Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Techno Heroes 7: The League Strikes Back!

So much for my plans. I've had a very strong outcry from the League of Superheroes proper for not delving into a bunch of comics-geek issues. Fanboy alert! Too Much Information ahead!

Rod Davies/Titan: Too little information behind, you mean. You didn't even bring up the whole comic-book alter ego bit.

Ansric: By which I suppose you mean the "Addison is Colt" business. I think most readers could figure that out if they cared.

Tom Reilly/Darklight: That's just the beginning. Everyone knows Derek Colt is a caricature of Ty Addison, but what about Conner Bragg being Carver Wells?

Ansric: That's more speculative, isn't it?

Tom: No, it's the whole point. You see, Verne didn't do invisibility; that was Wells. So you have the Verne guy using a Wells gimmick.

Ansric: But Wells--Carver Wells--doesn't use a Verne gimmick as Titan.

Tom: Titan is "More Verne than Wells." Anyway, that's a joke on Wells' Jagannath character. There's even a brief mention in Titan #26 that Conner Bragg is a descendant of the original Jagannath, Miles—

Ansric: I thought you guys had actual lives. Besides, why not let Wells' character be Tachyon? Wells wrote "The New Accelerator," which could be considered the first piece of "Flash" fiction.

Rod: Are you sure this guy isn't related to your dad, Tom? Come on, that's silly. I doubt most people have even heard about that story.

Ansric: Okay, then, who's Grissom? Micromegas?

Tom: That's what Addison has suggested. But the rumor is that when Addison and Wells were writing themselves into the story, Grissom told them to leave him out of their pathetic schizoid fantasies--and sealed his fate.

Ansric: Namely?

Rod: If you look him up online, Grissom has a big nose. There are pictures drifting around the Web.

Ansric: You mean he's Krohn? That's pretty cold. Besides, he doesn't look like Krohn in these pictures.

Tom: He gets to be Micromegas when he's good. And would you draw yourself as Krohn if you were Grissom? But the big nose is in the script: he can't change that.

Ansric: Doesn't that bode ill for the team?

Tom: Grissom's a nice guy. Besides, Krohn's a dwarf--I think he's modeled on Dr. Sivana. But Grissom's big. In high school he was voted "Most Likely to be Mistaken for Hagrid." I had to look that up. Topical jokes just don't last.

Ansric: To get into something more relevant, what about your own character mismatches? Rod is more like Colt, and I'd say Tom is like Mandar. It's Allen who's like Bragg, leaving Charlie as the only one who more or less matches his character's alter ego. Why'd you pick such different favorites?

Rod: Bragg can handle himself in a fight even without the Titan suit. He's like a high-tech version of Dad.

Ansric: Interesting. I thought your preference for Titan was that he was the most realistic and doable of the Techno Heroes.

Rod: That too. But he's a geek who can throw a punch.

Tom: I like invisibility. And Colt's fun: he gets them into and out of most of their problems. I guess I like him because I'm the only non-scientist in the group--and always have been. I'd like to be the brain for once.

Allen: Tachyon--Mandar--does some hacking, though that's more Darklight's strength. He's not as reckless as Colt, but he does get things done while Antrez is still worrying about the effects on history. And it's kind of impressive to have the same kind of speed as a computer.

Charlie: I mostly just like the idea of shrinking down for a personalized version of Fantastic Voyage. But it's also true that Antrez keeps the others from getting careless. He stabilizes the group, which is what I usually try to do.

Personal note: I am experiencing singificant computer trouble, and my posting is liable to be hit or miss for a while.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Techno Heroes 6: Epilog

Where the comics are concerned, Antrez (Micromegas) becomes Jan Andress, and Mandar (Tachyon) Carl Mendor. Both act as consultants to Equalizer Security and its new subsidiary, Equalizer Prosthetics, headed up by Conner Bragg. They occasionally provide minor technological advances, irritation, and amusement for their new friends, as seen in Titan #2, for example:

Colt: "Catching up on your Webcomics, Bragg?"
Bragg: "No, I thought I'd check Krohn's Facebook."
Colt: "How clever! Checking someone out only after he's tried to kill you."
Bragg: "It says he was voted most likely to become a villainous mad scientist. Really, Derek--that's childish of you."
Colt: "It would be; that's why I had Mandar do it--he was wanting to try his hand at our primitive computers anyway."

Oddly, the future pair also back up Colt when he gives Bragg/Titan a blaster: Colt says that Darklight depends on stealth and shouldn't carry a noisemaker, but Titan being more overt than covert may as well carry a gun, if only to blast through doors and walls.

