31 May 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 2 Chapter 5 Commentary

A conversation about team work, in "By Your Leave" Chapter 5.

What can the squad do about Dusty?  Three requests to have her move out have failed.  Rhiannon has good reasons to loathe the woman, and Miyami is sympathetic to the loathing.  Ric has a good point, though.  The instructors are marking on ability, including the ability to work as a squad.  Everyone else got shaken up.  Not this squad.  Ric is right; they should have an advantage.  Thus the beginning of turning the conflict from intra-squad to inter-squad.

Since the cast are supposed to be at an academy, I had to figure out what they'd major in.  Once again, I turned to the Royal Military College in Kingston to see what they had.  The usual degrees were there - Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering - but there was one extra, a Bachelor of Military Arts and Science.  Armed with this knowledge, it was time to work out which character was studying what.  There's a core set of courses, but each character has a different interest.

Rhiannon major is Mathematics with a minor in Political Science.  Her major was chosen after looking at the different offerings and selecting something she might enjoy.  The minor is related to her future position, when she inherits her parents' titles.  She wants to be on top of her duties when she has to take over the roles.  Dusty is going for the Bachelor of Military Arts and Science with no minor; she's wants to focus on her goal.  Miyami is aiming for a B.Eng in civil engineering, so may not have time for a minor.  Engineering really doesn't leave much time for anything else to be studied, unless the student wants to graduate much later than expected.  Lars is majoring in History; he's hoping to make the Guard a career but isn't aiming for higher ranks yet like Dusty is.  Ric, well, he hasn't decided.  So many options.

The squads get renamed.  It's a change from before the key test, a more permanent arrangement, at least for the school year.  With new squads come new squad leaders.  Prior to the obstacle course, the Academy left it up to the squads to work out who was the leader.  Now, the school decides, based on what has been seen.  Except, maybe not.  Ric has demonstrated the ability to take the lead when needed.  Rhiannon got the nod.  The position will rotate, but right now, Rhiannon suspects that something more than her skill is the reason why she got to be leader.  Dusty isn't going to let her forget, either.

Dusty gets two more insults in.  Her last line, "By your command, Imperious Leader[,]" comes from the original Battlestar Galactica.  I gave myself a challenge when writing up interactions between Dusty and Rhiannon - Dusty was not going to reuse an insult when addressing Rhiannon.  The list so far:

  •  Your Highness
  •  Your Queenship
  •  Your Exaltedness
  •  Your Majesticness
  •  Her Imperialness
  •  Princess
  •  Your Ladyship
  •  O Mighty Mistress
  •  Imperious Leader

Nine digs.  Considering that the pair didn't spend much time together is his arc and actively avoided each other throughout, that's not bad.  I have five more coming in the next arc, whenever that comes.

This arc was short.  I realized that I had covered everything I needed to for this arc, setting up a few plot lines for the future and giving the characters a chance to breathe without being under constant tension.  The internal conflict needs to end somewhere, so the move to bring the squad into a more coherent form has to start somewhere.  The next arc will go into the idea more, which is where it stalled out back in November 2017.

Friday, the future of Mecha Academy.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Mummy (2017).
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Miami Vice.

29 May 2018

CanGames 2018, or, How I Spent a Long Weekend Inside, Again

CanGames has come and gone for another year.  How better to spend a long weekend in May than gaming it away?  There was mayhem, explosions, political commentary, gunfights, and all other sorts of fun.  Details after the jump.

25 May 2018

Mecha Academy - Episode 2 - Chapter 5

Episode 2 - By Your Leave

Chapter 5 - Internal Conflicts

"I hate to cut your time off short, but the Commandant will be issuing a recall order later this morning."
"As such, all leave has been cancelled for the duration of the alert."
"If the lasers came from the Grand Republic, who would your first suspect be?"
"Are you doing this to get inside my pants?"

