Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney/Marvel Team-Up

Um, yeah. Apparently, Disney just bought Marvel.

There's something really weird about that.

I think it has something, if not everything, to do with image.

When DC became part of Warner Brothers, well, I didn't notice at the time (I was a kid, y'know). But the fusion of the two companies isn't really jarring. The two fit together, now, certainly, but they've had time to do so.

The thing about DC is that it has a comparative image of being the squeaky clean one out of the two big comic companies. Marvel, by comparison, is "gritty," whatever that means.

Warner Brothers has always had a bit of a reputation of being the edgier of the two big animation groups. (Granted, this applies mostly to the older stuff, but if you watch the '90s era content, like Animaniacs, it still seems to be reasonably accurate. Of course, WB does rather less animation at this point than Disney does, or at least gives the impression of doing less.)

And Disney has always had the "family-friendly" image.

So, yeah, what?

(On the other hand, Disney apparently just wants Marvel to "keep on doing what it's doing." I don't know about other people, but if Disney doesn't leave well enough alone, it really can't ruin things at Marvel any.)

-Signing off.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Thunderstorm's comin'.

Afraid it won't be safe to do a lengthy post.

-Signing off.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Greatly Belated Book Reviews: Triplanetary

Been meaning to do this one all week.

There are actually two versions of this, as far as I can tell-there's the original serialized version, and the revised version that included strengthened tie-ins to the Lensman series. And guess what? Apparently, the first version is public domain.

What does that mean? It means it's perhaps the best piece of space opera you'll ever find in the public domain.

Having read that version, I can affirm-it's great stuff. (Assuming you like space opera. If you're reading this blog, chances are you might. I talk about it often enough.)

First up in my talk about Triplanetary is the planet Nevia. Not one of the planets of the title (boringly, the three planets are actually just Earth [usually called Tellus in the body of the text], Venus, and Mars), Nevia is an alien world which ends up at war with the Triplanetary government early on. And it is quite an impressive little bit of world-building.

Nevia is a planet with only a relative handful of small islands serving as land. The primary civilization there (the primary Nevian civilization, and the group to which I will be referring when I say "Nevians") is made up of a sort of weird amphibian creature, a quadruped species with a be-tentacled head and four eyes that allows it equivalently delicate manipulation to humans. There are actually at least two other reasonably intelligent species on the planet, as well. The first of these is a species of fish which are much smarter than other fish, but are bred as food and slaves by the Nevians. (Don't judge them-dogs are much smarter than fish, and we breed them as slaves [excuse me, work dogs] and food too. I mean, not we universally, we as the human race in broad scope. They still eat dogs in China, and the chow dog is actually named for its original purpose. The story doesn't say just how smart these fish really are.) The other species is another species of fish which lives in the deep waters where the Nevians can't live unprotected-and they're smarter than the other fish, too. In fact, when the Nevians conquered them, they eventually learned how to replicate Nevian technology, and kicked them out hard once they had. Thus, Nevia is in a constant state of war between the deep fish and the Nevians.

Particularly, I would assume that the primary advantage of the deep fish is that they lived on the deep ocean floor, where they had easier access to the most important commodity on Nevia-iron. Iron is rare on Nevia (at least, on its surface-any rocky planet really ought to have an iron core, but then again, this is space opera, so whatever), and the Nevians have a very limited supply of it. Two pounds are immensely valuable, and ten are practically a king's ransom.

Why do they need iron so badly? It isn't because it's a valuable building material; in fact, the Nevians are rather contemptuous of Triplanetary's use of it, remarking that "these creatures obviously aren't even as intelligent as the higher fishes." (OUCH.) No, the Nevians discovered ages ago that it was actually an extremely efficient energy source-by converting it into a different allotropic state (the science looks like bunk now, but at least Smith used scientific terms), they can convert it directly into energy. And that, my friends, is a valuable resource indeed.

