Star Wars: Aftermath Out Now

Force Friday is over, and many of the new Star Wars toys and goodies were unveiled, and since we know that all comics, books and video games from this point forward are all official canon, Disney are revealing lots of products ready for December’s new film, The Force Awakens.

Chuck Wendig’s book focuses on events after Return of the Jedi and is available now, and you can read an excerpt here.

SW

The second Death Star has been destroyed, the Emperor killed, and Darth Vader struck down. Devastating blows against the Empire, and major victories for the Rebel Alliance. But the battle for freedom is far from over.

As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance-now a fledgling New Republic-presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world-war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is-or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.

Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit-to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies-her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector-who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.

My New Undersea Short Story

Every week, cool website io9 posts a piece of intriguing concept art, and encourages readers to come up with a short story that relates to it. Here’s this week’s post, and the artwork by Vitaliy Shushko, and my story that was inspired by it, are below.

Vitaliy Undersea Burial

Undersea Is Where It’s At

By Kris Bather

“This isn’t funny anymore.”

“Was this ever funny to you?” Rufus cocked his head; every expression underwater had to be exaggerated. A raised eyebrow wasn’t enough to show his disgust.

Weary, Thom depressed the radio-comm switch inside his rubberized glove, so he could offer his hasty explanation. “No, I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just that…well, this has gone from some sort of twisted novelty to…to a bad dream, I guess.”

“Yeah. I think I know what you mean,” sighed Rufus, lifting his glove to scratch his grey moustache before realizing the futility of his gesture as he merely managed to caress his glass helmet. “I remember when we used to put names on the crosses, and then it just went to dates. Now, we don’t even bother carving them properly. They don’t mean anything anymore. I made six of them last night. It’s pretty defeatist isn’t it?”

Alique stood silently between the two middle-aged men; the only African, the only female, the slender thirty year old was constantly reminded that she was the reluctant Eve trying to remake Eden with two despondent Adams almost twice her age. In their tight orange and grey pressure suits and oval masks, everyone resembled the same dull mannequin, but she had come to know these two men far too well in the seven years they’d been given the greatest responsibility known to mankind– to save it.

The silence atop the small hill became annoying. Their home/research station/bunker known as Beta Base contained a litany of sounds that brought memories of life above in the form of random audio tracks, such as young students playing, gentle wind blowing leaves and cars hitting puddles, but the three survivors quickly grew bored with these novelties. Psychiatrists had initiated the notion, to retain some semblance of normality, but hearing the laughter of non-existent children echo through a metallic cavern in the depths of the ocean only served to bring unease.

“I’ve had enough of this. You guys are depressing me more than usual.” Alique turned away, kicking up a smoky mixture of sand and seaweed in her angry pivot. Rufus and Thom barely glanced at their departing colleague, as she made her trudging and silent way back to base.

Beta Base existed as a monstrosity comfortably nestled in the bowels of the Atlantic Ocean. It resembled a hulking octopus and over the years grew to the size of a self-contained suburb, with all the necessary pursuits and amenities from a medical care to schooling each given a mammoth tentacle to call its own. Originally it housed seventy two scientists, radicals and free thinkers, keeping them safe from the dangers of their own mad, dwindling species as well as the largely unknown beastly invaders that had made Earth its own. That was two generations ago upon discovering that the new angry alien overlords could go nowhere near seawater. Suicide, disease and ageing had taken its claim on wise minds and unforgiving bodies. Now it was only down to three. Alique, being the only woman was unable, and unwilling to bear children, and nixed the suggestion as soon as it became obvious that humanity would come down to three people hiding at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

The men looked down upon their “silent soldiers,” as they called them. It had taken multiple agonizing attempts to clone anything resembling a humanoid, and as their collection of untainted tissue samples dwindled, so did their success rate. The initial seven all looked alike; hairless and androgynous, they shared a mild telepathic link with each other, which was their primary means of communication.

This first successful attempt at reviving humanity they dubbed “A.” A stood before a waiting hole, which he had dug personally, as he always had. This time he purposefully left the shovel back in the massive storage area back at base, and used the cross to dig. His strength, and the soft seabed meant he was done in a matter of seconds. He also showed lack of confidence in his trio of “masters” by bringing a collection of crosses, which lay atop each other behind him, ready to be used for the next few burials.

B to G held today’s failure upon their sinewy shoulders, a task they had fulfilled often, and with no emotional attachment. The crew had to venture further across the ocean floor with each burial as graves had taken almost every available space within short walking distance of the base. Today’s small valley would soon be filled with death.

