Stuff I Like

Science Fiction

From the depths of space in the distant future, to secret goings-on in the modern world, with time travelers popping from future to past to present, the world of science fiction is virtually limitless.

Alternate History

1632 by Eric Flint

In 1632, a West Virginia town from 2000 is accidentally transported to central Germany in 1632, forever altering history. 1632 is TM & © Eric Flint. Image used for review purposes under Fair Use.

What if?

That’s one of my favorite questions. What if events in history had gone just a little bit differently? What if the Jews had been conquered before their religion had matured enough to survive? What if Rome never fell? What if a sniper had taken the shot he’d drawn on George Washington, rather than refuse to shoot a man in the back? What if England and France had pressured Lincoln into signing an armistice with the Confederacy? What if the Germans were able to detonate an atomic bomb over Allied forces at Normandy?

The possibilities are virtually limitless, and have proven to be fertile ground for a number of authors in what’s become a popular genre.

Robotech


Robotech Veritechs (aka Macross Valkyries) in Battloid configuration. Robotech is TM & © Harmony Gold. Images used under Fair Use.

Robotech was the first exposure I ever had to anime, and as such, it holds a special place in my heart (already being a fan of Transformers, the giant transforming mecha certainly didn’t hurt, either). Of the three “generations,” which were actually three unrelated Japanese series recut and edited to flow together, the first, Macross, remains my favorite.

The show was a lot more “grown up” than any other cartoon out there at the time, and I think that was a big part of its appeal to me. People died, and their friends mourned them. Relationships weren’t simple, and they twisted and turned at the slightest misstep. It was a far cry from its more simplisted and formulaic competitors, which had precious little character development, if any, and each of their episodes rarely affected the status quo.

Star Trek

USS Enterprise (Star Trek Into Darkness)
The U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek Into Darkness. 
Star Trek is TM & © CBS Studios Inc. and Paramount Pictures Inc. Images used under Fair Use.

Why do I like Star Trek? It’s not the spaceships, the gee-whiz technologies, or the neat special effects. Nor is it the funny-looking aliens “although the countless variations on ears, noses, and foreheads did become tiresome after a while). It’s not even the portrayal of a future where humanity is finally at peace with itself.

It’s none of those things. It’s all of those things, and more.

What it boils down to is characters. I just love the characters. Everything else is details, background, and window dressing. Read the Star Trek stories I’ve written: it’s all about the characters.

Transformers

Cover of Transformers Spotlight: Optimus Prime by IDW. Transformers TM & © Hasbro. Image used for review purposes under Fair Use.

Giant, living robots from another planet. That can change shape into pretty much anything imaginable. And they’re fighting a war. On Earth. In secret.

Seriously, how cool was that when I first saw it way back in 1984? So cool that I still love it to this day.

Comic Books

Comics aren’t just for kids. In fact, most of the comics out there today are intended for young adults like myself. The stories aren’t simplistic, although some are simple, and the characters frequently have depth and life to them.

Computers

I’m a geek, and while I grew up in and can remember a world in which I didn’t have access to computers, it’s something I’d really rather not return to. I use computers for nearly everything in my life now: schoolwork, creating my comic books, gaming, watching movies and television shows… the list is fairly extensive. Here’s some of the programs I use and what I use them for; some are traditional, proprietary programs you may be familiar with, while others come from the FOSS movement.

Operating systems: Linux and Windows

Tux, the Linux Penguin
Tux, the Linux Penguin

What’s Linux, you ask? It’s an operating system (like Windows or MacOS) developed in 1991 by Finnish student Linus Torvalds. It was based on Unix, which is an expensive, but very good, operating system.

Why do I use it? Well, for one thing, I can download it for free. For another, it’s more stable, and all those viruses you keep hearing about on the news only (or at the least, largely) affect Windows.

Granted, a lot of things work differently in Linux than they do in Windows, so there was a bit of a learning curve when I switched over in 1998. I still use Windows, mostly out of necessity for a few programs (primarily video games), but I’m glad I made the switch. Yes, like any other OS, Linux has its share of problems, but unlike others, the open source nature of Linux means that fixes and new versions come out regularly and frequently. There’s also many competing versions of Linux (called distributions, or simply “distros”), and my distro of choice is Ubuntu… at least for now. I’ve used many different distros over the years, including Red HatSUSE, and Mandriva. New distros come out frequently, so it’s not uncommon for someone to switch.

Graphics: Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator, GIMP, and Scribus

Adobe Photoshop is the gold standard of image manipulation software, and rightly so, and I use it mostly to color my comics. But I also use GIMP: the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, an open source program that is nearly as capable as Photoshop, with a price tag of free. Nearly all of this web site’s graphics have been made with both programs.

Like Photoshop is to image manipulation, so Adobe Illustrator is to vector graphics, and it’s also extremely useful for page layout on my comics. I also used Scribus for laying out the pages of my comic when I first started. I then assemble the comic in Adobe InDesign.

Office Productivity: Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org, and LibreOffice

While Microsoft Office is the standard for office productivity software, and I do own a copy, my office suite of choice is 
LibreOffice, a fork of OpenOffice.org. It’s free, and it has all the same capabilities plus the ability to export your documents to PDF is built in.

Video Games

With Miral Paris and the Guardian of Forever in Star Trek Online.
With Miral Paris and the Guardian of Forever in Star Trek Online. Star Trek is TM & © CBS Studios Inc. Screenshot by Jeffrey Harlan.

I play a lot of video games. Most of the games I play fall into the “action” category. Many of them are spun off from other entries on this list. I find the interactive experience of playing a video game far more enjoyable than watching television, so obviously I play games far more often than I watch TV. Some of the games I play include: the Half-Life series, Champions Online, City of Heroes,Star Trek Online, Transformers: War for Cybertron and the Left 4 Dead series. I also play more causal games as well, including Chime and Mahjongg solitaire.

Most of the games that I play are on my computer, but I also own a Playstation 3, an XBox One, a PSP, and a Nintendo Wii U. On the PC, nearly all of my games are run through the Steam service. A list of my games (with achievements/trophies earned, where applicable) is available on the Steam Community site.

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