Tagged: technology

Real Steel

Real Steel is an interesting blend of the underdog sports movie and science fiction, and from the first frame, you know exactly what will happen by the time the end credits roll. There’s nothing wrong with that since we knew exactly what was coming in Rocky or Remember the Titans and both were strong, entertaining films. The challenge for the director and cast is to make arriving at the inevitable conclusion as entertaining as possible and in this case, the film exceeded expectations.

Coming out tomorrow for home video from Touchstone Home Entertainment, the Shawn Levy-directed film looks terrific and has rock solid sound so you hear the gears grinding and Danny Elfman’s score soar with fidelity.

The story is set in 2027, a time when human boxers have been replaced by oversized robotic creations that are basically Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots controlled by a video game interface. Atop the heap is the most advanced bit of Artificial Intelligence in the hulking Zeus, built and controlled by the film’s sort of bad guys, the too cool to be true Tak Mashido (Karl Yune) and Farra Lemcova (Olga Fonda). Way down the food chain is former boxer and failed robot boxing controller Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman). He owes money, his life sucks, and he’s so focused on finding the next fight to earn some cash that he is merely existing, not living. That changes when his old flame Caroline dies and he’s summoned to court to sign away all parental rights to his son Max (Dakota Goyo), a smart and smart-mouthed 11 year old. In need of a cash infusion, Charlie agrees to take Max for the summer so his Aunt and her husband can take an unencumbered Italian vacation in exchange for $100,000.




Dreams of Steam III

Oil up the keys on that old typewriter and give us your best! Following the success of our Steampunk anthologies, “Dreams of Steam” and “Dreams of Steam II”, we are back for more!

If you are not familiar with the Steampunk genre, please take a look at the stories in either anthology to get an idea as to what we are looking for. Think of days past when steam powered machinery was the height of modern technology and when men and women dressed in their Victorian-esque finest. Give us your best and most unique stories within this genre. Please do not make references to or use copywritten characters from other known sources. We will only accept unpublished, original works, characters, and story lines.

Due to the massive number of submissions, please pay very close attention to all the submission guidelines. Any submission with excessive formatting, spelling, or editing issues will be immediately disqualified.

Good luck and may the Power of Steam be with you!

Please include on the front page of your manuscript:

               Name (and pen name, if you desire)


               Phone Number

               E-mail Address

               Number of words (limit 9,000)

               Short bio of 350 words or less.

Submissions should be made in standard double-spaced manuscript format using only one font (preferably Times New Roman 12pt). Stories can be e-mailed to request@kerlakpublishing.com as a MS Word .doc or .rtf (Rich Text Format) attachment.

Deadline for submissions is 5/31/2012. If your story is selected, you will be contacted by 7/30/2012. Paper submissions will not be returned.

If your story is selected for publication, payment will be $20.00 U.S. upon release of the book. This is a royalty release. Royalty rate to be set after the finalists have been selected.

Hard-copy manuscripts should be accompanied by a digital copy in .doc or .rtf format sent on a CD or other modern digital storage format. Stories should be sent to:

Steampunk Submissions

Kimberly Richardson, Editor

c/o Kerlak Publishing

1779 Kirby Parkway, #1-373

Memphis, TN 38138

For any additional questions, please contact Kimberly Richardson at request@kerlakpublishing.com

Review: “Spaceman” #1

Review: “Spaceman” #1

We all know Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso work well together. Uttering the duo’s name automatically triggers thoughts of quality. I know for me, the pair rests near the top of creative teams of the last decade. Sometimes, though, I believe we forget how truly great these guys are together. We acknowledge their high esteem in the medium, but after a while we get into the habit of just accepting without truly seeing. We lack the sort of realization you can only experience when you’re sitting down with one of their comics–the sensation that as you turn the page, you know you’re reading something special because your mind is being blown.

Azzarello and Risso do comics how they should be done. These men, along with colorist Patricia Mulvihill, construct sophisticated worlds and atmospheres and then tell you all about in just as sophisticated a fashion. The approach is reserved and cool. The necessary hints are subtly placed, and the reader’s own effort tells the tale. Azzarello/Risso books are, simply said, confident, independent and sexy.

And Spaceman #1 held the crown as the single best comic book of October. Easily.

With Spaceman, we’re told the story of a genetically engineered man who’s life-long purpose was to go to Mars. In reality, his goal was never reached, and when we meet him he’s simply a junkie trapped in a world of decay.


