Friday, July 29, 2011

Breaking Political News!

Entire Republican Party Dies In Series Of Horrific Automobile Accidents

Deaths Occur Mere Hours After Obama's Traffic Safety Speech

Disassociated Press--A wave of tragedy struck the Republican Party today, as virtually all elected Republicans in Washington D.C. were struck by moving vehicles and died. The tragedy comes mere hours after a speech by President Barack Obama, in which he came out in favor of pedestrian safety. Said one horrified bystander, "It was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen; they were just hurling themselves in front of cars!"

Ironically, just hours before the hundreds of Congressmen perished, Barack Obama delivered an address to the nation in which he came out strongly against just such behavior. "I think that all Americans agree that the worst thing you can possibly do, for your own safety and that of motorists, is to go play in traffic. Flinging yourself in front of a motor vehicle with a carefree 'Wheeeee!' on your lips is dangerous, perhaps even suicidal, and I am strongly against it."

One driver said of the carnage, "I was just driving along, and I saw Eric Cantor, but I never expected him to just fling himself in front of my car! He even shouted 'Wheeeee!' while he did it!" The driver, like those of the other vehicles, will not be charged with vehicular homicide until the unusual occurrence can be fully investigated.

For now, the nation mourns, and prepares to hold special elections to replace the deceased Republicans. It is uncertain who will stand for those elections, however, as President Obama has just come out in favor of the two-party system.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Self-Taught Superheroes, Part Three

It had been fifteen minutes since we disconnected the IV, and his eyes were just now beginning to open. The police told us they hadn't taken him off the sedatives since we brought him in eight hours ago, since he was classified as "Dangerous - Potential for Non-Physical Threat." The cops are still learning how to handle supervillains, but they're learning fast.

I wasn't in the room with him; I got to stare at him through a two-way mirror, pacing back and forth fast enough to create a heavy breeze in the room. Neither was Josh; he was back at base, making sure that Susan's condition was stable and sending people out to deal with other little crises that popped up. The world doesn't stop just because one of your best friends gets sick. These days, it doesn't feel like it stops for anything.

Finally, the guy sat up and looked around. He tried to get out of bed, but the restraints stopped him cold. They were the kind we designed to handle bad guys with super-strength, since we weren't sure if he had any kind of telekinetic powers, but from the way he reacted, he wasn't any stronger than a normal person. He looked around wildly, saw my new partner, and glared at him.

"You might have some difficulties convincing me to commit suicide," Zombie Samurai said, staring back at him with milk-white eyes. "After all, I am already dead." I am supposed to be a hardened superhero, with almost nine months of experience under my belt, but I gotta tell you, that creeped me the heck out. I can only imagine what it did to the guy in the room with him.

Sure enough, he jerked around wildly in the restraints a little more, like a fox caught in a trap. Finally, he subsided and looked over at Zombie Samurai. "What do you want?" he asked.

"You know already," Zombie Samurai said. (Yeah, he's got a name. Don't care, he's a samurai who's also a zombie. I am calling them like I see them, here!) "You are an animal, with an animal's cunning. I can see it on your face; you intend to bargain your freedom for the life of your victim."

The guy smiled. I really wanted to punch that smile. "Yeah, pretty much," he said. "So are you the one who can make that decision, or do I need to talk to the chickie behind the glass?" He looked over at me. Not just at the mirror, or in my general direction, right at me. "You might as well come on out, little girl. I know you're in there."

I didn't come out. Because I'm not stupid. Instead, I pushed a button to talk to him through the intercom. "I think I'll stay in here," I said. "I'm not dead just yet, and I don't think I'd like it." I pressed the button again. "Um, no offense."

The guy pursed his lips like he'd just eaten a lemon. "I can't get into your head," he said reluctantly. "I can see it, but it's like a tape recorder moving at the wrong speed. Your leader picked the right freaks to talk to me, you and your freak buddy here."

"Then I guess you're out of luck," I responded. I realized I hadn't hit the button yet. "Then I guess you're out of luck," I repeated. "You can't do anything mental, you can't do anything physical, and your buddies are all in jail right with you. You want to make a deal, Mister...?"

