Saturday, September 30, 2017

Comic Review: Ministry of Space

I’ve been on a roll with alternate history comes lately.  In particular, with regards to realistic alternate history.  There's not too many alternate history comics that don't involve aliens of magic, so it's kind of slim pickings.  Never fear, I still managed to find a really good realistic alternate history comic to share with you guys.  Today we're taking a look at Ministry of Space, created by Warren Ellis and Chris Weston.

In the world of Ministry of Space, at the end of World War II, British soldiers were able to reach Peenemünde before American and Soviet forces.  As a result, the British were able to capture all of the German rocket scientists.  To make sure nobody else gets any of the goodies, the British proceed to bomb Peenemünde to rubble, just as a troop of American soldiers arrive.  All of this was masterminded by Air Commodore Sir John Dashwood, who convinces Winston Churchill to establish a Ministry of Space using a black budget.

The comic is told as a series of flashbacks, with a framing story set in 2001.  We get to see Britain's triumphant achievements in the final frontier.  From their first satellite, to their first manned space flight, the first mission to the Moon, the first mission to Mars and so much more.  Meanwhile, in 2001, America is trying to break into space.  They're doing this by trying to blackmail the British over the nature of the black budget that created the Ministry of Space.

Ministry of Space is one of the most famous alternate history comics out there.  In fact, it won the 2005 Sidewise Award for Best Short Form.  For those who don't know, the Sidewise Awards are an annual award that recognizes outstanding alternate history fiction.  It's basically alternate history's equivalent of The Oscars or The Hugos.  Thus far, Ministry of Space is the only comic to win a Sidewise Award.

First, let's take a moment to talk about the artwork and the designs.  The art is top of the line.  It's certainly what you might expect for something produced by Image Comics.  Of course, if there's one true star of this comic, it's the technology.  It's all very sleek and Jet Age, with a bit of British flair, of course.  Many of the vehicles and missions seen in the comic are based on actual proposals by scientists such as Wernher von Braun.  It is mentioned that Von Braun was among the scientists that the British captured, so this isn't all that surprising.  The technology really embodies that optimistic can-do attitude you see in a lot of science fiction from the 1950s and 1960s.

Now let's talk about the alternate history.  As stated above, it's in large part based on actual plans and is very optimistic...perhaps a bit too optimistic.  Let me give you a few highlights of this alternate British Space Program: breaking the sound barrier (1946), first satellite (1948), first manned spaceflight (1950), first space station (construction from 1953-1956), first mission to the Moon (1957), and first mission to Mars (1969).

This is clearly meant to be a nod to Collier's Magazine's famous Man Conquers Space series of covers, but I'm not sure how realistic it is.  Britain might have the willpower and the money, but they've also got quite a few problems.  In 1945 cities across Britain were still clearing away the rubble from the Blitz, and strict rationing was still in place.  Having a black budget is going to help, but it won't make all of the other problems magically disappear.  In fact, it will potentially make things worse.  People are gonna wonder why money is being wasted on a space program, and not on helping them.

Still, I'm willing to give it a pass.  The premise of the comic is about Britain developing a successful space program.  For the sheer awesomeness of that alone, it's all worth it.  Still, there is a slightly more pressing issue.  Towards the end of the comic it's implied that, for all its technological advances, the British Empire remains socially backwards.  There's a couple panels that show that British space stations are racially segregated, for example.  The problems is that the comic contradicts this on multiple occasions.  The leader of the first mission to Mars was a black man, and in the present, there's a Sikh man on the space station council.

It also doesn't make sense given historical precedent.  The British have always been leader when it comes to human rights.  They abolished slavery in the home isles in 1800, and in their colonies in 1833.  They were able to do this without spilling a single drop of blood.  After that, the Royal Navy spent quite a bit of time intercepting slave ships.  During their time in India, the British worked to abolish practices such as sati, aka Hindu wife-burning.  Also, many American ideals of freedom come strait from the works of British thinkers.