Morning, once again, arrived early.  Lars roused his squad mates to get them out in time for physical training.  Sergeant Chang worked the assembled students hard.  She started with mere calisthenics, increasing the pace over the work out.  After that, she graduated them to a five kilometre jog around the campus.  Sergeant Chang kept pace with the cadets, shouting various forms of encouragement, positive and negative, to any who fell behind.  In the last five hundred metres, Sergeant Chang picked up the pace, turning the job into a run.  She kept the cadets in formation until all of them arrived, then dismissed them for breakfast.

As the squads broke up, Ric waved to his roommates.  "Hey, guys, hold up."

Miyami stopped mid-trudge.  "Can this wait?  I want to shower and get something to eat before the next thing they spring on us today."

"Not really.  Guys, I've been thinking."

Lars shook his head in dismay.  "That never ends well."

24 May 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 2 Chapter 4 Commentary

Everyone returns to campus, in "By Your Leave" Chapter 4.

Dusty got a bit of recognition.  Not the big news story on TV, but a mention in police blotters.  Her name doesn't come up, but Commander Haag can connect the dots.  It's not like the muggers are going to be believed when they say what happened to them; one young woman managed to not just beat them up but inflicted painful injuries all by herself.  Dusty wasn't wearing her uniform at the time.  She's not going to be tied to the fight officially.

Entertainment in science fiction can be fun to think about.  What form would it take?  What would audiences want?  What does science fiction look like in a science fiction setting?  Are adaptations popular?  Sure, people can go out and blow off steam in a drinking establishment, but what about the people who just want to relax at home?  And the big question, can I figure this out without throwing myself off stride to reach 50 000 words?  I extrapolated from today by looking back a few decades to see what hadn't changed.  Since the advent of radio, people could stay at home and listen to music or a play in the comfort of their living room.  Television added video to the audio and the Internet brought in a wide choice.  The question is just format.  The answer, I left for the reader, though I have hinted at holographic technology in the past.  What is Singularity Web?  A series of action movies, about what I have no idea.

Space television isn't the only option.  Karl went for it because he put in a full day in the fields.  Heidi, though, has spare energy now that her children are growing up and don't need constant supervision.  She's learned (or maybe re-learned) how to sculpt, something to fill her time once Lisbet and Bjorn leave the nest.  Speaking of Lars' siblings, homework is still around in the future.  It's a constant, no matter how it's done.

Ric's homeworld, Venitarii Four, is a small mining colony.  He exaggerates how far off the beaten path it is, but the world doesn't see heavy space traffic, just the bulk haulers to pick up ore and the freighters to deliver needed supplies.  Not revealed in the story yet, there is a difference between a member of the Empire and a colony of the Empire.  For a world to have a seat in Parliament and to have representation in the House of Lords, its population must reach one million.  Tamar should have both after the next census.  Venitarii Four won't; instead, it has to rely on whoever colonized it.

The Grand Republic should get a mention here.  The Republic is the Empire's opposition; the two nations are in a cold war at the moment.  The Republic has world rights as one of its major platforms; each world is an equal, no matter how many people live on it.  Each world maintains its own military, though the Republic as a whole has its own space navy.  Tensions are high along the border because Republican worlds are eyeing Imperial settlements, including Tamar, but the Republic's government is doing nothing to shut down the worlds' desires because of world rights.  The various militaries in the Republic use lasers weapons instead of gauss-based technology, but they also have armoured infantry and grav tanks.

Friday, Mecha Academy, "By Your Leave" Chapter 5, "Internal Conflicts".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus due to CanGames.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Mummy (2017).

21 May 2018

Behind the Scenes of Lost in Translation - The Sanity Loss

This wasn't meant to be a regular feature here.  What happened was a planned review got shuffled because it wasn't an in-name-only remake but an actual remake.  So, since I had to track down the orignal film, I went with Plan B.  Oh, that might have been a mistake.  I reviewed The Almighty Thor over at Seventh Sanctum and Psycho Drive-In.  It's from The Asylum, same people responsible for the Sharknado series.  Except, The Almight Thor doesn't have the charm of those or of Lavalantula.  After the break, my notes and thoughts as the movie progresses, with some enhancements.

