Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Michael Chabon's "Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood"

(via) This essay by Michael Chabon in the most recent edition of The New York Review of Books contains some fascinating rumination on maps and imagination, but also touches on an issue that has increasingly concerned me as a parent.

Most great stories of adventure, from The Hobbit to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, come furnished with a map. That's because every story of adventure is in part the story of a landscape, of the interrelationship between human beings (or Hobbits, as the case may be) and topography. Every adventure story is conceivable only with reference to the particular set of geographical features that in each case sets the course, literally, of the tale. But I think there is another, deeper reason for the reliable presence of maps in the pages, or on the endpapers, of an adventure story, whether that story is imaginatively or factually true. We have this idea of armchair traveling, of the reader who seeks in the pages of a ripping yarn or a memoir of polar exploration the kind of heroism and danger, in unknown, half-legendary lands, that he or she could never hope to find in life.

This is a mistaken notion, in my view. People read stories of adventure—and write them—because they have themselves been adventurers. Childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure, a tale of privation, courage, constant vigilance, danger, and sometimes calamity. For the most part the young adventurer sets forth equipped only with the fragmentary map—marked here there be tygers and mean kid with air rifle—that he or she has been able to construct out of a patchwork of personal misfortune, bedtime reading, and the accumulated local lore of the neighborhood children.

Chabon's thoughts about childhood as an adventure in its own right, a kind of rehersal of dangers and threats, is fascinating. But once he convinces me that he's onto something, he turns to the subject of his own children (and, by extension, my own), and the fact that we as parents are essentially denying our own kids that same experience.

What is the impact of the closing down of the Wilderness on the development of children's imaginations? This is what I worry about the most. I grew up with a freedom, a liberty that now seems breathtaking and almost impossible. Recently, my younger daughter, after the usual struggle and exhilaration, learned to ride her bicycle. Her joy at her achievement was rapidly followed by a creeping sense of puzzlement and disappointment as it became clear to both of us that there was nowhere for her to ride it—nowhere that I was willing to let her go. Should I send my children out to play?

There is a small grocery store around the corner, not over two hundred yards from our front door. Can I let her ride there alone to experience the singular pleasure of buying herself an ice cream on a hot summer day and eating it on the sidewalk, alone with her thoughts? Soon after she learned to ride, we went out together after dinner, she on her bike, with me following along at a safe distance behind. What struck me at once on that lovely summer evening, as we wandered the streets of our lovely residential neighborhood at that after-dinner hour that had once represented the peak moment, the magic hour of my own childhood, was that we didn't encounter a single other child.

Even if I do send them out, will there be anyone to play with?

This is something I've thought about a great deal in recent years, though never before in these terms. It's a difficult question, and one for which I'm not even close to forming an answer yet.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Ray Gun Revival on Dragon's Nine Sons

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt has reviewed The Dragon's Nine Sons for the 53rd issue of Ray Gun Revival, and with some reservations seems generally to have enjoyed it.
Roberson has an excellent prose style, delightfully transparent to the story he tells. The adventure is engaging. I would not say I was surprised by anything that happened in the story, but I consider it a pageturner. And I do want to read more of Roberson’s Celestial Empire stories.

Lovers of military SF and a good action-adventure story will definitely want to check out The Dragon’s Nine Sons.


Friday, June 26, 2009


Foldable Displays

Johnny Lee Chung, the genius who devised a 3D headtracking mechanism using the Wii remote, is still at it. This time, again using a Wiimote, he's devised a method of generating foldable displays using projecting and tracking.

Check it out.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Book of Secrets review

David H. Burton is first past the post with a review of the forthcoming Book of Secrets, and he gives the book high marks.
I’m a huge Dan Brown fan and, like Brown’s fast-paced books, this is a cleverly written journey that occurs over a week. It’s quick, witty, and spell-binding. I couldn’t put this down, and considering I generally abhor first-person narrative, that says a lot. I really enjoyed Spencer’s view of the world and we get a really nice glimpse with snippets of a past in which he is raised by his grandfather after the death of his parents. We truly see how this man has been molded by his loss and his upbringing.
Next week I'll be able to post a review from the upcoming issue of Death Ray, btw, which is quoted in the electronic sample I mentioned earlier this morning.



Book of Secrets sample

My masters at Angry Robot have posted an excerpt of the forthcoming Book of Secrets in a variety of electronic formats. The book is due out in August in the UK and October in the US, and if you're on the fence about picking it up, check out the sample and see what you think.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


He's Barack Obama

The latest from JibJab.


The Phantasmal Four

Some of you might recall an Interminable Ramble post last summer about Alex Mitchell's terrific reimagining of the X-Men as turn-of-the-century occult investigators, The Paranatural Persons League.

Well, thanks to a post on Robot 6 yesterday, I see that he's still at it, this time remixing the Fantastic Four as a turn-of-the-century occult heroes, too. Behold, the Phantasmal Four!

Here's how he describes the piece:
The Phantasmal Four are a group that was formed by the eccentric and brilliant Sir Reid Richard after some sort of supernatural catastrophe that occurred at the Van Allen Estate in Britain. It appears that the noted spiritualist attempted via a seance ritual to journey beyond the earthly Veil. The goal was nothing less than discovering a means by which to conquer death itself.

The aristocratic frenchman Jeanpierre Tempest contacted Sir Richard in an attempt to save his sister, Suzanne Tempest, from an incurable illness. Sir Richard agreed reluctantly, but when he met her, he fell deeply in love. He devoted all of his considerable knowledge and intellect to the task, at last devising a ritual by which to cross over into the aetherial plane. The summer of 1895, Sir Richard, the Tempests, and Ben Grimshaw (Richard's faithful valet) met at the house of Richard's old friend, Victor Van Allen, to conduct the seance.

The ritual would seem to have been a qualified success, Mme. Tempest survives to this day, but there was a terrible price. The survivors will say little of what transpired, but they were each granted a form of immortality-- though "cursed" might be a better word. The fifth in their party was killed, they've mysteriously claimed, by some sort of daemonic force calling itself the "Baron of Doom", though they refuse to say more.

