Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

More Thoughts on Star Trek: Picard

So, now I’m a little more than halfway through the first season of Star Trek: Picard, and I have Thoughts.

(Probably spoiler-y.)

And one of those thoughts is how depressing the universe has become. Everyone is sad. Everything has gone poorly. I was so excited to see Seven, but it was just the same.

It hurts to see beloved characters not get a happy ending. And it hurts to see new ones who are broken and confused.

I am a bit grumpy about that.

But!

I am so excited about the Romulans!

I love Romulans. They are my favorite Trek species, and I am so excited that they are getting so much screen time, and that we’re getting to see into their culture finally. AND THEY ARE SPEAKING RIHANNSU ONSCREEN. SOMEONE HAS GONE IN AND MADE RIHANNSU SPEAKABLE and my nerdy heart is so very full.

You see, back when I was a teenager, I spent a ton of time doing Star Trek roleplays in AOL chatrooms. We’re talking hours a week. I was on probably four or five different crews in various positions as various characters, plus there was a chatroom called Ten Forward Lounge, where you could go and hang out and roleplay whenever you wanted.

(Of course, we invariably had storylines going in there as well.)

One of my very favorite characters was a genetically-engineered Romulan Tal’Shiar officer who had been betrayed by her partner, picked up by the Federation and, since she was a child at the time (11, I think) was taken in by a Federation family and went on to become a Starfleet officer (and also a member of Starfleet Intelligence, because why not?).

How’s that for a mouthful of backstory? I was fourteen at the time I created her. But what it really came down to was that I wanted to play a Romulan but there was a dearth of Romulan specific sims (short for simulations), and the few that did exist were either too late or on the weekends, and that wasn’t feasible with school.

So that meant I needed a Romulan character to be in Starfleet, and man, I jumped through hoops to make that happen.

Now, back in the day, the Romulan language (Rihannsu, in Romulan) did exist to some extent–Diane Duane had started in some of her Trek novels and it had been expanded a bit–but we’re still talking about 30 pages when the entire thing was printed out. Which I know. Cuz I printed it out, so I could sprinkle in Romulan words in my dialogue (and also learn all the curse words).

But it wasn’t like Klingon. There was vocabulary and there was grammar put together, but most of the vocab was adjectives and nouns, so you couldn’t really parse together a whole sentence.

So, long story short (too late), I am SO EXCITED to see that it’s become a speakable language. If they put out an official Romulan dictionary and/or make it a course on Duolingo I am so there.

ROMULANS! I love them.

And I also love the Borg, at least old-school Borg, before they got a bit overdone in Voyager. (In my eighth grade tech ed class, when we made CO2 cars, I painted mine silver and put the Borg symbol on the top. And it beat everyone else, bwhahaha.) So the show has lots of Romulan stuff and lots of Borg stuff, and I am 100% there for all of that.

I just wish the characters weren’t so sad and hopeless. Discovery is a bit violent at times, but it still has that hopefulness, the idea that if we work together and make sacrifices, we can make the universe a better place. I hope Picard gets there too.

Watching/watched Picard, squiders? Thoughts? Thoughts about Trek in general (or Romulans in specific)?

(Oh, and that convoluted character I made up all those years ago? Became the inspiration for the main character in my high fantasy trilogy. Ha!)

Library Book Sale Finds: The Pandora Directive by Aaron Conners

Sometimes you find the weirdest things, amirite, squiders?

The Pandora Directive has a note that it’s a Tex Murphy novel, which meant nothing to me until, about halfway through, I happened to accidentally glance at the author bio at the end of the book.

But, anyway:

Title: The Pandora Directive
Author: Aaron Conners
Genre: Science fiction noir
Publication Year: 1995

Pros: Cool mash-up of traditional noir with some science fiction elements
Cons: A little too puzzle game-y near the end

On the surface, this is a fun scifi noir book (though I’m not sure if the main character, Tex Murphy, is from the 1940s and time traveled to the 2040s at some point, or if he just has a lot of nostalgia going on). It takes place in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco where people are out at night and sleep during the day to avoid the dangerous radiation levels.

But! It turns out that it’s the novelization of an adventure game. And The Pandora Directive is actually the fourth game in said adventure game series.

I love adventure games. I especially love ’90s-era adventure games (Monkey Island is my favorite series and, with the exception of the TellTales’ Tales of Monkey Island, I’ve played all the games multiple times. Tales is good too, I just keep getting distracted by life.), but somehow I missed this series completely.