Of course, Triplanetary's real trick as a novel is that, until you're a chapter or two in, you really have no idea that the Nevians are about to descend in a horribly brutal invasion on the forces of Triplanetary. Instead, we're presented with a battle between Gray Roger the pirate king and the forces of the Triplanetary navy. The navy, while suffering heavy losses, takes out Roger's fleet and moves on towards his planetoid base at the precise moment the first Nevian expeditionary ship shows up in the midst of the battle. (Roger, by the way, had a lot of sophisticated technology, including a kind of cloak, robots, and the most powerful defensive forcefield that appears in the book; in the revised version, it apparently was revealed that he was secretly one of the monstrous creatures from the devil-planet Eddore. Or whatever.) The Nevians, despite having only ten pounds of iron at their disposal, minus what they burned on the long trip, effortlessly melt down the Triplanetary fleet (plus, frighteningly, the blood of the crews) into allotropic iron sludge and vacuum it up; they have a bit more trouble taking care of Roger's planetoid, but not to the point of actually getting in trouble; since they just picked up a huge load of iron, they probably could have gone on to defeat every ship in the solar system without breaking a sweat. Fortunately, after they had done this and picked up a few specimens of the odd little creatures, they went back home, knowing that their valuable cargo would encourage a second Nevian expedition to muster iron for the second ship. And so it did.

When they get home, they immediately plunge into a battle with the fishes of the deep, who had just developed a new weapon for their big underwater fortresses that presented a challenge to the iron-deprived Nevians; the load of iron that Nerado, the captain, gave to the defenders let them drive off the attack in a single massive counterstroke.

Meanwhile, it turned out that the data that Triplanetary central intelligence got from observing the three-way one-sided battle gave it the information it needed to finish a secret project it had been having trouble with-a "super-ship" that was to be the first faster than light vessel used by Triplanetary. (This is where someone invents "Doc" Smith's slightly infamous inertialess drive.) This vast ship, the Boise, is equipped with Roger's super-forcefield, faster than light drives, an iron reactor, and tons of other stuff just in time to fight the second Nevian ship. (Literally, within hours of when it shows up.) The two ships, of which the Boise is actually the stronger, have quite a tussle, and the Nevian ship turns tail and runs. While trying to catch it, the Boise discovers that Roger escaped his planetoid base, and finishes him off (Roger had also developed the iron reactor in the time since he had met the Nevians-boy, folks are really innovative in Triplanetary, aren't they?) with the help of a brand-new weapon invented on the spot, the only thing in the book which can penetrate Roger's forcefields when iron reactors are powering them. Then, they find the escaped "specimens" of the Nevians, one of whom had been a super-secret agent, hence the escape, and after rescuing them run down the second Nevian ship and kill it with the help of the shield-buster thing (the Nevians also had Roger's shield).

Then, they tussle with Nerado and the first Nevian ship, but can't pin him down because he's cleverer than the other, unnamed captain; so they drop a really, really big bomb on Nevia (to be fair, on the unknown weapon that was on Nevia's surface, the readying of which was causing Nerado to stall for time). Nerado immediately called for a ceasefire, admitting that humans were possibly every bit as advanced as the Nevians themselves (quite a compliment, even from the fair-minded Nerado), and further suggesting an alliance.

Now, here's the really awesome touch: Triplanetary accepts the alliance. And Triplanetary and Nevia are best friends forever after this. It turns out that, while Nevia was more advanced at making war because of their sophisticated physics knowledge, there was plenty of stuff that humans knew about that Nevians didn't have a clue about. And of course, there's all that iron, which they were pretty eager to get their tentacles on, as well.

It certainly wasn't that important that the Nevians had destroyed a big chunk of Triplanetary's fleet and levelled Pittsburgh, or that Triplanetary's secret agent had gassed a city or two to death and the Boise dropped a bomb on Nevia described as the kind of thing you never use if you care about the planet you're dropping it on, was it?

-Signing off.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Big Darned Flowers

FYI, the image above has not been edited in any way, shape, or form. Straight from the camera to the computer, and then straight to my album.

That's my sister craning her head there. She's 5'4", and the biggest sunflowers are thus in the neighborhood of seven to eight feet tall. And they're starting to wilt.

