31 Dec 2014

Wrapping Up 2014.

At last, 2014 is ending.  At the beginning of the year, I listed a few plans I had for the year.  Time to look at what did and didn't happen.

1) Get Lost in Translation compiled, cleaned up, and bookified.
Didn't happen, though I am still writing the column.  Time available was a minor culprit, as was a lack of discipline to gather one hundred and twenty numbered columns and the extra essays.  It's still a project to be done.  I just need to figure out how to layout the essays and reviews.

2) Clean up at least one completed NaNoWriMo project for publication.
Sort of done.  While Crossover, from 2008, has had a few editing passes made, By the Numbers went a different route.  Other works need to be finished.

3) Start a new serial for Fridays.
Done.  By the Numbers, part of number 2 above, and Beaver Flight were adapted for serialization, and Unruly will be coming soon.

4) Figure out how to incorporate more pictures in the blog.
Didn't happen.  When I sit down to write, it's all text.  I get pleased with myself for having hyperlinks.  Adding pictures only happens when the post features the visual.  Something to work on.

5) Save money for the inevitable end of my contract.
Did that.  Wound up out of work longer than expected.  Leave a comment if you want my resume.

6) Get out to more conventions.
Didn't happen.  I've gotten more uncomfortable in crowds over the years, and what I've heard about traffic management and sheer size of crowds at other conventions has had me avoid some major ones.  That said, I do want to get out to some smaller cons in the future.

7) Enjoy life.
Overall?  I did.  Life happened.  I'm still alive.  I have two cats who enjoy being cuddled, though on their terms.  I have hobbies that keep me busy and I'm employable.  Life happened.

So long, 2014.

25 Dec 2014

Merry Christmas

And happy holidays, however you celebrate.

Beaver Flight and commentary will return next week.

23 Dec 2014

Test Run - Shadowrun 5th Edition

It's been a while.  Things cropped up, and NaNoWriMo took over November, but I now have time to try out a new ruleset and new character generation.  This time around, I'll look at Shadowrun 5th Edition.  If you've read By the Numbers, especially the commentary, you'll have an idea of the setting, a cross between cyberpunk and high fantasy as magic returns to the world.  By the Numbers was written with the fourth edition of the game in mind, so characters, like Charles, were built using that edition's character generation.  The latest edition, the fifth, returns to the priority system used in the first three versions.  As always, I'll go through the process as laid out in the core rules.  This gets long, so everything starts after the break.

19 Dec 2014

Beaver Flight Chapter 9

"I had him."
"They're not doing a good job at invading, Major."
"I really don't think we're dealing with a gang of horny teenaged space girls here."
"Inside was a woman, apparently Doctor Kayla Asselin but DNA tests are being done to confirm her identity."

Chapter 9 - Happy Canada Day
July 1, 2128

"One more arc, then we can go in," Darcy said over the radio.  The rest of Beaver Flight acknowledged the order.  "Then, we can celebrate properly.  Minus the beer and fireworks."

"It's not the same, McGee," Dominique said.

"Oh, sure it'll be."  Darcy angled her power suit, beginning Beaver Flight's last pass over the moon's far side.  "I asked the Major to try to get us live coverage from Parliament Hill.  She's told me that she managed to arrange something extra."

18 Dec 2014

Beaver Flight Chapter 8 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter before continuing.

The Beavers now fly solo, no Aussies to hold their hands.  If things seems to be getting brushed aside, it's because they are.  Halfway through NaNo 2012, I knew that the format was wrong, but I was determined to keep going.  Too late to back out and start something new.  The story works better as a serial, in installments, if not in a more visual medium, like a webcomic.

Chapter 8 opens with action, mostly because I needed some in there.  Lidar (or LIDAR, but the acronym doesn't stand for anything) is light-based radar.  Light gives a quick response that can still be measured but won't be picked up on Earth.  The mission is secret, at least from the general population.

