Sci-Fi Pinups: Mr. & Miss July 2013

Pin Cushion Good news, gang! I bought a new calendar so that I won’t forget to announce our monthly sci-fi pinups… though I’ll totally procrastinate working on them anyway.

But hey, at least I won’t have an excuse.

And with that, welcome back to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Pinups, the monthly segment that’s almost always on time. Once a month we comb through the list of hotties and naughties and hard-rock bodies to crown the cream of the crop. But of course, it’s the sci-fi pinups, so they’re not exactly your momma’s Chippendales or your papa’s Playboy Playmates.

They’d be green-skinned Chippendales. With tentacles and laser beam eyes. And that would be hot. And the sci-fi version of Playboy Playmates would be whatever Captain Kirk takes his shirt off for.

Which is everything with legs.

So let’s get to it and announce our winners for July!

Mr. July is a sales clerk at a sporting goods store by day, and a jump-starter of evil undead apocalypses by night. He’s an experienced time traveler, renaissance man, and a total lady killer.

As long as that lady is the rotting undead spawn of hell and trying to rip off his face. Otherwise, he’s slightly awkward with the female gender.

Mr. July is…

Ash Williams - Army of Darkness

…Ash Williams from The Evil Dead!

Mr. July’s turn-ons include great values on home goods, his Boomstick, chainsaw hands, and hot women who first want to kill him and later want to kiss him. Turn-offs include his evil doppelganger, the undead, and memorization.

If you head out on the town with Mr. July, just remember: Klaatu Verata Nicto. You just might need it.

Here’s a clip of Mr. July not remembering the words and subsequently summoning the apocalypse, in the form of an evil undead army:

Hail to the king, baby.

Miss July may be a beauty for hire, but there’s no question that she’s her own woman. She’s smart, cultured, sharp-tongued, and knows how to be your perfect companion. This stunning beauty spends her time wandering the ‘verse with her rag-tag group of felony friends, seeing the sights, visiting her clients, and meeting interesting criminals. But don’t be fooled by her high manners and feminine wiles. She’ll cut you down to size with a pistol or one of her biting one-liners.

She is…

Inara Serra - Firefly

…Inara Serra from Firefly!

Miss July’s turn-ons include respect, honor, and ruggedly handsome spaceship captains who hide their feelings with biting one-liners. Her turn-offs include ruggedly handsome spaceship captains who hide their feelings with biting one-liners.

Now, I went looking for a great Inara video but couldn’t find much. People seem to be more interested in making fan tribute videos with crappy, sappy music behind them. I’ll make up for it by giving you guys another picture of our favorite companion.

Inara Serra - Firefly

And, of course, last month I promised I’d find some pinups swag for our gentlemen readers. And it just so happens that there’s some cool Firefly stuff out there. Think Geek has awesome posters of the Serenity women. Also, I found a pretty sweet peg doll set of the Firefly crew, lavender vanilla flavored Inara lip balm, a super groovy Inara t-shirt, and a funny t-shirt.

Thanks for stopping by! Stay tuned for next week when we continue THE CURE, our Choose Your Own Adventure-style series where you vote for the next step in the story. Subscribe to the RSS feed in the sidebar, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Pincushion photo courtesy of Lina-Sydney. Continue reading

Cobra Command Financially Down, But Not Out, Says Evil Empire’s Leadership

G.I. Joe - COBRA LogoSECRET BASE—The Annual Shareholder Meeting at Cobra headquarters was somber as CEO Cobra Commander stood before investors and delivered the bad news: profits were down, and they had won only two battles in the last year. Though the first quarter had shown a significant increase in profits, the next three were riddled with large expenditures and poor management decisions. Analysts cite the determined efforts of Cobra’s evil nemeses, the G.I. Joes, as the key factor in their hardship.

“Real talk, guys,” Cobra Commander said in the midst of his thirty-one slide PowerPoint presentation that detailed their failures. “Winning against the Joes is getting tougher and tougher. They’ve got ‘knowing’ so they’ve already won half the battle. The most we could ever hope to win is the other half.”

But the evil association’s message wasn’t one devoid of hope. Following the dismal financial forecast, Emperor Serpentor took the stage and reiterated the group’s commitment to world domination and defeating “those damned Joes.” He detailed a plan that would put the company back in the black.

“We’re prepared to make sacrifices,” Serpentor told the group, “starting with Bob. You’re toast, pal. We’re also going to cut back on the amount of laser fire during our conflicts. Sure, heavy weapons fire that doesn’t actually hit anything is one of our most effective tactics, but it’s expensive. We’re going to cut back on the laser fire and supplement with laser pointers. I know a guy at a cat toy company who will sell us a bunch for cheap. Third, we’re thinking about moving our headquarters. Destro keeps a close eye on the Internet, and thinks that in Soviet Russia we may defeat the Joes.”

After the formal discussion ended, the Q&A session dissolved into needless finger pointing. “As the leader of this organization, I’m fully aware that the blame for our shortcomings falls solely on the shoulders of one person,” said Cobra Commander, “and that person is Baroness. Wait, did you think I was going to say it’s my fault? Don’t be ridiculous.” The meeting then broke out into a laser gun fight where no one was actually shot.

A high-ranking member of the G.I. Joes who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “We knew Cobra was holding a big meeting, so we sent our best spy to find their secret base and listen in on their plans. Unfortunately our best guy is Snake Eyes and he doesn’t talk, so he couldn’t tell us what was said. I’m sure it was the usual talk about how we suck and they’re going to take over the world. We’re not worried. They don’t even have the biological weapons Doctor Mindbender keeps bragging about. They’re just shell casings loaded with Pop Rocks and Canada Dry.”

