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NY ComicCon 2016 – Reading the Small Print   Leave a comment

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The Mad Geniuses Behind First Law of Mad Science, and Me

So I went to NY ComicCon on Saturday, October 8, 2016. And sure, I could tell you about all the mind-blowing, bigger-than-bejeezus and whammo-bap-biff sights that assaulted my senses during my visit, along with the claustrophobic cosplay crowded aisles.

But no, I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you about what everybody should be noticing, and that’s the large imaginations behind the smaller prints just waiting to be discovered.

Instead of jamming my way into the bigger, more crowded booths, I took the path less travelled – the Small Press section of the convention.

There, I found extraordinarily friendly, helpful, entertaining people, even if I didn’t make a purchase. All of these people readily shared their stories about how they managed to make it to NYCC 2016, what inspired their work, why they keep going and the sacrifices they made along the way. Clearly every one of these people are devoted to their craft, often a labor of intense love rewarded each time someone turns the pages of their works…or contributes to their Kickstarter project.

So it’s with that spirit I introduce to you some of the representatives of small presses that I met. I only wish I could write about all 40+ of them, but time and space only allows for these. Please support their works and visit their websites. I’ll guarantee you it’s time well spent.

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First Law of Mad Science, Written by Oliver Mertz and Mike Isenberg, Art by Daniel Lapham, Colors by Jeff McComsey and Oliver Mertz, Lettering by Mike Isenberg and Oliver Mertz, Cover by Ryan Brown and Issue 3 Inks by Lonny Chant. Published by Noreon Labs. Website: http://www.firstlawofmadscience.com.

I met the creators on a casual stroll, when I gazed up at the title of the first volume, “Work Until Your Family Is Sad” made me break out in laughter. Please forgive me if I get your names messed up, guys, but I think it was Oliver who gave me the impressive elevator speech that hooked me to buy this book. And while I didn’t have a chance to read it today (sorry, I had to go to work!), the bit I glanced through LOOKS GREAT! I also have a to get through FLOMS Science Club Mixtape. It’s a compendium of several artists’ works and stories.

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Man Vs. Rock, Volume 1, Written by Victor Detroy and Kevin Bieber, Art by Jared Lamp, Colors by Summer Fitzgerald. http://www.manvsrock.com

 I knew I had a winner yesterday when I walked up to this booth and one of the artists responsible for its creation acted it out for me. Obviously, I had to buy it. The creatives behind this project are a team from Maine and Texas who now live in Las Angeles but came to New York ComicCon. And as my personal dramatic reading demonstrated, this graphic novel features a strong female character AND a rock. While the female character is a strong as a rock, it’s the rock who’s the heavy hitter here. Don’t ask me to reveal all the severe consequences throughout history that the rock foisted on humankind, but if you get your hands on this book, you’ll certainly find out! Learn the truth and purchase, folks!

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Toolbox, Written by Kyle Gnepper (website – http://www.unshavencomicsonlin.com), Art by Kristen Gudsnuck (website – http://www.henchgirlcomic.com).

Another charmer of a work, this is a family-friendly graphic novel anyone can enjoy. It looks like fun and I can’t wait to read it! To quote the back cover, “Robot Justice Is Efficient Justice! Toolbox is about a future off world human settlement that reprograms a construction robot to protect them from bandits and dangerous wild life in the area. It’s equal parts science fiction and western adventure. At its heart it’s about technology, sisterhood, character and what it means to be a family.”

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Agent 81 and the Black Train, Written by Robert Geronimo, Illustration by Chilly Bliss, Ascalon Press, NY http://www.ascalonpress.com.

I spoke to the author, Robert Geronimo, for quite some time and his enthusiasm is infectious. He came up with a twisty take on World War II. I’m going to quote the back cover because it explains the plot better than I can remember. “AGENT 87 AND THE BLACK TRAIN – A true master of disguise, martial artist and linguist, Agent 87 is the world’s greatest spy. With the Second World War coming to its peak, 87 goes undercover to investigate a lethal weapons project in a Japanese-occupied region in China. With the help of a French weapons expert and a greedy mercenary, 87 unravels a plot filled with death and horror, discovering she must stop a deadly train carrying the destruction of mankind as its cargo.”

