Thursday, February 22, 2024

Xeno-File: Yazindi

Art by Steven de Waele

Yazindi are a winged, endothermic species evolved from crepuscular, frugivorous flyers in temperate forests. The yazindi have grown too heavy for true flight but are able to use their wings to glide, if they drop from a sufficient height
. On the ground, they walk on all four limbs with an upright posture, standing plantigrade on their back limbs and folding their wing fingers upward to walk on the three-fingered "hand" or they can lift their back limbs and move somewhat awkwardly on just their wing fingers.  When standing still, they use their hind limbs which have evolved dexterous "hands" for manipulation.

Their vision is superior to humans in dim light but somewhat inferior in bright light. Their hearing is more sensitive than a human's, and their sense of smell is as acute as a Terran canid's. 

Their preferred dwellings are dimly lit by human standards, and they tend to employ perches (ideally ones they can hang from to sleep) as opposed to more human suitable furnishing. 

Yazindi are gregarious and thoughtful even philosophic, but also quick to squabble or have outbursts of temper. On the other hand, they are also quick to forgive. They do not appreciate waiting, and too much of it can lead to one of their outbursts.

Height: 1.2-1.5 meters
Weight: 30-50 kg
Reproduction: Two sexes, viviparous

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Wednesday Comics: The Energon Universe

When Skybound/Image started the Energon Universe back in 2023, I was only mildly interested. And that interest was more curiosity at why they chose to start this shared universe of Hasbro toy properties, named after a substance from the Transformers with a completely original comic, Void Rivals. It was a title whose whole point of existence seemed to be to provide the surprise reveal of a Transformer link--which for marketing purposes had to be spoiled pre-release so it couldn't be a surprise.

Well, I still don't understand the point of that as I haven't read Void Rivals or the Transformers series written by Daniel Warren Johnson, but when I read a review of Duke #1 written by Joshua Williamson with art by Tom Reilly, I got onboard to the universe in general. 

Cobra Commander #1 followed a month later by Williamson and Milana. Issue 2 of that series hits comics shops today, I believe.

What they're doing is sort of Ultimate G.I. Joe (in the sense of Marvel's original Ultimate Marvel Universe), but the more realistic/modernized version of the cartoon G.I. Joe universe than Hama's original comics. Duke #1 opens at a point before there's a G.I. Joe, where Duke is a traumatized soldier (he saw a bud crushed in the hand of a giant transforming robot who the reader might recognize as Starscream) and his command structure (personified by Hawk) tells him he's mentally ill and dismisses what he saw.

Duke hooks up with a group of conspiracy theorists and discovers a link between the robot alien technology and M.A.R.S., who seem to be building a private army with advanced tech. The conspiracy group is killed, and Duke has to go on the run. Hawk is forced to send other elite troopers to bring him in--a group which the informed reader will recognize as including Rock-n-Roll and Stalker. Duke is renditioned to some sort of secret prison where he meets...

At this point, you are either the sort that this will appeal to, and you are already sold or it doesn't interest you at all, in which case these series probably aren't for you. I will say I think Williamson's stories for both series are a nice balance of fan service and inventiveness. The world is made more "real" in the sense of implications of alien technologies and human motivations, while retaining all the fantasticness (perhaps goofiness) of the source material. I wouldn't have thought he could make Cobra-La work, but he pretty much does.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Spelljammer Revolution

There is no place in the Solar System that doesn't feel the hand of the Elvish Empire. They view themselves are benevolent civilizers, but the peoples of the Outer System view things differently. 

In amid the myriad, tiny worlds of the Asteroid Belt and on the moons of the gas giants, the fires of revolution are being feed by the heavy-handed tactics of the Imperial Navy and the rhetoric of propagandists. Soon, they may burn across the whole crystal sphere.

Take the basic "inners vs. outers" setup of The Expanse and combine it with Spelljammer, and give it a late 18th, early 19th Century gloss, and well, see what happens from there.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Wednesday Comics: May, 1983 (week 3)

My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around February 17, 1983.

One thing to notice before the reviews is no Camelot 3000 this week, or indeed this month!

Sgt. Rock #376: Great Kubert cover here. The main story is "The Dummy--Part 2." It's a follow-up to the story of one of those "red shirt" Easy Company casualties with a ventriloquist's dummy from issue 349 back in 1980. What's funny is it could easily be a horror story in basic outline: a dummy from a dead man gets returned to the guy's unit, and every soldier who carries it dies. The sergeant means to hear it talking to him, or at least imagines it's thoughts. Here it isn't, though, except in the sense of a lot of Kanigher's stories touching on the small horrors of war. In the end, the dummy is lost in the depths of a frozen river and Easy goes on.

