figure that one out, and I’ll be just as happy to never repeat the experience. No thumbs up from me.
6 - Medron - Aeon Flux Aeon Flux is a surprisingly deep movie about life, death, and life. Rumor, and directorial statements, have it that the studio recut the movie after she was done to make it less artsy. A part of me would really like to see the director’s cut, but that is mainly because I love director’s cuts. They are almost always better in my experience than the studio cuts.
Anyways, I have seen this movie before. It was a long time ago, and I slept through most of it, so this was my first real time viewing the movie. After having seen now, I can say that it was not the fault of the movie that I fell asleep. It was all me. I worked overnights at the time, so I slept at odd times, and the people who wanted to see it wanted to see it in the middle of my sleep schedule. So what do I think about the movie, now? I like it. Very artsy in style, though artsy with blood.
It is placed four centuries after a plague killed all mankind. One man managed to find a cure and save a few thousand people, and their descendents live in a single city state now. Walled off from the world, they live in a near utopia with some dark aspects. People are having more and more nightmares as the decades go by, and people disappear from the streets. This is led many to form an underground resistance against the government, and that is where our heroine comes in.
She is Aeon, the best operative the resistance has, and it’s her job to change the future. That’s the quick intro there, and the full story gets complicated fast. Complicated in a good way, actually. Charlize Theron does a very good job playing the namesake, and in fact was badly injured doing some of the stunts. And looking at the stunts, they were looked like Matrix-level quality stuntwork to me. The movie was filmed in several real world locations that had never allowed filming before, and they are amazingly beautiful. They really nailed the idea of the paradisiacal utopian surface of the world, from the virtual world scenes to the real world botanical gardens.
All that is well and good, but did I enjoy it? Yes, I did. It’s not my favorite movie in the world, but I’m very happy to have seen it. I know the critics panned it, audience reviews are mixed, and it didn’t earn out its costs in the end. But here’s the thing. It’s an action spy movie with science fiction, philosophical, and art film elements, directed by a lady, and starring a lady. It’s not an over-the-top film like Bond, Kingsman, or those Expendables films that practically lampshade themselves. It actually shoots for being a serious movie, with real serious questions about the quality and nature of life.
I think it succeeds in that, but I can understand why it wouldn’t do as well in the theatres. Artsy, serious movies usually just don’t make great blockbusters, and the studio wanted a blockbuster, recut it as a blockbuster, marketed it as a blockbuster, and tried to get the critics to accept it as a blockbuster. Neither the critics nor the audiences accepted it as a blockbuster, and so it failed to earn out its production costs in the theatres. But I think it is a movie worth seeing. It is beautiful, well crafted, and I would greatly like to see a director’s cut version just to see what the director wanted it to be.
I’ll give the studio version a solid thumbs up for now, though.
7 - Jurassic Park Yeah, I’m going way back now with Jurassic Park, but there’s a reason. I’ve seen all of the Jurassic Park movies, even 2 and 3. I’ve loved Jurassic Park and Jurassic World. But you know one thing I’ve never done? I’ve never read the book.
So I decided to fix that oversight this week. So I’m reading Jurassic Park as I write this. Technically I’m listening to it, like all of my reading these days. Audible is a bad, bad, drug pusher.
As usual, movies are different from the book, but the original movie was actually a really good version of the book. And so was Jurassic World. And 2 and 3 ended up borrowing many elements from the original book that didn’t end up in the original movie as well. Which is pretty awesome to see as I go through.
The second movie starts with the one of the opening scenes from the book, though quickly devolved into militant Earth Firster propaganda. One of the main characters spends his time protecting the dinos from the bad soldiers by breaking them out of cages and sabotaging weapons. Even when they are defending him from the T-Rexes who are hunting them. Which gets dozens of people killed, and him a glory shot of looking smug about how he’s so much better than those people. About then, I was wishing he’d get the same kind of glory shot as the lawyer from the first movie.
The third movie, and Jurassic World, show the aviary, and one of their primary plots is of a boy lost in the park whose parents are divorced or divorcing. Two boys in Jurassic World. And the third movie features the river that Doctor Grant travels down in the book as well. It’s amazing how many movies could be made from the genesis of a single book.
