Saturday, August 30, 2008

An excerpt from "If I wrote Hawkman"

... With a wing shot to hell, the PC-21 was going down faster than a Bangkok whore, and it was all I could do to keep from slipping into a flat spin. Betty, of course, was being her usual bitchy self:

"Pull up."


"Pull up."

Von Hammer's Su-25 came about for another shot at me, its 30mm cannon shredding my engine. Betty shut up mid-bitch in a shower of sparks. Then he was past me, jetwash slapping me around like Ike Turner on a Saturday night.

"Fuck me!" I shouted to no one in particular. Then, to the backseat: "Time to ditch, princess."

"I... cannot." Her words were strained, thick with pain. I risked a look into the instructor's seat behind me.

Blood. Way too much blood. Shit! She must've been hit by spall during Von Hammer's first pass, but was too caught up in that warrior heritage of hers to say anything. If I didn't tend to her wounds immediately, then Milovessa, Princess of the Pterodactyl People would die under my care, and not only would her cannibal followers literally chew me a new one but there'd be no one left to unite the tribes of Dinosaur Island against the Sons of Set.

I had exactly one shot at making this work, and frankly? I didn't like the odds.

"Princess, do you trust me?" I asked in my best Don't worry, I'm a professional tone.


"Good. Then hang on, because I will be back for you." And with that, I ejected... straight up into Von Hammer's flight path.

That's the problem with jet planes: they have to keep banking and returning to strafe whatever they overshoot. The look on Von Hammer's face as I came up in front of his Sukhoi's nose was priceless.

Then I emptied my HK UMP into his canopy and he didn't have much of a face at all, any more.

I dropped the spent HK as the ejection seat reached apogee, clawing at the five-point restraint system. No silk for me; I'd lost sight of the PC-21 and I needed wings if I was going to make good on my promise.

"HAWKA!" I screamed, the ushabti around my neck disappearing and reforming as black Hawk wings upon my back, and I was diving, diving, searching the sky with Horus-enhanced vision for my plane, hoping that the trainer still had enough in her to hang together for the few seconds I needed to get there, smash the canopy, unstrap Milovessa, and fly her to safety.

Then the Pterodactyl riders showed up, and wouldn't you know it but they weren't Milovessa's. No, they belonged to Durgeeon, her murderous half-brother....

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pimping some friends

Because I'm too busy doing other stuff to write a "real" post:
  • ITEM! If, like me, you live on the Atlantic or Gulf Coast and are inconvenienced by these stilly little summer things known as "Tropical Storms" and "Hurricanes" -- or even if you're just a big weather buff -- I heartily recommend Stormpulse. This is one incredibly impressive and beautiful site, made more so by the fact that it is run by two guys, not some goverment agency. (Seriously. They have a blog, too.) Stormpulse is my forecaster of choice when determining if I need to start converting cubits to meters for some emergency ark-building.
  • ITEM! I'm terribly late in mentioning this, but former LR contributor Troy Hickman has made a comic called Twilight Guardian for Top Cow. It's part of their Pilot Season, which means that several comic books put out one-shot pilot issues, and then the readers vote for their favorites. You've only got until September 8 to vote, but you can vote here every day if you like. It's currently in the #1 spot, let's keep it that way.
  • ITEM! Finally, Chris A. Bridges -- the blogger and author of "Save Hiatus", not to be confused with Chris Bridges aka Ludacris -- took me out to lunch today (Sesame Chicken, yum!) and gave me a set of the so-rare-I-never-knew-they-existed Serenity dogtags. I have one for Sgt. Malcom Reynolds and one for Cpl. Zoe Alleyne, complete with bead chain and little rubber gasket. (The picture below isn't of mine; I'm not so cool as to have one that's been signed by Nathan Fillion). So in case you're wondering how you could ever possibly come face to face with Miss Erin Palette, now you know: tempt me with high-value geek swag and sweeten it with free food.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

WNW: Flash Filk

Some of you folks may have heard of Goldentusk, a YouTubie who writes lyrics to well known theme songs (Superman, Batman, and James Bond, to note a few). But I've noticed that, well, he missed one. Notably, a certain scarlet speedster who had his own short-lived series in 1990.

Naturally, I have corrected this glaring oversight. Do feel free to sing along!
(PS: Wait until the 7 second mark.)

