Category Archives: science fiction

Philip K. Dick

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There is a major drawback to being so smart that you can perceive the edges of infinity.  It makes you bedbug crazy.  I love the science fiction that populated the paperback shelves in the 50’s and 60’s when I was a boy.  I love the work of Philip K. Dick.  But it leads you to contemplate what is real… what is imaginary… and what is the nature of what will be.

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the robot Philip K. Dick who appeared at Comic Con and answered questions

There are numerous ways to investigate life.  But it is in the nature of imaginary people to try to find ways to make themselves real.  When the replicants in Bladerunner try to make themselves into real people, they must try to create memories that didn’t exist.  They try to mirror human life to the extent that they can actually fool the bladerunner into letting them live.  Of course, it doesn’t work.  They are not real.  (Bladerunner is the movie name of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep).

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It is like that for me as well.  Being an imaginary person is difficult.  You have to constantly invent yourself and re-invent yourself.  By the time you finally get to know yourself, you have to change again so that the anti-android factions don’t destroy you.  Although, I think I may not actually be an android.

Does that sound a bit crazy?  Well Philip K. Dick’s life story may in fact have led him down the path to really crazy.  In 1971 he broke up with his wife, Nancy Hackett.  She moved out of his life, and an amphetamine-abuse bender moved in.  In 1972, ironically the year I began reading Dick’s work, he fell in love at the Vancouver Science Fiction Convention.  That was immediately followed by erratic behavior, a break-up, and an attempted suicide overdosing on the sedative potassium bromide.  This, of course, led directly to his 1977 novel A Scanner Darkly.

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The story is about a police detective who is corrupted by a dangerous addictive drug that takes him down the rabbit hole of paranoia, and being assaulted by the perception of multiple realities simultaneously.  His novel Ubik from 1969 is a story of psychics trying to battle groups of other psychics even after they are killed by a bomb.  The crazy seems to have been building for a while.

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In 1974 he had a transcendental experience when a lady delivering medicine to his door wore a fish-shaped pendant which he said shot a pink beam into his head.   He came to believe the beam imparted wisdom and clairvoyance, and also believed it to be intelligent.  He would later admit to believing he had been reincarnated as the prophet Elijah.

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Imagination has its dangers.  It is a powerful thing able to transform reality.  Science fiction writers often use their imagination to shape what the future will actually make come into being.  But it can also turn your mind inside out.  A great science fiction writer like Philip K. Dick can contemplate the nature of reality and turn his own reality inside out.  It is a lesson for me, a lesson for all of us.  Wait, is that a pink beam of light I see?  No, I just imagined it.

 

 

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Filed under artists I admire, humor, imagination, science fiction, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

Astronuts in Spacetime

I have always cherished science fiction. Not just Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. Not just Star Trek and Star Wars. But all of it. Buck Rodgers, Flash Gordon, Brick Bradford, Galaxy Quest, Mars Attacks, and E.T.

Space is important to me. I feel like all of mankind will be a failure as a species if they don’t start moving out amongst the stars.

It’s not just that I am ensorcelled by the magical adventures that space-travel stories mixed with a romantic view of facing existential danger with a smile and a ray-gun can provide.

I watched with wide 12-year-old eyes when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon for the very first time.

That was all the way back in 1969!

I am disappointed that my George-Jetson expectations of life in 2023 have not even remotely been met.

Sure, computers are great. But where are the flying cars? The fishbowl helmets for walking on the Moon? Personal jetpacks to get to school and back?

It isn’t the dreamers, it’s the doers that have let me down.

And I know we could well run the risk of meeting something out there that might want to eat us.

But are we truly alive anymore if we are afraid to risk death in the face of Space Exploration and Discovery? We are not immortal. We need to achieve things that outlast us to justify our existence.

So, come on, people! Let’s make the world over again and start building cities on Mars.

Let’s start building what we have dreamt of rather than hiding from what we fear!

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Monster Pictures

Here are images from the Monster Movie collection I keep as an obsessive-compulsive hoarding disorder style of thing.  I thought I would present them as a collage since I am lazy today and want to save words for my novel project.

