11.30.2011

Call to Arms: Barbara Wansbutter's Varas Solabius (Fan Art)

While sweating it out as one of my beta readers, my mother was inspired to do this watercolour painting of Varas Solabius. She definitely captured the feel of the character I think, and I'm trying to convince her to do some cover artwork.

I certainly hope this isn't the last piece of fan art we see at Swords and Space. If any reader is so inclined, send me the link and I'll definitely put it on the blog!

Click on the image to see it full size.

11.29.2011

Prequel to Alien for Real?

Scanned Image from Entertainment Weekly

I've been reading for years about a rumoured "prequel" to the 1979 film Alien (one of the all-time classics of science fiction and one of my personal favourites). The rumours have always claimed Ridley Scott would direct (he did the original) and that it would be named Prometheus, which was one of the off-the-record names for the large alien creature we see in the derelict spacecraft on LV-426.

Well, lo and behold, today I stumbled upon "the first official images" from a film directed by Ridley Scott entitled "Prometheus". Unbeknownst to me, it seems that it's been "known" for a while that Mr. Scott was doing a film so-named but they were keeping people "guessing" as to whether it will actually be an Alien prequel. Consider me totally out of the loop! I guess these things happen when one doesn't have a TV.

The image above, taken from Entertainment Weekly and hosted on the website www.shocktillyoudrop.com/, would seem to confirm it is a prequel. Click on the image and look at the full-size image, and you'll see (what I think look like) Alien eggs on the floor of a chambre very similar to the innards of the aforementioned derelict spacecraft.

Well, this first image fills me with a certain trepidation, because the original Alien seems to clearly suggest that this is the first human encounter with beings of that kind. Now they're throwing a while other, earlier, encounter at us. But the galaxy is a big place, so maybe Wayland-Yutani (the company that owned the Nostromo) didn't know about it, or didn't realise that the distress beacon on LV-426. But the next photos killed any excitement I may have had:


Ugh. One of the things that made Alien great was very human, lived-in, used-universe, "maculate reality". The Nostromo was a piece of junk with all kinds of retrofitting, not to mention a bunch of miners/truckers for a crew who were sweaty, unshaven, hard-nosed chain-smokers (go here for a good article on the used universe of Alien: http://alienseries.blogspot.com/2011/01/space-truckin-nostromo-and-used.html). These photos indicate THE EXACT OPPOSITE. This is like Star Trek meets Aliens.

Compare the fashion models in their pretty, shiny space suits to the realistic reluctant explorers of the original:


I really hate to be frequently negative on this blog (last week I was complaining about John Carter of Mars, now I'm "dissing" the Alien prequel) but I think Ridley Scott may have lost his touch. Although at least he's giving the Catholic-hating a rest (cf. Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood). I also think that CGI is the worst thing to ever happen to science fiction films. CGI can't do the sort of maculate reality of the original Alien and Star Wars movies. Humbug!

11.28.2011

Rex Caelestis: Letter from Duke William of Rocanville 20 October 2160

William, Duke of Rocanville's letter of advice to his nephew, Prince Simeon Vincent of the Rederval, fifth son and seventh child of The Prince Stephen, Prince of the Rederval, heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Yellowstone. Letter dated 20 October 2160, when Prince Simeon was a boy.

Dear Prince,

Since I desire with all my heart, and have further been commanded by your father, that you be well "instructed in all things", it is in my thought to give you some advice this writing. For I have heard you say, several times, that you remember my words better than those of any one else.

It is good for us to remember the depths of depravity of the One World Government and the so-called "American Empire" that preceded it, and not be enamoured of the technological and military wonders of our forebears. Since the terrible wars came to a final end under the leadership of the great Emperor Henry, there has been a resurgance of learning. This is good. However, some have allowed themselves an overly romantic view of the past and, seduced by the technological greatness and the political dominance of that ancient empire "America", have grown nostalgic for a time that never existed in truth.

Thus I return to my original premise, that we must recall the evils of that time, which led to the Lord God to finally strike, despite centuries of His Blessed Mother holding back His sword. They sacrificed babies, even tearing them from the womb of their mothers, to their false and pagan gods; partook in every excess and perversion imaginable; made wars on divers nations to spread their creed. Their technology allowed for luxury, but also slavery, as the pampered citizens were closely monitored and brainwashed. Among the most dangerous of the ancient America's wiles is the Freemasonic national religion that rejected Our Lord and preached instead "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" as the meaning of life, supported by a parallel worship of the democracy.

When strike the Lord God did, the vast empire was shattered. The people, long dependant on their overlords in all ways, largely divided into two groups: one that essentially laid down and died, the other that devolved into even worse brutality than before leading to terrible anarchy and wars over time. Through the grace of God, small Catholic kingdoms were able to rise up around small villages and churches that had held on through the cataclysm. When Emperor Henry came to our aid and helped us vanquish the warlords and remnants of that ancient terror, it was vowed that such a leviathan never be allowed to exist again.

It is for this reason, in 2240, that on petition to the Holy Roman Emperor in Minsk, that permission was granted for a limited war to be conducted by the King of Yellowstone and Generalissimus of the Richmond-Mississipi Commonwealth against the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Baton Rouge, the Kingdom of Appalachia, and County of Arizona who, enamoured with the false glitter of the "glorious" empire that preceded us, attempted to form a confederation. Their stated goal was a reincarnation of the glories of the past, having had honeyed poison poured into their ears by a coven on dangerous heretics who were later condemned to the stake.

It is well to remember human nature, and to recall that Eden will never return. We must therefore be vigilant as the leaders of our people until death. I advise you, especially, to be always guarded against anything that smacks of democracy, capitalism, and sensualism which is the unholy 'trinity' of that prior time.

In conclusion, dear nephew, I give you all the blessings which an uncle can give to a nephew, and I pray our Lord Jesus Christ, by His mercy, by the prayers and merits of His blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, and of angels and archangels and of all the saints, to guard and protect you from doing anything contrary to His will. And glory, honor, and praise be to Him who is one God with the Father and the Holy Ghost; without beginning and without end. Amen.

11.26.2011

The Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe (Book Review)

Title: The Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe
Authors: George Ochoa and Jeffrey Osier
Publisher: Spectra Books
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: A Fantastic Resource for Science Fiction Writers, providing excellent tools for realistic world-building

As readers of this blog will know, I am still quite new to writing science fiction, and I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in writing in the genre because of how it has helped me. It is not a "how to write science fiction", but rather a handy reference book for the various areas of science that a science fiction writer might find useful, with chapters devoted, inter alia, to: space and spaceships, planets and planet design, aliens, designing a future setting, nanotechnology, intelligent machines, bioengineering, and alternate universes.

I found the book to be well-organised and easy to read. All sections are written in a clear, easy to understand manner, assisting the non-scientist layman (like me!) in writing convincing science fiction. One of the best features, in my view, was that the authors point out all the "wrong science" blunders common to science fiction, thereby helping you to avoid them. They also point out examples of excellent science fiction and how those authors used known science in a convincing manner.