A spokesperson for Cobra Command declined to comment. Continue reading

Sci-Fi Pinups: Mr. & Miss August 2012

PinCushion Welcome back to another installment of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Pinups, the monthly segment that keeps you coming back for more hunks, hotties, and Oxford commas.

Apologies for putting these up late. I could give you a bunch of silly excuses as to why, but I won’t. The truth is, I finished that novel I sometimes talk about and, once it was over, I was exhausted. Exhausted, but excited. The Spouse-ditor is combing it through now and I’m thrilled to say you’re going to be able to read it in the next couple of months. It’s called THE FOURTH CHANNEL, about the world’s worst necromancer and her talking sacrificial knives. The best I can describe it is Anita Blake meets Stephanie Plum, and contains all the things you’ve come to love on my blog. The book has humor, danger, kick-ass fight scenes, ex-girlfriends, prophecies about toothpaste, evil voodoo masters, and more. I think you’re going to love it.

And next week I’m going to reveal the cover. Maybe I’ll post the first chapter for you, too? Not a bad idea. So stay tuned for more about THE FOURTH CHANNEL.

If this is your first time stopping by for the pin-ups, welcome! You can find links to previous months on July’s pinups, as well as an attempt at cheesy puns.

Puns are not my forte.

And now for the pinups!

Miss August is a bounty hunter with sass. After spending half a century in cryogenic sleep, she’s back and she’s bad. She’s also broke. When she’s not cruising around the universe looking for a scumbag with a price tag on their head, she’s conning, conniving, and swindling the best. She is…

Faye Valentine

…Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop!

Miss August’s turn-ons include double-crossing you, double-crossing your friends, stealing your money, stealing your bounty, and cool purple hair. Turn-offs include being handcuffed to toilets and finding out the bounty on her head is a measly 6 million wulongs.

If you decide to ask Miss August out on a date, well, you’d better just hand your wallet over and call it a night.

Mr. August comes to us from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. He’s a savvy businessman in charge of a floating city. He’s also a swindler and a scoundrel, and lost the fastest hunk-of-junk in the galaxy in a card game. He is…

Lando Calrissian

…Lando Calrissian from Star Wars!

Mr. August’s turn-ons are double-crossing you, setting your friends up as bait, wearing spectacularly fabulous capes, and princesses from Alderaan. His turn-offs include altering your deals, being shot at by people blinded by carbon freeze, and the Empire.

If you decide to hit the town with Mr. August, you’d better have a back-up plan in case of being double-crossed.

Thanks so much for joining me again for the Sci-Fi Pinups of the month! If you like what you’re seeing here on the site, please subscribe for more: the RSS link is in the sidebar, and you can also subscribe to me on Twitter and Facebook.

Pincushion photo courtesy of Steven Depolo. Continue reading

Sci-Fi Pinups: Mr. & Miss July 2012

PinCushion Welcome back, fans and fan-ettes! It’s that time of the month where we honor the sexiest of the strange and the wildest of the weird — the science fiction pinups!

If this is your first time joining us for the Sci-Fi Pinups, welcome! Catch up by checking out the chestilicious Januaries, the out-of-this-world Februaries, our digitally delicious Marches, ass-kicking Aprils, the mega Mays, and our juicy jugs Junes.

Yes, Van Damme and juicy jugs — there’s a water jug on the floor in the photo. Go check the picture. It’s there.

Yes! Jugs! Look, that was a lot of stupid puns to use in one sitting and I couldn’t think of anything else. In fact, the left half of my brain is numb now. Don’t let me do that again.

And now for our hotties!

Miss July may look like a spring chicken, but she’s much, much older than she looks. I just wouldn’t mention it in front of her. There’s a reason she’s called “The Destroyer”, if you know what I’m saying. Her turn-ons are gigantic hell dogs, firing colored bolts of power from her fingers (at you), and parading around as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Turn-offs include people who aren’t gods and crossing the streams. She is…

Gozer the Gozarian

…Gozer the Gozarian from Ghostbusters!

She may not even be a chick, but with such a hot bod, who cares? If you head out on the town with Miss July, remember: if she asks if you’re a god, for the love of all that’s holy, say yes.

BONUS: Here’s a video of Miss July in action!

Mr. July is from our own planet Earth, but in the distant 27th century, where things are just as bodacious as he is. No one knows if he really has a career, though he does ride around in a phone booth and make sure the future utopia of humanity stays intact. Mr. July’s turn-ons include cool sunglasses, righteous guitar shredding, and helping people with their history reports. Turn-offs include being late for history reports and your girlfriend marrying royal ugly dudes. He is…

Rufus - Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure

…Rufus from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure!

If you head out on the town with Mr. July, you’ll probably spend a lot of time being excellent to each other.

…Uh, wow. That was a lot less perverted in my head, I swear.

BONUS: Here’s a video of Mr. July in action!

Thanks for joining me for another month of Sci-Fi Pinups! If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to the site for more. The RSS link is in the sidebar. You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Pincushion photo courtesy of Steven Depolo. Continue reading

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

Dark Souls The tough-as-nails action roleplaying game Demon’s Souls hit the scene in 2009 and has been bitch-whipping gamers ever since. And we keep coming back for more, despite the pain.

The game is set in the fictional realm of Boletaria. A “Deep Fog” has surrounded the realm, cutting it off from the rest of the world. Many heroes have attempted to penetrate the fog but have never returned, becoming trapped within it. And before you say it, of course it’s their own damn fault. What idiot runs into the danger?

