Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Honesty in Blogging, or What Was This Thing About Again?

There have long been some quirks to this little examination of my own odd creative life; doubtless a reflection of the oddities of its composer. Crafting a game or painting a miniature seem to me to use the same muscles as writing a poem or a piece of music. (Or at least related muscle groups.) But its full scope is . . . a little eclectic. My newer readers doubtless wonder why the heck it has a title referring to poetry or symphonies. My earlier followers might have wondered why I took the detour off little ships and onto the obligatory grim-dark. Maybe there's even  a person or two that are curious how I got on boats in the first place, since aircraft carriers and tramp freighters don't seem to have much to do with orchestral composition . . . though there is something poetic about them, to be fair.

Well, here's the contemplation. My explorations of the classic world of 80s sci-fi have lately occurred in a setting called the Tartarus Rim. And I do an awful lot more of that than anything else these days. So maybe a rename is in order. To that end I've reworked the URL. (The old one will still redirect here for the foreseeable future. Not abandoning it, in any case.) . . . And I've fussed with the art and appearance a little. I'm not quite happy yet, but are we ever, really? More will come. But here's the big question: do I divide things up and if so how? I have just started a parallel blog that's strictly the highbrow stuff. Well . . . mostly. But do I leave it here? Can highbrow and retreating hairline stand side by side? The poetry is fairly occasional and the music has dwindled almost to nothing, so moving new work in those two media elsewhere probably won't have much impact on this story, apart from making it slightly more focused. Would my gaming friends miss the poetry? Would my poet friends prefer to see the tiny lead people?

I may put off final decisions a little longer. It's no harm to leave things as they are. There's considerable room and time for tinkering. But if you're wondering about the changes . . . there you have it. That's what's up. And while this is my decision to make and I will make it ruthlessly . . . eventually, . . . I do appreciate your input. So, please feel free to chime in. All thoughts are welcome.

The Composer

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Sentinel Gate Affair, Episode I: Rockabye Baby

A short time ago we witnessed a series of strange arrivals on Moab III: A pair of bounty hunters named Tomy Takara and Gobbrott and an enigmatic human named Gordon Frei who just might be the bounty. Barely a week has passed and yet another visitor arrives from foreign parts; this time aboard a cramped shuttle dispatched from a fast interplanetary cutter.

. . .

Dame Astrid Shaam (Royal Order of the Flowering Lamp) landed on Moab III just before midday in the capital city of Logansport. The weather was sweltering by then, made worse by her rather out of season clothing and the need to carry her grandson, Lord Ali Khan XIV, who simply refused to lie quietly in the absurd getup his mother had required for the introductory ball that afternoon. (Not that she could blame, him, really. But Astrid was increasingly certain his nappie was soiled. Ali's mother was otherwise occupied, there hadn't been any place to change him on the cramped shuttle, and he wouldn't let anyone other than daadi, granmother, carry him. So she walked across the tarmac at the closest thing to a dignified hurry ceremonial armor would allow.

. . . Only to be met at the gate by a harried looking shuttleport agent. Perhaps he worked in customs, but hadn't everything been pre-cleared when she'd boarded at Proserpine? What on earth could possibly be the matter?

     "Dame Astrid, I presume?" the squeaky voiced official enquired. "I believe I have a message for you from a Lady January Rex-Avis."
     "Indeed?" she asked genuinely taken aback. "What could be the matter?"
     "Lady Rex-Avis wished you to know that a Gordon Frei is believed to be at large on the planet. And that he is pursued by at least one bounty hunter carrying an Imperial warrant for Frei's apprehension. Uh . . . Madame?"
     At this the official hesitated briefly. "Yes?" Astrid prompted.
     "The warrant wasn't terribly specific on how he should be arrested. Nor in what state he was desired by the Terran authorities."
     "Oh dear. Thank you . . . "
     "Nguyen. Inspector Amos Nguyen." The official replied. When he spoke it his name sounded almost like wing, but . . . not quite. Astrid weighed that in her head a moment before replying.
     "Thank you Amos. Your information is most timely. If I might ask of you one favor?"
     "Yes madame?" he said courteously.
     "Please see to it that my shuttle is ready for departure as quickly as possible. I shall attend the function, meet Lady January, and then it seems I might need to leave here with some haste."
     "Absolutely madame. We are ever at your service. I'll see to it immediately!"
     Nguyen was clearly enthusiastic. Dame Astrid nodded at him and continued "In that case, I should get the young lord inside. I'm afraid he is in need of some refreshment and perhaps a change of attire."
     "Certainly madame."
     With that Astrid calmly escaped towards the promise of cool in the modest terminal building, leaving the inspector to his work.

