Sunday, 29 January 2012

Sour Times, Impending Arrivals and TROLL!

I want to go to Norway. This is not a new thing. It's never been a secret thing either. But as will be revealed by the end of this blog, my desire to visit the wonderful land of Norway has been rekindled.

However, since I'm borderline obsessive-compulsive at the best of times, I'm going to explain all three parts of the title in chronological order.


Sour Times.

I blame H.G. Wells. I won't explain exactly why, but for those who don't know, watch Warehouse 13. Start to finish...well...start to current point of broadcast programming. Then you'll understand why H.G. Wells is to blame. Anyway, to the parts that I can explain. Sour Times is my current song addiction. Every now and again, I look up a song on YouTube and I'll listen to it, pretty much on a loop, for maybe a month or two. Sour Times is by Portishead. It's a wonderful song and the video...the video is incredible. As a storyteller, it amazes how brilliant a story the video tells.

Basically, it revolves around a woman plotting and enacting her revenge on a man who she was involved with, who tried to kill her. It's told in a non-linear fashion (a style of storytelling I've always loved, but never quite mastered myself) and when it finally dawns on you why this guy is being shot by a sniper rifle...well, when it dawned on me, I was in awe. Not only is Sour Times a great song, but it tells an amazing story. Good times.

Now - Impending arrivals. Back in November 2011, Quantum Mechanix, my eternal tormentor and provider of awesome geek collectibles, had a Black Friday sale. In that sale, their replica of the F-302 fighter/interceptor from Stargate SG-1 was $19.95, down from $119.95. Bargain? You're godsdamn frakking right! And so it was ordered, along with the Claudia Donovan (of Warehouse 13) maquette, which had just been made available for preorder. Thus, it's been a long wait until the fabled Quarter 1 shipping date. But at last, after a couple of months of waiting, they have finally been dispatched! This makes me happy. Naturally, I'll be happier when they arrive and take pride of place in the locations I have picked out for them; Claudia taking up position next to my GameCube (as River Tam already defends my Nintendo 64, with Kaylee distracting anyone who tries to after it!), with the F-302 on top of my bookcase.

And now...


If no one's figured it out yet from the not so subtle clues of Norway and "TROLL!", I watched Troll Hunter this evening. I missed a bit of the start, but I was quickly filled in on the pertinent details. Including the shouting of "TROLL!" (meme soon to follow).

Okay then. Troll Hunter. What to say? Damn. Godsdamn. Epic frakking movie. Just...seriously, it will have you yelling "TROLL!" at every possible opportunity. Or finding similar finding words and shouting those - "BOWL!" and "MOLE!" to name but two.

The movie itself is, as my previous comments may have suggested, brilliant. It one of those documentary-style numbers, with a camera crew being caught up in a hunt for...well...trolls. Oddly enough. While the filming is pretty damn serious, there are some genuinely brilliant moments of levity that make this an amusing and compelling film. Also, Norway is very, very pretty. When I do go there one day, I may have to add troll hunting to my itinerary of seeing the sun at midnight and watching the aurora borealis.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

This boat is my home. You all are guests on it.

Yes, it's time to quote the wise and wonderful Captain Malcolm Reynolds. In fact, it's always time to quote Mal, but right now is even more appropriate than usual, because I feel like making a list. The first of many random lists I'm probably going to do in the course of my blogging "career". Today's list: my top ten favourite starships.

I apologise in advance if any spoilers creep in to my ramblings. I'm going to do my darned best to avoid them, but no guarantees. You have been forewarned!

So, in order from ten to one, here are the best and brightest vessels in the 'Verse.

10: Battlestar Pegasus (BS-62)

She's big, she's bad, she's nicknamed "The Beast". She's Battlestar Pegasus, the latest, shiniest addition to the Colonial Fleet's arsenal prior to the Fall of the Twelve Colonies. Commanded  by the ruthless Rear Admiral Helena Cain, this Mercury-class battlestar survived the Cylon assault on the Scorpion Fleet Shipyards, then went on to royally piss the Cylons off with hit-and-run attacks before she encountered Battlestar Galactica and the remains of humanity. 