We didn't even water the darned things.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More On Asimov

(With regards to yesterday's post-I've really just had kind of a rough month. Today I got into a fight with a tree. The tree lost, but I took a beating, too.)

I've read a fair number of Isaac Asimov's works lately. (Some posts I've made that focus on Asimov and his work can be found here, here, here, and here. Really ought to implement a tag.) One of the rather interesting things about his "robot series," especially as presented in his somewhat later works, is how he treats robots-as minor gods.

It's actually a reasonable thing to do, all things considered. In his stories, robots gradually gained more and more abilities, including increasingly human forms, immortality (well, this was an early one that a few gave up, the point of the story The Bicentennial Man), telepathy, and eventually time travel.

This last eventually was decided to have been of grand importance in Asimov's galactic history stories, i.e. the Foundation stories. As it happens, a particularly powerful group of time-traveling and telepathic robots ensured that humanity would always be protected (as per the Zeroth Law of Robotics) by manipulating time so that no other intelligent life would ever develop in the galaxy. In Asimov's other later Foundation-based work, he even revealed that Hari Seldon, the psychohistorian whose work created the Foundation, had been funded and protected by a robot who had infiltrated the old Empire's court (he had figured it out himself, as I recall, and later helped this robot deflect a defamation campaign accusing him of being a robot without him having to lie about it, since he was programmed not to lie), and had another robot (whom he seemingly suspected but never accused, and indeed, as she was his wife he probably would have prefered her to have been human) as a bodyguard.

Then, there's Janet Asimov's Norby. Having read on Wikipedia that Norby was Janet Asimov's character and his stories were mostly written by her merely confirms what I suspected-otherwise (no offense really intended to either Asimov) his work would have seemed to decline a bit.

Norby's fun if pointless, I'll admit. It's full of interesting ideas, too. But... yeah, not really as impressive as Asimov's other works.

-Signing off.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hope You Enjoyed Your Monday...

...mine chewed rocks and spit them at me.

No blog. Except this thing.

-Signing off.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Beware the Fake Trail

You know what I both love and hate? Fake movie trailers.

This is cool, but it's fake.

Really, it's kind of a shame-somebody must have spent ages on this darned thing...

This one, on the other hand, is less cool, and further appears to have stolen all its footage (at least some of it, I think, from Dune, if I've judged those ships correctly).

Not that it's not cool, just that it's a lot less cool.

Eh, whatever.

Bonus: I found these trailers by looking at this first.

This is so awful it's awesome.

-Signing off.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Zappity Zappity

What's impressive about this is not that there's music playing, it's that at least some of it is apparently being produced by those big sparks.

That's a brave guy in that suit...

-Signing off.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

East Vs. West Moment of the Day

Fact: This guy...

...and this guy...

...are at least in one sense (the sense that the toy associated with them is identical) the same guy.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Greatly Belated Book Review: The Lando Calrissian Adventures

The Lando Calrissian Adventures, as mentioned previously, are a very imaginative romp on what are now the margins of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Most Star Wars novels imitate the movies heavily in tone and style. The Lando Calrissian Adventures accept the basic premise of Star Wars-that it's a modernized form of the venerable space opera. (For reference, I've done a number of book reviews of space opera. Click the "greatly belated book reviews" tag for more such-it's at the point where I don't particularly want to bother linking the dozen plus I've done.) But beyond that, its connections to Star Wars as a whole are tenuous.

There are only three points of continuity between Star Wars in general and the Lando Calrissian Adventures: The Galactic Empire, Lando Calrissian (obviously), and the Millennium Falcon. And these are all subtly different from their film appearances, though the differences are subtle. (For instance, Lando has only finished growing his moustache in the second of the three books.)