I must also add that Ascalon Press also has a division, Ascalon Games, and they’ve created an app called “Little Maia and the Lunar Express – a game where the player evades enemy rockets, aliens and a giant space monster.

September in Space   Leave a comment

September’s usually a loaded month, for all sorts of reasons. Kids head back to school, there’s a big holiday capping off the traditional summer holiday, all the zucchini’s either ripened at once and your neighbors run from you as you clutch your harvest, chasing them, and we turn the season from boiling to pleasant.

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There’s all sorts of things going on above our heads as well. We started off the month with a solar eclipse today, in Africa. That means in two weeks, we’re going to see a lunar eclipse on September 16.  Solar and lunar eclipses always appear in pairs, about two weeks apart. This time, the penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible throughout all of Europe, Asia, Australia, but not North and South America, except for the easternmost part of Brazil.

 

scorpio

If you know your constellations, Scorpio is crawling back down southwest to get away for the winter. It’s taking with it a colorful trio of two planets, a star and one moon…but just for a day or two. Around the second week of September, you’ll see Antares, a big red star located in the upper portion of the constellation, Saturn to the upper right and Mars to the upper left. The moon on the half-shell will add its glow to the grouping.

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September’s a fine month to spot the so-called Summer Triangle, a trio of constellations (The Swan, The Eagle and The Lyre) forming a jewel of a triangle consisting of two first magnitude stars and one zero magnitude: Vega (0.14 mag) in The Lyre, Altair (0.89 mag) in The Eagle and Deneb (1.33 mag). With luck, you can see this grouping almost all year round, but the best time for it is during the summer, when it’s nearly overhead in the Milky Way. Vega is especially close to Polaris, the North Star, and only goes below the horizon at latitudes 40 degrees for a handful of hours. The further north you go, the longer you can see it.

On Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 14:21 UTC, autumn officially begins in the northern hemisphere. That’s when you start thinking about how fast that summer went past, you still didn’t get to the beach, but that’s okay, because you can’t get into your bathing suit anyway. So why don’t you do yourself a favor? Toss on a sweater, take a chair and have a seat, looking up at the greatest gift we all have at our disposal: the heavens.

Almost, But Not Quite   Leave a comment

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How many of you look forward to gazing at the moon and witnessing one of Nature’s Greatest Wonders, such as the lunar eclipse pictured above? They happen twice a year, about two weeks apart from a solar eclipse. It’s the dance the moon and the sun do, shading the earth in a few places, and giving us a fabulous show.

But on August 18, something odd’s going to happen. The Sun, Moon and Earth will be closely aligned that day, but their shadows will not meet. It’s as if they’re all flirting with each other, yet don’t quite know whom to choose. So they hold off a bit.

Then, one month later, the Moon gets its chance with a Penumbral eclipse (also, not quite total, but almost), crossing two dates, on September 16 & 17. But here’s the thing with a Penumbral eclipse: you might not notice anything. In fact, most people see a normal full moon. A keen eye will notice it’s a bit darker, but only just. See, this kind of eclipse happens when the Moon passes through the faint part of the Earth’s outer shadow. The Sun, Moon and Earth are imperfectly aligned, so they can’t do what naturally should come to them – an eclipse – so they go through the motions and orbit away.

Sandwiched between those two almost lunar events is an Annular solar eclipse on September 1. That, too, is an almost-but-not-quite event, with the Moon standing a hair’s breadth too far from the Sun to block its light entirely, but enough to cast a pretty decent shadow and darkening things in its path. It’s kind of like going to the movies and someone with an enormous head sits directly in front of you. You can’t really make out the whole film, but at the screen’s edges you see a tidbit of the action. What a viewer will see is a “ring of fire” around the edges of the moon. The sky does darken and if you glance at the sun (eyes protected with a filter!), it’ll look pretty darn cool.