18 May 2018

Mecha Academy - Episode 2 - Chapter 4

Episode 2 - By Your Leave

Chapter 4 - Back to School

"The power of caffeine."
"You kept your top on all night, if that's what you're worried about."
"I won."
"You should call for an ambulance."

A buzz intruded on Dusty's sleep.  She rolled over on her side, eyes still shut, and reached out to find the cause of the intrusion.  Her hand found her tablet, vibrating with an incoming call.  "Hello?"  When the buzz continued, she tapped at her tablet a few times before the call connected.  "Hello?"

"Good morning, Dusty.  It's Commander Haag.  I didn't wake you, did I?"

"No, sir."  Dusty pushed herself up in her bed.  "I should be awake anyway."

The Commander laughed.  "I hope you're enjoying your leave."

"I am, sir."

"I hate to cut your time off short, but the Commandant will be issuing a recall order later this morning.  Have you seen the news from Vaughan's Landing?"

"Yes, sir.  Cadets stopped a robbery.  And, yes, sir, I know they are my squad mates.  Sir, may I ask why we're being recalled?"

"This is completely unofficial and you haven't heard it from me, but the pistols used in the robbery are from the Grand Republic."

Dusty opened her eyes.  "Sir?  Are you sure?  I know the news mentioned laser pistols, but I didn't think they were Republican."

17 May 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 2 Chapter 3 Commentary

Fighting crime in different ways, in "By Your Leave" Chapter 3.

A bit of action for the story.  It's taking longer than I expected to have the mecha going.  There hasn't been any training to drive the suits yet, so how do I get some action in?  Random crime.  Or not so random.  If I can't show the mecha in action, I can show the cast.

The group in Vaughan's Landing got the bank robbery.  The idea was to show them working together as a team.  Ric stepped up as leader and got everyone in place.  But Miyami noticed the robbery building up.  She might not come from a great neighbourhood, and I'm only realizing that now.  It did make sense at the time that Miyami was the one to notice.  Rhiannon is in a social class that can either send others to to run errands or arrange for regular deliveries of what's needed.  Ric is from a small mining colony, which will be detailed later but the population numbers in the tens of thousands at most.  Lars is a farm boy and while he is in his home town, bank robberies aren't a regular event.  That leave Miyami, a city girl.  She was the one best suited to spot the robbers.

Miyami's opening move was inspired by the TV series, Leverage  The hitter of the group, Elliot Spencer, played by Christian Kane, didn't go for flashy moves.  His role was to keep the others safe, and he was efficient at it.  Against a group of mooks, his go-to move was to drop to his knees while punching down.  It's super effective.  And after building up Miyami in the last episode, it was time to show her in action.  Miyami fights to win.

Ric doesn't have it as easy.  His training is all from the Academy.  He gets surprise but he isn't Miyami.  The pistols were there to be neutralized; the robbers had them, the cadets needed to get rid of them.  So, while Miyami was brutal and swift, Ric had to work for his victory.

In Shelter Cove, Dusty has her own fight.  Again, there's a difference between her and the rest of the squad.  The squad in Vaughan's Landing had time to prepare and actively trying to stop a crime.  Dusty got mugged; she didn't want the fight but it came to her.  She also didn't leave her technique at the Academy.  Welcome to more of Dusty's mysterious past.  Like Miyami, she fights to win and she's a little more savage about it.  Back in the first episode, Dusty defended herself from Rhiannon during sparring without throwing a punch.  Rhiannon will never know what happened in Shelter Cove if Dusty has any say about it.

The name of Dusty's hotel is inspired by an ad for a travel agency that showed the difference between Ocean Side, as in beside the ocean, and Ocean View, as in can see the ocean if the trees bend in the wind the right way.  Ocean Reach is close to the ocean so that the people staying in the hotel can reach it with a twenty minute walk.  She's not interested in seeing the ocean, though.  Dusty just wants time by herself to be herself.

