Category Archives: Sci Fi

The Black Hole Disco (Flash Fic)

I wasn’t planning on going to the Black Hole Disco, but having forty percent DNA of dance music makes a person weak for opportunities such as those. In the spirit of “fuck it why not,” I bought a ticket from a junkie days prior and made my way to the 8th Palace.

It was near midnight, and people of all sexes and genders stood outside, smoking. Women wore black shirts with ragged multicolored sigil, denoting their favorite band or god, who knows. Men wore light-colored tank-tops and caps. They all looked equally disaffected.

I passed through the sliding glass doors, into a hallway of shops that were completely locked down. Before I passed the particle-screen security gates leading to the shut-down escalators, I noticed that the floor above me was shaking from a thumping bass.

The Palace used to be a family restaurant and gateway for immigrants looking for cheap breakfast. It shut down two years ago and is still remains a gateway, to an extent. The floors still have their red carpets and foreign decorations, but at the far left is the Black Hole rig. Four speakers strategically placed, two turntables, a sound mixer and two laptops, one connected to an empty metallic ring over the dance floor.

There were two blackouts before the main event came on stage. Each time the ring hummed when it shouldn’t have in the middle of a deep house cut, or in the staccato of a trap jam. I slipped into the crowd and stared at how the pulsing lights from behind the stage bounced from the wallpaper. Such an odd juxtaposition, but I love it.

And then, the dark princess came. Everyone expected the first songs playing were to be her well-known harsh industrial-electro cuts, but she surprised us. She switched heavily between deep bass, southern underground rap, and then to 90s pop anthems. It was interesting, seeing this pallid, black-haired woman playing this kind of set, but we all wanted more of it regardless. Out of nowhere, in our drug-and-euphoria giddiness, she pressed a button on the second laptop and then jumped over the rig on on top of the crowd. She used a party-goer’s hand for balance, and walked to the center on a path made by the hands of others.

This was when I finally learned why it was called the Black Hole Disco. There was another blackout, but the music kept playing. The ring above us burst with a blue light, and I felt a slight pull coming from its direction. My instincts from years of illegal rave escapes kicked in and I ran away as I heard the screams from behind. It took only the length of one song, the DJ’s own from her recent album, for the crowd to get sucked into the dance-singularity. I’m confident those ravers will never be seen again.

I stumbled out of 8th Palace, and in the few minutes I had run from the chaos I found it was now the morning two days later, thanks to time dilation. I could have been sucked into the beyond of wherever that ring took the DJ and the crowd. I should have been on my knees, traumatized. But I did not. I walked for blocks and blocks of damp post-rain city, enjoying the warmth, smiling. Hoping I get another chance to cheat death, someday.

(Slightly inspired by events I witnessed at an Alice Glass DJ set years ago.)

She Can Do It: Mechalarum’s Feminist Undertones

Mechalarum_CoverA moment of full disclosure – I’m friends with Emma Larkins so my opinions on her debut sci-fi novel Mechalarum are slightly biased. That is why I decided a full review of Mechalarum would not be the best route as far as ruminating on it for my blog. It would be a damn-near Herculean effort in staying objective and telling you whether it’s a good book or greatest book. So, what I decided was doing what I do best and look at in a certain academic tone. There’s two in particular: the feminist undertones inherent in the novel.

What is really interesting in contemporary literature is in how YA books have pushed the female protagonist. YA fiction is female-heavy, which is an interesting turn on fiction in general given their popularity and how that shows the cultural shift in feminism in general. the interesting part of how that plays in Mechalarum is that a significant portion the time Kiellen the protagonist is badgered by others about a supposed romantic link between Gage, her friend and science-mechanic sidekick. The roughnecks of the lands outside the comfortable citadel assume that connection exists, just as many would in many real-life partnerships, but it is denied.

 

Kiellen tilted her head to glare up at Jey. “I’m not his ‘girlie.’ You keep saying that. I’m no one’s, save my own.”