For those wondering about the "penny for your thoughts" discussion, Canadian coins have changed greatly over the past forty years.  The Canadian one-dollar bill was phased out in the 80s, replaced by a brass-gold coin.  The change wasn't appreciated by all Canadians, in part because the government that forced it was one of the most hated in Canadian history*.  With the pair of loons on the reverse side, the coin became known as the loonie.  The two-dollar bill was soon phased out, with the replacement coin getting called the twonie.**  Fast forward a bit, and another Canadian government facing an electoral revolt phased out the penny.  All that was boiled down for the sake of extra words.  Go me?

The goal of the action, besides having action, was to put the research the Beavers did into action.  It was time for the Canucks to be unpredictable.  The aliens have been met by an aggressive defense in the past.  Darcy is letting them set the tone so that her team can gather more information about them.  Tori adds to the fun by meeting ram with ram, then trying to take a prisoner.  The attempt doesn't work, but proves it is possible and shows the full capabilities of powered armour.  Prior to the lunar mission, Tori studied the existing media on mecha, mostly anime, to figure out what she could do, without even knowing she was going to need that knowledge.

The brainstorming the Beavers are doing let me also brainstorm and to toss out some ideas.  I hadn't completely worked out the reasons why the aliens were invading, beyond the "Venus Needs Men!" approach.  It's there, and the Beavers run with it.  No, the aliens aren't a gang of teenaged space girls out for sex.  I wouldn't have had so many troubles working out the aliens' motivation if they were.

The cylinder's inhabitant came about when I realized that there's really no such thing as a space mission that's all one gender.  An earlier mission would have had a woman.  Thus, Dr. Kayla Asselin, part of the original lunar mission that was taken by the aliens.  Why was she returned?  Kayla's not male.  So between taking Kayla and the assault that took the Russians except Yulya, the aliens learned... something.

The date stamps became a character point, if not a plot point.  July 1st, known as Canada Day, is the official date celebrating the formation of Canada in 1867.  Different parts of the country celebrate in different ways, with having a day off to party being the common thread.  From barbecuing fish on the coast to barbecuing a cow in Alberta, outdoor cooking rules.  Ottawa trumps all that with chip trucks and Beavertails.  Oh, and a massive fireworks display on Parliament Hill.

Tomorrow, Chapter 9, "Happy Canada Day".
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, fixing the 1998 Godzilla.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, the December news round up.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.
Next week, because of Christmas, there will be no commentary or chapter posted.  Spend time with loved ones.  The commentary will return on January 1, with Chapter 10 on January 2.

* How hated?  The Progressive Conservatives went from record majority to two seats in the 1993 federal election, which lost them official party status.
** A lack of imagination on the part of media prevented the coin getting called a doubloon, since it was double the value of a loonie.

12 Dec 2014

Beaver Flight Chapter 8

"I watched that video like you wanted.  I don't think any of those marines died."
"Routine can be boring, and that, at least according to my boss, can get us complacent."
The aliens don't seem to shoot at us until we're really close.  Even then, they try to ram us or something more often."
"We shoot first two-thirds of the time."

Chapter 8
First Contact of the Third Kind
June 29, 2128

"Okay, Princess, Dominatrix, take the overwatch position.  Geek, you're with me, low over the moon."  Darcy waited for the rest of Beaver Flight to acknowledge her orders.  In three, two, one . . . Break!"  She fired her side thrusters, pushing her suit away from the others' before beginning her dive towards the lunar surface.  On her radar, she saw Victoria's suit following.  Darcy establish a direct laser link to her partner's suit.  "Geek, do you hear me?"

11 Dec 2014

Beaver Flight Commentary - Chapter 7

As always, please read the chapter before continuing.

The Beavers have a typical morning, with Tori needing more sleep and Renée needing a caffeine IV drip.  Darcy directs the team to expand on the work Tori's doing.  One would think that the senior staff would be doing this, and they are, but Darcy wants to keep her team busy and away from each other's throats.  Darcy also wants an update from Tori, who really doesn't think well first thing in the morning.

