Archive | October 2012

The Walking Dud

I recently got caught up on the Walking Dead now that the second season went on Netflix and the premiere of the third.  Friends of mine have sung the show’s praises and carried on about the lethality involved between likeable characters and the murderous plot.

I am not impressed.  Sorry.

I fully intend to complete the rest of this review with FULL SPOILERS, just so you know.  However, I have to forewarn that I am doing something that breaks one of my own cardinal rules – I have no knowledge, absolute zero, of the Walking Dead comic/graphic novels. Please pardon this transgression.

He’s so cuuuuuute

I’m disappointed.  Perhaps the show had been built up, but the show falls flat on several points for me.  Now that there’s been a separation between the group with Rick and Andrea, the writing is also separated between melodrama and on-the-nose scripting.

Anytime Lori is onscreen, I’m finding the show nearly unwatchable.  The re-hashing of her decision to cohabitate with Shane after the outbreak was overdone too many times, plus her character is unpleasant down to the core. People – better yet CHARACTERS – do forgive and forget, even and especially during trying circumstances. I think there were three different sets of conversations where the topic was broached between Rick & Lori and resolved.  Yet, this is still a sore source that’s keeping these characters from being a happy family unit.   Its poor and unrealistic characterization.  Every time Lori & Rick are onscreen now, there’s the same stinkface on each of their mugs.  Drawing out this mistake is a poor choice and uninteresting. THAT’s a television sin.

The new offshoot with Andrea is interesting, especially the character of Michonne adds a mysterious element the show needs.  I loved the zombie pets she  carried around with her, but that device deserved another display of how that tactic worked amongst a herd.  Wouldn’t you rather have seen Michonne and Andrea creeping across a meadow with the zombie pets serving as a camo/smoke screen – the intensity of terror and the anticipation of getting caught or discovered by a particularly disgusting deadhead than the wasted potential the most current displayed by having those two get decapitated with very little reason as to why they became agitated and started to give away the ladies’ position?

Also, the new “bad guy” Governor is full of tired writing and characterization.  Yes, we get it.  He’s a power-hungry redneck despot that shouldn’t be trusted. Do we need to see him ambiguously staring at an aquarium collection of zedheads? Do we need to have the same conversation three times where the “imprisoned” ladies ask for their weapons with a curt response that asks them to stay?  Its all too on-the-nose, we get the point already, we didn’t trust the guy before we saw him do really awful things.

The show does do things well on the visual spectrum.  All of the dead look fantastic.  Their world looks and feels like a post-apocalyptic Georgia.  With every and any scene, there is a solid amount of tension that zombies are somewhere out there and could show up to interrupt at any time.  Those are solid.  I’d say the show does the undead proud.

The living, however, are horrific.  Rick’s struggle between good and right was getting tired towards the end of last season, but his crossover to being exactly like Shane was both predictable and stupid.  I hate Lori, let me say that again.  Dale was the heart and soul of the group and his death was important, but the situations with him & Andrea and Rick, Shane & Lori pushed the show beyond drama to melodrama and approaching soap opera.

I plan on continuing along, but the world of the Walking Dead needs some new blood.  There’s loads of potential there – everything going on within the prison can be great – but I fear that the show will get bogged down in pissing match squabbles based on human inadequacies.  If the zombies win, from what I’ve seen so far, that’s really the best outcome imaginable.

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Planetkill: un-used

Right after college, I went through a dramatic period of apocalyptic dreams.  At the time, they seemed to be really screaming some sort of message to me and I had no idea to this day what any of them were about.  I used them in a submission to a writing contest for the Black Library.  My submission wasn’t used, but I had been holding on to the draft for some time to use later.