I'm not saying the British were always perfect.  They had their share of flaws, just like any other nation.  However, I seriously doubt they'd still have segregation in 2001 of this alternate world.  There's also the question of how the Cold War played out.  We get a few throwaway lines about America and the Soviet Union squabbling with each other, but that's about it.  The Soviets would have been set back a bit without German scientists of their own, but they still had Sergei Korolev.  Was there a very one-sided space race between the British Empire and Soviet Union?

Towards the end of the come we see that America is attempting to launch a Moon mission...using Apollo era technology.  I'll grant that NASA would have be set back quite a bit, but they wouldn't still be using Apollo tech.  Surely, they would have been able to observe British spaceplanes enough to at least come up with their own version.  That brings us to the nature of the black budget.  This is a bit of a spoiler, so turn back now if you don't wish to find out.

Okay, everyone gone who wants to be gone?  Good, let's talk black budget.

So, how did the impoverished post-war British government procure the funds to fund a space program?  Why, by looting gold and other assets from the victims of the Holocaust, of course.  Would that have realistically have been enough to fund a space program? got me there.  Math has never really been my strong point, so I'll give that one to the comic.

Alright then, maybe the alternate history is a bit optimistic at times, but is this comic worth a read?  Yes, it absolutely is.  The Space Race has always been one of my favorite points in history.  I've always loved the idea of space traveling being more advanced than it is in our world.  I've also been intrigued with the idea of a successful manned British space program, and manned space flight in general being more widespread.  Yes, I am aware that Britain has a space program in our world, but it's only ever launched a few probes.

The comic is worth it for the great artwork alone.  As far as I'm aware, Warren Ellis has no plans to revisit Ministry of Space.  That's certainly a shame, we get some very tantalizing glimpses into this world, but it feels like there so many great stories that could be told in this world.  Still, what we got is pretty good, if a bit short.  Ministry of Space is one of the best alternate history comics out there, and it is more than worthy of your time.  You can find it pretty easily on Amazon, and you can also find it digitally on Comixology.

Well, I think that does it for now.  I'm off to find some more great alternate history comics to share with you guys.  I will see you all next time.  

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Riordan Retrospective: The Lightning Thief

I've been wanting to review Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series on this blog for quite a while now.  It's one of my absolute favorite book series, and I want to share it with all of you.  However, because of my great love for the series I just can't give it a normal review.  Therefore, I've decided to do a retrospective of Percy Jackson, it's sequel series and its spin-off series.  Think of these less as proper reviews, and more me taking looking back, and sharing my thoughts about one of my favorite series.  Keep in mind, there's no set schedule for these retrospectives.  Then again, keeping a schedule in general isn't exactly one of my strong points.

So, with all of that out of the way, we're going back to the one that started it all.  We're taking a look at The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson and the Olympians book 1.

Percy Jackson is a down on his luck sixth grader.  He tries his best to be a good kid, but for one reason or another, he always gets kicked out of school at the end of the year.  On a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art his math teacher Mrs. Dodds turns into a monster and tries to kill him.  Thankfully, Percy is saved by using a magic pen/sword, given to him by his supercool Latin teacher Mr. Brunner.  Before long, Percy learns that his best friend Grover Underwood is a satyr, Mr. Brunner is the mythical centaur Chiron, and Percy himself is a demigod.  The Greek gods are real and they're currently living in America.

Chiron and Grover take Percy to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods.  A few misadventures later, Percy discovers that his father is Poseidon and that his mother is being held prisoner in the underworld.  Worse still, Zeus' master lightning bolt has gone missing, and Poseidon is the prime suspect.  Percy and Grover, along with a daughter of Athena named Annabeth Chase, must travel across America on a quest to save Percy's mom and stop the impending Olympian civil war.

