Tuesday, June 25, 2013


The avatar was quiet during this exchange.  The Emperor stood still, appeared to be engaged, but much of his mind was now occupied with events on the dataplane.  He wanted to experience everything firsthand.  To this end, he directed much of his mind to the Khallad’s powerful sensors.  He would see events unfold as the shipmind would see them, in different wavelengths ranging from the visible to the infrared, and beyond. 

The Emperor watched God’s Previss follow the Khallad’s course into the system, flying through the remains of planet Harfi.  It was a small vessel, no larger than the Emperor’s own Imperial Shuttle.  It was shaped like a crab, with two wide masts in the front, and four extending from the rear.  Shielded weapons ports dotted its surface.  God’s Previss was made to kill.  However, its most deadly weapon reclined in a command chair inside its shell.

The tiny ship increased speed, flying past the Khallad and the Fleet, moving further in system.  Kdifoc watched with baited breath as an access port in the belly of the ship opened, and Krakoth emerged.  The new god drifted for a moment in the openness of space, moving with the velocity afforded him by his ship.  Then, he began to glow, and with a burst of energy shot forward at several times his ship’s velocity.

Kdifoc watched with amazement as his brother streaked across space under his own power, wearing only the armor the sorcerers provided.  He was a bright blue and gold streak, a shining harbinger of doom, the bringer of death.

The Emperor adjusted his sensor feed, increasing visual magnitude.  He had to keep adjusting to keep up with his brother.  The Prince continued to accelerate, faster, and faster, impossibly fast.  Kdifoc engaged the hyperlight visual sensors.

“Incredible,” said the avatar on the ship’s bridge. “The Prince has just violated normality.”

“The Prince is moving at faster-than-light velocities, warping speeds,” said the senseman. 

Kdifoc took a moment to observe the sentients on his bridge.  He could see their amazement, and feel their fear.  Yes, it was all true.  Prince Krakoth was no longer the elite Zradgen warrior.  He had crossed the boundary between sentient and space god.  They were watching a true space god.  How often did a sentient see such a thing?  Not often, if at all.

“Mark this moment my subjects,” said Kdifoc.  “For you are the first to witness the power of our fierce young god.  He will bring a new era to the Majestic, assuring our supremacy, realizing our destiny.”

The sentients heard the Emperor’s words, and acknowledged them, yet it was cursory.  It was next to impossible to concentrate on the Emperor’s words while the god streaked across the Daaneen system.  They were warriors to a sentient, used to the heat of combat, leaping into the maw of battle with Alliance ships, risking everything on who was the fastest, the smartest, the most ruthless.  Now, they were all quiet, watching, waiting.  The tactical plot on the main screen was augmented by real-time visuals. 

Krakoth closed with the Harvarian ships. 

The ships appeared powerful, and were slightly reminiscent of Alliance ships, which to the Emperor was simply more proof of Harvarian treachery.  Sensors detected heavy shielding, which prohibited the fleet from getting an accurate assessment of the new ships abilities.  The warriors of the Khallad watched them, and yearned for battle.  To them, it would have been glorious.  They could feel the Narellan influence in the Harvarian ships, and knew that ship for ship, they were either equals, or outclassed.

Vradakos closed his fists, and his heart’s desire.  They were not equals, they were not outclassed.  They had a god on their side.  The Harvarian were doomed.   

“Energy dispersal from the Prince,” said the senseman.  “Off the scale.”

In the dataplane, the Emperor watched Krakoth engage the Harvarian.  The Prince released bolts of energy from his hands that tore into the enemy cruisers, an astounding feat that the Khallad itself would have been hard pressed to accomplish. 

They Harvarian launched fighters.  They focused their weapons on his position.  The Prince moved too fast.  They compensated, and found their target, to no affect.  Krakoth shrugged off the enemy fire, and destroyed fighter, after fighter, after fighter.  He dodged, and destroyed, shrugged off more enemy fire, and counterattacked.  He reengaged the heavy cruisers, blowing holes in vessels large enough to blot out the sky.  