A flash of light -ning! Is very fright -ning! This is how I sing! As I go fly -ing! And hit my own logo... (ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow my ego) Bolt from the blue Now I see you Justice is swift D'you catch my drift? Demon in red Cannot be shed I will pursue You have no clue I am the Flash, the monarch of motion I'll knock you on your ass! I am the Flash, the fastest man alive And I run really fast! This is my love interest Tina McGee She's replaced Iris Obviously And there's this guy What is his name? He's Julio (was never canon) I gotta go! (get my run on) Bust some heads! And you'd never think that I am se- cretly police scientist Barry Allen!
And just in case you didn't find that amusing, I leave you with this:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hawk... ah, er, um

Well, the results are in for the "Make Hawkman Not Suck" contest, and sadly, my entry did not win.

I am sad.

However, the winner had a truly excellent submission, so congratulations, Jason. He wins an original sketch of the Hawkster as drawn by Benjamin Birdie.

And thankfully for my ego, I took second place. My reward is the first two volumes of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead in trade paperback.

That's right: I get two books about zombies, and poor Jason gets... a picture. Of Hawkman. Who, verily, doth sucketh.

Who's the real winner here?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Goth kitteh sez...

30 inches of water?

Welcome to "sunny" Florida...

I'm all right, and so's the family and all material possessions, but Sweet Buttery Eris that was a lot of rain. 30 inches is two and half feet, peoples. This morning I got to play the very fun game of "Dig a trench in the back yard so the porch doesn't flood."

Fucking wheeeee.

All told, though, I got off lucky. I pity Brevard county to the south, though; the NOAA radio (pronounced "Noah" -- funny, that) has been going off about flash floods down there for the past two days.

And this wasn't even a hurricane. This was just a Tropical Storm. Nothing like a little bit of nature to humble and make me feel insignificant.

Perhaps another visual aid. This picture was taken last year, so it's not from this storm, but it's still indicative of the kind of beach erosion a storm like this can inflict:

That's.... significant.

(Thanks to Maud and Joe Flood, whose pictures I ganked. All rights reserved by the individual artists, etc.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Good news and bad news

Good news: Tropical Storm Fay is no longer predicted to become a Hurricane once she hits the Atlantic.


Nah, I'm not really worried. It's just fun to play the drama queen.

But I gotta tell you, all this rain is making me feel soggy. I'm gonna break out my copy of Blue Planet and start making a cephalopod-only adventure, because sadly there isn't one already. Which is really odd, because BP is the only game I know of where dolphins and orcas are player character races, so you'd think someone would have written one by now.

But nooooooo.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

By the time you read this, I will already be dead

... okay, no, not really. But I've always wanted to write a sentence like that, and given the "We don't quite know where the fuck she's going" status of Hurricane Fay, it seemed like as good a time as any.

No, seriously, Fay is wacky. I have never, ever, heard of a Hurricane/ Tropical Storm that actually gained speed over land, and current predictions have her going out into the Atlantic, gaining speed, and making nearly a 90-degree turn to have yet another go at Florida.

As it stands right now, though, things are copacetic at Chez Palette. All we've gotten is some rain, which is nothing compared to the reports of flash-flooding in counties further south. Which is ironic, because around this time last year we were contending with wildfires from the dry season.

Welcome to Florida: If you aren't burnt to a crisp, you're drowned.

At any rate, I spent all of Monday afternoon putting up storm shutters which, for those of you who live in less meteorologically exciting states, are overlapping sheets of corrugated metal (sometimes steel, usually aluminum) that protect the windows of a house. This also gives a home that zesty quonset hut look.

By the time the last of the shutters was up, it had started to rain. Excellent timing on our part. Of course, now that the shutters are up, we've sandbagged the porch, bought a crapload of supplies and distilled several gallons of water, the storm is sure to miss us entirely.

It's rather like getting all dressed up for a party, only to stay at home and watch bad reality television while eating leftovers.

Ah well. I comfort myself with the knowledge that this house is now conveniently zombie-proof as well. I figure we're rated for anything up to the Boyle threat level; making this house rated for Romero-scale operations would require barricades, a deep well, and lots more guns.

Erin Palette: 70% chance of surviving a zombie apocalypse, and rising fast.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Rebooting Hawkman

Jeff over at Conditional Axe is having a "Revamp Hawkman so that he doesn't suck" contest. In between brain-melting projects for Quantum Mechanix, I've been thinking about how to do this, and in much the same way I remade Gambit, I think the best thing to do is clear away all the crap and reduce Hawkman to the simplest concept possible:

He has wings and hits people with medieval weapons.