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The scary thing is that people like me obsess about such nonsense, and collect so many silly, fantastic pictures of stuff and nonsense.

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AeroQuest 5… Adagio 24

Adagio 25 – Pirates and the Importance of Words

Now you finally get to sample a bit of my genius at historical analysis.  I will lay on you one of the theories of history that I created, and which has had a profound effect on the whole debate over whether History is a Science, or merely a gathering of talking idiots and puppets of the governments who won the wars.

The theory is this; History is always about pirates.  I know that statement probably alarms you, or makes you simply dismiss me as a loony, bald-headed goofball who just likes to talk and is meant to be ignored by you.  Don’t be alarmed, and I am NOT a goofball.

History is never really written about the builders and creators who craft a society or a civilization.  The occasional Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Gragg of Mars, or Googol Marou gets mentioned in a history book, but it is always the man, men, or peoples who see the civilization, want the civilization, and then either take the civilization for themselves or totally destroy the civilization who ultimately get the notice and the credit for making History happen.  History is not about making something, but about taking something that is already there.

Consider how this played out in the history of the Orion Spur of the Milky Way Galaxy.  It truly began with the Ancients who colonized the entire galaxy and then, for reasons unknown, totally disappeared from it, leaving only powerful and dangerous artifacts behind.  They were creators and makers, so the story could never really be about them. 

The story then would have to proceed to the gentle alien folk called the Sylvani.  Now, they may actually be the Ancients, we have no way of knowing, but they don’t actually make History happen either.  They created jump drives and interstellar travel, particle readers and material synthesizers (as well as the Skortch beams and disintegrators that can be derived from them), and anti-gravity technology.  They did not colonize the stars.  They had the bad sense to leave everything as they found it and live their lives in relative peace.  The fools!

The amphibianoid people known as the Tellerons were the first to colonize and make an empire in the Orion Spur.  These prolific frog-men of Telleri spread their form of civilization to eleven worlds.  They wouldn’t have been able to do this, however, if they had never made contact with the Sylvani people while the latter were peacefully exploring the world of Telleri.  The frog-men imprisoned the Sylvani explorers and forced them to yield up the all-important space travel technologies they had created.  It was an act of space piracy.  They basically stole all the knowledge and equipment needed to make a star empire.

Now, the Tellerons were basically fools themselves.   They were ruthless explorers and conquerors but were a bit shallow in the thinking end of their gene pool.  They were not adaptable and had to carefully recreate their swampy home-world environment everywhere they went.  Thus, they were easily conquered themselves when they met far more adaptable races like the Galtorrians from the Delta Pavonis star system and the Earthers from the Sol system. 

Words are what basically conquered the Telleron Star Empire.  When they reached the Galtorrian homeworld of Galtorr Prime, they got themselves hooked on an alien cultural anomaly caused by TV broadcasts from Earth.  The Galtorrians had been receiving and decoding the television signals of Earth for twenty years.  A virulent black market existed there for pirated episodes of a TV show called “I Love Lucy”.  Reruns of that TV show became a model for both the Galtorrians and the Tellerons who tried to conquer them.

Truth be told, the Tellerons began worshipping the character of Fred Mertz being played by an actor named William Frawley.  Frawley’s frog-like mouth and toad-like wit made the fin-headed frog-men think Fred Mertz was a god.  The Galtorrians had already adapted the English Language from the show because it was similar in sound patterns to Galtorr-speak.  It had become the language of, not only entertainment, but of commerce and diplomacy.  Now, English is a twisted and demented sort of language, capable of double meanings, puns, and irony.  There are no sacred rules of grammar, word-formation, or spelling, and so the language can be shaped to suit the nefarious purposes of those sinister professionals known as “writers”.  Galtorrians were able to trick Tellerons with the so-called “Word of Fred Mertz” into giving them the secrets of space travel, Skortch rays, and material synthesis.

So, space travel and the Telleron Empire fell into the hands of the Galtorrians by piracy.  They stole the empire from the rival alien race.  They then ruthlessly expanded their new empire.  Being a pirate was the thing that created the History.