     A few minutes later Inspector Nguyen returned to the tarmac accompanied by shuttleport security
and an orbital mechanic.

     "Lieutenant Adams, could you see to it that your men keep a close eye on that shuttle over there? It's a diplomatic courier so I'd like to take extra precautions."
     "Yes sir," the security officer replied calmly. "Consider it done."
     "Very good. And Jenkins?"
     "Yes sir?" the mechanic replied
     "Could you get the ship inspected, fueled, and prepped for liftoff? I know we're jumping the queue a bit, but this is beginning to look like a sensitive mission."
     "Sure. I'll get Johnson and we'll look it over right now. The only other shuttle that hasn't been inspected isn't scheduled to depart until early next week anyway," he said brightly, hefting his tank and preparing to walk back to the maintenance shed."
     "Really?" said Amos a little quizzically. "And which shuttle is that?"
     "Imperial pinnanace. Arrived last week. Our own lander is already serviced, and the alternate is docked with the scheduled liner. We're pretty much good to go."
     "An imperial pinnance? Is there a cruiser in orbit? I haven't seen one, or heard about it."
     "No sir. The pinnance came alone. She's registered to IMS Terror, which is a Horrible class battleship. Station ship on Mars, I believe. Long trip for such a light ship, but she's bigger than most Imperial light boats I've seen."
     "Very interesting. Thank you."
     With that Nguyen turned and walked back towards the safety of the terminal building.

     The shuttle was parked in a spot between the terminal and the shop. Out of habit Jenkins looked it over as he walked past. He paused a moment when he noticed a small puddle of dark ooze forming below the port nacelle.
     "Blast. Looks like they've got a hydraulic leak," he muttered to himself. He glanced up at the thruster and noticed the bead forming on the bottom of the cowling. When he reached the shop he logged onto his terminal and found the service bulletin he thought he'd remembered. The manufacturer was calling for inspections of the hydraulic lines to the propellant agitators. That had to be it. "Hey Johnson."
     "Yeah Jenks?" Marguerite Johnson replied from behind a large stack of rather oily parts.
     "If we have to pull an agitator from a L-440 do we have a spare? Or do you think you could fix one?"
     "I've got some parts, but not a whole spare agitator. Depends on the damage, but I can probably fix it. Why?"
     "Seems that hot shuttle that just came might have blown one. And it needs to take off double quick."
     "I'll get on it."

. . .

Tune in next time for Episode II of the Sentinel Gate Affair: A Bounty on the Mutant

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Black Sheep in the Family

Among my many periodic Rogue Trader era obsessions are variations on a theme I'll call Satyrs in Space. Citadel, of course, did a line they called beastmen, which might have been the D&D catch-all term for creatures of the sort. The trouble is, they did very few for Sci-Fi, and all are just uncommon enough to be a bit on the pricier side these days. Some folks converted fantasy beastmen. (Rather in parallel to the better fantasy frog conversions.) A few others were good enough sculptors to make space humans into goats. But I'm really only looking for a few. And I'm sometimes lazy. And still only a mediocre sculptor. (Though that is changing.)

Enter other companies . . .

I've previously talked about painting a Demonblade Goathead Gnasher in a post called Abhumans to the Fore. I've talked about the Spacelords range several times before, and I've had their goatlike Phagons (currently available from Moonraker Miniatures) in my collection for a while . . . but it took some time to get them painted. Which is really a shame. They're quite lovely, if a little techier looking than the Citadel goats I'm pairing them with. (Metal Magic sculpts seem to have generally been a little more Byzantine than Citadel, but they play well enough together.) The results of my first foray into the Phagon line are below.

And here he is with a Citadel beastman and a Demonblade Goathead for comparison. All three are a little different. The Demonblade miniature is the tallest and heaviest. The Phagon is the lightest and shortest. But they're not so far apart as to look like different animals. Just . . . slightly different breeds of goats. And there are a lot of goats in the world, so that's okay.

