Voyage of the Star Wolf- A Review

I just finished reading David Gerrold’s “Voyage of the Star Wolf”, a book that has somehow managed to end up as a “classic”. In an odd situation, I think this is actually the third time I have read it, but I had to re-read it again to realize that.

Let me explain-

At some point in the 90’s, I took this book out from the local library, read the first couple chapters, got bored, and returned it.

At least, that’s what I remembered happening. However, as I read the book, I was overcome with a sense of deja-vu and found myself knowing the story and even the lines and situations before they happened. Which means one of two things:

  1. I actually did finish it that first time, but forgot that I’d finished it.
  2. I read and finished it sometime during the intervening years, but it was so forgettable I forgot that I finished it.

I suspect the answer is #2, but it could be #1, either way, the key there is that this is a light and easily forgettable book. (It’s not a long read, so this probably contributes to that feeling.)

This book was written around the time Gerrold was the Script Editor for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it really really shows. The book itself is basically Gerrold’s critique of ST:TNG, and reads like Gerrold basically showing the creators of the show “how it should have been done” from his point of view.

The plot runs like this- A determined young first officer working under an older Captain (who uses the line “Make it so”, and talks about being honest with your crew, and other getting along stuff) aboard the LS-1197 (a destroyer-class vessel, I think) finds his world turned upside down when the Morthans (read: Klingons) attack a big convoy they’re guarding and leaves the Captain dead (who freezes up in REAL combat, so much for getting along!). The ship is then put under the command of the Star Wolf, a REAL military Captain who tells him what the first Captain taught him was crap, and teaches him the way real military people do things. They then kick Morthan butt and get revenge.

Yep, really subtle, isn’t it?

A character literally ends a chapter with the line:

“For some reason, I have the feeling that this is not going to be a happy enterprise.”

However, the great irony is that once the military transformation is done, the crew does indeed act exactly like the ST:TNG crew for the most part. (They even have a Morthan security officer named Brik, who is Worf, but more competent.)  Including a female character (the one who utters the line above) who does things that in ST:TNG would be fine, but aboard a real military ship would get her court martialed in a second, and totally gets away with it. (So much for “realistic” military Sci-Fi.)

Not that it matters much, as the characters aren’t the stars of this book anyways.

What do I mean?

Here’s a hint- you have to read FOUR chapters before a character name even appears. (And it’s a background character we never meet again!)  In the meantime, you’ve read two chapters about the setting, and one chapter detailing the ship itself in exquisite detail. These are the real stars of the book (the setting, the ship, and the kinda detailed way ships work and fight), and the characters are more organic components of story that interact with the ship and setting.

Which might be fine if those were interesting, but they really aren’t anything special. It’s generic Starship sci-fi following the Star Trek paradigm while trying desperately to claim it’s not Star Trek. It’s not hardcore enough to be real military sci-fi, and not romantic enough to be space adventure, it just kinda wallows somewhere in the middle and doesn’t quite work as either.

Lest someone reads this who thinks of it as a military sci-fi story, I’ll remind you of the following- when they come across a derelict ship that they believe it a trap that will blow up and kill them all- what do they do? Not only do they decide to send in a boarding party (which is somewhat reasonable, there’s valuable stuff on board), but their “brilliant” Captain Star Wolf actually docks the two ships together, despite having a bay full of shuttles he could send to check the other ship out without putting the entire crew in mortal danger.

Ooops.

I doubt the first captain would have made that mistake, but he wasn’t hardcore military enough and actually cared about his crew.

Rob

The ePublishing Scammers come out to play…

Author David Gaughran has posted an article over on his blog warning about the growing minefield of people out there looking to sell overpriced services to self-publishing authors under the pretense of being real publishing houses. The sad thing is that the real publishing houses have smelled money and are now also trying to get into the game!

Most of this is being done by Author’s Solutions, a modern Vanity Press company David gives these stats about:

1. 150,000 customers have only published 190,000 books, meaning there’s very little repeat business – esp. when you factor in all the authors publishing multiple titles right off the bat. For comparison, the average Smashwords author has published over four titles with them.

2. The average Author Solutions customer spends $5,000 publishing their book, and only sells 150 copies.

3. Only one-third of Author Solutions’ income comes from book sales royalties. Two thirds comes from author services – their whole model is based on making money from you, not with you.

These are leeches preying on people’s hope and dreams, and not giving anywhere near back what they take. Note #2, how they charge $5000 on average to “help” you get your book ready to market. Do you know how much most self-pubbed authors pay reputable services for editing and a cover? $300-$500 for the whole package! (It can get up around $1000 if you want more extensive work done and you hire a high-end artist for the cover.) And actually, many pay ZERO dollars if they have friends and family who can help them do it, since the actual publishing side is free for eBooks (and costs around $40 to set up Print-on-Demand services through Amazon or Lulu).

And no matter how much you pay to whom, you still have to do all your own marketing!

All for average sales of 150 copies. (Lifetime.)

So do your homework.

Real publishers ask for ZERO money upfront, because they pay you to publish your work, not the other way around.

Reputable editors and services don’t charge you thousands of dollars to get your book ready.

Read the linked article, ask around, explore your options, and beware the traps! For there are many, and you will get screwed if you pick the wrong one!

Rob

Marvel’s (White) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

So, ABC finally made the obvious official- there is a new TV series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. For which you can watch the first trailer below…

Looks amazing, doesn’t it? Gonna be a heck of a show, and I’m seriously looking forward to it. But, there is something that bothered me about it, and I think I can demonstrate with the official cast picture…

marvels-agents-of-shield-cast

Look, I’m not someone who thinks every cast needs to be equally male and female, nor am I someone who believes that every cast should look like it was designed to appeal to every cultural/ethnic group. I always believe what’s more important is the characters, and they should be whatever the creators want them to be, political correctness be damned.