The other stories include a story of Ancient Rome based on the Battle of Verona, and futuristic yarn by Truman where a human raider on an alien-controlled world fights and dies for a prize symbolic of his lost innocence: a teddy bear. 

Brave and the Bold #198: Barr and Patton/Hoberg tie up some loose ends from the Karate Kid series from 1978. Karate Kid comes back in time to tell his old 20th Century girlfriend, "hey sorry I never called. I met someone in the 30th Century, and I'm married now" but through an improbable coincident she's unknowingly let the wanted criminal Katy, who leads the terrorist group Black Heart, crash with her. So, Karate Kid gets to team-up with Batman and fight Pulsar (also from that Karate Kid series) who dies in this issue. This tying up of continuity loose ends is something the Marvel team-up books were fond of, and it looks like DC got in on the game too.

Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #7: Kupperberg and Infantino/Oksner pickup from last month with Supergirl busting into the Council's underwater installation, while Lester Adams is tried by his fellow Council members via a teleconference hookup and executed for his part of the failure to steal components for a communications-controlling satellite. Supergirl ultimately defeats the Council minions, Matrix-Prime, and Brains, and finds Adams's body, but doesn't know who killed him. Later, while at a concert in Grant Park, Linda Danvers sees a bolt of energy blast a figure in a trench coat, revealing her as Negative Woman of the Doom Patrol.

Green Lantern #164: Barr and Pollard/Adkins open with Hal forced to play Haljor the Barbarian, weilder of the Powersword. He's sent on a quest to find King Caarl's daughter, Princess Caarol, accompanied by Dorinda. Haljor follows the trail to Castle Oan, where the wizard Guardon holds the princess hostage. It turns out the Myrwhydden, a Mxyzptlk wannabe wizard, who is trapped inside the power ring. He's behind all the nonsense over the past two issues. It's all been a ploy for the wizard to escape, but Hal threatens to kill himself which would bring the Guardians' attention, so Myrwhydden releases is forced to release him.

Meanwhile, on Earth, a crystalline entity consumes the man who previously found the strange crystal on the floor. It keeps feeding on the carbon of the people around, growing larger. On Oa, the Guardians are watching, and they need to send a Green Lantern, but they can't un-exile Hal, so they decide to send John Stewart.

In the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps backup by Klein and Gibbons, Green Man must find a way to help a tribe of space [alternate name for the Romani people now often considered a slur] avoid destruction by antimatter, but they will only accept help from one of their own. So, he temporarily deputizes one of their young men as a Green Lantern so together they can save the caravan.

Night Force #10: Wolfman and Colan bring the "Beast" storyline to a close. The criminal, Brooks, that Winters sent into the brownstone is still desperate to find a way out. A doctor living in the building claims to have found a way, but the beast changes his behavior and starts attacking with some of the trapped people not wanting the Beast destroyed--one even suggesting that would be blasphemous. In the end, the door is opened, but none of them are brave enough to leave--except Brooks, when he hesitates, the Beast grabs him, and he most used the deceased doctor's poison-filled syringe to poison himself to kill the Beast. The now freed tenants don't know what to do. Overall, this was a good arc, but as an allegory for dictatorship, it's a bit strained and it probably could have been shorter with what story it had.

House of Mystery #315: In "I...Vampire," it's off to Moscow, where Bennett and Deborah go to find Mishkin, who they believe has been kidnapped. At the airport they are detained by the KGB, who have solar-powered, anti-vampire energy weapons.It turns out their boss, Col. Yuri Rashnikov. is a vampire and leader of a cabal slowly replacing the Russian high command with vampires, using a powder that removes a number of vampiric weaknesses. The Blood Red Moon, not to be left out of the issue, storm the compound led by Dunya Mishkin. Bennett and Deborah are cornered by werebeasts, but Dmitri arrives to save his friends, revealing that he has become a vampire!

Mishkin/Cohn and Tuska/Celardo present a tale of a 19th Century boxer challenged to match by an alien. The last story is about a puppeteer whose family isn't what he thinks it is. It's written by Fleming, and it's made creepy (and a bit confusing) by von Eeden's art. 

