Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Star Wars: Day of the Jedi, Childhood - Opening Crawl

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Star Wars

Day   of   the   Jedi


Ten years after the Battle of Endor,
the power of the IMPERIAL REMNANT
increases.  Though the EMPEROR is long
dead, his military continues to spread
war, misery, and slavery across the galaxy.

Jedi Master LUKE SKYWALKER has moved
to restore the JEDI to their rightful place
as peacekeepers of the galaxy at his JEDI ACADEMY
on Yavin 4.  But the revolts of the dark Jedi JEREC
and Luke's renegade student DESANN have undermined
his attempts.  Luke and the remaining Jedi
spread out among the stars in search of others
like themselves.  The power of their enemies grows.

Meanwhile, far beneath the towering spires of Coruscant,
a miracle occurs.
Frustrated, The Force,
the voice and power
of the Living Universe,
is taking a hand,
Summoning to it in a loving embrace
A teenage girl named JADEN KORR,
who feels a hidden power growing within her….


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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Star Wars: New Jedi, Childhood - Preface

    This is a complete re-imagining of the Star Wars universe in the years after the fall of the Emperor. I picked and chose from various ideas and characters in the Extended Universe, not feeling at all bound by anything other than the events of the original three films. The project was inspired by the last of the Jedi Knight video games, Jedi Academy. I found it in the discount bin at a Walmart. This is also a complete rejection of the recent Star Wars films. I'll repeat that: the new films PLAY NO ROLE AT ALL HERE. This is what Leia, Han, and Luke would have been. No fan service, no keeping Han an outlaw smuggler because that's what the "fans" want to see. We even see the main characters of the original films evolve, as humans are prone to do. Han becomes a leader of soldiers, a general. Luke accepts his destiny as the first Jedi of the New Order. Leia becomes a Jedi and later a leader of the New Republic. Sometimes life insists that you change, regardless of your desire to stay the same. That's what I liked about the Expanded Universe, not only the acceptance of the reality of change, but telling new stories.
    This is a labor of love, not money. I'm not a greedy studio executive sitting in his office at Disney, trying to figure out a way to trick addled Star Wars fans out of their hard-earned money.
    I've been a professional writer since 1989, not a very successful one, but I have the habits of a professional. I wrote every day, no matter what job I have or had, and I had a lot of jobs. Then my dad died and I took over his job as caregiver to my mom. She had Parkinson's related dementia. A long, long career as a 24/7 caregiver began. My ability to write went away. I took care of Mom and I read a little during the day. At nights after she went to bed, I played video games and chatted with friends online. Jedi Academy captured my attention. I discovered the large modding community associated with the game. I also discovered a large group of gamers who liked to play the lead character, Jaden Korr, as a young woman. Some also favored playing her as a female twi'lek. It's built into the game. The player can choose both the species and gender they wish to play.
    Perhaps because it was an extension of the game, of pure escapist play, I began to write little stories during the day while sitting with Mom. Her dementia meant she had to be supervised. I also had to help her around the house and prepare her meals. No time for anything more than a few scribbled notes. I eventually found several women to give her baths and clean house a couple times a week. I still couldn't work on my own fiction, but at least I could write about Jaden, who had become a teenage girl in the little stories I wrote. The game gives her a lightsaber right at the start. I knew from my limited reading in Star Wars Expanded Universe lore that this meant she was a gray Jedi, one on the Path alone. I began to read more in the Extended Universe.
    One thing that helped me in this: my mom liked to watch the Star Wars movies almost as much as the Lord of the Rings films. So we watched them, not as often as Lord of the Rings, but often enough to embed them all in my mind. It was the action, you see. She couldn't remember enough of the plot or the dialog to follow a conventional film, but the surface texture of the Star Wars movies were perfect in their constant action. Lord of the Rings had those beautiful images to capture her eye, but Star Wars had the simplistic action to keep her attention. Underneath the action, over time, I detected both the immense flaws of Lucas as a writer and the hints both he and his co-writers put into the story, hints of a deeper story. I name Leigh Brackett as the source of these...hints. She is sometimes known by her nom de guerre: Queen of the Space Opera. Lucas is no Tolkien and that's too bad, because the potential for a deeply imagined fictional world was there, as potentially rich as Tolkien's work. But no one saw it. Everything was superficial...until I played Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2. Like a baseball bat to the head! So it is possible to "Tolkienize" Star Wars!
    The takeaway from KOTOR comes, I believe, from Kreia: it was never about the Republic. This was an eternal war of beliefs, with the reality of the Force at the center of it all.
    Lucas borrowed the idea of the Force from the Chinese concept of Chi (or Qi), but the concept appears in various forms in other religions. The Prana of Hinduism. The Mana of the Polynesians. The Odic Force of Baron Carl von Reichenbach, inspired by the Norse god Od. The Iroquois Orenda. The Way of the Tao. The Holy Ghost in Christianity. These are deep roots.
    He never followed this thread. Too bad.
    Two other threads Lucas never dealt with...
    One, Obi-Wan's line right before Vader kills him. "Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can imagine." I guess Lucas thought it was just another throw-away line. But not me. Combined with my thoughts about the Tao, about Qi, about Prana, and how this related to the Force in this fictional universe, I began to have ideas about just what it meant, how it could be portrayed in a story.
    Two, and here is a central flaw in Lucas as a storyteller. Just what, exactly, was the Sidious up to? And why were the Jedi so easily defeated? Before, the Jedi were brought nearly to obliteration by immense Sith armies, in wars that devesatated the galaxy, nearly made extinct, along with all life, by that  abomination, the Great Hunger, Darth Nilhius. Just one schemer and a couple of henchmen bring down the Jedi?
    First, what does the Force want? If it is the voice of the living universe, what does life want? Were the Jedi somehow weakened because of this voice? And how is this related to Sidious's wishes?
    As I cared for my mother, and in the years since her death, and my near-death from cancer, I have explored these themes through the character of Jaden Korr.
    Welcome to her world.


