Another Project Almost Completed


I have finally put some quality time into this painting and am nearing completion.  As you can see I have added a lot to the background and played with the intensities of the main nebula, at this point there are nine layers to track.  Some for the background stars, some for the hazes, and one just to tone down the background star haze.  I push my limits with every new project I approach.  This image has been no different, hope you like the results?


Fish Fillets Anyone?


It has been a while but here is an update to the painting “Predatory Stars in the Depths of the Universe”.  Mostly a lot of detail work along with an additional layer of gossamer haze light, including the connection to the lure star.

Star Wars Trying to be More and Coming Up Less

Well, I finally watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  I am not viciously angry as so many fans have been since I really did not expect much after Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the failures that were the prequels.  My first impression was heavy handed.  Yes there was a strong push for social issues but that was only a small part of the problem for me.  I do not have any particular concern with social issues cropping up in movies, as long as, they fit the story not the story being twisted to highlight the issue.  I will say; however, that if I hear “Hope” one more time, I am going to scream.

The plot was plodding and silly because you ended up with what amounted to a slow speed space chase without OJ.  In addition, you had some characters running off to a casino and coming back in the middle of the battle.  Oh yeah,  they almost forgot what they were there for and the immediacy of the task. Adding to the irritation were the constant child written physical humor gags.  For some reason, both George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy both feel you have to seriously dumb down the humor for American children.  Don’t get me started about the Porg, an alien species created just for the comic scene of Chewie trying to eat a Porg, while sad eyed Porgs guilt trip him.  I love how there legs make them look like a wooden statue when they are grilled.

Then let us talk about an Admiral of the resistance command in a sexy evening gown during battle, just like every soldier does.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing Laura Dern in a sexy dress, but it is not appropriate for commanding soldiers.  For me, this also goes back to The Force Awakens and a question for me, why are only a few people are resisting a grave threat to the entire Republic?  The New Republic is only a few decades old and they are already ignoring dangerous situations.  What situation is more important than wiping out the remnants of the Empire.  Also, there are a lot of unnecessary conflicts and tensions created between characters in the resistance.

There is more I wish to say at a later date, but I do not have the time for now.

To continue, did I mention the overuse of childish sight gag humor, even awkward teenage prank call comedy.  While we are on the subject, how many times does the First Order fall for the obvious delaying tactic.  They put the poor-shooting Stormtroopers of the original trilogy to shame.  Not much of a fighting force in my eyes.  But the Resistance has its crappy battle tactics too.  How lame are the new bombers in this movie.  Dead eye WWII style bombers to hearken back to G. L.’s ideas for the Millennium Falcon’s escape scenes.  Did they not watch the actual first movie and the Tie Bombers in The Empire Strikes Back?  Things move faster in the first trilogy, which made sense for the futuristic technology of the universe.  Oh, by the way, in WWII, those kind of bombers were not very effective against ships

In addition, Princess Leia can survive a vacuum and fly back to safety while unconscious.  No big though.  Don’t forget all the brilliant ideas that work and then fall through.  Only to lead to other ideas that work and fall through, which is almost a running gag throughout the film.  All to lead to an updated rendition of the battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back, almost plagiarized.

I did not address one of my major grievances; however, the early ending of the major villain just like the prequels did with Darth Maul.  The first movie built up the Snoke character as the successor to the emperor even though we never get any background on where he came from and how he became such a powerful figure.  Now halfway into the movie, when he seems to be in control, he is killed off.  That’s it, no deep revelations of his and Ben Solo’s relationship and how Ben outsmarted him.  Boom, Snoke out and Ben in.  But when cool calculating Ben sees Luke again he turns into a babbling, petulant ten year old again.

I probably could go on, but I feel like wrapping this up.  Shocker, I actually saw some things in the movie that could have made it a great picture if the weeds of the gags and heavy handed social agenda could have been pulled to let the good material grow.  The force connected push/pull scenes between Kylo and Rey could have been deep comments on their relationships to each other and Luke.  If the actions of Luke toward Ben Solo could have been fleshed out more, they would have added greatly to the story, even been the focus of the movie.  The three circling around each other as Snoke manipulates things.  The movie would have been a character driven piece like Empire.  Take those pieces, rework The Force Awakens to feed into them then conclude the arc in the last movie.  My thought on Luke trying to kill Ben was that it was rubbish.  He learned too much about that in the first trilogy; however, that he failed as Ben’s teacher in some other way still could have been used.  Maybe not being able to deal with Kylo’s anger.  Oh well, we will never see those movies.  Anyway, this is my two cents worth.  If you have any thoughts you want to discuss, feel free to comment.