"Meme," he said. "Mister Meme." He attempted a sort of vague half-bow, but the restraints kept him from doing too much. I seriously don't know how police deal with people like this every day without smacking them around. "And yes, I do. I want out. Out of the restraints, out of the crappy prison, and maybe a ticket to someplace nice with no extradition treaties. Haven't done my homework on those, though. Does Rio work? I think I'd like Rio."

"Cute." Great. Just what we needed. We were facing off against the Fighting LOLcat, and he was acting smug. "You want to make a deal, we'll bring Susan in and have you fix whatever it was you did to her and then we'll talk to the cops about maybe reducing your sentence for attempted murder."

He laughed. He actually laughed. Zombie Samurai hadn't even moved, just kept staring at him with those freaky dead eyes, but the guy was actually laughing. "You think this is still about 'Susan'?" I mentally winced--I hadn't meant to use her real name. He was a telepath, though; he probably knew already. "You're going to have to let me out soon, chickadee, I guarantee you that. You won't be able to fit them all in here for me to fix."

"What?" I asked. I knew what he meant already, but my mouth hadn't caught up with my mind.

"Memes are ideas that reproduce." He kept staring at me, that ugly little smile still on his face. "Susie girl has an idea in her head, a puzzle with 'Kill Yourself' as the only answer. And just like any good brainteaser, she's going to pass it on. You and your freak buddy are immune, but..." He chuckled. "In fact, now that I think about it? Let's extend that free pass to all my friends. Or otherwise you're going to go back home to a stack of corpses."

Zombie Samurai looked over at me. I was really glad for the two-way mirror, because I didn't have a clue what to do and it was written all over my face.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Other Problem With "A Good Man Goes To War"

I watched "A Good Man Goes To War" again last week, and it still didn't sit as well with me as some of the other Moffat Who episodes have in the past. I'm aware that some of it is due to the episode's status as a "mid-season cliffhanger"--after all, it literally has to end with the Doctor at least somewhat outmaneuvered by his enemies, and with the bad guys having gained some form of triumph. I'm also aware that some of it is due to the fact that the conflict with said bad guys has to, by its very nature, see-saw wildly over the course of the episode. They must first be built up as a formidable threat so that we legitimately doubt the Doctor can defeat them; then they must be utterly defeated by the Doctor so that he can "rise higher than ever before"; then they have to pull some form of triumph from the jaws of defeat so that he can fall "so much further". (Neither of which is true, but given that it's River describing events there, I'll excuse her as having a certain degree of understandable bias.)

But what bugged me on rewatching it was River's speech to the Doctor at the end. You know, the one about "All this is to some extent your fault because you're so terrifying to those who would oppose you that they've gone to insane lengths to defeat you." Which is not too dissimilar to Davros' "You claim to be a non-violent explorer who doesn't like weapons, but you do seem to have a habit of getting other people to do your dirty work," but I could at least excuse that one away because it was freaking Davros talking, and Davros is such a vicious and amoral little twerp that hearing him chastise the Doctor's ethics was a little like getting a lecture on veganism from Adolf Hitler.

But River is supposed to be a viewpoint character. She's supposed to know more than the Doctor, for Pete's sake, due to the peculiarities of their temporal relationship to each other, and she's laying the blame for Melody's kidnapping at the Doctor's feet. Why? Because apparently he's become so good at fighting evil that bad guys are getting ruthless and desperate and over-the-top in their efforts to stop him. Because he actually frightens the wicked and the cruel the way they frighten everybody else.

Hey, you know what might be an option for them? NOT BEING SO F***ING EVIL. The Doctor doesn't just swoop down on random people off the street and mess up their lives. He went after these people because they were kidnappers who experimented on children, because they were murderers who mutilated their own troops and turned them into horrific mindless killing machines, because they were allied with a race of yes-I-will-say-it monsters whose goal is to destroy the universe and who actually succeeded once. River says these guys are scared of the Doctor? I wanted the Doctor to respond with, "Not scared enough. Because they haven't stopped."