Check out his deviantArt gallery for more awesomeness.


John Hodgman at Radio & TV Correspondents' Dinner

Hodgman for the win!

Can I tell you how pleased I was with myself when, with a little time to think it over, I was able to come up with the answers to all three of Hodgman's trivia questions about Dune at the end of the piece?

And yes, the leader of the free world flashes a Vulcan salute not once, but twice...

Friday, June 19, 2009


Donny & Marie Osmand's Star Wars skit

(via) They should have sent a poet.

I... I don't have the words...

Yes, it is awful. But yes, you must watch it. I won't spoil the celebrity guests who play Han Solo, Kenobi, and Grand Moff Tarkin, but trust me, it's worth it.



(via) I think the dinosaurs are actually a little scarier this way, don't you?

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Toy Movies

Once again, Dan Meth brings the funny. This time out, he riffs on the current spate of movies based on old childhood toys...


Rubber Monsters and Library Bindings

I'm working on a script related to the Secret Creator Owned Comic (about which I'm told there'll be an announcement sometime in the next few weeks), and have been trolling through flickr looking for old comic book ads, images of monsters, and general pop-culture ephemera. All in the name of "research," of course.

This morning I came across a collection of photos from flickr user Neato Coolville, depicting a series of little rubber figures/erasers that were included in McDonald's Happy Meals back in the late 70s. And though I'd completely forgotten that these things existed, as soon as I saw them I had a sudden rush of memory, and could recall the exact texture of each and every one of them.

I was still reeling from that sudden recall when I hit a bunch of images from the Crestwood Monsters Series, which I likewise completely forgotten existed. I think my elementary school library had all of them, but I particularly remember this one.

I'm happy with the mere memories of the rubber eraser monsters, but those Crestwood books? I'm hunting those bad-boys down online, and pronto!


Underground, a new series by Parker and Lieber

Longtime followers of the Ramble may recall that I've raved before about the work of Jeff Parker, and in particular his creator-owned Mysterius the Unfathomable and his Marvel series Agents of Atlas.

Well, Parker has a new book coming out, with art by Steve Lieber (probably best known for Whiteout, coming soon to a megaplex near you...). Here's the brief from the official Underground website:
UNDERGROUND is a five issue color series beginning in September from IMAGE COMICS. Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Steve Lieber, and colored by Ron Chan, the story follows Park Ranger Wesley Fischer as she tries to save Stillwater Cave-- and then has to save herself.
It's tough out there for a creator-owned series these days, as the criminally low sales figures on Mysterius make all-too-painfully clear. (When the details emerge about the Mysterius trade collection, due out next year, I will be insisting that you all go out and buy it.) Comics are ordered by retailers months before they hit the stands, and with a miniseries the orders for the first two or three issues are due before the first issue has even been released. That came make it very difficult for new work to survive and thrive.

So here's what we're all going to do, in a handy three-step process.
  1. Head over to the Underground website and READ a complete black and white pdf of Issue 1.
  2. Decide for yourself that it is awesome, and that you NEED to read the rest of the series.
  3. March into your local comic shop and tell them that they MUST order sufficient copies of Underground #1. The first issue is in the July Previews, page 132. In stores September 23. Diamond Order Code: JUL090341
Isn't that simple? So what are you waiting for? Get to it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Sneak Peak at "Jack 'n' Apes"

The Vertigo blog, Graphic Content, has a post about the forthcoming Jack of Fables #36, "Jack 'n' Apes," scripted by yours truly. They've shared a couple of pages of Tony Akins awesome art for the issue, sans lettering. Check it out, won't you?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


UP color script

And speaking of Pixar, here's a little gem from this morning's RSS feeds. Lou Romano has posted loads of images from the color script to Up. Spoilers lurk within for the attentive viewer, so caution if you haven't seen the movie yet. (And if you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for?!)


The Incredibles, Scioli style

I've been really impressed with some of BOOM!'s recent offerings, and in particular with the Mark Waid-scripted titles and the new Disney-licensed stuff. The Incredibles, which boasts scripts by Waid, is like a perfect storm of awesomeness. Georgia and I must have reread the first issue a half-dozen times in the month after its release.

The Robot 6 blog shares the following gem this morning, which makes me wish I was going to HeroesCon.

This variant cover for BOOM!’s Incredibles #3 is by Godland artist Tom Scioli, and will be available only at this weekend’s HeroesCon.

Nice, right? We watched The Incredibles again for the millionth time this last weekend, and it struck me again what a terrific film it is. I think Up and Ratatouille may be better movies, but The Incredibles remains my personal favorite.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Ynet Interview (in Hebrew)

I have it on reliable authority that this is an interview with me on the Israeli website Ynet, conducted by Ran Levi. We mostly discuss The Dragon's Nine Sons, lately released in Israel by Graff Publishing, and also alternate history, comics, influences, and the craft of writing.
הסינים והאצטקים במאבק שליטה על מאדים
בספרו "תשעת בני הדרקון", היוצא כעת לאור בתרגום לעברית, נעזר כריס רוברסון באחת הטכניקות המוכרות ביותר של סופרי המד"ב - היסטוריה אלטרנטיבית. רן לוי משוחח עם הסופר על גיבורי על ואיך לומד סופר לשפוט את הכתיבה שלו

I'm sure I sound brilliant and charming, even without the vowels, right?



Falcata Times on Three Unbroken

There's a new review of Three Unbroken up at Falcata Times.
In this offering, Chris Robertson presents the reader with a future where the Chinese are in control of mankind and tells the tale from three different points of view, that adds a greater depth as well as flavour of the world through the principle protagonists point of views. Its cracking and whilst the battles are quite sparse it is a tale that will keep you occupied and gripped to the last page to understand how the world will function in a believable offering of a bleak future. Well written and lovingly crafted this will be a book that you’ll either love or hate for its departure from the norm within the genre. Definitely an author to watch for future tales.