Also of note, I have friends who dislike watching Jurassic Park because of all the stupid stuff in it. They love to tear it apart over idiotic things done in it. Basically, critics who love to complain. I can now smile and say “It was explained in the book. They weren’t mistakes. They were onpurposes.” That makes me giggle just a little bit. No…let me be honest here. That makes me giggle a LOT.
At this time, I’m not done with the book, but I’ve read other books by the Michael Crichton and he’s never failed me before. Yes, I’ve read other books by him and never read this one. I know. I loved the movie so much, I didn’t think I could love the book more and didn’t want to be disappointed like I was with the second movie. So I just never pulled the trigger. Now I have, and I love it more than the movie. All of them.
So that’s two thumbs, way up. Look higher. Look higher. Those aren’t tree trunks. Those are legs. Look higher. Yeah….now you see the T-Rex against the sky. That’s how high the thumbs are up for Jurassic Park, the novel edition. Also for the first movie and Jurassic World. The third movie gets one thumb up for a fun romp through the second island, with the second movie gets two thumbs down because I want those two hours of my life back.
8 - Medron - Winter in Paradise We’ve had a fun last couple weeks up here in Minnesnowta. The cold front finally came in and decided to stick around for some encore action. Sub-zero weather gets a bit chilly when it sticks around day after day after day. But it kills the bugs, and I can put on more layers, so I’m fine with that.
Layers? Yeah, for those of you who don’t live where the air hurts your face, we wear multiple layers of clothing to keep the cold out. There’s no such thing as a single coat good enough to keep us warm that is also affordable to buy, so we tend to buy coats two or three sizes too large, and wear them over sweaters. Or spring and fall coats. Which we wear over other clothing. That’s layers.
We learn to dress in layers when we are kids because how else are we going to go out and play in the snow for long hours? Plus, if we are playing and get too warm, we want to only take off one or two layers so we don’t start getting cold again. It’s a delicate balance, figuring out exactly how much to wear when the air is cold enough to hurt your face. And it depends heavily on how active we are at the time. We need less clothing when we are working, since we generate body heat from action. So seeing somebody wearing a light spring and fall jacket, with thick gloves and hat to protect our ears and fingers from the extreme cold, is a fairly common sight.
It also depends on whether or not we want to take a picture. We tend to toss off the outer layers so we look good for pictures that are going to go out all over the world, smile like we aren’t already starting to shiver, and then snuggle back up into our outer layers within seconds of hearing that lovely click of the camera shutter. Because we wouldn’t want any of our sissy southern friends and family to realize that we actually think it’s a bit chilly out there too. But that’s winter in paradise. Just the way we like it.
9 - Betty - Lucas Cats San Lucas is home to several species of large cats genetically modified from Terran species. The panther-derived Gangani ruled an empire hundreds of years old when we arrived. Our ships painted fire in the sky as they came down and sparked rebellions from those the Gangani ruled, both other panthers and the jaguar-derived cats they had conquered centuries ago. It was a slow serious of rebellions, some cold and others hot, as province after province chose to leave. The Gangani let some go with little to no response. Those were invariably on the outskirts of the empire, backwaters they did not care about. The important regions that wanted to leave garnered a different response, and several bloody rebellions were in progress when reformists inside the Gangani made Contact with us. They had been watching us, you see. And some among them thought we could help.
10 - Jack - Jack I grew up in Northern Minnesota. I could step out of my room and see a deer walking in the trees. I could step out onto the dock and catch my evening meal out of the lake. I thought that was normal when I was young. Even in school, my International Falls classmates included a lot of kids like me. They lived away from the town center, in the middle of nature. Sure, some of them lived in town, but even they had family or friends outside and could enjoy the same life I did on the weekends. We grew up on the lake, in the woods, under the stars, breathing crisp morning air. It was paradise. I didn’t realize at the time how rare it was. Now I do, and I can say without reservation that I was blessed to grow up on the edge of civilization.
11 - Charles - San Lucas - Hankou The eastern continent of San Lucas is named Hankou, and is home to the Toshi and Laohu civilizations that are embroiled in a contentious religious war to this day. Hankou is a roughly circular continent dominated by lowland jungles and a few tree-covered mountain ranges spiraling out from the single massive volcano in the continent’s center. It had been largely dormant for thousands of years when we arrived, but geological evidence showed periodic eruptions that covered the lowlands in volcanic ash over and over again. That made the lowlands amazingly fertile, and the jungles that filled them flourished. And so did the cats who lived there. It was an excellent place to grow a new civilization, as long as the volcano remained dormant.
