Sunday, September 12, 2010

Review of Sigler's Latest

photo.JPGI'm not much for sports. The other posts on this blog should pretty well make it clear that the areas of the human brain which can be dedicated to professional sports stats and rules and changes and strategies have been filled up with science fiction and fantasy, with quite a bit dedicated to the differences between 1st and 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons. That said, I've recently finished the second book in Scott Sigler's Galactic Football League series, THE STARTER.

The book is set in a future where humans and aliens play an extremely violent version of Earth football. The various sentient species involved in playing and watching these games devote enough of their violent energies toward the sport that the ever-present threat of inter-species war is averted.

That alone would have hooked me on the series, but there is quite a bit more.

I pre-ordered the book from Dark 0verlord Media and am quite impressed with the presentation. It is a solid hardcover with beautiful cover art on the dust jacket. As with THE ROOKIE, there is a beautiful glossy, full-color insert with team trivia and amazing logo art, as well as a season schedule. My daughter noticed me reading a book with a football on the cover and I told her about the alien angle, which completely answered most of the rest of the questions. The remaining,"What is that red stuff splattered across it?" was answered with an honest "It's blood." She immediately looked down at her own book, something about middle school angst or something, with a look of utter boredom and vague disgust. But she has a book report due, so she will muscle through it.

I got back to THE STARTER.

I read THE ROOKIE a couple of months back. Before that, I'd listened to it in an episodic podcast format. I totally recommend them both.

Anyway, THE STARTER. The lead character is Quentin Barnes, a 19-year-old football prodigy from the Purist Nation, a collection of xenophobic planets who keep the populace subservient to the government with brutal punishment and a religious indoctrination preaching fear and hatred for all non-human species. In THE ROOKIE, Quentin's first contact with these other races is a very interesting character study into the process of overcoming preconceptions in general as well as rising above a less-than-perfect childhood.

Quentin is a lot better about it in THE STARTER. The hatred still pops up now and again, but mostly because Quentin has a very well-developed rage issue. For anyone who has read any of Sigler's other stuff, it isn't a surprise that he can make a character with rage issues three dimensional and even likable. No surprise, but remarkable.

THE STARTER covers the Ionath Krakens' first season in Tier One (the most prestigious and brutal level of the game) with Quentin as the starting quarterback. The games are extremely well written. As someone who knows very little about the game, I not only had no issue following the action, but actually found myself a little anxious as clocks ran down and just about any time the ball moved. Off the field, the action is also fast-paced, with Quentin spending more time with his teammates, visiting new planets and having extremely tense encounters with gangsters. Oh, yeah. The whole football system is pretty much owned by organized crime.

I don't know when the next book will be released, but I'll be pre-ordering it as soon as there is an option to do so. To my fellow geeks, I can assure you that THE STARTER (and THE ROOKIE) are fully accessible to football-impaired readers and are amazingly enjoyable reads. I want Ionath Krakens associated action figures. I want GFL miniature tabletop football games. I want to see a big-budget CGI masterpiece of a film version so I can bitch about the changes or the fact that they had to tone down the violence from the books for American audiences.

The podcasts are available on iTunes or at If you haven't already, download a couple and enjoy them. But you should also buy the book while you are there. Quality modern science fiction is too rare to not support.

Powered by Zoundry Raven

Friday, September 10, 2010

Nature is a Mother

WaspEggs.JPGWhile watering the herb garden yesterday (I mean, of course, hunting or fishing or playing some type of full-contact sport) I found this hornworm. The little white sacks all over it are the cocoons of wasp larvae which are, even at the moment this picture was taken, eating the insides out of this hornworm.

Eventually, the larvae eat enough that the caterpillar is immobilized somewhere that the conditions are right for them to finish developing. They leave a reflex system intact so that the zombie hornworm will batter potential wasp predators with its own head. Later, they emerge from the hornworm's body to breed and lay eggs on another hornworm.

I looked all this up because I've apparently been sleeping too much lately and needed some decent nightmare fuel.

You'd have a hard time finding a bigger advocate for nature than me, but screw this. Zombie caterpillars? Larvae eating the insides out of a living host creature? White dreadlocks of evil draped across the unknowingly already dead young of the Carolina Sphinx moth?

I've got enough issue with what people do to each other to have to also deal with nature pulling this kind of stuff.

Powered by Zoundry Raven

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oddly Enough

senmurv.jpgIf I want to walk into a game shop on an official Dungeons and Dragons Game Day, pick up a character sheet and some dice and play the freaking game, I have to leave South Carolina. Overall, I'm not opposed to doing that, but it bothers me in principle.

I could hit a Magic: The Gathering tournament, but that would involve the purchase of multiple decks of cards, learning a new set of rules, and playing a card game in a room full of people who strike me as either too enthusiastic about a game or too far off their ADD medication to actually play a roleplaying game.