WHC in Austin

This morning Lee Thomas posted the news that Austin has been named the site of the 2011 World Horror Convention. I've always had a great time at that convention when I've gone, but circumstances have prevented me going the last year or two, and it looks like a long shot again this year and next. But across town in 2011? Yeah, I can definitely swing that.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


On this Date in History

Thanks are due to Mark Waid, who points out the importance of June 14th in Multiversal history.

On this date, the Flash first discovered Earth-2.

Friday, June 12, 2009


The Lonely Island's "Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions"

The Lonely Island guys share an action movie truism set to music, from the MTV Movie Awards, with the help of a few special guests...


Star Wars: The Old Republic

I missed this when it appeared online last week, so I may be late to the party here. But have you seen the "cinematic trailer" for Bioware's forthcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, that premiered at E3?

I've pretty much dealt myself out of all things Star Wars since the third prequel came out (and especially since the Lucas camp began disavowing Genndy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars for some strange reason) but this looks pretty damned awesome.

I know I'm not alone in looking forward to the day when Lucas (or his heirs) hands the keys to the franchise over to someone else to run. This is a tantalizing glimpse of what kind of awesome might result...


Free Fiction: Annus Mirabilis

Wow, when was the last time I posted any free fiction? February? Yikes.

Okay, here's a little bit of something to make up for lost time. Originally appearing in Tales of the Shadowmen Vol. 2 (Black Coat Press, 2006), this story is a bit of Wold-Newton silliness that features nods to loads of late 19th and early 20th century science fiction, and stars a cantankerous old Doctor who might be vaguely familiar...

(No, that that Doctor. This one.)

Annus Mirabils
by Chris Roberson

Le Creusot, 1905

In the still dark hours of the morning, while the town of Le Creusot slowly rubbed the sleep from its eyes and woke to another spring day, the old man ambled along aimlessly through the foothills of the Morvan. He was lost in thought, a dark mote drifting along the green Buourgogne countryside in his black cloak, a long striped scarf wrapped round his neck, a peaked fur hat atop his head, which could scarcely conceal the snow-white hair that swept back from his high forehead.

As the sun pinked the eastern sky, and Le Creusot began to hum with life and activity, the old man came back down into the township proper, passing the gates of the Château de la Verrerie, since the last century the residence of the Schneider family, the masters of the forges. At this early hour dark smoke already bled into the lightening sky, billowing up from the smokestacks of the foundries. Arriving at the metal-works unmolested, the old man flung open the door, and a wave of heat from the forges rolled toward him like a solid wall. Within, directing the workmen of the Schneider foundry, the old man found his companion already hard at work, crescents of sweat darkening the arm-pits of his crisp white shirt, his trouser legs stained and scuffed.

“Borel,” the old man said, then had to repeat, raising his voice over the tintinnabulation of metal striking metal. “Borel! How goes the assembly?”

“What?” the young man shouted back, cupping his hands around his ears like a listening trumpet. The old man repeated his question, raising the pitch of his voice even higher. “Oh, well enough, Doctor! We seem to be proceeding on schedule.”

“In that case,” the old man said, quite unconcerned now whether his companion could hear him further, “I shall find a bite to eat, hmm?”

On a side table was laid out the makings of a simple breakfast, for the use of the foundry’s workers. The Schneiders’ had evidently learned that providing such simple amenities, though a notional expense at the outset, meant that their laborers had a shorter distance to travel to sate their appetites, and would perforce be the quicker to return to their duties. The old man, considering himself in some regards as the worker’s employer—he had, after all, contracted the foundry’s services in the construction of the large craft which Borel now oversaw—had no compunctions against helping himself to their board.

Selecting an apple, a hunk of cold cheese, and a small loaf of fresh bread, the old man seated himself on a nearby straight-backed chair, on the back of which was folded some sort of newspaper or journal. As he bit into the apple, the old man unfolded the periodical, and scanned the contents. It was up a copy of Beiblätter zu den Annalen der Physik, and the old man concluded that it must have been left by one of the foundry’s engineers. Absently chewing on a bite of apple, the old man began to read, idly.

After finishing no more than half of the apple, having hardly touched the bread, the old man’s eyes opened wide, and he jumped to his feet, clutching the journal.

“Borel!” he shouted, racing across the foundry floor, waving his arms for the young man’s attention. The old man’s companion, seeing his approach, gave a shout of alarm, and rushed to his side, his labors forgotten.

“Doctor, what is it?” the young man said, his expression suggesting that he feared the worst.

“What is the date, my boy?” the old man asked, his mouth drawn into a tight line.

The young man’s forehead wrinkled momentarily, as he did some quick mental calculation. “March the sixth,” he finally answered. “A Monday.”

“Yes, yes,” the old man said impatiently, waving his hand. “But the year, man, what year?”

The young man was a bit taken aback, but it was clear he’d grown used to the old man’s eccentricities in recent weeks. “Why, it’s 1905, naturally.”

“Oh dear, oh dear.” The old man began to pace back and forth, his expression grave, his eyes flashing. “No, this won’t do. This won’t do at all.”

Before the young man could speak, to ask the old man what was the matter at hand, the old man stopped short, straightening.

“Borel, I’m leaving you in charge. See to it that the three components of the craft are appropriately joined together.”

“Certainly, Doctor. But where will you be?”

“I’m sorry, my boy, but I have vital matters which must be attended.” With that, the old man shoved the journal into the young man’s hands, turned on his heel, and stalked from the foundry.

The young man watched the retreating back of his companion, baffled. He glanced at the journal the old man has been reading, hoping there to find some clue to what had set the old man off. It was open to a review of a Professor Wellingham’s paper, “On the role of panergon in the relationship between electricity and light,” by one A. Einstein. The young man could see no reason for excitement with either the names or the subject and, tucking the journal into his trouser pocket, shrugged and returned to his labors.


Two days later, on the morning of Wednesday, March 8th, the old man appeared at the reception area of the Swiss Patent Office, in Bern, Switzerland. Not bothering to doff his fur hat, nor unwind his striped scarf, he marched up to the clerk behind the reception desk, leaning forward like a man walking against a heavy wind.