There are several recurring characters that are important. Most obvious of these is Vuffi Raa, one of the most unique droids ever to grace Star Wars fiction. Vuffi Raa (whose name actually is a number, it's just that it's a number in an alien language) is shaped like a starfish, with endlessly branching "fingers" at the end of each of his tentacles. Also unique is his ability to detach any or all of his limbs, which are fully self-mobile and remote controllable, and equipped with eyes on the ends. Also unique are his considerable self-repair abilities and his tiny internal fusion power plant, which allow him to operate all but indefinitely without repairs or recharging. He's also a Class Two droid, meaning he's as smart or smarter than a human being. Where did Lando get such an incredible little droid? He won him in a card game, of course! (What did you expect? Or were you wondering where he came from? That would be a spoiler you can look up for yourself on the Wookieepedia page.)

Also important is the ancient Sorcerer of Tund, Rokur Gepta. The Sorcerers of Tund are an ancient Force-using group (though this is a mild retcon) who are masters of illusion. Or rather, were, as Rokur Gepta (seemingly) killed the rest of them with their own secret weapon, a deadly mysterious substance that kills all life instantly and spreads out to seek it. (Yikes.) And then, he died too (SPOILERS HA!). So, yes, were a group. Anyway, Gepta was apparently a bazillion years old and planned to conquer the galaxy primarily by outliving his enemies, but every now and again he ran into a more troublesome enemy. Unfortunately for him, Lando Calrissian was this century's more troublesome enemy.

There are is also Lehesu (EDIT: ...whoops, I was talking about an individual as if he was multiple entities, how did that happen?), the gigantic space jellyfish/manta ray creature from ThonBoka (he isn't a recurring character, but he's among the most distinctive nonrecurring ones for obvious reasons) and a small army of dudes who blame Vuffi Raa for the extermination of their home system who are led by Klyn Shanga. (Long story.)

What the author writes, as noted, is pure space opera at its finest. There are earth-shaking events (such as the sudden re-emergence of the ancient and powerful Sharu), exploding planets (okay, not quite, but still), bizarre space stuff (the Flamewind of Oseon would probably be better termed "really intense solar wind of Oseon"), and the fate of entire races hanging in the balance (the Oswaft [Lehesu's people] would have been exterminated if not for the timely intervention of... somebody spoilery).

It's not quite as over the top as older space opera; whether that makes it better or worse in your mind, or whether that doesn't matter to you, is, well, your own call. I still think it's one of the better pre-Zahn portions of the Expanded Universe, if not the best.

-Signing off.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Letter From the Author

One of the more interesting things one can do to learn about fiction authors is to read something that they wrote addressing their audience, as opposed to being an integral part of their fictional work.

Case in point: This fabulously entertaining "About the Author" written by Isaac Asimov later in his life (the early '80s). (I showed it around to my family today, and even Dad, who doesn't have quite the same sense of humor as the rest of us, cracked a smile.)

Isaac Asimov was born in the Soviet Union to his great surprise. He moved quickly to correct the situation. When his parents emigrated to the United States, Isaac (three years old at the time) stowed away in their baggage. He has been an American citizen since the age of eight.
Brought up in Brooklyn, and educated in its public schools, he eventually found his way to Columbia University and, over the protests of the school administration, managed to annex a series of degrees in chemistry, up to and including a Ph. D. He then infiltrated Boston University and climbed the academic ladder, ignoring all cries of outrage, until he found himself Professor of Biochemistry.
Meanwhile, at the age of nine, he found the love of his life (in the inanimate sense) when he discovered his first science-fiction magazine. By the time he was eleven, he began to write stories, and at eighteen, he actually worked up the nerve to submit one. It was rejected. After four long months of tribulation and suffering, he sold his first story and, thereafter, he never looked back.
In 1941, when he was twenty-one years old, he wrote the classic short story "Nightfall" and his future was assured. Shortly before that he had begun writing his robot stories, and shortly after that he had begun his Foundation series.
What was left except quantity? At the present time, he has published over 260 books, distributed through every major division of the Dewey system of library classification, and shows no signs of slowing up. He remains as youthful, as lively, and as lovable as ever, and grows more handsome with each year. You can be sure that this is so since he has written this little essay himself and his devotion to absolute objectivity is notorious...

(It goes on a bit, but that part's not as relevant.)

