Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Starcraft: Heart of the Swarm" Concept Art (spoilers)

Visited for the first time in awhile the other day and across across the following video.

Of particular interest is the following image, which was posted individually at the Starcraft Legacy site.

Looks like Kerrigan's post-deinfestation Zerg dreads are gone, although her hair seems colored somewhat differently (it's duller and more brown/orange than red) and in a different style.  She is wearing Ghost armor, though.  Some of the early discussion of "Heart of the Swarm" described Kerrigan "building her power through mutations," but at least in that image, that does not appear to have been the case.

(Let's hope it stays that way.  Her turning back into the Queen of Blades would be entirely too GrimDark and sad.)

The scuttlebutt about what "Heart of the Swarm" is going to be about involves Kerrigan building her power and regaining control of the Swarm.  The image looks like she's taking control of an Ultralisk, with what looks like some Zerglings nearby (all those little eyes beneath the Ultralisk).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Two New Blogging Friends...

One of the newer members of my Kennesaw writing group and a former member of that same organization have just joined the blogosphere.

Here are Alexandra Hughes and Rob Gilliam.  I will add them to my blog-roll tomorrow morning, because it's really late right now.

Alexandra gave me some advice about the proper length of first novels, while Rob has continued to critique my submissions despite having left the group.  Kudos to both of them.

John Monds and the Lesser of Two Evils

One common criticism of voting Libertarian, or for any third party, is that one is "throwing one's vote away" and the only realistic option is to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Firstly, I would wager that one is only throwing one's vote away if they do something absurd like write in Mickey Mouse or a candidate who isn't running. Otherwise, one's vote has an impact, even if that impact is helping a rival party.

(Voting Green tends to benefit Republicans; voting Libertarian tends to benefit Democrats.)

Secondly, in states with runoff elections for those who don't reach a certain electoral threshhold, one has a choice other than the lesser of two evils.

This WSB poll shows that neither Deal nor Barnes are polling above 50 percent.

If neither party gets more than a majority of the votes (50 percent plus one), it's runoff time.

My suggestion is that people who don't like Roy Barnes or Nathan Deal (and there are a lot of them) vote Libertarian John Monds. If Monds does well enough to force a runoff between Barnes and Deal, then it will be time to pick the lesser of two evils, since Monds will realistically not be among the top two finishers.

This will force the two of them to compete for Libertarian votes, which might affect their political platforms, and will strengthen the hand of the Libertarian Party in general.  After all, voting for a party that managed to force the two major parties into a runoff cannot be described as throwing one's vote away in the same manner that writing in Mickey Mouse is.

In turn, if the Libertarian vote is strengthened, the two major parties will alter their platforms to appeal to them.  Philosophically speaking, that would be easier for the Republican Party, since it strikes me as intellectually dishonest to support small government but at the same time support laws against victimless crimes that spawn big-government bureaucracy and abuses, like the Drug War or unnecessary foreign adventures.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Former University of Idaho Running-Back Held Naked and Chained By Feds

Now that I've gotten your attention with the title, this case is actually about terrorism laws going too far.

In my humble opinion, Abdullah al-Kidd--a U.S. citizen I might add--has very good grounds to sue for colossal amounts of damages in addition to challenging the legality of the use of the material-witness statute. The law is not intended to be used for preventative detention of terrorism suspects, no matter how wise such a policy may be.

(This is not to say I endorse such a law. My point is that even if such a law is a good idea, it would need to be legally passed by Congress and signed by the president. Rule of law is a good thing.)

Subjecting anyone to what sounds like Abu Ghraib treatment is bad enough; having American law enforcement do it to an American citizen is even worse. After all, the primary purpose of the state is to protect the lives, liberties, and properties of its citizens. 

For the record, some googling of al-Kidd's name shows he may have been involved in suspicious activities (associating with a foreign sheikh charged with fraud, frex), but how he was treated was grossly disproportionate.  If the concern was that he was traveling to Saudi Arabia to avoid U.S. law enforcement, detaining him and requiring him to surrender his passport as a condition of release could solve that problem without the lengthy detention, the unpleasant treatment while detained, etc.

