Posts Tagged ‘future of war’

Inside NORAD

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Thanks to both the awesome Jeff Carlson and the Slush God, I found myself part of a group of SF writers touring NORAD today. NORAD, of course, is North American Aerospace Defense Command, and boy was it a trip. Some of the day’s recollections:

The front-door: That holy shit moment when (having passed through checkpoints and gotten on a military bus) we saw THE tunnel . . . the one I’ve seen so many times in movies and never once for real, leading into the depths of Cheyenne Mountain. . .

The blast-doors: At the bottom of the tunnel are the blast-doors. There are two, turned perpendicular so as to allow a blast to sideswipe them; behind them are caves within which are  . . .

Rooms on springs:  If your bunker doesn’t have springs, then you don’t have a bunker.  The most secure area of NORAD is a series of rooms/shells mounted on springs in order to ride out shock-waves.

Without power, they’re just caves:  The bulk of NORAD is infrastructure built to ensure that the complex continues to run even if everything’s anarchy outside and zombies are combing the countryside looking for meat.  And yet, given the base’s current resources, it would apparently need resupply within a month.  A fellow member of the tour suggested that this was disinformation; I would be inclined to think that it’s the honest truth, particularly given that . . . .

Without the Soviets, it’s all just window-dressing:    Because as impressive as the place is, it belongs to a different era.  The main hemisphere-scanning functions are now carried out by nearby Peterson Air Base, and NORAD has been relegated to redundancy and standby.  Officially the Pentagon has done this because the U.S. is no longer threatened by massive nuclear attack; unofficially one might also note that the precision targeting of the latest nuclear weapons would turn the mountain into a smoking crater.  Our tour’s directors were pretty frank with us about NORAD’s current standby situation, but were legitimately proud of the base’s history.  The image that will remain with me for a long time were the sealed-up doorways that were far smaller than a blast-door but far larger than a normal door.  Decades ago, mainframe computers were hauled through those openings and commissioned as the core of yesteryear’s NORAD.  Now those machines have vanished, along with the enemy they once stood watch for.

A duck that will never quack:  Yeah, you read that right.  Look, here’s the thing:  in the depths of NORAD is a reservoir, contained behind a small dam and leading into underwater caves.  But floating on the water is what looks for all the world like a duck.  Or rather, a fake duck/hunter’s decoy:  one that NORAD maintenance divers placed on the surface to allow them to tell which way is up and thereby escape disorientation.  They may have succeeded, but any newcomer to the world beneath the mountain won’t.

Happy Hiroshima Day

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

It seems kinda fitting that today is also the first day of Worldcon. I’m in Denver right now, after a few days in the British Columbia wilderness. More to come later.

More on Riddick

Friday, August 1st, 2008

My Riddick post of earlier this week led to a flurry of comments, all of them weighing in about how much they loved the movie and how sad it is that we’re unlikely to see any more of them since Chronicles tanked at the box office. Strangely enough, not one person went on about how much they thought the movie sucked, and that’s a shame, because I was really hoping for some hate mail.

But I can’t stop thinking about Riddick and the vital question of Where It All Went Wrong. One commenter shared my unease with the whole Furyan legend, and I have to think this is getting to the root of the problem. There was (and correct me if I’m wrong) not even a hint of this whole mythos in Pitch Black, and one wonders how sequels would have fared had they just stuck to the Riddick-as-bad-ass without invoking the supernatural, the Underverse, and all that other potentially way-too-heavy baggage.

That said, I still think one of the biggest strengths of Chronicles is that it didn’t try to just do a Pitch Black 2. And now that I’ve done some more digging, I can’t say that I’m surprised to find out that Pitch Black 2 is precisely the direction that Hollywood was originally looking to take the movie.  Apparently Twohy initially handed the writing job to David Hayter, who proceeded to produce yet another Riddick vs. the Monsters flick.  Maybe it was great, maybe it was lame:  the only guy who’s read it and shared his thoughts online thought it was pretty much an Aliens 2 ripoff, and there’s no question that there would have been a high bar to clear to avoid that resemblance.  There’s also mention of another Riddick/Monsters script that may or may not have been a rewrite; it’s tough to judge a movie based on one lame excerpt, but the excerpt cited in this article certainly sounds it was part of a really awful script.

