Category Archives: Science Fiction

Recursions

A response to the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge for September 8, 2019— two hundred words inspired by this image–

l.l.jones-selfie_49
Photo courtesy of LL Jones

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“Amanda…”

“Just a little further, Peter.”

“Amanda, no!  The displacement operator device can take only so many recursions.”

“And we’re already past your theoretical limit.”

“I’m serious, stop!  We don’t know what the consequences will be….”

“I’m head of the project,” Amanda said.  She didn’t the take her eyes off the growing chain of glowing reproductions of her own face.  “I will take responsibility.”

Peter turned from her to the pale-faced assistant standing by.  “Evacuate the building.  Get everybody out.”  The assistant ran from the lab.

“If you’re afraid, Peter,” Amanda said, “then you leave, too.”

Peter shook his head.  “We started this together.  I’m sticking with you.”

Amanda hardly heard him.  She still watched the ever-growing recursions.  They kept expanding out and out, deeper and deeper, unhindered, unstoppable.

“I can see it!” Amanda cried.  “I can see it!  Oh, my God!”

“It can’t be!” Peter shouted over the wind that suddenly filled the room.  Behind the wind came light—white light, purer than any light humans had ever seen.

When the light faded, the other scientists cautiously re-entered the lab.  They found nothing but the displacement device, lying on the floor, and a faint, lingering scent of roses.

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ASPECTS OF CULTURE AND SOCIAL INTERACTION AMONG HUMANS, as seen from the Kitharan Compact, 3468 AB

ASPECTS OF CULTURE AND SOCIAL INTERACTION AMONG HUMANS

Compiled by the Xeno-ethnology Department of the Compact of Kithar Institute of Advanced Studies, Tikiria Prime, 3468 AB.

Note: this list has been compiled in the hopes that our first contact with the dangerous and violent human species, which is impending, will be peaceful and not result in any Kitharans getting eaten, enslaved, or turned into sexual playthings.  Unless, of course, they are into that sort of thing.   

  1. On Earth, humans regularly battle giant reptiles, giant apes, giant birds, giant turtles, giant insects, giant this and that, which explains why they are so hardened and violent.  Several of these giants have returned again and again, especially ‘gohdzyllla’ and ‘kingghong’, thus demonstrating the implacable assault humans have to live with.   
  2. Humans also battle one another, sometimes small-scale with swords before cheering crowds, and sometimes with vast tribes battling one another over huge portions of the planet.  Some scholars think the two kinds of fighting are both preparations for interstellar war. The fact that human contenders often turn from fighting one another to make common cause against an alien foe is seen as supporting this view.   
  3. Earth has been invaded over and over again by extraterrestrial species.  As a consequence, humans have destroyed any number of alien races. The fact that no one in the galaxy recognizes any of these races is taken to mean that the humans destroyed them before they could make contact with the greater galactic community.
  4. Earth appears to have been the victim of several dark ages, short-term ice ages and nuclear holocausts, including some collapses in which disease makes the afflicted look like dead people.
  5. Humanity engages in all manner of ritualized combat, including ‘bassbohl’, in which participants use various skills to avoid being killed or maimed by a small, white projectile, and ‘golph’, in which players wield vicious, skull-cleaving clubs while engaged in a cross-country death march.
  6. Another ritual combat is called ‘fudbohl’.  The rules of this combat are obscure– such is its vicious nature that some scholars believe it is chiefly a means of culling weaker individuals from the gene pool.
  7. Humanity chooses its leaders by having candidates spin a wheel and try to spell out words.  Those who fail these tests are executed, chiefly by hanging.
  8. Human women often must fight for mates, in arenas, observed by the whole planet.  These women are called ‘mohckingjahys’. The reference is obscure.   
  9. Humans execute traitors with creatures called ‘draagons’, which breathe fire– doubtless an indication of humanity’s advanced genetic engineering capabilities.
  10. Humans have enslaved both sentient and non-sentient species, including ‘dogghs’, ‘caats’, ‘whalsss’, ‘moskuitoes’, ‘farh-annts’, ‘draagons’ and ‘monsteer truuks’.  The last are particularly used to further cull the genetic pool in another form of ritualized combat, known alternately as ‘road rage’ or ‘the daily commute’.       
  11. Humanity has a supreme leader who appears all in black, and whose hissing breath chokes the life out of people. 
  12. Many races fear humanity possesses a giant, planet-destroying ray.  
  13. Humans have a disintegrating/reintegrating machine, which transports (hence its name, ‘transporter’) people from their home planet and reconstitutes them as slaves with no will of their own.  This is particularly effective in securing mates in reference to item number 14.
  14. Humans are horny.  They will do it any time, anywhere, with any number of partners of different genders or species, as evidenced by such instructional videos as Debbie Does Deimos and Naughty Nymphets of Neptune, Number 347.  This is seen by scholars as desperate attempts to repopulate their planet after all the monsters, disasters, societal collapses and alien invasions.