Apparently you do. You are the latest brave hero who dares to penetrate the dangers of the mist and rid the land of —

You know what? Forget about all of that. That plot is inconsequential. The real plot is this:

You’re going to die. A lot.

The Demon’s Souls franchise is known for its difficulty. It doesn’t matter who you are or how skilled you are, you’re going to die in new and creative ways. And the penalties make it even more of a challenge: when a player dies, they’re returned to the beginning of the map with all enemies (minus the bosses) respawned. To make it interesting, players also lose a big chunk of health and the souls they’ve collected thus far. To regain the stats, the player must fight their way back to where they died. It’s not uncommon for players to die before they get back to the point of death, resulting in more losses — like your dignity.

This game brings out the best and the worst in you. For example, you’ll teach yourself five new languages just so you’ll have more curse words to scream as you throw your PS3 out of the window. Or possibly as you’re beating your PS3 with a bat in a field, a la the printer scene in Office Space.



Warning: the song played during this scene is not safe for work. Or moms. Yes, I’m talking about f-bombs. If you want to watch safely, make sure it’s muted.

By the time you’ve finished up with Demon’s Souls and moved on to its successor, Dark Souls, you’ll have run out of curse words and will be in dire need of fresh ones. For Dark Souls, I recommend making up your own swear words like “furtymcturdskin” and “shoofoomuckyballz”. Don’t worry about what your neighbors think as they hear the loud shouts and squeals coming from your domicile — they’ll see the rabid foam around your mouth as you’re hanging out of your window, slinging extra PS3 controllers at innocent neighborhood children who, unlike you, have the joy of not knowing the Demon’s Souls franchise. Your neighbors will either understand or be too afraid of your retribution to call the cops.

Angry Gamer

Of course, many say the difficulty and death penalty are what make the game so intriguing. And in my opinion, that’s exactly right. The game knows how to make you feel so low that your achievements are an ultimate high. It’s an abusive relationship we keep coming back to, drawing out the best and worst of our gaming selves. Mostly the worst.

And it’s about to get darker. An online petition signed by 92,000 gamers has convinced Namco Bandai, the publisher of the Demon’s Souls franchise, to make a PC version for the masses. So they’ve taken Dark Souls and souped it up with extra bosses, a PvP system, new maps, new gear, and of course, more death.

It’s a smart move for the company. By now gamers have destroyed their consoles in anger, and PCs are naturally the next money-making frontier. But for gamers everywhere, it’s a terrible idea. No one in their right mind should play it. We all know what’s going to happen once we sit down to play: the game will turn us into crazy people. It’s self-inflicted abuse that only a masochistic moron would entertain.

And before you ask, yes, I already pre-ordered my copy. Can’t wait!

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is available August 24. You can pre-purchase a copy from Steam. If you’ve never tried this series, I highly recommend it. If nothing else, pick up a cheap, used PS3 copy of Demon’s Souls and experience the mind-numbing rage.

Er, joy! I meant joy. Yeah. Definitely joy.

Dark Souls art courtesy of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Official Site.
Angry Gamer photo courtesy of M.H.G.
Continue reading

Ridiculous Fanfic: Escape from Seattle Part 2

Snake Shirtless Welcome back to Snake Plissken Month, where we are supposed to celebrate Snake Plissken, but I didn’t because I was really nervous about writing a part 2 and not doing as well as I did on part 1. Hey, I’m human. Still, I hope you’re all enjoying the month of Snake, celebrating in your own black-clad way.

If this is your first time joining us, read Part 1!

With only 16 minutes left, Snake has no time to be choosy. He heads for the nearest of the three Starbucks, the smallest building on the left corner. He bursts through the entrance and sends a display of environmentally-friendly, made-from-recycled-plastic travel mugs flying across the store. They ricochet off of walls, customers, and Police Commissioner Bob Hauk’s shiny bald head.

Snake does a double-take at Hauk.

“Hauk,” he hisses.

“Hello, Snake. I’ve been waiting for you.”

“I know, but how did you get here?”

“I have a car.”

Snake’s eyes narrow. A low, raspy growl reverberates from his throat. “If you have a car, why did you send me?”

“That’s not important. What’s important is the syrup –” A sly smile spreads across Hauk’s face. “ – and this place is all out.”

“I’m going to beat your ass, Hauk.”

Hauk laughs. “But you don’t have a weapon.”

“Oh no?”

Snake grabs a bag of chocolate-coated blueberries from the nearest display case and rips open the top. “Everything’s a weapon to me, Hauk!” Snake lobs a blueberry. The hard, purple confection beans Hauk between the eyes and bounces away.

“Ow! You’re a dick, Snake!”

Snake hisses a laugh. “Sticks and stones, Hauk.” He chucks another candy.

Hauk ducks, narrowly missing another hit, jumps back behind the counter, and sprints for the door. More purple candies pelt the walls, following Hauk to the employee break room, where he ducks out a back door.

Snake pops a candy into his mouth and checks his wrist timer. 14 minutes. He turns away and stalks back outside, where the intersection collision has completely gridlocked traffic. Two police cruisers are parked on the opposite side of the street, their red and blue lights flashing. Drivers are out of their cars, shouting at each other and at the police to clear the roads. Someone sees Snake and points. People turn and stare. More people point.

Snake shrugs back and crosses the street.  Horns blare as he weaves between the cars and approaches the next Starbucks, a square brick building with a drive-thru window. By now, he’s feeling a little discomfort in his stomach and he’s thinking about a bathroom.