Like Stan Lee, Asimov cultivated a certain voice for his essays; where Lee's is excessively pompous and kind of (really) overbearing, Asimov's is self-deprecatingly humorous, with a dash of false hubris. (In other works of his I've read, Asimov notes that he was in fact incredibly abrasive and that the only reason he was able to lead his successful life is because he was smart enough to make money writing. If he'd had to rely on being genial, or so he claimed, he'd have failed. Also note that his second wife seriously didn't like his self-criticism. In what I believe was the same essay, he noted that some character was based on himself; she replied that she thought that fellow was abrasive and obnoxious, to which he replied "Exactly!" She apparently scolded him vigorously over it.) And like Lee, the style is fairly difficult to imitate, though perhaps less in your face noticeable.

Anyway, there's worse than you could do, in developing a relationship with your readers, than creating a personal voice that's somehow aimed at them. Lee and Asimov both enjoyed immense success in their chosen careers, and there's some degree of a lesson in that, I'm sure.

-Signing off.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Strong Foundation

(One of the roughest things about blogging, I've found, is coming up with titles regularly; hence my heavy use of colons. So if that title makes you groan at all, terribly sorry. I know I groaned.)

I recently re-read Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. (Specifically, the original Foundation trilogy, that is, Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation.) Not terribly surprisingly, while the series was written in the '40s and '50s, it's aged very well. It once won the Hugo for "Best All-Time series," whatever the heck that means, which is a sure sign it's quality. (Read the Wikipedia article for a serious discussion-I'm about to digress violently.)

There are things in it, though, that date themselves to greater and lesser degrees. When private messages must be carried from place to place, they're put in sealed capsules which can theoretically only be opened by the intended recipient. This is fine; less fine for the modern reader is that the enclosed message is on paper. (Of course, those clever Foundation scientists figured out how to make paper that automatically oxidizes in air, so the security issue isn't that bad...) Or take the device called the Lens. The Lens is a device used in hyperdrive navigation, making it far quicker and easier than it would be otherwise, with a computer-controlled three dimensional simulation of the galaxy's stars, allowing for what is essentially point-and-click navigation. The odd part? It was brand new, and today there's a multi-platform freeware program called Celestia which does the exact same thing.

Of course, the sharp edge of advancing technology always manages to screw up science fiction; it's all but unpredictable.

The other thing I've been considering is how one might try adapting the Foundation series to other media.

Just looking at it, it'd be hard at least. Foundation is cerebral, concerned with thoughts and ideas rather than things like action and personal interaction. If I were to pick out only a section of it to make a movie out of, it'd almost certainly be the parts surrounding the Mule, but that would be stupid because the Mule's actions don't make sense outside of the larger framework.

But the potential for a great movie or three is in there. Just because Asimov didn't write the framework for one into it doesn't mean it isn't. Therefore, the real question is, how much can be carried over successfully, and what would the central focus of any such work be?

I know how purists get, but I'd tend to say that, other than Hari Seldon and the Mule, there really aren't any important characters in the Foundation series. (The original one, I mean.) The scope of the series is centered on history, and it is the distinct position of the books that it isn't the figures in history, but vast historical forces that generally determine events. And, of course, it is the very rare individual, such as Seldon or the Mule, who disrupts historical forces.

Then, of course, there's the issue of the Second Foundation. The Second Foundation, in case you don't know, is a group of expert psychologist/sociologist/psychohistorian telepaths, whose mission it is to chart history's flow and try to gently tweak it just so to keep the path to the Second Empire in place. These people are rightly resented by the Foundationers, who eventually realize they're being tweaked and set out to get rid of them. But the Second Foundation being what it was, it managed to fake its own death quite effectively, and was still pulling the strings. (And if you're wondering, the Second Foundation felt it was better to fake its death by allowing many of its volunteers to die, than to let the First Foundation believe it still existed, because the First Foundation acted wrong whenever it thought the Second Foundation was acting on it.) Asimov presents the whole thing as part of the flow of history, neither particularly wrong or particularly right... but the Second Foundation was clearly being set up to become the elite of the Second Empire, and that's pretty sick.