12 - Betty - Lucas Cats San Lucas was the center of a moral dilemma for humanity. Elements of the Gangani, indigenous intelligent cats, asked us for help in overthrowing their current government. This brought up many questions for us when it comes to the morality of interfering with indigenous cultures. Many people promoted a Star Trek-like Prime Directive that all humanity should ascribe to, while others detailed all the times our most successful empires used requests for help just like this to overthrow less powerful governments for our own benefit. And others asked if it would be moral to ignore a request for help from someone who was obviously intelligent enough to ask for it. After much internal debate, the human government of San Lucas chose to answer the call for help, and that has affected our relations with the San Lucas cats ever since.
13 - Jack I grew up in the Boundary Waters between the United States and Canada west of the Great Lakes. There’s water everywhere up there, and I think I learned to swim before I could walk. My life revolved around water. Swimming. Fishing. Partying. I could walk out of my door, down the hill, and straight into the water. I knew the feel of minnows nibbling on my toes. I knew exactly how much tension to put on rod and reel, what the line could handle, and how long a fish could fight. I ice fished in winter, and yes, I made a fair bit of money showing my little part of paradise to all the city slickers who wanted to see it for a weekend or maybe a weeklong vacation. Yes, I was one of those guys who flirted with the pretty daughters of rich bankers and business owners while showing the family a romanticized version of my life. The most beautiful and safe parts of it. I loved that life. I never wanted it to end.
14 - Charles - San Lucas - Hankou The largest volcano on San Lucas began to wake up not long after we arrived. It was in the center of the Hankou continent, surrounded by vast lowlands filled with intelligent cats. Humanity felt its first, tentative, throat clearings on the other side of the planet. It continued to grumble for the next several decades, periodically filling the skies with ash before grumbling back down to inactivity. Humanity stayed away from that continent for the most part, only planting small mining colonies on its coastlines. It was rich in many heavy metals the volcano threw into the air, but the planetary government regulated travel to the land they called Inferno with great care. It is ironic that the name the local cats had for the volcano also meant Hell. Their major religions were greatly concerned about the unrelenting fiery death that came from that mountain. They were understandably, and rightly as it turned out, concerned about the volcano’s plans for their future.
15 - Medron - Jurassic Park: The Lost World I recently read Jurassic Park for the first time, after watching the three Jurassic Park movies, and of course the recent Jurassic World. After finishing it, and loving it very much, I decided it was time to read the sequel, The Lost World. And now having read it, I can see where much of the inspiration for the movie sequels came from.
The book starts similarly to both of the sequels, with some differences. Ten years have passed, Ingen is dead, and Doctor Malcolm has a steady job. He also has a steady limp thanks to the piece the T-Rex took out of him. Doctor Grant is remaining silent about the Park incident while continuing his scientific work, and his former student Ellie is married with a little boy. Or is it two? I can’t remember off the top of my head. Doctor Malcolm has a couple of really good students in one of his classes who assist him, a tall skinny girl, and a young black kid. They are both geniuses in their own rights, and are very important to the survival of everybody thanks to those genius minds of theirs throughout the story. In the movie, they are amalgamated into one black girl who failed at gymnastics.
Like both sequel movies, the action soon goes to Ingen Site B, where the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park were created, and now roam without anybody knowing about it. An expedition to find and study the island is started, and Malcolm gets dragged into it. I won’t spoil anymore, beyond saying that many scenes from the movies do come from the books. Many scenes were created out of whole cloth, and most of the story was invented for the movies, but you can see where the ideas for many of the things that happened in the sequels, even Jurassic World, came from. The Lost World novel has a lot of cool things going on in it, and was ruthlessly mined for the Jurassic sequels.
The best way to describe it is that the Jurassic Park novels are one story. The Jurassic Park movies are another story. They share some scenes, and some ideas, but they are completely different in story and universe. If you have watched every movie, you have not seen the story put forth in the Jurassic Park novels. Jurassic Park movie and novel are close, but not the same. The Lost World novel and movie are not close at all, and nowhere near the same, despite sharing some scenes and some characters. And as much as I loved Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, the novels are far superior.