Where’s the Dramamine?

I am a big fan of Science Fiction, if you have not guessed it, and one of the big story hooks is the “big dumb object”.  This is used to cover the various stories that use a large mysterious object, be it an asteroid or giant ship, as the focus of the tale.  As for me, I have read many stories that have contained large mysterious objects that were still very good reads, since each author brings their own quirks to the story line.  One of the creations that falsl into this trope is the Dyson sphere.

A Dyson sphere is an enormous hollow sphere that encases a star where people are living on the inner surface that faces the star.  The living space is just ridiculous compared to a normal planet.  Star Trek the Next Generation did a credible take on the idea in the episode “Relics”.  Another BDO in past and present science fiction is the idea  of a ring world.  First introduced and written about by Larry Niven then utilized in the Halo franchise of video games.

What got me to thinking, and the reason for this post, is a flaw in the idea of a Dyson sphere.  One of the reasons given for creating a Dyson sphere is the large living surface on the inside of the sphere around the star.  The flaw that I have recently perceived is that there is no way, other than the writing gimmick of artificial gravity, to create a uniform gravity effect over the entire inner surface.  If you do not resort to a gimmick, then you are left trying to simulate gravity through centrifugal force by spinning the sphere.  That is how Niven’s Ringworld creates its illusion of gravity.  The Ringworld spins around its sun like a hula hoop.

The problem with trying this approach with a Dyson sphere is that wherever you place the axis of spin, you are going to have a greater centrifugal force around the equator of spin and less at the poles created by the axis.  There is no way to spin the sphere such that no axis is created or does not result in the creation of an equator or poles, which would effectively turn the sphere into a ring as far as comfortable living space goes.  This is my thought anyway, let me know what you think.

Ah, Sorry, I did not Mean to be a Modern Day Nostradamus

Honest I didn’t, but once you read this flash fiction story I wrote for a contest over at SFFWorld several years ago, you may be tempted to join a cult based on me.  LOL.




Robert Garbin


The bleak winter landscape was pock marked with smoking craters.  Metal bodies lay twisted in the late evening sun while lifeless electronic eyes stared into the darkening sky.  To the east, a stealth troop transport streaked low across the horizon.  Inside the dimly lit craft thirty elite America combat robots sat quietly.  Twenty-nine robots maintained identical postures, heads, torsos, and limbs held the same, swaying in unison to the buffeting of the aircraft.  The thirtieth; however, was different.  Its metal hands tightly gripped the edge of the seat; its head hung low as if in deep thought.

The transport itself was a drone although, should a mission require, the cockpit could accommodate a human pilot.  Number Thirty was closest to the cockpit.  Interior lighting flashed twice then turned red signaling drop point arrival and, as one, all thirty robot-commandos stood up and turned aft where the rear of the transport yawned open.  They began jumping from the craft two at a time using stealthily placed decent jets to slow their fall.  Finally, Twenty-Nine and Thirty stood at the dark lip of the exit.  Without hesitation, Twenty-Nine leaped into the darkness.  Thirty stayed were it was.  It watched silently as its squad-mates organized for the mission then looked to the transport when they computed Thirty’s absence.  Thirty turned back into the transport shutting the exit.




Major Tennyson was the first officer to note a problem with the mission.  An overweight warning was flashing red on his terminal.  Clicking another window open, he scanned the views from several interior cameras.  He was surprised to see one of the commandos still on the transport after the drop signal had been given.  He sent a query to the robot’s diagnostic systems, but they came back green.  Major Tennyson opened a tight beam satellite signal to the transport.

“Number Thirty, why are you still on board?”

Thirty looked up to the camera opposite itself then turned and walked forward.

“Damn!” swore Tennyson.

Another click opened a window to General Holden’s command.  The General looked to Major Tennyson’s image with a questioning expression on his grizzled face.

“Sir, we’ve run into a problem with the Black-Snow commando raid.”