The footage from the prologue showed Russian marines being shot, with the men being taken away.  Yulya Emelin, the commander of Bear Flight, was shot in the attack.  Not killed.  Neither were the marines taken away.  Tori's imagination runs away with her, but she is starting to get the idea.  The scene let me bring in the original idea, "Venus Needs Men!" and have it voiced in-character.  It is an odd idea; there's no guarentee that alien physiology matches up with human, or, as Tori puts, a human Tab A can fit properly into an alien Slot B.  Tori's other idea, human men as food stock, is also out there, though aliens may prefer their humans fresh.  Darcy's effort to keep Tori on track fizzles, but let me have Tori (mis)quote The Untouchables.  Even the 007 route, used in You Only Live Twice and Moonraker, requires some sort of compatibility between human and alien bodies.

While the more scientific minds work on their puzzle, Renée heads out to be the social researcher.  Uniforms on the station are varied.  Different commands have different needs, and wearing a uniform every waking hour, while the norm for soldiers on duty while deployed, isn't something a civilian gets.  There's a need to step away from the job, even for the pilots who could be called to launch within a moment's need.  The lounge is a way to escape being on duty even when off, so uniform regulations are relaxed a bit.  Hue is Renée's soul sister; they both have needs beyond the basics.  Hue is starting to be the base's scrounger, the woman who can get whatever is wanted if it's not on official lists.  I didn't plan on her going that route, but it turned out to be useful.

Tori and Dom's examination of the aliens let me get a few other details out.  First, the aliens should be visible to anyone looking in the right direction.  They just appear.  The comment about red shifts should really be about blue shifts; the colour blue has a short wavelength while red has a long one.  Second, there's character interaction involving Tori where the other person isn't annoyed.  Dom even revealed some of her interests and family.  Third, Tori's specialty is useful.  At the quantum level, physics doesn't behave as expected.  Subatomic particles can pop into existance in empty space, apparently violating the Conservation of Matter.  The popping, though, doesn't mean a piece of chocolate cake with lemon frosting will appear on a table.  Quantum physics is still being investigated, but it makes for an interesting premise in science fiction.  Finally, it gives enough information for Darcy to make decisions on how to deal with the invaders.

The chapter highlights the drawbacks of writing by the seat of your pants.  I needed details that really should have been worked out before I started.  The alien invaders have an objective, but what it is, I should have known by this chapter.  Instead, I was still working out their tactics and realizing that their attacks weren't working out in a way that made sense.  I also needed to work out my main characters in advance, a lesson learned with By the Numbers, where I had written something with my leads prior to the story proper.

Tomorrow, Chapter 8, "First Contact of the Third Kind".
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, the 2014 Jack the Giant Slayer.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, fixing adaptations.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

5 Dec 2014

Beaver Flight Chapter 7

"The invaders, they don't press their advantage."
"If you look in that direction, you'll get a wonderful view of home."
"The outcry from the deception would be loud.
"I need you to do something for me that neither of can talk about at all in public or with the rest of the Beavers."

Chapter 7 - Farther and Further
May 20, 2128

Darcy woke up with the first sounding of the alarm.  She heard the other women groaning as they stirred.  Above her, Darcy heard Victoria mumble something along the lines of, "Fi' more mi'utes."  She gave the brunette geek a poke from below and got a more coherent, "Hey!"

Swinging her legs out from under her covers, Darcy called out, "Everyone up!  Busy day today!"

"Hosti!"  Renée climbed down from her upper bunk.  "What time is it?"

"Time to get up, Renée."  Darcy clapped her hands.  "Let's go.  The bathroom's free, breakfast is in the mess hall.  We'll eat together for a change."  The Lieutenant climbed up on the ladder on her bunk to check on Victoria.  The brunette was on her stomach, her face buried in her pillow.  Darcy shook Victoria's shoulder.  "Let's go, Tori!  You don't want to be late.  Trust me, there."

4 Dec 2014

Beaver Flight Commentary - Chapter 6

As always, please read the chapter before continuing.