I thoroughly enjoyed Jurassic Park: The Lost World, the novel. I give it two T-Rex-sized thumbs up. Watch the T-Rex wiggle his little hands in approval. He agrees with me, and hopes you all come by for a visit. That may just be because he’s hungry though, so approach him with all due caution. And maybe a rocket launcher just in case. ;)
16 - Goodbye President Lincoln We celebrated the birthdays of President Lincoln and President Washington when I was young. Each had their own day, and I remember the celebrations of what they did. One created our country. One saved the Union and freed the slaves. It was a time to study and remember the tyranny our nation was born in, and the courage it took to stand against the most powerful nation on Earth. And it was a time to remember the war that took more American lives than any other, that pitted brother against brother, and resulted in the end of Slavery in America. We would read Washington’s Farewell Address, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and the Emancipation Proclamation in those days. Then Reverend Martin Luther King was granted a Federal Holiday, and the Lincoln Birthday celebrations just went away. Washington’s Birthday became President’s Day, and the idea of celebrating the President who freed the slaves disappeared under the appeal of showing the actual footage of Martin Luther King having a dream of equality. He was a great man, and he deserves recognition, but I will always associate the celebration of his birthday as the year we stopped celebrating Lincoln’s Birthday. And that is a great shame. Goodbye President Lincoln.
17 - Jack - Jack I grew up before The War came upon us all. Well, there are many who would say I still haven’t grown up, but you know what I mean. I spent twelve years in the public school system, where we could study whatever we wanted, as long as we did the basics. We had AI tutors for every conceivable subject from ancient history to multidimensional math. But the real job of those twelve years was teaching us how to learn. Teaching us how to spend time with other people. How to get along with the children our own age who would become the adults we would spend the rest of our lives with. The human school monitors were pretty much there to make certain we attended to our studies, hug us when we banged a knee as we were young, or stop fights when we were older. The primary job of the schools I went to was to make all of us into functional adults. There are many who question whether or not they succeeded in my case.
18 - Charles - San Lucas We discovered the cats who lived on San Lucas’ eastern continent not long after the natives of the western continent made Contact with us. We studied the cats of Hankou to find that they were in a decades-long civil and religious war for supremacy under the grumbling of the central volcano. Then Mount Inferno blew its top in an explosion that sent ash far into the upper atmosphere. Continuing eruptions covered the entire world in darkness for months, causing an ecological crisis even on the other side of the world where most humans lived. It was the single greatest planetary ecological disaster witnessed in all the worlds of humanity until The War came upon us all. We dispatched relief fleets through Asgard with food, air purifiers, power satellites and other necessities to keep the colonists alive. It was the largest Pre-War movement of supplies and people, with ships coming from every single human nation. It would be too much to say that the disaster united humanity in common bonds of friendship. But there was a time when a Chinese food transport could park next to an American warship protecting Russian troop transports whose soldiers were operating under South American commanders while giving aid to starving colonists.
19 - Betty - Lucas Cats The jaguar-derived cats of San Lucas were in the middle of a long-term rebellion against their panther-derived overlords when they made Contact with us. Both the Uaithni and the Gangani wanted our aid in ending the war, by helping them defeat the others of course, but the local colonists kept their aid limited to humanitarian relief. And to stopping atrocities. The cats on both sides quickly realized that we had no stomach for watching either side killing entire villages, or burning major cities. And now that they knew what to look for, the colonists could find the cat towns. The various Uaithni rebellions quickly began to moderate their tactics, officially ending their support of suicide bombings against civilian targets. And the Gangani responded by limiting their own punitive raids against suspected Uaithni towns thought to harbor rebels. Which further reduced rebellious sentiments in the Uaithni communities, and improved the quality of life for everyone involved.
20 - Jack - Jack There were certain basic courses I had to finish before I could graduate from High School, but they weren’t the challenge some make them out to be. Reading, writing, and rhetoric is pretty easy to master. Math and science can be a bit harder if you’re going into the more advanced forms, but we only needed the basic levels to graduate. Music and sports were the ones I loved the most. It was on history that the schools really concentrated though. It was their job to teach us how we got to where we were, how we built the worlds we all lived in. They taught us why the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address were important. Why the words “I have a dream,” “Tear down this wall,” and “Build the wall” all affected how we grew up. How the race and debt riots changed everything. Why the First Great Depression hobbled unbridled Capitalism, and the Second Great Depression starved Socialism. They taught us what it meant to be American, so we could go to college and learn the skills we needed for our chosen profession. I passed the basics with ease, but was always more interested in studying the intricacies of girls than anything else. Unless the two came together. Then, I assure you, I could focus on the relevant subjects with remarkable success.
