Character Intro: Char Osbaldistan

I doubt it’s a surprise that I’m working on a book. I’m actually working on a lot of them – a duology, a stand-alone novel, a novella and a five-novella sequence. Oh, and a few short stories, too.

The five-book sequence follows the crew of a ship as they get into a series of escalating adventures. I’d like to introduce one member of the crew here. Her name is Char Osbaldistan, and when we meet her here (in a flashback), she’s a smuggler, freshly captured by the Interplanetary Union (IU). But when we actually meet her in-universe, she’s a full-fledged member of an IU crew.

Char was first mentioned (but not seen) in the short story Dee, For the Win which you can read here.

Let’s meet Char Osbaldistan:

It was an office, why an office, Char didn’t know. Usually court rooms looked more like, well, court rooms and not office. Yet there he was the tired old magistrate sitting behind a pompous desk, flanked by an inquisitor. The room was plush, velvet and wood against gold highlights. It spoke of power and authority, order and rigidity. The inquisitor spoke first.

“How many identities do you have? Your ship … what’s it’s name?”

“Why do you ask?” Char chafed against her bindings. There was a very comfortable chair in front of her, but sitting in like this would be awkward.

“Your ship, for one, appears to have four different registrations.” Char bit back a smile – there were seven, but they’d only found four. That was good.

“For the record, what is your ship’s name?”

“What do you want it to be?”

“Don’t play with me, girl.” The judge’s contempt spoke of impatience. So, time to go slow.

“Woman. Twenty-seven. Clearly, I’m a woman.”

“I have grandchildren your age, child.” The judge dismissed her response with a wave of his hand.

“Still, woman.”

“You, yourself,” The inquisitor ignored the exchange, “appear to have five different identities, all of whom,” He spoke in an aside to the judge, “pay taxes, by the way.”

“Seriously?” Char always left the money laundering part of the operations to the experts. All she knew was that she got paid her share, and it was a nice share.

“Yes, it’s an efficient way to look legitimate – pay taxes on income earned from fictitious jobs to cover that it was actually earned illicitly.” As if he needed to explain it to her. No, he was stating it for the record. This was being recorded, surreptitiously.

“I pay my taxes. Still, you arrest me?”

“You pay taxes for five people, at least four of whom are fake. Before we finish, you will tell us exactly how and from whom you got those identities.”

She chuckled. “Probably not.”

“What’s with her ship?” The judge asked.

“It’s a little planetary system slug modified with a hyper drive.” The inquisitor read from a note screen. “Slugs are everywhere, working boats that might move cargo pods, align construction segments, move a hulk around. They often hitch rides with cargo carries from one system to the next. It’s so common, and so universal, that a new one in a star system would never raise suspicions. It’s the perfect smuggling vehicle.” He turned back to Char.

“From your vessel’s logs, we’ve learned that you’ve worked in the Hadriatik Republic, the Triple Alliance, the Non-aligned territories and around Melakka. The ship’s history appears to suggest that it originated in Melakka, which would tie you to the identification of Char Osbaldistan.” The inquisitor nodded toward the judge. “Thus we have determined that for the purposes of this hearing, you will be identified as such. Miss Osbaldistan, do you object?”

“Of course.”

“Then what name would you prefer?”

“No, any name will do. I object to being captured. I object to being tried. I object to my ship being confiscated. I object to it being the bloody useless Interplanetary Union that arrested me and not some respectable government. This isn’t a real judiciary, you have no authority. This is a kangaroo court.”

“Char Osbaldistan, you’re charged with illegal operation of a vehicle, four counts of impersonation, smuggling, piracy and theft. You will learn to respect this court’s authority and you will do so quickly.”

“Oh, please.”

“What?”

“You want me, you want people in general, to respect your authority? You don’t know the difference between smuggling and piracy.”

“Both act outside of the law.”

“So does speeding. You don’t equate it to piracy … bloody kangaroo court, full of amateurs.”

— 30 —

Finding blog topics – Star Wars Logo edition

Star Wars early logo

Every writer is told to ‘build a platform’ (get your audience started) before publishing. How do you do that? Well, they’ll tell you to be active on social media and have a blog —

Great, I can do both of those.

— and have fresh content regularly.

Oh. One thing that can be hard to do is come up with topics for a blog. Harder still is finding a topic that someone else hasn’t already done better. Continue reading “Finding blog topics – Star Wars Logo edition”

A Rainy Day Movie List – Some Sci-Fi to Watch

There has been a lot of good science fiction movies in the past few years, and there have been some blockbusters. But those haven’t always been the same. Think of a Venn Diagram, two circles overlapping, there’s a few movies that appear in the overlap (perhaps Guardians of the Galaxy or Mad Max: Fury Road), but most fall outside one way or the other. Here’s a list of some great-to-decent science fiction films that weren’t blockbusters, but weren’t bad. They cover a spectrum of styles and moods. You can probably find one or two that you haven’t already seen.