This is an unfair perception I have of the Collectible Card Game scene, but it is my unfair perception so I'm keeping it.

My classic, old-school, pencil-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons game fell apart long ago. I haven't played World of Warcraft in over a year. I want to play a game with a story, hang out with other geeks, drink gallons of diet cola and throw some funny-shaped dice in joy and anger.

This is a personality type thing. There is a twitch factor involved in gaming, unused brain cycles or something. This is less that than an almost primal need to communicate with like-minded people and conquer imaginary objectives.

Stranded in the gaming desert as I am, I've been reading a lot. I've always done that, I guess, but in the absence of the bi-weekly time sink of a gaming session I've been really abusing the hell out of Amazon Prime. I've even started downloading eBooks for my Kindle App for the instant-on book need which is too immediate for two-day shipping or a 5 minute drive to the bookstore.

I picked up the hardcover of Scott Sigler's THE ROOKIE. I listened to the original podcast of this violent scifi football masterwork and wanted to show my support in anticipation of the sequel THE STARTER. I know nothing about football that I did not learn from this series. I suspect an NFL game would bore me with its lack of aliens and death. Of course, most things bore me with a lack of aliens and death.

In keeping with my long-standing anti-The Great Gatsby stance on literature, I try never to read anything which doesn't have either dragons or laser swords. This is, I realize, opening myself up for a horrible assault of crap books, but I've managed to avoid the worst of it.

(Actually, at times I embrace the worst of it, since as I've written before some of my favorite stuff is pulp written in the first half of the last century on a pay-by-word basis. Howard, Lovecraft, Burroughs . . . Same characters, different loincloths.)

But the good stuff is out there and hasn't been optioned for a 3D spectacular yet.

Naomi Novik writes an incredible series, Temeraire, around an alternate history Napoleanic Wars with dragons. I've picked this up in paper and in Kindle format and love it.

JC Hutchins has recently published the hardcover edition of 7th Son, which is an amazing story impatiently waiting for a big name actor to rise to the challenge of playing eight parts, an Alpha and seven distinct clones.

I've even gone back to old books I read as a child, Robert Jordan's Conan saga and Piers Anthony's Sos the Rope, for example.

But I want, no need, to play a game. Dungeons and Dragons Online is a possibility. Let me know if anyone is interested in joining me there.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


It's not you, it's me.
Well, I guess it's a little bit you.
MacBook Pro, we've been through a lot together.
When you first came to live with me, we had that awkward time of getting to know one another. I, a long-time Windows guy, struggled at first with the concept of running without a virus scanner and you, a graphics and multimedia beast, struggled with the idea that I wanted the aspect ratio on my digital comic books "just so", even if it was not optimized as well as you'd like.
Like any true sitcom friendship based in diverse needs and backgrounds, we grew to trust one another.
I shared my contacts and family photos and eventually grew comfortable enough around you to double your RAM and swap your old hard drive for a larger and faster one.
Those were good times, old friend.
Lately, though, we've had incidents.
Your trackpad is less responsive, in general, regardless of how much I'd like it it to . . .You know . . . Track. Which is pretty much all we need it for.
MacBook Pro, your USB ports were always on, ready to deliver data in either direction at any time. Now, sometimes they just shut off, killing transfers in mid-bit or just disconnecting at random.
These are really just quirks, and you learn to live with those minor faults. Who needs Bluetooth, right?
But these processor errors. . .
Look, you have an Intel Core2 Duo, man.
You should be able to acquire spinlocks whenever the hell you want, right?
So why the frequent crashes, MacBook Pro? What's up with that?
Don't take it personally, but it is time for you to take it easy. I won't bother you with coding my constantly growing work scripts in all their complexity. I'll move my music and photos. And my comics.
Why don't you just scrape some websites for me, fling anything I'd like into an email and send it to me. You can also keep track of my iTunes stuff, share it out to the other, less legitimately exhausted Macs around here. That'll be your job, and I hope it is enriching. I'll check in from time-to-time, sure. There are programs you know which only run on Macs, plus that picture you chose for me as my login image is a nice glimpse into past me, powering you on for the first time and talking to Nathan on the phone. Good times.
Me? I'll be fine, eventually.
I do most stuff on my iPhone now, anyway. Like this letter, for example. And email. And Twitter. And Facebook.
And I used it to buy another laptop. I can't lie to you, MacBook Pro; you know my preferences too well. But I also couldn't order a new laptop from a browser running on my old one.
I'm respectful enough of our history to not track the shipment through you, either, so don't worry about that.
This isn't easy for me.
Once I can spare the downtime and work comes through with another brutal weekend which allows even more brutal billing, I'll purchase the parts needed to bring you back up to the performance standards we both deserve.
Have a good retirement, buddy. You've earned it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wrong Number

Someone texted me thinking I was "Brandon". The numbers I supplied are all frozen yogurt places:

Received May 23, 2010 8:04:44 PM +1803556xxxx
Is dis brandon sweatt it out

Sent May 23, 2010 8:05:22 PM +1803556xxxx

Received May 23, 2010 8:06:21 PM +1803556xxxx
Lol u kno who dis is

Sent May 23, 2010 8:06:58 PM +1803556xxxx

Received May 23, 2010 8:07:24 PM +1803556xxxx

Sent May 23, 2010 8:07:53 PM +1803556xxxx
Hey, Juston. How you doin?