As I'm sure you can guess by the name of this blog, I am a lover of audiobooks, and I'm forever grateful to for helping provide me with audiobooks.  When I first start my great adventure with Audible, there were two series that really stick out in mind.  The first is Robert J. Sawyer's Neanderthal Parallax series.  The other, of course, is Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

No matter what else happens, I hope that I never lose sight of the fact that it all started with an email.  Back in 2009 I got an email from Barnes and Noble informing me the release of The Last Olympian, the final book in the Percy Jackson series.  At the time, I was on a bit of a Greek Mythology kick, having recently finished Mythology from the Ologies Series.  Intrigued by the title and the cover image, I decided to research Percy Jackson series.  Impress with what I found, and with a spare Audible credit to share, I decided to give the first book a try.

I finished The Lightning Thief with lightning speed.  No matter how much I listened to it, I could never get enough.  It completely revolutionized my view of fantasy books.  Prior to encountering Percy Jackson, I had this image that fantasy could only take place in a far-off magical land, or England.  Then again, from my point of view, England might as well have been a far-off fantasy land.  Now, however, it was like "Hey, that could actually happen!"

Well, I wasn't under any delusions that Greek Mythology was real, or that I might turn out to be a demigod.  What I mean is, the book spoke to my American sensibilities, and I was better able to relate to it than, say, Harry Potter.  One of the most charming things about the Percy Jackson series is the way it seamlessly blends Greek Mythology and modern American culture and geography.  On of my biggest complains about Harry Potter is that Harry has a very bland and forgettable personality, compared with the more colorful side characters.  That's not case with Percy; he's like a young streetwise Hercules who can fight the rising odds.  I adore the snappy dialogue and Percy's observations of the world.  Even in the face of impending doom, he finds ways to wisecrack.

Another aspect that helped was how the demigods have dyslexia.  The in-universe explanation is that their brains' are wired to read Ancient Greek.  Similarly, they all have ADHD, because that's useful when you're in the middle of a battle.

I don't know if I've ever brought this up, but I myself am somewhat dyslexic.  I have what is known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or PDD for short.  It is an autism spectrum disorder that combines aspects of Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Asperger's, Anxiety, Autism and serval other such disorders without being full-blown cases of any of them...its a bit complicated.

Growing up, one series I always enjoyed was Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver's Hank Zipzer book series.  It's about a dyslexic boy, named Hank Zipzer, and all the misadventure he gets into at school and with his friends and family.  It's a great series, and I always related to Hank's struggles with his dyslexia.  As such, I did appreciate how Percy and his fellow demigods were dyslexic as well.

I think I also ought to tell you a bit about how it is that Percy Jackson came to be.  The series first began life as a series of bedtimes stories Rick Riordan told his son Haley, who had recently been diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia.  At the time, Haley was really into Greek Mythology, but Rick had run out of myths to tell him.  To solve this, Rick created a story about a modern day demigod named Percy Jackson going on adventures across America.  At the same time Rick, then a middle school English and Social Studies teacher, was looking for a way to get his students excited about reading.  At Haley's encouragement, he wrote the stories into a cohesive book.  He then shared it with his student, many of whom would loan their names to various minor characters, and got feedback on it.

After polishing it up, Riordan sent it to some publishers, and was rejected multiple times before the manuscript was finally accepted.  Before long, it was snatched up by Disney-Hyperion.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

I should take a moment to talk about how absolutely top-notch the mythological research is.  I suppose it is to be expected.  Prior to writing the Percy Jackson series, Riordan helped edit several books about mythology.  You get well-known monsters such as the Minotaur and Medusa, but you also get lesser known characters like Procrustes.  It was also a smart move to make Percy a son of Poseidon.  Most other people might have made him a son of Zeus, but that would be way too obvious.  Plus, all things considered, Poseidon is probably a lot more sympathetic as a father than Zeus.

One aspect in particular I really enjoyed was the reveal about the villain.  It's set up to make it look like Hades is the one who stole the masterbolt, but it wasn't him.  He's got his hands full with all the dead in the underworld as it is; the last thing he needs is a war.  Instead, the true villain is Ares, the god of war.  Hades might have been a bit creepy, but he certainly wasn't evil.  Ares makes much more sense as a villain, and even then, there's someone else manipulating thing behind the scene.

