Some Future & Alternate North American Maps

emberverse 2 2 georges

Studying fictional maps of real locations is an intriguing hobby for many sci-fi/fantasy fans. Some recent maps appearing in books, movies and TV shows have caught the imagination of many. They feature North America in our future and alternate worlds.

With S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse books (starting with Dies The Fire) it can be seen that North America looks balkanized with a myriad of separate nations. One of author Harry Turtledove’s best books The Two Georges (co-written with Richard Dreyfuss) has a map of the so-called North American Union that looks supersized as the country encompasses Canada. His epic Southern Victory series of books had maps of North America where the Confederacy still existed into the 20th century. Starting with How Few Remain through The Great War trilogy and the Settling Accounts tetralogy the maps changed radically over time.

Great War Turtledove map

jericho map

The maps featured in the TV shows Jericho and Fringe have different versions of the  U.S. In Jericho, the nation has split into three nations, the U.S., Texas and the Allied States. In Fringe, the characters often visited a parallel world where the United States’ configuration is slightly different. Among the differences, Texas is split into two states, while North and South Carolina is one state.

fringe map rev map

As anyone can see, the United States no longer exists in these two maps featured from The Hunger Games and the TV show Revolution. In the map from Revolution the U.S. has broken up into several nations with names like the Monroe Republic (where the show takes place in and spans from the Great Lakes region to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast) and the California Commonwealth.

But the map of the fictional nation Panem from The Hunger Games truly catches the eyes with the changed geography. Notice that the Florida Peninsula is underwater along with most of the modern coastline. Apparently The Hunger Games takes place in the far future where the greenhouse effect has radically altered the landscape.

Panem

These are just a tiny sampling of fascinating maps of places that don’t exist, at least here and now.

Waldermann Rivera

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Dr. Gillian Taylor: “Don’t tell me. You’re from outer space.”

Admiral James T. Kirk: “No I’m from Iowa, I only work in outer space.”

Dinner conversation during a date at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco, circa 1980s

“Well, a double dumbass on you!”

Admiral James T. Kirk to a taxi driver on the streets of San Francisco, same time period

trek 4 poster 2Usually when the fourth film in a franchise comes around the franchise itself starts to show signs of fatigue. Thankfully that wasn’t the case with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Unbelievably, the fourth Star Trek film reaffirmed the Star Trek franchise after its moribund predecessor. A lot of the credit goes to writers Nicholas Meyer, Harve Bennett (who was also the producer), Peter Krikes and Steve Meerson, and primarily, director Leonard Nimoy, who co-stars in the film as Spock. Nimoy found his footing with his second directorial gig and it shows in a big way.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home begins with a dedication to the lost crew of the space shuttle Challenger, which was appropriate and sincere being that the tragedy happened earlier in the year that the film premiered. After the credits, the  story begins with a Reliant-class starship encountering a humongous, shiny, black cylindrical alien probe that drains the starship of its power. Before anyone can say V’Ger, the story jumps back to Earth at the council chambers of the United Federation of Planets where audiences are brought up to date with what happened in the previous film. A Klingon ambassador (John Schuck) wants Admiral James T. Kirk’s (William Shatner) head for killing a Klingon crew and stealing their bird-of-prey ship and accuses the Federation of wanting to wage war on the Klingons with the failed Genesis terraforming process.

trek 4 cast

Kirk has violated nine Starfleet regulations, such as disobeying orders and stealing the starship Enterprise . He is on exile with his former crewmembers on the planet Vulcan. They include Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scottie” Scott (James Doohan), and Commanders Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). After being on Vulcan for three months, they choose to return to Earth and face trial. Spock, who they risked their lives and careers for in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, is recuperating from his resurrection and regaining his mental acuity. He is still confused about the nature of feelings, but elects to accompany his friends back to Earth.

probeMeanwhile, the alien probe approaches Earth and creates havoc as it drains away the energy of anything that it approaches. Starfleet is effectively crippled and Earth defenseless. The probe also emits a series of ear-piercing inhuman screeches and wails that no one can decipher. The probe arrives in Earth orbit and begins transmitting into the oceans. This creates a severe superstorm that covers the planet and the endangers all life.

Kirk and his crew leave Vulcan with the stolen Klingon ship (rechristened the Bounty) and on their way to Earth pick up a distress call from the Federation President (Robert Ellenstein), who is on Earth, warning away visitors because of the probe. Spock is able to decipher the probe’s transmissions and we learn that it is trying to contact humpback whales. Unfortunately, the species is extinct in the 23rd century, which forces Kirk to take the Bounty and time travel to Earth’s past and find whales to bring back to their time period.

After Kirk informs Starfleet Command of his intentions, the Bounty makes a time travel sceneslingshot maneuver around Earth’s sun. It’s a time travel procedure first done in the classic original episode “The Naked Time” but more ethereal with dream-like sequences showing morphing busts of the crew and whales. After that sequence the ship winds up in the latter half of the 20th century. After picking up whale songs transmitting from the San Francisco area, the ship lands cloaked in Golden Gate Park in the middle of the night. Scotty informs Kirk that in addition to refitting the ship’s interior to accommodate a whale tank, the ship’s dilithium crystals that power the warp core drive are drained and need recharging or else they’re stranded. With that, the now-Bounty crew disembark their ship and head off into the wild frontier of the 20th century.

trek iv cast

Then the fun begins.