Well,  I think its come to the point where I cannot use this portion for anything, but I really do like it and will endeavor to finish it at some point and put the rest of it up here.  Here’s the open:

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As the water rose higher and started to flow faster, he struggled to keep the infants’ heads afloat.  He cradled as many as possible, while trying to forget the many he left behind. His motions became restricted and panicked.  The wet, rubber soles of his shoes slipped on the chalcedonic river bed and he nearly fell into the murky stream.  The water now at his neck, he looked down at the faces of the children to tell them how he failed, but instead became shocked to see ghastly, fetal horrors now held tight to his body.  Instead of cherub cheeks and sandy hair, he saw deep bruises and folded, purple skin.  Their bodies were almost embryonic in comparison to their heads, but their helpless appearance belied their intelligence as each in turn fixed predatory eyes on him and bared tiny, piranha fangs.

*Blink*

 

He floated in cold, dark space.  Although blind and muffled, he felt at ease, as though the lack of control freed him.  The feeling was exhilarating, he could travel great distances on his own whim and enjoy the fluid sensation of flowing through the ether.  Something cold and insubstantial pressed against his side and burst, covering him in moisture.  His reflexes deadened.  Something else brushed against his other side and feet, this time hard and scaly.  With glacial effort, he managed to open one eye.  Horrific creatures resembling oceanic cephalopods surrounded him to every side.  Their mass and many limbs pushed him through the ether, corralling him.  Then without warning, he was thrown from their clutch.  The numbing sensation gone, all he felt was pitch terror as he began to burn in atmosphere.

*Blink*

 

The overcast sky burned behind the clouds, slowly turning the light from common grey to ashen night and then dirty orange.  The air changed and the wind simply died.  Everyone stood dead still, just for a moment.  In the troposphere, hazy spinnerets of cloud began to wind downwards until the darkest sections of the sky became like volcanoes turned upside down.  What started as a trickle of light through clouds gave way to a conflagration of liquid flame pouring downwards onto the planet.  After the deluge, a menacing sentinel of shadow stood behind a wall of smoke just beyond eyesight.  Behind the crisp of burning air it could be heard breathing.  Or laughing.

Tobin Sypes’s alarm went off at 0700 like it did every day, the high-pitched yowl removing him from his nightmares. He rose, slammed the alarm clock off and shuffled into the bathroom of his cramped, piddling apartment.

Tobin didn’t bother with the light, better to not look at the grimy, pale green tiles and tainted, yellowing porcelain.  The water smelled of river-waste and tasted like copper as he splashed it on his face.  He wished he could get cold water out of his faucet instead of the tepid, impassive liquid that dripped off of his chin.  At least cold water might have shocked him into the day and out of the night.  Now he was just wet.

Dressed in a loose, grey undershirt and pressed chinos, he prepared breakfast while listening to the morning public vox.  The announcer was talking about some election results from off-world with local economic consequences, but he wasn’t listening. Tobin Sypes was busy staring at the heating elements in his toaster as they went from dull grey to fierce orange.

“- -leaving no survivors.  In other news, the heat wave on the Southern coast will remain for the rest of the week, so citizens are advised to try and remain indoors and consume rationed liquids.  As for the western plain regions – -“

The orange coils burned brightly and left lasting ghosts on Tobin’s retinas.  He tried to remember something about color change and coils of light when he suddenly jumped at the sound of his toast popping.

Sitting on the shabby, tweed couch eating dry toast, Tobin stared out at the hard sunlight glaring into his 53rd level hab.  Something was bothering him and he hadn’t had enough caffeine yet to identify what it was.

“- -with today marking the three hundredth anniversary of the triumph at Tesse Domina, citizens  are encouraged to partake in the festivities downtown.  The parade begins at 0930 and will block traffic across Capricia Avenue from 0800 until sundown- -“

Focusing in on the words in the air for just a moment, Tobin appreciated the fact that everyone would be at that gaudy parade and not bothering him while he was at work.  The celebration was ridiculous, he thought.  It wasn’t as if this world’s Imperial Guard had played a major part in the victory.  No, they had to be saved by a great Astartes chapter.  That reminded Tobin, today he had his meeting with Commissar Vasquez about recruitment levels.

What had he been thinking about earlier?  Something had bothered him, he could remember that.  Was it the color orange?  Putting his half-eaten breakfast down, Tobin Sypes began to tie on his boots.