The only significant shortcomings of this book relate to its age: it was printed in 1993 so the science risks becoming dated as we move further from its publication. Additionally, this means that it has gone out of print and one can only obtain used copies. However, there is nothing newer out there that covers all the areas that The Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe does, so it is still well worth the effort of obtaining it.

I have also read the Science Fiction Writing Series (edited by Ben Bova - to be reviewed eventually) World Building and Space Travel and I preferred The Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe. There is nothing wrong with the Bova books, they were excellent as well, but I found Messrs. Ochoa and Osier's book easier to read and more insightful. Plus, it is very convenient having everything in one place. On the other hand, the Science Fiction Writing Series books are more comprehensive and still in print.


11.25.2011

The Nostromo Approaching LV-426


In the interests of practicing my inking skills especially, and to try out some new techniques, I did this image recreating a scene from the fim "Alien", where the commercial star ship Nostromo is approaching the moon LV-426 (you can see the ship in front of the moon at the right). I always loved this image from a film filled with much great imagery -- this one in particular I think has a sense of beauty and at the same time foreboding and loneliness (somehow it really feels like we're way out in deep space).

I think this image demostrates well how drawing larger than the final product is intended to be is a good technique because the smaller version you see above looks quite a bit better than the original full-size in my opinion. It also reminded me that even when just practicing, use the good paper. And use a ruler for the borders.

Inspired by the film Alien © 20th Century Fox 1979. All rights reserved. Image, names, &c. used without permission - pencil and ink drawing by Nicholas Wansbutter.

11.24.2011

Léon Degrelle, the Inspiration for Tintin?


Catholic World News recently ran an article quoting the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano on the topic of the forthcoming Steven Spielberg movie "The Adventures Tintin", describing the title character as “a knight without a stain”. Although the young journalist-hero is not overtly religious, L’Osservatore quotes at length from a French critic who sees Tintin as an examplar of Catholic virtues. 

This "French critic" may be onto something since the inspiration for Tintin was the Catholic politician Léon Degrelle whom I posted about last week. Although Tintin is not a politician or soldier, I believe the connexion comes from Degrelle's years as a journalist-adventurer most notably covering the Cristero War in Mexico. Hergé, the creator of the comic-book character met and befriended Degrelle in Belgium in the 1930s during the latter's political crusading days.

An English translation Degrelle's memoir recounting his friendship with Hergé can be downloaded here: http://www.jailingopinions.com/tintin.pdf (in French)

Hergé subsequently denied that he based Tintin on Degrelle, may be due to the fact that Degrelle was villainised as a "collaborator" after the war. Well, that's a whole can of worms that I'm not going to get into right now, although obviously since I consider Degrelle a hero I don't consider him a "collaborator". But in further support that Tintin really was based on Degrelle the similarities in appearance are rather striking ...






The similarities to the CGI version of Tintin in Spielberg's rendition seems even more similar to the photos of Degrelle:



11.23.2011

Call to Arms: Varas Solabius

One of the central characters in Call to Arms, and the only one mentioned in the first post concerning, I is the Magistrate Varas Solabius. The novel opens with Varas fleeing from the Imperial capital, Remula, with a warrant for his arrest and execution on his head. His crime is aligning himself with the "Old Loyalists" (see introduction).

We find him at what should have been the autumn years of his career, shortly before he would most likely have retired to a life of ease after decades spent in the service of the New Order which he had helped to advance. It is therefore with surprise and rage that his old comrades reacted to this "betrayal" and they hotly pursue him.

He is closing-in on eighty years of age, having been a quæstor for almost fifty years. He attended the Magisterial Academy on his homeworld Actabion in the Imperial year 20,040, being the 37th year of the Estates General (they were declared to be in permanent session in 20,003 although this is also deemed the year that they ended since that is when the "Old Loyalist" faction abandoned the meeting and declared open war on the New Order adherents). As such, all his schooling came well after the New Order had been implemented and its philosophies infused into the academies. He was completely ignorant of the ways of the ancien régime, until he met Quæstor Jaakon, who introduced him to the Old ways.

Before joining the "Old Loyalists", Varas Solabius was one of the leading diplomats within the Colsulate for Galactic Harmony. This "department" of the Imperial government was created shortly after the Estates General as a sort of "foreign affairs office". Prior to the Estates General, the Empire had had no such office, as all of humanity was united under its ægis and all aliens were regarded as irreconcilable enemies (foremost because of the unanimous rejection of the Magistrates outside the Empire).

One of the New Order's prime directives was to attain peace with the other races of the galaxy, no matter how fleeting, no matter what the cost. The Consulate of Galactic Harmony saw to the implementation of this ideological goal and, being one of the matters of prime concern to the New Order, over time took on vast powers with the ability to commandeer navies and armies as needed, and to hand over the population of entire planets as deemed expedient at the bargaining table.

In Varas' capacity as a diplomat, he negotiated the infamous "Treaty of Balkurov" which resulted in terrible atrocities. He carries the guilt for the part he played in this event as a heavy burden, and it is the thing that pushes him on despite his advanced age, frail health, and seemingly insurmountable odds against him.  It was shortly after Varas had accidentally learned of the disastrous consequences due to the peace at Balkurov that he met Quæstor Jaakon in a chance encounter inwhich they quickly became friends, then teacher and pupil.

11.22.2011

Why I Don't Hate Episode I



... or at least why I don't hate it as much as most people seem to. I still don't think it was anywhere near what it could have been, but I thought I'd kick-off my semi-regular musings about that great space epic, Star Wars, with a bit of controversy.

There are certainly many annoying things like the "Imbecilic Conception", and of course, Jar-Jar Binks. I'm also willing to concede that, since I haven't seen the film in many years that perhaps I'm not remembering all it's warts (and warts it had even in that fading memory!). But, I do believe that on the whole it's been judged too harshly. In reality, NOTHING could have lived up to all the hype. So it was going to be a disappointment even if it was another Empire Strikes Back.

It did have it's good points: the light sabre duel pitting Darth Maul against Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi was quite good. I personally found Ewan McGregor credible and enjoyable as a young Kenobi, and while Natalie Portman isn't the greatest actress (neither was Carrie Fisher) she had the looks (so did Carrie Fisher). I found the political intrigue interesting. All in all, it wasn't the best film ever, but it was far from the worst. I'd rather watch it than many other films.

11.21.2011

Rex Caelestis: The Neo-Jesuits (Society of St. Ignatius of Loyola)

From the Catholic Encyclopædia (2256), Vol. 24.

See also THE SOCIETY OF JESUS, SUPPRESSION OF THE JESUITS, SSIL GENERALS, and four articles on the history of the Society and the Society of Jesus: 1750 to 1912, 1912 to c. 2050, and 2125 to 2256.

