Saturday, March 30, 2013

Kellie's Custom Costuming Business

My friend Kellie Jureka is at it again. She has just opened an Etsy shop selling clothes she has made herself as well as "upcycled" goods.

Here's the link: KAIJ Custom Costuming and Design on Etsy, where you can buy stuff. Here's her Facebook page.

I have more familiarity with Kellie's costuming than with her jewelry parties, since I've seen it firsthand. Kellie made her 2011 DragonCon costume, which is Pepper Potts' dress from the first Iron Man movie, herself. A picture of it can be found in a story I wrote about North Fulton residents who attended DragonCon that year.

I would recommend her highly for any kind of costuming or custom-clothing need you might have. You can see a good example of her work in that article and there's more on her respective websites.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Great Summer Writing Challenge...

Today I was chatting with my friend Nick and we were discussing the progress of our various writing projects. I referenced author William Meikle, whom I have corresponded with via Facebook and Twitter. Meikle seems to have a book out every few months and I asked him what his secret was. His response was basically writing 2,000 words per day. Nick has a novel he's working on, but as a teacher, it's easier for him to write during the summer when he has lots of time off.

Nick suggested we have a competition to write 2,000 words per day during the summer. I'm preparing to go to graduate school this fall and I've got various freelance writing clients I need to attend do, so I figured instead of 2,000 words per day, it would be better to set the word count by month. The way I currently do freelancing, work tends to pile up at the end of the month, so 2,000 words per day isn't very practical for several days.

So here's what we're going to do. We're going to have a writing competition covering the months of May, June, July, and August. The loser (by word count) has to take the winner (by word count) out to lunch. The minimum amount of words to be written is 10,000 words, which comes out to roughly two or three chapters per month. And that's the minimum.

Luckily I have three possible projects to spread this out:

*The Cybele Incident, my NaNoWriMo project from last November. As of today it's 15,000+ words written, roughly 20-25 percent done. I've been using my Lawrenceville writing group to give myself deadlines to have each chapter done, which has served me well in getting the first five chapters written. I've also gotten most of the next-to-last chapter done. Five of the 21 slated chapters complete, with one almost done--two chapters a month means it's done in seven months. Three chapters a month equals five months.

*The Thing In The Woods, my one-shot Lovecraftian horror novel that draws on some of my experiences living in and reporting on a small town on the southern fringe of Metro Atlanta. 1,517 words long as of today. I was thinking that this was something that, if I really applied myself to, I could finish fairly quickly, since it doesn't require the same degree of expert knowledge that TCI (hard science and Naval protocol) does and it'd be shorter and require less military knowledge than the Wastelands novels (more here later). Eleven chapters total, so at two per month that's five months and three per month that's three and a half to four mouths. Given the lack of need for research, all I'd really need to do is apply myself.

*Escape from the Wastelands, the sequel to Battle for The Wastelands. As of today it's roughly 25,000 words written, around 20-25 percent done. Given how this is a sequel and I haven't sold the first one, this isn't going to be a priority. After all, if I can't sell the first one, what good is a sequel? Unless I e-publish it of course, which I'd really rather not do. At present this is 42 slated chapters, but many of them could be consolidated and worst case scenario, it could get split in half. After all, I've done it before.

I posted on Facebook and called on all of the mutual friends of Nick and me to witness the challenge and nag us into meeting our targets and now Sean CW Korsgaard wants to join in. The fact he lives in another state could be problematic re: actually getting lunch, but he will be coming to visit Georgia sometime during the summer.

As I said on Facebook, let the games a month. :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Like Jewelry Parties? Help A Friend...

My friend Kellie Jureka has recently gone into business for herself hosting "jewelry parties" for Premier Designs Jewelry. Here is her personal page.

If you're looking to buy jewelry for yourself or for someone else in your life, I would recommend her. Although she hasn't posted much on her Facebook page lately, interested parties should feel free to message her about hosting or attending parties, ordering jewelry, or joining her as a jeweler.