“- -leaving them totally without power or water for several hours.  Should you experience these same circumstances, authorities encourage you to be patient as the root problem is being sorted out.  That brings this news program to an end.  Stay tuned for live coverage of today’s parade.  Today, Tobin Sypes, is the last day of this world.”

The wet thud of chewed toast on carpet preceded trumpets and drums.  The march melody blared out in the hollow confines of Tobin Sypes’ apartment for some time while   Tobin sat on his couch with one shoe on, one shoe off, refusing to turn around and face the vox playing behind him.  Slowly, he swiveled his head over his shoulder.  The vox sat there, immobile, like it did every day, music still yammering out of its one speaker.  He looked at this appliance every morning, but today was the first day he was afraid of it.  Today, for the first time, it looked sinister.

Insomnia and Other Afflictions of the Mind

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Insomnia is a brutish, bloodshot gorilla tied to your back demanding that you fall asleep at 135 decibels.

About once a month I find that I’m completely awake at 3:45 in the morning, having lain on my side for four hours, completely aware that there is nothing I can do that will fix the situation.  I find that these situations arise when I have few good books surrounding my bedside or problematic writing assignments.

It may be that I don’t even suffer from true insomnia, but my night owlishness needs a good flight from the barn to the fields and back again.  The symptoms usually don’t last more than a night, but there’s hell to pay with my sleep schedule.  Do not doubt that.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are the tips and tricks that have helped me through nearly twenty years of sleeplessness:

1 – Acceptance.  You will not fall asleep unless you let the thing out of your head to roam free, so accept that you are not falling asleep at the moment and free yourself to pursue thought.  This is where good reading can help – just not overly good reading that keeps you awake.  Journal writing works very well to resolve issues or work yourself through stances or opinions.  You just have to put yourself in Alice’s shoes and take the breath before you plunge down the rabbit hole.

2 – Wander.  Move about, leave your position, or just sit up.  Once you know your situation, give yourself permission to readjust yourself from the struggle against sleep and pursue the demands of this harassing gorilla.  Cats especially like this phase of nocturnal activity, as it means they can grab warm spots in the bed or harass the afflicted in the kitchen for more food.  If you never leave your bed, or won’t give yourself the freedom of flipping on a bedside lamp, then you will be stuck for hours.

During one episode in college, I tried my hardest to stay in bed and read a book by  the light of the streetlamp outside my window.  The monkeyfist knot in my right shoulder lasted nearly three days.

3 – Muse.  An incubus is a demon that was believed to have lain on top of people, preventing them from sleeping (among other activities).  A muse is a Greek goddess of inspiration, mainly sourcing to literature, science and art.  Are they all that dissimilar?

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“Crap! I have levitation class at 25:131. I better set the alarm to ‘cinnamon’.” – XKCD

If you’ve given in to Acceptance, and allowed yourself to Wander, then pursue the Muse and engage your activity.  The biggest step truly is the acceptance that you have to follow this road first before you can be let out.  You are in Alice’s forest and the path behind you is being swept away by a little shaggy beast with a mop-tail.  You can run for the exits or stroll along and learn a few things about your destination.

Sure, this blog-post is one way of handling one of these situations, but its working and passing the time.  Plus, if this doesn’t work for me or anyone else, you can always just look at pictures of cats.

Good luck, fellow sleepless.

Euryale, the Mother of Gorgons

I created a character I really liked for my Dungeons & Dragons campaign I ran a while back – Euryale, the Mother of Gorgons.  During the events of this campaign, the dragon god of justice & order, Bahamut, was slain by his rival Tiamat and the party set out on a quest to resurrect the good dragon lord.  A tome found in an elven library theorized that a dead god could be brought to life by gathering the Divine Essence of a creature that has been gifted immortality from the Gods – and the closest and best known creature to have been granted this boon was Euryale.

Borrowed art of Vraska the Unseen (MTG)

Here was her tale:

“In the days of the cooling new world, as the Gods first explored their domains and became familiar with their creations, the god Moradin was passing from mountain to mountain, inspecting each to learn its strengths and weaknesses.  He came upon a creature that was new to him, which happened often in those days, a woman with a snake’s tail and serpents for hair.  She was Euryale.