“I insist on speaking with one of your technical assistant examiners,” the old man said, before the clerk had the opportunity to ask.

The clerk sighed, a long-suffering, resigned sort of sigh, and pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. “And does this concern a pending patent application, I assume?”

“You may assume what you like,” the old man said, brusquely, “it makes no difference to me. However, I dare say that the matter on which I have come will impact a great many future patents and discoveries which might one day pass through this office.”

The clerk sighed a second time, if anything more dramatic and expressive than the first. “And whom should I say is calling?”

The old man straightened, grabbing hold of his lapels with either hand.

“I am the Doctor.”


“What?” The old man blinked, a bit perplexed, as if suddenly asked by a stranger the dimensions of his inseam. “Oh, Omega will suit under the circumstances.”

The clerk looked the old man up and down, suspiciously. After a considerable pause, he gave yet another sigh, rose from his desk, and moved to open a low gate for the old man. “This way, Doctor Omega.”

The old man followed behind, as the clerk escorted him through narrow, musty hallways, gray and grimed. Finally, they came to a small room, smelling of old tobacco and mold, dimly lit by sunlight filtering in through heavy glass panes that hadn’t been washed since the previous century. There, seated at a low, wide desk, was a young man, bent low over a great stack of papers, a pen in hand.

“Albert,” the clerk said, motioning the old man forward, “this gentleman has some inquiries for you.”

“Ah,” the old man said, brightening. He strode forward, smiling broadly, his hand extended before him. “Mr. Einstein. Precisely the man I wanted to see. I am the Doctor.”


Albert Einstein was a week shy of his twenty-sixth birthday, with dark, curly hair and a full mustache, and though his eyes seemed sad, he smiled easily and often. There was a certain unearthly quality about him that reminded the old man of someone, though it took a moment to recognize something of his granddaughter’s look in the young man’s expression. The old man wondered, idly, if there might not be a trace of his “countrymen” somewhere in the young man’s ancestry. It wouldn’t be the first time.

“It is about your recent review concerning panergon that I have come,” the old man explained, once he’d arranged himself on a chair opposite Einstein’s desk. “In it, you discussed panergon’s capacity to produce ‘secondary electricity,’ with which one can control the movements and qualities of projected light.”

“Yes, that’s correct,” Einstein said, folding his hands in his lap, looking more than a little surprised that someone had sought him out to discuss his avocation and not his vocation. “And it is Wellingham’s contention that panergon is also the cohesive force that keeps the molecules of matter from falling apart from one another.”

“Mmm.” The old man rubbed at his lower lip. “And in your remarks, appended to your review, you made mention that this put paid to your own theories on the nature of photoelectricity.”

Einstein nodded. “I had made careful study of Heinrich Hertz’s writings on the subject, and had begun to formulate an equation that might address the causes of the so-called ‘Hertz effect.’ This effect concerns the production and emission of electricity from matter upon the absorption of visible or ultraviolet light…”

“Yes, yes, I know all about that,” the old man said, impatiently. “What, specifically, was this theory of yours, impacted by the discovery of panergon?”

“Well, my thinking was influenced by Joseph Long Thomson’s theoretical ‘corpuscles.’ Thomson argued that these subatomic components constitute cathode rays and, under certain conditions, that these ‘corpuscles’ could be excited in such a way that they would be emitted singly, and thus detected. It occurred to me that light, which since Maxwell has been assumed to be a wave phenomenon like electromagnetism, might be constituted of small, discrete packets of energy, which I thought to name ‘light quanta.’”

The old man leaned forward, pulling his fur hat from his head and worrying it between his hands. “But you no longer believe this to be the case?”

“Clearly not,” the young man said, shaking his head sadly, “as the demonstrated nature of Welligham’s panergon clearly precludes the existence of the quantum.”

“Hmm.” The old man shook his head, eyes narrowed and lips pursed. “Something is very much amiss here, Albert.”


Over the course of the next hours, the old man picked through Einstein’s thoughts, questioning him at length about the reading he’d done into the study of energy in recent years. In addition to his summary of Wellingham’s panergon studies, it transpired, Einstein had also written recent reviews of Professor Mirzabeau’s work on violent flame, and Henry R. Cortlandt’s paper on apergy, and had just begun a survey on recent findings concerning vril.

The old man was interested, specifically, in the ways in which recent discoveries about these energies had affected Einstein’s understanding of the fundamental laws and forces which governed the natural world.

As Einstein spoke, the old man scribbled strange notations on his cuff with a laundry marker from time to time, deep in thought.

At length, the old man pushed off his chair and stood. He set his fur hat back on his head and wound his long scarf around his neck. “I thank you for your time, Mister Einstein. I’m afraid, based on what you’ve told me, that I haven’t a moment to lose.”

The old man turned and started towards the door, but Einstein jumped to his feet, taking hold of the old man’s elbow.

“Please, sir, I now find I have many questions for you.”

“For me?”

Einstein was breathless, eyes wide. “From your questions and comments, it’s clear to me that you have a stronger grasp of theoretical physics than any individual it has been my pleasure to encounter.”

The old man’s mouth formed a moue of distaste, and he waved his hand, shooing away the compliment as though it were a horsefly. “I’ve no interest in your flattery, sir. It means as little to me as the praise of a child first learning his alphabet complimenting Flaubert’s penmanship.”

The old man tried to extricate himself from Einstein’s grip, but the young man was insistent. “Wait! You say that you find some peril in this talk of energies and fundamental forces?”

“Yes,” the old man said, nodding slowly, “grave peril.”

“I won’t pretend to have any notion what you might mean; however, I can’t but trust a man with your grasp of physics. If there is anything I can do to assist, you have but to ask.”

The old man responded with a tight smile and, as Einstein released his grip, swept towards the door, his long cloak billowing around him. “Well, come along, young man, don’t dawdle. There is work to be done.”