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Monday, May 1, 2017

Who's the Guilty One Now?

I've just got to get caught up on posting my essays! There's a backlog of them five miles high!

Just a final thought before sleep. Back when I taught adjunct, students were constantly complaining about the Romans, making moral judgements about this past civilization. "They had slavery!" "They conquered other nations!" "They did this! They did that!" I could hear the moral superiority in their voices.

What would the Romans say about us? If they could speak to us, they would condemn us as bloodthirsty monsters. "Are you guys insane? What's the matter with you? You killed around 170 million people due to war and massacre in the 20th Century!! You built bombs to destroy entire cities! Why would you do that? You must be insane! You in the USA, even our slaves had rights by the first century CE! We gave them a path to freedom and even citizenship! We didn't oppress them and force them to live apart from us! What the hell is wrong with you? Some of our emperors were of African descent! Even our gladiators were freaking volunteers! We had healthcare for everyone at temples of Asclepius, at military hospitals for veterans, even a sliding scale for private physicians! We fed the poor! You starve and mistreat the lower classes! Wherever we went, we built roads and supplied clean drinking water to cities. You let your infrastructure rot! You let citizens drink poisoned water! Damned barbarians! And you have the effrontery to claim us as your cultural ancestors!!"

So don't be so proud of our morality. Just the numbers alone show we don't have any. We make the Romans look like saints by comparison. The Romans would spit on us for our kill-crazy behavior.




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Monday, April 17, 2017

Mystification 01

What would timeless beings look like to us? We are time-bound, our thoughts, our perceptions, even our biology seemingly linked to the arrow of time. But timelessness might be a real thing and transfinite beings might be all around us. We would see them through our time-bound eyes. They would age, they would die. Except they wouldn't. It would be a trick played on us because we are embedded in spacetime, we are linked to the sensation of time. We would be incapable of seeing the timeless as timeless.

What's more, time is variable. Our sense of it is affected by the physical properties of matter. Gravity can distort time because it distorts spacetime and time is fundamentally linked to space. What people don't realize about this weirdness, it's been proven. Einstein's theory of general relativity has passed every last test put to it. From distortions in astronomical observations due to the curvature of spacetime to the slower decay of atoms when accelerated to a percentage of the speed of light, general relativity has passed the test. It's real.

It's also essentially timeless, since time is bound up with spacetime and highly malleable. Time does not exist as a separate dimension or quantity. Yet we are time-bound.

Where does time come from? Or our sense of it. Quantum entanglement, that spooky action at a distance predicted, and once again, proved to exist. Time, or our experience of it, is an emergent phenomenon...

What is an emergent phenomenon? Generally speaking, an large-scale event or object or aspect of existence derived from small components or tiny events. Like the giant termite mounds in Africa are an emergent phenomenon from the simple behaviors of the termites themselves.

Oh, man, have I gone far afield from from a little fictional thought experiment...not my intention.

Just this: we could not see the true nature of transfinite beings because of our time-bound existence. We would perceive the transfinite or timeless as temporal creatures like ourselves. We would see them age and die, even though they do not age and die. Inside the spacetime bubble of our universe, we are time-bound. But this is not true of outside observers. A tiny bit of this has been experimentally proven in physics experiments involving entanglement.