That said, that cast couldn’t be a bunch of whiter people if we sent them to Harvard and dipped them in yogurt! Even the token Asian chick (who is supposed to be the team’s “tough guy”, good luck with that) is one of the whitest and most caucasian looking Asians they could possibly find. (And if you’ve seen other pictures of Ming Na Wen, they’re working hard on the make-up end to made her as un-ethnic as possible.) This cast looks like it was for the SHIELD TV series of 1963, not 2013! Did the execs at ABC not get the memo? Or, did they borrow the casting director from the CW?

Also, is there a factory churning out clones of Nicolas Brendon (Xander from Buffy:TVS)? Because the lead male there could show up at his house for dinner and Brendon’s family wouldn’t even notice! (They’d probably just assume it’s his identical twin brother dropping by to say hello.)

Now, I’m not sure who’s responsible for this, whether it’s the Whedons (the show is done by Josh, his brother and his sister-in-law (who’s Asian)), or whether it’s the execs at ABC. I lean towards the execs at ABC- it is the middle-America Disney channel now, so they are targeting that demographic. But really, a whole show about white people running around and the only major black character in the pilot is a street thug with superpowers? Well, I guess that does fit in with the ABC mindset nicely.

I really would have liked to see a person of color as Coulson’s second in command (or anywhere else on the team!), especially since the Marvel movies are about a group of superpowered white people saving the world again and again. This show could really have been a chance to balance that off a little, and show that the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t just inhabited by white people saving the day.

But apparently, it is.

Rob

Fan-Translated Manga I’m Reading at the Moment

One of the great things about the Internet is that many things which aren’t considered considered commercially viable are distributed online by people who have a passion for them. This can be people sharing recipes, fansubbing their favorite TV shows from other countries, or fan-translations of Manga.

There are a couple Manga that I really enjoy which don’t have a strong enough English fanbase to actually publish for profit, but which fans have translated for fun. All of these titles can be around on sites like Mangafox or Manga Reader.

Black Joke- An action manga about the enforcers who work for a Casino in the future, and the dirty jobs they have to do. I wasn’t sure about this one at first, since it’s a bit odd and gory, but the more I read it the more attached to it I became. Now it’s one of my favorites, although it is definitely not for everyone!  (Rated Hard R)Black Joke 1: Odor at MangaFox.me

 

One-Punch Man– A superhero-action-comedy about a Superman-level superhero who can literally defeat any opponent in one punch, and how incredibly boring this makes his life. It’s a Japanese take on American superheroes, kind’ve like The Tick, but with more gore and nice art. (The whole thing seems to be an art experiment by the creator.) It’s gaining quite a following in American fan circles.Onepunch-Man 1: 1st Punch [One Punch] at MangaFox.me

 

Gamble Fish– Tomu Shirasagi is a young gambler who travels to the ShishiDo Academy (Japan’s most elite prep school) with the stated goal of making $100 million through gambling and betting with the school’s students. But the school and Tomu both have dark secrets, and these spiral out of control in a series of ever-escalating “games” based around a combination of wits, bravery and deception. It starts serious, gets more than a little over-the-top and silly, but is always fun an interesting.Gamble Fish 1: Truth and Lies at MangaFox.me

Killer StallIn this action Korean Manhua, Choo is an elite killer for an organized crime outfit who decides to start a new life because he falls in love. You can probably guess how well that works out. A well told tale of gangsters and assassins.

Killer Stall 2: The Legend of Dan-Gun at MangaFox.me

Liar Game- A young woman is drawn into a game of deception called the Liar Game. Similar to the manga Death Note, but based around psychological warfare and deception. It was on a break for a while, but new ones have come out recently. Not a breezy read, but worth the effort to follow.

Liar Game 18: Revival Round at MangaFox.me

Robot KeijiOldschool (like 1970’s oldschool) manga about an old police detective who is assigned a new partner- a robot. Surprisingly serious and dark, it has an edge to it that newer manga tend to lack. The characters are a little cartoony, but the story and presentation really draw you in. I didn’t think I’d like it and read it on a whim, now I really want to read more!

Robot Keiji 1 at MangaFox.me

Heroes of the Spring and AutumnIn this Chinese Manhua (comic), a Chinese prince is attacked by a group of mysterious martial artists and receives a head injury that leaves him with amnesia. However, that’s just the core story of an epic conspiracy surrounding the end of the Qin dynasty. Not a great comic, but nice art and a very different approach to storytelling.

Heroes of the Spring and Autumn 1 at MangaFox.me

 

Feeling a Little Evil? – Method to the Madness has been Unleashed!

The long-awaited handbook that belongs on the shelf of every world conquerer has finally been released upon the world!

Want to know the in’s and out’s of supervillain fashion? It’s in there!

Want to know about care and feeding of your minions? It’s in there!

Want to know how to decorate that new lair just right? It’s in there!

Want to know about how a real supervillain handles a public relations crisis? It’s in there! (And I should know, I wrote it!)

The world’s 24 worst villains were asked to provide their best tips and advice, and now these secrets will be shared with you!  Each copy been scanned for nanotech zombie plagues and hypnotic commands to bark like a dog, and found to be completely safe! (And if not- you won’t remember anyway!)

So, shamble on over to Amazon, Smashwords or visit the kind folks at Five Rivers Publishing and grab your copy today! (Remember- The early bird who hesitates gets wormed!)