The final scene caps off the differences between the two groups.  Dusty just left her would-be muggers lying on the ground.  She didn't want any police inquiries.  Ric, though, had Abby call the police.  They all had their reasons.  Ric was being civic minded.  Dusty just doesn't want anyone prying into her background.  At some point, I do need to reveal more of what happened with Dusty in the past two years.  It's on the list to be done.

Friday, Mecha Academy, "By Your Leave" Chapter 4, "Back to School".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Mummy (1999).
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus as I will be at CanGames.

14 May 2018

Behind the Scenes of Lost in Translation - Star Wars: The Original Radio Series

Over at both The Seventh Sanctum and Psycho Drive-In, I write a column called Lost in Translation, an analysis of adaptations, reboots, and remakes over almost all media.  Recently, I analysed Star Wars: The Original Radio Series - Seventh Sanctum and Psycho Drive-In - and made massive notes.  Normally, any notes get left at the bottom of the file I was using to write up the analysis, but these got long.  So, after the break, the notes taken while listening to the radio drama.

11 May 2018

Mecha Academy - Episode 2 - Chapter 3

Episode 2 - By Your Leave

Chapter 3 - Crime Stoppers

"Let's not hit them too fast, fly boy."
"Sergeant Chang is going to work us hard if she hears about this."
"You are so oblivious."
"What have I done?"
The next morning, even Lars slept late.  The Thorensen family let them be, knowing when they got back in.  Lars wound up having to carry both Susanna and Miyami inside before he collapsed on to his own bed.  Rhiannon was the first downstairs mid-morning.  Lars' younger siblings, Lisbet and Bjorn, were in the living room using the entertainment unit.  There wasn't any sign of Karl or Heidi, though she did find a note in the kitchen on where to find the leftovers.  Rhiannon settled for a cup of coffee before trying to make a decision.

Lars joined Rhiannon a few minutes later.  He yawned as he poured his own coffee.  "Morning."

"Sleep well?"

"Yeah.  You?"

"I don't remember the last time I fell asleep that fast."  Rhiannon stretched her arms.  "Lars, about Susanna..."

Lars sat down at the kitchen table.  "What about her?"

"Is it me or is she coming on a little strong?"

10 May 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 2 Chapter 2 Commentary

A relaxing day out, in "By Your Leave" Chapter 2.

I should never have split the party.  I've been a games master.  I know the risks.  But Dusty didn't want to intrude on Rhiannon or the others, so she stayed behind and was ordered to go have fun.  So, off went the rest.  Dusty was happy just staying behind reading.  But reading isn't very exciting to read about.  I could just have the audience read what she was reading.  Dusty gets a quiet day, something that lets her relax and indulge herself, something she hasn't done in a few years.  Why get upset over the haircut?  Because she wasn't ready for the huge change in appearance.  Dusty has baggage that she needs to get past.

Over in Vaughan's Landing, it's a busy morning.  Lars' family have a working farm and while mechanization allows for farmers to reduce the amount of labour, there's still work to be done.  Lars is used to getting up early.  Ric, Rhiannon, and Miyami are getting there, but are enjoying a day off.  Being guests, they're not expected to help out.  They'd be in the way, anyway.  The large breakfast is traditional; it helps with energy throughout the day.

Susanna is going to be a pain in this arc.  She tagged along.  It made sense that she'd tag along.  She's determined to be with Lars.  What do I do with her?  Thanks to Susanna, I was able to work in some of Lars' backstory.  Lars doesn't have much excitement, not compared to Rhiannon and Dusty.  What Lars has is a background that isn't much different from today's young adults, especially those from a farming community.  Even in the far future, some things are consistant.  The Landers were mentioned before; now it's time to meet one of them.  Vesta went to school with Lars.  Vesta went to the prom with Lars.  Somehow, Lars picked up a bit of what I had planned for Ric, a ladies man.  Except, Lars isn't doing anything.  Susanna and Vesta just went to him.