21 - Charles - San Lucas The Mount Inferno eruption brought all number of humans from every major nation to San Lucas. It also brought news coverage that showed the local intelligent cats to the broad scope of humanity for the first time. Aid transports landed on the western continent of Gangani to help them dig out from the ashfall that was covering them. Only the hardiest of ships traveled to Hankou, where the devastation was far worse. Mount Inferno pumped lava out onto the surrounding lands for years, and they measured the ashfall in meters. The lowlands were completely uninhabitable, and all of the survivors crowded the low mountain ranges spiraling out towards the coasts, where they probably would have died if we had not helped them.
22 - Medron - 12 Strong - Many of those who will see this movie were not alive when the Twin Towers were brought down. Many will never understand the world we lived in before that day. And they will not understand how we reacted. But this movie might just show them a piece of that.
I watched it. It was a good movie. It showed war in a way few movies that I’ve watched ever have. It wasn’t portrayed as glorious or despicable. It was portrayed as close to reality as I think most civilians can recognize. Dirty, difficult, and scary. With moments of loss, confusion, and bravery. And it does not shrink from showing us a glimpse of the horrible evils the Taliban and their ilk commit when they can. Just a glimpse. No movie could show it all and still be watchable to most of us.
The battle scenes are some of the best I’ve seen in film, showing the randomness and chaos of battle. And just how powerful organization and training can be when pointed at such chaos. It also shows something I hadn’t thought to see when I went into the movie. Why the cavalry charge was the most dangerous weapon on Earth for thousands of years. We think we are so far beyond that now, that we have forever supplanted the horse cavalry as a thing that will ever again be relevant to war. We are wrong, and this movie shows us that in living, and dying, color.
This is a good movie. I give it two smart bombs held high. Don’t be too close when the fall. That might be dangerous…
23 - Medron - Ready Player One - I wanted to read the novel before the Ready Player One movie comes out, and so I grabbed it and read it last week. Audible was quick to fill my fix on that, especially since I’ve built up a few credits while reading all of the Honor Harrington books over again. So what is the premise of Ready Player One? In a nutshell, the real word is, in the immortal words credited to President Trump by one congressman, a shit hole so bad that nobody wants to live in it. So most people spend their time in the OASIS, basically the successor to the Internet with an MMO-style interface. People work, play, go to school, and live as much as possible on the OASIS.
I do have two issues with the book. The first is just how bad the real world is. The book was written in 2010, and factors the 2012 collapse of society due to the energy crisis that caused gas prices to spiral out of control so normal people could no longer afford to own or drive vehicles. Only the ultra rich can fly, and the roads are crumbling because nobody has the money to maintain them. Living in a 2018 where none of this happened, I get a bit of a chuckle out of the age-old lesson of writers to never make the mistake of writing world-changing events into a story you want people to read within a decade of its publication.
The other major issue I have with the book is the “Ironman” mode of its avatars. There is no save. There is no second chance. If you are killed in the OASIS, your avatar is deleted, along with everything it is carrying at the time, and you have to start over with a new, level 1, avatar. Now, there are some people who enjoy playing games in Ironman mode, and so some games offer it as an option. But the majority of gamers want a save point feature at the very least. ALL popular MMOs feature some form of “getting better” after you are “knocked out” or “mostly killed” or whatever terminology they use for losing a battle. Basically, the vast majority of players do not want to lose a character they’ve played for hours, days, months, or years because of one mistake. Players want to keep what they’ve collected, or paid real money for.
In the real world, any product like the OASIS would have competitors that would offer a casual style of play, and the OASIS would be forced to add that mode itself, or be washed away by the vast number of casual players, or people who simply only have an account to work or shop. Also, the OASIS allows only ONE avatar per account. One character that is you and only you. No other characters allowed. Competition from another company would force them to add multiple characters like every major MMO has now as well.