Now, a very similar process also happened on Earth.  Tellerons, easily tricked by Earthers, also lost control of their stolen technology when they tried to invade Earth in about the year 1990 A.D.  They tried to invade using invisibility technology acquired by showing their Sylvani slaves old episodes of Star Trek with Romulans in them.  The Sylvani succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of Gene Roddenberry.  Of course, this backfired, because it is hard to intimidate someone you are trying to conquer with armies and weapons that cannot be seen.  The Tellerons managed to lose their devices and Skortch themselves during an invasion that almost no one knew was happening.  Again, the technology was pirated from them.  I firmly believe that it was one of my own ancestors, a genius named Orben Wallace who reverse-engineered all the alien devices and brought the technology to Earth.

The empire of all humanoid and intelligent life forms in the Orion Spur would be taken and retaken using the stolen technologies and the stolen words of what would become known as “Galanglic,” Galactic English.  So, you can see, I have brilliantly proven my theory.  All History is about pirates.

William Frawley, the actor who first uttered the “Word of Fred Mertz”

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 156

Canto 156 – The Return of Tara Salongi

Ged and his students burst through the doorway to Raylond King’s private suite.  Phoenix and Rocket Rogers were both blazing in fire-form.  Projectiles whirred around Shu Kwai in accelerating orbits.  Jackie had brought little Freddy to join the strike team, and the dark-skinned boy was now transformed into were-cat form, half boy, half black panther.  Ged himself was there as himself, waiting to see what might be needed before he transformed.

What they burst in upon was easily as disconcerting as anything they might’ve expected.  Tara was dressed in luxurious purple silks and holding in her arms a tiny baby, possibly a girl.  In fact, Ged immediately felt the baby’s mind probe into his head.  It wasn’t just any baby.  It was his daughter.  Next to Tara, and clutching her right hand like a love-sick puppy, was one of the three rulers of Mingo Sector, Raylond King.  King, of course, was nothing like you’d expect from the macabre rulers of a mechano-zombie world of rot warriors and ruined palaces.  He wore black eye make-up to make his pale face slightly sinister, but this dark lord had an innocent-looking cherub’s face in so many ways.  The horned helmet he wore on his head was in many ways more of a child’s toy than a warrior-king’s helm.  He was also dressed in a purple silk robe.

“Prepare to die, King!” growled Emperor Mong from a spot safely behind Ged and his student-warriors.

“Ged!” cried Tara, confused.  “You’ve come!  But…”

Ged’s eyes grew immediately sad and dark.

“I am not trying to hurt her!” insisted Raylond King as two human torches, a telekinetic ninja, and a cat-child all closed in around him.

“Stop!” ordered Ged.  “You don’t require assistance, do you, Tara?”

“No.  Not now, I don’t.  Where were you all when those Monopoly Brigade pigs were torturing me and having their way with me?”  The bright mental fire of Tara’s recent pain burned into Ged’s mind with humbling accusations.

“I’m sorry, Tara.  I should have come immediately.”

Ged knew she could read the self-blame and self-loathing that consumed him.   Her anger softened like butter on a hot skillet.  He could feel it happening, and he felt the baby responding to it too.

“Ged, you know I still love you, but…”

Ged’s mind flitted to the beautiful Lizard Lady.  “I love you too, but…” he stammered.

Tara began to laugh a soft, tittery laugh.  “We have been foolish,” she said.  “Both of us.  I want you to get to know Lord King here.  He’s a very special man, and he rescued me when my life was at an end.”

Ged stepped forward and bowed to the young ruler.

“I owe you a great debt for saving Tara,” he stated simply.

Raylond King’s eyes dipped downward.  He blushed delicately, like a woman.  “I didn’t do it for you…”

“It’s all right,” said Ged.  “She never was mine to be jealous over.  I am honored to meet the one who will be her partner in life.”        

King now took a turn at bowing.

“What will you do with the child?” Ged asked Tara.

“She will be yours, more than mine,” said Tara.  “As soon as she is old enough to be independent of me, we will send her to you.  The planet Gaijin?  Is that right?”

Of course, she already knew it was right.  She only asked that of Ged to be polite, sensitive to the fact that she automatically invaded the privacy of his mind every time they were both in the same room.

“I am happy for you,” said Ged sadly.