The ASOIAF Collaborative Timeline Continues (SPOILERS)

There's been some more discussion on my alternate-history message-board about the alternate A Song of Ice and Fire timeline beginning with King Robert Baratheon dying in the last days of the Greyjoy Rebellion after he and Ned Stark kill "King" Balon Greyjoy and his burly brother Victarion. Here is some of the earlier discussion I've posted, and what's coming is what came afterward.

*The Mad King Aerys II had caches of wildfire left all over King's Landing and Jaime Lannister killed him when he tried to set them off. Possible major stashes could include the Red Keep where the king and his minions would have easy access to them, the Dragonpit for maximum casualties, and the Great Sept of Baelor to give the Seven the finger for not helping Aerys. Euron's raid on King's Landing thus far seems to consist of an attack on the Great Sept where Cersei is captured and another attack on the Red Keep. Both are set on fire after being plundered. If even some of the wildfire goes off, we might have something akin to the Great Fire of London (the first or second) or the fire in Rome under Nero, which could kill tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people. Depending on how much damage is done, it might be necessary to move the capital to Dragonstone or Storm's End while the city is rebuilt. Rebuilding the ruined city on top of a decade of partying by Robert might put the realm in the same kind of financial danger it was in canon, although Littlefinger supervised by Stannis Baratheon could no doubt supervise the raising of the needed funds without them going anywhere they shouldn't.

*Although Jaime Lannister will be Lord Paramount of the Iron Islands with Asha Greyjoy as his lady, other ruling houses will send younger sons to be lords where Ironborn families were wiped out entirely. The younger Stark boys could be given islands to rule, while Roose Bolton could send his murderous bastard there as well, possibly saving the life of his legitimate son.

(Considering how violent and sadistic Ramsay is, I can imagine him adopting Ironborn customs like taking "saltwives" and paying the "iron price" just to justify him raping and stealing.)

*The pro-Targaryen coalition (Euron Greyjoy, Khal Drogo, Viserys Targaryen, "Aegon," and Danaerys Targaryen) is going to run into trouble if Drogo dies per canon. In canon Viserys tried to sneak into Danaerys' room the night before her wedding to molest her and if she's widowed while he's still alive, he might try to claim her as his wife. Canonically both "Aegon" and Euron are interested in marrying her as well. If Danaerys has the dragons, she'll have the means of defending herself and choosing her own husband. I suggested that's one way to kill off Viserys is have him lay hands on Danaerys and then get incinerated by the dragons and/or chopped up by Danaerys' bloodriders. Alternatively, if Euron takes Dragonstone in the process of killing Stannis, he might kill Viserys in an effort to awaken dragons from the stone there. Viserys has royal blood and if he's still the nut-bag he was in canon, even ten years of brutal training in war and sorcery from Euron might not be enough to temper him.

(If we want Danaerys to name one of her dragons after her brother, maybe Euron gets wind that Viserys is going to go after her and then kills him? All she'd hear is that Euron killed Viserys and if Viserys was having some kind of drunken crazy episode like just before how he died in canon, she might not even blame him. She isn't angry at Drogo for "crowning" the obnoxious Viserys with molten gold, after all.)

*With only Joffrey and Myrcella born to Cersei, ostensibly fathered by King Robert, it might be harder to figure out that they're bastards born of incest. Most of Ned's children with his wife Catelyn look like their mother, but nobody claims she was secretly sleeping with her brother Edmure. Given how in this timeline Cersei gives birth to Euron's rape child and later (presumably) has children with her new husband Edmure, if those children tend to look Lannister (blonde hair, green eyes), people might not ever suspect anything. On the other hand, many of Robert's bastards have already been born and they're all dark-haired.