As he approaches the door, a clerk in a green apron is taping up a sign that says “Temporarily Closed.” Snake pulls on the door anyway, because people who follow signs are sissies. Unfortunately the door does not open.
“We’re closed,” the clerk shouts through the door. “Some bald jerk cherry-bombed the toilet. It’s a mess in here.”

Snake’s eyes narrow into angry slits. He hisses, “I’m gonna make him sorry.”

The clerk shouts, “What?”

“I’m gonna make Hauk sorry.”

The clerk presses his ear against the glass door. “I still can’t hear you. What are you doing?”

“Playing with myself!” He turns away and growls, “I’m going in.”

The third Starbucks is on the next corner, inside a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Despite the late hour, it appears to be open and very busy. Snake dodges around the cars and jogs into the parking lot, noting a long line of customers inside who are waiting for a midnight book release. Snake storms into the store and looks around for the coffee counter. He sees it at the far end of the store, tucked behind the magazine section. He tries pushing through the crowd but it’s so thick that he can barely move. The crowd becomes agitated. People start screaming at him, refusing to move in case they lose their place in line.

He ducks into the magazine rack and grabs the latest copies of Guns & Ammo and Maxim magazines. He rolls them up and holds one in each hand. He steps back out into the aisle, arms swinging wildly, yet pointedly, at customers.

Whap! Slap!

Customers start screaming, desperate to get away from this black, eye-patched whirlwind.

Whap! Slap!

A floor manager pushes toward him. “Sir,” he says sternly. “Please —”

Whap! Slap! Slappety-slap! Whap!

The manager wails a high-pitched scream and runs out of Snake’s arm range. Customers follow his example and the crowd parts like Moses and the Red Sea. Snake halts his assault and tosses the copy of Guns & Ammo back over his shoulder. He starts to throw the Maxim, but notices Malin Akerman on the cover. He stuffs it into his back pocket for later.

Snake likes blonde, butt-kicking ladies.

He leaves the bookstore behind, stepping through a small opening between two low walls that encompass the coffee space. He dodges tall racks stuffed with useless impulse purchase items like key chains, bookmarks, and ceramic mugs. A large group has gathered on the left side in a tight circle. Some people are even standing on tables and chairs to see into the middle of the crowd.

There’s no one at the counter so Snake elbows his way into the group – literally. Pained shouts and cries erupt around Snake and the crowd swells, trying to escape, but the bodies are packed too tightly.

A male voice shouts over the crowd, “Stop!”

The crowd stills. Their voices fall silent. Everyone stands frozen, as if waiting for further instructions.

The voice commands again, “Move!”

The crowd backs up slowly, orderly, widening the circle, until Snake finds himself standing face to face with a thin man in a green apron. A sailor’s hat made from newspaper rests on his head and a metal chain with a Pokemon medallion hangs around his neck.

“Snake Plissken,” he says. “I heard you were coming. I also heard you were dead and I thought you’d be taller. Do you know who I am?”

Snake shrugs. “Of course. You’re the Duke of Starbucks, A-Number One.”

“That’s right.” His eyes widen suddenly and he leans in, as if about to share a secret. “Actually, this isn’t a real Starbucks. I mean, we sell Starbucks coffee, but like, we’re actually Barnes and Noble. You know?”

“Yeah.” Snake jerks his head in the direction of the barista counter. “I’m here for the sugar-free vanilla syrup.”

Duke straightens again. He nods. “Yeah, Hauk said you’d be coming for it. There’s only one problem.” He holds up a white iPad. “You’re going to have to compete for it.”

He tosses the iPad to Snake, who catches it with one hand. The crowd murmurs appreciatively.

“What’s this?” Snake snarls.

“It’s an iPad.”

“iPads are overpriced pieces of crap. I prefer electronics that run open-source firmware.”

Duke puts a hand on his hip. “This is a Barnes and Noble, Snake. We don’t have that here.”

“Fine, what do I have to do? Beat you with this until you give me syrup? Because I can do that.”

“No, Snake.” Duke reaches behind him and produces another iPad. “You’re going to have to Draw Something! No one’s ever beaten me, Snake. What do you think of that?”

Snake glares back. His voice is a threatening growl. “I think you better not have stuffed this iPad into your pants before giving it to me,” he says, holding up the iPad, “because if you did, I’m going to come over there and beat your ass.”

“Of course not. Now play!”

Snake looks at the iPad in his hand. User “DukeisAwesome” begins to draw a crude stick figure with frizzy hair, then a second stick figure with an X over it, then a crescent moon. Squiggles are added to the space around everything. The picture is indiscernible. It looks like a kindergarten assignment.

Duke looks up, triumphant. “Do you know what I’ve drawn, Snake? If you don’t, you lose!”

“It’s obvious,” Snake says nonchalantly. “You’ve drawn existential nihilism; the idea that life is without significance, that human beings are without purpose and unable to change the totality of existence.”

The crowd oohs and aahs. Duke’s eyes widen and his cheeks flush a deep crimson.

Snake smiles. “Is it my turn now?”

He draws. His image is of a bearded stick figure with soft, feathery hair and an eye patch beating the crap out of another stick figure wearing a Starbucks apron. Snake draws tiny droplets of blood flying everywhere and a large pool on the ground. On the figure wearing a Starbucks apron, he draws tiny x’s for eyes. A red tongue lolls out of the beaten stick figure’s mouth. The crowd gasps and murmurs fearfully.

Snake looks up and smiles. “Now what did I draw?”

As Duke stares at his iPad, his confident stance changes. His shoulders slump and he hugs his arms across himself protectively. The crowd cheers. A chant starts to emerge in their cheers. Before long, everyone is shouting Snake’s name.