“I am happy for you, too,” said Tara, almost as wistfully.

“Waitaminnit!” cried Mong in frustration.  “He’s a leader of your enemies!  Kill him!  I demand that you kill him now!”

“Actually,” said Ged, “He’s my new ally.  He will administer this planet for us, and I will gladly turn you over to his custody.”

Emperor Mong fainted dead away.  Rocket and Phoenix extinguished their fire.  Shu Kwai let all his small swirling stones settle to the ground.  Freddy actually began to purr.

“Thank you, Ged Aero,” said King.  Ged smiled.  He knew this man was the perfect choice to take care of Tara.  The planet would change dramatically under his stewardship.

“Oh!  Ged!” cried Tara suddenly.  “I found the most terrible thought in Mong’s evil head!  Your brother Ham was trapped by Admiral Tang at the battle for the planet Coventry!”

“Ham has found a way out of serious situations like that on his own in the past.  I am afraid I have to depend on him to do it again.  I have these responsibilities to care for… as well as a doomsday device from the Ancients to deal with.”

While the adults were talking, Jackie had sidled up near Tara where she could look at the baby.

“She’s beautiful,” Jackie said.  “Can I hold her?”

Tara handed the baby to her almost without thinking.  Without talking aloud she said to Ged, “You must spend some time consulting with us about the planet, the joining with the New Star League, and what to do with Mong.  We will also talk about how we are going to help you complete your quest with the doomsday thing.”

“What is the baby’s name?” Jackie asked.

“Amanda King,” said Tara aloud.

“Amanda Aero-King!” declared the baby loudly in everyone’s mind.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 155

Canto 155 – The Killer Clowns of Mingo

“Let me introduce myself.  I am Smiley Creaturefeature, Imperial Harlequin of the Triumvirate now present on Mingo!”

A second Harlequin also stepped through the ruined doorway.  “And I am Sharpwhistle Crackplatter, his second in command.”

The two costumed cyborgs both switched on a feature of their armor simultaneously and immediately sent the entire hallway into chaos.  Flashing and strobing colored lights along with barely audible sonic waves warped the senses of all the Psions the cyborgs faced, and Emperor Mong even couldn’t get his pants pulled back up.

Phoenix and Rocket both ignited their fire forms, but neither was able to see through their own flames because of the constant color-changing lights.

Jackie was unable to concentrate enough to teleport. The sonic waves kept her from using her inner eye.

Shu could pick up rocks and debris, but his telekinetic senses were fooled enough by the lights that he couldn’t accurately target anything.

Ged’s senses also were overwhelmed.  But he took a moment to think, letting Smiley and Sharpwhatsit cartwheel around him and his distressed students.  He didn’t particularly care what they maybe wanted to do to Mong.

Now, the Blind Kraken of Jargoon was a creature with no sense of sight or capability of hearing.  It’s tentacles were guided by a superb heat-sensory organ that could identify shapes and locations of both hot and cool things  And the amphibious creature had no problem being completely out of the water for long periods of time.  And Ged had both hunted and eaten one more than an Earth decade ago.

“What is that blobby white thing?” Smiley said to Sharpwhatsit.

“Dunno… but it don’t look bullet-proof.”

Both Harlequins whipped out slug-throwing weapons called machine guns and filled the air with projectiles.  Ged used several of his twenty tentacles to shift his writhing students out of harm’s way while his gelatinous body absorbed and digested all the slugs that hit him.

“It seems to like that!” shouted Sharpwhatsit as he did a handspring and cast the machine gun aside.

“Lasers, then?” asked Smiley.

“Lasers, yes!” answered the other clown.

The medium-laser pistols they both pulled out fired hot laser light at Ged’s shape-changing body.  He not only absorbed the attacks, the extra heat energy he absorbed made his tentacles quicker.

The first catch was Smiley Creaturefeature’s right ankle.  The second catch was Smiley’s gun hand.  Then he poured megajoules of heat energy into Smiley’s limbs, completely melting his muscle-control circuits. He was completely immobilized though he was still alive in the way that cyborgs are alive, He was out of the battle.