Legion of Super-Heroes #299: Karlak doesn't let up with Blok, White Witch, and Dawnstar. Things aren't looking good, but then White Witch unleashes on him. Meanwhile, Invisible Kid passes into a strange, dream-like dimension and encounters what seems to be his predecessor, and also finds Wildfire, who has somehow transformed back into Drake Burroughs, and is living it up. Invisible Kid hauls him back to the reality. A nice issue from Levitz, Giffen, and Mahlstedt, if nothing special.

Warlord #69: I reviewed the main story in this issue here. In the Barren Earth backup by Cohn and Randall, Skinner and Jinal arrive at the Harashashan camp, where they are taken captive and forced to reveal Jinal's crazy scheme to kidnap the leaders of both factions and make them negotiate. Surprisingly, the reader of the reptilian clade admires her moxie or something and agrees to meet with the kidnapped leader from the city.

Monday, February 12, 2024

At Last, Thono Inn

 After a bit of a hiatus, or Gnydrion game using Grok?! continued. The party was complete:

  • Antor Hogus (Paul) - Vagabond, now with the air of authority.
  • Jerfus Grek (Jason) - A Gentleman of the Road, high on patent medicine.
  • Nortin Tauss (Aaron) - An arcane dabbler whose quality is underappreciated.
  • Yzma Vekna (Andrea) - Just along for the ride.

Inside the mysterious chest in the wagon was a device of the Ancients that the group surmised was the peddler's means of making his patent medicines. It seemed to be missing any substrate for manufacture at present. The group loaded up the chest with the device and personal supplies of the medications, which Antor and Jerfus wasted no time indulging in.

Back on the road, they soon were in sight of the resort on the banks of the Lake of Vermilion Mists. They turned over their caloot and hostler with a suitable tip. They also chose to confide in the make regarding their special mission, but then they swore him to secrecy.

They make their way into the main building of the Inn, where they are greeted by Yrleen Thono, the 25th generation of her family to operate the resort, and her husband, Gris Samber. They confide in the couple regarding their mission from the Compulsor. After overcoming Samber's qualms, they are allowed a look in the guest book. There is indeed a "W. Zunderbast" who has been there 5 days. Probably the malefactor they are looking for!

Yrleen has Merva, one of the servants, lead them to their suite. They have their luggage (mainly their appropriated chest) brought up to the room. They look forward to a dinner of lake gas steamed land crab and seasonal vegetables.

Friday, February 9, 2024

A Sci-Fi Setting Idea

My recent readings in science fiction and musings on Star Frontiers have given me an idea for a science fiction setting combining some thoughts I've had stemming from both.

The basic idea involves a future Earth controlled by benevolent AI that is something those presented in the novelization to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Stross' Accelerando and a little like Watts' Blindsight. Most people are enmeshed in digital simulations to various degrees and have little, direct human contact. They're content to let the AIs run things. More individualistic, conservative elements of human society, still interested in physical experiences and challenges, have moved to the outer Solar System.

When a wormhole gateway left by a previous intelligent culture is discovered in the Solar System, the AI guides of the human race see the perfect way to channel the more erratic humans of the outer system: they open up the Frontier.

Exactly where in the galaxy (or perhaps the universe) the Frontier is located is unclear, but it's far from Sol. In a relatively small area of space compared to Sol's local environment, it has a number of human habitable worlds--and a few technologically advanced alien species.

Megacorporations are allowed to guide settlement of the region. Both the settlers and the AI on Earth ironically agree that a new society replicating the one on Earth shouldn't be created on the Frontier. To this end, technology is limited and controlled, policed by the Institute. This gives the Frontier a somewhat retro, "cassette futurism"-tinged vibe.

Eventually, the Frontier develops away from corporate rule, but after the unexplained collapse of the wormwhole back to Sol, there is war, and then an economic depression that paves the way for a corporate bailout and a re-establishment of central government via a "special-purpose district." The megacorporations promise to re-establish full representative democratic rule in time for the bicentennial celebration of human arrival on the Frontier. 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

What's on TV

Here's your periodic reminder that if you have an interest in old TV shows, Jason "Operation Unfathomable" Sholtis and I are watching one a week, pulled from the forgotten corners of streaming and the moldering pages of old TV Guides, in our "Classic TV Flashback" over on the Flashback Universe Blog.

We've been on a British TV kick lately, sampling Star Cops (1987) and Jason King (1971).