9: USS Defiant (NX-74205)

In the tough nugget, bad-ass starship category, USS Defiant is Starfleet's niftiest contribution. Compared to other starships, she may not be the biggest, but with pulse phasers and quantum torpedoes, not to mention a Romulan cloaking device, she's one of the meanest ships in Starfleet. And under the command of Captain Benjamin Sisko, she went around beating the living crap out of Cardassians and Jem'Hadar alike during the Dominion War.

8: USS Daedalus (BC-304)

Slipping in at 8 is the United States Air Force and its beautiful, kick-ass battlecruiser, USS Daedalus. Commanded by Colonel Steven Caldwell (played by X-Files alumni Mitch Pileggi - I won't deny the squee of happiness when I first saw him on Daedalus's bridge), this beast first saw action during the Wraith Siege of Atlantis. Since then, she's been outfitted with Asgard beam weapons and has generally gone tearing around the Pegasus Galaxy, beating the living crap out of any ships dumb enough to oppose the USAF's shiniest battlecruiser. Also joined by sister ships USS Odyssey, USS Apollo and USS George Hammond.

7: Super Star Destroyer Executor

When she first appears in Empire Strikes Back, you know some serious shit is going down. Darth Vader's flagship  is probably the meanest entry in the Imperial Navy's arsenal after the timely demise of the Death Star. Easily as big as the Death Star itself (albeit flattened out), Executor spells doom to any Rebels as soon as it jumps into a star system. Well, at least it did until a poxy little A-Wing crashed into the bridge and took the whole thing out at the Battle of Endor. Up until then...she was a pretty bad-ass ship. Oh well. It was only because Darth Vader wasn't breathing heavily over everyone's shoulders and Force-choking dumb-ass admirals.

6: USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)

Specifically the NCC-1701 from the new movie. Although the original ship from the Original Series was beautiful, JJ Abrams injects new life into James T. Kirk's famous first command. Combine its gorgeous "ample nacelles" (thanks, Scotty) with her awesome crew and you have a pretty bad-ass ship. Best choice for Federation flagship by far...

5: USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-E)

...until you consider this beauty. While Kirk's Enterprise is a wonderful ship, she will never be as beautiful as Enterprise-E or have a captain as amazing and classically trained as the one and only Jean-Luc Picard. While his more famous command was Enterprise-D, it's Enterprise-E that steals the show here. And with the aforementioned captain at the helm, she beats out both Defiant and the "original" Enterprise as best ship in Starfleet. But does she really clinch the title? Let's see...

4: SSV Normandy (SR-1)

Coming in at 4 is Mass Effect's SSV Normandy, a nifty little ship, product of a collaboration between the Systems Alliance and the Turian Hierarchy. Equipped with an experimental drive core and stealth systems to make every other race in the galaxy weep, the flagship of humanity's first Spectre is a cheeky little number that anyone should be proud to command. And when piloted by Seth frakking Green...what more could you ask for?

3: USS Prometheus (NX-59650)

Alas, Enterprise-E, in spite of its Shakespeare-trained captain, failed to clinch the honour of Starfleet's best and brightest. That honour falls to USS Prometheus, featured only once (well, in focus), during the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Message in a Bottle". So what sets Prometheus apart from Defiant, Enterprise and Enterprise-E? Easy. Multi-vector assault mode. Built specifically for combat in the Dominion War, Prometheus is capable of splitting into three separate, fully-armed, warp-capable sections. Three-in-one starship? Now that's frakking bad-ass!

2: Battlestar Galactica (BS-75)

When it comes to bad-ass, though, no ship in any universe whatsoever beats this beauty. Star of the eponymous show, Battlestar Galactica is one of the toughest, most sublimely beautiful warships in existence. Over its long, long career, it's been nuked, tangled with numerous Cylon basestars and never fails to come out swinging. Under the faithful command of William Adama, it's no wonder humanity survived the Fall of the Twelve Colonies when they had this motherfrakker showing those frakking Toasters who's boss!