“You win,” Duke says. “You’re the Duke now, Snake. A-Number One.”

“The name’s Plissken. Now where’s the syrup?”

The crowd cheers and swarms around him, clapping him on the shoulder and shaking his hand. Someone hands him a bottle of sugar-free syrup.

Snake checks his wrist timer. He has only 4 minutes to return to Hauk. There’s no way he’s going to make it in time. Even if he hijacked a car, the street is impassible.

“I gotta get out of here,” Snake says.

The former Duke perks up. “I’ve got a glider on the roof. It’s all yours, but there’s no wind.”

“I don’t need wind,” Snake says, tossing his magical mane of feathered hair. “I’m Snake Plissken.”

Snake follows him to the stairwell.

Will Snake make it back to Hauk in time? Will he ever find a bathroom? Stay tuned for next week — for real this time, because Snake Month is almost over. Continue reading

Ridiculous Fanfic: Escape From Seattle Part 1

Snake Demotivational Welcome back to Snake Plissken month! I hope everyone’s enjoying their month and celebrating accordingly. (Eye patches and feathered hair welcome.)

I promised some really ridiculous Snake Plissken fanfic, and I mean to deliver. Here is PART ONE of a Snake adventure called “Escape from Seattle”, AKA “Snake Goes To Starbucks”. Enjoy!

It’s 2:00am. The streets of Seattle are pitch black and lonely, save for the occasional, near-burned-out street lamp casting pools of dim, yellowed light on the asphalt, and a 24-hour Starbucks on every corner and squeezed into the spare square footage of every bank, gas station, and grocery store. A lone man stalks the sidewalk, his black leather pants and matching wife-beater blending with the darkness, and his long, feathered hair rustling gently in the breeze. One eye squints dubiously at the Starbucks. The other is hidden behind a black eyepatch.

The man marches straight through the Starbucks parking lot and jerks the door open. Inside, a long line of customers trails from the register to the door and doesn’t seem to be moving. The man charges forward, shoving college students and hipsters aside. Their screams fill the air as they’re tossed to the ground or into large displays of organically grown, free-trade coffee beans. He charges toward the front, his mission urgent: Snake Plissken needs a latte.

The green-aproned barista behind the counter smiles stiffly and wets his pants. “Welcome to Starbucks. How can I —”

The black-clad man’s arm is a blur as it shoots forward and grabs the barista by the collar of his shirt. He leans in closely.

“I need to find a latte,” he hisses.

“Wha— what size?”

“Grande. Triple shot.” He releases he barista and shoves him back to the other side of the counter. “And make it soy milk,” he growls.

The barista grabs a cup and a black Sharpie. “What name should I put on your drink, sir?”

“Call me Snake.”

The barista grimaces slightly but doesn’t question. He quickly scribbles the name on the cup. “Yes sir, Mr. Snake, sir.”

Snake slaps a five-dollar bill on the counter. “Keep the change,” he mutters, and walks to the opposite end of the counter.

Snake’s coffee order is rushed out and set on the counter. The barista calls out, “Grande latte for Snake.”

Snake picks up the paper cup. He pops the top off and checks for the appropriate amount of foam. He sprinkles a small dash of cinnamon on top. He presses the plastic lid back on and takes a long, slow sip.

His latte is delicious. He sneers his appreciation.

As he turns, a figure catches the corner of his lone eye. He whirls around. His eye narrows angrily.

“Hauk,” he hisses.

A tall, slender man with a cone-shaped, balding head emerges from the back room.

“I’ve been waiting for you, Snake,” he says.

“What do you want?”

“I have a job for you. I’m now the manager of this Starbucks and we’re out of sugar-free vanilla syrup. We’ve poisoned your latte with military test virus X2P-4ZZ and, if you don’t retrieve a couple of bottles in the next 25 minutes, you’ll die.”

The two men stare each other down for a few seconds.

“I’m not going to fall for that again, Hauk. My latte tastes delicious and I know I’m not poisoned.”

Hauk fingers his short, trimmed mustache deviously. “You’re right, but I do know your stomach has trouble with lactose — and we switched your latte to whole milk.”

Snake looks at his latte in horror, then back up to Hauk. “You don’t mean —”

“That’s right, Snake. In 25 minutes, your tummy will be upset, and you’ll need something to settle it. So you may as well pick me up some sugar-free vanilla syrup while you’re out.”

Snake’s upper lip curls. “You’d better hope I don’t make it back.”

Hauk smiles and pulls from his pocket yet another enormous digital timer with a wide Velcro strap. The timer is counting down from 25 minutes. Snake shakes his head and takes it, then slips it on his wrist.

“There’s another Starbucks two blocks from here, Snake. Your mission is to get the syrup and get back here as soon as possible.”

Snake starts toward the door.

“Wait.” Hauk pulls a red credit card from his back pocket. “I almost forgot. Use this to pay for the syrup.”

Snake takes it and holds it up. His face puckers in an angry scowl.

“A VISA gift card? These things are a pain in the ass to use! You have to put in the exact amount, minus the fee — what’s the fee on this card?”

Hauk shrugs. “I don’t know. The math is your problem, not mine.”

“Asshole,” Snake mutters, and stalks out the door.

In the parking lot, Snake scans the area for a fast ride, but finds himself surrounded by hybrid cars painted in bright green and blue. These won’t do for Snake, and not just because they don’t match his black leather wife-beater — Snake can run faster than a hybrid.