Ultimately, the Foundation series isn't particularly likely to be made into a movie, but then again, the Lensman series is getting (another) movie based on it, so anything's possible.

-Signing off.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Star Wars Stuff From YouTube

Eh, why not?

This first thing was put together by the guy who posted the dance movies I embedded last week and the thing from this Monday.

This was put together by the guy who did that robot movie I posted a while back, and the one with the dragon in it.

*shrugs* Enjoy.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Moment of What The: Combattler V

They say that man could not have achieved civilization without alcohol. I doubt this kind of situation was what they were referring to...

-Signing off.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Greatly Belated Book Reviews: The Han Solo Adventures

(I don't think I'll have nothing but Star Wars content this week, but I have a pretty decent amount lined up for the next week or two, so... Whatever.)

Out of all of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the Han Solo Adventures, because of their age and matters of timing, aren't quite as well-integrated into the EU as a whole as the larger EU created after Heir to the Empire (Zahn's work is easily the best of the EU, though I could be biased-though I quite like a lot of Aaron Allston's work as well), and also don't mesh with the greater EU view of the Star Wars universe's construction (clashing even more strongly with the post-prequel retcons). But that doesn't cause them to not be worthwhile (one good bit can be found here).

The Adventures, as with the more obscure Lando Calrissian Adventures, take place in semi-autonomous regions that aren't under the direct influence of the Empire, but of some form of sub-government. (These include the Corporate Sector Authority, the Tion Hegemony, and [in the Lando Calrissian Adventures] the Centrality. All are managed as semi-independent states which answer to the Empire as vassals.) This gives the author some freedom to make stuff up for the villains rather than worry overmuch about consistency with the films or other source materials. The Corporate Sector, incidentally, is an extremely new area that has no native sapient life, and is thus being radically exploited; the Tion Hegemony is a very old region that's fallen on hard times.

Anyway, the books have, both collectively and individually, subcasts distinct from both the films and the rest of the EU. The only characters from either that appear are Han Solo and Chewbacca; anybody else might as well not exist. (Jabba the Hut[t] is briefly mentioned, but that's it. A mention of Han's "girl" is retconned into a character named Bria Tharen in the later Han Solo Trilogy.) Notables include:

Bollux and Blue Max. Literally inseparable, these droids are a sort of symbiotic pair that also radically contrast each other. Bollux is ancient, repeatedly upgraded but still obsolete, has been everywhere and done everything (almost literally-he reportedly served a unit captain during the Clone Wars, for instance), and while not brilliant, his experience grants him considerable insight despite him being intended to be a simple laborer. He is also driven by an unusually strong self-preservation instinct. Blue Max is, in a sense at least, Bollux's latest upgrade-Bollux was modified to conceal and protect Blue Max. Blue Max is more properly a sapient micro-computer, so-called because he's painted blue because blue paint is good for some reason or other, and Max because he's absolutely the most crammed-full-of-good-stuff little security cracking device ever made. Blue Max is essentially a brilliant newborn, without any experience but full of a lot of smarts, and as a result, he and Bollux make a strong team. Bollux and Blue Max appear in all three of the Han Solo Adventures.

Gallandro. Appearing in the second and third of the Adventures, Gallandro is something like an older, more heartless Han Solo. He's also the fastest gunman in the galaxy, or at least the fastest that Han Solo's ever met. He meets Han for the first time in the second book, and is his nemesis in the third.

Skynx. This alien is a Ruurian, which means he's essentially a giant sapient caterpillar. (Ruurian larvae are the useful, thinking members of society; adults are, as with most Earth insects, the ones that produce young but do little else.) Skynx is notable because, despite being totally nonviolent, he defeats Gallandro after Gallandro utterly whipped Han. And he did it easily.

There are others, but they're either less important or less entertaining.