I mean, I would have picked it up if I’d heard of it. Probably why I picked up the book. It’s noir, it’s scifi, there’s rumors of Roswell–what’s not to love?

According to Wikipedia, the Tex Murphy game series has had an interesting history. The first game is apparently a mashup of genres, though the other five games are fully in the adventure genre. And there was apparently a short film, and a radio show during the hiatus in game producing (there’s 16 years between the fifth and sixth games), two more game novelizations (of the 3rd and 5th games), and two non-novelization novels.

Huh.

As for the book itself, I really enjoyed it. It’s mostly noir, with just occasional trappings to remind you that you’re in the future and not the past. There’s the radiation thing so the characters are mostly active at night. Tex has a flying car, essentially. All the calls are video calls.

The Internet still works like the ’90s, which is when the book was written, but it makes me laugh. Always a danger when reading scifi written in the past. No one can predict everything right.

The characters are good, as is Tex’s voice. It hits the feeling of ’40s noir without including a lot of the more offensive bits. And in general the plot is good too. No real complaints, honestly, except that near the end, it starts to show its adventure game roots a little too much.

(If you’ve ever played an adventure game, you know they involve a lot of puzzle solving. And if you’ve never played an adventure game…they involve a lot of problem solving.)

There’s a lot of puzzle solving at the end. It felt like reading an adventure game. I don’t know if it would have bothered me as much as it did if I hadn’t known I was reading a novelization.

All in all, an enjoyable read. I’d recommend it if you like noir, Roswell mythology, the Tex Murphy games, or just need a fun read.

Have you read this, squiders? Played the games? Are they worth trying to hunt down?

Thoughts on Star Trek (again)

Hmm. Where did I put my coffee?

I would like to say that I’m getting to watch all the television shows I ever wanted here in isolation, but I’m not. I’m not hardly watching anything, honestly.

(I hit the libraries before they closed, because I could see which way the wind was blowing, and we got out 13 movies. This was on, like, the 15th of March. We’ve watched 3 of those.)

But the spouse and I are slowly making our way through Star Trek on CBS All Access (still a scam, I tell you what). We finally finished Discovery Season 2, and a few days ago we watched the first episode of Picard.

And I gotta say, I’m digging it.

I mean, I’ve loved Discovery since the middle of season one (two words: Captain Killy) and I really liked how they integrated more original series stuff into season two. I think they did a really good job of that, and the end of season two gets rid of a lot of the questions I had about Discovery existing in the first place.

(Plus I ♥ Georgiou and she’s all over this season. The more she’s around the more I like her. Michelle Yeoh is too fancy for Star Trek and I am happy she’s here.)

I admit to being a little lukewarm about Picard, which existed kind of nebulously in my head (what’s the point? what’s the story?) and I resisted watching it. I tried to get my spouse to watch the short treks instead.

(Do you guys know about Short Treks? They’re little 15-minute episodes that are related to Discovery, somehow. The first season was a mix of setting things up for season two, and one for season three, I suspect, and fleshing out of the universe. Not sure what the second season does, or if they’re also related to Picard, yet.)

(Anyway they’re great and I love the variety of themes, subject matters, mediums…kind of like the Animatrix, in some ways.)

But I gave in and we watched the first episode of Picard…and I love it.

I love the background for the series. I love the potential for anyone and anything from TNG/DS9/Voyager to show up. I love the plotline and I even love the inexplicably British Romulan.

I mean, it’s only the first episode. Maybe the series goes downhill from here. But for a series I wasn’t sure I would like, man, I dig it.

Anyway, the Trekkie in me is very happy these days. I get new characters to love and interesting things for them to do.

Been watching the new Treks, squiders? What do you think? Favorite Discovery character? (Mine is all of them.)

Used Book Store Finds: A Different Light by Elizabeth A. Lynn

Hey-o, squiders! I thought this was one of my library book sale books, but it had a bookmark in it, so it turns out that it was one of the books my spouse bought me on my birthday when he took me to a coffee house/used bookstore.

This book ends up being oddly topical for what we’re dealing with round these parts recently.

Title: A Different Light
Author: Elizabeth A. Lynn
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Year: 1978

Pros: Interesting take on what makes life worth living
Cons: Gets a bit weird at the end, like most ’70s era scifi I’ve read

Our main character here is Jimson Alleca (which, as an aside, is Jimson a real name? Google tells me it’s a type of weed, but all I can think of is that it reads really stereotypically hillybilly-ish.), famous artist, stuck on his home world because of a rare and incurable type of cancer.