Let's take a moment to talk about the audiobook and the cover art.  I can't imagine anyone other than Jesse Bernstein narrating the original trilogy.  Until Christ McCarrell stared as Percy in the musical adaptation of The Lightning Thief, Jesse was, in many way, the voice of Percy to me.  He just does such a spectacular job narrating the books.

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but we all do it anyway.  After all, a book cover can be the first thing that hooks someone's interest about a book.  The first cover, and I mean the very first cover, from before Disney-Hyperion picked up The Lightning Thief, is pretty decent.  Grey background, various monsters from the book, lighting bolt outline.  Not exactly a showstopper, but it gets the job done, and I have a soft spot for it.  Then we have the second cover.  It shows Percy, clutching a Minotaur horn, in the sea standing before the Manhattan skyline while lighting strikes the top of the Empire State Building.  I admit, it's probably nostalgia at work, but I still think it's pretty awesome.  It's kind of mysterious, and it seems like something awesome is about to happen, and the spine is colored sea-green.

So that brings us to the current cover of The Lightning Thief.  Speaking objectively, it does a much better job of giving and idea of what the book is about.  Percy is standing on a statue of Poseidon, submerged in water, next to the New York skyline.  At first, I wasn't sure about it and the other new covers, but I warmed up to them as time went on.  It helps that they're the banner over on the Percy Jackson sub-reddit.  So yeah, I do think the new covers are a step in the right direction, but the old covers have their charms as well.

I realize I haven't really been talking much about the plot.  The Lightning Thief, owning to its status as the first book, has received the most adaptions.  So I figured it might be a bit redundant to talk about it here.  Trust me, when I review the movie "adaption" I'll be talking a lot about the plot.  Speaking of adaptions, besides the terrible movie adaption, The Lightning Thief has been adapted into an excellent musical, a pretty decent graphic novel and even a coloring book.

What can I say?  The Lightning Thief is a great start to a great series.  If you haven't read it already, I strongly recommend that you do.  I think that should do it for now.  Join me next time when we take a look back at The Sea of Monsters.  I will see you then. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Comic Review: What If? Who Killed the President?

It seems that everyone really enjoyed my last review of a comic from the series What If?, known in French as Jour J.  So, I've decided to review another one for you guys.  Today, we're taking a look at What If? Who Killed the President?  Once again, this comic is brought to us by the good people at Comixology and Delcourt.

Who Killed the President? takes place in an alternate 1973.  The Vietnam War has continued to drag on, and doesn't show any signs of stopping.  Protest and unrest and common across America.  Hippies are regularly mowed down by the National clear view of news camera.  Amidst the unrest, the president is making his way to Dallas in preparation for his upcoming reelection campaign.  Meanwhile, an ex-solider named Chris French has also come to Dallas.  He's witnessed the horrors of the war first hand, and lost quite a few friends along the way.  French is angry, and he's out for revenge.

Okay, so before we go any further we need to discuss the alternate history itself.  You don't actually find the point-of-divergence until halfway through the comic, but I think it is important to discuss it upfront.  The way the comic is initially set up, it makes it seem that Kennedy was never assassinated, and acting rather out of character.  Nope, that's not what it was.  Things diverged from our history during the 1960 Presidential Election.  Kennedy was caught having an affair, and as a result, Richard Nixon won by a landslide.  It's hinted that Nixon's cronies are the ones who bused Kennedy.  After that, Nixon proceeded to run the country with an iron fist.

Well, his first term wasn't too bad.  By his second term, however, the shit really hit the fan.  Nixon started cracking down on political dissidents, such as student groups, and sending them to be tortured/killed at concentration camps in Nevada.  Also, apparently, he had Woodward and Bernstein assassinated, potentially J. Edger Hoover as well, and convinced Congress to repeal the two terms limit of the presidency.  Drunk with power, Nixon is planning to start a war with China.