Basically all the stories have the same general plot-Han's trying to make a killing, but his luck's against him. He tries to run valuable mineral water to a heavily polluted planet where everything tastes bad, but gets his tank punctured. He tries making money by showing primitive locals a holographic movie, but accidentally starts a religion, and gets in trouble when he picks out a different show. (That's a pretty big oops.) He hops on something that sounds lucrative, but it turns out to be slave-running, which has a mandatory death sentence attached to it. (He fights his way out of it.) So he has plenty of incentive to get mixed up in insane things such as political prisons, large criminal rings, and ancient hidden treasure.

A lot of it is pretty standard SF/Star Wars type fare, but there are a few moments that stand out. First is the infiltration of the prison Star's End and the result-he and others sneak in disguised as a band of entertainers, not knowing that the droid that they brought was supposed to be a gladiator robot (thus inadvertantly sentencing Bollux to death unless they can do something quickly), and finally breaching security by accidentally literally blasting the prison sky high. When I say literally, I mean literally-though it was an all-in-one-piece sky high. (Star's End was very well-armored-in fact, Han estimated it was the most expensive building he'd ever been in.)

The other part that really sticks out in my mind involves the Swimming People of Dellalt. (Disregard that cartoonish picture. Please.) The Swimming People, or merely Swimmers, are gigantic, immensely strong plesiosauroid lifeforms that speak excellent English. They are fully as smart as humans, though their worldview is entirely contained within a large lake and its near vicinity. They apparently had a limited ability to traverse solid ground, but their true environment was the water, where their strength allowed them to run a highly effective ferry service, in which they towed rafts.

The reason this part was so entertaining? Han and company got caught up in a Swimmer gang war. Also awesome was elder Swimmer Shazeen's remark to a female Swimmer who started speaking Swimmer hoot-talk to him in front of the group: "Use their language, woman." Something about that strikes me as incongruously hilarious.

At any rate, if you can find any of the individual Han Solo Adventures at a decent price, or the collective reprinting from more recently at a decent price, and you like Star Wars and novels, they're a pretty decent if somewhat incompatible read.

-Signing off.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Other Son

This is so brilliantly perfect it's scary.

What can I say about it? I have no idea.

-Signing off.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Rock On

I had some kind of idea for a blog, I swear, when all of a sudden...

Peace out, and see ya Monday.

-Signing off.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Han Shot First

Or as some people like to say, "Han shot only."

Even Han says he'd rather shoot first, in the novel Han Solo at Star's End:

Rekkon interposed himself between Han and Chewbacca and the door. "Kindly put your weapons up, Captain. That is Torm, one of my group. Even if it weren't, would it not have been wiser to find out what was happening before preparing to shoot?"
Han made a sour face. "I happen to like shooting first, Rekkon. As opposed to shooting second."

Now, on the matter of changes made in the Special Edition versions, I'm pretty neutral on a lot of them. I thought the ESB changes were actually not bad (what's wrong with an actual decent-looking wampa, as opposed to a nearly invisible puppet?), and ROTJ's changes were almost all neutral. But, as plenty of people have pointed out, Greedo shooting first is absolutely ridiculous.

I'll probably make some further mention of the Han Solo adventures novels in the next couple of weeks. Of course, I find them slightly less entertaining than the Lando Calrissian adventures novels, which are much more inventive.

Been in a bit of a Star Wars mood lately.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Star Wars Dancing

My attention was brought to these videos filmed during the "Star Wars Weekends" events at Disneyworld. They're funny, if hammy.

The best routine is indisputably the Darth Vader/Stormtroopers one starting at 3:12.

In all honesty, posting a video of Darth Vader thriller dancing is probably as close to a Michael Jackson tribute as anything I'll ever do, so... yeah.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Perfect Answer

Sometimes, my sister and I have weird conversations.

A recurring theme in some of them is that my sister doesn't understand most women better than most men understand most women.

For instance, she doesn't understand why any woman would ask her male significant other "Does this make me look fat/make my butt look big?" In her mind, it's fishing for an insult, not a compliment.

Generally speaking, there's no right answer to this, is there?

Well, I have my own suggestion, which you're free to try out if you ever find yourself in this fix:

"It makes your butt look sexy!" (Or nice, if you feel that "sexy" is lewd for some reason.)