It is hoped that this brief description will aid anyone who comes into contact with this dangerous species.  Rumors of the advance of humans toward Kitharan space have been rampant in the last several felenhara, and it is only a matter of time before they make their presence known.  We beseech the gods to protect the Kitharan people, and ask that anyone who might be contacted by humans to remain peaceful and calm, and keep this list handy.  As well as a good supply of condoms.     

Another brief note…..

Princess of Stars is now live on Kindle, and should soon be available in paperback, as well.

I suppose an author should speak well of his own work, but my sense of relief at having completed this book, and with it the Divine Lotus series, is so profound that any promotion I could make for it would sound false in my own ears.  This has been an effort of three years, one geographic relocation, the end of a major relationship, separation from loved ones, so on and so forth, all adding up to a very long struggle simply to finish this book in some form or another.  At the end it became, perhaps, a prime example of the adage that ‘no book is ever finished, only abandoned’.  I managed to crawl, at last, across this finish line, on my hands and knees, and collapse in exhaustion and relief.

Not that this series has not been a tremendous learning experience, and not that I don’t think I created some interesting and entertaining characters and narrative.  It is, however, a relief to be done with it, and now to have the freedom to move on to another project.

Which, at the moment, appears to be an idea that I’ve had for a while, a standalone book that currently bears the unimaginative working title of Siege— which is, wait for it, about the siege of a great city of an empire, and what happens to the people on both sides of the siege lines.  I’m calling it fantasy, although more along the lines of Richard Adam’s Shardik or Peter Dickinson’s The Blue Hawk, set in a world in which there is little or no magic, but which resembles our world only in the universals of human life– loss, fear, struggle, hope, courage, hatred, and love.  I’m hoping the lessons I learned from telling Kathy Pennington’s story will help me tell a better one with Siege– but it is journey I am just beginning, with only 15,000 disjointed words out of a guesstimated 150,000 (it does feel like it’s going to be a long story).  I’ll be at this a while.

Beyond that– who knows?  I have learned not to prognosticate about my writing too much, because I have so often been way, way off-base.  Suffice it to say that I’m happy to be off on a new road, and eager to see where it leads.

Later.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom– a review, or who left all this dino-poo on my front porch?

I went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom today–

I have been generally a fan of the Jurassic Park/World franchise since its inception– loved the first movie, enjoyed the second and third films, even though they were not nearly at the same level, and really liked the first Jurassic World film, despite having to give my suspension of disbelief an extra lube job just to keep up.

This time around, though– well, my poor suspension may have busted its torsion bars.  To put it succinctly, this is a stupid movie.

Not that Chris Pratt, who I generally love in everything I see him in, didn’t do his best.  Ditto for Bryce Dallas Howard.  I lay none of the blame for this eyesore at their feet.  No, in this instance I can only suppose the director (J.A. Bayona) and the writers (Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow) bear the heavy responsibility for hatching this turkey (or turkey buzzard).

Oh, where do I start?

Oops, almost forgot…..

SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****

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Put simply, what with the exploding volcano (which was seen in the trailer) and the standard corporate villain planning to market rescued dinos to international scumbags, the movie exhibits the standard sequel weaknesses of amping up the action to ridiculous heights while recycling the core conflict.  I particularly have a pet-peeve about the volcano, which, like the one in Dante’s Peak, exhibits traits that do not usually go together, i.e., free-flowing magma and peak-destroying magmatic explosions.  It makes me grind my teeth–

  1. Owen (Chris Pratt) outruns (almost) a pyroclastic flow.  And lives to tell about it.  Without even getting singed.  SPUNG!
  2. The characters (or the writers) think they can survive a pyroclastic flow by diving into the sea.  Wrong– pyroclastic flows can cross extensive bodies of water, on a layer of super-heated steam.  Parbroiled, anyone?

Okay, enough about the volcano– as irritating as I found it, it’s not even the core problem with the movie.  Moving on–