So he does. Choosing the most direct route through the parking lot, Snake breaks into a dogged jog toward the street. He hurdles a yellow bicycle, wedges himself through a smooching hipster college couple, and slides across the hood of a green Prius covered in Phish bumper stickers. He lands gracefully on his feet and jogs into the middle of the street. Snake stops and looks both ways.

He realizes he isn’t sure which way the other Starbucks is.

Snake jogs back into the parking lot, slides back across the green Prius, and grabs both of the hipster college kids by their throats.

“Which direction is the next Starbucks?”

The kids point in opposite directions. Snake’s eye narrows. His voice resonates with a low growl.

“You better not be messing with me or I’m going to make you sorry.”

The boyfriend stammers, “Th-th-this is Seattle! Starbucks is everywhere, man! EVERYWHERE! Starbucks is THE MAN, man!”

The girlfriend nods her agreement.

Snake releases the two kids and stalks back to the center of the street. Then he changes his mind, returns to the college kids, and gives the hipster boyfriend a big bitch slap across the face. The boyfriend presses his hands to the side of his face and lets out a piercing shriek.

“You’ll thank me later,” Snake hisses, then returns to the center of the street. He checks the wrist timer Hauk gave him. 19 minutes left.

Snake looks down the street each way, but neither direction seems to hold a clue. He pulls a coin from his pocket. He tosses it in the air, watching it soar six, seven, eight feet high, then drop back down to earth. Snake catches it in one hand.

Instead of looking to see which side of the coin came up, he chucks it as hard as he can toward the hipsters and hears another high-pitched squeal. Snake Plissken is a badass who doesn’t need that hokey fate crap. He turns to the right and starts to run.

As he approaches the next corner, he notices that the lights here are brighter than on previous street corners, and the sounds of voices and cars are louder. He jogs into the center of the intersection, causing a three-way car crash that he barely notices. Snake stops and casts a quick glance around the intersection. He scowls.

There are three Starbucks in this intersection, and Hauk didn’t give any more clues. Snake checks the digital timer on his wrist again. He only has 16 minutes left.

Which Starbucks will Snake Plissken choose? Will he choose correctly? Will he make it back to Hauk in time? Tune in next week for PART TWO of “Ridiculous Fanfic: Escape from Seattle”!

How are YOU celebrating Snake Plissken month? If you’re doing your part to honor Snake Plissken and his fans, let me know in the comments below! Continue reading

Game Reviews: Amalur & The Darkness II

Girl_Gamer

So many games, so little time.

As you can tell by the date stamp on my last post, I’m way behind on my blogging. What can I say, I’ve been busy. I’ve been working hard on my adventure/suspense necromancer novel, The Fourth Channel, and playing video games. If you’re missing my snark, feel free to subscribe to my Twitter feed. Don’t be afraid to say hi. I love to chat.

I’ll talk about the novel in a few days, as I have some exciting news to share about it. For now, let’s talk about some games!

The gaming world has seen a lot of exciting new releases over the last couple of months. I’ve been avoiding the mainstream games for my reviews (with the exception of my Skyrim review) because I wanted to branch out into quirky, eclectic games that not everyone has seen. But I do play a lot of mainstream games. Today we’re going to do a double-header of mainstream games, so grab your controller of choice and strap in.

A few weeks ago, Alan Edwards posted a comment here on the blog asking for my review on Kingdoms of Amalur, a new RPG (role-playing game) that was released with much ado. I aim to please and you know I take requests (requests, anyone?) so I agreed. This game was released with a lot of hoopla because it has mega-nerd-celebrities Todd McFarlane and R.A. Salvatore attached to it. Before the game’s release, industry insiders and gaming professionals were coming out of the woodwork, proclaiming Amalur as “better than Skyrim.” And that’s when I smelled bullcrap.

Kingdoms_of_Amalur

Bullcrap: like bull$hit, only much more potent.

Kingdoms of Amalur starts with the typical prologue, catching us up on what happened in the world of Amalur thus far. And I have to be honest, within the first five seconds of the story I was really confused. I thought I took a wrong turn and ended up in some low-rent Lord of the Rings knock off. We’re told about fate and destiny and some evil elf unlike all the other elves — powerful and aggressive. But then in the very next shot, it shows him with a bunch of other evil elves acting powerfully and aggressively. So he’s really not as unique as they’re making him out to be. But I got the gist of what they were trying to say: bad guy is bad.

After that strange prologue, the story switches to us, the intrepid protagonist. Unfortunately we’re not that intrepid to begin with, because we’re dead. The game opens with two dwarves tossing our corpse down a trash chute.

Luckily for us, we spring back to life… but we’re buried in a pile of rotting corpses. So if we weren’t totally dead before, we’re about to be, thanks to a bunch of disgusting diseases that are festering in the mound.

Intro 4

Worst bed and breakfast ever.

After we dislodge ourself from the corpses, we’re led through the training area. Truth be told, the training area is spectacular and focused. The game moves quickly along the path while keeping you curious about what’s happening around you. You gather that the tower above (and the Well of Souls that resurrected you) is being invaded by bad guys, and you’re on a path to intercept them. You know a big fight is coming and, as you run through the tutorial, you can’t help but be excited about it.

Amalur_Well_of_Souls

The Well of Souls. Oooh, pretty.

The end of the tutorial results in a fun, quasi-challenging boss fight. The gnomes who brought you back from death are all killed and the Well of Souls is destroyed. You are the only survivor of the attack, and the head gnome sacrifices himself so that you can live. (Thanks, Dude!) You are the only evidence that the Well of Souls worked, and it’s your quest to, um, go out into the world and… uh…

You know, it isn’t entirely clear what we’re supposed to be excited about after that.