It's good to hear the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agrees with me that this was a really bad thing and that the Supreme Court is willing to at least hear the case.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Second "Ultramarines" Trailer

Now this looks interesting.  It seems earlier rumors about the villains being the Orks aren't true.  There's no Orky dialogue ("ya grotz!") and the only thing remotely resembling an Ork is something seen in the distance during one of the charge sequences.

Meanwhile, the opening speech describes going into battle against Chaos, the enemies are rival Space Marines, some of whom have got scary occult tattoos, and there are references to killing things (people?) tainted by the Warp.  Pretty sure the baddies this go-round are Chaos.  :)

I like Chaos better than the Orks anyway, so no big.

The scene where the single Ultramarine is killing running Chaos Marines with a sword reminds me a lot of the scene in 300 where the Spartans break ranks and lay into the oncoming Persians individually and we see Leonidas dancing around spearing Persian after Persian.

I wonder what's going on with the Chaos Marine helping the fallen Ultramarine up?  Given the mutual hatred that exists between the two factions after so long, it seems a bit odd, but there was a piece of Warhammer 40,000 short fiction I read online involving an Imperial agent undercover in a Chaos Marine outfit who encounters a Marine who has kept faith in the Emperor despite his unit going traitor and dragging him along with it.  If the enemies in the movie are a unit that has gone renegade relatively recently, it'd be more likely there'd be secret loyalists than if the Ultramarines are throwing down with one of the Traitor Legions from the Horus Heresy.

In the trailer, it says "for a limited time only." I do hope they're referring only to the collector's edition DVD. I would prefer to rent the movie before I buy it in order to see if it's any good rather than buy it immediately because it won't be available long.

(Will my local Blockbuster have it? It certainly has a lot of direct-to-video crap and Warhammer 40,000 is a much hotter property, but on the other hand, 40K is a niche market.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Wikipedia Favor to Ask...

I've managed to snag around 50 or so hits since May, at least according to Blogger's Stats tab, due to linking my blog to Wikipedia.  I've added material to articles about S.M. Stirling's novel Drakon, Stirling's "Emberverse" series of books, and I think one or two other pages, citing my blog as reference.  After all, thanks to my visits to DragonCon, I've managed to do some original reporting and research on the authors who've spoken and the fictional universes they've created.

(For example, at the 2009 DragonCon, Stirling said that the Samothracians defeated the Draka colonization fleet in a battle that is mentioned in Drakon due to having a superior ship and confirmed that the Walker family who serve the tyrannical Church Universal and Triumphant in the Emberverse novels are the left-behind family members of William Walker, the villain of Island in the Sea of Time and its sequels.)

I've got some ideas for additional Wikipedia pages I'm going to augment with material from my blog, but two (or three or ten or twenty) heads are better than one.  It would be really helpful if those of you who are Wikipedia aficionados and think there's useful material in my blog could add it to the appropriate Wikipedia articles and cite my blog as a reference.  Although the DragonCon articles contain most of the new material, there might be stuff in other articles that is relevant to other subjects.  Use your imagination and your best judgement.

If this gambit works out, there's more information on Wikipedia for those who are interested and more readers for my blog, benefiting both the Internet community at large and me.

If you all could do that and post the pages you've augmented and a summary of the material you've added as comments on this page, that would be really nice.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Attack of the Mexican Lake Pirates

Heard about this on Neal Boortz's radio program yesterday while driving into Atlanta for an appointment.  This is not the first time this has happened--there have been several other incidents as well, although this is the first time someone has actually died.

It turns out that all the shenanigans take place on the Mexican side or close to the maritime border between the US and Mexico, so it is primarily the Mexican government's responsibility.  And to be fair, it's not like the Mexican government is stonewalling on the issue.

That being said, the Mexican government's control over much of its territory is rather tenuous right now.  Like what's going on in Somalia, if a state cannot police its own territory, someone else should.

Were I the governor of Texas, I'd base some National Guard attack helicopters thereabouts and have them periodically patrol the area.  In the event of anything like this happening again, the perpetrators get shredded.  The purpose of the State is to protect the lives, liberty, and property of its citizens and that's at risk here.  Chopper patrols might also be useful in deterring incursions by the Mexican military or armed cartel types as well, which have been known to happen.