Tachyon and Micromegas sometimes regret their policy of merely thwarting Chronos, especially as he becomes more homicidal. Colt observes that with their help, he could probably discover Touchstone himself, and he further suggests that they could keep Chronos in stasis and make the discovery in his name if need be. Tachyon and Micromegas sometimes consider using stasis themselves to return to the future, though as time passes they have more ties in their past than in their native century.

Meanwhile, Techno Heroes, Inc. finds itself embattled because of its success: when it and Modern Heroes were the "upstart startups," no one bothered them. But they are now big enough to sue. Thus one company claims that Titan in particular is a ripoff of one of its characters. Most observers expect Techno Heroes to quietly fold and settle out of court, but Ty Addison fights back. Leaving the courthouse, he tells reporters, "There can be no confusion between our work and that of other comics. We are literate."

Curiously, immediately afterward, GameScape, an InfoSys subsidiary that creates games for the InfoTech GameMaster product, makes a deal with Addison for a game based on The Verne Archives--the famous "Verne's Vortex" series. The first game has an odd feature: it has Verne lost in time and using his genius to combat a time-warping supervillain called Chronos. Because of this link to Techno Heroes, InfoSys weighs in on GameScape's and the comics' behalf, and an all-star legal team led by Eric Bitzer, later of Defend Life, alternately savages and humiliates their opponents, likening their suit to the infamous suit against Captain Marvel. The winning argument, however, is that the other company should have acted sooner: Wells' Jagannath character was actually closer to their character, yet they only laughed at the imitation originally.

Addison's other challenge is quite different: unlike Modern Heroes, Techno Heroes is generally G rated, except for some violence and frightening situations. Addison is a Christian, though he is not loud about it, and so is Wells. Grissom has the background, but he is more conflicted. This also comes out in the characters: Chronos is adamantly atheistic, while Bragg's views are evidently tied to his faith. He is some form of Christian, though it isn't spelled out. Micromegas refers to his faith at one point as "New Catholic," saying that it reflects a later schism, and notes that modern Catholicism is close enough for him. Tachyon once calls himself "Puritan Anglican," noting that the future labels are nearly meaningless in the twenty-first century. Colt refuses to identify with any denomination, though it's implied that he secretly (of course) attends some church or other. At one point he responds to Bragg, "Of course I'm a Christian. I'm not an idiot."

These remarks do not endear Techno Heroes to certain people, and a minor industry in debunking them arises. Some claim that Bragg and Colt have a homosexual relationship, which Addison calls "wishful thinking on the part of some very desperate souls." It is probably reaction against this sort of opposition that motivates Rod and Allen to overlook Techno Heroes' indirect tie to the Troika.

On a personal note, to confirm a lot of fears, after writing the Micromegas post late at night, I had a dream featuring the Techno Heroes. I don't remember much about it, except the part right before I woke up:

Darklight: As always, I have a brilliant plan for escaping Chronos' deathtrap and giving his ego a wedgie on the way out.

Tachyon [holding up a bag slightly larger than the kind used for bowling balls]: Wait! First, I have a number of futuristic devices in this bag. See? [He begins gravely removing various small gadgets until he has emptied the bag.]

Darklight: So now what are you going to do?

Tachyon: I'm going to stick the bag over my head until you're through with your plan.

Addendum: The League of Superheroes will have an epilog of their own about Techno Heroes next time. Fanboy alert!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Techno Heroes 5: Micromegas

We have our four heroes at last--if they can last.

Colt [coughing]: Your arrival fills me with joy and carbon dioxide. I don't suppose you brought something to clear the air, did you?
Tachyon: Basic survival equiment. Here, I'll set it up. Now, where are we?
Colt: Julian Krohn's guestroom. He doesn't like guests.
Micromegas: Mandar, I still disapprove of using future technology—
Tachyon: No one ever figured out where the Techno Heroes got their advanced technology, but now we know. Don't you see? Tachyon and Micromegas were beyond even Colt's genius, but not beyond our technology.
Micromegas: Did you bring what you'd need for localized time control?
Tachyon: Of course. And enough of the cruiser came through that the volumetric controls should be easy to rig. There seem to be a lot of suit parts here—primitive materials, but good enough for a start.
Micromegas: How long do we have?
Colt: Assuming your air purifier works, until we die of dehydration or starvation.
Micromegas: We might as well check our gear. I doubt it'll work, considering... Mandar! Our translators work!
Tachyon: Good thing, too. Otherwise our ancient friends might not doubt your sanity.
Micromegas: But all our technology is powered by Touchstone—and it won't exist for...
Tachyon: The anomaly must've pulled Touchstone back. Interesting. The implications for temporal physics—
Bragg [whistling]: Focus! We've got an evil genius to pound, and for once it isn't Colt.

