Monday, January 2, 2017

Fan Art and Commissions #4

Well, I'm a bit behind on that big surprise I promised you guys.  If you follow me on social media you'll probably have some inkling about what that is.  If you don't follow me on social media, hey, now's as good a time to start as any.  That's also why I've been kind of radio silent and haven't been posting as much as I should have.  So, I've got a little something for you today to help hold you over. That's right, we're going to be doing another installment of the Fan Art and Commissions series.

First up we have a piece created by an artist by the name of SophiaBlackwoodArt.  It features Percy Jackson as the Red Might Morphin Power Ranger and Edward Elric as the Blue Turbo Ranger.

As you probably guess by now, this was yet another result of my never truly realized fanfic Adventures of the Silver Bullets.  The part these pic were inspired by dealt with the city of New Avalon being threatened by the Psycho Rangers.  The Silver Bullets get a visit from Tsukune Aono, who has been studying under Tommy Oliver himself.  Tsukune has a brief case full of morphers, and he's come to lend them to the Silver Bullets.  You can see what Percy and Ed got to be.  Anyway, let's move on.

Here we have another great piece from Sophia.  This time with Annabeth Chase and Kurumu Korono dressed as each other.  There maybe have been a back story here, but it escapes me at the moment.  It could even be as simple as "well, why not?"  Then again, there's not too much Percy Jackson/Rosario+Vampire crossover art, so always nice to add more.  In fact, I think I've single handedly made that a thing.  Plus it kind of fun how their outfit contrast with their personalities somewhat.

Now we return to our old friend LadyLoriel for another commission that I call Safari So Good.  Backstory here was that it was a slow day and the Bullets needed some entertainment.  So Percy took it upon himself to breakout some board games.  Unfortunately, he happened to grab the game Jumanji, and completely ignored all the of obvious warnings to not touch it.  Annabeth and Kurumu were arguing because they both really like Percy, so the game suck them in to teach them to get along.  Reyna and Mizore, who were standing close by, got dragged along for the ride.  So the four of them were transported to the jungle world of Jumanji, and they'll have to finish the game to get back home.

I didn't actually commission this one, but I would have if Bruce Monroe hadn't made it on his own.  It's a map of the world of Le Morte D'Arthur.  It's based on a series of short stories Harry Turtledove wrote that are based in the 22nd Century.  The United States and Soviet Union have fallen from power, but many other nations have risen to power.  Western Europe has become United Europe; Eastern Europe opted to become a separate nation.  Siberia has revived the Russian monarchy, Japan is kicking ass once again, Israel was crushed by a federated Arab League, and there are space colonies throughout the solar system.  It's not exactly alternate history, though it's retroactively become so, but still lot's of fun. 

Here's another fun one, even if I didn't pay for it.  It's called Progress Comes to Valhalla.  Basically, it's what the world would be if Norse Mythology was true.  Despite this, as the name suggests, there's quite a bit of technological progress.  You really should read Bruce's write-up that goes with this one.  It's fun to see the way's the Norse gods and modern technology combine to make one great scenario.  It's also interesting to see the ways the Christian and Muslim nations reached to learning that they're living in a Norse mythological world.  Fun times all around.  So, moving on to things I did commission.

So here we have another commission from Shinoharaa.  This time Holo from Spice and Wolf as Utena Tenjou from Revolutionary Girl Utena.  There isn't really too much more to add here, so let's keep moving on with the list.

For this one we have Mizore Shirayuki as Kirara from Samurai 7.  This one was especially good because she looks kind of like a character from a story I'm working on.  Good for helping me better visualize characters.  Now you're probably working about what that story is.  For now I'm keeping that under wraps, but you'll probably find out soon enough.

We'll finish out the list with Kaname Chidori from Full Metal Panic! as Eris from Cat Planet Cuties.  Shinoharaa has recently stopped taking commissions, though he has started a Patreon.  That means this will probably be my last batch of commissions to include something from Shinoharaa from the conceivable future.  But don't be sad, there's going to be plenty of other great commissions in the future.