But, Ready Player One lives in a universe where there is no competition to the OASIS, so the OASIS does not need to offer multiple characters or save slots or anything like that. That is one of the weaker parts of the world creation in my humble opinion. So that is my major hangup when it comes to the world building of the novel. It doesn’t work. But, that does not mean the novel is not enjoyable.
The novel starts with the owner of the OASIS dying and leaving an announcement to everyone on the OASIS that he left a game hidden in the OASIS. Whoever finishes the game first, will be his one and only heir, and become the new owner of the OASIS. He gives us clues, mostly relating to the 1980s that he grew up in, so Duran Duran, flying Deloreans, and vintage bad 1980s movies are rather popular once again amongst those players who are trying to figure out the clues. I have to say, I rather enjoyed the classic arcade scenes.
And that leads to the part of Ready Player One that I think was done best. The world building INSIDE the OASIS. People fly between worlds on their own Starship Enterprises, Millenium Falcons, Firefly-class transports, or anything else you can think of from TV and movies. The main character has a flying Delorean as his ground vehicle, and an X-Wing for fighter combat. These are the kinds of things that players will want to do in an open-world game like that. People do it on the sly right now. Give them the chance to buy it for a small amount of money and it is a license to print money. I can see major clans operating Imperial Star Destroyers or Galaxy-class starships. And who wouldn’t want to pay a few bucks to drive a virtual Ferrari around the track? Or on the streets? Racing game players do that all the time.
My final verdict? It’s a fun treasure hunt story, wrapped in 1980s nostalgia that hit me right in the feels. And it shows the kind of world I think we are preparing to create on the internet, if we can get past all the licensing hurdles. Like Second Life on steroids, this is the kind of virtual world most of us would love to be part of. And it is fun to read.
I give it two wakka-wakka-wakka Pac-Mans munching on the powerup. Look out little ghosties, legions of player ones are ready to come for you. :)
I hope the upcoming movie will be just as fun to watch.
24 - Jack - Jack - Music was my first love. Until I discovered girls, and realized that music could be used to woo them. Then I loved music even more. The feel of guitar strings under my fingers brings back so many memories of growing up in Northern Minnesota. Dipping my toes into cool spring waters while playing a lilting tune. Add a girl or two sitting next to me, maybe more, and it was pretty much the perfect way to grow up. Some people accused me of having a one-track mind on that account, but I always knew they were wrong. Blonde. Brunette. Redhead. My mind was always good at multitasking. But thinking back on it, I suppose some people had a point or two on the matter. I was wild and free, driven by hormones and thinking I was all grown up. I thought I was ready for life back then. I thought I had everything I needed. I sure did think I was all that and more.
25 - Charles - San Lucas - Mount Inferno’s eruption nearly ended life as we know it on San Lucas. Nearly all life was wiped out in Hankou’s lowlands within weeks of the first blow, and the survivors fled into the low mountain ranges. But respite was only temporary for them. The ashfall would have killed everyone and everything in time if the Chinese had not gone to ruinous expense to fill the skies of Hankou with air purifiers, tied to power satellites holding station above the continent. It was a Herculean humanitarian effort to save an alien civilization from death. Many were mystified by their uncharacteristic generosity. Then we found out that the cats living on Hankou had been genetically engineered from Chinese tigers and lions and it all made sense.
26 - Betty - Lucas Cats - Life for the jaguar-derived Uaithni of San Lucas is better than it once was. They once ruled their entire continent of course, but then spent centuries as a suppressed underclass in the empire they created. The general dissolution of that empire has created a dozen or so small Uaithni nations, in a loose alliance with each other. Citizens of any nation can quickly and easily travel between any of the others, for business or pleasure. Rising levels of industry have increased their productivity and the amount of time they have for leisure. Uaithni space-based construction of everything from civilian products to spaceships is a young but growing industry. The Uaithni lead the rest of the San Lucas cats in their drive to recreate themselves as a true spacefaring culture. We’re helping of course, but they are doing the bulk of the work themselves.