*The anti-Targaryen coalition could have problems of its own. With Stannis dead, if Joffrey and Myrcella are  disinherited, this means Renly Baratheon is king. Renly tried to claim the crown in canon even though Stannis had the better legal claim, so him being an "Evil Uncle" to Joffrey and Myrcella might not be out of character. Ironically unless Ned has gotten proof, he might take Joffrey's side against Renly. And although Edmure is not head of House Tully until his father Hoster dies, he might be willing to defend his wife against any accusations directed at her. He was willing to stand by Roslin Frey in canon, after all, even though their wedding was a trap that killed his sister, nephew, and many of his political allies, and on at least one occasion he has been described as "soft of heart, soft of head." I'm imagining Edmure fleeing with Cersei to Tywin Lannister if it looks like his father is going to arrest Cersei for treason and incest, which could lead to a Tully civil war between father and son. Although Edmure doesn't really seem to be the sort to inspire a rising against Hoster, the possibility of having to fight Tywin might be...intimidating to some of the riverlords. In particular, I'm thinking of the slimy, opportunistic Walder Frey.

*Given how in this timeline Varys poisons Regent Jon Arryn soon after Hand of the King Stannis is killed in battle with Euron, he could easily send letters in Jon's name to Mace Tyrell, Renly, and Tywin telling them they're the new Hand of the King and they need to bring an army to King's Landing to protect it against another attack by Euron. If both of them show up at the city with armies, each will likely claim the other was planning a coup to take control of Joffrey. Each would have a credible reason to do so--Tywin is Joffery's grandfather and was Hand for 20 years to the Mad King Aerys II, while Mace has the very marriageable daughter Margaery he can marry to Joffrey to gain influence over the young king and Renly is King Robert's brother like Stannis was and has ample governing experience. All you'd need is a skirmish or someone getting poisoned and you could have a two-way or three-way battle right there. Alternatively, one or more of the leaders could back off to avoid a fight they can't win--and then start the fight on their own terms later.

*Meanwhile, the pro-Targaryen forces gather in Essos and Dragonstone and the Iron Fleet sails to liberate their ancient homeland from its occupiers.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Collaborative ASOIAF Alternate Timeline

On my alternate history forum, I came across an A Song of Ice and Fire timeline with the point of divergence being that King Robert Baratheon is killed in the final battle of the Greyjoy Rebellion. The assumption being that Robert, a glutton for fighting on top of food, booze, and sex, would be leading from the front despite being commander-in-chief of the entire war effort.

(Here's some fan-art depicting Robert plowing through some Ironborn with his gigantic war-hammer.)

I got involved relatively late in the discussion. Here's a rough sketch of the timeline that resulted. The board member Hero of Canton suggested that the point of divergence is that Balon Greyjoy and his brother Victarion lead an assault on Robert's siege engines in person. Robert kills Balon and Ned Stark kills Victarion, but Balon's personal troops go berserk at the fall of their lord and gang-pile Robert. Robert is wounded by a spear and the wound doesn't seem bad at first, but it festers and in a few days Robert is dead. Joffrey is now king, but he's only six years old. The dying Robert names his foster father (and current Hand of the King) Jon Arryn Regent and Lord Protector until his (supposed) son Joffrey comes of age, with his stern brother Stannis as the new Hand. He also releases Jaime Lannister from his vows as a kingsguard and names him the new Lord of the Iron Islands.

(Yes, he's a kingsguard and that's legally problematic. I'll get to that later.)

Fortunately for Balon's two surviving children Asha and Theon, Jaime is present to make up for his failure to protect the children of Prince Rhaegar by fighting off an attempt by the maddened Gregor Clegane to kill them. As a result, "the kingslayer" earns a second nickname for protecting the kids. Theon is fostered at Winterfell per canon, with Asha betrothed to Jaime to strengthen his position. Asha is entirely cool with this, since she views his battle with "The Mountain That Rides" as paying "the iron price" for her.

Unfortunately for most everyone, the nefarious Euron Greyjoy has escaped the Iron Islands, leading an exodus of Ironborn die-hards into exile. On his way east, he stops to raid King's Landing and carries off Cersei Lannister, Robert's widow who is pregnant with Myrcella at the time, while she was visiting the Sept of Baelor to pray for the health of her unborn child. His intent is to hold both mother and baby hostage and once the baby is born, threaten her to ensure Cersei's....cooperation.