That night, on a hilltop some distance from Bern, the two men bent low, their attention on a small assemblage of iron rods, copper wiring, and ceramic vials.

Einstein connected the components as the old man directed, while the latter busied himself with strange objects he pulled from the inner folds of his coat. They were small, glittering objects, flashing in the moonlight like gems.

“There,” the old man said, once the apparatus was assembled to his satisfaction. “Now, step back a moment, my boy. Were these to be misaligned, even a fraction, neither of us would survive long enough to attempt a correction.”

Obligingly, the young man stood, and took a few paces backwards. Only when he was safely out of reach did the old man kneel down, placing the objects one by one at key junctures of the assemblage.

When the old man finally rose and stepped back, a low humming noise began to fill the night air around them.

“Doctor, what precisely is this we have constructed?” Einstein looked down on the strange assemblage, a worried expression tugging down the corners of his mouth. “What is its purpose?”

“This device emits a sort of resonance pattern,” the old man said, as though it were the simplest thing in the world, “specific to this region of space-time, which should be anathema to anything which resonates at a different frequency. Like positive and negatively charged plates drawn together, or matter being forced into a vacuum, this emitter will serve to attract any non-resonant objects, pulling them here to us.”

Einstein blinked, and slowly shook his head. “I can scarcely begin to understand the principles involved.”

“I’m sure they will become clear to you,” the old man said. “In time.”

“But supposing that this device does function as you suggest,” Einstein said, “what is its purpose? What is the utility of attracting objects with a different resonance frequency that this… what did you call it? Space-time?”

The old man rubbed his lower lip, and then wagged a finger in the young man’s direction. “I believe I’ve worked out the cause of anomalies you have noted in recent years, those involving these strange energies which seem to contravene the expected laws of physics. It would appear that your continuum has been infected by influences from outside what you would consider the natural world. These strange energies, resulting from the presence of beings from beyond the dimensions of space and time that you know, over the course of decades, has been perverting the fabric of reality, slowly transforming it into a replica of some other plane of existence.”

“Towards what end?”

“Why, to colonize your world, of course. My boy, you are being invaded, and you don’t even realize it.”


The night wore on. The assemblage before them continued to hum, setting their teeth on edge, and the stars wheeled in their slow courses overhead.

The two men discussed energy and matter and space and time, passing the hours, until finally falling silent, simply staring up at the clear night sky overhead.

“It just occurred to me, Doctor,” Einstein said at last, breaking a lengthy silence. “Should these beings you seek appear, what do you intend to do?”

“Hmmm?” The old man raised an eyebrow, a contemplative expression on his face. “Do? Oh, yes. Well, that is a good question, isn’t it?”

“But, I thought…” Einstein began, alarmed, but the rest of his words were cut off, as the air around them suddenly began to vibrate, and a soft blue light suffused the hilltop.

“No time for that now, my boy,” the old man said, raising his voice above a sound like a hundred violins tuning up at once. “I believe our guests have arrived.”

Suddenly, the sound ceased, and just as suddenly the empty air around them was filled with a riot of shapes and forms.

“Name of the name,” Einstein whispered.

Circled around the two men and the strange apparatus, these unearthly shapes appeared to fall into one of three categories. Cones, which varied in color from blue to green, and which were about half the size of a full-grown man; cylinders, some tall and thin, others low and squat, which range from bronze laced with green, to purple, to black; and layers, vertical shapes patterned almost like the bark of a birch tree, which seemed to resemble virgin copper. Each of them was translucent, shifting in color and size continuously, and at the base of each is a dazzling light. As the two men watched, the shapes shift from one form to another, cones becoming cylinders, layers becoming cones, undulating endlessly.

“As I suspected,” the old man said, as the undulating figures circled around them.

“What are they, Doctor?” Einstein asked, his voice a tremulous whisper.

“On most worlds in which they have appeared, they are known simply as ‘The Shapes,’ but my people have long known them as the Xipéhuz.”


“Doctor!” Einstein said urgently, grabbing the old man’s elbow and attempting to drag him away from the device. “We must flee.”

“Flee?” The old man snarled briefly, his eyes momentarily flashing. “What do you take me for?” He calmed, and then added, “Besides, each of the Xipéhuz is capable of emitting radiant energy in a concentrated burst, sufficient to reduce either of us to ashes.”

“What?!” Einstein blanched, and regarded the strange floating forms in horror intermingled with amazement.

“But this is not a contest to be won by fisticuffs and feet, my dear boy,” the old man said, patting Einstein’s shoulder. “No, we must reason with these creatures. They are quite simple, when you get down to brass tacks.”

“But what are they?” Einstein asked, eyes wide.

“They are three dimensional intrusions of multidimensional beings, naturally.” The old man shook his head, a distasteful expression curling his lip. “But really, they are little more than pests.”

One of the floating cones flashed red, angrily, and advanced towards the old man, the star-like light at its base dazzling.

“There we are. An invitation to parley.” The old man stepped right up to the advancing cone, his chin held high. “You know who I am, don’t you?” he said, a hard edge to his voice.

The cone seemed to vibrate in the air, and a black symbol appears on its front. It resembled nothing so much as the Greek letter omega, but then quickly transformed into what appears to be the Greek letters theta and sigma, which then turned sideways before fading from view.

“That’s right,” the old man said, nodding slowly, as though coaxing a simple answer from a slow child. “And you know what I’m capable of doing, I would bargain.”

Einstein was confused, and grabbed hold of the old man’s elbow. “Doctor, what is happening?”

“The shapes and lines which sometime appear on the surface of the Xipéhuz”—the old man pointed to the symbols now coming into view on the surface of another of the forms—“are complicated signs used for communication. But though they hate to admit it, they are capable of understanding the spoken word, perfectly, and could probably even vibrate the air around them sufficient to create spoken language, if they weren’t so pig-headedly obstinate.”

Another of the Xipéhuz now displayed a new symbol, a complex figure-eight design inside of a circle.