DENNIS O’NEIL: Writers vs Editors… Forever

So there I was, sitting at my desk, surrounded by the detritus of the editorial life, not being productive, listening to the voices coming from across the hall: a fellow editor and a freelance writer engaged in something about half way between discussion and argument.

Editor: It’s not the kind of thing we publish.

Writer: But it’s what I want to write!

But we don’t do stuff like that.

But it’s what I want to write!

Another volley of buts, both articulated and implicit, and the meeting ended with the writer still needing to find a way to pay his bills.

I was an editor for more than two decades; you know whom I sided with.

But…what was with the writer, anyhow? Was this an instance of an ego bloating up and strangling its host? Or – and here we enter The Region of Psychological Murk – was the writer subconsciously sabotaging himself so he wouldn’t have to face the possibility of failure?

Or did he have something?

I mean, the writers (and artists) are the creative ones, right? Shouldn’t they be allowed to go where their instincts take them, tugging readers, publishers and those rat bastards known as editors along behind them?

In a word: no. But this is a qualified no.

Begin with the implicit contract between publication and consumer. People have a right to the kind of entertainment (or information) they’ve paid for. Fail to provide it and they’ll fail to continue buying your product.

Now, the qualification on the previous but: What was stated in the preceding paragraph is not an insistence on storytellers repeating the old, shabby tropes, month after month, year after year until the sun cools. If they do, they’ll lose their audience as surely as if they weren’t delivering what the audience is paying for. The material has to be either current or somehow timeless and current is a lot easier. If it isn’t, the audience won’t be able to identify with it and they probably won’t be interested for long. Things change – things must change. (Sorry, you anti-Darwinists, it’s that kind of universe.)

I’m not advocating change for its own sake; that might be another form of ego-bloat. No, I’m saying that an altered world – altered technology, altered mores, altered institutions – suggests new kinds of storytelling that can be achieved without violating the premises of character or genre. Or writers might try delving into what already exists – finding elements already in the material that have been ignored and using it for the sort of story fodder that readers will find fresh and entertaining while, again, preserving character and genre. Or a writer might involve his fiction in subject matter that is new to it, but – yes, again – doesn’t wreck what the reader already likes.

Does all this squash self-expression? Not a bit of it. A long time ago, Raymond Chandler said that the trick to writing genre fiction was to give the reader what the reader wants while getting what the writer wants in, too. Chandler himself proved that it can be done.

RECOMMENDED READING: Ego: The Fall of the Twin Towers and the Rise of an Enlightened Humanity, by Peter Baumann and Michael W. Taft. This splendid little book delivers exactly what the title advertises.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

The Thunderbirds’ Arctic Adventure!

Press Release:

Arctic Adventure! A Thunderbirds novel by Anthony Taylor is now available.

Brains is the genius behind International Rescue’s technology. Besides designing and upgrading all of their equipment, he constantly develops and tests new products and processes, sometimes in partnership with outside interests. Eager to try out a new stealth system of his invention, Brains teams up with Humboldt Aviation to install his system on their new aircraft, the V-17. On the first test flight, the V-17 is shot down over the arctic by agents of the outlaw state of Reznia. With the aircraft shattered and partly buried in the ice, Brains and the V-17’s pilot are injured and unable to free themselves. Although Brains is able to contact International Rescue for recovery, the Reznians are also converging on the crash site in order to claim the wreckage for their research. Can the rest of International Rescue find and retrieve Brains and the V-17 pilot before the Reznians can capture them and the crashed plane?

Ordering information for Thunderdirds Arctic Adventure novel can be found at http://shop.ftlpublications.com/product.sc?productId=21&categoryId=1

Item #: 978-0-9825232-5-4


Readers outside the USA and Canada can order via http://www.ftlpublications.com/ordering.htm.

Thunderbirds ™ and © ITC Entertainment Group Limited 1964, 1999 and 2011. Licensed by Granada Ventures Ltd. All rights reserved.


