Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

7/5/2019

Free Short Speculative Fiction

Filed under: Fun,The Infinite Library — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I love free and I love speculative fiction.
This week, I have both for you.

One of, if not THE, premier publisher of fantasy and science fiction currently, is TOR. Their excellent website, TOR.com, is a treasure trove of reviews, publishing announcements, essays, and, as you might have guessed, short fiction. It’s free, too, though that’s not always a given on any website these days. And, this week, I wanted to highlight an author who I somehow have not read much of yet; Michael Swanwick. I’ve read some of his excellent reviews and interviews of other authors, mostly via LOCUS, but, from Internet Science Fiction Database profile, he’s far more prolific than I’d realized! And that’s great news because the stories I’ve read from his Mongolian Wizard series are fantastic! They’ve got a very good steampunk feel to them, but in very much an original setting, while still, somehow, remaining so very familiar and comfortable that the reader just slips right into the most delightful suspension of disbelief that we hardly notice. They’re little miracles and a brilliant demonstration of short-form speculative fiction.
Go read them! All of them! Right now!

Then come back next week and see what I have for you next!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, where I hope to write fiction one day as well.

6/21/2019

Star Wars Animals

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

The creatures are the best part.

Okay, maybe you disagree there, but one of the things I’ve always loved best about any science-fiction is the creatures. That’s true whether it’s the sandworms of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, the low-rent costumed animals in the original Star Trek TV series, or the vast array of alien creatures in the Star Wars films. Now, I’m not a huge fan of all of the CGI revisions that Geore Lucas made to the original trilogy (ie Han shot first! And the original Death Star explosion was fine, thanks.), but I absolutely love the combination of practical effects and computer graphics that made all the creatures on all the planets come to life. Whether it was bantha or the rancor, the original trilogy had great and setting appropriate animals that made the Star Wars universe seem a little more real. And, whatever your feeling about Episodes I, II, and III, Industrial Light and Magic really earned their name with the beasties on Naboo, not to mention the other creatures that show up in the least likely places.
So, when I saw this video from the Star Wars Kids channel titled Every Creature in the Star Wars Movies, I had to share it with you. It’s literally less than five minutes and still manages to cover all 90 named alien animals in all the movies so far. Definitely worth a quick look on a Friday when you’re trying to avoid a bit of work.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

3/23/2018

A Little Fantasy

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

No, not the naughty kind!

Ugh, you perverts who immediately thought of something naughty should be ashamed of yourselves! Also? You are my people.
Seriously, though, this is the totally safe for work kind of fantasy. And by “little”, what I mean is “miniature”, as in small dioramas. Because, that’s what I have for you this week. Videos, brought to you via MAKE Magazine, of tiny pseudo-Medieval buildings and villages created, from scratch, by someone who goes by the pseudonym “Landvaettr”. They’re kind of beautiful and, for me, fascinating due to the shift in scale and super high level of detail. It’s brilliant work.
So go check out Weekend Watch: Explore the Miniature World of Landvaettr’s Lair! It’s really fun and, as the name implies, perfect for a weekend distraction.
And, we all know the weekend really starts on Friday!

 

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words by J. K. Hoffman.

2/9/2018

Escape the Planet

Filed under: Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

No, not for real, just in a browser-based game.

I’ve often said that if things are as bad on this beautiful, blue marble as the news would have us believe, then we should throw all our resources into getting off it and founding a colony somewhere else. Like Mars, for instance. As it turns out, I’m not the only one to think that way, but for some reason, people take Elon Musk more seriously than me when he says it. Be that as it may, I still have often dreamed of being one of those brave travelers who fling themselves into the starry night and try to begin civilization again on some distant world, under the light of an alien sun. Sadly, I suspect that I’ll die long before interplanetary colonization really gets going, much less interstellar travel.
Still, the subject has been a rich mine for writers and game creators alike, which brings me to the Friday Fun Link I have to share with you; Seedship. It’s a simple, text-based game of interstellar exploration and colonization you can play right in your browser! Just follow that link and you can take the part of a ship’s artificial intelligence, helping colonists find a suitable home and survive long enough to make a life there.
It’s pretty simple game-play, but I have to admit, it is kind of fun. And, of course, it’s a quiet way to spend a couple minutes of your Friday having some fun.

Try it out and “escape the planet”, at least for a few minutes at lunch!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.  Why not check it out?