The Society of St. Ignatius of Loyola is a religious order founded by Blessed Yuri Sergeivich Suvarov. Designated by him "The Priests Militant of Christ the King and St. Ignatius of Loyola" to indicate its its soldier spirit and to tie it to the spirituality he had adopted, that being the pure, unadulterated Ignatian spirituality that had previously been borne by the "Society of Jesus" which disappeared in the dark ages, but was suppressed in perpetuity in a.D. 2160 by Pope Linus II due to its still-extant notoriety for liberalism. The title was Latinized and shortened into "Societas Ignatius Loyola" in the Bull of Pius XIII approving its formation and the first formula of its Institute ("Regimini militantis ecclesia", Pius XIII, 27 Sept., 2175). The term "Neo-Jesuit", or "Jesuit" associated with the now-much maligned order famous for its liberalism and corruption beginning especially in the 20th century, was inevitably to be associated with the S.S.I.L. as it uses the original constitutions of the Society of Jesus as drafted by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century. This was resisted and never used by Bl. Fr. Suvarov, but ultimately adopted as an acquiescence to the inevitable.

The Society ranks among religious institutes as a mendicant order of clerks regular, that is, a body of priests organized for apostolic work, following a religious rule, and relying on alms for their support. Members of the S.S.I.L. take vows of poverty, celibacy, obedience, and militancy; the latter being a special vow of strict obedience to the Pope in matters of missions, undertaking to go wherever they are sent with a military spirit. Following the ancient Jesuit formation, Neo-Jesuits are exceptionally well studied in divine and secular arts. As such, many are, in addition to being priests, scientists and scholars, enabling them to serve dual roles aboard spacecraft being both chaplain and science officer or other department head. As such, there is a much larger proportion of Neo-Jesuits in the Astrogators' Guild than other orders.

11.19.2011

A Canticle for Liebowitz (Book Review)


See also the Swords and Space Radio show about this novel: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/restorationradio/2013/01/16/swords-and-space-radio-i-a-canticle-for-leibowitz

Title: A Canticle for Liebowitz
Author: Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Publisher: Spectra Books
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: A classic of science fiction and Catholic literature which gives a chillingly realistic portrayal of Catholic monks toiling in the Lord's vineyard in the wake of atomic apocalypse.

I must say the first thing that surprised me was all the overt and orthodox Catholicism. Written in 1959, the book portrays a future Church that is totally traditional, and is told from the perspective of an order of monks whose rules are based on those of the Cistercians - The Order of St. Leibowitz.

The novel is actually a collection of three novellas, each taking place several centuries apart, each following the same dystopic future setting and featuring monks from the order. The dystopia comes from a global nuclear war that took place some time in the mid-late 20th century, with the first novella taking place some 600 years later in a period of darkness and barbarism. In that time, the Church is (as it was c. 500 a.D.) the last stronghold of learning and knowledge.

I have to say that I enjoyed the first novella, which followed Brother Francis of Utah, a novice seeking his vocation in the Order who plays a key role in the canonisation of St. Leibowitz, and the third novella, which follows Abbot Zerchi, leader of the order in the next time of troubles, the most. The middle novella wasn't as masterful as the first and last, in my view, though it was still good.

One thing that impressed me about Miller's writing style was how he was able to portray traditionally Catholic life in a monastery, including prayers in Latin and the like, without coming across as preaching. At least, I didn't find it preachy, but the book sold over 750,000 copies so I think that many others had my impression of "non-preachiness" while immersing the reader in total Catholicism. This is a technique that I continue to struggle with in my own writing.

Perhaps part of the non-preachy tone of the book comes from the excellent characters that play central roles in the piece. They are all very human, with faults and strong points, yet their faults never give an impression of hypocrisy in their devotion and the confessional scenes were very well done. I loved the fact that all the characters in this book were believable, devoted Catholics who I could really relate to despite their monastic state versus my lay state.

Not only were the characters very strong, but the plot was quite well done. I made the mistake of reading the forward to the novel which totally gave away some of the main plot elements (which I am being careful not to do here), yet I still found the book highly enjoyable with a few unexpected twists. The portrayal of a post-nuclear holocaust world was chillingly believable. The depictions of the Church were very well done and traditional, with some well-concieved thoughts on what sorts of issues She might be wrestling with in the wake of a nuclear war and all that it brings. I thought it was a little Americo-centric to think that the papacy would relocate to the United States if Rome were annihilated in nuclear fire, but this didn't take away from the novel.

All in all, I can't really say enough good about this novel, which truly is a masterpiece. It is excellent science fiction with all the right elements of suspense, mystery, strong characters, and new societies.


11.18.2011

Léon Degrelle


As part of shaking the rust off my drawing skills, I did some comic-style drawings of Catholic heroes a few months back. This one is of Léon Degrelle receiving communion at Mass on the Eastern Front circa 1942.

Degrelle was a Walloon Belgian politician, founder of the Catholic Parti Rexiste, officially called Rex (in honour of Christ the King). After Germany launched Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union, Degrelle joined the Wermacht then the SS Division Wallonien (long story on how devout Catholics ended up in the pagan SS, but the Walloons weren't the only ones) in order to fight against the Soviets. Degrelle worked his way up from simple private to the SS equivalent of a full colonel during a four-year career (1941-1945). He is one of only three non-Germans ever awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves.

11.17.2011

John Carter of Mars Film Coming

I suppose this is old news for those more in the loop than I am, but I recently came across the trailer for an upcoming film "John Carter of Mars". I read all the John Carter books years (perhaps decades) ago and quite enjoyed them, so with some excitement I downloaded the trailer.



I have to say that the excitement disappeared as I watched it. I really wanted to like what I was seeing, and not nitpick the differences from the books, but the CGI green martian in the clip looked terrible and the aesthetics struck me as more "Prince of Persia" than Barsoom. It also looks like they felt the need to transform Dejah Thoris into a D&D warrior-babe given the brief clip where she's armed (as they did with Arwen in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings). Not that she was helpless in the novels, but she wasn't a warrior either. Ugh.

Seeing this did inspire me to re-read the books, though, and they made a pleasant, light read. Although I found them a bit repetitive second time around. Still, thanks to Kindle, you can't go far wrong with $0.99 for five novels:


11.16.2011

Call to Arms: The Magistrates

The laws of nature and physics in the "Call to Arms universe" are for the most part the same as in how own, the most obvious difference being the extraordinary powers of the Magistrates. The Magistrates are an all-male caste in Imperial Society who rule and govern.  Their powers are manifested through two major powers:

Aura of Authority: an invisible "field" surrounds and emanates from all Magistrates. As the name implies, it fills those within the vicinity of a Magistrate with a feeling of awe, and a sense of a palpable authoritarian presence. It is also nearly impossible to lie in the presence of a Magistrate. The Aura of Authority cannot be turned on or off, making it can make it very difficult for them to hide their identity should the need arise. The Aura of Authority is especially channelled in the Magistrates' Truth Staves (badges of office that ignite with violet energy when held by a Magistrate and are a potent weapon in their own rite). Only a Magistrte can touch a Truth Stave without being seriously harmed or even killed.