We'll skip the suit-assembly montage. It's exciting with graphics but boring otherwise. Micromegas prepares to shrink down for the first time.

Titan: You're sure you don't want to try the vent?
Darklight: Too obvious. Krohn's probably got it thoroughly trapped.
Micromegas: I'll miniaturize enough to find a gap in the door. Then I'll have it release us so we can all leave.

All goes well until...

Micromegas: I'm under attack! He has an army of nanobots guarding the door!
Darklight: That's probably my cavalry coming to rescue me.
Micromegas: Well, they don't like me! I need a security code before they overrun me!
Darklight: Compromise my own security code?
Titan: Colt!
Darklight: All right, try this.
[mutters] I never said I wouldn't help...

They breach the door and encounter an unwelcoming committee.

Krohn: Very impressive, Mr. Bragg, but I am still lord of the titans!
Titan: Meet a titan who'll never call you "lord"!
Darklight: Tachyon, head for the back of his army. Micromegas, grow and scare the near ones. I'll get Krohn.
Micromegas: Have you no dramatic sense? Minions first, then boss.
Darklight: Great. They have cheesy comics in the far future as well.
Titan [over communicator]: Colt!
Darklight: Coming! I just have a little mutiny here... Our friends are chatting in their future language, which is rather rude if you ask me.

The battle montage follows. Again, it works better with illustrations, as Darklight deactivates a titan just before becoming visible and saying "Boo!" to its pilot, who tips over backward, and Micromegas does indeed grow and bat others around. Tachyon zips around disabling titans, but for some reason he also interferes with Titan's attempt to grab Krohn. Krohn escapes to a control center overlooking the battlefield.

Krohn: Surrender, or I shall kill you all! My hidden guns—
Tachyon: Have been disconnected. [He holds up an important-looking object.]
Krohn: You haven't heard the last of me!
Titan: Don't make me think there's no God!
Micromegas: Give up, Krohn! We have come back from the future to foil your plans!
Krohn: Time travel? Yes! I shall not be mere Kronos, Lord of the Titans; I shall be Chronos, God of Time itself!
Titan: God of Time? Allow me to clean your clock, Crow-Nose!
Chronos: We shall meet again—in my time!

Chronos flees in an escape pod.

Darklight: You idiots! Don't you know evil geniuses always have escape pods? And why did you tell him you were from the future?
Micromegas: It's a fact of history that Chronos escaped from you after your first encounter.
Titan: So we have to follow some plotline you guys brought back?
Tachyon: We aren't up on all the details, so we'll just spontaneously recreate the events as we go. It's already happened.
Darklight: For you, maybe. I don't believe in fate.
Micromegas: Neither do I, but I do believe in history. That's why I had to tell Krohn we were from the future: so that as Chronos he'll become obsessed with time travel and fulfill his role in history.
Darklight: So are you going to say what it is, or do I have to go to bed tonight curious and cranky?
Micromegas: Chronos louses up a time-travel experiment some years from now—something that you should sympathize with. In the process, he unleashes a force that won't be harnessed until much later—but he inadvertently shows the way, and he must live until then. You see, Chronos discovers Touchstone.

Tomorrow, a kind of epilog for the Techno Heroes origin series.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Techno Heroes 4: Tachyon

As our story opens, Krohn has started pulling the air out of the dungeon lab where Bragg and Colt are.

Colt: Idiot! Here, my suit's robotics can shut the vents; get the welding equipment.
Bragg: Okay, but it doesn't make much difference. He can just wait us out. Unless you have some kind of rebreather technology in there.
Colt: Of course I do. It won't be fun, but we'll be ready for Krohn whenever he shows up—if he's fairly prompt, anyway.

In the year 2934, a man furiously turns off his commstation. A note mentions that the dialog is translated from "Komun Inlis," the primary language of the time.