So look out, folks! Or you might miss something…

Posted August 6, 2016 by seleneymoon in Eclipses, Moon, Nature, The Sun

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A Ticket To Heartbreak and Heaven   Leave a comment

2016 NY ComicCon

I got excited when the yearly reminder to sign up for October’s NY Comic Con appeared in my inbox. For years, I swore I’d love to attend but life always interfered somehow: had to work and couldn’t get off, or something was up with the kid, or after all the bills got paid, the till’s empty and so were my pockets.

This year, however, was different. The stars aligned in my favor. For once.

Upon receiving the notice I needed to fill in my fan verification form, a method of preregistration, I counted the days until the site opened. As one can imagine, in years past, tickets to this event were hotter than asphalt in Florida on an August afternoon, and acquiring them often required a Ferengi’s ability to pilfer, smuggle and trade. So who can blame the folks at NYCC to try a new method of ticket selling so that anyone who wanted to attend actually could…legitimately?

Once the Fan Verification site went live, I filled in my name, my husband’s name and my son’s. It asked for email addresses. Since I was treating the family for tickets, I put my own email in all three. I’ve purchased tickets for various and sundry trade shows in the same manner, so why should this be any different?

Several days later, I received a notice that tickets were now open for sale for verified fans. After waiting in an electronic queue for well over an hour (lucky I hit the button right as it came live!), I purchased three tickets and was instructed that I’d need to go to another site to complete the sale. I got excited. Not only was my family going, I planned to surprise my son with his ticket, since the event takes place right before his birthday.

As I opened the site’s page to complete the sale, I noticed my email address went in on my designated field, but not on my husband’s or son’s. Strange, I thought, and went to read up on what I might be doing wrong. As it turned out, each person needs his or her own email address. What? Aren’t I buying the tickets? How come? From NYCC’s twitter feed, I quickly learned that many boyfriends, girlfriends, uncles, aunts and cosplay girls and boys believed as I did.

Suddenly, we were all shut out of living our dream. No 2016 NY ComicCon for us.

I called. The helpful and polite person on the other end verified what in my heart I realized was true: every ticket needs its own email address. If not, we’re very sorry, but we have to refund your money.

First, I wanted to cry.

Then scream.

Then kick myself for not following directions the way I should.

Enthusiasm and past Javitz Center purchasing experiences clouded my decision-making for this event. I hated myself for not following the directions carefully, but then again, why shouldn’t one person be able to buy a couple of tickets? It comes down to a factor more than just hoping to surprise someone with a nice treat: fraud. This convention is so rife with people elbowing out the legit crowd with overpriced scalped tickets, the powers that be decided to try another way.

Unfortunately, there were an awful lot of people like me, and all of us, including me, let NY ComicCon folks know how devastated we all were. All we wanted was a good time, fanning it up with our ilk, grabbing autographs and a pile of merch to take home and savor.

Yet, inside of me, a gut feeling told me to hang on. Just wait, it said, there’s going to be good new yet…

And there was.

Out of the blue, I received a nice, polite email from NY ComicCon. Apparently, they heard us. Chose to do the right thing. Gave us a second chance.

We had a brief window to verify the fans we wanted to purchase tickets for, only 24 hours, but that was more than enough time. I scrambled online and fan verified both my husband and kid. Twenty-four hours after that, I purchased tickets for all three of us.

My heartbreak turned out to be a ticket to heaven. Now we’re all going!

Hope to see you there.

Snap Sci-Fi – Time to Go   Leave a comment

Assembled robot

“I’m telling’ ya, you’d better’d kick in a little more palm grease before I pull this duty again,” said Rathwalson, a bare-boned bot jerry-rigged from spare parts. “The way you sold this gig to me, I’d thought I’d wind up on the shores of Celestrasia, oiling my joints with some babe. Instead, I’ll be floating toward that rock there, crunching breccia and nothing else.”

“Oh, quit moaning,” said Biff Chesthair. “I’m maneuvering this bucket so close it’ll only be a leap and a step. Else, they’re gonna catch us and switch out your parts. Turn you into something you’re gonna regret. We both know why.”

“How can I not? My repeat circuit keeps showing Chrome and Pewter pissed because I mistook them for Dead Betas. What bot rests? Only boosted their Slether so I can sell it to buy more appendage junk. Hey, they’d do the same to me! And yes, I’m an idiot ’cause I didn’t think they’d have the sense to bury a tracker inside the Slether pack. So, I’m taking it…there,” Rathwalston said, pointing out the porthole to a grim, scarlets-shadowed planet.

