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Monthly Archives: January 2010
Random Pulp Sci Fi Cover: The Magnetic Brain

Filed under Found on the Web

Pulp Sci Fi Has Big Brains

Because nothing says "Thursday" like a well-coiffed woman being terrified by a magnetic brain.

Please consider helping me to continue my creative work and deal with the financial aftermath of cancer
Delayed Linkage: Greg Brotherton’s Dystopias, and Atomic Rockets

Filed under Found on the Web, Hodgepodge

I spend most of my days inside my own head. I admit it. I’m not ashamed. But usually I make the time to pop my metaphorical head above the waters, notice interesting things, and jot them down in here.

Lately I’ve been keeping that head down a bit more than usual because what I’ve been immersed in is not a metaphor: it’s just a great big project that I hope to finish soon. Ish. So today, here are a couple of things I’ve meant to share… but haven’t. After which – head down, full speed ahead, silent running.

Greg Brotherton’s New Museum Show

Greg Brotherton's Dystopian SculpturesI’ve written before about Greg Brotherton’s sculptures, which are remarkable pieces that combine found objects with new metals, wood, and other materials.

His newest work is now on display in a show called Discoveries in Dystopia at the Oceanside Museum of Art, near San Diego in California. The new work concentrates on dystopian views of workers in fascinating but forbidding settings: cubicles, desks and machines that enfold their laborers in Sysiphean toil.

Like Brotherton’s other works the textures and their contrasts are lovely to the eye and there are occasional grace notes (like the "Back Space" typewriter key shown here) that reward the careful observer. Wonderful stuff!

The museum’s show runs through March 19, and there’s a "Meet the Artist" event on February 6.


If you’ve seen my own work, you may have guessed that of all the things I may be about, scientific accuracy is, well, absent. If I can fool you into thinking that a thing might work, well, job done, right? Because things like open cockpit roadster "rockets" aren’t the most practical or likely sort of vehicles in the first place.

Atomic Rockets!On the other hand, I appreciate scientific accuracy in science fiction (which is not exactly what I do, anyway). Authors can get away with fooling me, too, but they have to work at it a bit if what they’re doing is cast in a realistic mode.

So I was delighted on a couple of levels when I discovered the Atomic Rockets web site. It doesn’t hurt for me to get a little better at fooling you, after all, and the material’s pretty interesting in its own right.

Because Atomic Rockets is a large and growing compilation of information about how spaceships and related technologies actually need to work, and why. The examples are a mix of real aerospace experience and research with science fiction examples – good, bad, and ugly – from decades worth of fiction and movies.

And there are plenty of equations to help you to calculate whether your own space ship is going to be able to make that trip to Neptune. If not, you can research some of the other types of propulsion!

So I’ve made plenty of discoveries there already and look forward to more. The site is the ongoing project of Winchell D. Chung Jr. – have a look!

Doctor Rognvald’s Lab, from the other side

Filed under Computer Graphics, Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Doctor Rognvald's mad, mad lab

I’ve spent some time working at the far end of the laboratory, and pretty well wrapped that up and added some clutter here, at this end of the table. Finicky, finicky.

The dusty old Interociter doesn’t have a thing to do with the story; odds are Doctor Rognvald just picked it up second hand. You find those things in labs all over the place, of course.

I really need to wrap his one up soon. I keep making the mistake of approaching my test views as though they were actual pictures, which leads to all sorts of little adjustments that simply waste my time until I catch myself at it.

Another day or two and I’ll have to set the laboratory aside while I work on the last couple of props I’ll need in there… and then – finally! – I can concentrate on the illustrations themselves.

Out of all the crazy stuff in here I think I’m getting my biggest kick from the high voltage Frankenstein switches with all their gauges and dials, which only serve to flick the lights on and off.

Update: the Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual web site is now alive (alive, I tell you!) at thrilling-tales.webomator.com

Doctor Rognvald’s Lab: Now With Practical Lights

Filed under Computer Graphics, Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Mad Scientist Lab from Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual

I’ve worked out the basic lighting setup for Doctor Rognvald’s lab, and added practical light objects to match them (well, except for that door up on the catwalk, anyway). So far I’ve only got one "cheat" light in here – that’s premature, really, since I’ll mainly add the cheat lights when I’m setting up shots for the illustrations I need. But I wanted a little rim light on that floor lamp.

What we’ve got here is a pretty realistic general lighting setup that I’ll mutate and change and modify for the individual shots I need for the story.

What’s left to do is to add two more light fixtures, and then have a look at the camera angles to decide what other clutter I need on the table, and what indistinct shapes I want to add in the shadows… at which point the lab itself will be pretty much done, and I can move onto a couple of important props. Altogether I’m dangerously close to being able to make pictures in here. Muahahahahaha!

The more time I spend in here the more I find that I’d kind of like a room like this to work in. It’s well equipped: you can’t tell in this shot, but that’s an espresso machine at the far end of the table. What more do you need?

The downside of working on a project of this scale is that it takes so long to get everything done. But part of the upside is that I’ll have such cool sets and props to use in other pictures. I know I’ll want to revisit this lab when I can. I’m really looking forward to making poster-scale images of this one.

Even at high res, though, you’ll never be able to make out the ridiculous labels on the dials and buttons. There’s a "Hyphenation" dial, not to mention the "% Froglike" one. I guess those are just for me.

Update: the Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual web site is now alive (alive, I tell you!) at thrilling-tales.webomator.com

Mad Doctor Rognvald’s Laboratory, in progress

Filed under Computer Graphics, Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Mad Doctor Rognvald's Laboratory

Here’s where ‘ve been for the last… oh, I have no idea. It’s the laboratory of mad Doctor Rognvald, creator of the Toaster With TWO BRAINS. It’s the second mad scientist’s lab I’ve built for this Thrilling Tale. The two are quite different.

That’s because Cornelius Zappencackler’s lab is sort of a pleasant place for tinkering – one that you or I might like to work in. Oh, you’re right – some of the things he gets up to in there do sort of threaten to destroy the planet. But he’s an affable old gent, and he means well.

Okay. Maybe "well" isn’t the word I was looking for. But he doesn’t mean harm. It’s just that sometimes harm happens anyway.

But this! This is a laboratory that you or I might like to tinker in only if we were evil geniuses! This place is a textbook example of the kind of room where you Meddle In Things That Man Was Not Meant To Wot Of! This is the sort of lab where every now and then you just have to throw your head back and crow: "It’s ALIIIIVE!"

I’ve been having a great time with the glassware and instruments. This is just the point where I’ve dropped a real light source into the scene so I can get an idea of what to do next; but it’s well on its way… it’s…. nearly…. aliiiiive!

See what I mean?

Update: the Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual web site is now alive (alive, I tell you!) at thrilling-tales.webomator.com

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Down in the Basement. Where it Strains Against its Chains and Turns a Gigantic Wheel of Pain, for all Eternity. Muahahahahaha.