There's a bit of Miyami revealed, too.  She's from a city on a more populated world, one that may have to import foodstuffs to supplement what can be grown locally.  Miyami also prefers technology, so the great outdoors isn't that great for her.  But, she's trying.  Rhiannon's giving it a shot, so Miyami should, too.

Splitting the group up lets the different pairs do what they want.  Most of that was left off-screen for the audience to fill in, with just hints of what happened.  Ric and Abby went on rides and won prizes.  Rhiannon and Miyami did the same, though in a different manner.  Lars and Susanna went to see baby animals and found a cozy place alone.  The idea was that they were off together but separate having a fun time, a contrast to Dusty's solo outing.

I am treading the line on a problematic trope in science fiction, the excessive use of a modifier.  MST3K showed the problem during their riffing of Manhunt in Space; the short version is, adding a modifier in front of normal words and phrases is annoying and doesn't add to the setting or the story.  Sure, space ships and space stations are acceptable, but space diners and space fairs just make no sense.  I'm coming close to that line with the grav Ferris wheel.  It's colour, but it doesn't really hold up under scrutiny.  How does a grav Ferris wheel work?  Well, quite well when properly maintained, but that's not the point.  It's a throwaway line, or was meant to be one.  It could still get involved in a scene.  Fortunately, I don't push the anti-grav technology too much.  A maglev passenger train?  That's a possibility today.  Maglev Ferris wheels?  Maybe a maglev roller coaster, which I wish I thought of when I was writing the chapter.

Friday, Mecha Academy, "By Your Leave" Chapter 3, "Crime Stoppers".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Almighty Thor.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, /The Mummy/ (1999).

4 May 2018

Mecha Academy - Episode 2 - Chapter 2

Mecha Academy - Episode 2 - By Your Leave

Chapter 2 - Out and About

"A whirlwind adventure!"
"I wasn't going to surprise my folks with a small army."
"You haven't had the luxury of being a tourist since your parents' defection."
"Ma might have gone overboard."
When Ric woke up, he was the only one in Lars' room.  He got dressed in a t-shirt and a pair of jeans before shambling downstairs.  Halfway down, he caught whiff of the smell bacon wafting up.  He followed the smell to the kitchen, where Lars' mother was bustling around.  Seeing Ric, Heidi pointed over at the coffee urn.  "Still hot."

"You are a saint," Ric said.  He grabbed a mug from the counter and filled it with coffee.  "Is anyone else up?"

"My boys are already out in the field."  Heidi grabbed a plate from a cupboard.  "They'll be done in an hour.  Sit.  I'll get you breakfast."

Ric did as he was told.  As he added a cream and two sugars into his coffee, Heidi slid a plate of bacon and scrambled eggs in front of him.  He stared at the size of the helping.  "Oh, Mrs. Thorensen, this is too much."

"Nonsense.  You'll have a busy day today.  It's good to have a hearty breakfast.  What do they feed you at school?"

"We have a mess hall."  Ric tasted his breakfast.  "Too bad they don't have you there.  I'd eat breakfast more often."

"Flatterer."  Heidi grinned.  "Eat up.  There's plenty."

Miyami shuffled into the kitchen, stifling a yawn.  "Morning, Ric.  Mrs. Thorensen."  She parked herself opposite Ric at the table.  "I don't think I've slept that well in a while."

"I tell you, morning comes too early," Ric said.  "We should petition it to come later."

3 May 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 2 Chapter 1 Commentary

After intense training and the obstacle course, the cast get a break, in "By Your Leave" Chapter 1.

I had a few goals for this new arc.  The first, give the characters a chance to be themselves.  To do that, I separated Rhiannon and Dusty.  The second, expand the setting just a little more.  To do that, I need to show more locations than just the Academy.  Planets are big.  Maybe not as incredibly big as space, but there is a lot of surface even to a Mercury (74.8 million square kilometres) or a Pluto (17,646,012 square kilometers).