The biggest problem here is that we don't need to speculate on what it would be like if Nixon was president, we know what would happen; given that he was the thirty-seventh president.  Granted, he became president in 1968 rather than 1960, but the point still stands.  Speaking of which, that's actually a pretty big missed opportunity on the comic's part.  Just how would Nixon have handled the challenges of the early 1960s, such as the Civil Rights Movement or the Space Race?  I know that Nixon was a controversial president; looking at you Watergate and Red Scare.  That being said, he did do some pretty good things as well.  For example, he did reopen America's relations with China, founded the EPA, ended the Vietnam War, and enforced desegregation.

Now, I wouldn't necessarily object to an alternate history exploring Nixon as a dictator; there's certainly plenty of fertile ground.  However, I would have preferred much more subtly and nuance.  The Nixon in comic comes across more as a mustache-twirling supervillain rather than an actual person.  There's even a scene where Nixon is discussing his plans for the war with China at the Pentagon...and the way he's dressed is somewhere between Nazi and Latin American dictator.  I can kind of see that the writers were trying to make him a dark inversion of our world's Richard Nixon, but it just doesn't work for me.  Especially with some of the stuff he initially does, this Nixon comes across as being evil for the sake of being evil.

Also, let's go back earlier to the hippies getting mowed down by the National Guard.  Apparently, this has gotten so bad that Canada has closed its boarders.  Okay, so you expect me to believe that nobody is calling for Nixon to be impeached?  I know that hippies weren't the most popular people in the world, but most Americans would probably be opposed to mowing them down in the streets.  It's also mentioned that Nixon threatened to invade France, since they refused to give up Americans seeking asylum, but that was probably just saber rattling...I would hope.

Also, provoking a war with China, especially at the height of the Cold War, is beyond stupid.  It's even point out in the comic that, at minimum, American bases in South Korea and Taiwan will be nuked.  Granted, the Sino-Soviet Split had occurred, so the Soviet Union might be willing to turn a blind eye, though that's a very big maybe.  Still, even if it's not World War III, a war with China is going to have serious repercussions.

Okay, so the alternate history is incredibly shaky, but what about the story of Chris French?  That was actually one of the better parts of the comic.  French and his friends start of as idealistic volunteers, but then they experience the horrors of war.  It really made me want to find out more about the Vietnam War.  One scene that particularly stick out is when Chris and his men are resting in some French colonial ruins.  One of the men overdoses on heroin and French immediately shoots him.  Everyone is shocked, but French points out that it's better the people at home think he died in battle, rather than know that he died from an overdose.

It's good and all, but unfortunately it just isn't enough to override the bad parts of the comic.  It really is a damn shame, Russians on the Moon! was so well researched, and I was really looking forward to this comic.  I don't think the writers were trying to make political points.  More likely than not, it was simply poor writing and a lack of proper research.  Whatever the reason, you’re probably gonna want to give this one a pass.

Unfortunately, there currently aren't any more issues of Jour J translated into English.  As far as I know, there's no plans translate any of the other issues for the time being.  Hopefully that will change, be in the meantime, there's plenty of other great alternate history comic out there.  I've got plenty more comics to share with you guys in the future.

Well, that's enough from me for now.  I will see you guys next time. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Movie Review: Dear White People

Well, everyone seems to have an opinion of this movie, or at least, of its Netflix adaptation.  So, I figured I'd finally post my review.  I've been wanting to review this one even before all the controversy.  Hey, I watch this movie before it was cool.  So, what movie are we going to talk about?  We're going to be taking a look at Dear White People

The movie takes place at fictional Winchester Academy; think Ivy League style liberal arts college, and you wouldn't be too far off the mark.  It is told from the point of view of a wide variety of black students.  You've got Lionel, a nerdy gay student who finds himself alienated by both the gay and black students.  You've got Troy, the son of the dean who dreams of being a comedian, and is also a closet nerd.  You've got Coco, who dreams of fame and fortune.  Most of all, however, you've got Sam.  She's a radical member of the Black Student Union, or mixed-race ancestry, who hosts a radio show called Dear White People.  

All of the characters, and many more, start of as somewhat separate storylines, but begin to intertwine as the movie progresses.  By the end of the movie everything collides together for the big finale.  Okay, that's enough summary for now, let's talk about what I thought about this movie. 