Apparently there's a reference in the third book to the High Septon being able to release a kingsguard from their vows for a suitable donation, but the High Septon's price is higher than expected. Euron has used black magic in his assault on King's Landing and the Septon wants something resembling a Crusade to punish him. The "young hotheads" of the realm (Edmure Tully, Oberyn Martell, and Jaime himself) set off to rescue Cersei and take down Euron, with Tywin promising Cersei's hand to whomever rescues her.

Eventually Euron is brought to bay among the Stepstones between Westeros and Essos. In an epic three-on-one fight with "the young hotheads," Euron is apparently killed. Cersei and Myrcella are rescued, but there's a complication the board member AJNolte suggested--Cersei is pregnant with Euron's child. Although means of ending a pregnancy exist in this world ("moon tea" seems to function like a morning-after pill, with tansy being a full-blown abortifacent), the unfortunate Lysa Arryn shows what happens when it's administered later in the pregnancy. Ultimately Cersei bears Euron's bastard, who is given to Tyrion Lannister (he of the "cripples, bastards, and broken things") to look after.

And Tyrion will be able to raise him in a more appropriate fashion. In canon, Tristifer Botley was one of several boys fostered at Pyke after the Greyjoy Rebellion and while there, had something of an affair with the young Asha. Since Asha is promised to Jaime Lannister, he's not just going to be sent away when it's found out, but something far worse. Either the Botleys rescue him before he gets the chop or the whole house goes into exile in exchange for his life. The Botley lands are given to Tyrion, who marries into an Ironborn family that has historically not gotten along with the Botleys as a parting middle-finger to them.

(Meanwhile Cersei is married off to Edmure, since Oberyn would reject such a marriage out of hand and Edmure has a reputation for being soft-hearted. Hopefully this will be better for her than marriage to the abusive oaf Robert.)

However, it turns out Euron Greyjoy isn't actually dead. His sorcery saved his life and per AJNolte's suggestion, he seeks out those who hates the Baratheon regime as much as he does--the exiled Viserys and Danaerys Targaryen. He takes Viserys as his evil apprentice, while Danaerys ends up married off to Khal Drogo per canon.

Meanwhile, back in Westeros, Jon Arryn bring the rising star Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish to court and per canon makes him Master of Coin (this was my idea). Stannis, however, does not particularly like a man who runs brothels in King's Landing, and keeps a very close eye on how he spends and invests the king's money. Robert has been king for several years before dying at Pyke, so I imagine the realm's finances aren't in the best shape.

Ultimately, things come to a head. Littlefinger provides funding to Euron Greyjoy with the goal of Stannis leaving King's Landing to fight him. This gets him out of Littlefinger's hair for the moment and will hopefully get him killed, with other potential Hands like Mace Tyrell less likely to keep too close an eye on him. Meanwhile, Varys the closet Targaryen loyalist is still there, providing assistance and information to Viserys and Danaerys and "Aegon." Joffrey will have a better upbringing than in canon but six-odd years of being ignored by his "father" and spoiled by his mother during a crucial period in his development and whatever inborn psychological issues resulting from being conceived of incest are still going to be there. He's going to try to assert himself as the king more and more, with Varys no doubt trying to enable his worst aspects to pave the way for a Targaryen restoration.

If war comes, I'm imagining it as follows. Euron kills Stannis in battle and raids the eastern coastline with his understudy Viserys while Khal Drogo and "Aegon" and the Golden Company begin preparing an invasion of Westeros per canon. Varys poisons Jon to sow even more chaos, while Doran Martell waits to unleash Dorne's army. Meanwhile, a grown-up Tristifer leads a fleet to the Iron Islands to get back with Asha over Jaime Lannister's dead body.

(In the books Asha thinks Tristifer thinks she's some damsel in need of rescuing and in this timeline you could make a case she is--her father has been overthrown and she's being married off to one of the men who did it. Tristifer can still be the dorky and well-meaning fellow he is in canon and not be TOO much "darker and edgier" as a result of a decade-long association with Euron.)