The way it is written denotes a hangup all too familiar in real-world creative ventures, whether it be technology, music, or other fields. This is reminiscent of the type of rumors that are very common between a female musician and the male producer working on her songs, or how some men put down women in STEM by saying their worth is undervalued because of personal relationships with men. Larkins’ characterization of Gage does not infer that connection immediately but what is important is this question is this: is that truly important in the scope of the book? Sure, he takes many risks for Kiellen’s safety, but it comes from the standpoint of friendship for most of the story. When an intimacy – albeit a small one – forms between the two, it comes from the necessary position of Kiellen taking charge of the moment. That is pretty important for readers looking at a female character, seeing her take the first step instead of waiting for the guy to make the move. Overall it is interesting in seeing Larkins’ change of a male character like Gage to a dutiful, almost subservient role that is so routinely delegated to a female.

In the future I’ll think some more about the actual Mechalarum suit. There are things to it reminiscent of other suits in media, but for that post I think I’ll have to let it marinate in my head a bit more.

 

What I Really Want To Do On My Birthday ( A Self-Indulgent Wikipedia Facts Poem)

Saludo al coraje de los hombres de Puebla en esta dia,

But what I really want to do today

is go to Saint Helena  and throw a party in Napoleon’s cell,

and just to piss his spirit off,

 fly back to the States,

  and throw an original Memorial Day in our Waterloo.

When I get tired, I’ll make the trip international,

go to Ethiopia, see the second coming of  Haile Selassie,

have him lend me a few minutes to sit on his throne

  as he puts Kublai Khan’s crown on my head

while Marx takes my oath of office with my hand over On the Origins of Species,

before I throw it at William Jennings Bryan’s head before his opening statement.

Once I become a one-day king,

I’ll send a package of loaded Iranian guns to Oliver North’s house

snitch on his ass and laugh with my friends

as  the ATF arrests him on Fox News.

After the antics, go bar-hopping with Kierkegaard

 in a free West Germany,

get arrested with Sacco and Vanzetti after too many drinks,

and if I get too rowdy, take a caning on the ass by Singaporean dancers.

I want to start a one-man riot in Greece

just to get an article written by Nellie Bly and Bryan Williams.

I want to rock out to a band with me on guitar,

 Ian McCulloch and Adele on vocals,

 Bill Ward on drums,

and have the album produced by Delia Derbyshire.

I want to take acting lessons from Roger Rees,

 John Rhys-Davies, and Lance Henriksen

just so I can kick Henry Cavill out of his Superman gig.

And then, right before I go to sleep,

wave at Alan Shepard along con mi familia

as Mercury-Redstone 1 blinks its way  across the night.

– Note: I just wrote this and cleaned it up five minutes before midnight West coast time while  sober. Go me.

Rockets to Reality

Neal Stephenson’s article on rockets and innovation over at Slate is a good read. He goes from zero to Hitler pretty quick in it.

We are soon to run out of internet addresses.  I can’t wait for the  IPocalyspe to start (props to Wired for the article)

It’s taken decades, but we finally have jetpacks…kinda (thanks to CNN).

Philip K. Dick’s essay “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” is a must for anyone trying to write in sci-fi or fantasy story (Thanks to Mr. Warren Ellis and deoxy.org)

Top Five Go-To Sci-Fi/Fantasy Actors/Actresses

Science fiction and fantasy in TV and movies are always going to have your mainstay actors or actress who connect with the story and the fans and constantly get gigs in those genres. Sure, sometimes they get typecast, but many are just so damn good at that one spot, it doesn’t matter. Let’s get started on the Top Five “Go-To” SF/Fantasy Actors and Actresses:

Sigourney Weaver –  Weaver was James Cameron’s first pick for the Dr. Augustine character in Avatar,  years after they made Alien together back in ’79. It doesn’t stop there: she’s also been in other greats like Ghostbusters and Galaxy Quest. Hell, add the voice work she’s done on other sci-fi shows and movies like Wall-E and Futurama, and you can’t deny that she’s still the reigning queen of sci-fi.