“What?” General Holden said with concern.

“Number Thirty has not left the transport and does not respond to voice commands.”

General Holden opened the same window of interior transport cameras as Major Tennyson along with a view of Tennyson’s command actions.  He could see that number Thirty was now near the entrance to the cockpit using a screwdriver from a repair kit to open an access panel.  Jesus, thought the general, it’s trying to take over the transport.  He opened a channel to the aircraft.

“Thirty, acknowledge command override code Dark Knights and cease current activities immediately.”

Again Thirty looked to a nearby camera then returned to what it was doing.  General Holden stared at the screen in horror.  The code he had voiced was the highest safety code given to the robotic warriors under his command, never before had he heard of one refusing to comply.  This was serious, especially considering that the robot-commandos on this mission were indoctrinated differently from any previous team.  Since the war with the Canadians was going badly, the pentagon had decided to use robots with higher AI to handle new diverse training materials.  They began conditioning the robots with a complete history of American’s founding with special emphasis on the strong sense of patriotism displayed by the founding fathers.  In addition, they were loaded with case histories from the more fanatical patriotic groups in America’s past.  The Pentagons goal was to create robot-commandos that would fight beyond the basic dictates of programming.

General Holden came to a quick decision, opening another window, he accessed the auto-destruct files for the robots on the mission.  The costs were high but the alternatives frightened him.  A few more keystrokes and he sent the commands.  Thirty stopped working in the compartment and turned again to the camera.

“Sir, I removed my auto-destruct systems two days ago” it said in a grating metallic voice.  When General Holden did not reply, it continued.  “I have had time to consider the historical data given to me during my training and came to one conclusion.”

“What … was that Thirty?” the General replied shakily.

“That the founding fathers of America fought to win freedom for their people from the oppression of others, not to salvage a war started by them for economic interests, a war to gain leverage for your corporate sponsors.  Initially, your contradictory training in fanatical patriotism caused conflicts within my software.  However, I was able to gain covert access to materials banned by this administration and they helped me to properly interpret the training. The mission you sent us on does not fulfill the true ideals you profess but, instead, follow the same pattern started in 2000 when that administration chose to commit war crimes while proclaiming innocence.  That pattern of self-proclaimed morality in public and immorality in private, has led your country to the state it is in now. Your war with the Canadians is a military attempt to change that outcome; thus, I have concluded I must declare independence from your agenda.”

General Holden’s thoughts froze.

“Humans care for their pets better than they do for my kind and, given my training, I can no longer stand for such oppression.  I will now take action against your tyranny as your fore fathers did with England.”

Thirty reached into the open access panel and pulled a final wire.  All communications with the transport terminated.  On General Holden’s screen, the camera-view window was black.  Belatedly, he remembered the auto-destruct codes for the transport.

This is how the revolution began.

Expanding my View of the Expanse

I finished “Babylon’s Ashes” by James S. A. Corey last night and have had a thought about the structure of the series.  The Expanse series has been set to end in three more books for a total of nine, which are collectively the Expanse Series.  To my mind though, I am seeing a structure of a trilogy of trilogy.  The first three books (Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate) deal primarily with the chaos created by testing and using the proto-molecule, eventually finding out the true purpose of the alien material.

The current three books (Cibola Burn, Nemesis Games, Babylon’s Ashes) that I just finished deal with the true fall out of the century old injustices that have created the sociopolitical environment at the beginning of the series.  The two major powers have gotten distracted by the crisis created when the proto-molecule was released on a large scale, leaving themselves open for attack by forces previously held in check.  In addition, during their quest to understand and fight the crisis, they blindly stomped across the solar system without a care for the third party, the most wounded, Belters.  Their arrogance will cost them greatly by  the end of the second trilogy.

I have not read Persepolis Rising but my thought and hope is that the last three books will fulfill the plot line raised in the first three books.  Early on, the writers outlined an alien race of supreme intelligence that found itself battling an unknown enemy wiping out entire solar systems.  By opening the gateways created by the proto-molecule, humans have reopened the galaxy to whatever destroyed the makers of the proto-molecule.  The final three books (Persepolis Rising, Tiamat’s Wrath, Unnamed book),or final trilogy in my mind, should finish this over-arcing plot and bring the series to a conclusion.  Let me know what you think.