“Comm traffic,” said the senseman.  “They’re issuing a mayday.” 

Kdifoc laughed.  “And who will come to their aid?”

D.S. Brown - SteamFunk An Anthology By Milton Davis & Balogun Ojetade

As an ever aspiring critical thinker I put upon myself to always consider, to question, to not dismiss without the benefit of perspective.  In the case of Steampunk it was consider the perspective of those that like it before dismissing it.  And just to be clear I was very childish in my immediate dismissal of the genre.  I just didn't want to get with the Victorian Age thing.  I wasn't considering why so many people enjoyed it or what it could bring to me individually as a devourer of tales.

I love good stories, and Steampunk offers wonderful stories of alternate history, sci-fi, supernatural, fantastimagorophic detail with the Victorian feel always pervasive within the genre.  A small exposure online via my friends at Black Science Fiction was all it took.  However, I had not gone far before they hit with me with SteamFunk.  I was sent into overdrive.

Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade have continued their mission in furthering African based speculative fiction with SteamFunk an anthology.   This book is a basis, a foundation for something both wonderful and powerful.  They have collected the works of various authors, some of whom have been sitting on their stories for over a decade.

Do you fancy a damn good story?  Are you eager for a basket of outstanding tales that stretch your imagination?  Then SteamFunk is for you.  The main protagonists in these stories just happen to be, purposefully, most imaginatevely and indubitably of African descent.

Steamfunk takes you on a roller coaster ride of imagination through elseworlds where nations like Freedonia hold powerful position in a Post-Civil War America, struggling against persistant intractable ethnic hate with the aid of technology provided by the mind of George Washington Carver. 

It continues through dimensions of magic, Victorian sense and sensabilities, and the evolved power of steam.  We even find ourselvs on different worlds where names are numbers and oppression is maintained through treachery and proxy, something so simple as the word Switch embodies passion and intrigue in a world in need of saving. 

We find ourselves feeling and seeing through the eyes of John Henry as he takes on the mantle of a hero and freedom fighter, a man who weilds hammers of devastating force to fight the villainy of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys.

There is so much magic and wonder in this anthology I can't begin to do it justice in just a few words.  The only way to know and understand Steamfunk is to experience Steamfunk.  Don't miss out.  Go get your copy today and become a Steamfunkateer!

D.S. Brown - After Earth - Do Will and Jaden Smith Suck?

My wife will tell you, I'm a big man with a big heart and big desire to help, lead when necessary, and follow when required.  I use my strength to uplift and defend as best as I can.  I'm a man.  But ... when it comes to certain twists in drama, plot details, the heart tugging emotional moment on film, I'm a big softy.  I mean I shed tears.   There, I said it, I shed tears when watching the screen.  And I did shed a couple of tears for Will and Jaden Smith's new movie After Earth.

No, I wasn't crying because the movie was terrible.

Let's be clear on one very salient point when it comes to entertainment.  Critics don't know shit.  There, I said that too. And if you allow a critic to dictate how you entertain yourself I am perfectly willing to bet $1000 that as an average citizen 9 times out of 10  you will disappointed.

After Earth was not a complicated galaxy spanning tale.  It was not a story about alien invasion. It was not a story about complex societal structures, intricate government conspiracies, or high drama.  It was not a sci-fi special effects feast for the eyes.  It was not a Michael Bay screen explosion.

So what is After Earth?

It is a poignant father and son tale about survival.  The sci-fi in the setting and characterization only serve as the ground on which the story rests.  The future of humanity is one of scientific advancement and a constant fight for survival.  It is a testament to the indomitable will of the human spirit, with a core message being fear is not a function of human nature beyond our control.  Fear is a choice.

A very noble message and many have tied it to Scientology.  I say drop all the conjecture and just enjoy the film.