  1. The idea that you could weaponize dinosaurs in some useful manner for modern warfare is a major motivator for the bad guy (Eli Mills/Rafe Spall).  Please.  A mechanized infantry platoon would chop any dinosaur you care to name, including the vicious hybrid who’s the main dino baddie in this flick, into little quivering dino cubes.  It’s just silly (and, yes, it was silly in the first Jurassic World, too, they just didn’t play it up as much).
  2. There are vague references to “pharmaceutical uses” for the dinosaurs as an additional motivation for the bad guys, but its never elaborated on.
  3. Claire’s evolution (or is it devolution?) from corporate hotshot all about exploiting the dinosaurs to a save-the-dinosaurs activist just hit me wrong.  Granted, the events of the first film would have jarred anybody, but I’m not sure I’m buying this.
  4. Blue, the surviving velociraptor from Jurassic World, is now a leading character and so smart I expected her to start doing arithmetic, like a latter-day Trigger the Wonder Horse.  It got really irritating.
  5. Why in hell, when you’re trying to escape a vicious predator with better senses than you, would you turn off the lights?  Oh, yeah, to heighten the tension.  Screw that, leave the lights on, I want to see where the bastard is.
  6. Why, why, why would a girl (Maisie Lockwood/Isabella Sermon) smart and resourceful enough to elude the main villain for good portion of the film, run to her room and jump in bed to hide from the hybrid dinosaur?  If she were five, maybe, but this kid is a pretty sharp ten-year old, or thereabouts.  It was another example of dumb things being added to the film to artificially pump up the tension.
  7. About that kid– there is a revelation about her that made me suddenly sit up, all interested– and then they do nothing with it.  I mean, at that point I would have watched a film just about the kid.  And no, I’m not going to tell you what it was, although I bet a lot of people guessed it ahead of time.  A missed opportunity.
  8. The final fight against the hybrid, which takes place in and around and on top (?) of the mansion/laboratory of Benjamin Lockwood, a partner of John Hammond (who, btw, I don’t remember ever being mentioned in any of the previous films).  How does a dinosaur weighing probably two or three tons get on the roof of a mansion, anyway?
  9. And then a final bit where Claire seems to target Owen with a laser-guided dart gun, only it’s to trick the hybrid, but Owen has to get past the hybrid to make it step on to a glass roof so it would fall through, only it doesn’t, and then Blue saves the day by jumping on the hybrid, which falls and gets impaled on a triceratops horn, and I didn’t really understand how all of that fit together.  It was so confusing I had a passing thought that Claire was about to betray Owen.  Bleh.
  10. What is with the screaming tech nerd?  Shit….
  11. The number of people doing positively stupid things just so they can end up as dino chow is stunning.  Granted, in general the Jurassic movies depend on the humans being seriously mentally impaired in the presence of dinosaurs, but it was really bad in this film.  Really bad.  It made me wonder which was the intelligent species

In short, and in general, a disappointment.  Not that I had particularly high expectations going in, given the reviews beforehand, but the actuality fell short of even those.  Artificially pumped-up danger, nonsensical character actions, and same-old, been-there bad guys– all of it mashed together and not particularly well-seasoned, it was a dish for which I lost my appetite about halfway through.  Too bad, because it had two of my favorite things– dinosaurs and exploding volcanoes.  How do you mess that up?

Later.

 

 

A flash fiction challenge– “Long Term Investments”

Wow, two weeks in a row– I haven’t done this in a while.

Below is my response to this week’s flash-fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig– 1000 words on the subject of real estate, of all things.  And for some twisted reason, this one slotted right in behind the piece I wrote last week— same universe, same space opera sensibility.  Only…I think this one is all too likely, if we ever do create an interstellar society.  Which makes me kinda queasy when I think about it….

Copyright 2018 Douglas Daniel

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The sun sparkled beautifully off the waters of the bay.  Juarez took in the vista, with purple headlands shadowing the horizon across the water, and boats, pleasure craft and working vessels, dotting the blue of the water.  The sun was warm, but the breeze off the bay was cool and refreshing after days in a ship getting here.

“And this is the result of, what?” he asked Harkess.  “Two hundred years of terraforming?”

“To bring it to its current state of perfection, yes,” Harkess said.  “But Pequod was comfortably inhabitable within thirty years of our first landings.  And many of the prospects in our portfolio would require even less work than that– in fact, some are step off the ship, plant a seed, and you’re done.”

“Doubtless those go for a higher premium,” Juarez said.

Harkess conceded the point with a nod.  “Of course, as with any other piece of real estate, the asking price of any of our worlds is predicated on ‘move-in readiness’, among many other factors.”  He smiled. “To be honest, it is a balancing act most investors have to make. Savings in initial costs for a less human-friendly world will usually be invested in the subsequent terraforming as a matter-of-course.”

“Yes,” Juarez said, “The investors I represent have been studying the market for some time.  They understand the basic points of planetary investment.” He shifted in his seat. “But as a middle-rank association, we must be careful where we finally decide to put our money.  We’re not a conglomerate; still less are we Shareholders. One false step and we could all be penniless.”

“Of course,” Harkess said.  “And Advanced System Opportunities has assisted many groups in your situation, Citizen Juarez.  The New Way Chosen, for instance, came to us when they wanted to find a world for themselves. So did the Purified.  We have a great deal of experience helping investors of modest means become Proprietors on their own planet.”

A servant came out on to the terrace, bearing a tray with a bottle of wine and two glasses.  He placed the tray on the table between the two men, poured wine into the glasses, bowed and left.  Juarez thought the man bore unmistakable signs of being a mod, but said nothing.

“Please, Citizen Juarez,” Harkess said, indicating the glass before the representative.

Juarez lifted the glass, inhaled the bouquet, and then took a respectful sip.  “A local vintage?”

“Yes,” Harkess said.  “We’re quite proud of it.”

“It is truly excellent.”  Juarez took another sip. “I understand that ASO has a relationship with the Voronovs.”

Harkess nodded.  “Quite a long and fruitful one, to be honest.  Historically, and in the present, they have been a tremendous help.  And, of course, we keep all our licensures and permits with the Consortium itself in order.”  He paused. “May I ask what your investors’ intentions might be?”