My sister thinks that's a pretty clever answer.

-Signing off.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Greatly Belated Book Reviews: The Dragon Never Sleeps

This is one of those books I'm really of two minds on.

I've never read any of Glen Cook's other stuff (not that I recall, anyway), so I don't really know how typical TDNS is of his works. It is an absolutely incredible exercise in worldbuilding, with an incredibly detailed universe that could have supported ten books. (More on that in a bit.)

On the other hand, it's obtuse. The first few chapters are crammed with unfamiliar terms like "WarAvocat" and "P. Jaksonica," and it takes quite a few (although they're short chapters) to pick up the rhythm. (WarAvocat is basically the Guardship's captain, although he has to listen to the Guardship's electronic brain council, refered to as either Deified or Immortals-these are past officers whose minds were recorded onto the Guardship's big tactical brain. P. Jaksonica is the name of a planet. Unfortunately, nearly all of the planets are named that way, so it's sometimes tricky to tell them apart.) Not only that, but it reads like a book in the middle of a series. Of course, there is no Guardship series...

Whether the payoff is enough to compel you to read the book despite the difficulties depends on what you think of its epic worldbuilding. (Whether you like the plot, which could be accurately described like this, depends on your tastes, too.) The Web is a huge, mysterious thingy that can be used to travel faster than the speed of light. It can support the Guardships (to give you an idea of what they're like, read the bottom-most item here), but nothing bigger than that. (Who needs anything bigger?) The Guardships were made four thousand years ago by enormously powerful hereditary corporations called Houses, and are thought to be the pinnacle of technology. The Houses intended them to keep the law in "Canon Space," the region which is, well, guarded by the Guardships. Over the four thousand years of their history, the Guardships have repeatedly put down invasions and rebellions, most recently Enherrenraat, some kind of rebellion against them by the very Houses that created them. (It's five hundred years later-many of the Houses are still suffering for it, and the one that warned the Guardships of the insurrection apparently is doing great because it's got exclusive deals with them now.)

Probably the single worst of these attacks was launched by the Ku, a now-rare alien race that invaded three thousand years before the book present. Using techniques developed by the legendary warrior-sage Kez Maefele (the Ku are mystics of a sort), the Ku discovered one of the few weaknesses of the Guardships and managed to capture one, although it self destructed before they could do anything with it. As it happens, Kez Maefele is still alive.

Yes, you read that right. The Ku warrior and wizard (I think that means strategist) castes, as well as Kez Maefele, who was a sort of hybrid of the two, were genetically engineered to live forever, as they were extremely useful when they lived a long time. And while he was defeated, Kez Maefele survived, hiding with the unassuming alias of Turtle on some random world in the slums. (I'll call him Turtle after this, as he thought of himself as Turtle after all these years.)

Turtle is found by one of the Guardships, and rather impetuously is shown the Guardship starbase. He escapes because the Guardship was a little schizophrenic, and eventually meets up with some aliens who have the power to fight the Guardships toe to toe.


These aliens are "methane breathers" (you can't breathe methane, for crying out loud!) which are some kind of huge, weird, Lovecraftian colonial organisms, armed with telepathy that uses the Web to communicate. Their technology is second only to the Guardships' stuff, and in fact the Guardships have only one hardware advantage, guns called Hellspinners which are considered pretty impressive. (They can be fired through screens, the setting's defensive forcefields. Normally if you want to do that, you have to open a hole. This actually had something to do with the tactic the Ku used to capture a Guardship.) And when Turtle meets up with them, he uses their coordinating abilities (FTL transmission is only possible through the Web, but the Canon society doesn't know how to do it) to launch a harrying offensive against the Guardships like they've never seen.

And that's not even the half of it.

It's a crazy universe, and one that I kind of wish had been allowed to play out a bit more leisurely than it did. As it is, The Dragon Never Sleeps is one of those books I'll keep around to re-read every now and again to see if I'll be able to follow it any better.

-Signing off.