The Aura can also be used to influence people outside the sphere of the "field" (which is usually felt most strongly within 10-15 feet of a Magistrate). Magistrates can "project" it to make their orders more clearly heard, understood, and obeyed over distances (earshot) and also clouds the minds of enemies who attempt to target the Magistrate, making him incredibly difficult to hit with blaster fire.

Cleansing:
the all-important powers that allow them to remove the Disease and to give life-force. Technically, their combat powers are a way of cleansing the unrepentant, but that power is also derived from their governing powers.

There are four ranks of Magistrate, though being "promoted" does not give one more power:

The Emperor – the ruler of the Empire is also the highest ranking Magistrate, elected for life by the Consular Senate. He is responsible for the lives of every being within the Empire. The Emperor wears magisterial robes of silver with gold embellishments, including the gold Imperial Crown and truth stave.

Consuls – They are the sole electors of the Emperor (all consuls are automatically members of the Consular Senate) and senior governors/administrators of the Empire. Proconsuls serve as governors of prestigious core worlds and consuls serve as bureaucrats in the massive government on Remula. Consuls wear purple magisterial robes with gold embellishments; their crowns and truth staves are gold.

Prætors –  They carry the full-sized truth stave, a six-foot long staff with an ornate mace-head that crackles with energy when in use. They are also given an important badge of office, a crown which further channels their powers, making them more formidable than quæstors. Proprætors serve as governors of worlds; they will often have assistant prætors to whom the delegate the governance of various regions of a planet. Pætors can also serve as bureaucrats or operate as leaders of special commissions or military contingents. They wear purple magisterial robes with silver embellishments and accoutrements (including the large cope of office).

Quæstors – the most common members of the magisterial class, these men are the primary conduits to the general populace of the ability to remove the Disease. They carry a shorter version of the truth stave, a three-foot long mace. They wear plain purple magisterial robes and their truth staves are burnished steel. Certain quæstors who have been given the honourary title of aedile have thin gold piping.

In theory, any male Imperial citizen can become a Magistrate, as their powers have nothing to do with any in-born abilities or capabilities. The powers come to a person purely through being conferred them by a praetor or consul – thus the powers have been passed from one to another since the inception of the Empire over 20,000 years ago. In practice, only a relatively small portion of the population joins the Magisterial ranks. One must have certain aptitudes to enter their academies, but once in the academies there is a high attrition rate. To be a magistrate requires years of intense study (ranging from 7 to 14 years) at a magisterial academy, often in combination with study at a university.

Not everyone is prepared to make the sacrifices necessary, but also few have the necessary qualities to responsibly use the grave powers that are entrusted to Magistrates. As such, a careful screening process ensures that only the best become Magistrates. With the advent of the New Order, the low calibre of many Quaestors and even Praetors and Consuls has made itself distressingly obvious. Further, the ethos of the New Order has led more and more of the Imperial governance to be handed over to laymen and even laywomen.

The general population has traditionally held Magistrates of every rank in very high esteem – among the Old Loyalists and some others who remember the old ways, everyone in a room will stand when even the lowest ranking of quæstors enters. They are seen as powerful and sometimes mysterious individuals upon whom the fate of the Empire has always hung. However, this esteem was greatly eroded during the internecine wars following the convocation of the “Estates General” which decimated the ranks of the Magistrates and changed the face of the Empire. The philosophy of the New Order greatly reduces the prestige of the Magistrates and has ‘unlocked’ for laypeople many positions of power which for a thousand generations have been the sole purview of Magistrates.

11.15.2011

Steampunk

A friend of mine sent this dandy little video to me on the topic of the "steampunk" sub-genre of science fiction. It is one of my favourite "flavours" of science fiction, although I've yet to write something publishable in the area (I am working on something for the Collegium Scriptorum Catholicæ anthology). Watch this video for a taste of what steampunk is:



I'm not sure that there's much I can add. In my view, the Victorian dreams of the future were a lot more fun and have more of a feel of the fantastic about them -- again, the blend of fantasy and science fiction that I enjoy. Although Steampunk specifically has that extra level of eccentricity to it that appeals. Finally, the aesthetics of the Victorian era are hard to beat. As much as I love the Middle Ages they hadn't invented moustache wax yet!

I'm definitely adding that "Steam Punk Bible" to my Christmas wish list!

11.14.2011

Rex Caelestis: Artificial Gravity

From the Encyclopædia of Science and Technology, Ed. Ivan Krzykowski, St. Petersburg: Imperial Institution of Russia, 2310.

The graviton, an elementary particle that mediates the force of gravitation in the framework of quantum field theory, was first hypothesized in the 20th century and proved to exist circa the mid-twenty-first century. The names of the scientists involved in the discovery have been lost. The knowledge of their nature and existence were preserved in the monastery of Our Lady of Guadeloupe in Silvera (in what is now modern-day Kingdom of Yellowstone, North America) throughout the dark ages of war and societal collapse of the twenty-second century that were the drawn-out death throes of the so-called "One World Government".

The documents treating of gravitons were then re-discovered by Fr. Eugen Kempf, S.S.I.L., of the Pontifical Academy of Space Science in Rome, as part of his lifelong search for a way to create fully artificial (non-centrifugal) gravity. His prime concern was that priests aboard spacecraft, when offering Mass, had to consecrate the sacred wine inside pouches [by special indult outlined in the Motu Proprio Stella Splendens, Hadrian IX, 6 October 2183] and not in the appropriate sacred vessels. On larger vessels and the Tycho Brahe Space Station of his era, there was gravity by centrifuge but this was not deemed satisfactory by Fr. Kempf.

Fr. Kempf's single-minded determination to ensure that the most Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ received all due honour and pomp, even in the difficult conditions of space travel, ultimately led him to success where lay scientists had failed for hundreds of years. Offering Mass each morning before going to the laboratory, in his sixty-eighth year after over thirty years devoted to the topic, he designed and built the first graviton generator. The first vessel with artificial gravity was tested on 6 October, 2216. This success led to a radical change in the design and nature of space craft and proved a major contribution, second only the the perfection of the FTL drive, to extra-solar exploration.

11.12.2011

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones 4-Book Bundle (Book Review)



Title: George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones 4-Book Bundle
Authors: George R.R. Martin
Publisher: Bantam
Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: A very well-written, enjoyable and engrossing fantasy series that declines after the first two books and rather than being uplifting tends to be rather uninspiring; although one really cannot go wrong with $15 for four novels (Kindle)

Mr. Martin has been dubbed the "American Tolkien" by Time magazine -- I cannot agree with this. The world he created for "A Song of Ice and Fire" is certainly very well thought-out to the smallest detail, and rich in those details, which is reminiscent of Tolkien's Middle Earth. However, he is no Tolkien, first and foremost because whereas Tolkien wrote inspiring tales of friendship and honour amidst evil and destruction, Mr. Martin seems to weave a depressing, dark, and uninspiring tale.