Juarez looked at Harkess over the rim of his glass.  “My investors are committed to making whatever world we chose into a place fit for extensive human habitation– but precisely because our resources are not unlimited, we need to see some early profits.  To help us bear the cost of development.”

“Naturally,” Harkess said.  “That would mean some easily exploited mineral assets, or some of the higher yield cash crops, such as coca or makatinte.  Considering the resources of your group, I would assume that we are not talking about mining gas giants or any other such larger scale operations.”

“No, you’re quite correct,” Juarez said.  

“Yes– I think you will find, citizen, that we have several opportunities in our portfolio right now that might meet your specifications.”  Harkess smiled. “And if not, well, there’s hardly a week that passes without one of our survey ships jumping far beyond the Perimeter, discovering new worlds.  I am sure we will be able to find something that will please your investors.”

“That’s all very well and good, Citizen Harkess,” Juarez said, hesitating, “but I’m afraid I must ask about… infestations.”

“Ah,” Harkess said.  “You needn’t trouble yourself, Citizen Juarez.  ASO has extensive experience handling infestations.  In the five hundred standard years we have been in business, we have dealt with more than one hundred.”  He smiled. “In my operations days, I handled five myself.”

“Really?” Juarez said.  “Are they…difficult?”

“Generally, speaking, no,” Harkess said.  “Every world has its particular vulnerabilities.  Our techs and operations people are quite skilled at crafting solutions peculiar to each situation, one that is guaranteed to do no permanent harm to the planetary biosphere.  Naturally, we don’t beat our own drum about it, but we’ve never had a failure, nor a complaint.”

“I see,” Juarez said.  “Unfortunately, that’s not quite what I was asking.  Do you ever…face opposition?”

“Ah– no, we never have.  None of the species we’ve confronted have ever had a technology more sophisticated than bronze axes.   Primitives like that are quite easy to deal with– one tailored bio-plague, a couple of neutron weapons, and it’s generally over before they know it’s begun.”

“What about the Hegeri?” Juarez asked.

Harkess’ studied, pleasant facade seemed to harden, just a little.  “The Hegeri…the Hegeri are a unique case. They were taught their technology by a human renegade.  It is not…native to their culture.” He smiled again. “Besides, they are on the other side of the Volume.  The Consortium fleet has them well in hand. Nothing to concern us.”

“Well, that reassures me,” Juarez said.

“As it should, citizen,” Harkess said, beaming now.  “Besides, if it should turn out the planet you choose does have an infestation, it’s always possible that they will leave some picturesque ruins.  We’ve found that sort of thing is generally a boon to the tourist trade on any given world.”

Now Juarez smiled.  “Citizen Harkess,” he said, lifting his glass, “I think your firm and my investors are going to have a very profitable relationship.”

Harkess lifted his glass, too.  “I hope so, citizen,” he said, as they clinked glasses.  

FLASH FICTION– “A MATTER OF DISCRETION”

My response to a flash-fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig, to write 1500 words of space opera in honor of May the Fourth.  It so happens I love space opera, although I’ve seen very few good examples of the genre lately (I have been dodging The Last Jedi like a healthy man dodges plague victims).  My little piece below is based on an (as yet) unpublished space opera universe I’ve had rolling around in my head for decades.  If I ever get the Divine Lotus series finished (and that is a long, sad tale) I might just turn to the universe of the Consortium, Shareholders, and the Perimeter.

Copyright 2018 Douglas Daniel

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“Damn Shareholder,” Rong muttered.  He leaned against a tree trunk and wiped sweat from his face.  

“Shut your mouth,” Teal told him.  He was drenched in sweat, as well; this world reminded him strongly of Novo Brasil.  “He hired us, he gets to set the agenda.”

“Indeed, Citizen Xiang,” the Shareholder said, from twenty meters away.  He spoke without turning around or looking up from the ruined wall he was examining with a sensordoc.  “I beg your patience—this will not take long.”

Teal gave Rong a sidelong glance.  “Enhanced genetics, tooler. Don’t forget it.”  Rong glowered, but clamped his lips tight.

Maria appeared over the rise beyond the wall, pushing aside vines and creepers.  “Shareholder Mann, there’s more ruins on the other side.”

“No matter,” Mann said.  He snapped the sensordoc shut.  “I’m picking up no ipinsotic traces at all.  Nothing. This location’s a waste of time.”

Teal resisted the urge to calculate the cost of the fuel they had burned getting here.  “Your orders, sir?”

“We go on to Mackason IV,” Mann said at once, with asperity.  “The reports can’t all be wrong.”  He seemed as if he were about to say more, but he stopped himself.  “I want to lift as quickly as possible.”

“We’ll be in the air five minutes after we close the hatches, Shareholder,” Teal said.

 

It wasn’t until they were well on trajectory for the jump radius that Mann sought Teal out.  They were alone in the Pleasant Virgin’s cockpit, with holographic readouts flickering around them.  Mann settled himself into the chair at the astrogator’s station and regarded Teal.  “All in order, Captain Xiang?” he said.