“Look, R,” said Thurston Chiseljaw as he strapped a hefty transport box to the back of the unwilling robot. “We got to get rid of that Slether,” he said, referring to the blitz-quick addictive drug, known to bring down bots, babies and everything in between. “We can’t have both the cops and bots chasing us. Already they’re on to us. I’d do it myself if you didn’t play hide-and-seek with my helmet.”

“You lost it in that poker game last night. Now I’m wearing it,” he said, glancing at the lower part of his mechanical torso.

“Yeah, it’s your ass,” said Thurston, “and there’s no way I’m putting that back on my head.”

Meanwhile, Biff struggled with the primitive controls on their stolen ship, a hacked-together collection of gear shifting rods, a metal pegboard box passing as a control panel and a window with a target drawn on it. A few dials sporting unrecognizable symbols proved to be a complete waste of time, signifying nothing useful, to him anyway. He might as well fly blind. After much jiggering, he figured out the correct joystick to turn it towards the unnamed planet only meters away.

“If either of you loose screws wants to pay attention, we’re here. We got an hour, tops. Time to go,” said Biff to Rathwalson.

“I’m already gone. Catch you in five,” Rathwalson said as he slipped through the portal.

Biff and Thurston watched him stream towards the planet’s surface, leaving a faint trail of propulsion fuel in his wake.

An hour passed by. “Come in, Rathwalson. Come in,” Thurston hailed through the barely-functioning radio. “Come in, now, can’t hear you. Where you at?”

Nothing but a sizzle crack of dead air.

“Don’t like this,” said Biff. “Either he’s gone off someplace, or they’ve found us. I’m going down there.”

“I’ll keep watch. Not that we’re a tempting target or anything, but even if Pewter and Chrome are in a good mood, they’ll pick us off just for laughs. I mean, look at this ship,” he said, slapping the metal pegboard box that held the control panel.

Biff tugged on his spacesuit as Thurston readied the propulsion kit. “There’s not much fuel here. Might not be enough to bring back the bot anyway.”

Moments later, he disappeared into the dark abyss, floating towards his destiny.

 Headless Robot

Nothing works like it’s supposed to, thought Biff as he scrambled along the rough surface of the unnamed planet. The tracker’s sending me here, but I’m not picking up signs. 

Without warning, the sky erased it stars, replaced by a great gust of wind, then darkness. After a few foggy minutes, he regained his senses and glanced at his biometer. Oxygen…that’s good. He slipped off his helmet and breathed fresh air. A clink, followed by a ka-terrk, ka-terrk, ga-wheee sound caught his attention.

No…

Leaving his helmet, he raced towards the noise. There stood Pewter and Chrome, disassembling a sizable assembly of bots. Among them was Rathwalson, his various pieces carefully arranged in categories: appendages, intelligence, camera, receptor, and others. That packet of Slether joined others in a bin.

“What took you so long?” said Pewter, as he turned toward Biff, pulling the head off of another bot while Chrome dissected its innards.

“That wasn’t our agreement. You know all the trouble I went through to get this stuff?” said Biff.

“Doesn’t matter,” said Pewter. “You’ve pirated more Slether than anyone this side of the sector. Our profits have vanished.”

“Time to go,” said Chrome, as he rose up from the ground.

“But…but…” Biff whimpered, until he felt the cold metal finger touch his cheeks.

Chrome unscrewed the cap that once served as Biff’s head, placed it on a shelf, and dug within his interior, scooping out the piles of packets of Slether that Biff held captive for far too long. It was time for him to go.

Snap Sci-Fi – “A Close Shave”   Leave a comment

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A Close Shave

Damn them, thought Ranger Radsusky. Didn’t I tell them to go away?

It all started innocently enough. After tinkering around with an old electric shaver she found in the bathroom cabinet, inspiration struck fierce, sizzling her brain with concepts and plans.