Antrez: The fools! Even when the evidence is right in front of them, they still refuse to believe!
Mandar: You're questioning Touchstone's integrity. One of the first things we learn at the Academy is that Touchstone can't fail.
Antrez: But you know different.
Mandar: No, it can't fail, but it can modulate, and that will destroy our civilization. You'd think the minds that gave us the Technology Protocols would have warned against basing our civilization on any one technology.
Antrez: There's only one solution. I should see you soon.
Mandar: Oh, no—I'm coming along. You need an expert on temporal engineering.
Antrez: This won't be time travel. I'll just follow Touchstone back to the source of the anomaly and tweak it; I'll be in contact with our time throughout the operation.
Mandar: I built the temporal connector and a lot of other components. I'm coming along. Besides, the anomaly is technically outside of Touchstone. Anything could happen.
Antrez: Which is why you're bringing all the survival gear.
Mandar: I like to be prepared. I just wish we knew exactly when the anomaly started—and how. But then, that's why you got me involved—to tell you what neither of us can figure out.

The two approach a heavily modified personal cruiser. After a complicated initialization ritual, the cruiser disappears with them inside. They approach the anomaly, and Antrez begins work.

Antrez: I knew it! The anomaly isn't natural!
Mandar: That's what my studies said, but no one this far back could mess up the universe like that.
Antrez: I believe we're in the twenty-first century, so I can think of a few who could. I wish we could go back and send a drone; this will be very delicate and dangerous work. But we're here, and I doubt we could get the right placement again.
Mandar: That's okay. Just get it done! Our time field is beginning to destabilize.
Antrez: There! The main repair is done: the anomaly will wrap back on itself like a Moebius strip. It's closed.
Mandar: Doesn't that cut us off?
Antrez: Only probably. Pull us back, now!

Krone: Mr. Bragg, I have changed my mind. Your resourcefulness has gone from intriguing to irritating, so I shall refrain from opening your prison for a week or two. That should make you safe to dispose of.
Bragg: You'll never be safe from me, Krohn!
Krohn: On the contrary, I look forward to converting you to a piñata or some other entertaining—
Colt [fiddling with the speaker]: There—that should shut him up. Why bother answering him?
Bragg: I'll set up a booby trap he won't believe.
Colt: But which he will expect. I, on the other hand, am going to escape and pound him myself.
Bragg: How?
Colt: Invisibility isn't my only hobby. You know about quantum tunneling: all objects may be analyzed as wave events, and if an object's waveform extends beyond a barrier, there is a chance that the object will suddenly appear on the other side without crossing the intervening space.
Bragg: Only the waveform extends about a trillionth as far as the walls are thick.
Colt: So I tweak it. Have you forgotten I'm a genius?
Bragg: I could have. You only mention it on your Website, Facebook, blog, business card, and voice mail. It's not like you have it on your shirts.
Colt: That just shows your ignorance of my wardrobe.

Mandar: I'm losing the connection!
Antrez: Well, connect to something! Anything! Otherwise we'll be stranded here for—

Bragg: You really think this will work?
Colt: Of course. This prototype was only supposed to shoot some of my nanobots through a wall, but it needed tweaking anyway. And that should be easy to do. I'll just have it club our part of the universe senseless long enough for me to play a quantum practical joke on it.
Bragg: I bet the universe will be a poor sport when it comes to.
Colt: So will Krohn—this should pull enough power to blow out his electrical system. There. And now, in the words of every great inventor and explorer, watch this!
[Black panel with two word balloons]
Colt: Drat.
Bragg: Idiot.

Mandar: There's only one thing strong enough to grab! Hold on—we're losing the cruiser!

[Black panel again]
Antrez: Wi bi wa-ples?
Colt [turning on a light on his suit]: Who are you, and where'd you come from?
Mandar: Pardon my friend. He doesn't speak English yet. Here, Antrez, put this translator on.
Antrez: Who are you? Mandar, where—?
Mandar: The disturbance was the only thing strong enough to home in on.
Antrez: You mean you fools decided to mess with universal constants? You nearly destroyed Touchstone, the basis of all future civilization.
Bragg: Pretty impressive goof even for Derek Colt.
Colt: Okay, I'm sorry already. I was just trying to save our lives.
Antrez: You're Derek Colt? I should've known: one of the only people in this primitive age with the brilliance and recklessness to do such a thing! And all you can say is "Sorry"?
Colt: All right, I'm even more sorry that any descendants I might have will be stupid enough to base an entire civilization on one technology.
Mandar: Agreed. But wait—if you're Derek Colt, who's the other guy? And where are your friends?
Bragg: Conner Bragg. We're kind of short on friends—and air, too, now that you've started breathing it. Krohn pulled a lot of it out before we could stop him. At least he'll go to his grave a mighty puzzled man when he finds you here.
Mandar: But if he's Darklight and you're Titan...
Colt: How did you know my prototype name?
Mandar [talking to himself]: They all appeared at the same time, didn't they? So where are Tachyon and Micromegas? And Krohn... [He looks at Antrez.]
Antrez: We can't change history.
Mandar: Don't you understand? We are history now! There's no way back, and I'm the temporal engineer.
Colt: So what's all that mean?
Mandar [gasping for air as he rummages through a bag]: It means that he is Micromegas, and I am Tachyon.