27 - Jack - Jack - I was a know it all. I thought I was three meters tall and bullet proof. I got into fistfights over stupid things. And some real important ones. I was stubborn as the sky is wide. I never did know when to quit. I lived my life at full throttle, never slowing down for a breath I didn’t need. I fell for sky-blue eyes under small town lights. I fell for deep brown eyes under dark woods canopies. And God Almighty, those green eyes were something to behold. I never had everything I exactly wanted, but that’s part of what was so beautiful. Life was good. Life was great. And I was…fantastic. Because I had a name to live up to. A name I’d earned, and one I very much was not going to let go to waste. I was Jack. Still am, I suppose, but I’ll always remember the Jack I was when I was fifteen going on eighteen. When I was eighteen going on thirty. When everything was right in the world.
28 - Charles - San Lucas Mount Inferno expels ash into the air almost every day on San Lucas. It rumbles and grumbles and threatens to bury the continent of Hankou with ash and lava on a weekly basis. The Chinese maintain permanent installations in orbit, and surround the volcano with force field projectors and air purifiers to keep the ash and lava at bay. It is enough to keep Hankou habitable, but the reasons for why the Chinese cared was a mystery. Until we performed the DNA analyses and learned that the cats who lived there had been genengineered from Chinese lions and tigers. The Chinese ethos is that anything or anyone who was once Chinese will always be Chinese. So these cats are Chinese. Which makes Hankou Chinese. And perhaps all of San Lucas. The San Lucan government disputes all Chinese claims to any part of their system, but they do not have the military strength to expel the Chinese “aid workers.”
29 - Medron - Barnes and Noble Most of you know that I make money selling my stories on various online platforms. Amazon, iTunes, and Smashwords to name a few. The largest amount of my sales, and the largest steady income, comes from Barnes and Noble, though. So I was rather annoyed last year when the ability to update my books stopped working.
I e-mailed tech support and informed them of the issue. At first, they thought I was just off my rocker, but after a few weeks of patiently explaining the issue, and showing the steps I had gone through to show it was their issue, not mine, they realized that, yes, there was an issue with their system. They didn’t fix it. I was annoyed enough that I actually considered taking my books down. But I kept hoping they would send a tech to fix it.
Last week, I found out why they weren’t fixing the issue. It seems, they were developing a new publisher platform and updating all of the old books into the new one. Everything works the way it should now, and my books at Barnes and Noble are up to date with those available at the other platforms again. I’m happy. I would have been happier if they had fixed the issue when it came up, but I understand their reasons. They have didn’t want to spend valuable tech time on the old system they were getting rid of. It makes perfect sense.
I just wish they had told me about this at the time, so I would have known what the delay was. Or fixed it. Or something other than total silence. But I do understand the technical reasons, and am very happy that the platform works and is better than it used to be. Will you, the buyer, ever see a difference? Probably not. But it is nicer for us publishers.
Now, back to writing. Wolfenheim is growling at me from the corner right now.
30 - Betty - Lucas Cats - The panther-like Gangani ruled an entire continent of San Lucas when humanity first became aware of them. Their empire was fractured by rebellions and secessionist movements, and some asked for help in breaking the empire, while others sought help in holding its power together. We helped none, but gave humanitarian aid and protection to all who wished it. The Gangani rulers protested humanity’s stopping their reprisal raids, but we helped them capture many terrorist cells. That allowed them to save face at home and act as if they were acting with newfound restraint. The Gangani still lost most of the Uaithni’s northern reaches, and many of their outer provinces in the south attained independence. But the general end to the greater amount of violence on either side allowed the Gangani to maintain a significantly larger empire than they would have maintained had the rebellions and secessions continued without our interference.
31 - Jack - Julie - Julie and me grew up together. We lived in a small town on the edge of civilization where big city folk came to vacation. But most never stayed through winter, which could start as earlier as September and end as late as May. So we knew each other. Kinda. She was okay, for a girl, when I was real young. She got a lot more interesting once I discovered that girls weren’t icky, but we didn’t hang out much. I enjoyed the parties, and she didn’t stay out late. Then one day in our first year of high school, I was plucking at my guitar, trying to nail down a new song, and I just couldn’t get it right. She walked up, grabbed the guitar out of my hands, and played the song the way it was meant to be played. With feeling. Let me be clear here. It was a new song. Absolutely new. Never played before by anyone. And she could tell what I was trying to play good enough to do it the way I meant it to be. That’s the kind of talent she is. The kind that is born once into a generation and cannot be silenced by anyone, no matter how hard they try. I didn’t know why she trusted me enough to let me see it, but I never had a chance after that. I was in love.