As a small aside, I decided to take a photograph of the photography apparatus for a discussion elsewhere. Kind of a PiP still life. So there's a little glimpse through the fourth wall into my current workshop.

As always, thank you for reading. Hope to see you next time.

The Composer

Monday, August 1, 2016

Another Space Ride

Things have been quiet around Tartarus lately, but there have been a few new arrivals. Some months back a talented Spanish artist released his contribution to the growing Oldhammer hobby into the wild as part of a project called Space Riders. This was the first kickstarter I had the pleasure of backing. Things got a little hairy, what with the intercity move and some familial complications, but I've finally had a chance to brush up a few more of them. To refresh, the first member of this set I painted was the "Reptyle Centaur," who joined up with my crocs in a post called Reptiliad Revolution. Now he as a few friends . . . or maybe enemies. Frenemies with benefits? (It can be so hard to tell out in the wilds. Enmities can dissolve quickly in the face of a sand cyclone. And alliances even quicker.)

Recently arrived on Moab III are two particularly dangerous looking characters. The first, Tommy Takara, has used many aliases over the years: The Max, Angel Max, Max Power, and Max Engel. Takara landed at the starport about a week ago. Rumors have it that he's chasing some kind of Imperial bounty, though how far Imperial papers will get him is a matter of some conjecture.

Takara is a large man, noteworthy for mechanical prosthetics reputedly bequeathed him by the Martian Tech Cult. (His lack of official status has led to some suggestions that he was either born to someone from or himself enslaved in the penal test corps; the so called test bed slaves.) Even without the militarized limb he has the appearance of a powerful and aggressive human.

At almost the same time a tall orcoid called Gobbrott landed somewhere out in the wastes; reputedly also chasing bounty, though probably not for the Terrans.

His friends, such as he has any, usually call him Gob or Gobber. Equipped with a variable dispersion plasma rifle and a high intensity arc tracker he can be a fearsome opponent.

Adding to the strange and troublesome news from space comes a sighting from the ground; the giant Hulkus umberei. 

The Hulkus umberei, or ambler, is a semi-bipedal omnivore that has spread from coreward to many rim worlds. Their hardy desert metabolism has served them quite well in the galaxy's many hot and arid zones. Bull amblers stand from two to three meters at the shoulder and cows have occasionally been recorded with heights in excess of four. While slow appearing these giants can move quite quickly for short bursts, not unlike many cold blooded Terran species. The hulks are also fairly intelligent animals, occasionally fashioning  simple tools from logs and boulders. On some planets entire groups of amblers, called tanks, have passed missile weapons from generation to generation; using it as their principal hunting technique. Given their prodigious mass it is doubtless evident that these are not creatures to be trifled with.

How the hulk arrived on Moab III isn't precisely known, perhaps a collector brought one or several for a private menagerie and it escaped into the wild, but once established the creatures are virtually impossible to eliminate. They spend much of their life burrowing underground and hunt by detecting surface and subsurface vibrations, so traditional chemical and biological means of control are often ineffective. Trophy hunting has been known to help to some limited extent, and their flesh is a fairly prized delicacy . . . to those hunters able to catch them.

One final new arrival: a Ramshackle fellow known to the Rim as Gordon Frei.

Frei has been floating around the galaxy a long long time. Precisely how long is uncertain. He has considerable notoriety in technical circles. Some sources suggest he is a rogue mechan fleeing the Martian Tech Cult. Others claim he has never had any association with them, coming instead from Terra. Still others suggest a much darker origin; that he stepped out of a mysterious warpspace rift and that he preaches a terrible gospel of liberation. Whatever his history, he appears to be fleeing an Imperial warrant. Given his pallid and deeply scarred appearance the likeliest explanation is that the Imperial Cult regards him as some kind of dangerous mutant. He is also rumored to posses, alternately, either psionic abilities or alien or archaic technology of mysterious power; usually described as a variant of a graviton projector. There is no official record of his arrival in Logansport, but reliable witnesses have placed him at various locations around Moab III, primarily on the outskirts of the capital. More recently he has dropped out of view. Perhaps he has found transport off planet or maybe he is taking refuge out in the wastes.

That about sums up the recent news from the Tartarus Rim. As always thank you for listening. Hopefully there will be more very soon.

The Composer