Boortz went so far as to suggest American search teams with Apache helicopter escort cross over to the Mexican side to find Hartley's body and if anyone attempts to interfere, they'll get put on the bottom with holes in them, but given how the Mexican government is (allegedly) helping try to find the body, that might be rather premature.,8599,2024162,00.html?xid=rss-mostpopular

The above article said that signs the cartel violence has crossed the border (two shot-up Mexicans in a truck) are more troubling than Hartley's death, and since that happened in the U.S., she has a point.

However, what happened on that lake is pretty darn bad.

Hmm...maybe it's time to say something politically inflammatory, like "Out of Iraq, Onto the Mexican Border?"  One might need to modify the Posse Comitatus Act though, since border-security is primarily a law-enforcement issue at present and military involvement in law enforcement is restricted.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Controversial Manhattan House of Worship...In 1785

Now this is interesting.  I was aware there was widespread anti-Catholicism in the early United States, but I thought it became really "a big deal" much later on, when enormous numbers of Irish came fleeing the Potato Famine.

(Colonial anti-Catholicism struck me as something largely limited to the Puritans, on theological grounds.)

The claims of those who claimed Catholics would turn the U.S. over to the Pope did not come true, even when we elected John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, as U.S. President. Islam, which is far less centralized than Catholicism, would be even less of an "infiltrator threat."  After all, the closest thing Islam has had to a universally-acknowledged leader is the Caliph, and there has not been a Caliph since 1922, when the last Ottoman Emperor was deposed.

In fact, Catholics have gone on to make many great contributions to the United States.  Our open society is one of our greatest strengths and we should not let the fears of the moment potentially deprive us of talented people.  I agree with Father Madigan on this issue.

Still, it's good to hear that the backers of the Cordoba House (the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque") are not accepting foreign money, let alone money from the Middle East.  At the very least, it's generally a good idea to avoid even the appearance of evil.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Twilight...Crossed Over with the Draka!!!

Keith Fraser, a member of my alternate-history forum, is not a fan of Twilight and reached the following (quoted) conclusions:

1. "Bella Swann's Pavlovian attraction to Edward Cullen's sparkly marble-ness (etc.) is not unlike the effect of Drakensis pheromones."

2. "(She's) such a doormat (in the first three books) she'd make an excellent serf."

So he decided to write a fanfic crossing the Twilight universe with with S.M. Stirling's Draka novels.  The drakensis, for the record, are what the human Draka use genetic engineering to transform their descendants into--an immortal physically-superior master race.

Here's the link:

This is going to be such fun.  Not sure how fast the updates will come, but to pique my loyal readers' interest, I'll post a screenplay-formatted "trailer" Keith wrote that covers where the story will go...

(An exterior shot of a city in California. Air-raid sirens wail in the background. A young BELLA SWANN looks into the sky, where the distant plumes of ICBM launches can be seen.)

UNIDENTIFIED (offscreen)
Bella! Hurry up!

(BELLA runs toward a school bus.)


(A computer map of the world shows missile trails between the Domination of the Draka and the Alliance for Democracy along with spacecraft trajectories. Cut to an office in a Draka command bunker. ERIC VON SHRAKENBERG stands in front of the Draka flag.)

Activate the Stone Dogs. Service to the State!

OFFICER (offscreen)
Glory to the Race!

(In an Alliance command bunker, officers suddenly go mad and turn on each other.)

(Montage: London, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, New York and finally Sacramento vanish in nuclear mushroom clouds.)


(BELLA, now a couple of years older, stands outside the entrance to an underground shelter somewhere in California. Snow is falling from the leaden sky. Tears in her eyes, she turns away to go back inside.)

(Cut forward several more years. Several dozen Alliance CIVILIANS, including BELLA, are on their knees, hands on their heads, in front of the shelter entrance, surrounded by a ring of GHOULOONS and Draka CITIZENS. Several Alliance SOLDIERS and CIVILIANS who resisted already lie dead in front of them.)

From this day forward, you are serfs of the Domination of the Draka. We care nothing for your feelings on the subject; we demand only your unquestioning obedience. Submit, and you will be treated well. Refuse, and you will die. Either way, your lives are no longer your own.