(Nobody else has weird names. Also whoever drew the cover is generally quite talented but seems a little confused about human anatomy.)

If he goes into the Hype, which, as far as I can tell, is the medium space travel goes through to get places faster than they would otherwise, it’ll accelerate the rate of growth of the cancer, and he’ll die.

But he’s bored and he’s languishing, and he decides it’s worth it to go out there and see new things, even if it’ll kill him.

(This is, coincidentally, where the title comes from. Each planet has a different star, with different colors and brightness, so he wants to see things under “a different light.”)

So it’s interesting from the standpoint that you go into the adventure sequence of the book knowing he’s going to die from it. (I mean, assuming the adventure doesn’t get him first.) Jimson’s a little fatalistic as a main character, but not annoyingly so. He does occasionally bemoan his early fate but he’s mostly accepted it. And the parts where he’s drawing or otherwise doing artistic things or looking at things through the lens of an artist are quite good, especially in a genre where art is not always explored.

There are three main side characters: Leiko, Ysao, and Russell. I liked both Leiko and Ysao, but am less fond of Russell, whom I felt was overly violent (especially to poor Jim). And there’s a telepathic subplot that’s pretty cool too.

So, end thoughts. I enjoyed this book. I haven’t read a ton of ’70s scifi (since it tends to be after the “classics” and before the modern era, whenever that technically starts) but it feels very ’70s in places. Societally, I guess, if I had to try and explain it better. I don’t know. I wasn’t actually alive in the ’70s so I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’d say it’s worth taking a gander at for the different takes on art and telepathy. I’d read other things by Elizabeth A. Lynn.

What do you think, squiders? Read A Different Light? Other things by Elizabeth A. Lynn? Thoughts on ’70s scifi in general?

(I Googled Elizabeth A. Lynn after writing this up, and have discovered she was one of the first SFF authors to include gay/lesbian characters in a positive light, and also that there’s a LGBT bookstore chain called A Different Light after this book, so that’s pretty neat.)

Library Book Sale Finds: Barbary by Vonda N. McIntyre

Good morning, squiders! I finally stopped checking a million books out from the library, so I’m getting back to reading books I actually own.

And, as such, I dug into my big pile of library book sale books from a few summers back and picked out a book.

(It was on the top of the pile. That was the deciding factor.)

Vonda N. McIntyre (the usage of the middle initial in her author name interests me, since her first name is fairly unique. Maybe it was to match the convention of other scifi authors at the time?) I’ve read before. (Oh no, I just Googled her, and she died in April. Rest in peace.) She wrote some Star Trek novels, which is where I know her from. Most notably (for me, probably not for other people, since she also wrote the movie novelizations for Star Treks 2 through 4) she wrote Enterprise: The First Adventure, which I picked up because it sounded like total crack–for its very first mission, the Enterprise has to transport a space circus, complete with flying horse–but it was actually really well done.

She also won a Hugo in 1979 for Dreamsnake, which I’ve not read, but sounds cool. And another Hugo in 1998 for The Moon and the Sun.

There’s some spoilers in the discussion, because unfortunately I can’t really discuss the plot without revealing something that the book keeps secret for the first few chapters.

Title: Barbary
Author: Vonda N. McIntyre
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Year: 1986

Pros: Quick, easy read; includes a cat and aliens
Cons: Ends a little abruptly

We meet Barbary (a 12-year-old girl) waiting, on Earth, yet again, as she attempts to get a shuttle to a space station to meet her foster family. (She keeps getting bumped off for more important people.) Barbary doesn’t really read like a 12-year-old most of the time–I’d put her a little older, maybe 14 or 15–but I suppose the argument could be made that she’s had to mature a little faster due to being in the foster care system for so long. (There is a point, later in the book, where her new foster father, a friend of her mother’s, is upset about something, and Barbary fully expects him to hit her, because that’s what she’s used to, which is heartbreaking.)

Adding to the complication of getting off Earth is that Barbary is smuggling her pet cat, Mickey, with her. Mickey, or Mick as Barbary normally refers to him, is a major motivation for her as well as a plot driver, and directly contributes to the climax of the story.

Once Barbary manages to catch a shuttle and get off Earth, she learns that there’s an alien ship approaching Earth, which is why it’s been so hard to get off-world (all the politicians and so forth keep taking priority). It’s on a course to the station Barbary will be living on.