Sam Rockwell– Full disclosure time: Sam Rockwell was kinda the reason I came up with this after he basically admitted he was playing Bill Paxton’s character in Aliens for the aforementioned Galaxy Quest. That aside, he’s been in Moon, Iron Man 2, The Green Mile, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and even a head thug in the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from ’90. He’s also in the upcoming Cowboys and Aliens movie, so it’s not like he’s shying away from the sci-fi anytime soon.


Keith David Most geeks will remember him as a go-to for John Carpenter flicks, playing the irritable Childs in The Thing or beating the crap out of Roddy Piper in They Live, but if you look deep in his IMDB file, you’ll see that he has been ridiculously prolific in both genres, especially in voice work. I mean, he’s he voice of Goliath from Gargoyles, the cat in Coraline,  and numerous characters from DC/Marvel animated movies and shows. Go down the video game path, and he’s the voice of The Arbiter from the Halo series, Cpt. Anderson in the Mass Effect series, and his voice is even in the first Fallout game. he’s textbook “go-to” if you want a commanding voice for a character.


Tricia HelferOh, Number Six. She’s definitely done other things since BSG, but since she made her big break on the seminal Syfy show, she hasn’t stopped making moves in the genre. Like Keith David, she’s done voice work for Halo, Mass Effect, and comic book-based media, but she’s also jumped on as the voice of Kerrigan for Starcraft 2. Hey, if you’re gonna need someone to play a sci-fi femme fatale, she’s the one getting a lot of calls now.


Jeff Goldblum Oh c’mon, you knew this was coming. While he’s doing the genre stuff as much now, Goldblum was seriously owning it from ’78”s Invasion of the Body Snatchers to ’97”s The Lost World: Jurassic Park. He’s been an entomological freakshow and an alien-beating hacker. All Hail Goldblum.

Honorable Mentions

Joe Morton
Chiwitel Ejiofor
Peter Mensah
Kurt Russell
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Bill Paxton
Sam Neill
Milla Jovovich
Michael Dorn
Hugh Jackman
Claudia Black

Precognition to Femme Fatale

Lately I’ve been reading  Feeling the Future, a paper from Dr. Daryl Bem from Cornell University that tries to put evidence for psychic precognitive abilities in people. MSNBC’s Cosmic Log has a pretty good story on it with a lot of links to other articles at the bottom of  it.  I’m gonna keep my eye on this story.

While I’m still on crazy sci-fi stuff happening in the real world, CERN has captured antimatter atoms. Let that one sink in your head for a bit. We made ANTIMATTER (OK, so they were only antihydrogen atoms and they don’t last very long, but still).

Also, from Warren Ellis’ blog: DIY exotic weapons. Now you can make that 9mm SMG you’ve always wanted using plumbing pipes! Seriously, this is becoming a Fallout 3 world day by day.

For all you alternate history heads: Mandela’s historic election victory almost didn’t happen because of hacking. Imagine a story that could be developed from that angle: a cyberwar in South Africa , sprinkled with apartheid and all the turmoil that was happening during that time.

To cap it off, here’s a great cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” by Aloe Blacc:

Afrocyberpunk to Genocide

It’s really cool to see sci-fi writers from other parts of the world getting some press, so let’s all give  Jonathan Dotse props for actively trying to bring the cyberpunk genre to Africa. Sci-fi fans should check it out regularly to see a different take on what has become a rather played-out genre.

Turing it back to just regular science (if you can call it that), a group of British scientists have found a way to transfer all the genetic material of one egg  without mitochondria. The reason this is interesting is in how this could save many people in the future from diseases caused by mitochondrial defects.

Here’s an eye-opener: approximately 600,000 workers in China die a year making the parts for the computer or mobile phone you’re reading this from. They even have a name for it: guolaosi, which is Mandarin for “worked to death”.  The Consumerist article got its info from this Johann Hari article. Hari also wrote the amazingly good article on horrible work conditions in Dubai that I mentioned a while back.

For all you conspiracy theorists, reading up on the mysterious mass poisoning at  Pont-Saint-Esprit has a pretty interesting theory: instead of the ergot poisoning that has mainly been seen as the main cause of the psychosis people felt, one Hank P. Albarelli Jr wrote a book claiming that the CIA used Pont-Saint-Esprit as a LSD testing groundLSD as part of that tin-foil hat favorite,  MKULTRA . Add Rennes-le-Château to it and you can start making a pretty weird road trip in southeast France.