But instead the Doctor changes the subject to realizing that he actually knows who River is (and he's excited by it, not squicked out, which is another thing wrong about the episode) and we're left with a vague sort of impression that maybe River's right. And she's not. The only people who are afraid of the Doctor are the bad guys. And honestly, if you hear that wheezing, groaning sound and worry that this time, he's come for you...then you must have done something pretty bad. People like that deserve a little fear, if only as punishment for all they inflict.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Self-Taught Superheroes, Part Two

(Apologies for the delay in posting--I literally didn't realize it was Thursday until I got up today. This week has been rocketing past! This one's also a little shorter than the last one. The last one was actually longer than I intended it to be, this is more in line with the "normal" length. Anyhow, less talk, more superheroes.)

I probably created a pretty major scene when I came into the room. I mean, soaking wet straight through my costume, mask off, little bits of half-digested tranquilizer in my's no wonder everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at me. "Hummingbird!" Josh cried out as he launched himself out of his chair. His eyes were wide with surprise. (Josh is the only one who calls everyone by their code names, all the time. I'm pretty good about it in public, everyone else is hit or miss. Except Adam, who's miss or miss.)

I waved back in the direction of the dorms. "SusanImeanGaianChampionshe'sinthebathroomshe tookawholebunchofpillsIthinktheguyshewasfightingdidsomethingtoherbrainshepukedmostofthem upallovermebutshe'sstilllookingprettywoozyandshe'stooheavyformetocarryweneedtogetherdown herefastsothatsomeonecangethersomemedicalattention!"

Everyone just kept staring at me for a second or two, until I realized I'd forgotten to talk at a normal speed. "Susan. Upstairs. Sick. Took some pills, lots of pills. I don't think she's dying, but she needs help." I forced each word out at a deliberate pace, putting what felt like an eternity between each word. Even then, I think it probably came out at a machine-gun pace.

But it was slow enough. Josh sprang into flight, cruising through the archway at about fifty miles an hour and already accelerating. (This is why we have no doors at the Academy.) While he was gone, the rest of us made a place for him to set her. Darcshield went to the supply room to get medicine (thankfully one of his four PhDs is in medicine), while I made a mental note that we needed to get our act together and turn some of the space around here into an infirmary. Assuming there wasn't one around here already--that was the problem with appropriating your headquarters from a criminal mastermind instead of building it yourself, nobody knew where the heck anything was.

Josh got back with Susan before Darcshield got back with meds, and he put her down on the floor and did his best to make her comfortable. It was scary seeing her like that--she looked so pale. Normally her skin was a dark green, a kind of a forest green color. But now she was only a shade darker than I was. (Yes, I do have skin the color of mint chocolate chip ice cream. That's just the way the ball bounces when your dad cures your congenital degenerative metabolic condition with an infusion of hummingbird DNA. I guess I'm lucky I didn't grow feathers.) Susan's eyes were open...ish, and she was kind of mumbling, but she was too weak to make any of it out.

It felt like forever before Darcshield got back, and I'm pretty sure that even went for the people who experienced time at normal speed. But he forced some gunk down her throat, and then he sat her up while she puked her guts out again all over the floor (sorry, I'm describing a lot of puking and not much in the way of exciting escapades of superheroism. We do those, too, I promise!) Then he poured some other gunk down her throat that she didn't puke up. "Activated charcoal," he said, in response to people's stares. "It'll bind up the drug, keep anything that's still in her stomach from being absorbed into the bloodstream. There's also a cathartic in there to get her to, um...expel it quicker."

"But when she wakes up," I said. "Will she try again?"

He paused for a long moment. "I don't know," he said at last. "This is physical medicine. We don't have any telepaths on the team, nobody who can tell what he did to her mind. The only person who knows what he did to her, and how to fix it if it needs fixing, is..."

"Him." Josh finished the thought. "The guy who did this to her." He frowned. "Looks like we need to go see a man in a cell."


Friday, July 15, 2011

Utterly Shameless Plug, 2011 Edition

Naturally, it goes almost without saying that in addition to my general pop-culture savviness, I also happen to be an erudite scholar of the first order. As such, it should surprise virtually nobody that I am featured in an academic publication of the highest order, from the textbook publishers at University of Ottawa Press.

Called "Braaaiiinnnsss! From Academics to Zombies", and edited by Robert Smith? (the mathematician who made a media splash a while back by modeling the spread of a zombie virus mathematically), this textbook features a variety of academic essays on the truest and most vital topic of the age: the zombie apocalypse. Mine is but one of a veritable cornucopia of scholarly discussions on the zombie problem that faces the world today, a humble contribution on the epidemiology of the zombie plague.