This is not to say that the books are bad. George Martin is a very skilled writer, and it is his skill that kept me going and made me really want to love these books the way so many do. He may even approach Tolkien's mastery in terms of command of language and in some ways I enjoy his very dynamic style that engages all of the senses more enjoyable than Tolkien. It is just in his underlying message, and some really stupid ideas that make no sense if one knows anything about medieval societies, that made me ultimately unable to give the collection more than 2 stars out of five.

The novels take place, for the most part, the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, which are, at the beginning of A Game of Thrones, united into single kingdom. It is an ancient kingdom with history stretching back some 12,000 years referenced in the story. To summarize the series without spoiling too much, I think it is fair to say that the overarching plot is of a conflict between the leading families of the realm with House Lannister (the Queen of Westeros being of this house) playing the role of antagonists against the Starks of the North (the large family of Eddard Stark play a major role in the series). There is also a subplot concerning the exiled Targaryen heirs who seek to reclaim Westeros (the last Targaryen king having been overthrown about fifteen years before the start of A Game of Thrones by King Robert I). There are massive complexities within this broad plot involving familial alliances and age-old rivalries (which I thought was especially well-done) which all explodes into a massive civil war.

One of the major aspects of the world Mr. Martin created is that it has seasons that last for years. I found it extremely difficult to suspend my disbelief on this score, since it would be impossible for people with mediæval technology to survive in northern climes where there are winters that last years and even a decade and more. Especially since there is reference to there being snow on the ground in summer in Winterfell. No satisfactory explanation is ever given in the novels as to how this was accomplished -- although aside from this I found, on the whole whole, the world-building at play in these novels was first-rate.

In addition to well-done world-crafting, Mr. Martin populates his world with a large cast of characters who are for the most part believable and interesting. The problem I had with them is that they are, with very few exceptions who almost all get killed early anyway, too dark. That is, they are all completely out for themselves and here, again, the worldbuilding starts to fall apart a bit because a society with such universal disdain (not just disregard) for oaths and honour would not hold together. Certainly not in a feudal realm which Westeros is portrayed as. An assassination or an oath-breaking here-and-there is realistic and adds conflict to a story. The CONSTANT and unending oath-breaking, assassinations/regicides (more than one occurring at weddings that were ostensibly to form alliances), betrayals, the brutality of every character, the lack of decency, in the end all proved too much for me. In the beginning (i.e. during A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings) this is not so bad as the few good and decent characters are still around. But as they are killed-off the work becomes -- as I mentioned in the summary, uninspiring and depressing. At first I thought it was good writing -- giving the protagonists lots of conflict to overcome -- but ultimately it becomes clear that the overriding theme of "A Song of Ice and Fire" is can be summed up by a character called "The Hound":
... there are no true knights, no more than there are gods. If you can’t protect yourself, die and get out of the way of those who can. Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don’t ever believe any different.
Which is certainly not uplifting at all. It is social Darwinism/"survival of the fittest" writ large. It is, ultimately, soul-destroying uninspiring garbage. The technical writing itself is superb.  The many interesting plot elements and twists and turns, conbine for an enjoyable and addictive read. I devoured A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings in a matter of days and found myself enthusiastically insisting that anyone willing to listen read these excellent, excellent books filled with well-done battle scenes and manoeuvrings both physical and mental. But this depressing and FALSE theme and theory cannot be countenanced. The world can be ugly and there is evil in it, to be sure, but it is not THIS ugly -- there ARE true knights and heroes, and the IS a God. And no society has survived on a "survival of the fittest" mentality, and it has rather been those societies that took duty seriously that rose to be great civilizations.

Just a couple examples from this series and how they're ridiculous when applied to real life. In one scene, we see a group of lords laughing to scorn a certain duke's "softness" because he allowed his peasants to take shelter inside his castle. This ignores the importance of serfs to a mediæval culture -- the main point of castles was to keep these valuable citizens safe. Martin never does try to explain how there isn't mass starvation across Westeros when the serfs are wantonly massacred and their own lords make no attempt whatsoever to protect them (and on the contrary tend to prey on them as much as the enemy). Then there's the marriage scene I referenced which angered me so much I stopped reading the novel for many weeks. It's preposterous that one would slay his new allies at the very wedding feast that is to seal the alliance. No one would ever join with that lord again and in reality in a feudal society which DEPENDS on the sacredness of oaths, such a man would be spurned by all.

Returning to the technical aspects, though the pacing was spot-on through the first two installments, I found that by book 3 (A Storm of Swords) the plot started to seriously drag and there was the overarching plot in this novel slowed greatly. It seemed that the tale started to meander and although things would happen they did not advance the cause of the war much. It felt like treading water and I wondered if Mr. Martin had any clear idea of how this civil war was supposed to end. Also, while unexpected twists are good,  Mr. Martin went too far in some instances. At one point he managed to wipe out, over the course of a chapter, almost all of the protagonists  and any realistic hope that whom I had identified as the "good guys" could win the war. I think this is a legitimate complaint, because it is not proper (in my humble opinion) for an author to implicitly imply a certain group are the protagonists and then wipe them out. It is denying the reader delivery on an implicit promise. Which compounds the problem with the overall theme I cited above. It certainly made me far less enthusiastic to read A Feast for Crows (Book 4) and I read it just to finish what I purchased. I currently am not planning on purchasing A Dance With Dragons (Book 5).

Still and all, I think it is worth reading for the mature reader. Certainly it is something I'd encourage writers like myself to read to learn from Mr. Martin's unquestioned skill. The Kindle version is only $15.05. A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings alone are absolutely worth $15. So if we consider the other two as a free bonus then this is a good deal. A postscript on my rating -- I would give A Game of Thrones 4 our of 5, A Clash of Kings is probably worthy of 3 since the "there are no true knights" theme is not yet fully developed there, but A Storm of Swords and A Feast of Crows are worth no more than 1 each and taking the collection in totality I have to give it 2/5.


11.11.2011

Short Story: LEVANTINE LATTÉ

By Nicholas Wansbutter

No one had any business being out in the cold, clammy early morning hours, but the Champs-Élysées was busy with growling cars, buzzing mopeds, and swishing bicycles. Rodriguez could hear them, but not see them. The last sight he would ever see for the rest of his life (however long that might be) was the Iranian tanks approaching just before the tactical nuke hit. He supposed the air force pilot that launched it thought he’d done them all a favour.

With his free hand, Rodriguez tried to pull his coat more tightly about him and shivered. He’d been standing on the curb for ten minutes wondering how he was going to get across. Parisian drivers had a reputation he didn’t want to test by literally walking blindly onto the road.

A new sound filtered through that of the traffic: the click of hard-soled shoes striking the pavement. A man around his own height, Rodriguez guessed, by the pause between heavy steps. The stink of a cheap cigarette, probably Turkish, accompanied the footfalls.

“Excusez-moi, monsieur, avez-vous besoin d’aide?”