There are some things one might question about the plot, like the aliens, and their smelling of fear, and why not just wipe us out, and why can't we fight more effectively, and why don't we use blasters instead of a damn retractable multi-stick tool.  There are always questions, but in sci-fi fantasy the purpose is to entertain through the fantastical suspension of disbelief.  The premise need not be so logical.  Enfolding the fantastical in drama and complex morality can be an added benefit for the film, when done right.

In After Earth we find a stoic and rigid Will Smith as legendary General Cypher Raige, a young Jaden Smith who is simplistic but honest plays his son Kitai.  There is pain and loss in the story, a conflict that creates a family drama that works.  It's not too difficult to understand and embrace.  And it tugs at the heart. 

Director M. Night Shyamalan did not bring us a failure in After Earth.  He brought us a father and son tale of emotional distance forged in the heart of war, closed and mended in a life or death fight for survival on a hostile planet called Earth.  In the end, we see the love between father and son, and the respect created between them. 

I enjoyed After Earth.  My disbelief was sufficiently suspended, and I had fun.  And yes, I shed a tear.  To me, the story works.  I recommend After Earth.  Go see Mr. Fourth of July and his son.  You won't be dissapointed.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

D.S. Brown - Movie Reviews - The Man Of Steel

The much awaited Man of Steel is a sweeping, epic, thoroughly rewarding, intergalactic romp through the universe that brings the might of gods to the world of men. 

It delves into the nature of humanity, the virtues of nature versus the perils of technology, and what happens when the mandates of structure and power couched in a rationalization of evil collides headlong with the result of power nurtured in love, faith, and responsibility.  And Man of Steel does this on two worlds. 

To many, these conflicts of morality, life colliding with tragic death, this is our everyday, and it is much too weighty a matter for a Superman movie.  Some want to hearken back to 1978, when a man put on a red and blue suit at the behest of a dead father whose image was encased in crystal, and went out into the world to stop bank robbers … and save a cat in a tree. 

Love, laughter, a bit of comedy, nuclear destruction, the power to control time, a goofy photographer, and a witty spitfire girl reporter who had no concept of danger combined with the man in the suit to bring magic to the screen, a Superman for all time.  I remember it well, and I was enthralled.  I still love to watch that movie, and I remember well what it was like the first time Superman took flight from the Fortress of Solitude.  It gave me goosebumps. 

However, it is not 1978.  It is 2013.  The world has changed, and yes our entertainment has evolved.  Many of us, most of us, love and reminisce, but our suspension of disbelief asks for something more, something a bit more serious, a bit more engrossing, even as we seek escape in the silver screen.  Our suspension of disbelief demands it. 

Not all of us, but many of us, want our heroes to be as real as possible, conflicted, damaged, growing always, even if they have the power to bend steel in their bare hands.

This is not your campy Superman.  This is not your bright and sometimes
quirky Boy Scout Superman.  This is not your 1978 Superman.  This is not
Christopher Reeves.  And though Christopher Reeves was the Superman, we must understand that he was Superman for only an age.

Many of my contemporaries those who knew Superman from George Reeves on television and then watched as Christopher Reeve catapulted the character onto the big screen will not like this Superman. 

They will think him too dark, too serious.  They won’t know that the character has evolved in the comic books as well.  They will want their Christopher Reeve back. They will say the story is too heavy.  They will say it’s a Science Fiction movie, and not a Superhero movie at all.  They will say he is not the big blue Boy Scout and they will want their Boy Scout back.  They will talk about the violence and the Man of Steel's disregard for life.  The will forget to have fun while they are brooding in the theater for a Superman from a bygone era.

Christopher Reeve was Superman, and we loved him as the character.  Henry Cavill is Superman, and he does an absolutely outstanding job.  He takes on the mantle of the Man of Steel and carries it as though born to the role.   

He elevates the Man of Steel into the world of today. This is not the world of Atari like super computers in the Grand Canyon, and comedians as geniuses or clown like criminal masterminds that launch rockets stolen from the military. 