1: Serenity (03-K64)

Here she is. By far, indisputably, the most beautiful ship in the 'Verse. I won't lie. I want one. I want to live on it. She may not have weapons, but she's a ship you can love. Makes her home :) And she's so small, you could probably fit in her Galactica's flight pods, which means I could have both my favourite starships together. I could go on and on about why I love this ship, but just watch Firefly, watch Serenity, then you shall understand the true awesomeness of this humble cargo ship.

So there you have it. My (personal) top ten favourite starships. Feel free to scream at me for missing off ships you love, or to praise my selection. I hope you've all enjoyed this, as I hope to make more top tens. Proposed topics - sci-fi ladies and favourite starfighters. Until then, this has been my top ten favourite starships :D

Monday, 23 January 2012

Curled Up Next to the Fire: Zero History

I've decided to do something a "literature" segment, which is going to be called "Curled Up Next to the Fire". Somewhat obviously. The reason for this - it's a nice image, being curled up next to the fire on a cold winter's night, reading a good book. Though I may have to change the segment's name come the summer.

So. The first segment. And the first book is Zero History by William Gibson. Now I'm a big fan of Gibson, having first read Neuromancer in 2007 in attempt to bolster my literary credentials before going to university. Well, my sci-fi literary credentials, which apparently aren't much credentials, but that's a gripe for another blog. Today, it is time to reflect on Zero History and how thoroughly I enjoyed it.

And I did. Enjoy it. Thoroughly. Once again, Gibson has proved himself able to weave a beautifully bizarre narrative within the bounds of our universe. For those uninitiated, Zero History is the third (and final) book in the Bigend Trilogy, Gibson's third trilogy of books. Unlike his previous trilogies, the Sprawl and the Bridge, the Bigend Trilogy takes place our timeline - the first book, Pattern Recognition, features a subplot about the main character's father and his disappearance in New York on 9/11. Zero History, published in 2010, makes some mentions of the growing economic discord in the Western world. But that's not the main thrust. Nope, the hunt for the designer of a mysterious, "secret brand" clothing is.

This, for me, makes it beautiful. I know nothing of the world of fashion, nothing about "secret brands", but this search for a secret brand, the weird and wonderful collection of characters (most notably the trilogy's namesake, Hubertus Bigend), was an extremely compelling read. And it only took me until my ninth Gibson novel to figure out one of the twists - and given that, as a writer, I sometimes find it too easy to predict these things because I think "Hey, that's what I'd do" - so that's an achievement. And even then, having essentially figured it out, I still thoroughly enjoyed the reveal, though I imagine it was mostly for the gratification of being proven right.

But anyway. Zero History. Wonderful book, once again proving Gibson's undeniable skills at turning worlds we know into something just a little different, a little weirder. In the book, there are several mentions of pieces of tech that quite probably exist. But the way Gibson describes them, the way he uses them, they all just seem a little bit out of this world.

Then, his characters. Zero History, like its predecessor Spook Country, features Hollis Henry as its main character, joined by Milgrim, one of Gibson's more mysterious creations - two books he's been in and I still haven't 100% figured him out. But I kind of like it that way. Rather than tell us every detail of Milgrim from his beginning to where he is, we are given the sense of the man in the moment. A compelling character who seems to live entirely in the present, where his counterpart, Hollis Henry, occupies a different angle - she's the investigator, with the developed past that she occasionally reflects upon.

Now I'm not sure what more to say without giving too much away, so I'll try and wrap things up here. Zero History was a fantastic book - compelling characters, bizarre and engrossing storyline, all wrapped up in our world that just doesn't feel like it entirely is our world, but inescapably is. And if that last thought made any sense, I'd imagine someone's missing the point entirely. Probably me.