Publication Date: Oct 27 2011
ISBN/EAN13: 1466481900 / 9781466481909
Page Count: 184
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 6″ x 9″
Language: English
Color: Black and White
Related Categories: Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Short Stories
The hard-boiled private eye genre is one I dearly love.  The trench-coated shamus with a cigarette dangling from his lip, .45 automatic or .38 revolver in a well-worn shoulder holster, fedora pulled down low over his forehead, the faithful gum-chewing secretary and even more faithful fifth of scotch in the desk drawer…it’s a genre I never get enough of.  And since television and movies have apparently abandoned the P.I. it’s up to writers like Lee Houston, Jr. and books like HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE to give me my fix.
Let me explain; even though Hugh Monn lives and works on the far distant planet of Frontera interacting with many different species and using advanced technology, the tone and feel of the character and the eight stories in the book are pure 1950’s.  Lee drops in a mention here and there of some bit of sci-fi such as a character having green or purple skin or Hugh’s weapon of choice being a Nuke 653 Rechargeable but that’s just throwaways Lee lobs at us once in a while to remind us that we’re not on Earth.  But he doesn’t go into any real detail as to how this future civilization operates or how the technology works.  When the subject of detective stories crossed with science fiction comes up, I usually mention Larry Niven’s stories and novels about Gil The Arm or Roger Zelazny’s “My Name Is Legion” since in those stories, the science fiction is integral to the story.  Take out the science fiction and you wouldn’t have a story.  Not so with Lee’s Hugh Monn stories.  They could easily have been set in 1950’s Los Angeles or New York with a little rewriting.  But I digress…let’s take HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE for what it is, not for what it isn’t.
Hugh Monn is a Human and yes, he freely admits to his clients that his name is a gag.  But one he prefers to use as he’s got some pretty big secrets in his past he’d prefer to keep to himself.  As a detective, Hugh is capable, sharp, principled and dogged in his determination to solve his cases and get to the truth.  Hugh isn’t a pain-in-the-ass who rebels against authority and isn’t a lone wolf who doesn’t play by the rules.  Matter of fact, Hugh conducts himself as a total professional.  He doesn’t shoot when he doesn’t have to, he’s polite to everybody he meets and he co-operates with the authorities.  In particular, Lawbot 714 who he runs into in a couple of stories and who I wouldn’t mind seeing become a regular if Lee gives us more Hugh Monn cases.  He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, he likes kids; he holds open the doors for old ladies.  I think you can tell where I’m going with this.  Hugh’s a fine detective but as a character I found myself wishing that once in a while he’d haul off and slug a suspect for no good reason other than he doesn’t like the fact the guy has eight eyes.  Hugh could stand to be a little rougher and not so polite.
The story “Shortages” is a good example of how Hugh Monn solves a case using his understanding of both humans and aliens and his powers of observation.  It also introduces the character of Big Louie, a Primoid.  Big Louie is the main suspect in a series of thefts being committed at a high security pier.  It’s a pretty good locked room mystery and the relationship between Hugh and Big Louie is the primary attraction in this story, as in “At What Price Gloria?”  Hugh and Big Louie have to rescue Big Louie’s wife Gloria and stop an assassination attempt.  I only wish more of the stories had been as suspenseful as this one.  In some of them, the mystery really isn’t that hard to figure out as there’s a lack of suspects so the solution comes down to either being this one or that one.  And I never got a sense of Hugh being in any real danger in any of these stories.  But Lee should be commended for trying different types of stories such as “For The Benefit of Master Tyke” which hinges more on the healing of a family than the solving of any real crime.  I picked up halfway through “Where Can I Get A Witness?” is intended as a homage to the 1944 film noir “Laura” and I enjoyed it until the very last paragraph where it felt to me as if the writer had stepped in to give his opinion of his own story and didn’t allow his character to do so.
So should you read HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE?  As a first book from a new writer, I’m inclined to give Lee a pat on the back.  There’s a lot to like in his writing style.  He does know how to keep a story moving but he shouldn’t shy away from rolling in the dirt and giving his characters some sharp edges.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Hugh Monn tackle some more cases but I also wouldn’t mind seeing Lee Houston, Jr. strip away the political correctness and explore the real darkness of Frontera.

Tree of Life

tree-of-life-300x358-4860061The story goes that in Stamford CT, so many people walked out of Tree of Life and demanded their money back that the management had to post a sign explaining the movie was not your traditional story and that no more refunds would be issued. On the one hand, it says people pick movies indiscriminately and it also says without being prepared, more thoughtful works can be poorly received.

Director Terrence Malick is an artist with film, turning the moving picture into portraiture. Since his first film, Badlands, the cinematography alone is a reason to seek out his films. There’s usually a long wait between his movies because he takes his time conceiving, making and editing each one, building up anticipation from his fans and the actors who love to work with him. Few get to do it twice although the current movie does feature Sean Penn for a second effort. Recently, though, he has bad mouthed the film, wondering what he was doing in it and yes, Tree of Life can be a real headscratching experience.