“Hmm, let’s see,” she said as she held up the graphene synthesizer in her sunny, garden-girded laboratory. “I’ll put this shaver here on the 3D model conceptualizer, plug in an aerodynamics structure, maybe even a thruster or two. Then I’ll hit the send and blend button.”

Radsusky heard a tinny, unamplified series of musical notes in the distance. “Who’s calling me now?” she said, and turned to leave the room.

Big eyed cat

Mr. Widdles, Radsusky’s inquisitive cat, slunk into the lab through a slightly ajar French window. His feeding implementor Stood in the next room, talking into a small, flat slab of glass and metal. He sniffed around in the meantime.  A flat tray under some kind of big box held a few items of interest. Say, what’s this? Food? Inching closer, he pressed his paws against a tab. Quicker than a flash, the box lit up and weird, strange buzzing noises rattled his eardrums. He ran off, seeking a quieter spot on top of the kitchen counter.

Without warning, the entire laboratory building shook, its foundations cracking. Radsusky threw down her phone and ran into her lab, only to notice four ginormous robotish razors rose from the 3D model conceptualizer. While their bodies resembled electric razors, the cord morphed into some kind of segmented legs. The on-off-clean now lights turned into eyeballs. The bits and pieces of an aerodynamic structure wound up as a kind of wing. Thrusters became fire-shooting appendages. She let out a sigh.

Rough Woman

“Jeez, I can’t even leave for five to talk to my mother? By the look of things, it’s going to be rough from now on,” she said. “These guys aren’t going to play fair. Sheesh, I didn’t have a chance to insert the morals chip. Who’d even believe this? Can’t even think who to call to stop ’em. I’d better get out of here. This roof’s about to crash.”

Sure enough, as soon as Radsusky left the lab, immense bodies rose up from the tray and continued to grow in size and strength. As they did, the lab collapsed around them.

“Go away! Shoo! Beat it!” she yelled, “Go pick on someone your own size!”

One eyed her, raised its arm, set fire to the bushes, and headed towards her. Razor-Bot meant business, and she was its first order of destruction.

“KNOCK IT OFF,” she yelled back, and grabbed a piece of rubble. She flung it hard and fast, sending it directly into Razor-Bot’s eye.

“I’m fed up! Do you hear me–FED UP! I created you! How dare you treat me with such disrespect! Get out of here – NOW!”

Fed Up Woman

One more fling of her lab’s foundation smacked into Razor-Bot’s face. It sent a stream of fire in response. Fortunately, its siblings took off for the field next door, seeing newer venues to destruct. And they were heading right for her friend’s anti-battalion defenses!

“Oh, god…I better’d tell Susie! She’s going to be really pissed if they mess with her nuclear rockets. She just finished putting a new hood on the silo, too.”

She picked through the rubble of her lab and managed to locate her phone. Thank goodness it remained close to the surface. Pressing the speed dial number, Radsusky reached Susie quickly and explained the situation.

“When are you gonna learn?” Susie said, sounding as if she’d had enough of her shenanigans. “I’m really sick of having to chase after your experiments.”

“This’ll be the last time,” Radsusky promised.”

“Liar,” said Susie, and hung up the phone. In her living room stood her munitions cabinet. She glanced at the most suitable tactical anti-bot devices and selected the perfect destroyer.

Not a moment too soon.

Her floor rumbled and wavered. China clinked in the closets. The swag light swayed. “Guess that’s my signal to clean up this mess,” she said, and headed out the door.

Razor-Bots lumbered at a quick clip across her field, heading directly for her nuclear armaments.

“Not today,” Susie said as aimed right for the intruders. She gave the Bot Blaster’s trigger a tight squeeze and shot four times.

Shooting woman

The earth shook as their bot-bodies tumbled and fell, leaving welts in the field where they lay. For a moment, whirring noises could be heard from their insides, until a tall column of steam spewed forth.

“Guess it’s over with,” Susie mumbled as she headed towards them. She kicked the sides of each one of them, hearing only the echo of an empty body of graphene and the ruined promise of an ill-conceived accident gone awry.