This was a quick, easy read, one that was enjoyable. There’s not a lot of depth to the plot, but that’s fine. Barbary is a fine viewpoint character, mostly concerned with the wellbeing of the people/animal close to her and making sure she doesn’t get sent back to Earth (though the wellbeing does trump that). The alien ship is important but in the background for most of the story, which makes sense since, as a child, Barbary is more interested in things closer to home. There’s some nice, logical discussion about moving and living in space, and the technology predictions (we’ve talked before how older scifi tends to be good at predicting societal trends and bad at predicting technological trends, or vice versa) are not particularly jarring.

I’d recommend it overall. And if you haven’t read anything by Vonda McIntyre, you probably should.

Read anything by Ms. McIntyre, squiders? Read Barbary?

Foundational Books: Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause

Woo, squiders, it took me a while to figure out what this book was. I mean, I remembered the book itself–I read it probably a dozen times as a kid. I remembered the main character’s name.

I did not, apparently, remember the title of the book properly, nor could I find it in my basement stash (which is where the books I took from home ended up). Hooray for the Internet, I guess.

(But where did the book end up, then? Questions, questions.)

Alien Secrets is a 1993 children’s science fiction novel by Annette Curtis Klause.

This was probably one of the first science fiction books I read that was really, truly science fiction. (That wasn’t related to Star Trek, at least.) A lot of the books we read when I was a kid was your standard collection of Caldecotts and Newberry winners–things like Maniac McGee, Number the Stars, Caddie Woodlawn, Bridge to Terabithia, Where the Red Fern Grows–all wonderful books in their own rights, of course.

The closest thing I think I’d read before was A Wrinkle in Time, which is arguably science fiction, but it’s not mainstream science fiction, with spaceships and aliens and all that jazz.

At this point it’s been a long time, and I don’t remember the story too well (and with my copy currently MIA, I couldn’t flip back through it to remind myself). The main character Puck (not her real name, never is) makes friends with an alien on her way to meet up with her parents, who are on another planet. Said alien has had an important artifact stolen from him, so there’s a degree of mystery to the story.

Now that I’ve looked the book up on the Internet, I can see that there’s wildly varying views on it (Publisher’s Weekly, for example, did not care for the book’s pacing), but, for me, this was an important book, and helped cement my love of science fiction.

Read Alien Secrets, squiders? What book do you feel got you into science fiction and/or your favorite genre when you were a kid?

Alternate Universes

Morning, squiders! The bigger, mobile one has a “virtual day” today, which is the worst. Basically, when the district declares a delayed start, his school just has everyone stay home and do work on the computer. Let me tell you how self-motivated a first grader is.

(Hint: Not especially)

So, since I have an added complication today, I thought I’d dig up another of those old, old saved blog drafts. Today’s comes to us from Dec 2010, where my notes say:

“ALSO AWESOME”

Once again, this is so helpful for deciphering what I wanted to talk about.

(Also, this begs the question, if this is “also awesome,” what was the thing that was originally awesome?” Alas, that knowledge is lost to time.)

I did go back and look at December 2010 and who knows. There’s a post about Turtleduck Press (which launched in Dec 2010, so that makes sense), a bunch of link round-ups, and the periodic rant about how I’ve tried to do much. It might potentially be about the lunar eclipse. The word awesome is used.

But, hey, alternate universes! I wonder if I meant “alternate universe” in the Sliders sort of way, where characters travel to universes that are essentially ours with some tweaks, or more in the “Man in the High Castle” or “Iron Moon” sort of way, where something in history went a different way and changed everything that went after it.

Or maybe I wanted to talk about the fanfiction concept of alternate universes, where you take characters from a book or a movie or a TV show and stick them somewhere else. Like, instead of galloping about the galaxy on a spaceship, everyone’s in high school. Or vice versa, for that matter.

Anyway you look at it, alternate universes are kind of fun, and a mainstay of science fiction. A lot of science fiction comes from “what if?” questions, and alternate universes are a direct response to that. What if Columbus didn’t find the Americas? What if we discovered space travel in the 1850s? What if gravity wasn’t automatic? What if the United States had rejected capitalism?

They’re good for fantasy too, though they work differently. Alternate universes in fantasy tends to be more synonymous with portal fantasy, where characters are actively traveling somewhere else, often using magic.

But, really, you can’t go wrong.

How do you feel about alternate universes, squiders? What’s your favorite example (of any kind)?