And in the meantime, the Others are stirring in the lands beyond the wall. Not sure how the dragons will be born in this scenario. The broad strokes of the canonical scenario could still take place, albeit in different circumstances. That would deprive the planned Targaryen restoration of  its Dothraki manpower and could even cause infighting among its surviving leaders--Viserys will likely try to claim Danaerys as his wife, but Danaerys, now the Mother of Dragons, may not be interested. There's also "Aegon" and someone from House Martell (like Quentyn or if Doran learns about Danaerys' bad-boy fetish, maybe Oberyn) or even Euron who would also like that honor.

Anyone want to write a fan-fic set in this world? I'll blog about it if credit is given. Here's the second part of the timeline, bringing us to this world's version of the War of the Five Kings.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Infested Valerian: Another Idea for How I Would Do SC2 (SPOILERS)

Here's another idea I had pursuant to how I thought StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm should have gone. In a discussion on my message-board, the user whose handle is yorel said that Arcturus Mengsk would not deliberately kill Valerian. If Valerian were sent in to negotiate Arcturus's surrender, he might imprison him or use him in some kind of scheme (like sending him back with Nova and other Ghosts on his tail). I went and edited my post accordingly just to have Valerian die, possibly by accident, so the Terran Dominion would splinter into civil war and much of it would follow Arcturus into service of the undead Xel'Naga Amon, the Dark Voice.

Valerian doesn't have to die, but he could be mortally wounded and to save his life require Sarah Kerrigan to infest him. Since in my scenario involves Mengsk fleeing to the Dark Voice with the Xel'Naga artifact as a potential genocide weapon against both the Zerg and Protoss, this can't be undone once Valerian has physically recovers.

Now any attempt to set up Valerian as the new emperor of the Terran Dominion is going to kick off a civil war. Not only are Raynor and Valerian blatantly in cahoots with the Zerg, but now Valerian is for all intents and purposes a Zerg himself. Even if Kerrigan's infestation preserves his mental independence, people will think he's under her control. And Kerrigan is the Dominion's public enemy number one. Rather than a revolt against a tyrant, it's become the Zerg taking over the Dominion. However, Raynor has enough following that there are many people who would side with him, especially since he revealed that Mengsk Sr. was responsible for the Zerg obliteration of Tarsonis.

However, this leaves Valerian alive rather than killing him off. Although he appears in other Starcraft media, Starcraft 2 ( in particular, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty) is his first game appearance. He's too important to bring him in briefly and then kill him, as ends up happening to General Horace Warfield. It could also sow conflict for Arcturus in the upcoming Protoss story Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void--if he realizes his son is still alive and infested, he might be tempted to use the Xel'Naga artifact to de-infest him rather than whatever the Dark Voice wants him to do with it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

How I Would Have Done "Heart of the Swarm" (SPOILERS)

Something I've come to believe over the years is that it's easy to criticize, but more difficult to suggest viable alternatives. My last post was a critique of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm; this post will be how I would have handled the storyline if I were writing it.

(For the record, all I know about the story comes from cinematics and TVTropes. All errors are my own.)

*The beginning of the campaign is awesome as it is. The TVTropes "Funny" page references a couple really amusing exchanges between Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan (one pertaining to zerglings and the other to their different types of hair) that are really clever. And Arcturus Mengsk attacking the Hyperion even when Matt Horner has broadcast that his son is aboard does a good job showing just how vindictive Daddy Mengsk is--Valerian says, "My father will take any piece off the chessboard to get the queen" or something to that effect.  And when Kerrigan thinks Raynor is dead, that and its consequences are well-done.

My only beef is that everyone on the bridge seems too relaxed when Kerrigan rumbles in during the escape from the Umojan facility. The core of Raynor's Raiders were people who deserted Mengsk over Kerrigan's betrayal in the first game, but she's been the terrible overlord of the Zerg for the last five years, the Zerg they'd fought in a battle from hell only a few weeks ago (I don't know the length of time the novel StarCraft II: Flashpoint covers between Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm). I would expect some more mistrust, especially given how in Flashpoint, Kerrigan accidentally killed one of the Raiders while fighting the Dominion.