Which, regardless of what people may say, is not a bad concept. It works exceptionally well for, say, a fighter in Dungeons and Dragons. But even in the world of comics, it's not a bad schtick. Hell, Daredevil's concept is "blind ninja" and he works. The problem, as with most things, is in context.

Hawkman's name and costume are big, bold, demanding attention. He is a bright, four-color kind of a hero. The problem is that his concept is best suited to street-level crime, the kind that is fought by Batman, Black Canary, Green Arrow, etc.

Thus, I am firmly of the opinion that Hawkman is a victim of his own dichotomy. (Well, that and the fact that I wanted to use "dichotomy" in a sentence. Plus, I think "Victim of his own Dichotomy" would make a killer name for an emo band.)

Fortunately, Palette is here to save the day, by reminding everyone that there is a genre in which big, bold, flashy heroes fight scuzzy criminals and crazed madmen and villains who don't possess uber levels of superpowers. This is a genre in which men punch jaws and kick doors, women seduce and swoon, and things goddamn explode all the time. A genre in which silly costumes aren't welcome, but unbelieveable origins are. I am talking, of course, of the Pulp genre.

Hawkman would fit perfectly in a pulp setting. Just look at some of the other exemplars of the setting:
  • The Shadow: Becomes invisible and shoots people.
  • Doc Savage: Physically and mentally perfect.
  • The Phantom: Lives in the jungle, pretends to live forever.
  • Tarzan: Lord of the jungle.
  • Hawkman: Flies with bird wings and hits people with a mace.
See? He fits perfectly.

But Erin, I hear you complaining, that's all fine and good -- in fact, you're a brilliant goddess and I worship at your feet -- but how do you fit him into the DC Universe?

Well, that's easy, because DC has a pulp hero of its very own, one that even has a convenient bird motif:

If you aren't screaming in excitement right now, there is something seriously wrong with you.

For those of you who don't know, Blackhawk is Janos Prohaska, a Polish man who, in the immortal words of Chris Sims, "hated the Nazis so much for conquering Poland that he decided to fight them BY HIMSELF. He doesn't have backing or government. He's just a total badass with an airplane and he wants revenge." Along the way, of course, he creates a multinational fighting force called -- you guessed it -- The Blackhawks, who proceed to rip the Nazis a new one while flying modified Grumman XF5F Skyrockets from his secret base on Blackhawk Island.

But how does this tie in with Hawkman? Again, according to Chris Sims, "In his appearances in Sandman Mystery Theater, Blackhawk pretty much fucks every woman he meets." So we've got a pulp hero, with his own secret island and personal fighting force, who is a complete stud and has adventures across the planet.

Premise #1: Hawkman is the son (or grandson, if you're really worried about continuity vis-a-vis aging) of the original Blackhawk. This ties him -- firmly, I might add -- to DC history, something that has been a problem for Hawkman as late. It also establishes him as a hero with a legacy to uphold, which is always a good thing.

If you're a romantic sort, you could make his mother Lady Blackhawk. I'm partial to the Natalie Reed version, but if you're worried about aging, the time-tossed Zinda Blake makes more sense.

Either way, we need a new name for the fellow, since we're tossing both the Thanagarian Space-Cop Katar Hol and the reincarnated Egyptian Pharoah Carter Hall concept out the window. Let's call him Gavin (which interestingly enough means "white hawk in Welsh") -- Gavin Reed, Gavin Blake, Gavin Whatever-his-mother's-name-is.

Gavin inherited many things from his father: wanderlust, a love for flying, a nose for adventure, and massively all-around studliness. Growing up, he heard all sorts of stories about his father (whose existence is a matter of historical record) but doesn't really believe any of it. Still, he has a passing resemblance, and it's enough to get him laid, so he capitalizes on it as much as he can. He's certainly living the high life as a charter pilot out of Casablanca, until one day...

Premise #2: ... he crashes in the Egyptian desert. It doesn't really matter how, but it really should involve criminals of some sort. Regardless, he's stranded in the desert, and needs to find shelter and water before he dies of exposure. Delerious from the heat, he finds a cave, which turns out to be a lost temple to Horus, the falcon-headed Egyptian god of the sun and sky.