12/15/2017

Star Wars Day

Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

While you read this, I’ll be seeing The Last Jedi, in 3D on IMAX.

But, since it’s Friday, I still want to share something great for you. Something fun. Still, I also want to keep with the theme of rubbing your noses in the fact that I’m seeing the newest Star Wars movie while you’re stuck reading my dumb blog. Luckily, Star Wars and George Lucas have been in the news a lot the past couple weeks, so I have plenty to steal, er, “share”.
Let’s start with an article at IO9 about the fans who made an alternate Star Wars trailer featuring the original concept art by Ralph McQuarrie. It’s some live-action as well as animation, but it’s five minutes and twenty-three seconds of awesome. It’s definitely worth a look!
Then, there’s the student film by George Lucas that launched so much of what became science-fiction cinema for the past 40 years. His film, Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB, would eventually become the feature film, renamed more simply THX 1138, which happens to be an awesome movie. The earlier, student film is only about 14 minutes long, so an easy film to sneak in at lunch. It’s a little retro at this point, but it still has a lot of the aesthetic that makes his later works great. Again, definitely worth a look!

Enjoy and if y’all are good, I may come back and share a review of The Last Jedi!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

11/30/2017

NaNoWriMo is Done!

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:59 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

That’s it! National Novel Writing Month is over! Hopefully, you reached your goal for the month and wrote a 50k word novel. Now, set it aside, get some rest and forget about it for at least a month, before you start to revise.

10/27/2017

NaNoWriMo Prep – Templates and Worksheets

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Trying to get all your ideas and characters organized for National Novel Writing Month? I can help!

It may not always be obvious, especially to those closest to me, but I love being organized. What’s probably more obvious is that I played a lot of role-playing games growing up. I think it’s safe to say almost every hopeful writer or professional geek my age or younger played Dungeons and Dragons, or something similar. But, for me, the best part of that was always before the game started when we were making characters and filling out their character record sheets. I absolutely loved thinking about all the things they might buy at the market for use in surviving their adventures. And, along with that, describing their looks, their clothes, their family relationships and other background details. Not everyone did all of that, but, like I mentioned, it was just about my most favorite part. And, now, it’s one of my favorite parts of writing. Unfortunately, it can also become one of my favorite distractions from actually writing. Don’t let that happen to you! But, also, as you’re planning your novel, it’s good to try and think about who’s going to be in it, what they’re going to do and where they’re going to do it. So, toward that end, I’ve got some, hopefully, fun novel planning worksheets, or “printables” as the fancy kids call them these days, for you.
First, from the All Freelance Writing website, I’ve got an article by Jennifer Mattern which collects her favorite Novel Planning Tools and Worksheets. It’s a short list, but it’s also a great place to start if you’re just looking for the bare minimums to get you started.
Much more complete is the list of links gathered by Eva Deverell in her Creative Writing Worksheets post. Frankly, it’s a pretty complete list and you could stop there without worrying about missing out on anything, even if you do have to chase them to all their respective sites.
If you’re a more visual guy, like me, then maybe you should try this collection of “pins” at Pinterest titled “Novel Writing Worksheets”. It’s got a lot of “printables” besides the planning worksheets that might help, especially if you find yourself needing a little help creatively in a crunch.
My personal favorite, however, is the group of Evernote templates for planning your novel (or story) at the Evernote blog. I’m 99% sure I’ve mentioned these before, but they’ve updated them and added a few. If you use Evernote to plan and organize any other aspect of your life, I highly recommend that you take a look at these templates. They’re really well done and should cover any creative writing need. Seriously.

The next question is, of course, what are you going to use to actually write your novel?
If you go with Word, William Shunn has some free, downloadable templates that will let you get started with a pretty standard manuscript format. If you like Word, but don’t want to pay Microsoft for it, check out Libre Office instead. It’s a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office and it includes a very good replacement for Word called Writer. And, I even have a basic manuscript template you can download and use for Libre Office Writer, also free.
If you want to get fancier, there are a lot of alternatives, but Scrivener is specifically written for fiction writers and is often offered at a discount to people attempting NaNoWriMo. And, while I have absolutely nothing against the creator of Scrivener, there is a free, open source alternative called Plume Creator. I don’t have any real experience with either of these, but I always favor the free, open source alternatives whenever possible.