“I have left my people,” the old man answered, as a cloud passed across his features. He shook his head. “A minor difference of opinion. But don’t think for an instant that I’ve surrendered any of my power in doing so.”

A floating cylinder shifted like sand through an hour glass, going from tall and thin to short and squat, and flashed a quick sequence of black shapes on its forward edge.

This is my home, for the moment,” the old man answered, crossing his arms over his chest, “and I won’t have you muddying the place up.”

One of the vertical layers moved from side to side, and flashed a single, incredibly complicated symbol on its surface.

The old man glowered, and shook his head. “That’s all well and good, isn’t it, until you’ve pushed things too far, and then decoherence is the least of our problems. At that point, there’s no more particles, no more fundamental forces, and no more arrow of time.”

One of the cones shifted from blue to green, and displayed another set of symbols.

Good for you, perhaps,” the old man said, stabbing a finger in the cone’s direction, “but not good for me, nor for any of the natives of this continuum. And if you think I’ll stand idly by, and allow myself to be marooned in a little bubble of distorted four-space, you are sadly mistaken.”

Several of the Cones clustered together, raising slightly off the ground, and moved closer to the two men, menacingly. The one in the lead displayed one, simple symbol.

What will I do about it?” the old man said, repeating the question.

After a lengthy pause, the old man smiled, darkly, and answered.

“You know who I am, and you know what I’m capable of doing. The question you need to ask yourself, Xipéhuz, is what I won’t be willing to do about it.”


The old man and the patent examiner stood in silence as the shapes appeared to communicate amongst themselves, rapidly shifting shapes, sizes, and colors, in a dizzying array too quick for the human eye to follow.

Finally, they all adopted the same form, and the two men were ringed by dozens of translucent blue cones, each about half the size of a man.

As one, the cones all displayed the same symbol on their surfaces, and then with a mighty inrush of air, they disappeared from view.

The air was still around them, as the sky began to pink in the east, the first signs of the coming dawn.

“What happened?” Einstein looked around him, turning this way and that, as though suspecting the strange forms of sneaking up behind him. “What did they say?”

“They have gone, leaving this continuum for less… troublesome climes. As for what they said? Well, let us say that they expressed displeasure at my intervention, and leave the matter at that.”

The old man leaned down, and collected the small gem-like objects from the assemblage they had constructed, and the faint humming which had persisted through the night suddenly stopped.

“Had I not seen it with my own eyes,” Einstein said, rubbing his hands together, “I’m sure I wouldn’t believe a bit of it. I came following you seeking answers, and find myself now with even more questions than before.”

“The important thing is not to stop questioning,” the old man said, smiling. “Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

The old man pocketed the glittering objects and started down the hill, leaving the assemblage of copper and iron and ceramics behind.

“Come along, my boy,” the old man called back over his shoulder. “You have work to which to return, I’m certain, and I have matters requiring my attention back in France. But first, a hearty breakfast seems in order, don’t you think?”


Over a stout Swiss breakfast of fresh bread, cold meats and cheeses, sweet rolls and coffee, the old man and the patent examiner discussed all manner of things, most often with the old man listening attentively as the younger man worked his way through any number of his half-formed hypotheses. The old man nodded appreciatively, asking leading questions from time to time, the bones of their meal lying forgotten on the table between them.

Near midday, when the young man could delay going to the Patent Office no longer, the two men shook hands and parted company. Each headed into history, each in his own way.


By week’s end, the old man was back in Le Creusot. Though Borel plied him with repeated inquiries about what had so commanded his attention that he traveled to another country, the old man remained tight lipped about the affair.

Five weeks later, though, on their return to his residence near Marbeuf in Normandy, the old man found a parcel waiting for him. It contained the finished draft of a paper, “On a Heuristic Point of View concerning the Production and Transformation of Light,” along with a note from its author, indicating that the work would see publication in the June 9th edition of Annalen der Physik. An analysis of the photoelectric effect which disregarded the notion of panergon—recently dismissed by the scientific community as nothing more than a hoax—it introduced the author’s notion of quanta, discrete packets of energy which, in the aggregate, behaved like a wave.

Over dinner, having spent a long day attaching plates of pandimensional metal to the surface of their still-unnamed vessel, shipped by rail from Le Creusot, the old man showed the journal to Borel, and tried unsuccessfully to explain its significance, saying as much as circumstances and decorum would allow.

That Borel failed to recognize the import of those few pages was hardly surprising. It would be many years to come before any but a select few would recognize what a year of wonders this had been.

(c) 2009 Monkeybrain, Inc.


Thursday, June 11, 2009


Willingham on Peter & Max

There's a new interview over on Comic Book Resources with my pal Bill Willingham, mostly focusing on his forthcoming Fables prose novel, Peter & Max, but also touching on some future comic plans for Fables, as well. Check it out, read the sample pages helpfully provided, and then join the rest of us in eagerly awaiting the publication of Peter & Max!



A recent post on the Comics Should Be Good blog featured Tony Moore raving about the work of artist Chris Samnee, and included the full four-page story he illustrated for Boom Studios' Pulp Tales last year. I (foolishly, it seems) passed up the chance to pick up a copy of Pulp Tales when it came out, and now I see what I was missing.

Namely, "Bluejacket," a pulp-inspired creation of B. Clay Moore, Seth Peck, and Chris Samnee.

B. Clay Moore talked a bit about Bluejacket on his blog last year, and shared a summary of the characters and concepts that he'd written for a CBR feature that ran shortly thereafter.
Bluejacket is a guy who used his fists and the help of some specialized experts (his "Men of Adventure") to battle crime back in the thirties. At some point, he ran into something that turned him blue and seemed to have extended his life well beyond normal (a story yet to be told). His longevity led to the establishment of a Bluejacket "brand," and an operation that was once designed simply to support his fight against evil has blossomed over the decades into a huge corporation, which provides support, but also exists to turn a profit on the Bluejacket name. Bluejacket merchandise (toys, cereal, clothes), Bluejacket-related media (books, comics, movies, cartoons), Bluejacket theme parks...all of these are overseen by Bluejacket, Inc., and their current CEO, former Bluejacket kid sidekick Rusty Haynes. (The first Bluejacket series will examine what happens when business intrudes on adventure)

In recent years, Bluejacket has found himself spending more time on the business end than he'd originally intended, and he's working to get back out in the field with his Men of Adventure. Over the course of seven decades, a lot guys have worn the "Men of Adventure" tag, but his current crew is perhaps the sharpest ever, and includes the very first female Man of Adventure, in Dr. Nicole Shaw.