No, this movie is for an audience that has changed and wants to know what such outlandish fantasy as a flying man from Krypton would be like mated to the world in which we live. 

This is truly gods among men, and no matter how hard one would want to protect human life, if men and women with the power of gods were to fight in the streets of a city people would die by the thousands. 

This is ugly and uncomfortable but it gives the film a realistic gravitas that many of us
old fans as well as those who live and love superhero fantasy in a post 9/11 world recognize and perhaps even expect.  To be different would be unacceptable and dismissed as just plain silly. 

You can't have two men who can through locomotives hundreds of miles pussy footing in the streets and managing to avoid loss of life with every blow:

“No!” Superman yelled.  “General Zod, let us take this fight of throwing buildings at each other to the park just outside the city.  You know, so we don’t hurt the people”   

The General cocked an eyebrow, raising his chin.  “Yes, Kal-El  These insignificant mortals you love so much mean nothing to me.  Let us go outside the city, where you WILL KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!”

Yeah … right.

Again, these are aliens with the power to change the course of mighty rivers, and only one is striving to protect the lives of us humans.  Gods among men.  Man of Steel depicts this epic conflict in perhaps the most visually powerful, arresting super powered conflict ever put to screen.  Avengers can’t even begin to hold a candle to the fight between Superman and Zod. 

If you fancy a superhero fight to boggle the mind, and stir the insides both in scale and destruction, making you feel pain at the sheer loss of life you know would happen in such a conflict, if you yearn for an epic battle, see Man of Steel. 

Now, there are parts of this movie that I had to work through.  I missed some mainstays, and you will know what they are.  I had to get accustomed to changed characters, some that are only sideline characters in the comics dying, characters that I truly liked.  And as ever much of the overall premise still pushes credulity.  I know I must work with my suspension of disbelief as I grow older in a real world of ever greater
Wonders, where man and machine are coming together to produce real life people
of tomorrow. 

But I think too deeply on this point, right?  After all, it’s just a movie.  And I say this to you, if you would see a great movie.  If you would believe a man could fly and defend us against assured destruction from power beyond our comprehension, then go see Man of Steel.  And remember, don’t dissect or over-think, or call out what you think is wrong.  Just go with the flow, enjoy the story, recognize the conflict, merge with the drama, be shocked by the violence, be torn by the ultimate decision, and revel in survival, and the continuance of the tale.  Go, and enjoy Superman.

The Aspiring Critical Thinker,
D.S. Brown

Thursday, June 13, 2013


The avatar of the Emperor on the bridge of the Khallad suddenly came alive.  It exhibited a higher level of activity as the Emperor consolidated the majority of his awareness locally.  Part of him still rode the communication links through hyperspace to far flung parts of his Empire, watching genocide with a cold calculating telepresent eye. 

“Commander Vardakos, situation status.”

“Your Highness, Prince Krakoth is still in hyperspace, awaiting your command.  We are running silent and answering no hails.  The cordon is holding.  We have destroyed every vessel attempting to leave the Daaneen System.  Daana Command was bombarding the fleet with queries.  However, that has ceased since they’ve started receiving the signals we’re allowing through from throughout the Empire. 

“They are starting to understand the magnitude of what is occurring.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“And the military?”

“Only one signal.  Once Daana Command stopped transmitting to us, they began to beam a narrow signal to a heavily shielded area on the other side of the system.  It is a blank area in space, impervious to our most powerful sensors.”

“Have you intercepted the signal?

“Yes, Your Highness.  However, it is heavily encrypted.  We are running it through our appropriated Column ciphers now.   We should have a translation shortly.”

Kdifoc laughed.  “Crafty dead.  Dismiss it Commander we will not be able to translate the message.  Besides, I know exactly what they are doing.  The Harvarian have developed new warships with the help of the Narellen.  A rebel fleet.  A Fifth Column fleet.”