Tune in tomorrow for Micromegas!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Techno Heroes 3: Darklight

As the story opens, police are questioning Derek Colt in the disappearance of his more-or-less friend, Conner Bragg, a week before. Bragg has missed some major appointments, and even the cops are beginning to take the matter seriously. Colt asserts that he has not been in contact with Bragg since their meeting a week before. He does not know where Bragg is.

However, after the police leave, Colt enters a secure (or rather, even more secure) section of his mansion.

Colt: It's official. I may as well find out where the sucker went. Fortunately, he's too obnoxious to die this quickly. It's a good thing I'm paranoid enough for both of us.

He had, of course, already deployed an extremely high-tech robot surveillance system to keep tabs on his friend, and it reports Bragg's whereabouts and condition.

Colt: I knew I should've told the thing to alert me if he wound up in a cell. But at least he's unharmed. I'd hate to break in a new enemy. Come to think of it, with enemies like me, he doesn't need friends.

Colt briefly considers and rejects invoking law enforcement: Bragg's situation requires more stealth than any cops possess. He takes an elevator to a subterranean lab.

Colt: So it's up to me. Typical. Oh, well—I've been wanting to field-test some of the prototypes anyway.

Computer: Greetings, Overlord.

Colt: Prepare a profile of my latest stable prototypes. No, wait: since I don't know quite what I'm up against, I might as well care enough to send the very best.

Computer: Prototype name?

Colt: Darklight.

"Darklight" is not just a suit but a suite of the most advanced countermeasures Colt has yet devised. There is a suit, however, with a level of invisibility beyond anything even the government has yet worked out. Using a kind of stealth hang-glider for the last leg of the trip, he remarks that he really needs to work out proper jets for the suit.

On arrival, he greets the carrier bot and downloads a complete report on Krohn's stronghold. Krohn has gone on yellow alert following Colt's signal to his spy bot, but Colt concludes that Krohn only suspects a problem. The bot's tight-beam pulsed response was undetectable, and Colt refuses to believe that Krohn could penetrate his countermeasures. He enters the fortress with the assistance of the carrier bot's nano crew. (This actually takes up a lot of the comic.) Bypassing the dungeon's security is relatively easy. It's the next part that's nearly impossible: rescuing Bragg in spite of the security cameras. He sets up a loop for the cameras and turns off his invisibility.

Bragg: What?
Colt: It's me, dummy. Come on, let's get out of here. I brought along a little extra invisibility for you—this stealth suit should keep you unseen till we're out of here. Just keep your movements slow and smooth: it's just super camouflage, not real invisibility like my suit.
Bragg [putting on the suit]: So you finally made it work!
Colt: Was there any doubt?
Bragg: Not for me. I figured girls never saw you, so you were halfway there. Most of the guys ignored you too.

An alarm sounds just as they reach the door, which immediately seals. Krohn's voice tells them that the flicker of the lights in the dungeon lab varies slightly over time in case Bragg would somehow manage to fool the cameras. Krohn will be in shortly to discipline his prisoner.

Bragg: And when he shows up, he'll find a real titan ready to beat up him and his friends.
Colt: And an unexpected, unseen surprise.
Krohn: One more thing, Mr. Bragg: to help rein in your temper, I shall remove the air from your cell. You have no spare oxygen in there, so I trust you will be less truculent than usual when I arrive.

The air vents begin to pull the air out as the comic ends. The next episode: Tachyon!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Techno Heroes 2: Titan

Conner Bragg is a humble man, but he has a gift for insults. He also has a gift for engineering, and a friend who combines scientific and financial genius: Derek Colt of Equalizer Systems. As Titan opens, however, the two childhood friends are having yet another argument: Bragg refuses to return to Equalizer, preferring to work on high-tech prostheses instead of armor and countermeasures.

Bragg: I want to give people arms and legs, not blow them off!
Colt: Sometimes the best way to save lives and limbs is a good gun backed with even better armor.