“I will avenge you, Smiley,” hollered Sharpwhatsit.  He cast away the laser and pulled out a vibro-sword.  Each tentacle that Ged reached out with was immediately lopped off and rendered useless.

But the Electric Coil Monster of New Spain had once been hunted by Ged and his brother, and then dissected for the scientist that hired them.  Ged knew it inside out.

When Sharpwhistle Crackplatter’s blade embedded itself in Ged’s coil, he sent a lightning charge of electricity coursing through the surprised dancing clown.  He fell writhing to the floor, all his circuits shorting out, making him as dead as an undead cyborg can technically be.

The students, no longer incapacitated by the Harlequins, stood around Ged as he transformed back into his human form.

“I hope we don’t have to overcome any more of those things,” said Phoenix.

“You should go after the Triumvirs that have your girlfriend right now before they call up any more of those terrible monsters,” whined Mong, still sniveling.

“Lead us there,” Ged commanded.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 154

Canto 154 – Mingo Mix-It-Ups

The fight had been almost boring as the waves of rot warriors shambled forward, trying to aim their various spears, guns, and lasers, and then being disassembled by the student Psions of Ged Aero’s Dojo.  Shu Kwai had been the most destructive, able to rip out electronic controls with a mere thought.  Phoenix had also laid waste, melting the circuitry out of the Mechanoid-zombie army of Mong the Unmerciful.  The minions of Mong had melted like margarine in a microwave.  Ged had found himself in his armored cat form with nothing to actually do.

The invaders soon found themselves virtually in control of the Ruined Palace of David King.  Jackie teleported back to the Celestial Dragon and picked up Gyro.  The little Neulon whiz kid hooked up some software in an injector device he had pulled together by rearranging molecules with his mind. He then linked it to an uncrushed rot-warrior skull and pulled out a map of the complex through the skull’s control link to the building’s computer system.

“What’d you find there, Smurf?” Phoenix asked almost immediately.

“I am finding Emperor Mong in his suite surrounded by rot-warrior generals trying to destroy two guys called Triumvirs with an even bigger horde of rot warriors than we just polished off,” said Gyro, grinning at his own manipulative genius at controlling computers without relying on Junior’s special Psion power.

“What?” said Phoenix, frowning.

“He’s telling you he found the Emperor in his private living quarters focusing his attacks on somebody besides us,” said Shu Kwai with an icy superiority.

Phoenix frowned at the nearly naked boy in his white loincloth.  Ged could feel tension building again between the two.

“Okay,” said Phoenix, “so what do we do now, Ged Sensei?”

“We go pay Mong a little visit,” Ged answered, now back in human form and dressed in the jumpsuit and fedora hat he had brought with him.

“Has he detected us?” Rocket asked Gyro.

“I don’t know for sure, but maybe not.  He is in… I don’t know how to say it in Galactic English.  The kapooiac.”

“I have a feeling that means the fresher… or restroom… probably,” suggested Phoenix.

“Let’s go quickly,” ordered Shu Kwai, “so we can maintain as much surprise as possible.”

Gyro led the way through bone-littered corridors.  The whole place had the feel of an old black-and-white monster movie.  This wasn’t surprising, since the Galtorrians had based much of their culture on the TV programs they intercepted from ancient Earth in the 1950s and 1960s.  In fact, Galactic English had become the norm in the Orion Spur due to the fact that the Galtorrians worshipped the TV comedy I Love LucyThrough artificial cobwebs and gray stonework, they wound their way down into the bowels of the palace.  Finally, Gyro stopped them before a blank stone wall.

 “There is a secret door here,” he said with a sweet blue smile.

“Good,” said Phoenix.  “I’ll open it!”

A wall of flame swelled outward from Phoenix’s fingertips.  The wall of artificial stone and plasticrete melted away before them, revealing Mong on his personal throne.  It was not his throne of office, either, but rather the natural place one goes when he can no longer keep his bowels from emptying from fear.

“Eeuw!  Gross!” cried Jackie, staring at the emperor with his pants down.

Mong was cringing while staring out from under his golden skullcap with the carved dragon as its crest.  His Fu Manchu moustache was wet with tears of fear.