(It's those damn wings, you see. You can't have a Hawkman without wings, and there isn't a rational way for me to introduce them to the character. So I'm using the time-honored pulp tradition of Silly Origins. Deal with it.)

Fun fact: Horus is also known as the Avenger, because he fought Set -- the jackal-headed Egyptian god of storms, the desert, and general nastiness -- after the latter murdered Horus' father, Osiris.

Basically, Horus appears, looks at Gavin, sees he already bears the mark of the Hawk upon him. Horus says, "The forces of Set have grown strong, lo these many centuries past. The world needs an avenger, a champion of Horus. You are that champion."

With that, Gavin becomes the Hawkman, with all the attributes you'd expect of an avatar of the god of sun and sky and hunting and war: exceptional vision, nearly indefinite stamina, skill with weapons, the ability to track prey through the air.... and of course, the wings.

I rather like the concept of the wings being ushabti, existing as a kind of pendant until activated, and which time the pendant disappears and real wings appear on Gavin's back. I envision the pendant looking a lot like this:

The command word for activating the ushabti is, of course, "Hawkaaa!" (Blackhawk's old battle cry.)

Premise #3: Gavin, who is now pretty damn rich, having been given permission by Horus to use the treasure of the temple to fund his war against evil, goes in search of Blackhawk Island. Once he finds it, he searches for other descendants of the Blackhawk Squadron. Together, they fight against pulp-style villainy: pirates and criminal syndicates and such. It's like Punisher, but with more airplanes and slightly less wanton bloodshed.

Some random thoughts that don't really deserve their own paragraph:
  • Gavin names himself Hawkman, not Blackhawk, because Blackhawk is his father and Gavin wants to be his own man. So the title of the book is properly "Hawkman and the Blackhawks."
  • The Hawkman costume stays the same -- from the waist up, anyway. But that green and red bottom half must go. How about the blue-black leather of the Blackhawk uniform? That'd look keen. And of course, the chest detail on the harness would be the Blackhawk crest.
  • Maces? Fuhgeddaboutit. If you're going to give him a badass melee weapon, let's use one that look Egyptian, like the Khopesh. Otherwise, let's stay classically pulp and use Colt .45's.
  • The New Blackhawk Squadron has a variety of different planes at its disposal, but if I had to pick one for general use, it would be an armed version of the V-22 Osprey: it hovers like a helicopter, it flies like a turboprop, and the tail fin looks a lot like the original Grumman Skyrocket.

There you go. That's how I'd save Hawkman: I'd turn him into a pulp-style hero with his own private air corps and an origin that nods at the Golden Age. Wouldn't you read the hell out of that comic?

EDIT: Chris Sims has told me that I've essentially ripped off Moon Knight's origin. All I can say to this is, I've never read an issue of Moon Knight in my life, so whatever I did was unintentional. Alas, I've put too much work into this concept to change it all now. So before you call me a fucking ripoff hack, realize I had no intention of being so.

Pathfinder RPG Beta now available

Available for free, no less, at the Paizo website. (Some mild registration required)

Oh, I could go on and on about what's great about it, but you know what? I have people for that. So, basically, I'm gonna point at Geek Related and go "Yeah, what he said."

Because I can.

Also, I'm lazy.

EDIT: After just over 9 hours of sales at GenCon, the Paizo booth is completely sold out of their Pathfinder RPG stock. And this is for the Beta version. If there was ever any question there was support for this game -- there's your answer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's all Greek to me

Pretty much everyone who grew up during any of the Star Wars eras knows what a droid is.

Most of you reading this blog probably know that droid is short for android.

But how many of you know what android means?

(Warning! Warning! Intense amounts of pedantry and one terrible pun detected!)

Well, andro is Greek for "male" or "man", and oid is also Greek and means "having the likeness of". Thus, android is "one that has the likeness of a man."

That last bit is important: likeness of a man, not "likeness of man," with "man" being used in the admittedly chauvinistic sense of "all of humanity."

So technically, only male-looking robots should be called androids. Female-looking robots should be called gynoids, since gyno is the Greek term for "female."

So technically technically, you can't call, say, Cameron Phillips a droid, because that "d" is from andro. Instead, you should use the "n" from gyno and call her a noid.