Bragg then reveals a new development: an eccentric billionaire wants to help him produce cutting-edge prosthetics. Bragg will be away on business that weekend to consider the deal, so he won't be available for the usual shouting matches with Colt.

Bragg: Don't even try to reach me--or find me. This guy's no fool, and I don't want him to catch one of your stupid bugs.
Colt: No one catches my bugs.
Bragg: There better not be one to catch, or my first new prosthetic will be a replacement head after I knock your old one off. I bet it'll work better.

But Bragg has doubts of his own as he nears the mountain hideaway of Julian Krohn. It isn't just that he half expects a guy who looks like an ugly old lady...

Bragg [thinking]: Nailed that one.
Krohn: No one followed you.
Bragg: I don't think anyone did. I was careful.
Krohn: It was not a question. No one defeats my security, Mr. Bragg. Remember that.

The conference soon deteriorates. Bragg realizes that the prosthetics he is to work on will grant superhuman strength and mobility. Why would the handicapped need that? Krohn shows him into a lab where a number of armored men await him. Krohn had hoped originally to use robots, but the AI issues were too tricky given the number of unforeseeable factors. So he decided to use human pilots for his plan to stabilize the world on his terms.

Bragg: So where do you get these guys?
Krohn: From the ranks of the poor, Mr. Bragg, especially in the third world. The poor of the world are legion, and their cooperation may be had for a pittance and a shred of hope--the hope of ruling as one of my new titans.
Bragg: Do you always talk like that, or is this my lucky day?
Krohn: If you persist in mocking me, Mr. Bragg, it could be your lucky day: "the day of death is better than the day of birth," you know.
Bragg: Yeah, and "The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?" I read more than just tech manuals, Krohn.

Krohn has his men seize Bragg and place him in a lab. He can work or die; it is his choice. Krohn hints that he has also found a process for making people cooperative, though it can cost some loss of mental function.

Bragg: Another cheap threat, Krohn? Which low-budget video did you escape from, anyway?
Krohn: My threats are never cheap, Mr. Bragg. And from now on, you shall acknowledge me as your master, just as my titans do. And like them, hereafter you shall call me Kronos, Lord of the Titans!
Bragg: More like "Crow-nose," beak-boy.

But Bragg finds himself locked away. Gazing at the suit parts all around him--and the cameras that are Krohn's unblinking eyes upon him--he mentally curses Krohn for not picking on Colt instead:

Bragg: Colt would have a field day with all this--helmets, gauntlets, cuirasses. He always has to use the fancy word for things. What would he do if he were here? I don't think he'd join Krohn...

His attempts to evade the security cameras stymied at every turn, he closes the comic with a muttered threat.

Bragg: It would be easy to turn this stuff into a real fighting suit. If only I could get away from his cameras, I'd show him he wasn't lord of at least one Titan.

Watch for the next installment of Techno Heroes: Darklight!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shade--a Not-So-Fake Conclusion

In case anyone wonders, all it takes to do a Genuine Fake Review is some research--I read several summaries and reviews of the work--and a twisted mind. And Mr. Olson should be thankful: I originally considered following it up with a Genuine Fake Interview, though I usually reserve those for people I know and am reasonably sure won't resort to violence or legal action. For that matter, my original mental draft of the GFR--not to be confused with the completely mental GFR I actually posted--involved Dr. Katie James from Fossil Hunter trying to take over Shade as her own sequel. ("That looks like Indiana Jones, only with more curves and slightly less hispidity!" "What's 'hispidity'?" "What they called five-o'clock shadow before they had clocks.")

But as I said in the intro to the GFR, it was likely my loss that I didn't manage to read the book. I hope to do so and write a proper review someday, in which case I'll put a link to the real review along with the silly one. But I had a very important link tucked away in the GFR (toward the end, under "Bunky") that definitely merits a closer look: it's an autobiographical essay by Olson himself, and a really good read. In fact, I'd consider it a good enough reason to try Shade and his other books.

Other CSFF links:
Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Jason Joyner
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shade--a Genuine Fake Review

Due to circumstances I'll call beyond my control, I didn't get a copy of John Olson's Shade, which looks like my loss. However, instead of rolling over and playing dead, I decided to call upon my inner lunatic—basically a smaller edition of my outer lunatic—and write a Genuine Fake Review. To help me in this scheme, I have procured Shade proper: after all, every writer's work is his baby, and even a new release can scream and puke on you a lot, so I got a job as Olson's babysitter.

What a sucker!

Bye, Mr. Olson! Don't forget to write!