Rufus and Thom briefly looked as the metal coffin was thrown in the hole, sinking like a sigh to its place of rest amongst the few fish. The clones made several unusual body contortions, and began kicking in sand to cover it, as A knelt and used his hands to finish the task, cupping his hands like a crude bulldozer. When the coffin was covered, he stood up, lifting the horizontal arms of the cross/shovel upon his shoulders and jabbed it deep in to the ocean’s belly, like a knight felling a wounded enemy. The pair of scientists noticed that with each new burial, the clones’ rituals were becoming more ornate, but they had neither the inclination or strength to discuss it further. They turned in unison, nodded and made the meandering return to base, expecting to find Alique in her usual place looking through the remote telescope, reminding herself what sunlight and cities looked like.

A looked at his “parents,” as they trudged home. B to G stepped closer to the coffin and looked in unison at the remaining crosses laying in a pile behind him. A glanced at the unused grave markers with great intensity. All the clones remained unmoved.

The curtain of sunlight danced upon their sleek suits; the only movement in an area that was once crowned with a life of abundance and variety. There was now a void of living creatures, a void that was echoed above the blue expanse, and a void that longed to be replenished.

 

My Spider Cars Story

It’s been far too long since I’ve written a short story. So, here’s one. I was inspired at the start of the month by popular science/pop culture site i09 and their weekly Concept Art Writing Prompt features. They choose a cool pic and encourage site readers to create a story based on the image. My entry needs some editing but I wrote it in about 20 minutes.

Below is the story, and original pic, and here’s the post from 109.

“They’re not beetles though are they?”

“What?”

“Look at the legs. They’re spiders. Obviously.”

“I was just trying to be funny. You know – VW Beetle, because they’re half car and half insect.”

“More like a third car, really.”

Davis rolled his blue eyes and sighed; a familiar response to his younger sister’s annoying habit of never laughing at his witty observations.

Molly was a genius though, and despite being a typical pre-pubescent girl in some ways, she was more like Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking in many more. Underneath her freckles and pigtails was a brain that defied expectations. She purposely wore pink dresses and shirts with unicorns and rainbows on them to surprise people. She loved being the smartest person in the world, even more than she loved her hippy parents on the commune. Molly figured that she was either adopted, or a freak of nature; more a product of a daring genetic experiment than two unschooled hicks from the American backwoods.

“Here will do,” ordered Molly in her usual fashion.

Davis stopped peddling his rusty bike by the side of the only road to their sprawling farm complex and scratched his scrawny legs. Molly hopped out of the large basket on the front.

“They’ve stopped.”

“Of course they have Davis. They’re hungry.”

Davis took off his NY Mets baseball cap and ran his hand through his messy hair, looking around the silent brown and greens of their environment. “But there’s nothing here. They’ve eaten all the cows,” he said. “What else can we give them? Everyone at home already hates you for taking away most of their food.”

“That won’t be a problem for much longer Davis.”

Davis squinted and looked into her sister’s eyes, oblivious to the harsh calculations being made behind them.

“I don’t know why you made them like animals anyway. You should’ve just left them as sculptures or something,” moaned Davis.

“It was an accident. Sort of. A happy accident,” replied Molly with a feint yet crooked smile.

The so-called accident that created the pair of automobile monstrosities was a success in Molly’s eyes. After experimenting with toy cars and parts from a dishwasher, she found she was able to create life with parts of abandoned military hardware from the recently destroyed army bunker just outside of town. Finding two abandoned Volkswagens in Mr. Harris’ field, her and Davis dragged the struts of a fallen water tower, for the arachnids’ appendages.

As the two mechanical monsters lumbered towards the siblings, Davis noticed they were increasing their speed.

“Weird.”

“What is?” Molly asked with a knowing grin.

“Usually they stop when they see us. I thought they were scared of us.”

Davis looked behind him, awaiting Molly’s response, but she was at the bike, taking something from the basket.

“They’re changing, Davis,” Molly said as she walked towards him, carrying something heavy behind her.

Davis turned to look at the moving beasts. “Huh. Cool.”

“Indeed,” replied Molly as she put her hand on her brother’s shoulder and raised the greasy wrench as high as she could.

“Cool.” Molly brought down the grey weapon on to her brother’s skull three times, with increasing force. Davis collapsed, face first in to the bitumen, as his blood mingled with the grass.

Molly took a few steps back as the cars paused.

“Lunch time,” she said, fully aware that her creations couldn’t understand her. “See you tomorrow.”

Spirit Blade

I’ve been meaning to mention this for far too long, but never got around to it. It’d be a shame to never mention it as it does deserve some attention, so here goes. It’s a great audio drama called Spirit Blade that, although is the kind of future set tale in which the government controls everything, still offers something intriguing, with its refreshing spiritual tones and surprisingly, even a few songs. I must admit, I was rather taken aback when I first heard singing, as I wasn’t expecting it at all, but everything about this production is classy and professional. Now, I’ve never been a regular listener of audio dramas, but i did find this quite believable and entertaining.