Bluejacket's Men of Adventure include pilot Ray Wilson, weapons expert Carson Hunt, researcher
Simon Van de Kamp (grandson of former Bluejacket ally Merlin Van de Kamp), mythology expert Sardur Sandhu, and grifter/con man Jimmy Cotton. Their vehicle of choice is the world famous Aeronautical.
And from that CBR feature comes a bit about future plans for the character:

“Bluejacket” is debuting in a short story in BOOM! Studios’ “Pulp Tales” anthology, but Moore said that further plans for the series have not yet been finalized. “BOOM! isn't publishing the series, but it was Mark Waid's suggestion that we debut the character in the ‘Pulp Tales’ anthology, since it seemed to fit the theme, and would serve as a great intro to the character,” he said. “As for when the ‘Bluejacket’ book might debut, we're not completely sure at this point. Best guess is early 2009.”

Here are the first two pages of the "Bluejacket" four-pager that ran in Pulp Tales.

Head over to CBR to see the final two pages.

Now, come on, hands up. Who doesn't want to see more Bluejacket from this team?


“The Parachute Ending” by Will Sweeney and Steve Scott

This morning Cartoon Brew had on a post on the following bit of trippy goodness.

Here's how Amid described it:

Your favorite animated music video for the next five minutes: Birdy Nam Nam’s “The Parachute Ending” directed by Steve Scott and illustrated by Will Sweeney. There’s a healthy dose of René Laloux and Moebius mixed in there, but the overall results are fresh and fun. According to Scott, it was influenced by Laloux’s Planet Sauvage, bad 80s kids cartoons, Metal Hurlant, Nausicaa and Prog Rock album covers. It was created over four weeks in Flash and AfterEffects.

Crew credits are:
James Littlemore - Editor / Compositor
Geoff McDowall - Animator
Ed Willmore - Animator
Roland Edwards - Animator
Dele Nuga - Digital Painter

Yes. What he said.


SF Signal Book Cover Smackdown

The fine fellows at SF Signal are running another of their "Book Cover Smackdown" features, pitting two different sf/f covers against one another in a battle royale. This time up it's the new MonkeyBrain titles,
Lee Moyer's cover for Two Hawks From Earth by Philip José Farmer, and Tony Shasteen's cover for Death of a Starship by Jay Lake.

Interested in making your opinion heard? Head on over and weigh in!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Good News, Everybody!

(via) It's been rumored for the last couple of days, but it appears to be official. Comedy Central has ordered a new season of Futurama.

Monday, June 08, 2009


MonkeyBrain Books update

Seeing that the first half of the year is rapidly drawing to a close, it must be time to update the MonkeyBrain Books site with the new 2009 titles.

So here's what we've got on tap. (Follow the links for full details.)

Two Hawks From Earth, by Philip José Farmer
(cover by Lee Moyer)

Death of a Starship, by Jay Lake
(cover illo by Tony Shasteen)

Both titles are available for preorder. So what are you waiting for?


Spotted in the Wild: EotC on B&N Endcaps

The following blurry phonecam image is proof of the existence of a beast I had suspected might be purely imaginary. But no, it's real. Real, I tell you!

Yes, that's End of the Century on a Barnes & Noble endcap. And the company it's keeping is none too shabby.

This particular "Dark Fantasy" endcap is set to run through the end of June, to be cycled out July 1st. If you haven't picked up End of the Century yet, but are intrigued by all of the glowing reviews I keep posting, this would be an excellent opportunity to get a copy.

If you've already read End of the Century and want to see more books in the Bonaventure-Carmody sequence, you might encourage friends to check out the book, too--the better the sales on End of the Century, the better the chances that I'll be able to write another installment in the sequence sooner rather than later.

And should I point out that they make excellent stocking stuffers?


Gene Yang's American Born Chinese and America.gov

I spent part of the weekend rereading Gene Yang's American Born Chinese, which I think I like even better now than I did when it first came out a couple of years ago. Highly, highly recommended, if you haven't read it yet yourselves.

On Saturday, midway through the reread, I saw a post on Derek Kirk Kim's blog about a short documentary piece done by America.gov about Yang and his book. Well, naturally I was intrigued.

It's a nice little bit, and encapsulates much of the thematic meat of the book. I made a note to blog about it first thing this morning.

This morning, though, before I could blog about it, I saw a post by "Sandy" on the blog I Love Rob Liefeld with a little more detail about the spot, and about others that America.gov has done.
The video was shot and edited by Steven Greenstreet from America.gov, who was nice enough to tell me about it.

America.gov recently has put up a number of articles about comic books and the Asian American experience, including:
  • An interview with Adrian Tomine
  • An interview with Gene Luen Yang
  • An interview with Jeff Yang, editor in chief of the new comic book Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology
  • A group discussion with editors Jeff Yang, Parry Shen, Keith Chow and Jerry Ma about Secret Identities
What is America.gov, you ask? It is run by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), which:
engages international audiences on issues of foreign policy, society and values to help create an environment receptive to U.S. national interests.

IIP communicates with foreign opinion makers and other publics through a wide range of print and electronic outreach materials published in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Persian, Russian, and Spanish. IIP also provides information outreach support to U.S. embassies and consulates in more than 140 countries worldwide.
So it's basically America's propaganda unit.

Hey -- if we're showing off America's good side by making documentaries about comic books, I'm all for it.

I'm with Sandy. I have no objection whatsoever to my tax dollars going to this kind of thing.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


The California Devil

Are you reading Dynamite's ongoing Zorro comic? If you're not, you should be.