(That's an old author's joke. Fortunately, most old authors are deaf and can't hear it.)

Anyway, on with the farce:

Hailey Maniates is a grad student in biochemistry. She's a no-nonsense sort, which I take as a personal affront. Worse yet, she's working in her lab late one night, trying to find the cause of and cure for sequels.

She must be stopped.

Suddenly a monster pops out of my bag of tricks, uttering a phrase that will horrify any decent human being: "Hope and Change!" Yes, it's not just a monster, it's a monster with a bad diaper! Reeling under the olfactory onslaught, Hailey bolts from the lab and into a chase sequence.

Just when things look hopeless, she is saved by a tall, dark, mumbling hero—it seems Tarzan is moonlighting. Hoping to save Hubba-Hubba, the Grad Student, the Jungle Lord prepares to beat the Kreegah Bundolo out of Mulo, the Monster, but he is thwarted by Icki-Yucki, the Used Diaper.

But before we can announce a casting call for a new hero, a dumpster pops open, revealing—well, someone who can do in a pinch. It's another shambling giant, this time named Melchi. That's short for Melchizedek, but it's also a very descriptive adjective that just happens to have avoided capture in a dictionary. Like the biblical Melchizedek, our new hero is without father or mother, etc., which means he's used to unchanged diapers. Calling upon his higher faculty of low cunning, he tells Mulo his shoelace is untied, then punts him into the dumpster.

Then things take a seriously horrifying turn: yes, it's an Exposition Break.

Hailey: Who are you?
Melchi: I'm Melchi.
Hailey: I said "who," not "what." And what was that thing that was chasing me?
Melchi: That's hard to explain, especially because this whole thing is supposed to keep readers guessing. So I'll only give vague hints and an occasional bit of coherent, useful information. For example, the monster's called Mulo. It's... Well, have you seen Mulan?
Hailey: Yes.
Melchi: Totally different. No comparison, really.
Hailey: Is that all you do? Maybe I should check back with Tarzan.
Melchi: Wait! Haven't you sensed the strange synergy between us? It's like you can read my mind, right?
Hailey: Yes, and in case you can't read mine, I carry pepper spray. It's not as effective as a loaded diaper, but—
Melchi: Just being with me gives you strange new powers!
Hailey: Like what?
Melchi: Could you belch "Louie, Louie" before?
Hailey: Ooh, my head! Is it the fumes or the hallucinogenic writing?
Melchi: She's fainted! Great—I can take her to a hospital and vanish mysteriously so she'll be even more confused. That should help the reader identify with her.

Hailey: What happened? Where am I?
Doctor: Easy, ma'am. You're at the hospital. I'm Dr. Howard; doctors Howard and Fine will be along in a moment.
Hailey: How'd I get here?
Doctor: I could say a mysterious giant left you here and vanished at the stroke of midnight, but I'm not going to commit myself. Others are doing that. But this was left behind as well.
Hailey: Is it...?
Doctor: I'm afraid so: a glass diaper. Completely impractical, but as smelly as the real thing.

John Olson: Hey, Bunky! How's it going? I got halfway there before I realized I'd forgotten my keys. It's amazing how fast you can run when you think you're in a car. Hey, what're you doing with Shade? You're changing it!
Steve, aka Bunky: That's my hope...
Olson: Well, that's my baby, and I'm taking it with me, Bunky—if that is your name.
Steve: But the blog's not over yet! Shade can't go! I mean, you, fine, but... No! Wait! Shade! Shade! Come back!

Spoilsport. Oh, well, for the biased views of people who've actually read the book, you can check out the other posts on the CSFF blog tour:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Jason Joyner
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Techno Heroes 1: Intro

The superheroes in the League of Superheroes were based on the characters in Techno Heroes comics. But how did these kids--home-schooled by a group of Christian parents, yet!--get interested in Techno Heroes? They ran into superheroes in the surrounding culture, if only through kids at church and comics at the store. But most superhero comics these days are kinky and even blasphemous, so the parents, especially Mr. Reilly, started looking for alternatives. Sadly, the Christian comics weren't that well done. But then something odd happened...

Ty Addison was a frustrated sci-fi writer with a literature background. His stories were getting nowhere, and his lit-crit blogging efforts fared no better. Then one night he watched reruns of The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne. He noted in a post to a sci-fi forum that the show was written by people who did not understand the period or the writer. "Those who cannot understand their own age with perspective must never dabble in another," he said. The upshot was a challenge: write a superior story based on Verne's work. Addison pulled out an idea he had been thinking about since that fateful night. The result: "Robert the Conqueror--a narrative from the Verne Archives."