Friday, August 8, 2008

The continued floundering of Wizards of the Coast

So, it's two months after the release of 4th Edition D&D, and next week is GenCon (aka the biggest RPG convention ever, aka WotC's Frigging House Organ) which is supposed to herald 4e's official release. Let's check in and see if they've learned any lessons from the utterly incompetent way they handled 4e's release:

  1. Necromancer Games -- one of the Big Names in third party D&D publishers -- has declined to swallow the poison pill that is the GSL. In this they join Green Ronin, Paizo, and Kenzer & Co. in giving WotC a firm "Fuck you, we'll support the OGL instead."
  2. Speaking of "Fuck you", David Kenzer (he of Kenzer & Co.) happens to be an intellectual property lawyer, and having gone over the GSL with a fine tooth comb he believes he has the legal right to publish 4e material without having to sign said infernal pact, and in fact is doing so. Yes, this means K&K is publishing 3.5e and 4e material. Suck it, Hasbro.
  3. Gleemax, which was supposed to be a "social networking site" for WotC, has been shut down, allegedly because they want to focus on their "core brands" of D&D and Magic: the Gathering, but in actuality because it's a gaping hole of suck. (Special thanks to Geek Related for that melodious turn of phrase.)
  4. And now D&D Insider -- you know, that glorious "digital initiative" that promised you such things as a character builder, character portrait maker, dungeon designer and online version of all the books you've bought -- which was not ready when the game was released back in June, is now ready to kick off GenCon with...
  5. (wait for it)...
  6. An online rules compendium which has no actual rules in it. Go on, look for rules-y stuff like "initiative" or "blinded".
  7. Oh, there's also some half-assed versions of Dungeon and Dragon magazines which in no way measure up to the print versions Paizo was putting out last year.
  8. And here's the best part: Even though those two "features" are free, they want you to start buying subscriptions now. That's right: they want you to subscribe for 1, 3 or 12 months to access material that you can get for free. No, seriously:
Our current plan is to start charging for subscriptions before we have the client applications ready. That means the initial Insider subscription package will include exactly those parts that are currently in free trial mode.
Oh, and they promise they'll have the other stuff ready. Just like they promised they'd have DDI ready by GenCon.

Based on all of this, I can only assume that the D&D division of WotC is being run by a particularly retarded group of rhesus monkeys, because this level of gross incompetence is unforgivable.

Possibly the most awesome sentence I have ever written

(I've decided to release Chapter 2 in chunks, rather than make you wait all weekend. Besides, your comments might give me ideas or spur me to write more.

Once I've finished, I will post it in its entirety.

Please keep in mind that this is an organic novel, so things are subject to change. Especially now, since I'm releasing an unfinished chapter.)

The car's interior was thick with a heavy old-lady smell, like someone had beaten Coco Chanel to death with a tube of Ben-Gay and then buried her body in the quilt that currently covered the vinyl front bench.

“Hi, I’m Esther,” the woman introduced herself, and Teresa stopped listening the moment immediately after that. She’d had talkative cellmates before, and Esther just had that look about her, that I’m going to tell you about my grandchildren whether you like it or not vibe. The trick to dealing with talkative cellies wasn't in getting them to shut up; it was in learning not to listen. Learning not to care.

Given enough cigarettes, Theresa could deal with anything. She absentmindedly began the old, familiar ritual. Open lid. Select cigarette. Place in mouth. Spark lighter. Stop.


Out of the corner of her eye she became aware of the old woman again, looking at her expectantly. The lighter’s flame danced tantalizingly in front of her cigarette, halted just an inch away from ignition.

“You, uh, say something?” she mumbled out of the corner of her mouth. For some reason she felt intensely embarrassed, as if she’d just been scolded by her mother.

“I said, please don’t smoke in my car." Esther's voice was still pleasantly soft, but it had gained a steely undercurrent of Don't test me, child, for I will brook no shit from you that had belonged to mothers since time immemorial. Theresa had even used that tone herself, so many years ago…

"Right. Sorry." She dropped the lighter into her purse and tucked the unlit cigarette behind her right ear, silently cursing at herself for backing down like that. Why had she rolled over so easily?

Give it five minutes, she thought. Then we'll be on the interstate and I can light up, smoke out the window or something. She won't pull over just to kick me out.

It was only then that Theresa realized she had no idea where this Esther person was taking her, or why she'd gotten into the car without asking how the driver knew she'd be on that stoop, the morning of her parole, when she hadn't told a single soul about her release.

The Fine Print

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