“We’re fifteen hours to jump,” Teal said, “and the ship is operating normally.”

“Good,” Mann said.  His regard of Teal sharpened.  “But not all of your crew appear to be happy.”

“Well, Shareholder,” Teal said, “with all due respect, I’m afraid there’s not much I can do about human nature.  We’ve hit eighteen worlds in fifteen systems in the last month, and so far every one of them has been a dry hole.  For whatever it is you’re looking for. Frustration’s bound to show itself in this sort of situation.”

Mann said nothing for a moment.  “You knew that the exact nature of this mission would remain confidential, captain.”

“Indeed, Shareholder, it was made very clear to me,” Teal said.

“And we Purcells hired you and your crew precisely because you have a reputation for keeping secrets.”

“It’s a point of pride with us,” Teal said.

“Well, then, captain, I would appreciate it if you had a word with your people,” Mann said.  “The House of Purcell needs your discretion, and your very fast ship, to complete a task of some urgency.  To help us complete that task, we are paying you a handsome sum. Surely enough to quell any ennui you and your people may feel.”

“Yes, Shareholder,” Teal said.  “I will speak to them.”

 

“Pilkin’ bastard,” Maria said, running a hand over Teal’s bare chest.  “Never was a Shareholder worth the skin holding ‘em together.”

“That may be,” Teal said.  He enjoyed her touch; their lovemaking always put him into drowsy contentment.  “But he is paying the bills, and without this job we might be scratching for a commission.  Things are hard at the moment.”

“In this quadrant,” Maria said.  “T’other side of the Volume, there’s plenty of opportunities.”

“I’ve heard it all already, pretty puss,” Teal said.  “And maybe once our coffers are full, we’ll head that way.  But we have to finish this job first.”

Maria raised herself up on her hands, looked down on Teal.  “D’you have any idea what he’s looking for?”

“No,” Teal said, fim, “and I don’t want to know.  It is not our business. We were hired to haul him about and keep our mouths shut.  As long as I’m captain, that’s what we’ll do.”

Maria stared at him, solemn.  “So be it, then,” she said.  

 

Mackason IV, from a descent trajectory, looked much like many another Earth-type world—ocean blues overlayed with white clouds, green-brown landmasses here and there.  A cyclonic storm occupied a quadrant of the main ocean, but it was too far away to affect their chosen landing site. Teal took the Virgin in fast, not caring if they left a prominent re-entry trail.

They landed on a rocky plain, in a level area between jagged hills.  Even coming in they could see the ruins that covered the land between the high ground; as they landed Teal saw broad roads and the bases of broken towers.  Mann, leaning over his shoulder to stare at the displays, gave off a palpable air of excitement. “This is more extensive than anything I have ever seen before,” he said, transfixed.

They all hit dirt, Rong, Maria, Chris, Mann and Teal.  Mann had his sensordoc out at once. Even from several feet away, Teal could tell the readout was exploding with data.  

“This is incredible!” Mann exclaimed.  “The readings are off the scale! This is what we’ve been looking for!”

“Rong, Maria, fetch the containment vessel,” Teal said.  The two of them hurried back into the ship.

Mann led Chris and Teal through a broken archway, and down a flight of steps.  At the bottom was a sort of small amphitheater; scattered in the dust that coated the amphitheater’s floor were scattered lumps and shapes, most of which were hard to make out.

At the foot of one pillar, however, something glowed ochre.  Mann approached it; it glowed more brightly, while the sensordoc’s readout became even more fevered.

“There!” Mann cried, pointing.  “An active device! It’s what I’ve been looking for.”

“Doesn’t seem much,” Chris said.  The femman knelt down, extend a hand.

“Don’t!” Mann yelled.  

The warning came too late.  Chris touch the device. There was a flash of light, and then a scream.  Teal, squinting past a hand raised against the light, glimpsed Chris afire, screaming.  In the next instant, the femman was simply gone.

“The fool!” Mann cried.  “The utter fool!”   

 

They got the device in the containment vessel using hand-grav tools.  They sealed the vessel; then, with a smug Mann leading the way, they secured it in the Virgin’s front cargo bay.  “We are all rich now,” Mann told them.

They lifted ship at once, with Mann in the crew mess preparing a report to his superiors.  Teal was happy to retreat to the cockpit to put the Virgin on a trajectory for the jump radius.  He still didn’t know what they had found, and he wanted to know even less than before.   

He had just finished setting the jump coordinates when he heard a muffled thump.  The sound was strange to him.  Then the security display popped up a flashing alert, weapon discharge- crew mess.

“What the hell?” Teal said.  He climbed over the seats and slid down the ladder to the crew level.

He burst into the mess and was confronted by a scene of blood.  Mann lay on his back on the middle deck, his eyes staring sightlessly at the overhead.  Rong stood over him, a slug-thrower in his hand.

“Had to do it!” he yelled at Teal.  “The Sheffields– they’re offering a million!  A whole million! The Purcells are nothing compared to the Sheffields.”