“Oh, great Ged Aero!  You are the one my agents have been telling me about, aren’t you?”  Mong’s voice was squeaky and timid, surprising from so sinister a caped figure, even with his pants down on his throne and toilet paper in hand.  Shu Kwai, Rocket, Phoenix, and Gyro all laughed about this man they had so recently dreaded.

“Mong, I have come for her,” said Ged.  “I want Tara Salongi back.”

“What?  I don’t have your young lady!  But you have to defend me!  Protect me from those clowns and I will gladly give her back to you!”

The pitiful evil emperor was pleading in such a sniveling, groveling manner that Ged couldn’t bear it.

“Do you have her?  Or don’t you?  All I require from you,” said Ged, “is to lead me to Tara and then flee this planet for your pitiful life.  If I don’t get her back, I will hunt you down and tear you to pieces.”

There was a large, startling crash as someone tore the fresher door on the opposite side out of the wall.

Ged’s eyes flashed with anger, an emotion that none of the students present had ever actually seen in him before.  It chilled them all to the bone.

An armored clown stepped through the hole.  He was obviously a cyborg, but far more sophisticated than any rot warrior they had yet encountered.

“So, Mong is not out of champions yet!” declared the Harlequin menacingly.

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Nebulons

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Part of the Traveller Role-Playing Game is dealing with alien races.  So, as a game master for the Traveller Adventures back in the 1980’s, I had the opportunity to create alien races of my own.  Truthfully, the alien Telleron race that I created for the novel Catch a Falling Star already existed in my cartoons and fiction stories before I began playing the role-playing game.  The Nebulon Race, however, was invented entirely for the game.  Only later did they become a part of my fiction.

Space Cowboys3  So, what are Nebulons?  Gyro Sinjarac on the left in the picture is an example from Aeroquest of a Nebulon.  They are aliens who are human in every respect except for their blue skin.  Interestingly they can even successfully interbreed with Earther humans.  This is apparently due to either the evolution of Nebulons from Earther explorers, or, more likely, the galaxy being seeded with Earth humans and Earther DNA by the mysterious alien race known only as “the Ancients”.  What is not debatable is that Nebulons have unique skin.  The blue skin with high levels of natural copper sulfate in it has evolved as a protection from interstellar nebula radiation.  No one who has learned their language and studied their culture has ever identified a planet of origin.  Instead, the Nebulons have been a space-born race since humans first encountered them, travelling in  their symbiotic space-whale space cruisers.  They are a mysterious deep-space race of alien beings who use organic symbiotes,  in other words, living creatures, as their pervasive technology.

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Junior Aero makes an excellent example to use to explain what Nebulons are.  You can see by this picture that not only does he possess the Nebulon blue skin, but also the bright yellow hair, the red heat-transfer cheek organs, and the small stature that makes them easily satirized as “Space Smurfs” in honor of Peyo’s beloved blue comic characters.

The Nebulons as a race are often cited as evidence of the evolutionary trend of intelligent races towards neoteny, the retention of childlike features into maturity and adulthood.  Even the oldest and the most physically fit of the adult Nebulon population resemble children and young teenagers rather than Arnold-Schwarzenegger-like humans.   But believing them to be soft and weak like children is a mistake that often yields tragedy for those who contend against them, especially in battle.  The Nebulons have often fought in space wars like the 5th Unification War, both for and against the human-led Imperium.

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But the Nebulons are not automatically at odds with humanoid races in any way.  They are generally happy in demeanor and temperament,  easily befriending other races, even the snake-eyed Galtorrian humans that tend to dominate the Imperium.  They seem to be particularly fond of Pan-Galactican Space Cowboys, having helped them during the border conflicts with the mysterious race known as the Faceless Horde.

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So, there is a glop of information about an alien race from my science-fiction comedy writing that you can sort out as you like, and can probably learn from as a science fiction writer yourself.  They are probably an excellent example of what not to do when creating a science-fiction-style alien race of your own.

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AeroQuest 5 – Canto 153

Canto 153 – Stealth

The corridors of the Ruined Palaces were empty and still.  Much dust danced through an empty-hall ballet as the stillness of disuse filled the place.  Then, as suddenly as a star goes nova, there was a loud crack as Jadalaqstbr brought Ged Aero into the palace by teleportation.