The book is available at a variety of outlets, such as:


(or, for those of you who would prefer to read the essays in French, at:

and of course, Amazon has it at:

So remember, it's three a's, three i's, three n's, and three s's. "Braaaiiinnnsss"! Be very careful about asking for it by name.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Self-Taught Superheroes, Part One

The shower stall would probably have felt cramped even if I hadn't been sharing it with Susan. With both of us in there, I barely even had room to wriggle.

Okay. I should probably mention that we were both fully clothed. And the water was on. And it was really, really cold. And Susan was only about an eighth of the way awake, and getting less so every minute. Which was, natch, why she was under icy cold water with Yours Truly holding her upright and giving her a good slap every few seconds.

At least, that was the plan. It had a few flaws.

The first flaw was that, as I mentioned, there was not much room. If Susan tipped about six inches one way, she was leaning against the wall. If she tipped six inches the other, she was slumped onto me. That leads me naturally to mentioning the second flaw, which is that she's a good head and a half taller than me. And, um, she's kind of...I'll say "full-bodied", because you might get the wrong idea if I called her "stacked", seeing as how I'm already describing the two of us showering together. Suffice to say that I could barely see the face I was supposedly slapping because there was a massive wall of breast practically smothering me at about mouth level.

You could probably say that this wasn't turning out to be my favorite day ever.

It hadn't started that bad. Word was really starting to get out about the Academy, and we had three new recruits show up that day. I didn't get to see one of them, but Adam did; he said she was calling herself Skreem Queen, and he talked about her like he couldn't think about anything else. But that's Adam. I think he falls in love once a day and twice on Sundays. He'll move on to the next girl soon enough. (Or at least, he'll move on to hitting on the next girl soon enough. Guy's been shot down more often than Snoopy.)

The other one called himself Blue-Collar, and he seemed nice; he was an older guy, maybe in his forties, but he didn't act all overconfident and try to pretend he knew more than everybody just because he was older than most of us. He was polite, listened a lot, and he even told us his real name. There are people who have been here longer than I have that haven't given a real name yet.

The last one kind of...okay, not kind of. There's no real way you can "kind of" creep someone out when you're a walking corpse with a metal plate that covers half your face and a giant freaking katana you carry around with you everywhere. He gave his real name, but everyone started calling him "Zombie Samurai" within about thirty seconds. It's probably going to stick way better than his real name.

But yeah, three new people. Recruits, teammates, roommates, whatever you want to call them. That put us up to twenty-five. I started to feel like maybe we were hitting a critical mass of some sort, like maybe Josh's big plan was starting to work. (He just calls it The Plan. I swear, you can hear the capital letters.)

But then the Destructors hit Los Angeles. The first time we fought them, there was about four of them. This time, there was nine...and we were already split into three teams because the Grand Finale was laying waste to Seattle and we needed about seven people just for him, and the Shadow Confederacy had just broken through into our dimension right on top of the Mall of America. Twenty-five people didn't feel like nearly enough some days.

We did alright, though. A couple of the new Destructors were just wannabes, guys who heard about the "super-villain" craze and thought they could use their training or skills or whatever to hang with the gang and commit mayhem. One of them wasn't even wearing a cup. I have official news for you. When you're fighting someone who can hit you three hundred seventy-two times in the instant that you blink, you definitely want to be wearing a cup.

I thought it went well. Admittedly, I thought that the guy fighting Susan seemed to have a strange attitude and one of those creepy, weird auras that screamed, "I have mental powers!" But I also thought Susan wrapped him up in tangle vines and cut off his oxygen before he could do anything. (One of the weird things about actually having real-life superheroes is that you find out that all the powers that sounded really lame in the comics, like plant control, turn out to be terrifyingly bad-ass. "Weather control"? Nobody ever picked it in my gaming group, but Stormcrow has made grown men piss themselves. And she's younger than I am.)

But when we got back to the dorms, Susan started acting...funny. Just staring off into space, with this sad look on her face. Which wouldn't have seemed out of place on Stormcrow or Goth Grrl, but Susan was always cheerful. I started to worry about her, then. When she went into the bathroom and didn't come back out, I decided to go with my gut. (Rule Number Thirty-Two of the Academy, as contributed by John Q. Public: Always go with your gut.) I kicked open the door and went inside.