*However, I would have avoided the return to Zerus, the whole goofy "Primal Zerg" story, and Kerrigan voluntarily re-infesting herself. Given how Zeratul had returned to Aiur at some point prior to Wings of Liberty and communed with the shade of Tassadar near the Overmind's corpse, it would be better if he had told Kerrigan she had to go to Aiur to find out what she needs to know to face the Dark Voice, the undead Xel'Naga Amon. That'd also set up a fight with the Protoss, returning en masse to reclaim their Zerg-ravaged homeworld. They could assume Kerrigan is there to reinforce the Zerg occupation forces or simply refuse to believe that she's there with Zeratul's blessing and try to kill her to avenge Aldaris and Raszagal from Brood War. If there's some need to remove the "taint" of the Dark Voice from Kerrigan herself (dubious as other than the hair she's not Zerg anymore and could control the Zerg even as a full human in the back-story), this could be done via some psychic thing with the dead Overmind and the ghostly Tassadar rather than reinfestation.

*The confrontation with Samir Duran can come as it did in the game. That was fun. How Kerrigan could win it without being reinfested (she ultimately used her extra Zerg limbs to kill Duran even after he had impaled her on some kind of energy blade) I'm not sure. If she's not reinfested, Duran can't momentarily shock her by shifting into her human form, so perhaps he can simply use the fact he's got thousands of years of combat experience (and non-"Primal" Kerrigan isn't as powerful) to knock her around for a bit before she manages to turn the tables.

*The rescue of Raynor from the prison and the war with the Dominion can go roughly the same as before. Raynor will not abandon her because she hasn't voluntarily re-infested, but if the "Zerg only" dynamic needs to be preserved, maybe the Raiders (and Valerian) mount a big diversionary attack somewhere else, allowing for Kerrigan to destroy the hybrid-creation facilities and march on Korhal. This is where we could work in my idea from a couple years back about Kerrigan finding Raynor's son in the Dominion Ghost program. Or, if the Ghost Academy doesn't get destroyed, maybe she finds him being used in the hybrid-creation program somehow. He is a psychic, after all.

*Like in the game, everyone comes together for the final assault on Korhal. Maybe the remnants of the UED expeditionary force can join with the Raiders for the human part of the attack, acknowledging the UED's remaining presence in the sector. And since how some of the Zerg campaign missions mirror Terran missions from Wings of Liberty (according to what I've read), Mengsk's recapture of the Xel'Naga artifact allows for a reversed version of the last Terran missions from Wings of Liberty. The artifact could be used to blunt individual Zerg attacks or used to wipe out massive numbers of Zerg a la the end of Wings of Liberty, forcing the human troops to bear more of the burden.

Given how much of Kerrigan's "I'm not a monster anymore" comes from her desire to avoid civilian deaths even if it puts her at a military disadvantage, maybe they send Valerian to negotiate Arcturus's surrender rather than face an extended bloodbath on Korhal. They might think him being the Dominion heir will mean something to the old man, or Valerian himself might volunteer out of some sense of duty. Instead Arcturus takes Valerian hostage to try to force Raynor and Kerrigan to surrender or something like that. Raynor and Kerrigan try to stage a commando mission (maybe just the two of them, like at the beginning of the game) to rescue Valerian and it all goes south. Valerian is killed (perhaps by accident) and Arcturus flees with his most psychotic loyalists to the Dark Voice, perhaps thinking that he'll be able to take Duran's place as the Dark Voice's Antichrist.

Although the later stages of the campaign are more hopeful and sunny than canon (no reinfestation and breach with Raynor), it all goes to hell at the end. Valerian would have represented a chance to hold the Terran Dominion together after Mengsk's overthrow--now there's only Raynor, a known collaborator with two different species of aliens, and Kerrigan, who most of human space views as a monster. And thanks to Kerrigan mistakenly thinking Raynor was dead, there's no respected General Horace Warfield to back them up.

Although the Dark Voice will not be able to use the Zerg to exterminate the Terrans and Protoss like in Zeratul's vision, instead human space will be disunited and at least parts of the splintered Dominion might be willing to ally with the Dark Voice instead of a pair of (to them) species-traitors. And with Mengsk taking the Xel'Naga artifact to the Dark Voice, the enemy now has a potential weapon of genocide against both the Zerg and apparently the Protoss.