I read (and loved) the first handful of individual issues, and then switched over to the hardcover collections when I saw how nice the Dynamite Lone Ranger collections were. But now I have to wait a long time between installments. And here's something I've missed in the interim.

On his blog, Francesco Francavilla shares the following gem, along with this explanation.
I wanted to share this back cover I did for Zorro #14 which, as all my back covers do, teases on the upcoming issue 15 which will see me back at doing the interior pages as well. The idea was to go with authentic old pulp magazine cover feel, and once you will have issue 15 in your hands you will see why ;)
And here's the image in question:

Awesome, no?


SF Signal on End of the Century

The inestimable JP Frantz has reviewed End of the Century for SF Signal, and seems to have enjoyed it.
Young Galaad follows his visions on a quest with King Artor in 498 AD, Detective Sandford Blank and his companion Roxanne Bonaventure investigate a series of bizarre and grisly murders on the eve of Queen Victoria's jubilee and in 2000 AD, Alice Fell runs away to London based on her visions she sees during epileptic fits. In End of the Century, Chris Roberson deftly weaves these three story lines together to tell the 'real story' of the King Arthur myths.

Roberson knows a good thing when he sees it, especially if he's written it. His series of novels starring the Bonaventure-Carmody clan (Here, There and Everywhere, Paragea and Set the Seas on Fire) are uniformly excellent, covering quite a bit of science fictional ground. And much like Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton books, Roberson's series can expand to encompass just about anything, in this case King Arthur.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Fan Recreations of Fan Videos

Full credit to Dave Roman for pointing this one out.

Sarah Newhouse, known on LiveJournal as 3x1minus1 and as AvoidantConsumer on YouTube, made a fan video for Phoenix's "Lisztomania," using clips from various 80's "Brat Pack" films like Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club. (The official video is here, for reference.)

And then a filmmaker named Ian Parker and his friends shot a recreation of her video on Brooklyn rooftops, matching Newhouse's edit shot for shot. And clearly have a lot of fun doing so.

If you ask me, this is what the internet is for...


Space Monkeys

I have Gerry Canavan and Metafilter to thank for pointing out National Geographic's pictorial history of space monkeys.

That's right, I said it. Space monkeys.

Ham was a bad ass.


The Prisoner teaser

I'm still not sold on the idea of a remake of The Prisoner, but there's nothing in this (admittedly brief) teaser that offends me yet.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Kid Kthulu!

I have the Kirby Project to thank for pointing out the work of Thomas Perkins, a character designer who has worked on such projects as Extreme Ghostbusters, Godzilla the Animated Series, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, Men In Black the Series, The Batman, Tutenstein, and Ben 10. He's also made props for Dexter, Heroes, and Without a Trace, which I'm gathering has included doing mock-ups of old comics.

Perkins maintains two portfolio blogs (here & here), and a DeviantArt account, which is where I found the following gem.

There's loads more awesome in the links (and on this blog in particular). Check it out, won't you?

Monday, June 01, 2009


We Make Holes in Teeth

For reasons escaping my understanding, I just found the phrase "We make holes in teeth! We make holes in teeth!" running through my head, as I got the bath ready for Georgia. It took a few seconds to figure out where it was coming from.

This spot is probably thirty years old, give or take a bit, and it's entirely possible that I haven't seen it since it originally aired. So why is it in my head on an otherwise ordinary Monday evening?


The Mercury Men's gravity gun, the Lumiére

Hey, remember The Mercury Men? Well, the debut of the web-series is still a ways off, but the good folks behind it have just posted a little treat to the official site.

Here's the explanation:
We're proud to release our first digital prop: the Lumiére! Jack's trusted weapon was created by N. J. Schnur, a League engineer who developed a new type of bullet and delivery system upon discovering the light forging process from the lightsmiths of Mercury. We've provided a hi-res 8 x 10" file for you to print out on your own.
And here's the image:

Head over to the Mercury Men site to download the full-sized version.


Monday Linkage

It's been a while since I did a collection of links, so here's a few that have been caught in the nets.


Kage Baker's Not Less Than Gods

This morning sees the announcement that Kage Baker's forthcoming Not Less Than Gods (which I take to be the retitled novel formerly known as And We Are Everywhere, the news of which got me all excited back in January), will be available in a limited edition from Subterranean a few months before the trade edition comes out from Tor.

Here's what the announcement had to say: "Subterranean Press is proud to present the limited edition of Kage Baker’s next full length novel. Our edition will precede the trade by a number of months. Not Less Than Gods has already been fully proofed by the author, and artist J. K. Potter is nearing completion of the interior illustrations. We’re right on schedule for release late this year."

And here's the description from the site:

Throughout the Company series, there were occasional references to a mysterious group operating during the Victorian era. Their origins were, supposedly, lost in the mists of time. Their members had, purportedly, included such worthies as Archimedes, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Dr. John Dee. Their 19th-century headquarters were, allegedly, located beneath an exclusive London club. It was further alleged that in that time and place they called themselves the Gentlemen's Speculative Society, and that a retired naval commander on half-pay named Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax was one of their number. Their goal, it was said, was to bring about a new and better world through the implementation of what the Greeks called Technologia...

Not Less Than Gods is the story of young Edward's creation and recruitment by the GSS, his training, and his first mission. Edward and his fellow agents, armed with a lethally useful array of steampunk technology, set out on a grand tour to gather intelligence. The year is 1849, but the GSS have had advance warning of conflict in the Crimea. Can it be prevented? Can the GSS benefit? Their journey will take them through the shrines of the Holy Land, the bazaars of old Constantinople, the muddy frontiers along the Danube and the chilly splendors of St. Petersburg, to a blazing denouement in its dark streets. Edward emerges from the fire tempered into the perfect GSS operative, steadfast, zealous, determined to bring about a glorious new future... and fully aware a price must be paid in blood and honor.

Sixty bucks for an illustrated limited edition Kage Baker title, months before the trade edition hits shelves? That's cheap at twice the price! Go order, already!

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