Ged’s brown fedora fell from his head and began rolling away. 

“Are you all right, Ged-sensei?”  Jackie’s brown face showed concern even though recently Alec Songh had led her to be a bit disrespectful and defiant.

“I didn’t know teleporting left you disoriented like that,” said Ged, trapping his hat with a foot before it rolled too far.

“It doesn’t do that to me, but Alec says it bothers him.”

“We may need to be quieter in a place we have invaded.”

“Yes, sorry,” Jackie whispered.  “Are you ready for me to go back for the next one?”

“Yes.”

At the word from the master, another thunderous crack marked Jadalaqstbr’s departure.  Ged used the moment to begin his planned transformation.  He changed his head into a tiger’s head for the sensitive nose, but it was not an earth tiger.  It was the head of a large black Talosian tiger.  And Ged did not settle for the mere body of a tiger.  The cat-form he created was sheathed in armor plates much like the armored auger-creatures of the planet Nix, supple yet impenetrable.  It also had wings like the great war-eagles of Barad Allamar, large enough to carry a ton of creature mass through the air.

When Jackie cracked the air next, it was Phoenix she carried.  She set him down and immediately imploded through space again.

“Ged-dono?” asked Phoenix, hesitation in his sarcastic voice for the first time that Ged was aware of.

“Yesss, thiss iss mmmme.  New formmmm.”  The tiger’s tongue was thick and slurred in his huge mouth.

“Good trick,” said Phoenix, nodding.  “I have one to show you, too.”

Phoenix’s transformation was even more alarming than Ged’s.  Fire started around his hands, and then began to crackle around his entire form.  He seemed to become a boy of living flame.

“RRRRrrrr?” questioned Ged.

“I call it fire-form,” said Phoenix.  “I am intact under here and able to breathe normally.  I’m really just wearing fire like anyone else would wear clothes.”

Ged nodded his massive head.  It was a good trick that might serve Phoenix well.

Jackie burst onto the scene once again with Rocket Rogers in her grip.  She dropped the cowboy-hatted boy onto the floor tiles and vanished yet again.

“Wow!” said Rocket, “I’ve been missing quite a party.”

“Look into my mind, Rocket,” said Phoenix from within the flames.  “You can do this too.”

Ged had been impressed during lessons at how willingly Phoenix would teach his skills to Rocket.  The cowboy fire-starter was a quick learner, too.  Ged wasn’t entirely sure he was comfortable with Phoenix becoming a better instructor than Ged himself.  He couldn’t deny, though, that Rocket could learn more effectively from someone who shared the same skills.

Jackie disappeared yet again.

Rocket burst into flame, his cowboy hat sizzling away to cinders.

“Dang!” said Rocket.  “I goofed.  I burned up all my clothes and my best cowboy hat.”

“Did you burn yourself?” said Phoenix’s fire-form to Rocket’s fire form.

“No, I’m okay.  I get the part about a cool layer just below the flame.  I can do the temperature layers just the way you pictured it for me, but I have to learn to get the thicknesses right.”

“You learrrn fast,” remarked the Ged tiger.

“Thank you, sensei.  Phoenix is a good teacher, just like you.”

 When Jackie reappeared she carried Shu Kwai, the final member of the strike team.  He was dressed in a white leather vest, tooled with interlocking spider designs, a white loincloth, and white tabai boots.  He carried a pearlescent trident with three wickedly sharp tines.  For a boy of twelve, he looked formidable.  He had learned enough martial arts skills from Ged and from Alec Songh to be deadly, even when he didn’t enhance his blows with telekinesis.  Like Ged himself, though, this boy was dedicated to winning any battle without causing any injury or death.

“Are we ready?” asked Phoenix within his fire-form.

“We will find our way easily,” said Shu Kwai with that quiet confidence that made him so spooky.  “The mission will be no challenge.”

Ged had to wonder if the Gaijinese boy was trying to reassure himself and the others, or was simply stating what he knew to be a fact.  Ged knew one of these three boys would end up being the leader of the entire group.  He simply didn’t know which.  But the time had come for action.  Ged’s tiger nose detected the approach of rotting flesh and circuitry.  Rot warriors were headed their direction.