Well, that's a wrap for this edition of Fan Art and Commissions.  I hope you've all had a great time.  There's going to be even more fun in the future, so I hope you'll join me next time.  Hmm...I really should add a bit more here.  Uh...hope you're days are going well?  Yeah, I wish all of you a good day.   


Monday, November 14, 2016

Flag of the Aztec Empire

This is the flag of the Aztec Empire.  It comes from a world where the Aztecs defeated Cortez and his troops.  This was partially due to Montezuma II having a bit more sense and not being quite as superstitious.  Smallpox still ravaged the Aztecs, but due to the more limited exposed they were able to recover by the time the Spanish sent additional expeditions.  It soon become obvious that the empire would need to reform itself if it was going to survive the European colonization of the Americas. 

The first reform was the structure of the empire.  The provinces became much more centralized in their organization.  The emperor still ruled over all, but each province sent a group of delegates to represent the needs of the province in a special council in Tenochtitlan.  The priests and priestesses also began to slowly phase-out human sacrifice from the traditional religion of the Aztecs.  Trade relations were established with multiple European nations both to gain access to European technology and to play the various powers off of each other. 

For the next few centuries the Aztecs would be prosperous and would have good relations with their neighbors.  They provided troops to the Federated Provinces of Cabotia during their rebellion against the British Empire.  To this day the two nations remain close allies to this day.  The Aztecs also maintained good relations with the Incan Empire, which also managed to avoid European conquest.  The Aztecs went on to expand their territory to stretch from the American Southwest to the tip of Panama, and even managed to nab a few islands of the Caribbean. 

The next major wave of reforms occurred during the 19h century.  The Aztecs, much like Japan during the Meiji Restoration, underwent a Westernization process.  Though from the Aztecs points of view the term would more accurately be Easternization.  Industrialization began to take off, and Western clothing and customs were slowly introduced to improve relations with the great powers of Europe.  However, the Aztecs did not completely turn their backs on their traditional culture.  Aztec clothing still remains very colorful and incorporates many traditional designs, and nose rings are still somewhat popular for men and women.  More traditional clothing is usually reserved for special ceremonies and occasions, such as religious festivals and the emperor's birthday. 

The Aztecs also still worship their old gods, and many temples and shrines can be found throughout the empire.  On the other hand, secularism is on the rise, and many people only perform the old rituals out of habit and tradition.  What was once an empire known for its bloodlust is today known as a thriving center of technology and innovation.

The flag features the colors red and green, which are traditional Aztec colors.  The maze pattern is a common feature in Aztec artwork.  The red snake is the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl, god of the winds and one of the most important gods in the Aztec pantheon.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Flag of Fascist Britain

This is the flag of Fascist Britain.  It comes from a world where the Central Powers won World War I.  Following the war Britain and France were placed under a series of harsh reparations just as Germany was in our world.  Britain didn't face reparations nearly as bad as France did, but nevertheless it put considerable strain on the nation.  As a result the Fascist Party, led by Oswald Mosley, began to gain traction.  The Fascist promised revenge against Germany and the Austro-Hungarians for the humiliation Britain had suffered following the war.  

A surprise terrorist attack on Parliament was the opening the Fascists needed to cement their control on the British government.  It has been speculated by historians that this attack may have been staged by the Fascists themselves; but whatever the cause it was enough for most of the British people to get behind the new government.  The Royal Family fled to Canada and set up a government-in-exile to oppose the Fascists.  

The British colonies typically had one of three responses to the coup.  Some happily swore alliance to the new government, others chose to follow the government-in-exile and a few declared their independence.  Although authoritarian, Fascist Britain wasn't outright genocidal towards minorities like France was.  For instance, there was at one point a bill in Parliament that would have severely restricted the rights of Jews, Catholics and Atheists.  Thankfully it failed, albeit just barely.  Fascist Britain can be thought of as more similar to Mussolini's Italy than Nazi Germany. 