What we perceive as reality might not be...real.

To go into more detail would require hours of study and even then I might get it wrong. I just don't have the math (manifolds and topological space for instance, that goes way, way beyond Calc 3 and differential equations, the level at which I stalled out way back in college) and the knowledge of quantum theory (I stalled out at Engineering Physics II) to deal with it. My brain hurts.


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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Fictional Waltz: Who Knew Software Had a Sense of Humor?

Darkness seems to wrap around us every day, in our jobs, in our culture...but there's still fun to be had.

One of my favorite films is After the Rain. It's the last script written by Akira Kurosawa. Great film. I watched a clip from the film on youtube...the only trouble, it had no subtitles. So I activated youtube's subtitle generator. The results were hilarious.

"About one o'clock in the menu have earned him great tours."
"Mike, he was missing."
"She's there."
"New York!"
"The Le Mons!"
"It's not the same good suit, against reason."
"Not his furrow."
"Moncton and tsunami!"
"First smiles and for the moment it's put back flat."
"As for the manga, Basque Barbara Median."
"For me it's not that, we still found a difference."
"Hired at the right time for the Lotois!"
"Cross on the canvas! Noblet! Noblet!"
"Two schoolboys!"
"No passengers."
"Although newspapers when it's a bit in the alcohol in the passion..."
"As for me, I'm a dead man insurer."
"That's how I sign me."
"Enable sampdoria allowing the canton of Vaud about Claud LeBlond!"
"The other side of the room for all other days!"
"If you think being adopted at baseball school such action to sign the text!"
"Volkswagon, 5,000,000."
"A spokesperson has a short memory."
"Other axis down but nothing is played!"
"They must be born in August!"




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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Fictional Waltz: Prometheus Boot

If I wanted to waste my time, I could rewrite the plot of Prometheus into something interesting. I guess I'm wasting my time.

Here's the plot of Prometheus in a nutshell.
Ancient Engineers in a bizarre ritual sacrificed one of their own using nanomachine oil to deconstruct the victim's body into constituent DNA in order to seed the early Earth. Maybe they were hoping to re-create themselves in us. But we were a disappointment. They decided to eradicate their creation. Before they did so, these half-smart idiots managed to destroy their forward operating base in an accident involving their shaper nano oil. Some of them went into cryosleep to sleep through the event. Bad for them as a whole, since this biohazard spread throughout their civilization, maybe even to their home world, and destroyed most of them. Cut to Earth,the near future. Rich guy puts together the pieces of the puzzle of artifacts to discover the location of the Engineer's forward base. He secretly wishes to live forever, but his initial idea to create an artificial shell for his mind only led to the creation of androids, not a viable host body. So, as an old man, he hides away in cryosleep on the deep space exploration ship he sends out to investigate this mystery. He secretly hopes to discover immortality. Lots of nonsensical shit happens, including the nanomachine oil being unleashed as an uncontrolled experiment by the android - on orders from the old fuck. It doesn't work out like he planned. Most of the crew dies and he's killed by the Engineer he wakes up. Instead of immortality, he gets death. The Engineer wants to complete his mission to destroy humanity, so he tries to launch his strike craft, only to be taken out by the Earth ship, which is also destroyed. The human survivor decides to take the remaining Engineer ship to their home world. The End.

I am aware that a few of my readers are deeply vested in this movie, in the Alien franchise. I'm not. If you have been entertained by Prometheus or the Alien series, good. I'm glad you got your money's worth out of it. Many of us have not had any benefit from exposure to these films. For me, Prometheus is a roasted piece of fecal matter. With just about any seasoned professional SF writer, or shit, for that matter, just about any well-read fan of science fiction, you could have had a coherent, compelling story. Like this one.

For those who complain about my little sketch below, I will explain. Every story must have an end. This is part one of an extended end to the Alien/Engineer story. I would take them out with a bang. It would never be made, the film industry is ruled by corporations. Little things like entertainment and good stories mean nothing to them. $$$ does. It is their sole concern. Why are all the new Star Wars movies orbiting around the original from 1977? $$$. Why is the Alien franchise an open one, with no ending or conclusion to the cycle? $$$. Here's what might be if money didn't rule the known universe.

Now, I like the parts of the story about egotistical rich men who want to live forever. Kinda reminds me of a recent president of the United States. Let's keep that, only, this time, the evidence doesn't consist of stone carvings on Earth. Please, this is science fiction. Let's borrow a few ideas from Arthur C. Clarke and Mass Effect. An artifact is found buried on the Moon. It beams a message into deep space, to Mars. We find a collapsed, abandoned base on Mars with fossilized Alien hunters and Engineer corpses. No threats. The transmission from the Moon was recorded by the still-functioning computer system, but the transluminal comm system was destroyed in the ancient catastrophe. The old guy funds a deep-space cryosleep mission to the Engineers' forward base.