But, Malick gets credit for tackling the big issues of life, the universe, and everything. He focuses on a single nuclear family, seemingly set in the 1950s, but all the themes are large ones. So large, in fact, that when there’s a fissure, everything cracks apart. And when that occurs, Malick takes us back to the beginning, and I mean the beginning. We’re talking the Big Bang, a cooling planet and the beginning of life. The lush origins of our world through the early days of the dinosaur is a wonder to watch and it transfers brilliantly to the home screen in the Blu-ray edition coming this Tuesday from 20th Century Home Entertainment.

Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain are a happily married couple, raising three boys in an idyllic American suburb. Most of the film follows their development through those pivotal childhood years and like a work of literature, says more through what is not spoken than is conveyed in dialogue.By setting this in the past, it automatically evokes a sense of longing in the audience. Curiously, this is a past without much in the way of technology: no radio or television, just a phonograph. (more…)


August 25th, 2011 – Runnemede, NJ – The iconic legend Flash Gordon is making his dynamic splash back into comics with Dynamite Entertainment this November!

Flash Gordon – Zeitgeist

As Flash Gordon’s story begins, it is a time of two-fisted swashbuckling, of fearsome threats and wild adventure-and of ever-growing threats on the horizon. Three valiant humans — Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov — are plucked from the Earth, traveling to the distant planet Mongo. Their exploits are legendary, battling the machinations and terror schemes of the dreaded emperor Ming, the All-Seeing Ruler of Mongo. But they did not fight alone! And coming up, witness a startling meeting with Ming the Merciless! With the fate of our world helpless, can even Flash Gordon save us?

Alex Ross had this to say about Flash Gordon – Zeitgeist, “Finally, after all this time, I’m working on a Flash Gordon series that brings the best I have to contribute to this legendary character and forerunner of all comic books!”

“I couldn’t be happier about this project,” stated writer Eric Trautmann. “It is a genuine treat to be able to let my inner ‘pulpster’ out, and write in an idiom I rarely get to play in, which has a rich core of optimism and innocence. We’re very much approaching the comic as if it were the Flash Gordon movie we’d all want to see. Add to that, I’ve adored Flash Gordon for as long as I’ve been reading, and the opportunity to play with Alex Raymond’s material — in a way I don’t think has been done before — is truly exciting. The Raymond strips were just so plot-dense, with a sense of ‘anything goes’ that I look for — often unsuccessfully — in contemporary comics. And, of course, several times a week, I check my e-mail, and find a dozen amazing pieces of artwork from Alex Ross; I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has a greater understanding of the characters, or who harbors more affection for them, than Alex. He has laser-like clarity about the look and feel of the characters, the setting, the story, technology, making it all look new, and at the same time quite familiar. He’s an exceptional ‘vision holder’ for our tale.”

“Dynamite has added another classic character to our growing library of comics,” says Dynamite Entertainment President and Publisher Nick Barrucci. “Eric has put together an amazing story and all Flash Gordon fans will fall in love with this book, just as I have!”


To learn more about Dynamite Entertainment, visit www.dynamite.net
#1 is written by Eric Trautmann (Vampirella, Red Sonja), from a story and designs by Alex Ross (Project: Superpowers, Kingdom Come, Marvels), and illustrated by Daniel Lindro!

DENNIS O’NEIL: Green Lantern’s Unused Potential

I wonder why the Guardians of the Universe never got past the projectile–hurling stage.

Yes, we’re again riding the Green Lantern hobby horse and noticing that his almighty ring operates a lot like Doctor Strange’s conjuration and Harry Potter’s wand. They operate a lot like guns. They shoot stuff out. Exactly what the stuff is made of isn’t much defined, but it generally does what bullets do: hit and smash and shatter.

Ask yourself: wouldn’t the weaponry of the oldest, wisest, most technologically advanced cadre of blue-skinned savants in the whole, star-spangled universe be better than high-tech battering rams?

Turn, now, to Marvel Comics’ Master of the Mystic Arts, Dr. Stephen Strange, and young Master Potter of Hogwarts. Their eldritch pyrotechnics are pretty impressive, especially on a big screen in 3D, but, really, in essence aren’t they just glorified roman candles? If magic exists (and can you say with absolute certainty that it doesn’t?) isn’t it more subtle?