I don't know exactly where I saw the trailer for this movie, but based purely on that, it looked like it would be reasonably funny and entertaining film.  I could have gone to see it at my local independent films theater, but I never got around to it for various reasons.  However, I did eventually rent it, and I can safely say that my first impression proved true.  Now, before we go any further we need to talk about why this film is so controversial 

A lot of the complaints about the film have to do with Sam, along with her fellow radicals, and the things they say.  They certainly do make some fairly charged and inflammatory comments about race, particularly with regards to white people.  However, there's something a lot of people miss: Sam isn't meant to be a sympathetic character.  Well, not entirely at any rate.  Sam's character arc is based around her coming to terms with being mixed-race.  Her mother is black and her father is white, and Sam is secretly in a relationship with a white guy.  Throughout her life she felt inadequate and as though she was being judged by other black people.  As a result, she felt the need to over compensate, and so she crafted an angry black women persona in response.  

I have known certain mixed-race individuals who have gone through similar things; so it certain does have a ring of truth to it.  Another aspect is that, at least initially, a few of the BSU's grievances are at least somewhat legitimate.  However, the problem arises with how they express those views.  For example, there's one scene where they are protesting the latest Tyler Perry movie.  A lot of the thing they say are actually criticism I myself have of Mr. Perry's films.  The problems comes when, instead of complaining to a producer or a script writer, they scream at the ticket dude at the local theater.  

So there's people who might see a clip from the movie out of context and get the wrong impression.  On the flip side there's a, frankly disheartening, amount of people on places like Tumblr that unironically worship pre-character development Sam.  Well, actually, that's not so surprising.  This is Tumblr we're talking about here.  Side note, it's always rather awkward to write about characters named Sam, but I digress. 

For what it's worth Justin Simien, the writer, director and producer of the movie, has said that he considers the movie a love letter to white people.  In particular, the many white boyfriends he's had over the years.  

Now let's talk about some of the other characters, specifically Lionel.  His problem is that he's too gay for the black students, but not stereotypically gay enough for the gay students.  His character arc is all about learning to be true to himself and forge his own identity, rather than conforming to the desire of others.  You could as see his arc at least partially as a commentary on anti-gay sentiment within the black community.  Justin Simien is himself a gay black man.  I like to think there's a bit of him in Lionel.     

Coco's arc is also about learning to accept herself.  She's worried that she acts too stereotypically black to fit in.  It certainly doesn't help that her real name is Collandrea.  There's certain times she insists that she isn't that black, despite being rather dark skinned.  I have known certain black people who have expressed similar concerns about fitting in, so it does all feel true to life.  

That leaves us with Troy.  I should have meaning this earlier, but his dad is played by Dennis Haysbert, better known as the Allstate guy.  You will probably get a chuckle or two because of this.  Anyway, he's trying to please his father while also trying to find his own voice.  He’s also a closet nerd, but tries his best to hide this from his popular white friends.  As you can see, the movie's theme can easily be summarized as "be yourself, not who others want you to be, and forge your own identity."

So now we've got to talk about one of the other more infamous parts of this movie: the blackface party at the end.  Well, it's actually one of the first things we see in the movie, but the bulk of the plot is explaining how we get there.  Originally, Justin Simien was going to cut it out on the grounds that it was too unrealistic, but then he founded example of actual college blackface parties.  It reminds me of the end of my senior year of high school.  There were some students throwing a party, which I didn't attended because I wasn't interested/did really have many true friends.  The girls dressed as jungle princesses, and the boys...wore full-body blackface.  I won't name any names, to protect the ignorant.  Did I mention that I went to a small private Catholic high school full of rich white kids?  

The point I'm trying to make is, I had no problem believing a party like that could exist.  So, how does it come about?  I'll leave that for you to find out when you watch this movie.  So, while the main theme of the movie is about find your own identity, there's also a bit of satirization about race relations and collegiate craziness.  The cinematography can be described as simple yet understated.  The movie is divided into different acts much like a play.  Each act is introduced by a translation card that looks like a piece of fancy stationary.  