Received May 23, 2010 8:09:30 PM +1803556xxxx
Man sumthng wrong wit u,but gud i guess man i had got my old fone bck n i aint have nooo numbas n i just got urs 4rm jordan

Sent May 23, 2010 8:10:52 PM +1803556xxxx
Cool. Glad you got it back.

Received May 23, 2010 8:12:08 PM +1803556xxxx
Man dat sound kinda gay boo

Sent May 23, 2010 8:12:35 PM +1803556xxxx
Gonna head over to YogenFruz and bust out with some creamy berry yogurt. Wanna come with?

Received May 23, 2010 8:14:00 PM +1803556xxxx
Lol man wat u tlkin bout

Sent May 23, 2010 8:15:05 PM +1803556xxxx
Fro-yo! Rich in calcium to keep my bones strong. Maybe some wheatgrass. You know.

Received May 23, 2010 8:15:57 PM +1803556xxxx
U high?

Sent May 23, 2010 8:16:24 PM +1803556xxxx

Sent May 23, 2010 8:17:44 PM +1803556xxxx
They got sprinkles.

Received May 23, 2010 8:18:24 PM +1803556xxxx
It seem lke ay wats tate numba again

Sent May 23, 2010 8:19:14 PM +1803556xxxx
Lemme know if you want yogurt

Received May 23, 2010 8:26:49 PM +1803556xxxx
Man i dnt want n0 yogurt

Sent May 23, 2010 8:27:22 PM +1803556xxxx

Received May 23, 2010 8:29:45 PM +1803556xxxx
Wats tate numba

Sent May 23, 2010 8:31:37 PM +1803556xxxx

Received May 23, 2010 8:39:03 PM +1803556xxxx
A wats lace numba

Sent May 23, 2010 8:40:53 PM +1803556xxxx
(803) 771-0061

Received May 23, 2010 8:57:00 PM +1803556xxxx
A u kno reggie rhett

Sent May 23, 2010 8:57:17 PM +1803556xxxx

Received May 23, 2010 8:57:50 PM +1803556xxxx
U got his numba

Sent May 23, 2010 8:58:44 PM +1803556xxxx

Received May 23, 2010 9:01:11 PM +1803556xxxx
Wats da area code

Sent May 23, 2010 9:01:24 PM +1803556xxxx

Received May 23, 2010 9:02:19 PM +1803556xxxx
Naw it aint 803

Sent May 23, 2010 9:02:53 PM +1803556xxxx
That's the number I have

Received May 23, 2010 9:03:55 PM +1803556xxxx

Received May 23, 2010 9:16:55 PM +1803556xxxx
I beleve u given me da wrong numba aint nobody txt me bck

Sent May 23, 2010 9:17:39 PM +1803556xxxx
I texted you back!

Received May 23, 2010 9:18:43 PM +1803556xxxx
L0l bside u but u cumin t0 sk00l 2mara

Sent May 23, 2010 9:19:04 PM +1803556xxxx
You know what makes me feel better? Frosty creamy frozen yogurt, extra cookie bits.

Received May 23, 2010 9:20:50 PM +1803556xxxx
Dude wats wr0ng wit u

Sent May 23, 2010 9:22:10 PM +1803556xxxx
I'm probiotic, deep down.

Received May 23, 2010 9:23:21 PM +1803556xxxx
Man d0 y0 girlfrnd g0t sumthng t0 d0 wit u actin lke diz

Sent May 23, 2010 9:24:12 PM +1803556xxxx
You got a problem with soft serve? Don't hate, man.

Received May 23, 2010 9:25:42 PM +1803556xxxx
Man wh0 iz diz

Sent May 23, 2010 9:25:54 PM +1803556xxxx
Don't call right now. I'm knuckle deep in chocolate chips.

Received May 23, 2010 9:27:02 PM +1803556xxxx
Wh0 iz diz

Sent May 23, 2010 9:27:07 PM +1803556xxxx
BRB copying this into my Facebook status

Sent May 23, 2010 9:28:13 PM +1803556xxxx
Healthy teeth and bones are no laughing matter

EDIT -- The texts continue:

Received May 23, 2010 9:28:19 PM +1803556xxxx
Man wh0 iz diz

Sent May 23, 2010 9:29:03 PM +1803556xxxx
It's me!