Teal yelled in rage and threw himself at Rong.  The man had no time to bring his weapon to bear on Teal before the captain was on him.  He fired another shot, but it missed Teal and caroomed off one of the bulkheads.

Old training kicked in for Teal; without thinking he batted the gun out of Rong’s hand, then drove punches into the man that first stole his wind, and then his life.  Rong’s body fell over Mann’s and lay still.

Teal, panting, sensed rather than saw Maria in the mess’ open hatch.  “He’s ruined us!” he said, his hands clenched in unspent fury. “Ruined us!”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Maria said, “it probably depends on your point of view.”

Something slammed into Teal.  It threw him into the bulkhead.  He slid down, slumped against the compartment wall.  He couldn’t move; the stink of burnt flesh rose up into his nostrils.

“What…?” he gasped.

Maria came amd loomed over him, the quantifier in her hands crackling with residual heat.  “The Sheffields– what a joke. The Voronovs will pay far more. And it will all be mine.” Maria lifted the quantifier.

 

Maria reset the jump destination.  It would take a week to reach the Voronov base where she was to meet her contact– a long ride in an empty ship.  To top it off, she found she was actually sorry that Teal would not have understood why she had to do this. It would have been better with the two of them.

However, three million Consortiums bought a lot of consolation.  

Maria sat back in the command chair, contemplating her future.  She smiled. It was indeed time to examine opportunities on the far side of the Volume.   

Another reaction to Avengers: Infinity War– but with SPOILERS!! YEE-HAW!!

Because I am the obsessive fan-boy that I am, I just had to go see Avengers: Infinity War again this evening.  That’s twice in twenty-four hours, children, and it may end up being three times in forty-eight hours, assuming that tomorrow I can do my morning exercise, pay my rent and do my laundry in a timely manner– you know, all the real-life check-off items that exist merely to allow nut-jobs like me to spend inordinate amounts of money and time re-watching Marvel movies.  What was once merely entertainment is now a way of life.  I am nerd, hear me roar.

(On the other hand, I wonder if seeing the same movie over and over again in a short amount of time is like doing too many wormhole jumps at once?  Hmm.  I’ll let you know, assuming my eyeballs don’t fall out)

Suffice to say, I enjoyed the movie even more the second time around, in part because I was prepared for the repartee going past at Warp Six.  I caught more nuances (especially one that is the core of this post– more about that in a minute), and the audience tonight was especially receptive and engaged.  Also, I didn’t have a distraction this time around that detracted a bit from my first viewing, i.e., tonight’s show was not 3-D.  I didn’t mention it in my post last night, but the 3-D yesterday, for some reason, seemed kinda muddy and dark.  Maybe it was my aging eyes, maybe it was the glasses.  All I know is that I liked the regular format better.

Now, about that nuance I mentioned–

SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***

Proceed no further if you don’t want to know some details about the film.  There, I have said it.  Don’t blame me if you keep reading and have your illusions shattered.

 

 

Okay, late in the film, Thanos has kicked everyone’s butt who came against him on his own ruined homeworld of Titan– Iron Man, Spider-man, Nebula, Drax, Mantis, Peter Quill/Starlord.  He has stabbed Tony right through his advanced armor and it looks like curtains for our playboy/philanthropist/genius (probably didn’t get the order right, but you get the point).  Dr. Strange, injured and collapsed nearby, tells Thanos he will surrender the Eye of Agamotto (aka, the Stone of Time) if Thanos will spare Tony.

Two critical points here– this well after the point in the film where Strange tells Tony that he, Strange, would let Tony and Peter Parker (Spider-man) both die before he would give up the Time Stone.  It is also after Strange, using the Time Stone, has examined 14 million-plus possible futures and found only one in which the Avengers were able to defeat Thanos.  That’s the setup.

(By the way, Tony and Strange do not like each other.  It’s almost worth the price of admission just to hear Strange call Tony a “douche-bag”.  Oh, yeah….)

Then Strange, strangely, reverses course and hands over the Time Stone to Thanos, ostensibly to save Iron Man’s life.  When Tony asks him why he did it, Strange says something to the effect that “this is the only way it could play out”, right before he dissolves (yes, Thanos wins the battle to reset the universe.  That’s part of why the cliffhanger ending is such a pisser).

Uh-huh.  I had funny feeling last night about Strange surrendering the Time Stone so meekly, and tonight I paid particularly close attention to Strange’s expression as Thanos takes the Time Stone.  By doing so I think I caught a piece of subtle business, about on the same level as the look Obi-Wan gives Han Solo when Han makes his ‘parsecs’ crack in Star Wars.  Strange is particularly intent as Thanos takes the Time Stone and puts it into his gauntlet– as if he wanted to make sure Thanos took it and added it to the gauntlet’s array of stones.

Bingo.  I am certain that Doctor Strange, that tricksy smarty-pants, has put some sort of mystical whammy on the Time Stone.  One that Thanos is not going to like.  At all.  One that is going to tick away like a time-bomb and play a big part in the Avengers’ ultimate victory.