(Got to give credit where it's due. The idea that Mengsk might ally with the Dark Voice and the Terrans would be "meat shields" for the hybrids instead of the Zerg during the coming uber-war might have come from someone else on discussions.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thoughts on "Heart of the Swarm" (MAJOR SPOILERS)

As you all know, I'm a big fan of the computer game StarCraft. I bought the original game when it came out when I was in middle school, I've read some of the novels set in that universe, and although the computer I had at the time couldn't handle it, I at least took a stab at Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.

I plotted out a novel I could pitch to Blizzard that would take place between Wings of Liberty and StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, a novel that would have stood in the place of StarCraft II: Flashpoint. Although gameplay is always fun, my major interest has been in the storyline. It was for that reason that last night, before the game even came out, I watched the uploaded cinematics on YouTube.

So how does Heart of the Swarm come out story-wise? Well...

*They didn't kill off Jim Raynor, which would have a major downer. Instead they let Sarah Kerrigan think he was killed, which certainly pushed her in a very dark direction for awhile. That scene was well-done. Flashpoint began with Raynor abandoning his longtime friend Tychus Findlay on Char after shooting him to protect an de-infested and semi-catatonic Kerrigan and I was afraid some infested undead Tychus would show up and kill Raynor. Earlier SC material had UED commander Alexei Stukov, who was killed in battle, infested by the Zerg, and later de-infested, so there's precedent. If Tychus didn't immediately die from Raynor's bullet, it would have been even easier to have him returning "from the dead," since the Zerg could have prevented him from dying in the first place. Unfortunately this meant the death of Horace Warfield, who didn't really deserve it.

*I liked the second round between Kerrigan and Zeratul. The timing of Zeratul grabbing her by the face and mind-melding with her was actually quite funny.

*However, I didn't like the idea of "primal Zerg" on the Zerg homeworld of Zerus and how they were especially adaptable. The Zerg have always been especially adaptable. There was no need to have the return to Zerus in the first place, especially since the Zerg left it hundreds if not thousands of years before and it's likely EXTREMELY far away. Plus any Zerg left behind would probably be second-stringers the Overmind figured wouldn't be that useful for its campaigns of conquest and assimilation across the galaxy. Kerrigan could simply sail around looking for new life-forms to incorporate into the Swarm, have a protracted war with the Dominion or Protoss who don't buy Zeratul's theory that she's needed to save the universe, or go to Aiur to commune with the dead Overmind and the shade of Tassadar to learn more about the Dark Voice, the "real enemy."

*And the "primal Zerg" thing ties into her voluntarily being reinfested, in order to better control the "primal Zerg." Although this was hinted at from very early on (how she was building her powers "through mutations"), there's tinkering with your DNA to be faster or stronger or have retractable claws or something and there's turning yourself back into the monster that killed millions if not billions of people, including your boyfriend's Protoss battle-buddy Fenix. I did like the confrontation between Raynor and re-infested Kerrigan though, in which long-forgotten Fenix is finally brought up.

*Samir Duran is dealt with. That fight was a fun one, especially when Duran confronts her in the guise of Raynor. Yikes. We also learned who or what the Dark Voice actually is--apparently it's an undead Xel'Naga. The idea that the Zerg had not completely wiped out the Xel'Naga and they'd be back for revenge was circulating in the fan community as early as Wings of Liberty and possibly as early as the Zeratul bonus mission in Brood War in which he learns Duran is creating Protoss-Zerg hybrids.

*The ending. That SOB Arcturus Mengsk gets what he deserves at long last, although I was hoping he'd bug off with the hybrids he and Duran had created in the face of a coup by his two bitterest enemies and his own son in hopes of immortality, supernatural powers, etc. from the Dark Voice. That way he can stay a dangerous threat to the Dominion, our heroes, etc. well into Legacy of the Void. Power-mad near-psychopath (or full psychopath) that he is, that'd be in-character. And the big difference from the leaked trailer from over a year ago and the canonical ending is that Mengsk had the Xel'Naga artifact that de-infested Kerrigan in the first place, something that Raynor and friends have now. That's actually a "Hope Spot" in TVTropes terms, since it allows for her to get de-infested again later on. Raynor and Kerrigan's last conversation is also rather touching.