We keep the mission part, how the old guy is hidden away on the ship, his motivations for doing so, and his spy/agent, the android.

Then it gets weird. I have learned one thing from the many tragedies I have endured in my life: Nothing turns out the way you think it will.

After they went into cryosleep, there was a revolution. The ship was never launched on its mission. It has instead been in a distant orbit around the sun. Meanwhile, peace was restored and humanity forgot about the mission. The ship is found and stashed in an orbit with other space junk. Three thousand years pass. The original AI, the one the genius old monomaniac created, is still ticking and has lots of money. An inventory of the trash orbit has been done and the ship discovered. The cryosleep containers are all still intact, still functional. The AI hires a massive starship to transport the ship to the Engineer forward base. A number of major catches to the old guy's plan ensue.

They are awakened by humans from the future. They are transhuman, with internal cybernetic enhancements. There are also true AI bots on the ship. Here's a great line one of them speaks to the android: "Shit, you are so Version 1.0." Their immense ship is transluminal, they are in orbit over the Engineer forward base. The only trouble is, they will release the ship from one of their holding bays, but if they land, they can't come back up. The world has been banned from contact for about five hundred years. Anyone going to the surface has to stay there. "You can orbit for a while, take what readings you want, send down remotes. After you're done, we'll load you up in the bay and take you back to Sol system. The old man's AI wants to see him again."

The old man is secretly awakened by the android. He takes control of the ship and lands it on the planet. The transhumans on the big starship warn them that they are armed with directed energy weapons and hypervelocity rail guns. They will be destroyed if they try to make orbit.

Idiocy ensues. They beg for help from the surface, the transhumans send down remotes to help. The old man wakes one of the cyropreserved Engineers, against the advice from the starship. The remotes talk to the Engineer with a translation program, interrogate him. The old man and the others realize that there's more going on here than they knew. It's like the people on the ship know more about the Engineers than they do. It is revealed that the Engineers are religious bigots. He hunts and kills most of the crew before he tries to take off. As good as their word, the immense human starship blows the shit out of the Engineer's ship. It seems that 3000 years is enough time for humanity to surpass the technology of the Engineers. The surviving humans on the planet take the last Engineer ship and, in a very risky maneuver, use transluminal near the planet's surface to jump into hyperspace.

Did I mention that the transhumans don't speak? They communicate via internal comm systems. Occasionally they will sing. Very weird people, not any identifiable race, like they are a mixture of all races. Very family atmosphere, little children. Two of the scientists on the old man's ship like these new humans so much, they pack up and leave. The CO of the old man's ship demands their return. "They've joined the crew, they're us now. You can be, too." The CO is repulsed by the offer, but this starts a conflict on the old man's ship, where many of the crew want to join the transhumans. The android kills a man who tries to leave. About this time, the old man and the android take control of the ship and land.

The last scenes of the movie, which is, of course, part one of a series, reveals something that we've known intuitively from about halfway through the movie: the real protagonists of the film are the transhumans. Especially the captain of the immense ship, who is a female always with small children around her. It is revealed that this is not just any freelance cargo ship. It's a warship full of mercenaries. They were hired by the AI to destroy the Alien/Engineer menace once and for all. The original plan, to fulfill the old man's dream of seeing the Engineer forward base, put them back into cryosleep, use what their remotes could learn from the surface to find the Engineer home world, then bombard the forward base into radioactive slag. They know where the survivors are headed, to the Engineer home world. We see a vast array of fighting machines and soldiers come awake in a storage area. Time to finish the fight.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Riot is Now in Progress: Progressives as Pirates

The child in me never died when I grew up. So when I heard the phrase "...we'll board their ship..." in this Young Turks video, the image of progressives as pirates immediately leapt into my thoughts.

This isn't mockery, it's praise.

On my list of things to do:

Buy a parrot and teach it to say "We want universal health care now!" It'll sit on my shoulder.

Get a tattoo that reads "$15 or death!"

Make plans to march establishment Dems off a plank, preferably in the deep ocean.

Buy cutlasses at discount.

Start wearing an eye patch...oh, wait, I did that when the cancer was behind my left eye. Stopped it when the tumor was killed. I'll go back to that look.

The pirate nation is born!! Dear corporations, remember this line from The Black Pearl? "Take it all and give none of it back!"

Progressives as pirates. Works for me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOTsK_WGNAc