Tag Archive: SF


Upper deck detail of the Latent Pulse, showing crew related features.

Upper deck detail of the Latent Pulse, showing crew related features.

I find that designing deck plans for imaginary spaceships to be a meditation into pseudo-engineering. At its most basic level, it draws us further into the imaginary world of our creations, encouraging us to think about aspects of it we wouldn’t do otherwise. As a writer and game designer, I’m able to visualize the action of my stories, or the progress of a player, or the inhabitants of this imaginary environment. At the other end of the spectrum, it is an exercise of applying all kinds of reasoning to its imaginary function, strengthening a concept and bringing change to it to make it feel more… real, though it is unlikely any of these exercises will be made into real things.

There is no real methodology for the process of creating one – our approaches will be entirely different based on our purpose for hashing the design out from thin air. It may be about visualizing the environment, so one can describe a single room; it may be the act of arranging obstacles or furnishings to provoke game play strategies, it may be to stage an action sequence in a novel, or an encounter in a tabletop RPG.

Copyright Ken McCulloch 2012

Latent Pulse development Concept sketch

What is going to be put forward here is a collection of points for the Starship designer to consider while planning their decks, in the hopes of drawing about a deeper sense of accomplishment and rationality within the design. Regardless of the actual result of the process – whether a “realistic” design is achieved or not, since how can we prove it one way or another – the most rewarding aspect of it is the thoughts that arise from it. Just as in meditation.

These thoughts are what came to me as I designed the Latent Pulse, a medium sized FTL freight/trading vessel from my WIP novel, Pan Spectrum Analyzer. Each one forced me to move elements about, rethinking their placement, use and relevance both to the design and to the narrative of the novel.

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My short e-book “The Unorthodox Eater” is now available on Smashwords and its affiliates for the incredibly low price of zero, zilch, zip, nada to celebrate its six month riding the interwebs.  Not sure how long it will stay at this price, could be over in a week, could be permanent, but if you’d like to get it for the most painless price, I’d grab it while you can.

What is it? Basically, three short stories about a guy – Phileas McNeil – who wants to eat one of everything, but may have met his match – the Ullyean Shrimp. Semi-humourous, semi-philosophical, its really what happens when a writer needs to write something to change the pace of his life.

Reviews? Well, no one has said anything bad about it. You could be the first! 🙂 Reviews welcome.

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 7TH - 2011 - For story on 'Picky Eaters'.

Phileas McNeil started his quest young…

Image: Andrew Tolson for Macleans magazine article, “Picky Eaters”

Karyss_Prologue

Karyss aboard the Hegemony ship, Respondent.

I’ve posted a lot about my science fiction novel in progress. I’ve talked about the illustrations I’ve done for it and plastered them across this site. I’ve blabbed about the processes I’ve used to get my head in its reality. I’ve mentioned the spacecraft and its denizens, and blah blah blah…  but I’ve never actually shown anything from its pages.  I guess its about time, eh?

Like all things, there are reasons for that.  Creative types can be insecure about their work, especially their “favourite child.” But a protective father needs to let their sweetheart out of the house to live her own life, so here we go.


Pan Spectrum Analyzer (working title)

“We all aspire to take upon ourselves a Great Journey, but only a few of us ever do.”

Prologue

Mbali Sector, deep space, T + 65 days (Starship Sequential/Chronological Time)

“Collision imminent!”

Karyss was only dimly aware of the vacc-suit’s alarm klaxons insistently sounding off, somewhere deep under layers of her ragged, forced breathing. The shrieking rush of blood in her ears was far clearer than the proximity warnings and victimized screams leaping from the comms. Too much was happening, too fast to follow. Overwhelming. Soul crushing. She needed to focus and figure out what was important.

“Collision imminent!”

Deep breath, girl, deep breath. She clawed air into her lungs, bringing brief clarity. She shrugged around in the stiff vacc-suit, glancing around as much as she could, snatching glimpses that brought her situation into an even starker reality.

Incandescence surrounded her – the dying breaths of a hundred spacecraft exhaled as violent flowers of burning vapour miraculously blooming from their hulks: volatile gas spilled from shattered starships shocked to ignition by radiant, prismatic showers of sparks. They rapidly boiled away into the void, eerily silent, their passage illuminating skeletal wrecks, scattered bodies of crew, faint zig-zag plumes of lifeboat burn motors; the embers of a once proud navy.

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green lantern movie

Are you telling me this ISN’T Science Fiction? Aliens, robots, weird things, futuristic cities…

It’s at times like this I had much deeper roots in the Comic industry than I do right now (Hey, Josh!), as the last few weeks have seen some interesting developments that made me jealous of whoever might step in to fill this role: DC Comics’ Geoff Johns is retiring from his position as chief writing peep on the Green Lantern comics, which may mean the titles associated with GL may be about to undergo a massive change in direction.

For the record I should state that I’ve never been big on superheroes, whether Marvel or DC. Growing up in the rural parts of the southwest UK meant that I had limited access to decent comics and I was weaned on a steady supply of Eagle and 2000AD – making me a staunch fan of Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, ABC Warriors, just to name a few. As a result, superheroes were always hokey to me. Sure, I read a few comics, watched some movies, but by the time I was out of young-adulthood, say 25-28, I could only say that a tiny handful of superhero oriented comics I had read were of any real value to me. Marvel’s Elektra: Assassin and DC Comic’s Marshal Law. It would be another five or six years until I read Watchmen and a few other guilty pleasures, such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And of course, all these are largely critical of the superhero genre and its tropes. Yeah, me and Superheroes don’t get along much.

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Pulp-O-Mized!

Word’s going around of a new service that may be of interest to those with Pulpy and retrostyled taste in Science Fiction/Sci-Fi: the Pulp-0-Mizer.  Its a web-app that allows you to create a faux book cover with Golden Age stylings, with your choice of text, images, fonts, etc. It is a commercial service, so they only let you do a low-res image for shits and giggles, but it is kinda cool. As soon as a saw it, I knew I had to slap PS-Ana into it and this was the result:

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image

That is the maximum free resolution, but you can also get something framed for Facebook that is closer to 500×500.

If I can’t get my act together for a painting when the damn novel is done, I may have to end up using this – at this resolution too, since sales of my e-Book, The Unorthodox Eater, haven’t been enough to buy a poster res version of this cover. 😦 It might have something to do with my complete lack of marketing prowess and its godawful cover.

If you want to Pulp-O-Mize an image of your own, head over to Thrilling Tales Pulp-O-Mizer. Don’t tell them I sent you, because they don’t give a shug, chummer!

PS: Yeah, I’m putting this up because my main article was taking quite some time to put together, as its a bit of a trek through some of the archives. Hopefully that will be done in a day or so, if the Universe abides.

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