Continue reading

The Wonder Of Jurassic Park

JP logoWith the re-release of Jurassic Park in theaters, renewed interest in the twenty-year-old film has arisen. Putting aside all the raves about the 3D conversion process used in Jurassic Park’s re-release, many have come to realize or remember how monumental it was when during its initial release.

During the summer of 1993, one couldn’t go anywhere without seeing that iconic logo with the t-rex skeleton. The film was a marketing dream with its realistic dinosaurs that were instant hits and helped sell dinosaur-related merchandise. The previous three films that had similar cultural impacts were Jaws, Star Wars and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Many of its delightful and revolutionary aspects are taken for granted nowadays, notably the extensive use of CGI (computer generated imagery) that brought the dinosaurs in the film to life. The visual effects process had been around for a few years and came to public awareness with films like TRON, The Last Starfighter, The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But the effects wizards working on Jurassic Park went the extra mile at the behest of its director Steven Spielberg.

ttops
Originally, the dinosaurs were to be a mix of animatronics (done by Stan Winston) and the offspring of stop motion animation, go motion animation (to be done by Phil Tippet). However, Spielberg wasn’t quite satisfied with the limited scope of go motion. The dinosaurs in screen tests didn’t look convincing enough. Animators Mark Dippe and Steve Williams presented to Spielberg a test reel featuring the famous t-rex in Jurassic Park for the first time as a CGI. That was all Spielberg needed to see. Tippet quickly adapted, and he and his team of animators re-trained to become CG animators.

The impact of seeing those realistic dinosaurs in the big screen cannot be overstated. Audiences were floored when brachthe first full shot of the brachiosaurus in the park was unveiled. Probably the closest experience from seeing dinosaurs recreated on the silver screen that compares to it is way back in the 1920s when the dinosaurs in The Lost World  terrorized audiences. With Jurassic Park, while more educated audiences knew that dinosaurs sadly no longer existed, they found themselves wishing they did and this was the closest they would get to witnessing realistic recreations.

The use of CGI is commonplace today and has been since the 1990s, which can lead to an unjust dismissal of the film. Jurassic Park also masterfully blended that process with Winston’s animatronics (as seen when the t-rex first appeared in the rain) and CG was also used in subtle ways. For instance, there was a scene where a female stunt double for actress Ariana Richards has her face replaced by an image of the young actress.

trex rules

There have been many attempts to recreate that phenomenal film in the way that left people speechless as to what was possible to do on film. None, not even Jurassic Park’s sequels, were able to do that, though there were many admirable attempts. Part of the reason is that people have come to anticipate CG marvels when seeing a film. It’s when a CG is done poorly that it registers and believe it or not there are tons of films that come out today with CG effects that are inarguably inferior to what was accomplished with this twenty-year-old film.

raptorsBut it would be a mistake to celebrate Jurassic Park just for its ground-breaking effects and topnotch marketing. It took a genius of a filmmaker to bring Michael Crichton’s epic novel of the same name to the silver screen. There are many divergences from the novel, but if it were to be filmed as it was written, the producers might’ve had an R-rated film on their hands with many unlikable characters. Spielberg and the writers were able to soften the story, while still keeping the book’s thrills and scientific curiosity, and injected a sense of wonder and fleshed out the characters. It was their efforts that made sure that the film wasn’t just an effects extravaganza. The story and characters mattered and that is one of the main reasons why the film still endures today.

 Lewis T. Grove

Idiotic Twist Ruins The Governor In The Book The Walking Dead: Rise Of The Governor

Warning: The review/rant below contains major spoilers about the Governor in The Walking Dead: Rise Of The Governor novel.

bookI just finished reading or rather wasted my time with the horror book The Walking Dead: Rise Of The Governor written by the creator of The Walking Dead comic book Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga.

It was worse than Michael Crichton’s Sphere!

The thing that gets me about the book is that I was really enjoying this; I’m a recent convert to The Walking Dead phenomenon thanks to the excellent TV show on AMC. I think that the character of the Governor (played on the show by David Morrisey) is one of the best villains I’ve ever seen. As soon as I could I went to the local comic book shop and picked up the graphic novels. I saw the book The Walking Dead: Rise Of The Governor and decided to buy the book too.

The book focuses on Philip Blake, his daughter Penny, his brother Brian, and Philip’s friend Nick. As you probably know Philip Blake becomes the Governor and his daughter becomes a zombie or as they say on the show and comic book a walker or biter.

It starts off showing the group when the walker outbreak began and their struggles to find safe shelter. There are a few times where you think Penny will get bitten by a walker but it never happens. Instead, Kirkman wrote a nice twist, she gets killed by crazy living people then turns into a walker.

The Walking Dead: Rise Of The Governor had the characters facing many hardships, building up to Penny’s death that makes Philip become angry and crazy and logically becoming the Governor. You really see that as he captures two of the attackers that killed Penny, locks them up and tortures them every day. His brother Brian was a wimp throughout the book and Nick was often the voice of reason.

Spoiler time: Philip gets really crazy and kills a woman to feed to walker Penny. Nick tells Brian he can’t stand it anymore and a fight between Philip and Nick happens. Around this time, they wind up staying in the town of Woodbury, the same place that the Governor rules as seen in the comics and show. When they first arrive at the town, the place is controlled by Major Gene Gavin, a lunatic National Guardsman who calls himself the Major and abuses the residents. Continue reading