Recently, Dear White People has been adapted into a Netflix series of the same name.  I haven't seen it as of the posting of this review.  The movie feels like a pretty complete story in and of itself, but I can maybe see the series working.  It could dive into the character's personalities and backstories more; give us a chance to really get to know them.  On the other hand, it could stretch things out for too long, and mishandle the social commentary, so you never know.  

What can I say?  Dear White People is a funny, crazy, wild, and even at times heartwarming, dramedy about finding your identity.  It was easily one of the best films of 2014, and it is certainly more than worthy of your time.  Well, there you have it.  Another review draws to an end.

Hmm, I probably should talk a bit about future projects I have going on...but I can't think of anything else to say.  I will see you guys next time.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Flag of the Free City of Hong Kong

I'm back with another alternate history flag:

This is the flag of the Free City of Hong Kong.  It comes from a world where Britain handed over Hong Kong to Taiwan rather than the People's Republic of China.  British leaders were able to convince both of the Chinas to allow Hong Kong to hold a referendum to decide its fate.  The overwhelming majority voted to join Taiwan.  The PRC demanded a recount, and Taiwan agreed to hold another referendum.  This time, however, Hong Kong voted to become and independent city-state.  America and Britain agreed to defend Hong Kong's independence if it were ever threatened.  Tensions ran right for a few days but, reluctantly, the PRC agreed to respect Hong Kong's sovereignty.  Though they also built a large wall along their border with Hong Kong.  The PRC claimed this was to keep Hong Kongers out, but almost everyone knew it was really to keep their citizens in.  

Hong Kong is an economic powerhouse just as it is in our world.  It maintains close relations with Taiwan.  The two nations operate a mutual immigration policy, colloquially referred to as the Free China Corridor.  As a result, Hong Kong is slightly less crowded than in our world.  Hong Kong also maintains good relations with Britain and is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. 

The flag symbolizes Hong Kong's mixed Chinese and British heritage.  The stripes harken back to the flag of the British East India company.  That they also resemble the America flag, and thus act like a middle finger to the PRC, is a happy coincidence.  The lotus flower represents Chinese influences on Hong Kong's culture. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Flags of the Athenian Empire

I'm back with a double treat: two brand new flags.  So let's dive right in:

This is the flag of the Athenian Empire.  It comes from a world where Athens won the Peloponnesian War.  Following the defeat of Sparta, the Delian League was expanded to include the Greek colonies in Italy, the city-states in Anatolia and all of Greece.  All of this new territory meant more treasure for Athens' coffers.  Athens used much of this new-found wealth to expand its military and navy.  The unification of the Greek city-states meant that the Macedonian Conquest never occurred, and Alexander the Great never came to power.  Though it was still known as the Delian League, in reality, all of the city-states knew that they were now part of the Athenian Empire.

The threat of Persia was an ever-looming concern.  Athens funded many rebellions against Persia in regions such as Egypt and the Levant.  Eventually, Athens declared war on the Persian Empire and conquered it in short order.  However, most of the territory was lost within a few generations.  Athens also went on to conquer Carthage, the fledgling Roman Republic and expanded its territory into Gaul.  Athens also expanded into Hispania and the British Isles, but never for too long.  

Following this series of conquest Athens began to focus more intellectualism and the acquisition of knowledge.  Many libraries and centers of learning were founded across the Athenian Empire.  The Athenian Empire never truly fell, but over the years it did lose territory; at its smallest, it was comprised of Greece and Anatolia.  However, Greek influence on language, art and culture is felt throughout its former empire and the world at large.  In many ways, the Athenian Empire can be seen as the Western world's equivalent of China in terms of influence and culture.  

The flag features an owl clutching an olive branch, symbols of Athens patron goddess Athena.  The colors of the flag are black and orange in reference to Ancient Greek pottery.  The black on the first flag is also a reference to the black sails of Theseus, mythical king of Athens.