With the test flights out of the way, the Beavers are added to the patrol roster.  The Canadian flight teams up with the Australian to shadow the more experienced team.  This means that there's still a rotation of four patrols, but once Beaver Flight is up to speed, the other patrols can be given a day off each week to rest properly.  With the Aussies down one pilot, with Peri in sickbay due to injuries, the Canadians can bolster the patrol.  Darkside One has a skeleton staff.

Back in Chapter 4, Kangaroo Flight used numeric designations, Roo One, Roo Two, and so on.  In Chapter 6, I gave them call signs and started working out names for them.  Roo One, the leader, is Baz Minogue, call sign "Kylie", after the singer.  Roo Four is the injured Peri, call sign "Pipsqueak".  The other two members are Hue Ng, call sign "Koala", and "Shrieker", whose name hasn't come up in conversation.  Koala got her name because her fellow pilots thought she was cute and cuddly.  Shrieker's comes from her shrieking in training.  There is a reason why Bear and Tiger Flights don't get as much attention; that's eight more names needed, plus a way to introduce the characters.  Beaver and Tiger are on opposite shifts, not running into each other.

As mentioned in previous commentary, the civilians were recruited for their knowledge.  Shrieker is a computer technician with a doctorate, good for not just designing but for analyzing.  Dom's aerospace engineering helps her understand the design of spacecraft from the materials used to the shape of the craft.  The ring Dominique mentions is the iron ring engineering graduates receive as a symbol to remember the price of failure.  The iron ring is rough and is said to be made from steel from a collapsed bridge.

Renée and Hue bond over their dislike of the names of their respective flights.  Kangaroos aren't known to be fierce.  The drop bear is a fictional animal, based on the idea that there's no such thing as a safe animal in Australia.  The pair find other things to bond over, like personal needs, including coffee.  Despite, or maybe because of, being tiny, Hue strikes at the heart of matters.  She's boisterous and knows what she wants and how to get it.

When I wrote Beaver Flight during NaNo 2012, artificial meat was just being worked on.  Schmeat was still being grown  I figured that, if it worked, all that had to be transported were the stem cells for the animal and the solution for growth.  After that, 3D print a steak of a chicken breast and then cook as normal.  Since then, Schmeat has been cooked.  The flavour was called bland; there's no fat in the Schmeat to add flavour.  What's to stop the makers of Schmeat or the food printer from adding flavour nozzles?

The political ramifications of Darkside One come up.  Secrecy is critical; a leak that aliens are kidnapping astronauts will cause an uproar, from people wanting to surrender, people wanting to make first contact, and people wanting to violently retrieve the kidnapped.  There are also places that would dismiss the need for the all-woman force.  While the Americans and the Russians are being cautious, other nations and elements within those two countries, will push to send a "proper" armed response.

Darcy learns that Yulya Emelin wasn't the first woman to meet the aliens.  Another, in an earlier attack, went missing.  Darcy then makes a connection; Yulya was left behind on purpose, without serious injury.  With questions in her head, she gives Victoria something to do.  Why Tori?  Tori needs to be kept busy.  The assignment will keep Tori out of trouble, something desperately needed.

Renée's tolerance for being on the moon hits its lowest.  She's the least happy to be on the moon, preferring to see it in the sky instead of under her feet.  Going through a bout of homesickness, especially when the long distance charges are astronomical, is difficult.  The gravity is wrong, there's no windows, there's no proper day/night cycle.  Renée is having problems adjusting.

The paragraphs where Tori watches the video of Yulya getting shot took some planning.  If /Beaver Flight/ was in a video format, Tori could rewind the playback easily.  In a text format, getting that detail is difficult without outright saying so.  If you compare the first playback with the two times Victoria rewinds, I use the exact same wording.  A cut-and-paste to make sure that the phrasing never changed.  Did it work?  You tell me.

Tomorrow, Chapter 7, "Farther and Further".
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, the 2014 Godzilla.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Jack the Giant Slayer.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.