Might not it…oh, say, cause tiny, undetectable alterations in the invisible rhythms and perturbations of nature? Can’t it achieve its ends gently?

And from here, it’s a short step back to the Guardians and their rings, particularly if you subscribe to Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Magic, technology… at certain levels they look the same and, in the examples we’ve cited, they get their results with methods that, while they’re gussied up, are still pretty damn primitive. If you were a Guardian tasked with ring design, wouldn’t you consider having the ring alter reality just a jot, maybe by changing, ever so slightly, the ratios of the various forces in the hearts of subatomic particles, or branching off into an alternate reality where things aren’t so hairy, or by remixing the chemicals in the bad guy’s brain so that person is not deeply unhappy and therefore is not motivated to act out by destroying downtown Pismo Beach, or wherever? (Okay, admittedly, that last one’s a little creepy.)

Well, the answer’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? We’re wired to react to the tangible, things our senses can respond to, which may be why we tend to put faces on our deities instead of regarding them, as some do, as grounds of being or the like. Comics and movies are dramatic media and, what’s more they’re visual dramatic media and it’s strongly recommended, if not demanded, that visual drama show us as plainly as possible what the good guys are contending with, and how they’re contending with it. I’m afraid that imperceptible perturbations of energies in tiny, tiny whatsises just won’t answer the need.

The uncomfortable next question might be: are our visual dramas teaching us that tangible force ­– call it violence – is the only possible response to our problems?

Just what are we doing in those foreign nations, anyway?

Recommended Reading: Given the subject of this week’s blather, it seems appropriate that I make you aware of a comic book, first published 50 years ago, titled Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. You can get it from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, P.O. Box 271, Nyack, NY 10960. Phone: 845 358 4601. Cost is three bucks per copy, and that includes shipping and handling in the U.S.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

Lucasfilm and Sony Partner to Release Alembic 1.0 Software

We love cool, new technology, as much as the next guy. But when the technology comes from Lucasfilm, where so much movie magic has been conjured up since 1977, it caught our attention. This press release just arrived:

VANCOUVER, B.C. – August 9, 2011 – Alembic 1.0, the open source project jointly developed by Sony Pictures Imageworks and Lucasfilm Ltd. was released to the public today, it was announced at ACM SIGGRAPH conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Alembic is the computer graphics interchange format developed by the two entertainment giants last year and focused on efficiently storing and sharing animation and visual effects scenes across multiple software applications. It was designed to handle massive animation data sets often required in high-end visual effects and animation, which are routinely developed and produced by companies such as Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic and Lucasfilm Animation Ltd and Sony Pictures Imageworks. The studios each saw the need for a tool like Alembic, something that would fit within existing pipelines and allow for customization at the facility level without impeding the ability to share work.

In addition to the features announced at last year’s SIGGRAPH, Alembic 1.0 includes automatic data de-duplication. The software automatically recognizes repeated shapes in complicated geometry and only writes a single instance to disk. This makes Alembic 1.0 use dramatically less disk space than promised without requiring any extra steps on the part of the user and can improve both write and read performance as well. In the case of hero deforming humanoid characters, including hair, shot caches have been reduced by more than 70%.  For complex, deeply hierarchical and mostly rigid assets like the Transformers characters, tests have shown cache reduction in the order of 98%.

The code base for Alembic is available for download on the project’s Google Code site and more information can be found online at: http://www.alembic.io

Joint development of Alembic was first announced at last year’s Siggraph by Lucasfilm’s visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic and Sony Pictures Imageworks. The companies joined forces when it became apparent that they were independently developing software designed to solve a problem universally faced by the visual effects and animation production community: how to easily share complex animated scenes across a variety of disciplines and facilities regardless of what software was being used.

Alembic includes tools that allow collaboration while working with a generic, extensible, data representation scheme. In essence, it distills complex and often proprietary, animated scenes into application-independent files with baked geometric results. These baked results can be fully re-importable across the range of supporting software.

Alembic addresses a fundamental issue in a world where assets are shared across many companies. Alembic’s production-ready ability to seamlessly translate shapes across a wide variety of applications saves time and resources,” said Rob Bredow, CTO of Sony Pictures Imageworks. “By releasing Alembic as an Open Source project, users have the opportunity to improve the software based on their needs and experience. We’re really starting to feel the positive effects of Open Source, as a community of visual effects and animation professionals come together to solve problems more effectively today than ever before.” (more…)