For myself, while I used to mostly work in whatever word processing package I was currently using, I’ve gone to pretty much only using straight text. I made that change for a number of reasons, but I was heavily influenced by an email exchange I had with Steven Brust about his writing tools. I was surprised to find out that he wrote exclusively in emacs. I found out after a bit of digging around that he’s not the only one. Vernor Vinge, a brilliant science fiction author, also uses emacs to write his fiction, though it’s less surprising to me since he also teaches computer science at the collegiate level. So, now, while I’m still working on the actual text, I just use my favorite text editor, which in my case is the same tool I use to write Perl code and edit server scripts and web pages, UEStudio, which is an extension of UltraEdit, a tool familiar to serious programmers. Incidentally, keeping everything in straight text with out any formatting not only limits distractions, but makes for the most compatibility between systems, which, ultimately, is why I decided to make that change.

This post originally appeared at the Fantasist’s Scroll.

9/29/2017

Cold Fish

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 1:00 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Sushi. That’s what my ex-wife used to call me. “Cold Fish.”

That’s a quote from Blade Runner, my favorite movie, possibly of all time, and it’s about one of my favorite foods; sushi, the most science-fictional food of all when Blade Runner came out. Next week Friday, the new one, Blade Runner 2049, is coming out. But, I’m sharing this today not because of the new release, but rather because yesterday was my fourth anniversary. And, not to my ex-wife, but my new wife. And, not because my blushing bride calls me “cold fish”, but because I proposed to her in a sushi restaurant.

And, what am I sharing?
The Mental Floss Visual Guide to Eating Sushi! They specifically reference “eating sushi in Japan”, but the rules are about the same here in the States, too. Or anywhere, really. Sushi, as it turns out, is sushi. My first sushi experience was in suburban Mississippi, which seemed a very brave thing to eat, considering the location, but sushi, and Japanese culture always seemed so perfectly alien and futuristic to me. I think for a Westerner, it’s the closest we can come to experiencing an alien civilization. Also, sushi was a featured food in all the most futuristic anime I watched as a young adult that it just came to represent the ultimate in exotic experiences.
Anyway, if you have been wanting to try it but a little intimidated by the idea, this guide should help ease your fears.
And, if you’re in Houston, check out Sushi Choo Choo, which is a sushi bar that features a brilliant conveyor belt that’s a very popular feature in Japan.

And come back next week when I babble about something else that may, or may not, relate to Blade Runner!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

8/18/2017

Free Comics

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Comic books are cool.

No, seriously, they’re cool again. All those super popular movies, like the Avengers? Totally all comic books. But, also, Atomic Blonde. Yeah, that’s right, that spy thriller set in the last days of the Cold War was a graphic novel first. The thing is, comics have been around for a pretty long time. They got super popular in the Forties and then again in the Eighties and, well, now. And, yes, most of us are familiar with the most famous comic heroes, like Superman and Batman, or more recently, Captain America and Ironman and Spiderman and Wolverine, but there are way more to comic books than that. And, if you want to see some of the older comics, the comics that started all this fun, for free, you’re in luck!
Now, thanks to Comic Book Plus, you can browse through a massive archive of old comic books. There are spy and espionage comics, and sci-fi comics and, yes, even superhero comics. You name the category and it’s probably there. Though, keep in mind that these are mostly pre-1960 comics, so some of our more extreme tastes may not be catered to!

In any case, they’re free and fun and it’s Friday and you can’t convince me that if you’re reading my blog you don’t have time for a classic comic book.
Go check it out!

This post first appeared on Use Your Words, my other blog.

7/28/2017

“Good Business”

Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I love science fiction film.

Or videos. Or books. Pretty much anything science fiction related is worth a look from me.
Once upon a time, I wanted to be a science fiction author. Not just a writer, but an author, which, to me, implies publication. I wanted to scifi’s answer to Ernest Hemingway. Instead, I became a professional computer geek and a consumer of science fiction in all its forms. Well, you win some and you lose some. At least I have that business degree to fall back on, right?

Anyway, that’s enough about my broken dreams for a Friday. How about a look at a scifi short, instead? That’s what I have for you this week, readers, via Boing Boing it’s a short titled Good Business, about an arms deal in the future that, frankly, goes about the way I sort of suspect every arms deal goes or has gone ever. But this one’s with aliens and pretty good special effects. And, it’s only about five minutes long, so you can sneak it in on a Friday while you’re pretending to work.

Have a great weekend and follow your dreams!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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