(Cut forward yet again. BELLA, now about 16 or 17, dressed in a Grecian-style tunic with silver collar, bracelets and anklets, dusts a shelf in a Draka mansion. She knocks down a vase but catches it in time before it can hit the ground and break. Her gasp of relief turns into a sob, and she scrubs at her eyes before returning to work.)


(Catlike eyes follow BELLA from the shadows as she walks listlessly down a corridor with a basket of laundry. A young Drakensis [SVEN] steps out of the darkness. He smiles after her with bared teeth, and his nostrils flare as he breathes in her scent.)

(Lying in her bed in the house-serfs' quarters, BELLA opens her eyes to see EDWARD CULLEN standing over her. She gasps, but he puts his hand over her mouth.)

(SVEN towers over BELLA, his hand on her shoulder. Her eyes are unfocused as he caresses her cheek.)

Very soon, will be mine.


(EDWARD crouches in the rafters of an attic room, looking down at BELLA.)

You're not human.

Neither is he.

(A naked BELLA, seen from behind, stands in front of SVEN in a bedroom. He looks her over with obvious approval, then seizes her in his arms and crushes her against him. She cries out, whether in pain or pleasure is hard to tell.)

(Tears in her eyes, BELLA sits against a wall with EDWARD kneeling next to her.)
I don't know what to do.

Come with me, if you want to be free.


(EDWARD, carrying BELLA on his back, runs across an open field at eye-blurring speed, jinking from left to right to stay ahead of machine-gun fire from a Draka helicopter.)

(EDWARD and SVEN fight hand-to-hand in slow motion, landing punches that could dent concrete.)

(A Draka SOLDIER draws a bead on EDWARD through a sniper scope. Suddenly something blocks his vision, then his rifle is wrenched from his hands and twisted into a pretzel. The camera looks up to show a pale, vampirized BELLA, who throws a punch directly at the viewer.)

IN 2011

(Dozens of Draka air and ground vehicles converge on the ruins of Forks, Washington.)

(BELLA and EDWARD, surrounded by flames, look longingly at each other.)

(Montage of explosions decimating ruined buildings and woodland, closing on the contrails of space-launched kinetic projectiles falling towards Forks.)


(For the record, although the first Twilight novel was pretty good, I don't think the books set a good example for young girls, especially the way they romanticize Edward's rather dubious behaviors like creeping into Bella's room at night to watch her sleep.  When conservative Christian Chuck Colson and various feminists point out the exact same set of problems, something is definitely wrong.

So seeing the Cullens obliterated by a culture that, although it doesn't acknowledge the rights of non-Draka, practices total equality of the sexes, is rather fitting.  And dang it, vampires don't sparkle.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stephen King's Dark Tower: Movie AND TV Series

Now this is really clever and creative.  Rather than a straight seven movies, which would be expensive and take a long time, Ron Howard is releasing Stephen King's Dark Tower saga as a trilogy of films with multiple seasons of a TV show filling the spaces in between.

There was a lot of talk about whether to release it as a TV series or release it as a series of movies.  Doing both is a really good way of "taking a third option."

The web-site features the NBC logo and the article uses the phrase "network television series," so it looks like it'll be on that channel. 

I'm wondering about that.  Premium channels like HBO provide the most creative freedom, but networks like NBC provide the largest audiences.  In theory, a larger audience means the show is more successful, but I recall a lot of network-TV shows being canceled before their stories were fully told (Dark Angel, Firefly, Surface, and Prey being four) and none suffering this fate on the premium channels.

I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this one.  It's going to rock. 

I wonder if they'll be able to get Jamey Sheridan to play Randall Flagg?   Flagg in various guises plays a major role in the Dark Tower universe and Sheridan apparently did a good job playing him in The Stand a few years back.

Of course, considering Flagg is thousands of years old and has many identities, having a different actor--or even many different actors--playing him is not problematic.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Last DragonCon Post, Featuring Mike Lee, Food, and Other Stuff

I've been busy working on Escape from the Wastelands and stuff that caught my attention, so I haven't yet put up everything from DragonCon.  This post won't be as long and detailed as my last one because in the "What Women Want" panel, I spent more time writing down ideas for Escape inspired by the panelists' discussion than writing down what they actually said.