It wasn't an overnight sensation, but an e-zine published it, and he found himself caught up in the world of steampunk. Next came "'I Am Called No Man'--a narrative from the Verne Archives," which was a sensation. Coincidentally, that story caught the eye of a librarian named Reilly, whose son Tom was just getting interested in superheroes and comics. It also got the attention of Carver Wells, a writer who had joined his friend, artist Frank Grissom, in moving to a new comics firm: Modern Heroes, Inc.

The continuing success of Addison's Verne stories led to a book deal: a collection of old and new stories, called of course The Verne Archives. The news spread, and Wells used it to pitch a new idea of his own to his now-flailing bosses: a steampunk title called SteamPower that would build on stories similar to Addison's. Marv Stanley and Hank Wolfram were too desperate to refuse a potential goldmine, even though it didn't fit their overall concept of modern heroes. Still, they touted the series and Wells as bold new efforts, even to the tagline "More Verne than Wells!"

Owing to various glitches, SteamPower debuted almost a month after The Verne Archives, but it still got a little interest. (One review said, "The best of the Modern Heroes line, which isn't saying much.") Stanley and Wolfram decided to give it one more issue, based largely on the Jagannath character, a steam-powered armored hero.

Then the unimaginable happened: a letter--an actual, handwritten letter--came for Wells, expressing appreciation for his work. It was signed, "Ty Addison."

Wells immediately took the missive to his employers, who just as immediately had him contact Addison, asking him to let SteamPower run adaptations of some of his stories, new or old. He consented on one condition: Modern Heroes, Inc. must let him try a modern, sci-fi superhero series called Techno Heroes. To limit liability for the project, it would be a separate division of the parent company, and Wells and Grissom would help create the new series. It would debut as a four-part series; the first would be called Titan.

The news spread rapidly, and Mr. Reilly, the librarian, picked up a copy of Titan to see whether it was any good--and whether his son and his friends' sons would be interested...

[This is a teaser, which is a writer's way of saying "ripoff." I'll summarize the Techno Heroes origin series, beginning with Titan, after the CSFF tour of Shade, assuming I survive it.]

Friday, November 7, 2008

Take a flying Leap of Faith

This month, CFRB presents Leaps of Faith, an anthology edited by Karina and Robert Fabian. Like all anthologies, it has strengths and weaknesses, so I thought I'd single out the stories I thought particularly good.

"High Hopes for the Dead" by Alex Lobdell starts the anthology, and it manages to be neither sappy nor grim in exploring a true leap of faith in an apparently hopeless situation.

"The Smile" by Greg Beatty is the second story and the first of two by Beatty. Some will not like the assumption that the Big Bang actually occurred. It doesn't bother me, because I consider the Big Bang a fact of science rather than history. (Not nonsense, believe it or not.) Anyway, the idea is ingenious, and Beatty's mild cynicism about the result is remarkably realistic.

Beatty also wrote "God's Gift," about a very practical application of Christianity to interstellar travel. Again a novel idea, somewhat reminiscent of something that has cropped up in some secular sci-fi (including at least one short story by Asimov), but with a uniquely Christian tweak.

"Tampering with God’s Time" by Karina L. Fabian addresses the all-too-human desire to put facts ("the letter of the Law") ahead of Truth ("the Spirit who gives Life"). Though Truth generates facts and may be confirmed by facts, mere information cannot transform or save, and it is the underlying Truth we must seek.

I will note, however, that there is a detail that struck me as not quite kosher: one of the pigs from the Gadarene herd is accidentally brought to the future. Presumably, then, the scientists and techs are confronted with a Satanic Swine--a Possessed Porker! With a pope on hand, all should go well. But what happens to the creature? Does the pontiff dine on devilled ham? I'd like to know.

"Leap of Faith" was a collaboration between Karina and Robert Fabian. It's not as theological as "Tampering with God’s Time," but it is a good story nonetheless.

"The Relics of Venice" by Leslie Brown teeters on the edge of magical thinking--which, as C. S. Lewis observed, is typical of modern science, in a way. But it remains on the right side, especially if you distinguish between God's grace and our superstitious attempts to manipulate him.

"Lost Rythar" by Colleen Drippé is about the dangers of missionary work following an interstellar dark age.

Purchase Leaps of Faith at The Writer's Cafe Press.
Check out the YouTube Video.
Visit the Leaps of Faith Website.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.

Powered by WebRing.