“Ah, parlay-vooz English?” It was the only ‘French’ he knew aside from a few profanities and ‘bonjour’. It had been enough to keep him alive the two weeks he’d been in the region, and to get him from Benelux to Paris.

“Ah, oui. Yes, I do. Can I help you across the street, sir?”

“How did you guess?” Rodriguez nodded wearily and held out an arm. “Well don’t be a tease, let’s get going.”

“You are an American, I guess, by your accent,” his guide said halfway across.

“I am,” Rodriguez said cautiously. There wasn’t much point to denying it, but he wondered if his ethnicity would be perceived as a good thing? He didn’t know whether France was still part of the "One World Government"; there'd been rumours of rebellions throughout Europe after the Russians pored over the Vistula. The great minds in Brussels had decided to nuke the Russkies and after that things got real hazy. Real news that wasn’t propaganda had been nonexistent in Landstuhl.

“My grandparents were American,” the Frenchman said. Rodriguez could hear the smile in his voice. “Back when America was a sovereign state. I haven’t spoken to any Americans in years. Can I buy you a drink?”

“I don’t have anything better to do, and it’s never too early in the day for a glass of wine in Paris, is it?”

His companion laughed. Rodriguez thought there was a nervous edge to the laugh.

“A latté, I think, would give you a better sense of French hospitality, monsieur. And there is just the place right here.”

Rodriguez was pulled to the left, then to the right. The Frenchman released his arm and guided him into a chair. After a rapid-fire discussion with another - probably the waiter - a saucer and cup clinked on the table in front of him.

“Thanks,” Rodriguez said. “I’m Rodriguez, by the way. I’d offer you my hand to shake, but I don’t have much of a right hand any more.”

“I am Pierre. So, monsieur, what brings you to Paris?”

No one had said why, but he’d all but been kicked out of the Landstuhl Medical Centre. Maybe the government really had collapsed; maybe they just stopped paying for the bases and left the soldiers there to fend for themselves. Maybe there'd been some sort of peace treaty with the Russians that involved shutting down the bases. He didn't know.

“I was in the area. Seemed a shame not to visit while I was here.”

He tasted his latté as a way of changing the subject. "Well, it doesn't taste too much like used motor oil laced with Agent Orange. I suppose that makes it pretty good, these days."

Pierre laughed again, more heartily this time. "It goes well with a cigarette. Would you --"

"One of those toxic smokestacks I smelled you enjoying from two blocks away? Sure. If the rads haven't killed me yet, that won't."

He felt the thin cylinder touch his lips and inhaled when the click-hiss of a lighter reached his ears. It was like sucking on a Trident missile as it launched.

The two made small talk for a while (Rodriguez still couldn’t judge the passage of time without a watch). Pierre complained about the cost of fruit and poor sanitation in the city. Rodriguez tried to be vague when he bellyached in turn, but eventually got to talking about his war wounds (which like his accent could hardly be hidden).

“Damn idiotic wars … making the world safe for democracy.”

“I am glad to hear you say that,” Pierre said. “Most soliders, and especially Americans, are Islamophobes.”

Rodriguez laughed. “You didn’t strike me as the politically correct type, Pierre. The muftis and mullahs are just as bad – heck, their religion was started by a bloodthirsty phony --”

He was cut off by a loud wailing not far to the east. He'd heard it before in Iran; a muezzin calling Muslims to their prayers. There was more than one, even -- the nearest and loudest didn't quite block out the others. It sounded as if there were minarets for miles around.

“Well, I guess that wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever said, now was it?” Rodriguez said.

"Gendarme! Gendarme!" a voice behind him cried.

"That was not wise, monsieur, you have insulted The Prophet."

"The 'One World Government' is strictly secular. France is still a part of that, isn't it?"

"Not since ... don't you read the news?"

"Take a flipping guess!"

"Be wise! Do as most of us did -- convert and you will be spared. Otherwise--"

The tramp of running boots and the clamour of angry voices shouting in French drowned out the obvious conclusion of Pierre's plea. So this was it then. Rodriguez had wished himself dead many times since being nearly incinerated by that blast outside Mashhad. But now that the moment was here, he wasn't so sure. He reached as calmly as he could for the latté in a last show of bravado, but hands grabbed him and dragged him out of the chair.

There wasn’t a lot of time to make his choice. He didn’t need to understand French to know he was being told to ‘convert or die’. He heard the click of safeties going off and time seemed to stand still. It was the moment -- his moment -- and he knew he must spend it well. The voices of his forebears, the conquistadores who had faced such trials and worse, sounded in his ears. Of El Cid who fought the Moors rather than submit to Allah a millennium before; Of Pizarro who conquered a kingdom with barely a hundred men. Rodriguez’ broken lips peeled back in a fierce grin. He knew what his choice must be.

"Monsieur, will you proclaim Allah? You must answer now or --"

"¡Santiago!"

11.10.2011

Clothing - A Juxtaposition

 
The other day, my wife and I for the first time in many many months had the time to sit down and enjoy a movie in the evening. We opted to watch Timeline, the film adaptation of Michael Chrichton's book featuring historians sent back to 1357 France. What struck me once again while watching the film was how much better the characters all looked in their mediaeval garb versus modern. After watching them for most of the film dressed as mediaeval peasants, they look rather like "bums" in the final scene where we see them back on their archaelogical dig.

Here is another good shot of their mediaeval garb:


Versus modern:


I must say that the change (for the worse) in women's clothing over the centuries is the most striking. Another example snapped by myself at the Tower of London offering further proof of my thesis that even the most basic peasant clothing of the mediaeval period was more gracious, dignified, and even functional than what we must wear today:

Now someone's sure to ask me what solutions I have to offer. My answer: the tag on this post is "musings", not "answers"! In seriousness though, while I may have a certain affinity for the past, we cannot relive it. But maybe we can get some ideas. In any event, I think it also gives me some further insight into why I prefer science fiction and fantasy genres over all others.

11.09.2011

Call to Arms: The Galaxy

The adventures of Call to Arms span much of the known galaxy of that "world". It is a galaxy populated by various different races and "nations", although much of it is controlled by "the Empire". This is an early sketch of that galaxy that I drew early in drafting to keep myself oriented:


This is an early draft, so some things have changed. Certainly things like "Eden" which  I just used as a descriptor to myself for what sort of region that's supposed to be (the birthplace of Man in this universe -- not the actual garden). I'll be working on an updated version that is intended for public consumption and hope to post it within the next couple of months.

11.08.2011

And the stars will grant each man new hope . . .



“And the stars will grant each man new hope . . . his sleep brings dreams of home.”

Paraphrase of Christopher Columbus


I fancy myself a "Catholic science fiction writer" so have, of course, often considered the possibilities of Catholics ever exploring space. Being a voracious science fiction reader and life-long enthusiast of the American and Russian space programs, I like to think that exploration of the universe would be of interest to the Church rather than being frowned upon. Historically, Holy Mother Church was always a great patron of the sciences and the Vatican housed one of the first observatories in earth's history. Catholic nations funded the first great exploratory voyages, most noteably Columbus' discovery of the New World (it is from Columbus that I drew the title of this article).