At DragonCon, there was a panel on writing for gaming universes that featuring Warhammer 40,000 author Mike Lee (who is absolutely hilarious and fun to talk to) and a father and son, one of whom was a writer and the other a graphic designer.  Here are some things I learned...

Firstly, gaming companies consider the licensed novels a marketing tool primarily.  Novels are timed with product releases--a novel about the Black Templars Space Marine chapter would be released at the same time as a new Black Templar gaming codex.  Time is tight--Black Library often gives writers 90 days to put out a novel.  Around three tie-in books come out per year.

Secondly, established characters are products and gaming companies are very protective of them.  It is rare for book characters to enter the game-canon (i.e. appear in codices, become playable characters, etc.) 

This is something I was already somewhat aware of due to writing for the BattleTech universe--new writers are advised to avoid using "name characters" like Victor Steiner-Davion because what they've been up to is documented to the nth degree.  Good stories have been rejected because they feature established characters doing something when established canon has them somewhere else.

That's why, in "Skirmish at the Vale's Edge," I invented an entirely new Oberon Confederation MechWarrior named Arnold Hoefer to be my protagonist and his Clan Wolf antagonists were names from the Clan Wolf codex who didn't have any established back story.  I intend to write more stories about Hoefer and the Clan Wolf characters and I can't imagine them crossing paths with any canon characters with the possible exception of Phelan Kell (who served as bondsman to Ulric Kerensky, the ruler of Clan Wolf, and was inducted into the warrior caste for saving his life) and then it would be very brief.

A fun fact I learned about Games Workshop's headquarters in Nottingham, UK, is that it is locally known as "the Reichstag."  It's a huge black building with a giant Imperial eagle (symbol of the Warhammer 40,000 Imperium) on it.  One can ask a local cabbie to take you to "the Reichstag" and he'll take you to GW.

During the discussion of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and the different strength levels of the diffferent factions, Michael Coker said something that at the time was absolutely hilarious:

"Every time the Necrons show up, the Imperium gets its ass handed to them.  Because they're the goddamn Necrons."

But back to writing stuff.  Lee described having to rewrite part of his novel Warhammer: Reaper of Souls to feature a character being near a burning city in order to accomodate a poster that depicted one of the characters from the novel near a burning city.  I guess this was to ensure continuity between the novels, the gaming canon, and the promotional materials.

The "What Women Want" panel gave me lots of interesting ideas for Escape, including elaborating on one character to make her a "strong female character" and making the racial situation in one of the nations more diverse.  However, as I said earlier, I was too busy writing those down to get a whole lot of the general advice.  The one bit of advice I can remember is that a trait women like in male characters is fatherliness/being a father.  I think they said there were too many "boy-men" in fiction.

I also got into a brief argument with one of the panelists about whether Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox's character from the live-action Transformers films) could be considered a strong female character or not.  My contention was that she was, based on her combat capability (hotwiring a car to pull a wounded Bumblebee back into the fight in the first movie and crushing the Decepticon imposter-bot "Alice" in the second).  I probably should have planned what I was going to say more before stating my disagreement, since I neglected to mention her loyalty to her father to the point of getting criminally cited for not testifying against him and her ruthlessness in torturing the Decepticon spy in the second film.

The author, whose name I cannot recall, said in response to my kill-the-Fembot defense that anyone could have done that, that her intelligence/mechanical skill was not elaborated on enough, and that she ended up needing to be rescued.  I don't agree with any of those points--in fact, I could make the argument that Mikaela is even more hard-core than Sam himself.

(I distinctly recall her referring to Sam as a "little girl" at one point.)

Also, if you're ever at the Peachtree Center building in Atlanta, be sure to check out Cafe Momo.  It has a buffet there where you can buy food by the pound.  This means meals are a bit on the pricey side, but they're really good and you can get a balanced meal (fruits/vegetables), which is pretty unusual at a mall food court.  When I was at DragonCon, I had at least two meals there and they were good, with the exception of some marble cheesecake I had to pay extra for.

Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, I went to the Metro Cafe Diner.  The first time, I went with members of my Lawrenceville writing group and didn't eat anything.  The second time, I had a chicken-and-cheese quesadilla at the bar.  I now know that both salsa and honey mustard both make good sauces for the quesadilla, which was really good in and of itself.