Amalur_Screenshot

Hi, guys! What's going on? Oh. Nothing, huh...

The most focused and exciting storyline happened inside that tutorial and, upon being shoved into the world, there’s really not much to do except interact with a few NPC’s and pick flowers for trade skills. The point of the game really seems to be lost here, and so did my interest. Because so many insiders and professional game reviews called this the successor to Skyrim, I expected a lot. And maybe that’s where this game went wrong, because Skyrim is an open world, where the player can find exciting things anywhere and everywhere they go. Many players avoid Skyrim’s main quest line completely. In Amalur, I was let into the world, and found myself languishing in sandbox hell. There was absolutely nothing to do except delete the game from my computer.

So that’s what I did.

If you’re interested in checking out the demo for yourselves, you can download it for free from Steam. (Warning: you will need to set up an account.)

The_Darkness_II_Logo

Try this one on for size.

I’m really excited about this next game as it’s the first FPS (first-person shooter) I’ve reviewed here. The reason this is a big deal to me is because it’s generally perceived that FPS and girls don’t mix. I don’t know why. Stereotypes persist, I guess. And it’s probably true that more guys than girls play and purchase FPS games. I suppose an FPS could be off-putting because it’s challenging. FPS games involve hand-eye coordination and, discouragingly, it’s not always something a person is immediately good at. Being truly good at an FPS often involves practice coupled with a desire to be a better player.

Or, at the very least, learn how to be pwned with dignity. If there is such a thing.

That’s probably a big turn-off for most people in the digital age, when the majority of folks just want to come home after work and turn their brains off. Maybe that’s my problem. My brain never shuts off.

But back to the schism between girls and FPS games. FPS games are also associated with testosterone-infused military themes, and I wonder if that doesn’t turn girls away from them. Maybe girls need to be introduced to other styles of FPS, ones that star believable female characters. I’ve played the military-themed games (the Call of Duty series, for example) and I do find them enjoyable, though they aren’t my favorite. I typically prefer a fun science fiction or paranormal romp.

Hence The Darkness II.

The story is based on a popular comic book series that follows Jackie Estacado, the Don of an Italian-American crime family. This game is a sequel. In the previous game, Jackie’s true love, Jenny, was shot and killed right in front of him. Jackie’s never gotten over it. He’s also host to an ancient evil entity called “The Darkness.” The Darkness has been around since before heaven and earth. It is wholly evil. When Jackie lets The Darkness out, he changes into a demonic beast-looking thing with two awesome demonic tentacles. Let’s call them Billy and Bob.

Oh, wait. I’m a writer. I’m supposed to come up with clever names. How about “Ricky” and “Francisco”?

Demonic_Whip_Things

Guess who's coming to dinner!

What, you don’t think the one on the right looks like a Francisco?

I really love idea of this game. It’s the kind of thing I wish I had come up with. Seriously, a hitman who is the host to pure evil? I don’t know who thought that up but I want to give them a medal.

Another neat aspect to this game is that it introduces quad-wield. Most games are dual-wield, where you hold a gun in each hand (two guns, hence the “dual”). In The Darkness II, you get to control two guns, but you also get to control Ricky and Francisco.

Quad_Wield

Come at me, bro.

Depending on what kind of abilities you purchase, Ricky and Francisco can rip, slice, and dice better than a Slap-Chop. They grab objects and throw them, impaling or slicing foes, and they can perform different finishing moves that restore health, give extra ammo (incredibly handy), grant a temporary shield, and more. And mostly they’re just fun to hang around with.

The game starts out at a restaurant where Jackie is attacked almost as soon as he sits down at a table. It turns out that the hit came from a group called “The Brotherhood,” headed by an evil bastard who wants to siphon The Darkness out of Jackie. Of course, The Darkness has a mind of its own, and would much prefer to stay inside Jackie. The Darkness shows Jackie a vision of Jenny’s soul in hell. The ultimatum is clear: Destroy The Brotherhood and capture their siphon, or The Darkness keeps Jenny’s soul.

Get shootin’, lover boy.

I completed the game on “Hitman” mode, which is just below the highest difficulty setting, and it was mildly challenging. Two of the bosses gave me a little bit of trouble. Overall, I found it fun to shoot, chop, slice, beat, rip through… I’m not able to complete games that often, so the fact that I finished this says a lot. I think the key is Ricky and Francisco. The more I used them, the more fun it was. I’m looking forward to going back and playing it on the hardest mode, “Don.”

If you want to check out The Darkness II, you can see the video trailer and demo on Steam.

Don’t let the challenge or the violence deter you from playing a first-person shooter. Who said girls have to be all sugar and spice, anyway?

Have you played either of these games? I’d love to know what you thought of them in the comment section below. Or is there another game that you’d like me to review? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Controller Girl photo courtesy of Girls Are Made From Pepsi. Continue reading

The Musings of Princess Dominika: Dear Diary Part I

Xena the Warrior Princess

For Princess Dominika, it's always beer o'clock

Dear Diary,

A few days ago, I awoke in a strange town, after being spirited away in the night by fairies.

Ha! Ha! Okay, Diary, you caught me — what really happened was that I got drunk and fell asleep in the back of a wagon full of chickens. The owner discovered me beneath the straw when I punched two of his chickens. I sent one flying out of the truck where it bounced off a tree, rolled through the dirt and ran, squawking into the thick forest to freedom. The other hit its owner in the back of the head.

Oh, don’t look at me like that, Diary. Those chickens had it coming. They were pecking my hair and you know how grumpy I am when I’m hung over. I think the chickens were eating the beer nuts out of my hair — and I can’t blame them. The beer nuts from The Busty Wench are quite tasty, especially after they’ve been on the floor for a week. (The stale ones are the best!)