Copyright Gretchen Weerheim June 15, 2016

 

 

Snap Science Fiction   Leave a comment

Space Lady

Since I have nothing else to write about, I’d thought I’d come up with a flash sci-fi story written especially for you! Oh, don’t worry, it’s complete with illustrations, so if you don’t like my prose, you have pictures to stare at!

Ready? Here we go…

Pay Day

“You little weenie! I’m gonna blast the f—— s— out of your freakin’ ass,” Trish Walker muttered. Not one to mess around with unscheduled attacks, she wrapped her fingers around the zapper.

Alkazoid taunted, “You couldn’t hit the side of chettle dock if it sat on your face. Why dontcha show some sense and give up like your pal, there?”

“Jim? What’s he got to do with anything? He’s all wheezed out after sucking down that bottle of potato water he stuffed in his pack. Fell out of the lander and bashed his helmet. Idiot.”

“What, so you’re picking up his mess? What are you, the cleaning lady?” sneered Alkazoid.

“Yeah, and I’m gonna finish the job right…now,” Trish said, giving the zapper an extra hard squeeze as she let loose. Crackling streams of electrodes sizzled Alkazoid smack in the center of his eye.

“Jeez! That f—— hurt!” Alkazoid screamed. “For that, you’re gonna pay.

Trish glanced at her colleague, Jim. A worthless sot, half the payload of their space cruiser hid his devil juice. Tossed out anything his drunken brain considered disposable, including food, munitions and air caches. Of course, she discovered this far too long into their misguided journey. They’d gotten word a wormhole existed only 37.65° left of Kronos. Jim steered the ship that many degrees to the right. Out of fuel and resources, they wound up on some hunk of rock with one insane piece of teal-shaded talking flesh.

“With what?” Trish yelled, continuing to lay on her zapper. “Buttons or good looks?”

“Ohhhh…god…my…head…” groaned Jim, entirely unaware of the jam Trish sought to end.

“Shut up!” Trish yelled, thrusting him downward with her unoccupied hand. She gave him a good, hard thunk on his helmet, hoping it inflicted even more pain.

“Aaaay…gimme a break…” Jim uttered as he passed out.

“No…you’ll pay with this,” Alkazoid said.

The last thing Trish saw was the reedy smile of his snaky lips as he tossed a red octagon towards her. Then…nothing…

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She figured a couple of hours passed, maybe more. Her eyes fluttered open to an inexplicable vision of insane red madness. She and Jim were now babies, and instead of him sucking vodka out of a straw, he seemed to be ingesting it from the homelike teat of a maniacal machine. Its faint alcoholic odor drifted under her nose. He seemed utterly contented, laying on his back on the shelf lap of this metal mama. Its tentacles massaged Jim in a rather intimate fashion. Nearby, a kid played with what seemed to be a miniature version of their space cruiser. He chanted, in a sing-song manner, a little something about naughty people getting punished, becoming doomed and answering to karma’s deep, lingering force.

“Say…wait a minute,” she said aloud. She glanced down and around. “Something’s not right here.  Am I…is Jim…are we…babies?” Her feet dangled in air, her body held captive by a mesh sling as her arms stuck out from its sides. Nearby, a mechanical gizmo resembling a machine with an arm, lay on the ground.

“Mmmmm,” said Jim, happily slurping on his tubular teat.

“What’re you so happy about? We’re prisoners in metallic nursery,” said Trish.

“No,” said Jim. “We’re living in my fantasy. You see, when I saw that red thing come crashing in my direction, I remember thinking about a dream I had back on home base. When I woke up, I figured that dream might’ve been running through my sleep time again. But you know what? It’s real. We’re here. And if I remember correctly, that thing you were zapping at said something just before you passed out.”

“Me? You were already history,” Trish said.

“No…that teal thing-man gave up a few more words. Said better race towards your dreams – whoever gets there first wins. So I guess I won. Pretty sweet, huh? I can go on like this,” he said, sighing with pleasure.

Trish pressed her lips in anger. That bastard wasn’t going to win. It was then she became aware of a hard cylinder in her grip. She raised her hand and read the tiny inscription on its side: to go out, pull here.

“Whatcha doin’?” asked Jim, noticing Trish pulling on an object with her teeth.

“Game over,” Trish said, and spit out the pin into the grass.

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