Sunday, 19 February 2017

Shout-Out: Space Drifters - The Emerald Enigma by Paul Regnier

Captain Glint Starcrost is not having the carefree, adventurous life the space academy brochures promised star pilots.

Broke, with an unreliable star freighter and a bounty on his head, Glint is desperate enough to try anything. Even set out on a quest to find a fabled good luck charm, the Emerald Enigma.

Now for a crew. A passive aggressive ship computer, a peaceable alien warrior, and time-traveling teen from the past aren't what he had in mind. But they'll have to do.

The Emerald Enigma won't wait forever and neither will the bounty hunter tracking him.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Skyrim Skeletal Dragon Kit

For a while now I've wanted some sort of winged skeleton statue, whether it be a bat or a dragon, something that looked cool. Just before Christmas I found this Skyrim Skeletal Dragon kit on clearance (so the price was right too!).

The pieces came attached to a plastic frame. I wanted this to look good, so after snapping the pieces off the plastic I carefully scraped the attachment nubs off with an xacto knife.

Not all of the pieces wanted to fit together closely - one of the tail pieces and the jaw gave me some trouble - but the finished statue looks amazing.

Now to find a proper display space...

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Shout-Out: Scientific Romance: An International Anthology of Pioneering Science Fiction edited by Brian Stableford

Before the term "science fiction" was adopted in the 1920s, there were "scientific romances," tales of amazing journeys beyond the limits of the known world. Jules Verne's imaginative novels of the mid-nineteenth century met with international success, whetting the public's appetite for fantastic fiction rooted in actual fact — a craving that H. G. Wells satisfied with his visionary stories. 
This compilation presents more than two dozen early tales by Verne's and Wells's immediate predecessors, contemporaries, and descendants, focusing on the middle period, when the genre was at its most enterprising and exuberant. Originally published between 1835 and 1924, the stories offer early interpretations of the futuristic societies, rogue stars, rebellious machines, and other now-familiar themes of speculative fiction. Featured authors include Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ambrose Bierce, H. G. Wells, Jack London, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as lesser-known writers. Brian Stableford, a legendary science-fiction author and editor, selected the stories, for which he provides an informative Introduction and brief biographies for each author.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Steampunk Story Bundle

If you're looking for a batch of steampunk novels to read, Cat Rambo has curated the new Story Bundle. Sold DRM free in a pay what you want fashion (minimum $15 if you want the Bonus titles), it's a great way to check out new authors. (Book links are from the story bundle page.)

The main titles are:
The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
The Bookmanby Lavie Tidhar
City of the Saintsby D.J. Butler
All the Paths of Shadowby Frank Tuttle

The bonus titles are:
The Emperor's Edge Series: Books 1-3by Lindsay Buroker
Ghost in the Cogsedited by Scott Gable & C. Dombrowski
Blood Tiesby Quincy J. Allen
Mechaniqueby Genevieve Valentine
The SEA Is Ours - Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asiaby Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng
Best of Penny Dread Talesedited by Kevin J. Anderson and Quincy J. Allen

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Book Review: Hurricane Heels by Isabel Yap

Pros: diverse and multi-layered characters, great world-building, excellent storytelling

Cons: minor confusion at times

Five thirteen year old girls are chosen by the goddess to help fight the Grey, an entity created from terror, rage, and destruction. Now 25, Alex, Ria, Aiko, and Natalie help Selena prepare for her upcoming wedding. As the big day approaches, they reflect on their past as magical girls and wonder how long they’ll have to keep fighting.

Hurricane Heels is a a collection of 5 interconnected stories. Each one is told from the point of view of a different girl. 

This is a novel for adults who love magical girl stories like Sailor Moon, who are interested in what real life for such girls growing into women would look like. The author clearly explains why no one in the larger world knows what’s going on in the fight between good and evil and how the girls heal after their battles. But these are women who swear, drink, go to a strip club (it’s a bachelorette party), and hold day jobs around their monster battles.

I loved the juxtaposition of these young girls getting magical powers and being given decidedly earthy weapons. When you think of magical girls you think glittery magic weapons, light weight, deadly because of their magical attacks. But these girls get an ax, a chainsaw, double swords. There’s no way to avoid the solid brutality of these as weapons and the death and gore of their battles against the Grey.

Each chapter begins with a black and white illustration of the girl whose point of view that chapter is from. Unlike the Sailor Moon characters, these aren’t thin waifs. They’ve got some weight on them and some curves. They look like real women, chosen to do great things.

At one point I tried to see what the main thrust of each story was - love, power, etc. Each character has a colour, a different piece of transformation jewelry, and a primary weapon, surely they each have an attribute they embody as well. A few of them seem to on the surface, but when you consider each character - and each story - more carefully, these aren’t simplistic portrayals. These are multi-layered characters who are scared of their new responsibilities and powers in different ways. They also try to hide their frailties from their friends, not realizing that they all have similar doubts. They fight because they need to, because the world needs them to. It’s amazing how well you get to know each girl, despite how short the book is.

I did find the scene in Ria’s story where she moved from the Philippines to the US a bit confusing. I had to read it twice to realize that’s what happened. There was also a formatting issue in the first story. In two places necessary page breaks, showing where one scene ended and another began, were missing. Because each story jumps between places and times so often, the page breaks are needed to help the reader reorient themselves. It was very confusing going from the end of a fight scene to the girls grabbing a drink with no indication that the location or time had changed. It was even more confusing jumping from a post fight conversation to a strip club scene. 

This is a brilliant book. If you like magical girl anime - and even if you just enjoy well told stories about women trying to find their places in the world while battling evil to save it - this book is for you.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Shout-Out: A Perfect Machine by Brett Savory

Henry Kyllo is a Runner, a member of a secret society called the Inferne Cutis. Every day he is chased through the city by Hunters whose goal is to fill him with bullets. It is a secret war steeped in history, tradition, and mutual fear.

Rumours abound about what happens when a Runner achieves ascension, but it has supposedly never happened before, so no one knows for sure. Except that it has happened before. And it is happening again.

This time, to Henry Kyllo.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Metropolitan Museum of Art's Open Access Policy

A few days ago the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City made their collection more accessible. They've organized it into two categories, that which they know falls into the public domain (which is now free to use for non commercial purposes) and that which may still be under copyright or other restrictions.

They've got a searchable database, where you can click 'Public Domain Artworks' as a search criteria, to be sure you're not finding images you can't use in your project. You must also attribute the work (the Met's website + artist).

I've been to the Met a few times and their collection is incredible. Looking through the images, they've also included works that are in the collection but not on view, which is pretty awesome. There's a search box for artworks on display but not, alas, artworks not on display.

Here's a nativity scene made from limestone by the circle of Antoine Le Moiturier c.1450.