Edge of Tomorrow (imdb)

Seriously, not enough people saw this, and the only reason I can think of is because it stars Tom Cruise. I’m not a big fan of his political/religious views, and I’m always weary going into one of his movies in case it’s trying to proselytize Scientology, but this film was quite good. Hollywood noticed, although not enough viewers did. It did a respectable $369m worldwide, but only $100m domestically. Don’t like Tom Cruise? He dies! Repeatedly! It wasn’t just a good actioner, it was funny, too (and made you think, just a little). Also, it’s being rebranded as Live, Die, Repeat so look for it under that title too.

Who is it for: Anyone desiring a good action/war movie with a lot of humour sprinkled in.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Ex Machina (imdb)

Why oh why didn’t this excellent, thoughtful movie about Artificial Intelligence and ethics get seen by more people? This was a metaphysical film about intelligence and morals involving indistinguishable-from-human AIs. If you have no remorse in killing them, should they really have remorse in killing you? It’s the most Kubrick-ish film I’ve seen since Kubrick died — not to mention the amazing effects used to create Ava’s transparent body. Maybe if they’d said ‘you’ll see a cute actresses nude!’ more people would have gone, but nudity wasn’t what this film was about (yes, it’s in there, perv).

Who is it for: Anyone who wants a thoughtful, slow movie that will stay with you.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Oblivion (imdb)

My second Tom Cruise entry, what’s going on? Have I become a Scientologist? Seriously, this was much better than expected. Not only were the effects pitch perfect, the smallness and intimacy of the story, painted on a large canvas, was fascinating. Two quibbles (one’s a spoiler): Morgan Freeman was under-utilized, which is a crime in itself; and I’m not sure that it’s true love if you’re banging a clone of your lover. (highlight with your mouse to view the missing text).

Who is it for: Old School Sci Fi short story buffs – think Heinlein or Bradbury.
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Tomorrowland (imdb)

I joked on twitter about this film when it opened, more a stab at the marketing than the film itself. I liked this movie, keeping in mind that it was very much an old school Disney kid’s film. They’ve taken the old formula (think The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, or Blackbeard’s Ghost), and update the storytelling for modern audiences – less humour, more threat. My 11-year-old students didn’t like it because it had ‘too much science’ which I translate as ‘not enough fun’ and I guess I can agree with that, but it’s still worth the 130 minutes of your time.

Who is it for: Anyone looking for light entertainment with just a bit of an alt-history twist. Think of it as Back to the Future lite, very lite.
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Pacific Rim (imdb)

Like Transformers? Like Jurassic World or Godzilla? Why haven’t you seen this film? Seriously, large mech warriors fight monsters from the deep to save Earth for humanity. There is more to the story than that, but not much. People die, we’re supposed to care. Buildings get crushed, we’re supposed to care. Rivals have a show down, we’re supposed to care. But really – mech warriors fighting giant monsters! Come on!

Who is it for: Fans of Michael Bay, Transformers, or Godzilla-esque movies. Anyone who wants a movie where they can take a toilet break or go grab another beer and not miss anything substantive.
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Moon (imdb)

At six years old, I’m not sure that this film should be on the list, but it was well worth seeing. Sam Rockwell is a solitary miner working a platform on the Moon’s far side when his reality starts to come undone.

Who is it for: A quiet night, a mystery. It’s good but slow.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

The Signal (imdb)

Want something more grounded in Americana, perhaps a little weird and UFO-y? This is your film. I’ve got to admit that the ending was unsatisfying, but parts of the journey were worth taking. In the beginning, the movie doesn’t know if it wants to be a horror film or a Kerouac road movie, then it morphs, and they really don’t want you to know more about it than that. But Laurence Fishburne’s presence kept making me thinking of The Matrix. Remember that.

Who is it for: X Files fans desperately waiting for the new show to start.
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

John Carter (imdb)

This one is on the decent-but-not-great side of the spectrum. It’s a good story, with a flawed telling. At the very end, the film gets its true title, John Carter of Mars, which is what the film should have been called, and how it should have been marketed. The casting was strange, too, although a lot of it worked well (Dominic “Jimmy McNulty” West as the villain, Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris). The one that didn’t work was Taylor Kitsch as the titular hero. Also distracting was the presence of Ciaran Hinds (Julius Caesar from HBO’s Rome) and James Purefoy (Mark Anthony from the same Rome) playing roles too similar those they played in… HBO’s Rome? Yeah, you get it. And the whole Ned storyline needed to die. Maybe just binge watch HBO’s Rome instead?

Who is it for: Taylor Kitsch fans, Vin Deisel fans on a drunken nights, those going through Jimmy McNulty withdrawal.
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

For context, I’d give Guardians of the Galaxy 3.5/5; Avengers: Age of Ultron 3/5 and Jupiter Ascending 1.5/5 (Even after a bonus 0.5 for the pretty spaceships). I’m sure there are more under-recognised decent films out there.

If you have any to add, drop them in a comment and we can discuss or I can added them to the list. Thanks!