Anyhow, that's it for the first instalment of Curled Up Next to the Fire. I've now started on The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, so I imagine that'll be the next segment, but not necessarily my next random rambling. So watch this space ;)

Monday, 16 January 2012

Back in the World of Blogging

It's been a while. I haven't had a blog in well over a year. So this post is liable to be brief and rambling.

So. A year. Over that, in fact. To honour this, how about a retrospective on 2011? I would say it began as it meant to go on, but since the Anime Society Cosplay Ball in Bristol, there have been no more. Not that I've attended anyway. However, while I didn't cosplay then, I did later, in March. It was a friend's birthday party. I went as Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I sat in a chair most of the night and had great fun, especially when I was asked to do his opening speech about vampires and the cruxifiction. Now that was fun.

It was a hell of a year. Film wise, definitely. More specifically, Marvel films. Now I'll admit, I'm not extensively knowledgable with regards to Marvel comics. That falls to my housemate, who briefs me on various aspects when I ask relevent questions. But I love the Marvel cinematic universe. And this year was so very, very good for that. I may have been a tad sceptical about Thor at first, though the awesome trailers put those fears to rest a little. Then the film came. I watched it with my Marvel-knowledgable housemate, on its day of release. It was about then that Mjolnir pretty flew out of screen (despite watching it in 2D), found my scepticism and promptly banished it to Nifilheim.

Thor was then followed by X-Men: First Class. I don't know what it is about movies, but they have this way of protraying the 1960s with an excessive amount of charm and awesomeness. Throw in James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender into the mix I mean, there are a few holes here and there. It's an inevitable fact with most adaptations. Michael Fassbender's fluctuating accent is equally amusing, but when it comes down to it, the film is still frakking awesome!

Finally, there was Captain America. Chris Evans, redeeming himself from Fantastic Four and following on from what I would say was a pretty damn underrated performance in Push, which was shamefully underrated. Damn good film. And Captain America did not disappoint either. Hilariously over-patriotic (but hey, it's Captain America. The clue was in the title) and thoroughly, thoroughly entertaining. The result of this film and Thor gives me great, great hope for The Avengers. That and the frakking awesome Avengers trailer.

So that's 2011 in film. In television, I'd say it was fairly unremarkable. Right now, until halfway through this paragraph, when I'll likely have some manner of epiphany about what I've seen. But so far, I'll stick with my Warehouse 13 epiphany.

I blame Quantum Mechanix entirely for this. If it wasn't for the Claudia Maquette (which I now have on pre-order, in the same order as a Stargate SG-1 F-302 interceptor), then I wouldn't have obtained the first series. Then I wouldn't have been exposed to the true awesomeness of Claudia Donovan and fallen promptly in love with her. And then I wouldn't have bought seaon two of Warehouse 13 and fallen even more in love with her and a particularly interesting character I won't mention here. Just watch the show and find out!

So I'm not sure how much more I can say about 2011. Like any year, it was full of upheavals, sadness, happiness. Life, love and great friendship (and she knows who she is, I'm hoping she'll be reading this - shameful injoke/referencing hidden here). When all's said and done, I'm still here, I'm still alive and by gods I'm going to keep being here and being alive, with those great friends by my side, as I will always be by theirs.

But since I mentioned Quantum Mechanix, I'll talk a little bit more about them. And how much I love them but simultaneously hate them.

It began with River Tam. Specifically, the River Tam maquette. It has, alas, sold out in their Black Friday sale (where I picked up Claudia and the F-302), but I picked one up in July, along with an awesome Browncoats t-shirt. Since then, I have pined for their Colonial Fleet Viper Mark II replica (from the awesome, amazing Battlestar Galactica), acquired the Kaylee maquette and have a pair of Colonial Fleet dogtags, with my name and serial number, dangling around my neck.

Okay, I think I'll stop rambling now. Hope you ladies and menfolk have enjoyed this ramble, as there will be more to follow - at very, VERY sporadic intervals, as 2012 - the year of great change - progresses.