Euryale had the gift to turn objects to stone, stone which Moradin treasured greatly.  He had her turn greater and greater objects into stone, delighting in the way each object achieved perfection frozen in stone.  She created statues from creatures and pillars from trees for Moradin.  Eventually she grew weary of this task, for Moradin only took mirth in her talent and not in her.  At a grove of eternal oak trees, Euryale plead with Moradin to show her others of his kind, other gods and in turn she would give him the eternal oaks turned into stone masterpieces.  Moradin accepted.

Moradin took Euryale to Arvandor and there she met Corellon, master of the arcane, master of the wilderness.  Corellon was enamored with Euryale’s dark beauty.  He shared with her his new-found secrets and lore.  He showed her magic and nature, he showed her how to hunt.  She gave to him 2 twin children, Lilith and Sammael.  And for a time, Corellon and Euryale were content.

There came a time when the Primordials rose against the Gods and a great war scoured the land.  Corellon left Arvandor to join the other gods in battle, but in his absence Euryale’s children grew restless and curious.  They explored the other realms of the gods and came to one of Moradin’s great halls.  Within this hall, Moradin had set every tree from the grove of the eternal oaks and it was a glorious achievement of structure.  Lilith and Sammael, being part god and part medusa, held power over the trees and set them free of their stone bonds.

Soon after, the gods descended on Moradin’s hall to rest from battle.  There they marveled over the beauty of the halls, but Moradin was angered by the actions of Corellon’s children and sought out Euryale, thinking she had broken their pact.  In Arvandor, declared her to be monstrous and a breaker of vows.  Lilith and Sammael, hearing this, came forth and claimed the deed was their doing, not their mother’s.

Their father, Corellon, was taken aback by these events.  Bewildered so by the actions of his children and the knowledge that his companion Euryale had been the instrument of the tree’s imprisonment, Corellon became distraught.  He commanded Moradin to leave his realm, but the dwarven god was proud and stubborn and demanded repayment for the treachery.  Corellon rebuked him and cast him out of Arvandor without recompense.  And never more did Moradin enter the elven god’s realm.

Feeling guilt from their actions, the twins Lilith and Sammael went to Moradin to repay him for the trees.  On their way, the children were ambushed by servants of the primordials.  Lilith arrived at Moradin’s halls and described the attack, but swiftly succumbed to her injuries.  The gods hunted down the murderers of Corellon’s children, but Euryale became sick by the turn of events.  She cursed the gods and left their realms.

Euryale went to the wilderness and spent time amongst the primordials and their disciples, who accepted her because of her appearance.  She carved out a realm of her own, far away from the conflicting forces.  She spawned many offspring in the wilds, wretched creatures with hateful hearts and the gift to turn the living into stone.  Only a very few shared her beauty and less still her talent to command anything into stone.

One night, during a great storm of thunder and light, Corellon came to Euryale’s lair.  He had been hunting one of the primordials and found her while seeking shelter from the fell being.  He begged her to come back to him, to join his side with the gods and fight against evil.  It was then the primordial known as Krakos, a vicious monster that commanded wind and sea, arrived suddenly.  It summoned a great gale that lashed at Corellon, ripping into the gods’ flesh.  Euryale strode before the behemoth and petrified it with her gaze, saving Corellon’s life.

Euryale refused Corellon’s offer and went further into the wilderness.  Her deed was never forgotten by the god of the magical arts and skill.  Her curse upon the gods was never forgotten either.”

Euryale was a powerful and mercurial being to the players.  They eventually found her captured by a necromancer and once freed, she offered a truce – she knew of a better way to return Bahamut from the dead (one that didn’t involve killing her to gain her spirit) and took them to the city of Hestavar where they had another pretty great few sessions of intrigue and adventure.

Exploring the Epic tier of play in the Fourth Edition created a lot of challenges.  I tried to make the story more epic – life and death of the Gods sort of thing – but in terms of mechanically making combat a challenge I had a few issues (my playgroup knows these challenges – damn people were harder to kill than cockroaches).  had they gone up against Euryale when they first met her, she might have proven a challenge.  Here’s the version they might have faced – created on the older version of the Wizards of the Coast Monster Builder:

Thanks for reading!