Received May 23, 2010 9:29:53 PM +1803556xxxx
I need a name

Sent May 23, 2010 9:34:51 PM +1803556xxxx
Dude, you have a name

Received May 23, 2010 9:37:08 PM +1803556xxxx
Man remind me t0 whip y0 ass 2mara

Sent May 23, 2010 9:38:47 PM +1803556xxxx
Remind you? You know what helps with poor short-term memory? Dairy. Have some frozen yogurt.

Received May 23, 2010 9:57:47 PM +1803556xxxx
Man wh0 iz diz n st0p fukin wit me!

Received May 23, 2010 10:34:12 PM +1803556xxxx
A wat u wearin 2mara

Sent May 23, 2010 10:38:22 PM +1803556xxxx
I'll be wearing whatever your mom puts out for me

Received May 23, 2010 10:39:27 PM +1803556xxxx
Lol dats funny u a bitch

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Price of Mobility

The book on the left changed my life.
Actually, that isn't true.
The book on the left illuminated my life.
Well, that isn't exactly true, either.
The book on the left took the summers of my childhood, spent on the gulf coast, and put them in the context of a larger world of aquatic (and terrestrial) life.
I spent a good portion of every summer on the coast of Louisiana. Since then, I have been to prettier beaches. I have seen clearer water. I have enjoyed more pleasant weather.
But I haven't experienced an ecosystem anywhere like that of the north gulf coast.
Sure, the sand is brown and the water matches. The surf shops are all adorned in faded neon and they do more business in cast nets than board wax.
But I've watched crabs swarm into traps. I've dragged a net through algae coating a tire and caught a hundred red-and-white striped shrimp at a pass.
I've seen porpoises chase schools of fish and been on the docks to see huge shrimp boats dump tons of fresh seafood into ice-filled metal tubs.
And I've walked the beach at night and seen the lights of the oil rigs far closer than the horizon.
My grandfather used to take me out to them on his boat. We'd leave before sunrise and ride forty miles out to tie ourselves to one or another of them to fish. He would check the current and the wind to make sure we were on the side not about to get smashed into a pylon and we would drop our lines a mile down and wait, sometimes sitting in water as smooth as glass and other times in eight-foot swells. The fish seemed especially prone to going after our squid bait just before a storm.
We would very often pass oil tankers making their ponderous ways between the rigs.
I remember a couple of visits to the beach where I didn't find tar stuck to the bottom of my feet afterwards.
On the gulf coast, this is just the way it is.
No system is perfect. The oil companies have done a pretty good job overall at containing most of what they pull up from under the floor of the gulf.
I do notice that with BP's latest explosion they seem more concerned with reclaiming as much of the lost crude oil as possible and that seems to be delaying the clean up an awful lot longer than they should be allowed to delay.
I've seen the culture that has been built up around the seafood industry on the gulf coast. There is a respect for nature there which isn't based in what they heard on NPR or saw on Animal Planet, but on how they live. I also know that the catches have been declining for decades and that a single bad season can send a lot of boats into foreclosure and end a lot of multi-generation businesses. They have closed parts of the gulf for fishing in reaction to the oil spill already. If this oil makes its way to the wetlands the fish and crustacean population will be impacted for decades. There isn't a fine BP can pay that will fix it.
I've read all of Jack Rudloe's books. He lives on the gulf coast, an environmentalist among people who would never call themselves that but who share the same core reverence for nature.
It would be good if we all shared it.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Free Comic Book Day 2010

One day per year, my friends.
One day when the veil between the normal and the geek grows thin, when traffic between these realms is made possible and entities from either side pass over and frolic among the unlike.
One day for the feeble breath of a dying paper-based industry to cry out in despair and harsh judgement of a generation which has moved on to electronic media.
One day for parents who have long abandoned the daily trials of dragging superhero plot lines and futile quests for holographic, short-packed collector's edition cover art to share these joys and burdons with their young.
Free Comic Book Day is tomorrow, my friends.
Find a store, grab some printed material and promotional awesomeness and share the bliss with your children or, if you lack your own, with the children of some parents who won't likely press charges.
There will be kid-friendly stuff in addition to the awesome stuff.
I'd expect some Iron Man stuff from Marvel and some Batman stuff from DC, but smaller publishers use this day as an annual showcase for their work.
Traditionally, I also buy a couple of comics to support the store hosting the event. I look for comics which will never be made into movies and will never have associated toy lines clogging the aisles at Target.
A comic book store on a Saturday is a magical place. Step carefully, respectfully into the domain of the geeks. It will not disappoint.
Oh, and seriously . . . Don't wear a black t-shirt to a comic book store unless you've earned it.
They can spot a poser like a continuity error.