I found Susan slumped down on the floor with a bottle of sleeping pills next to her. Most of them were gone. It did not take a nuclear scientist to figure out where they went. (We actually have a nuclear scientist on the team. But I was not about to go ask him right then, obviously.) Whatever that guy was, he must have had some sort of...I dunno, psychic sting or something, some sort of delayed-effect blast that hit her hard and made her suicidal. Which meant that in the long term, we needed to figure out if it would wear off, or at least find someone who could reverse it. In the short term, though, I needed to keep Susan awake and alive.

It wasn't going well. I had managed to manhandle--okay, womanhandle--her under the shower head, and the cold water was going full blast. But I had no idea how to get her to puke up the pills, which was kind of important if she was going to live through this. Everyone else had gone downstairs to talk (Josh says it's a "debriefing". We all just say we're talking about how we can do better. Josh is awesome, but he takes himself a little too seriously sometimes.) The long and short of it was, I was soaked to the skin in icy water, my best friend on the team was barely conscious, and my original plan--shout myself hoarse and pray someone had super-senses they hadn't mentioned yet--was not working.

So I did the only thing I could think of. I punched her in the stomach.

Not hard, or anything. I mean, I'm only sixteen, even if I do hit a little harder than your average sixteen year old girl. When it comes to brutality, I'm a "quantity over quality" kind of kid. But it turned out that with a belly full of pills that Susan's body was already trying to get rid of, that was enough. She let fly with a big mouthful of ick, all over the top of my head.

It added a lot of extra suck to an already sucky day. But at least I was already in the shower.


What the Hey

I've been reading 'Chicks Dig Time Lords' and 'Whedonistas' lately, both from Mad Norwegian Press (what can I say, Mad Norwegian had an excellent presence at CONvergence last week)...and one of the things that it reminded me of is just how much fun it was to write fan-fiction. That sense of writing on the fly, with no grand plan, purely to see if people liked what you wrote...I realize I kind of missed that.

There's just one problem. I don't want to write other people's characters.

So starting on Monday, until I get sick of it or people beg me to stop, I'm going to try writing a fanfiction that doesn't use any established characters, set in my own universe. (Yes, I'm aware that this would just be "writing fiction". Hush. My brain seems to think there's a distinction, and if I can fool it into writing more, I'm going with it.) I'll write, and see what comes out. I know where I'm starting, at least...and you'll find out on Monday.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Review: My Sucky Teen Romance

Hey, everybody! I just got back from CONvergence, a local sci-fi con that we've made it a habit of going to the last few years. It was a nice experience--among other things, I bumped into an old friend I haven't seen for over a decade--and one of the coolest things was getting a chance to see Emily Hagins' new film, 'My Sucky Teen Romance'.

You might not have heard of Emily Hagins--I hadn't--but she's a film-maker from Austin, Texas who has made a couple of feature films prior to MSTR, 'Pathogen' and 'The Retelling'. This film, her third, focuses on a group of teens going to a local sci-fi con (clearly inspired by and shot at CONvergence) who run afoul of a who's exploiting his resemblance to Robert Pattinson and the current 'Twilight' craze to get his fill of teenage blood. It's got quite a few sharp, clever lines, makes use of the con setting well to make it look like they spent a lot more money on it than they did, and is generally fun and witty.

Oh, and by the way, Emily Hagins is just now turning eighteen. Just in case you weren't impressed yet.

All eighteenage aside, this is a very good film. It's low-budget and that does sometimes show (but not as often as you might think), and the use of authentic teenagers as actors means there's some stiffness now and again (but in a film that's very much about teen awkwardness and romance between shy and introverted people, that's not always a drawback) and it does briefly get a little talky towards the end of the second act...but frankly, this is not a film you need to grade on a curve to say nice things about. There are a lot of people who are making movies on much bigger budgets with much more polished actors who have turned out a much less watchable product than 'My Sucky Teen Romance'. Put this in a room with 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon', and you'd be muting Optimus Prime after about five minutes.

I don't know where this film will go from here, theatrically or on DVD, but I'm definitely going to find out. There are a few fourteen year olds I know who would love to see it.