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AeroQuest 5… Adagio 23

Adagio 23 – The Planet Mingo

Mingo was one of those most worrisome of things, a cartoonish bad guy world full of grotesque evil dudes and shambling undead Mechanoids.  You could tell just by looking it was evil.  The skies were polluted a dark, rusty orange from industrial waste and the foul stench of death.

If you couldn’t tell its evil nature by looking at it, as Emperor Slythinus no longer could, you could also tell its rank foulness from the never-ending smell of the place, something Slythinus also couldn’t do, because he was not only blind, but also stone-cold dead.  The Mechanoid industry of recycling used flesh gave the place an air of death and decay.  The air was artificially regenerated, but no one bothered with purification.  The denizens of the planet, for the most part, loved it the way it was. The cityscape was endless, crusting over even the planet’s ample oceans.  The concrete-gray and soot-blackened features of the place were oppressive.  The most impressive sights on the planet were the well-known Ruined Palaces District, once the site of the Imperial Capitol, before the Galtorrian Jihad had removed Imperial rule back to Galtorr Prime.

The majority of the vast population of the place was now Mechanoids, the crusty re-animated remains of humans and Galtorrians remade into a deathless life-form of rotting flesh and robotic circuits.  Oh, there were human and Galtorrian people there who were living, but the effort to create deathless soldiers and an ageless workforce had emptied every graveyard and charnel pit to a point where the once-dead outnumbered the living ten to one

The ruler of the planet preferred to call himself an Emperor instead of a Duke or Prince.  Emperor Mong was a cartoonish bad guy in all the clichéd ways that cartoonish bad guys are always portrayed, only cartoonier.  I know that isn’t a real word in galactic English, but you get the idea, and after all, I am a scientist, not a poet!  Mong wore his pointy little Van Dyke beard in the fashion of Mephistopheles.  He loved helmets with fancy carved dragons on the crest and silk robes in bright colors, complete with a melodramatic cape and cowl.  He was a brooding, evil, and thoroughly stinky bad guy who only got his jollies from coming up with really elaborate and fiendish tortures for his arch-enemy Brash Gordon.  Unfortunately, the heroic Brash had long ago expired in Mong’s prison, and Mong had nobody to turn his terrifyingly terrible attention to but the whole rest of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Weren’t we lucky!

The standing orders on Mingo were that anyone who died was, by law, transformed immediately into a rot warrior.  These were the brainless Mechanoid soldiers that Mong maintained as his standing army, well, leaning-shambling-drooling army.  They were all controlled by that infamous intelligent computer known as the Master Cylinder; Mong’s most evil of numerous evil henchmen.

Now, Slythinus, when he was in actual control of the Galtorr Imperium, had greatly feared the machinations of Emperor Mong.  He knew that Mong would one day try to challenge him for Imperial rule.  Mingo, after all, was one of only four planets that had ever been the Capitol of the Thousand Worlds.  Galtorr Prime, Earth, and Regina were the other three.  It had a long tradition of rulership.  Each of the standing Ruined Palaces represented a former ruler who once held and lost power in the Imperium, and was a native of the wicked planet Mingo.  So, Slythinus had craftily set up a triumvirate of rulers in the Mingo Sector of the Imperium to divide up and dilute the power.  He had appointed Ancillus King and Karg Hardretter as co-rulers.  These two black-bearded villains had a vicious and aggressive character that easily matched Mong.

Still, Mong would win out in the end.  A famous assassin Mechanoid by the name of Ace Campfield got the better of both King and Hardretter, leaving their young sons to fill their empty thrones.  These Mong tolerated as long as they presented no real threat to his rule.  When Slythinus was himself out of power, Mong was free to do away with both Raylond King and Smoky Hardretter, a thing he hadn’t gotten around to doing since both boys were soft-natured and lacked the evil streaks that ran through both of their fathers.

So, all in all, the planet Mingo was a very, very terrible place, in a way that probably needs six more verys, though I know that that’s not a good word either, especially if you use it too much.

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