The thought makes me grin maniacally and rub my hands in glee.  It makes the cliffhanger easier to deal with.  It is the sort of smart plotting that has made these movies, in general, a joy to watch (okay, not all equally.  Can you people just get over hating The Dark World, please?).

Last night I begged the movie’s producers to speed up the release of the next Avengers film.  I know, realistically, that’s not going to happen, if only because the next film is undoubtedly tied to the release of the Captain Marvel movie (oh, and there’s a sweet tidbit teasing that flick in Infinity War, too).  But I am a-quiver with anticipation.  The next year’s going to pass sooo slowly….

Meanwhile, the only solution is to go see Infinity War again.  I’ll just try not to cackle when Strange hands over the Time Stone.  You’re riding high now, Thanos, but just you wait, bitch– you are going down.

Later.

 

 

 

An immediate reaction to “Avengers: Infinity War”– assuming I can form complete sentences….

This is not a review of Avengers: Infinity Warwhich I just saw on an early showing.  It is more of a quick and emotionally-laden reaction, with just a few observations on a few points in the movie.  Above all, in opposition to my usual habit, I am going to avoid any spoilers, as it would almost certainly make me the subject of mob violence.

Okay, here  we go–

Holy shit.

Holy wild-jungle-spawned bouncing off the wall pull the eject cord and tumble end-over-end through an exploding volcano shit.  With sprinkles on top.

Character deaths.  In the first five minutes.  Before the freaking opening credits.  OMG….

Lots of repartee, much of which goes by really fast, which demands a second viewing, assuming I can find a spare ticket for this movie over the weekend in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.  Frankly, not quite all of it worked– a couple of scenes between the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor (that’s no spoiler, their meeting was in the trailers) were a little weak, in my opinion.  But those were minor blips in this tsunami of a movie.

Speaking of trailers, be aware that there was a lot of stuff in the trailers that was not in the movie, and some of the stuff that was didn’t play out quite the same way.  It’s all part of Marvel’s master-plan to keep the fans guessing.

Note:  there is no mid-credits scene, but there is a comparatively long one at the end, and you want to wait for it.  Definitely.  For sure.  I’m not joking.

Huge cliffhanger at the end.  Freaking huge.  If the cliffhanger at the end of The Empire Strikes Back was Mount St. Helens, then this one is fracking Mount Tambora, the reason 1816 was known as the “year without a summer”.  You are warned.

Precisely because of that cliffhanger, they cannot get the next Avengers movie into theaters soon enough.  All we know at the moment is that it is due to be released sometime next year.  We don’t even know the title.  Marvel and Disney, you cruel bastards, make the next movie a Christmas release.  You can do it….

I don’t think there was a weak performance by anyone in this picture, although some of the mid-rank characters go by pretty quick.  Somehow the filmmakers pretty much pulled off the feat of giving all the main characters enough to do so that none of them are slighted, which was something I was seriously worried about.  It’s doubly impressive that the action takes place in several locations at once, and even more impressive that they still found time give Thanos some depth and feeling– not like another super-villain I could name from a certain recent movie.  Yech.  Really, there is no comparison.

Be prepared for a movie that moves really fast, and bounces between a lot of different locales.  Personally I didn’t find the pace too hard to keep up with, but you definitely don’t want to go out for popcorn during the middle of the picture.  Very bad idea.

See this movie, but hold on tight and brace yourself for that cliffhanger.  Anybody who expects this movie to end tied up with a neat little ribbon is delusional.  But it is a tremendous setup for the next film.

Christmas, you guys!!

 

A Sno-Globe Considered as an extrusion of seventh-dimensional space

A response to the Sunday Photo flash fiction challenge for December 17th, 2017– 200 words inspired by this image–

220-12-december-17th-2017 (1)

Copyright 2017 Douglas Daniel

************************************************

I have to get out.

They trapped me here, in this weak little form.  It was revenge, as well imprisonment.  I can see and hear, but do nothing.

We lost the battle in the seventh dimension.  The T’soka were too many.  All we could do was shut down the portal, so that their infiltration took years, instead of bursting in on the Earth in a day.  We still could not stop them.

They forced me through a chrono-gravimetric inversion loop and left me imprisoned.  A knick-knack.  We never suspected they had a sense of humor.  Like Nazis writing jokes on the skin of death-camp victims.

Seventy years I’ve sat on Mrs. Lois Haskills’ mantel.  I’ve watched three generations of the Haskills be born and grow up, and I don’t want them to die, screaming, as the T’soka tear their souls apart.

If there’s hope, it’s Sid.  Nine years old, with ADHD.  You don’t listen to your grandmother when she tells you to leave me alone– you still fiddle with me.

If I could just get out, I might yet be able to do something.  My strength has returned.

Come on, Sid.  Find your inner klutz.  Drop me.

Justice League- a review. Sort of.

SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***

Really, if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t even go one word further if you want to remain unspoiled.  My usual review style is to talk about plot points in details, and this will be no exception.