Separating Rhiannon and Dusty was easy.  They both wanted the distance.  Dusty wanted a quiet weekend so that she could lounge and read.  Rhiannon was willing to join Ric on his madcap escapade to Lars' hometown.  Since I started with Ric's group in the chapter, I'll start with them here.

Abby reappears!  She was last seen in "Roommates" Chapter 1; she was the barista Ric chatted up as he missed the bus to the Academy.  He kept in touch with her off-screen.  Susanna also came along because Lars, which he wasn't expecting.  Miyami and Rhiannon are still unattached, though, so they don't have guests with them.  Or Miyami is Rhiannon's guest.  That's something that may have to be worked out in the future.

Tamar is an agricultural world, with plenty of arable land for crops and livestock.  Shelter Cove, home of the starport, is the main city of the planet.  Most of the remaining towns exist more to support the farms around them than anything else.  I'm basing how the towns and other settlements work on Saskatchewan and the grain industry, though loosely.  There are a few other cities, but they act as administrative centres and collection points to funnel agricultural products to Shelter Cove.  Lars' hometown, Vaughan's Landing, is a farming town, providing the farms around the day-to-day necessities.  I didn't map the town out; I didn't see a need for it just yet.  I just kept in mind what sort of thing is seen in small towns I've been to - diner, a couple of bars, maybe a hotel for visitors, definitely a few bed-and-breakfast places, a couple of grocery stores, and the train station.

The trip to Lars' hometown also lets me fill in details about him.  Lars and Miyamo both fell into the background as Rhiannon, Ric, and Dusty took centre stage.  There's name dropping, there's an old flame, there's parents and siblings.  Most of the names for locals came from Mongoose's The Sword Worlds, keeping to the naming theme of the world.  The Landers were mentioned before, the same time Ric got the idea of going to the Vaughan's Landing Fall Festival.

There's a line that gave me pause just after I wrote it.  Ric and Lars are talking about Susanna and Ric knows that there would be others jealous of the attention Lars is getting from her.  "There's Vance and Tricia just off the top of my head."  That line came out naturally, as in I didn't even stop to try to figure out the names.  The real world then reared its ugly head - NaNo and American electioneering in the same month is weird - and I started to wonder if there would be any stigma for LGBT in the Empire.  That's when I realized, this is the far future; if we're /still/ having problems over personal sexuality then, humanity should just end now.  So, line stays in.

With Dusty, once she's encouraged to go to Shelter Cover, working out what she's doing was easu enough.  The problem with her trip was that she had no one to react to or with.  I tend to need an ensemble cast when I write.  Even if I start with a solo main character, a large supporting cast just happens.  Look at both The Soul Blade and The Devil You Know.  With both of the stories, I had a solo main character - Brenna in the former, Ione in the latter - but the cast grew to include friends, family, and unexpected recurring characters.  All because the leads needed someone to share reactions with.  Same thing happened with Dusty, but to a lesser extent.  She met people that anyone would meet on vacation.

Dusty's scenes are a counterpoint to her roomies'.  They're off being social; she's trying to take it easy and be by herself as herself.  Last episode, Dusty kept herself controlled, showing little emotion around others, especially her roommates.  Alone, she should be able to relax and read her book.  I also got to expand a bit on the relationship between Dusty and Commander Haag.  There's more to it than just her being in his command.

Speaking of Dusty's reading material, didn't the book sound familiar?.  It's a bit of cross-promotion on my part.  I wasn't sure what she'd be reading and really didn't want to spend time coming up with a fictional book, complete with author and title, when a reference to the book was all that's needed.  So, I tossed in Unruly.  It's a minor pet peeve that characters in science fiction seem to just read the classics.  Surely someone else will write something major between now and the future.  Not to mention, not everyone likes reading the classics.  Some so-called classics of the English canon have not aged well.  And people don't appreciate being preached at by their entertainment.

Friday, Mecha Academy, "By Your Leave" Chapter 2, "Out and About".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In , Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Almighty Thor.