MIRRORED HEAVENS reading this Thursday night, Seattle, University Bookstore!

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Unless United Airlines screws me, I’ll be reading at University Bookstore in Seattle at 7 p.m. tomorrow night. And just in the nick of time, the Seattle Times has weighed in with a really cool review. It’s been too long since I was Northwest—can’t wait.

Chronicles of Riddick

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

After the success of Pitch Black, director David Twohy was planning an epic Riddick trilogy, of which this movie would be the first. But when Chronicles tanked at the box office, the next two movies were scrapped, and Universal Studios contented itself with spinning off video games to recoup their losses: an effort that was assisted by the Chronicles DVD, which apparently sold pretty well. But the grander dreams were over. All that was left of a franchise that Twohy had hoped would dominate the SF landscape were fragments scattered here and there: two very different movies, those video games, and a couple of animated shorts.

And that’s a goddamn shame. Because I saw Chronicles again last night, and christ does it kick ass. The sweeping planetscapes (c’mon, any list of top ten SF planets would have to include Crematoria), the demented neo-gothic spaceships, the over-the-top costuming, and the nonstop action: Twohy and his team got a lot of stuff right. And Vin Diesel is a fucking star throughout:  he’s got undeniable charisma, and some really great lines too.  (“Shoulda taken the money, Toomes.”)

But I’m curious to hear what YOU guys think.  There are obviously a lot of folks out there who hated this movie, and this is your big opportunity to weigh in and tell me what you thought sucked.  Me, I think the movie’s central failing was the thing I like the most about it:  Twohy could have just made Pitch Black 2, but he elected to take things in a totally different direction, and take some chances while he was doing it.  Or maybe they should have stuck with the original Riddick origin legend—instead of him being a Furian, perhaps the original explanation of how he got his eyes fixed by a rogue surgeon on a prison planet was more in keeping with the gritty universe that Pitch Black was hinting at.  Or maybe 2004 just wasn’t ready for a big-budget, no-holds-barred, unapologetic space opera.

It’s too bad, though, because I for one would be up for a couple more.

In the city by the bay with the demon cat

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Greetings from San Francisco, where the sun has appeared in brief intervals these last couple of days, but other than that is maintaining a resolute absence. Which is fine by me, coming from the East Coast where the heat’s like walking into a wall. Yesterday’s book signing at Borderlands went well, though the real star of the show at that place is Ripley the Demonic Cat. And the non-feline staff were great as well: owner Alan Beatts (who turned me on to Sean McMullen’s Souls in the Great Machine, which looks awesome), Jude Feldman, and Cary Heater. I wish there were stores like that in D.C., but D.C. ain’t exactly an SF town. (Go into a video store, and SF is usually under action/adventure, and there ain’t much of it anyway.  I could speculate on why D.C. is so inclined, but maybe that’s best saved for another post.)

Anyway, I have a confession to make:  I never made it to Comic Con on Saturday.  My friend and I drove to the beach and chilled there.  Sorry folks.  Two days of it were awesome, but I needed some fresh air after that.  But the cool folks at Bantam have posted a video of me signing books while I simultaneously make witty banter with the ComicCon masses.  You can check it out here.

Comic Con, Friday

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Spent much of the afternoon handing out DVDs of the video trailer for THE MIRRORED HEAVENS, so didn’t catch as much as I might have liked. But here’s a few highlights:

–Disney’s Tron 2 (Tr2N) trailer, bootlegged and tossed online.

Watchmen poster images. I totally missed them, but io9 did not.

–I took some photos, but you know what? These are way better.

–And here’s some footage of me signing books yesterday. Not quite up there with Tron 2, but hey.

Unfortunately, I’m gonna miss tonight’s Masquerade. I’ll be on a flight up to San Francisco for the reading at Borderlands tomorrow. . .

ComicCon, Thursday

Friday, July 25th, 2008

I got in yesterday afternoon, so have yet to really suss out the scene. In the meantime, here’s the low-down thus far:

–United Airlines no longer serves Pepsi. Now it’s Coke all the way. I’m not complaining, though I sure wish they’d done it earlier, back when I was in management consulting and #$# lived on United aircraft.