Update to the Evolution of the Human Race – Rampant Mutation

Anyone else notice something about some of the most recent sci-fi movies to come out this summer?

Having been weaned on X-Men comics, I’ve waited for the arrival of the next stage of human evolution for some time now, but the use of heightened human evolution is bleeding into other science fiction screenplays of late and I want to know why.

Both Looper & Dredd contained unexpected human mutations as a key plot point or character development, whereas Total Recall actually eschewed this point from its preceding film starring Ahnold.  The two movies starring some mutant power are borrowing heavily from Jean Grey here, the phrase used in Looper is actually “TK” for telekinetic.  The TP part, although the correct X-abbreviation for telepathic, was not used in Dredd, thank goodness.

I really enjoyed these two movies, I want to put that out there up front, but there’s a subtle shame here, I think, for either a lack of creativity or a missing appreciation of where these movies are borrowing from and how it affected their movie.  Even the introduction of these abilities somehow rubs me wrong.  The whole element of human mutation is explained in an offhand way by each narrator/hero(well, I guess anti-hero fits better for both) near the exposition of these movies.  Looper gives it a humorous element. Dredd appropriately deadpans.  However, the first element the audience reacts to in each movie is how visually these are represented.

Looper’s TK is introduced by a side-character floating a coin around his hand and the narrator gives us a “whoopty-doo” moment as this is the extent of human TK in this world.  Just a few in the near future can manipulate small items that weight less than a pound and only within their general vicinity.  You almost forget that this element exists in this world by the time it comes back into the movie and plays any importance whatsoever.

Dredd’s psychic mutation comes in the form of a rookie cadet Dredd’s been assigned to evaluate.  She gives a hint that she can read Dredd’s mind and that there is some thing in there he locks away – some dark, deep secret that keeps him going through every fight – but the moment is short-lived.  The actual portrayal of the psychic events look like the cast & crew went to Famke Janssen boot camp to learn how to touch your head just so and allow for a slight ringing in the ears when a vision is passing through like a rogue subway train.  Just load up the X-Men DVD and learn how to be a telepath.

Actually, I think my entire problem with these mutations comes down to the issue that human mutation and the development of “super-powers” are not even the coolest things in each movie.  Looper is a time-travel movie – my better half and I discussed this at length and decided its the best treatment of time-travel since the Back to the Future trilogy.  The issues of travelling through time to make contact with your younger/older self and the brutal nature of mob affiliation trump any explanations of human evolution in this movie.  It is a time travel movie first, a crime drama second.  No X-Men.  Dredd is an action thriller with no apologies for its violence and brutality.  Rated R for blood and that’s all to expect.  Those experiencing the evolution of the human mind are just poor saps who lost the genetic lottery – which is mentioned in passing as people growing extra limbs or ears, but never shown once except our telepath sidekick – so there’s very little to use there.

Looper’s a much better movie, I think the makers of Dredd would even agree, but the fact that genetic mutation takes not even the back-seat – it’s standing outside the car – in terms of a genre and dramatic tool makes me wonder why even use it?  The treatment this evolutionary phenomena gets in the last third of the movie is spectacular and surprised me, but I felt overloaded with the amount of futuristic and sci-fi elements being used all in one script.  Dredd was so wide open that it wasn’t necessary to use psychic powers, its cool enough just watching someone be a bad ass like Judge Dredd(I actually liked Karl Urban in this), leave the mutants at home unless your art department wants to use some new disfigurement masks and is tired of doing zombies.

That’s a bit of a rant there, but had to put something new up   😉  I very much enjoyed those two movies, so you should see them too.  I’ll admit that both Total Recall and Dredd made me wish for Arnold and Sylvester in the first 10 minutes of each, but Looper is a complete and different movie.  I walked out of that one needing a cotton swab for my brain…

Final grades on Summer Sci-Fi

Total Recall:  6 face transplants

Dredd:  8.5 dead gang members

Looper:  9 bars of gold

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