Anyway, the driver stopped his wagon and forced me to get out. Can you believe a commoner would treat a princess in such a manner? I expressed my displeasure at his behavior and offered to show him my royal tattoo on my inner thigh as proof of high position. The tattoo is quite easy to see once my thick and luscious leg hair is parted. Yet somehow this offering seemed to frighten him! He turned and sprinted to his wagon, flung himself across the driver’s bench, and pressed his horse as fast as it could go.

Strange.

I journeyed for many days on foot until I arrived in Khedris, a large, bustling city full of taverns, art, taverns, bards, and taverns. I was excited to be in a large populated area where I could perform many good deeds for my lovely subjects. However, soon after I arrived, I heard a call for the best warriors of the land. And as you know, the best warrior is myself, so of course I went.

I was then called upon to prove myself in battle. I welcomed the challenge! As I entered the arena, a hush fell upon the crowd. My opponent was laughable, a pitiful man whose sword I quickly removed from his possession. The spectators showed their appreciation with applause and cheers. I was so caught up by their enthusiasm that I punched my opponent in the head!

Stop looking at me like that, Diary. Battle lust was coursing through my veins and you know I am incapable of resisting. Besides, I got the job and that is what matters. Starting tomorrow, I will be protecting a man called… um, what did they say it was? Fat-eo? Foof-ee-oh? La-zy-oh? Eh, I do not recall.

A few others were also hired along as my companions — a large, stupid man in full plate armor, a hunter with a large wolf companion, a woman who can tame fire, and an annoying girly-man whose talents are not obvious. I shall meet them tomorrow.

I wish you goodnight now, Diary, as there is still time to drink and be merry before the morning. Of course, I must say it since I do not know how to write. That is why I am speaking into a book.

Yours always,
Princess Dominika

Princess Dominika is the character I play during my Friday night GURPS game which, for the uninitiated, is similar to a Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game. Dominika is a lot of fun to play, as she is an axe-wielding warrior princess with low intelligence and fierce love for drinking. She is a constant source of humor for my group.

I thought these diary-style entries would be a different way to write stories for you. Hope you enjoyed it. Continue reading

Sci-Fi Pinups: Mr. & Miss February 2012

PinCushion Step aside, George Clooney and Heidi Klum — the sci-fi pinups are back by popular demand!

Crowning this month’s Mr. and Miss was no simple task. I had no idea how I was going to top a three-breasted chick and a deranged super-human whose name you’ll enjoy screaming either in the throes of passion or as he’s trying to stuff a gigantic, brain-controlling bug in your ear. Lucky for us, the universe is vast and full of weirdness, giving us plenty to choose from.

This month’s sci-fi babes are out of this world — and they each have their own theme songs.

Miss February comes from the planet Krypton, where she pursued a career in insurrection. After moving to Earth, she had an eye-opening tour of the White House and decided to try her hand at politics. Her ambition is to become the ruler of the entire world.

I love a woman with goals.

This sci-fi hottie rose to the top of the competition by beating the ever-living crap out of the other candidates. She is…

Ursa_Superman_II

Ursa from Superman II!

Miss February likes burning things alive with her laser eyesight, wearing clothes that look like she’s been mauled by a tiger, and buttons. Especially if they’re your buttons. Those buttons will soon be hers.

Her turn-offs are floating around space in a stupid plate of glass, the Son of Jor-El, people who don’t kneel before Zod, and your annoying girlfriend. In fact, if you have any girlfriends lying around, she’ll be happy to get rid of them for you.

If you plan on having a hot night out with Miss February, be sure to check in with your priest or rabbi beforehand. Because the town is going to be painted red.

In your blood. (She hates men.)

And now, here’s her theme song! Please be advised, it’s NSFW.

Chorus:
Ursa, sh-t kicking, ass-kicking queen of the universe
Her name will make grown men cower
Ursa, sh-t kicking, ass-kicking queen of the universe
Her name will make grown men cower

Adorable, right? But we’re not done yet. Now it’s time for our hot sci-fi hunk!

Mr. February is ready for action because he’s made of hard light, which makes him virtually indestructible. He’s from our home planet Earth but spends his time in deep space, seeking out danger and searching out peril.

And then finding the best way to run away from it.

He is…

Rimmer_Terraform

Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf!

Mr. February’s a man of few words. In the bedroom, the only word you’re likely to hear him utter is “Geronimo”. His current career as a chicken soup machine repairman may not seem like much at first glance, but it’s a nice vacation from one of his past lives, when he was Alexander the Great’s chief eunuch. His work also allows time to pursue his lifelong passion of discovering alien civilizations. At one point he thought he had done so, though, instead of finding a six-breasted alien woman, it turns out he had only found a roast chicken.

Arnold likes green-beret haircuts, Morris dancing (whatever that is), incorrectly quoting Space Corps directives, and failing the astro-navigation exam repeatedly. His turn-offs are charm, style, and Dave Lister.

Mr. February has a special place in my heart, because he’s a character from one of my most favorite television shows of all time.

Here’s his theme song:

He’s Arnold, Arnold, Arnold Rimmer
Without him life would be much grimmer
He’s handsome, trim, and no-one slimmer
He will never need a zimmer

Stay tuned by subscribing to my site via RSS! The link is in the sidebar.

Coming up is another epic showdown between two hotly-contested science fiction hunks and a requested review of Kingdoms of Amalur.

Pincushion photo courtesy of Steven Depolo. Continue reading