Despite a grueling Second War World eventually the Entente powers were defeated by combined German, Austro-Hungarian, Japanese and American forces.  Before long the Mosley regime was overturned and the rightful government returned to the British Isles once again.  

The flag is a modified version of the English St. George's flag.  The black stands for Fascism and in the center is the symbol of the British Union of Fascists. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Flag of Coptic Egypt

This is the flag of Coptic Egypt.  It comes from a world where Islam was never founded.  One of the many consequences of this was that the Byzantine Empire continued to prosper for a number of years.  Eventually, however, tensions began to grow within the empire.  Egypt began to fell that Constantinople was giving them the short end of the stick a bit too often.  Egypt's main grievances were increased taxes and increased tensions between the Coptic and Orthodox churches.  

After a brief war Egypt was granted its independence.  Despite this Egypt retains good relations with Byzantium.  It also maintains good relations with fellow Oriental Orthodox nations Ethiopia and Armenia.  Egypt has traditionally been a hub of trade, and following its independence work began on a canal in the Sinai Peninsula.  Egypt established traditions ports in India and China.  It also established colonies in Australia, which is known as New Egypt, as well as a few minor colonies in South America.  

The wealth from its trade and colonies has made Egypt as very rich nation.  People and goods from throughout the world can be found across Egypt's cities.  Currently their something of an architectural fad based around reinterpretations of Ancient Egyptian architecture.  Egypt also has a reputation for having some of the best universities and centers of learning in the world.  It is a nation which honors its past while keeping a eye towards the future. 

The flag contains a Coptic Cross to represent Egypt's Coptic faith.  The background represents the sands of Egypt, while the blue bands stands for the waters of the Nile River.  The writing is in the Coptic Script and reads "Jesus Christ, Son of God".   

My First Publication with Alternate History Fiction Magazine

It's finally here after forever and a day.  The premier issue of Alternate History Fiction Magazine is out now on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and Nook.  The print edition is available as well.  It's only $0.99 for digital and $15.49 for physical.  It contains my alternate history flash fiction story "Ghosts of Athens" as the very first entry.  So, as per usual I'm going to tell you a bit about my story.

I had intended for my previous story "Happy Dominion Day" to end up in this magazine, but due to a mix-up it wound up in The Wolfian instead.  They are both run by the same guy.  However, had the mix-up not occurred I probably would have never written "Ghosts of Athens."  This story takes place in a world where Persia conquered Greece, and by the present day Persia is still a major world power.  It follows a Greek tour guide name Fazrin who runs tours the ruins of Athens.  He meets a Roman woman named Victoria and the two muse on how history might have been if the Greeks had successfully resisted the Persians.

It is, admittedly, similar to "Happy Dominion Day" in that it features people from an alternate world hypothesizing about the history of our world.  That said, I like "Ghosts of Athens" better as I feel that it is more polished and better realized.  It is mostly alternate history, but I snuck in just a pinch of magical realism for flavor.  As usual with these situations I was paid approximately $0.00, but at least it builds reputation.

So there you go.  "Ghost of Athens" is, I would hope, a very enjoyable story.  There's also plenty of other great alternate history, steampunk, science fiction and fantasy stories in the issue.  Check out Alternate History Fiction Magazine today.  I think you're going to enjoy it.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Flag of the United Nations Mission in Cyprus

This is the flag of the United Nations Mission in Cyprus.  It comes from a world where the United Nations took a more hard-line stance on the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus.  United Nations task forces were sent in to protect Northern Cyprus against Turkish occupation.  At the same time, additional troops were deployed to protect Cypriot independence from radical elements within Greece.  Most critical of all, the UN Mission in Cyprus received military support from the United States.  It helped that the United States pulled out of Vietnam earlier than it did in our world, and thus wasn't quite as war-weary. 

