IMG_1616I painted this chap before Christmas. I didn’t put an image of him up then, but as pictures of toy soldiers seem to be popular, I thought I would share. He’s the warlord for my Anglo-Danish Saga warband. I’ve also painted a Viking leader. Both are on 50mm bases with a couple of attendants. This makes them stand out on the tabletop and justifies, in my mind at least, the huge number of attack dice they get.

 

Cooking, USA

Posted: March 20, 2015 in Notes from Hebden Bridge
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I’ve had two pumpkins in the fridge for months. They were taking up too much space, so I made them into a pie yesterday. An American dish I’ve not attempted to make before, it is very tasty.

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Eclipse! Used by Tintin to such good effect to escape the Incas. Eclipse! Terrifying my six-year-old who misunderstood warnings against looking at the sun during the event, and believed today our star would take on evil sight-destroying properties if so much as glimpsed.

This was the third I’ve seen. I missed one earlier in my life because I was at the cinema. But two others I saw, one from my parent’s garden in the 80s, the other a three-quarters solar disappearing act witnessed in the scruffy yard of my final year university digs. 10th May 1994, that must have been. Wikipedia’s a marvellous thing.

The thick cloud that makes Yorkshire grey, cold and wet 200 days of the year, proved a bonus today. Combining cloud with a pair of sunglasses you could quite comfortably observe the phenomenon. As my mate Chris Hoyle said on Facebook:

Look at that! What could better illustrate the majestic clockwork of our solar system and our intimate grasp of its mechanism? The elegance and precision with which we can predict these events is as spectacular as their beauty. Keep watching the skies, my friends!

I couldn’t say it better myself, so I won’t try.

I watched most of it upon the hill overlooking Mytholmroyd from the west. There were people stationed at three hundred yard intervals across the countryside, like something from a sinister Nigel Kneale TV drama, an effect heightened by the “eclipse wind” being especially pronounced here.

Here’s my inevitable picture, similar no doubt to many thousands more. I took lots. This one shot in my garden towards the end of the phenomenon, when the moon was moving away, is the best.

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Here’s some likely lads, English warriors out for blood. These are Gripping Beast models for my Saga games. With these chaps completed, I now have enough painted models for a full six-point, Anglo-Danish warband. Go me.

These are done to a slightly lower standard than the likes of Erestor. Partly because on historical miniatures the detail is rarely quite so crisp as that on GW models, so it’s more difficult to be precise. On saying that, I can’t abide to paint a model poorly (by my own standards, I hasten to add).

The great thing about these guys is that they took me about seven hours to paint all told. Compare that with the ten hours it took to assemble and paint one Black Templars Sword Brother. There’s a sense of satisfaction to be had in painting one very fine model, and a different one in finishing a whole bunch of toy soldiers off in one go.


This book review of Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel also comes from the never-published Death Ray #22.

FOUR STARS

Kim Stanley Robinson/Harper Voyager

Part historical novel, part SF story set in Robinson’s Accelerando universe, Galileo’s Dream returns Robinson to his favourite topics: human failings, human potential, memory, being and truth (subjective and objective); set against an entertaining, science-fictional theory of multi-dimensional time.

Galileo is one of the most important men in scientific history, whose observational rigour helped usher in the modern age. He is also, according to the book, an important nexus in the braided histories of reality, one whom the denizens of the Jovian moons in 3020 hold in especially high regard, partly because of his discoveries, but mostly because they are convinced that by altering his life, then later taking him to the future, they can shorten the centuries of horror that mankind must endure before achieving a state of rational grace. Read the rest of this entry »


Five years after I started, and I’m very close to finishing my posting of my Death Ray archive online. I’ve got some large features and other bits and pieces left over from earlier issues, otherwise we’re now into matter created for the never published Death Ray #22. So, although I wrote this review of the film Pandorum over five years ago, it is in some respects, new material.

Any one who has read my book Crash will know that I love the “colony ship gone wrong” subgenre of SF, so I had a lot of time for this flawed film.

15/108mins

SPOILER WARNING!!!

THREE AND A HALF STARS

Director: Christopher Alvart

Writers: Travis Milloy, Christian Alvart

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Cung Le

Cinema’s first ‘colony ship gone wrong’ movie. Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers. Okay?

The generation ship that goes wrong is an SF classic. Usually the vessel at the heart of the story has been on a journey for centuries, and has overrun its target/broken down/gone mad, and whose ignorant inhabitants discover the shocking secrets behind their world just before real disaster strikes. They’re all pretty samey, but it’s one of those SF conventions that is traditionally narrow in scope. Like a ghost story, the pleasure comes not from the novelty of the ideas, but from how they are presented.

The Elysium is a craft with its crew in suspended animation, not a generation ship, but when our two leads Payton (Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster) awake, they’re initially amnesiac, so we get the prescribed dose of ignorance necessary for a voyage of discovery through the ship’s rusting halls; much else that follows plays by the sub-genre’s rules, to our delight. As you’d expect, the Elysium’s not in a good way: the reactor is about to blow, and it is crawling with carnivorous mutants.

Pandorum‘s been slated elsewhere, but we liked it. Naturally, as we all suspected, the Orc-like mutants are devolved crew members. How that actually happened is, like most of the back story, nicely handled and is not the movie’s main twist. Only the ‘pandorum’ aspect of the film – a deep space psychosis, and the movie’s singular original contribution to the conventions of colony-ships-gone-wrong fiction – is fumbled, being poorly integrated into the rest of the movie.

The film sags for twenty minutes in the middle, but manages to keep the tension up the rest of the time. The numerous twists come announced, but even the one every fan of this subgenre will be expecting from the opening credits (the one regarding their destination and journey time, without giving too much away) has a spin on it.

We suspect bad notices elsewhere are the result of a lack of familiarity with and fondness for this staple SF story – take away that, and you have a somewhat hokey action film patched together from many others (Alien3, Event Horizon, et al), but as we said, generation/colony ship stories are derivative anyway, and Pandorum is a more than fair attempt to put it up on the big screen; that’s where the novelty lies this time out for the subgenre, in moving pictures. Regular audiences might be left cold, but we reckon hardened SF fans will have enough appreciation of the colony ship angle to get the most out of the film.