On the other hand, many argue that to build spaceships requires a strong military-industrial base which is incompatable with Catholicism and an agrarian "back-to-the-land" philosophy that many (most?) of us traditionalists advocate. From this, many would say that starships could never be created in any Catholic way, that Modernism and Industrialism are necessary ingredients, and that it is therefore irresponsible to even harbour imaginings about Catholic science fiction.

I disagree with such assertions, although I do see there is merit in them. It is not an accident, I don't think, that all the truly Catholic countries fell well behind when the Industrial revolution stormed into history. I would further agree that the unmodern and unindustrial Confederate States were a more Catholic economy and society than the Union in 1860s America. That said, I don't equate traditional Catholicism, distributism, and anti-modernity with Luddism. Firstly, I am of the view that technology per se is not evil and even the knowledge that allows the construction of televisions can be used in a Catholic way (albeit cautiously). Modernism is not technology, it is a heresy and a mode of using technology in an improper way. E-slavery does not result from technology's mere existence, but from how we use it.

I also don't think going back to the land excludes the possibility of having a space program, albeit one that is funded in a totally different manner than NASA. It seems to me that if massive cathedrals like St. Peter's Basilica, Notre Dame de Paris, and others could be constructed in totally Catholic milieus, I don't see why a spaceship couldn't be constructed by Catholics in some happy future. in the Middle Ages they still had specialised professionals in the cities, which included engineers and scientists with a high degree of skill and knowledge (relatively speaking). It was thanks to the Catholic Church, in fact, that European powers were always more technologically advanced that other cultures up to the present era (that is to say, we are still enjoying the benefits of the boost Holy Mother Church gave Europe as it struggled out of the Dark Ages following the fall of the Roman Empire).

Practically, it might take tens or even hundreds of years to construct an interstellar craft in a Catholic, distributist economy, with dozens of nobles and churchmen donating funds for the cause, but I think it could ultimately be done.

11.07.2011

Rex Caelestis: A Timeline of the Future

Excerpt from Dr. Patricius Hsai's preface to Triumph of the Cross: Peoples and Cultures from the Fall of the West to the Space Age Marianaburg: Marianaburg University Press, 2267.

Over the years, many attempts have been made to create a definitive timeline of history before the restoration under Emperor Henryk the Great. This has proved impossible; simply too much was lost or never recorded at all in the great nuclear fires of the terrible wars of those days.

Further exacerbating the historian's attempts in this area is the greater infrequency of reliance upon written records in the latter decades (digital data being wiped-out by EMPs) and the general failure of scholarship. This gives rise to the ironic circumstance that it has proved easier to at least approximate a history of events before the twenty-first century, than afterward.

Nevertheless, using the best scholarship to hand, and cross-referencing the oft-times contradictory primary sources, the following is the best "working time line" for the student of the death and rebirth of Christian Civilization, and shall be the basis for this text:

  • Early to Mid 21st Century - A series of treaties between the collapsing United States, China, and the European Union creates the so-called "One World Government"
  • Mid- to late 21st Century - Colonization of Mars begins
  • Late 21st Century - First space exploration test flights using cryogenic freezing technology as an attempt to explore further reaches of space and mine the solar system for resources conducted
  • Late 21st to early 22nd Century, the so-called "One World Government" begins to disintegrate; war is inaugurated when Russia attempts to break free in conjunction with Moslem uprisings throughout Europe, Asia, and North America.
  • 22nd Century - most of the earth descends into dark ages; complete governmental collapse in all but a few metropolitan localities and on Mars
  • 28 January, 2160 - Pope St. Linus II elected supreme pontiff, ending an unknown period of sedevacante (some sources indicate the last pope in the mid-20th century followed by a series of antipopes, other sources indicate a deadlocked conclave sometime in the mid 21st century after which the College of Cardinals attempted to govern via a special committee)
  • 13 December, 2163 - The twenty-third Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, held in secret in an underground bunker under the Swiss Alps, is convened by Pope St. Linus II
  • 13 May, 2165 - Russia consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Pope St. Linus II in union with all the bishops of the world
  • 15 May, 2175 - General Henryk Severnov named Field Marshall of the scattered Russian forces that he has united under his leadership
  • May 2175 - November 2177 - The campaign to save Russia, resulting in the liberation of that land and much of Central and Eastern Europe from anarchy, war, and brigandage and uniting them under the aegis of the Russian army
  • 1 November, 2177 - Henryk Severnov proclaimed "Imperator" and Supreme Ruler of Russia by his soldiers; he immediately sets about erecting a functional government, establishing his capital in Minsk (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novgorod, and Kiev all being too radioactive from multiple bombings in the late 21st/early 22nd century)
  • 21 July 2179 - Successful launch of "Tsar Nicholas II", the first Russian space vessel in orbit since c. 2000
  • 9 June, 2182 (Pentecost Sunday) - Henryk Severnov, Supreme Ruler of Russia, along with all his generals and the Patriarch of Moscow, makes a solemn abjuration of Orthodoxy and joins the Catholic Church; mass conversions throughout Russia and the European territories held by her armies ensue
  • 18 September, 2182 the Royal Astrogators' Guild is founded on the feast of St. Joseph Cuptertino, who is adopted as patron
  • 19 April, 2184 first components of the space station "Tycho Brahe" launched
  • 2185-2200 Supreme Ruler Henryk Severnov signs a series of treaties with leaders of the fledgling governments across the globe to form an anti-"One World Government" coalition; he personally leads campaigns in Europe
  • c. 2200 - Effective end of the global wars
  • 25 December, 2201 - Henryk of Russia crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day by Pope Urban X
  • 2 June, 2204 - I.S.S. Aeneis is the first non-"One World Government" vessel to orbit Mars; first contact made between earth and Mars since the early 22nd century; the government of The Federal Republic of Mars is hostile but allows a landing party onto the surface
  • February, 2210 - First missionaries dispatched to evangelise Mars
  • 1 October, 2212 - I.S.S. Lepanto is the first vessel to visit Proxima Centauri, using FTL drive
  • 6 October, 2216 - graviton generator developed by Fr. Kempf, SSIL, tested aboard the I.S.S. Mater Dolorosa
  • January 2220 - construction on the interstellar exploration vessel, Rex Caelestis, begins
  • 1 May, 2244 - "Black Wednesday", war breaks out between earth and Mars when the Federal Republic of Mars launches a surprise attack on the colony ship Beatrice
  • 28 May, 2244 - at the Council of Vityebsk, Pope Clement XX preaches the crusade to liberate Mars; massive support in response; a fleet led by the Imperial Astrogators' Guild assembled
  • 7 October, 2264 - The final and decisive battle for Mars fought in the Hellas Impact Basin; victory attributed to the miraculous intercession of Our Lady of Olympus Mons
  • 27 October 2267 (Feast of Christ the King) - The I.S.S. Rex Caelestis launched with a five year mission to explore nearby solar systems.