“New warships!?!?”  The Commander controlled his shock.  “Your Highness?”

“Did you truly think I would have taken this action, would have considered them a threat without proper provocation?”

“I do not question your will, Highness.”

“As well you should not.  But that does not preclude you from considering the possibilities Commander.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“There is a reason you Command the Khallad, and the Emperor’s Own.”

“Strength, vision, fortitude, intelligence, the ability to execute, Your Highness.”

“No ambition?”

“None but which you provide.”

“Very good, Commander.  It is time to proceed to the next phase.  Open Imperial Channel One.”

“At once, Your Highness.  Comman, open Imperial Channel One!”

“Imperial Channel One open,” said the Comman. 

“Imperial Channel open, Your Highness.  You may proceed.”

“Thank you, Commander Vardakos,” said the Emperor.  “Your diligence, and enthusiasm are noted.”

Vardakos bowed towards the avatar.  “Highness.”

The Imperial Channel blended with a logic interface mating the external signal to the Emperor’s virtual reality.  Though he was actually sitting on his throne in the heart of the Khallad, in a virtual star system construct of his own creation he was stupendous in size, standing in the midst of the orbital paths of the system’s planets.  He appeared as large as the Daaneen star system. 

This constructed image was transmitted to every corner of the system, appearing on billions of holoscreens, cutting through system wide broadcasts and localized transmissions.  He was everywhere at once, pronouncing his judgment.

“Sentients of the Daaneen system.  I, your Emperor, Kdifoc The Third, Prophesied Ruler of the Universe, do hereby consign you to death.  Accept your fate without rancor.  Go quietly into the night, and perhaps I shall spare you pain.  Know that I have discerned the truth.  Know that I have weighed your guilt against possible redemption, and found you wanting.  Know that I have loosed the bolts on the weapons of planetary destruction.  Witness Harfi.  Know that today you pay the ultimate price for you treason.  I will suffer no Fifth Column.  Know that although the WPD’s are ready to be deployed, we are going to do something different.  Today, you meet your god.  And just as I have, he has found you wanting.  Your Emperor has spoken.”

The Emperor nodded to his Commander.  The Commander returned the nod and issued an order. 

“Close the Imperial Channel,” Vardakos said. 

“Channel closed,” said the comman.  “Sir, there is a trifold increase in communications on all frequencies, sub-light, and hyper.” 

Signal my brother,” said the Emperor.  “We shall send them God.” 

“There’s increased activity in the blank space on the far side of the system,” said a senseman.  “Contacts, count thirty, thirty-five, fifty.  The blank space has completely dissolved.”

“They’ve lowered the cloak,” whispered the Emperor to himself.  “Now, we shall see.”

“Highness?”  Vradakos just barely heard Kdifoc’s words.

“It is not of note, proceed.”

“I have contacts,” said the senseman.  “Fifty ships powering up on approach vectors.  They are targeting every ship in the fleet.  Power readings are off the scale.  I’ve never seen the design.”

Vradakos ignored the senseman, and keyed a special command into his holoconsole.  “Sending signal.”

A loud beeping sounded throughout the bridge.   Several bits of coded data appeared on the Commander’s screen.

“Your Highness,” said the Commander.  “Signal has been sent, and we have received proper response.”

“Very well,” said the avatar.  The solid life-like image of the Emperor tilted its head back with satisfaction.  He watched the hole open in space, the hole for his brother, the hole for the god.  “And the Harvarian shall be the first to feel his might, to taste of white light, to meet doom and trouble me no more.  It’s almost poetic, to use such a means, after employing so many others to eliminate a race from my space, a hammer for surgical precision.  The bluntness of it will be worth recording, almost … amusing”

“Prince Krakoth’s ship emerging from first level hyperspace,” said the first senseman.

“Initiate full spectrum sensor coverage,” said the Commander.  “We have to record everything.”

“Initiating,” said the senseman.  “God’s Previss has crossed into Daaneen space.