So– Justice League — I’d almost say you’d have to have been living under a rock for the last year to not know about this film, but it does occur to me that superhero films are just not on some people’s radar, so the quickest of recaps– Justice League is DC’s latest entry in their Extended Cinematic Universe, their attempt to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  League is the fifth film in the series, recounting the origin of the team uniting Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, the Flash and Aquaman.  Ok, ’nuff said.

In the run up to the film’s debut critical opinion began to be increasingly negative.  Just before it opened, Rotten Tomatoes came out with a rating of 40%, a dismal consensus.  Some reviewers said positive things about the movie, but many more were negative and deprecatory.  Suffice to say that I had very low expectations going into the theater yesterday.

On the whole, however, I am pleased to report that on the whole the movie is not quite the absolute disaster that 40% rating would lead you to believe.  It is not a great film; it is a film with issues; but it is not the muddled shit-pile of Suicide Squad or the even more muddled Batman v. Superman.  On some levels it was pretty good, while on others it leaves you scratching your head wondering why the hell did they do that?, and on yet others feeling like they should just get on with it.

First, the pros–

  1. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince.  I wish they had just come out with the next Wonder Woman movie.  Gadot commands the screen in any scene she’s in; at her first appearance in League, where she foils a bombing by right-wing fanatics (led, in a dangerous bit of typecasting, by Roose Bolton), my impulse was to stand up and cheer.  My admiration goes beyond the fact that she is stunningly beautiful; Gadot gets the character, and brings her to life.
  2. Ezra Miller as the Flash.  He brings a fresh approach to the character, as a nerdy youngster none to sure of his own capabilities, with fears to overcome and enough pain in his own history on which to lay the foundations of a hero.
  3. Jeremy Irons as Alfred.  He’s not on screen much, but when he is brings dry wit to some otherwise rather absurd goings-on.

Well, that was over quick.  Now, the cons–

  1. Jason Momoa is irritating as Aquaman/Arthur Curry.  His underwater biker routine gets tiresome real quick.
  2. Someone else has said that Ben Affleck (Batman) looks as if he would like to be somewhere other than in this film, and that seems a fair assessment.  He gives perhaps the flattest performance of the ensemble.
  3. Yeah, I know, the villain was named “Steppenwolf” in the comic, but for someone of my generation the name really conjures up a way different image.  Threw me out of the picture every time.
  4. Not only that, but Steppenwolf is just not that threatening a villain.  Not sure what it is, but we have had a glut lately of villains with horns (Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, etc.), so maybe the headgear was too cliche (?).  Whatever the reason, I didn’t get a sense of visceral danger from the guy, despite how many Amazons and Atlanteans he smashes.
  5. On top of that, I thought this was supposed to be a build-up to a confrontation between the League and Darkseid, paralleling the coming confrontation between the Avengers and Thanos in the MCU.  As best I can recall, however, Steppenwolf makes one passing reference to Darkseid, and then, nothing.  This is one area where I still had expectations to be disappointed.
  6. I miss Hal Jordan.  Maybe they just couldn’t squeeze him into the ensemble this time around.
  7. For the most part, the action sequences are kinda, well, meh.  Formulaic maybe too generous.  Once or twice, I had the sense that I was watching a Michael Bay film.  That’s so not a good thing.
  8. Superman’s resurrection sequence is, well, creepy, a quality that was even called out by the Flash in the film itself.
  9. Clark’s reunion with Lois Lane is half sweet and half schmaltz, and I’m not entirely which is which in the scene.  Plus, after he flies her to Smallville for private time, where did they get his clothes?  Ma Kent had moved out and everything….
  10. Oh, and while you’re resurrecting Clark, you leave the mother box that resurrected him, and which the villain has been frantically seeking, out in the open where he can grab it? That’s one for CinemaSins.

If I were to sum up the negative aspects of the film, I’d say that League is a film with far too many color-by-the-numbers elements, some uninspired or even repulsive performances, and which is dragged down even further by the fact that its basic premises were established for it by Batman v. Superman.  It has to try to reconcile some really dumb and incoherent plot points that BvS perpetrated, chief among which, in my opinion, was killing off Superman so early in the franchise.  To League’s credit, it almost pulls it off here and there, but then it commits its own acts of incoherence (e.g., see # 10 above).  It feels as if the people who created the overall story arc really, really didn’t think everything through beforehand and are now stuck in various thematic corners.  And, while I have a high tolerance for grim and gritty, the way the DC films have been going about it just drags your soul down and leaves you gasping for some Guardians of the Galaxy humor.

On the whole, I give League a middling, 2.5 out of 5 Mother Boxes rating.  Considering that I would give BvS one and Suicide Squad one and a half, that’s some improvement, but not much.  It would be nice if the guys running the DCECU could have an opportunity to really, really rethink their approach to their material, but by now, five films in, with more in the pipeline, it’s probably too late.

Well, in any case, here’s to the next Wonder Woman film.  We have to wait until November, 2019, though.  A reason to live.

Later.