Thanks to the United Nations' intervention Cyprus is a happily united and prosperous nation.  Greece and Turkey were both put on probation following the intervention in Cyprus, but they were eventually readmitted to the UN.  The United Nation would go on to institute reforms within itself following the events in Cyprus.  The main aspect of the reforms was that only true democracies would be given a voice in the United Nations; the organization would also take a great stance to promote democracy through interventions such as the one in Cyprus.  This stance resulted in fairer treatment for Israel and action against human right violations in the Middle East. 

The flag contains the light blue and white colors of the United Nations flag.  It also contains the outline of Cyprus and the nation's name in Greek.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Movie Review: The Martian

Back when I review the book The Martian by Andy Weir, I said that I hadn't seen its movie adaptation.  Well I am happy to say that I have finally gotten around to fixing that problem.  So without further ado let's take a look at Ridley Scott's adaption of The Martian.

In the not too distant future the Ares III mission to Mars has had to return Earth prematurely due to surprise dust storm.  Unfortunately, Mark Watney has been left behind because everyone assumed that he died during the storm.  Now it's going to take everything Mark's got and then some to stay alive, reestablish contact with mission control and get back to Earth.

So how well does the plot stack up to that of the book?  It does an absolutely beautiful job of preserving and replicating the book's plot.  Sure, there were a few scenes cut here and there, but that was to make things more streamlined and better fit the medium of film.  The biggest changes were to a few character.  In the book Mission Control was run by Venkat Kapoor, an Indian-American man.  In the movie we have Vincent Kapoor, who is half-Black and half-Indian.  Originally, an Indian actor had been cast in the role, but he had prior obligations in Bollywood.  So they cast Chiwetel Ejiofor at the last minute.  

In the book minor character Mindy Park was most likely Korean-American, but in the movie she's played by a white actress.  On the more subjective side, Commander Lewis isn't necessarily described as ugly per say, but it is mentioned that Beth Johansson is the good looking one of the Ares III crew.  Personally, I thought that Jessica Chastain was better looking than Kate Mara, but that's just my opinion. 

Andy Weir has even said that he cried tears of joy during the first eight minutes of the movie because he got to see his vision come to life on the big screen.  Suffice it to say, he's very happy with how the movie turned out.  There's plenty of scientists who gave this film their stamp of approval, including Neil deGrasse Tyson himself.  It's really an accomplishment when you can get Dr. Tyson onboard with your film.  The Martian is easily Ridley Scott's best film to date.  

It even made it all the way to The Oscars and was nominated for best picture. It lost, but in The Academy's defense, Spotlight is a really good movie and more than earned its award.  That being said, The Martian did very well at The Golden Globes, BAFTA and the Critic's Choice Awards.  It even won best comedy, which is weird because it isn't a comedy.  Don't get me wrong it's very lighthearted and has many moments of comedy, but I wouldn't call it a comedy per say.  It is great that so many hard science fiction films are getting the recognition they deserve as of late. 

If I had one complaint it would be that the marketing campaign really did this movie a disservice. They made the movie look much darker than it actually is.  I mean, there are serious and dramatic moments, but on the whole it's pretty lighthearted.  Though I am happy to say that the misaimed marketing didn't effect the film's success in the slightest.  

I loved the practical effects involved with this movie, especially how much of it was filmed in Jordan's Wadi Rum desert for the shots of Mars' surface.  Though there were also plenty of soundstages in Hungry.   I also loved the way music from the 1970s was incorporated into the soundtrack.  Mark probably would have screamed his head off if he ever saw this movie, but I liked it.  The special effects were also really well done.  

I haven't been talking much about the actually plot, but I really covered most of that in my review of the book, so you can always check that out.  It is a really fun movie, the science is science is rock-solid and I'm glad I got to share this movie with my family.  Seriously, do yourself a favor and go rent this movie, or buy it if you're so inclined. 

This was a somewhat short and haphazard review, but I figured I should get something out after so long.  I do intend to review more movies in the future so be on the lookout for that.  Well then, that's all for me for now.  I will see you guys next time.