–No one can use the bathroom on a plane in less than half an hour anymore. Anything less is apparently a lost art.

–San Diego has clearly perfected weather control tech, and something should be done before they subject us all to sunshine and cool breezes.

–Never rent from Budget fucking rent-a-car.

–The attempts of the convention’s organizers to designate certain routes as “one way” are falling a little short, and one can find oneselves suddenly being trampled by hundreds of Jokers with little to no warning. Keep your eyes peeled.

–The cat of the friend I’m staying with is possibly the largest I’ve ever seen (and none of it looks to be muscle).  It’s under the bed right now, and I fear it might have gotten stuck.

Ninja-Assassin looks like it’s going to be bad-ass, and it seems pretty clear that its star Rain can get laid at will. I felt sorry for the other folks on Joel Silver’s panel (like director James McTeigie and actress Naomie Harris), because literally the first ten audience questions were directed to Rain by fangirls who were almost quivering with lust. Me be jealous.

–The best way to ensure people show up for your book signing is to make the books free. Thanks to Bantam, I got to sign about a hundred giveaway copies of THE MIRRORED HEAVENS for folks, some of whom will read it and hail it as a revolutionary work of SF, some of whom will read it and hate it, some of whom won’t read it, and some of whom will throw it out when they open it and realize there’s no pictures.

See you tomorrow.

Previews worth the view

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Ok, I cracked. And went and saw Dark Knight AGAIN yesterday. I’ve never seen the Uptown so crowded on a Tuesday night. They sold out about ten minutes before the film started, and it was a complete and utter mob scene.

But this time I paid more attention to the previews, and the two that really moved the dial for me were:

Terminator 4: this looked nuts. We don’t see that much, but we see enough.

The Day the Earth Stood Still: I know a lot of people are banging their heads against the wall that they’re remaking this classic (and that Keanu’s in it), but I liked what I saw (and I dig the music). Done right, it could rule. Done wrong, it could be a turkey on such a colossal scale that we’ll be able to kick it around for years. Either way, we win.

Kicking cyberpunk’s ass

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

SF Signal reviewed the book: they didn’t really like it (well, to be precise, they said it was a “decent read with some major flaws that keep it from reaching greatness.”) But hey, one of the things that every new author has to recognize is that (gasp) not everybody is gonna love your novel. Yet what really got my attention was this:

Stephen Baxter, on the back cover, calls Mirrored Heavens ‘a crackling cyberthriller.’ Well, if you’re looking for cyberpunk, you won’t find it here. True, the two-man teams consist of a Razor (hacker) and a Mech (muscle), with the Razor providing network backup and support for the Mech. However, just because the Razors can access the Zone (network) and work some heavy duty magic doesn’t make this book cyberpunk. Yes the world of this future is a dystopia, but the characters here aren’t from the bottom of society, fighting against the government or corporations, they are the government, and far from fighting for the little guy, they are fighting to save the status quo.

This is fascinating to me, all the more so as I totally disagree.  At its heart, I take cyberpunk to be about the interface of humans to technology in a world where the tech is so immersive that humans are (almost literally) inside that tech, and vice versa.  As to where it goes from there:  it’s true that the dominant strand of cyberpunk thus far has focused on the predicament of the “lone wolf” fighting against corporate interests.  But I have yet to see the Cyberpunk Rulebook that says this is a necessity in order to merit inclusion within the subgenre.

And even if you showed it to me, I’d throw it out the window and get back to my work.  Because I think this kind of literal “checkboxing” isn’t just intellectually lazy:  it’s proof that cyberpunk, like any genre that’s been around for a while, needs a good kick in the ass every once in a while to keep the circulation going.  In fact, it’s ironic that a genre that was founded on an ethos of rebellion should try to dictate rules about Just How Bad-Ass a Noir Hero You Need To Be in order to be included.  But consider this:  if cyberpunk is fundamentally about alienation (and I think it is) .  . . why assume that those who are charged with defending the status quo are any less conflicted or alienated than those who fight it?

Especially when it turns out that the status quo just ain’t what anyone thought it was.