I recently moved house, and before I did I used to listen to this on my hour long train rides each day. Since I’m now closer to work, I don’t listen to anything really as my journey is now made up of two much shorter train rides. That means it’s been a few weeks since I last listened to this, so I’ll let the team behind Spirit Blade explain it.

SPIRIT BLADE is a full-cast Audio Drama that uses cinematic sound design, a pulse pounding score, and dynamic acting and musical performances to unleash an action-packed experience for your ears and imagination!

In a future where the government mandates the spiritual beliefs of its citizens, only a few rebellious “Seekers of Truth” remain to free the world from deception.

On his quest for meaning, Merikk follows a path that leads him across our world, and into another. Against his will he is thrown into action alongside members of the Underground Liberation, standing face to face against forces human, alien and demonic. Science fiction and the supernatural collide in a genre-bending adventure! Open your mind and then brace for impact as you discover the power of the Spirit Blade!

Spirit Blade is designed to appeal to fans of science fiction, fantasy and big action films. It is a dark and edgy story with songs and a soundtrack that fans of industrial electronic music will enjoy.

The voice acting and sound effects are great and once Merikk has his eyes opened to the world he’s really living in, the pace and scale and intensity of the story ramps up considerably. For a long story, it’s always easy to follow and the creation of the world just by dialogue is convincing.

You can find heaps of freebies about this unique production here, such as previews and interviews, to see if it’s your cup of tea. Honestly, this is a great time for Christian produced art, with the likes of church driven Sherwood Pictures getting mainstream attention for films like Fireproof and the upcoming Courageous.

Spirt Blade is a 2 and a half hour audio drama and you can buy it in CD ($13) or Mp3 format ($10) right here, as well as other audio dramas, such as the sequel to Spirit Blade, Dark Ritual, which was produced more recently and seems more polished.

Trailer for Spirit Blade below.

Station #1 Review

I saw a few interesting things today as I went to my LCS (local comics shop). Firstly, there were a few more people there than usual, which was fantastic. I guess most of them heard about the place from the Supanova expo. I love it when people discover comics for the first time. I firmly believe that there is a comic, or series, or writer, or artist out there for everybody. You just gotta find it. Secondly, I saw Supanova’s guest artists, Howard Chaykin and Joe Jusko there too, chatting it up with the employees and getting there photos taken. Topics discussed included TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno’s lactating nipples and Punisher War Journal’s Jigsaw story arc conclusion coming in September. (Click here for the alternate cover. You’ll go ape for it!) But comics are a minefield. Many of my friends feel initially daunted when going to the LCS for the first time. Where’s the latest Superman issue? What are all these surnames doing on the covers? What in the world is a TPB? It’s a confusing world. Well, fear not, I’m here to help. Starting from the review below, I’ll be attempting to guide you through the muddy waters of the comic book universe. Look for new pages, and a new category, entitled, New To Comics? for articles and reviews for the newbie. By the way, TPB is a Trade Paper Back, a hard cover collection of a previously published series, much like a DVD box set of a TV show you’ve seen before, but with extras and no ads. See, you’re learning already.

Space is a great setting for stories beyond straight sci-fi. Films like the original Alien, Solaris and last year’s Sunshine showed us that it isn’t always extra terrestrials that are the greatest threat. Paranoia and claustrophobia can play their part in creating terror too. With astronauts cut off from their loved ones and the strange sensation of zero gravity, normality is thrown out the window.

Station from relatively new publisher, BOOM! Studios’ continues this tradition. The first issue of a four part monthly series kicks things off with a bang. Well, not a bang really, but an immediate sense of desperation.

The international space station is a gleaming example of scientific advancement and a unified humanity. That is until the latest batch of multi-national astronauts take up residence in its cramped quarters.

It’s not long before Nicolay the cosmonaut is murdered. Not in a brutal manner, but certainly an effective one; rendered with such despair as he floats away. Dedicating two pages of almost blackness to this pivotal plot point works extremely well. Nicolay is captured by the endless space, and there is nothing his colleagues can do but watch his terrified face get further and further away. Nicolay’s death was, of course, no accident, and of all the people on the station, his work was the apparently the most earth changing.

As Dr Karen James, one of the astronauts remarks, “That’s the thing about being on a space station. There’s no place to hide. Everything comes to the surface sooner or later.” And it appears the murderer on board has only just begun their work.

Writer Johanna Stokes comes from TV, and her character work here is excellent. With only three issues left to tell this story, she has her work cut out for her, but she’s off to an intriguing start. At this point, the killer could be anyone. There are genuine chills here with a moody pace. Leno Carvalho’s artwork fits well in this context. Realistic in the style of Ultimates artist Bryan Hitch with a mix of 90s Aquaman penciller Jim Calafiore, with a good eye for the technical details of the station and the expressions of the increasingly desperate people aboard it. A whodunit in a floating sardine can is a brilliant premise. So far this series lives up to it.

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