11.05.2011

Black Death (Movie Review)


Title: Black Death
Director: Christopher Smith
Producer: Ecosse Films
Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice van Houten
Excellence: 1 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: In a word: Bleh; in a sentence: even setting aside the bad history, it was just bland, uninspiring, and peopled by characters no one would give a damn about

I though this movie was rather terrible. I gave it a chance, being a medieval history buff and a Sean Bean fan. Let's face it, I'm a sucker for things treating of the Middle Ages and end up watching every film set in that era despite disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. I went in with very low expectations based on past experience, and this film still managed to beat those expectations (in a bad way). The history was, of course, quite bad -- one wonders if any research beyond a Wikipedia search or two was done in preparation of this film. Actually, even Wikipedia gives a more fair and balanced portrayal of the era of the Black Death.

The monochromatic palette made for very bland viewing. I suppose it was intended to "set the tone" but is just made things boring. As for the characters, there was no one to rood for and no one to identify with -- they were all essentially a**holes for various reasons (both the Christians and the pagans; I suppose I should consider it a plus that they made both "sides" equally detestable rather than romanticising the pagans as usual). If they were even characters to begin with, that is; they were all card board cut-out clichés from the fornicating young monk full of doubt about his faith, to the fanatical murderous knight, to the beautiful, cold witch.

The action wasn't even much good. There were only two action sequences in the whole film, and I found them rather lacklustre. Lots of gurgling dying sounds, but not much else. The hand-held camera moved around so violently the viewer could barely see what was going on, and since the same viewer doesn't care about the characters, there's little investment in the outcome. This is definitely one to avoid.

11.04.2011

Space Family Wansbutter

Here's an oldie but a goodie from about a year-and-a-half ago. I'll have to do an updated version some day now that we have four children to feature. This was drawn in honour of the numerous games of "space explorers" played with my children in the basement and throughout the house. I went with a steam-punk style which is another of my preferred genre-bending themes.

This was quite early in my attempts to shake off the rust of comic-style drawing as you can see from the lack of shading except on the space ship. A fun little piece nevertheless.

11.02.2011

Call to Arms: Introduction

When I first started building this website, I had in mind that I was definitely self-publishing Call to Arms and that it would already be available for purchase when the site launched. However, since that time, I had a change of heart and decided "nothing ventured, nothing gained" as regards trying a traditional publisher. So, on 2 August I bundled up the first three chapters of the manuscript with a summary of the full novel, a cover letter, and SASE for the rejection letter, and sent it all off to TOR Books (one of the few publishers who do not require an agent for submissions). They "promise" a response in 4-6 months so I plan to wait until February before I definitively take the plunge and self-publish.

In the mean time, allow me to attempt to pique my readers' interest in the work. Call to Arms is a space fantasy adventure. Here's the background I sent to TOR as part of the chapter-by-chapter synopsis:
Since the beginning of recorded history, every being in the galaxy has been infected by “The Disease”, an incurable illness that manifests itself in a variety of ways from chronic coughing, to migraine headaches, to madness. Lesions and visible black veins are the most common tell-tale signs. The Empire rose to prominence and near dominion of the galaxy through its Magistrates, who were given the power to treat (but not heal) The Disease by the supernatural founder of the Empire. On the eve of the twenty-first millennium, the Estates General, a rare meeting of all the senior Magistrates of the Empire, were convened. On the first day a group of Magistrates from the Core Worlds demanded sweeping reforms which ultimately ushered in the “New Order”. Those few Magistrates that resisted these changes, calling themselves “Old Loyalists” took up arms and civil war ensued. Now, after many decades of war, the Empire is on the brink of collapse as her ancient enemies circle and the Cult of Asebes, long believed extinct, have re-emerged, further tipping the balance of power in the galaxy. Varas Solabius, once a diplomat for the New Order, now an Old Loyalist, flees with with a device that could help prevent a bargain with the Empire’s most hated enemy, the Anaketh, that would see billions of Imperial citizens sold into slavery and worse.
While waiting for the rejection letter, I'll still be prepping it for self-publication (I admit, I used submitting the first three chapters as an excuse to slack-off on those preparations) and will give you little tidbits about characters and setting each week. Hopefully it will make you want to buy the book when it becomes available.

11.01.2011

Introduction

 
Welcome to the "offical website" of Nicholas Wansbutter, the totally unknown science fiction/fantasy novelist and cartoonist. Why "Swords and Space"? It's a play on the "swords and sorcery" label that I thought well represented the sort of work I like to produce, which is either medieval-themed fantasy fiction or science fiction; or more frequently a genre-bending combination of the two. I didn't go with "Swords and Science" because I've never been a huge fan of the science aspect of sci-fi, and my D in first year Chemistry at university solidified this understanding along with my intentions to pursue Law rather than Medicine!

I don't pretend to be a great writer, but rather, one who has taken to heart the advice of J.R.R. Tolkein to write the type of fiction one likes to read. On this site you will find a variety of postings on my thoughts about writing, life, movies I've watched and books I've read. Readers will find, mixed-in with these musings, ramblings, and rantings, three recurring series, appearing each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, respectively. These are:

Monday: Rex Cælestis

Posts with "Rex Cælestis" in the title will contain my responses to a writing challenge issued by a reader on another blog, and also out of a desire to share, in some capacity, my thoughts and scribblings over the years on the topic of space exploration in an imagined future society that has embraced the Social Kingship of Christ.

The project will take the form of diary entries, articles, letters, and other "primary historical sources" from this theoretical future, culminating in some short stories and, hopefully, a series of short novels that I hope to make available in eBook format. Posts may not flow chronologically since I will post items as inspiration strikes me.

Wednesday: Call to Arms

To be honest: one of the raisons d'être of this blog is to market my first novel, CALL TO ARMS, so there will be regular posts about the Call to Arms universe, the characters, ideas that I have for future works, and anything else that comes to mind. I hope that fans of the novel (should any exist) will enjoy a "deeper" look into the universe and may even collaborate to some extent in continuing the "franchise" (I've not yet sold my first copy and I'm already talking franchise!). As with "Rex Cælestis", I won't be posting things in any discernable order, but as the mood suits me.

Friday: Unpublished/Unpublishable Fiction

I do enjoy to write and share my writing with others (with a hope for some constructive criticism) without throwing everything that doesn't have an immediate market into the circular file. I was also once a half-decent comic book artist but let those talents atrophy and am trying to rebuild them. For this work, too, I appreciate constructive criticism to improve my craft, with a view to eventually writing a graphic novel or ten. So, on Fridays you will see various short stories, comics, or other scribblings.

I hope that you will enjoy this blog and honour me by "following" Swords and Space and reading regularly.

Yours in Christ the King,

Nicholas Wansbutter
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
1 November, 2011
Feast of All Saints
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