Comic artist Cameron Stewart, who happens to have a blog for all his artwork, has won a Shuster and Eisner Award for his own webcomic,   Sin Titulo. It’s a good noir fantasy story about one man’s descent into some dangerous people and some of his own personal demons as well.

I just got into reading the poems written by Jeremy Prynne, and I seriously don’t know what to make of it. There’s this odd lyricism that exists in his almost stream-of-consciousness poems that works somehow. Check out this introduction into the man and his work, and here is a link for one of his pieces, ‘Rich in Vitamin C’ to learn more.

To cap it all off, here’s a video of  Carlos Andrés Gómez’s amazing spoken word poem, “What’s Genocide?” (here’s a link to the written version):

From 3030 to Lazerfaces: Sci-Fi’s Influence on Hip Hop

To continue on my unofficial “things that people don’t associate with science fiction” series of articles, I have decided that it’s about time I wrote on the effect science fiction has had on hip-hop. Now, there are a lot of differences between the music of  The Notorious BIG with the writings of Isaac Asimov, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have some sort of overlap. Both genres have a thing for pointing out sociopolitical undertones via a narrative, be it through the lens of a robot on a generational ship or a crack dealer through his Pyrex. Both have larger than life characters that have to deal with “the struggle,” whether it’s an intergalactic war or the five-o. For my examples, I’ll present two different artists who have used SF elements: producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura and rapper/producer Jaime Meline, also known as El-P.

The idea of a connection between a part of black culture and sci-fi in music is not a new one. Read the rest of this entry

On the Subject of the Twelfth Album

I am a huge fan of alternate histories, whether massive or minuscule in its scope. Most people turn to Harry Turtledove, and with good reason, but other people have done interesting takes with the concept. Take Stephen Baxter‘s short story  The Twelfth Album.

The story starts with two dock workers stumbling onto a mysterious black album with the word God written on the lower left hand corner. In it was a shocker: An album by the Beatles from an universe where they made one more album after Abbey Road. The songs in the album are (in our universe) ones from their solo albums, so some of the titles sound familiar, but the way they were arranged  are definitely something different. Take into account the last track on this incredibly peculiar album, in  Baxter’s words ( thanks to user  Necanthrope from  everything2):

This would be the the ultimate track–the twelfth track on the twelfth album.

The last new Beatles song we would ever hear.

Because, of course, by now we both believed.

It was recognizable from the first, faded-in, descending piano chords. But then the vocals opened–and it was Lennon.

“It’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed,'”, I said, awed. “Mcartney’s greatest post-Beatles song–”

“Just listen to it,” said Lightoller. “He gave it to Lennon. Listen to it.”

It didn’t sound like the version from our world, which {McCartney], battered and bruised from the breakup, recorded in his kitchen.

Lennon’s raw, majestic voice wrenched at the melody, while McCartney’s melodic bass, Starr’s powerful drumming, and Harrison’s wailing guitar drove through the song’s complex, compulsive chromatic structure. And then a long coda opened up, underpinned by clean, thrusting bass, obviously scored by George Martin.

At last the coda wound down to a final, almost whispered lament by Lennon, a final descending chord sequence, a last trickle of piano notes, as if the song itself couldn’t bear to finish.

The stylus hissed briefly, reached for the run-off groove, and lifted.

That is pretty powerful, at least to me, growing up watching the Anthology documentary and knowing all the turmoil the band was going to at that point in history. As it stands, some people aren’t fans of the story, but opinions are like..well, you know. I want to get my hands on the story myself to get the whole deal. Oddly enough, people have taken this idea and run with it. This guy here might have taken it a  little too far, but I do want to see if he gets a cease and desist from EMI. Hey, it happened to Danger Mouse, right?

As a side note, I wonder if Kieron Gillen has ever wondered about tackling the Beatles for his Phonogram stuff, but that’s another thing altogether.