(Yes, as far as Raynor and Kerrigan are concerned, I'm a hopeless romantic. Sue me.)

*It looks like they didn't go with the idea I had where Kerrigan liberates the Ghost Academy and finds Johnny Raynor, Raynor's son from his first marriage who was strongly implied to be taken by the Ghost program during the days of the Confederacy. Darn--that could have been used to create some additional depth and flesh out Raynor's back-story some more. I posted the idea on Blizzard discussion forum (here and possibly other places) and some people actually really liked the idea. However, I remember reading somewhere that companies are very careful with ideas they find online for fear of getting sued. And apparently one can only join Blizzard's creative team if someone dies or retires, so good luck with me getting hired.

*Kerrigan's last speech as the Zerg leave Korhal sets the stage for the next game. Having learned from Duran who the "real enemy" is, she's going to fight him (it?) with the full might of the Zerg. Since the last part of SC2 is the Protoss campaign, I'm assuming the player will be fighting alongside her against the Dark Voice in the last game. And scuttlebutt is we'll see Raynor again...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What I've Been Writing Lately...

I think it's been awhile since I've updated my loyal readers with how my writing is going, so here you go...

*I just queried another agent for Battle for the Wastelands. This makes the fifth agent I've queried for it. So far I've been rejected by two. I have created a list of agents and publishers based on trips through the Alpharetta and Dunwoody Barnes and Noble stores and I'm running out of those. Next it's time to go through 2011 Novel And Short Story Writer's Market and 2013 Writer's Market and see what agents I can find there.

*Completed chapter five of The Cybele Incident, which the title I settled on for my 2012 NaNoWriMo project. I went over it with my Lawrenceville writing group on Sunday. It came through surprisingly unscathed (a fellow group member is a retired Navy petty officer), although it looks like I'll be revising the whole universe to depict artificial gravity as a viable technology. Luckily I recently got new laptop and was able to look up during the meeting a method of artificial gravity that was surprisingly near-term technology-wise. Including it in the story wouldn't require too many painful alterations.

(Having a laptop is really cool for writing-group meetings. Rather than write everything down in a notebook and then have to keep track of physical pages, I can take notes in a Word document.)

*This afternoon I submitted my short story "Ubermensch" to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It's a villain-protagonist superhero story featuring a half-Indian biomedical engineer who follows the creed of Nietzsche (as he understands it, which might not be all that well) and has turned himself into a cyborg. If FSF doesn't want it (I mostly use them as a secondary sort of critique--depending on whether a story didn't grab the editor's interest or hold the editor's interest, I can tell whether the problem is the beginning or the middle), I'll send it off to Daily Science Fiction, which explicitly accepts superhero fiction. At worst, I'll package it with a second story that dovetails a whole lot with "Ubermensch" and self-publish it for e-readers as "Two Tales of Andrew Patel."

*In the middle of revising my short story "Lord Giovanni's Daughter," a sword/sorcery story featuring a barbarian adventurer who is essentially a Norman--a Viking who got civilization but still has the energy and warlike attitude of his uncivilized forebears. My Kennesaw writing group came up with a lot of good suggestions last Saturday. A friend of mine is putting together an anthology of sword and sorcery fiction and failing that, there are still a few more markets out there. The story was purchased (and paid for) by a print magazine in 2008 that went under before it could be printed, so it's among my better works.

*Today I downloaded Celtx, a sort of screenwriting software that I first learned about at a job networking meeting. One local screenwriting group won't even accept screenplays written in Microsoft Word, so this could prove very important. I could probably finish my "Coil Gun" screenplay fairly quickly and writing a "Melon Heads" script shouldn't take that long, so this could prove very important.

*I'll soon start working with the editors of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly on my story "Nicor," which is slated to be posted on their website in April. Given how much they seem to like "Nicor," I'll be sure to send them more of my sword and sorcery work in the future.