The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Star Trek: New Frontier: The Returned Part 1 by Peter David - Mac Is Back And He Is Looking For Payback

Star Trek: New Frontier: The Returned, Part 1 by Peter David (July, 2015)

Back in December of 2012, I blogged about a series of books from Peter David set in a New Frontier. I began reading that series during the summer while off from school and could not stop reading them once I started. Later I was saddened to learn that the last book I read (Blind Man’s Bluff) was most likely to be the last of the series as Mr. David’s contract for the series had been fulfilled and he had received no word from the publisher that he could continue the saga. Earlier this year, I learned that there would be three more novels in the series and I immediately added them to my pre-order list on Amazon. The books arrived on my Kindle and I finally got around to reading the first one, and it is great, just as I expected it would be. Mr. David, as his readers all know, can tell one hell of a story.

When last we saw Mac Calhoun, captain of the USS Excalibur, his home planet Xenex was being attacked by the Brethren, a faction that were being used as footsoldiers by a race known as the D’myurj.  Their mission was to wipe out all life on Xenex and Mac received word that they may have done just that.

The Returned, Part 1, begins about three months after the events of Blind Man’s Bluff. Mac is on Xenex searching for any survivors and not having any success.  It would appear that he is the last of his people. His wife, Admiral Shelby arrives looking for him and tries to bring him back, but Mac tricks her and he goes off on a one man mission to exact vengeance against the D’myurj.  Mac soon arrives on a planet where he intends to use the Guardian of Forever to go back in time and prevent the events that destroyed his people from happening. Thanks to his former navigator, Mark McHenry, Mac realizes that he could do far more harm than good by going back in time and decides to take a different tack.

Mac returns to the Excalibur and takes back his command from his first officer, Burgoyne 172. The crew is happy to see him back in the center seat and pledge to follow him no matter what the future holds. It is Mac’s intention to go to a wormhole located in Thallonian space that will take him to a “pocket” universe where the D’myurj are.

Meanwhile, Admiral Jellico tells Mac that he is not to be seen entering Thalloian space.  With the help of a cloaking device, Mac is able to follow Jellico’s orders, but somehow, the Thallonians do find the Excalibur and demand that Mac hand over Robin Lefler and her child to them. Lefler decides the issue for herself and with the help of McHenry, transports herself onto the Thallonian ship and is taken to meet the new ruler of the New Thalon, a being who is determined to solidify his power base by eliminating anyone that might pose a threat, including Lefler and her infant son.  But how was the Excallibur discovered? There is another force at work with the Thallonians that knows Mac and the Excallibur well enough to pose a clear and present danger to the ship.

With few choices, and realizing that McHenry will not let anything happen to Lefler, Mac decides to take his ship into the pocket universe, but there he learns that there is another even more powerful race that poses a threat to the D’myurj. Are they allies or another foe?

In this latest installment, the first of three parts, Mr. David once again demonstrates that he is one of the masters of not only telling great Trek stories, but he is also a master at making his characters jump off of the page and come alive. Mac Calhoun is a character that I have enjoyed in his other books, and recently as a character in the Mirror Universe. He is very much alive in my mind, along with the other characters he has introduced in the New Frontier series. This book focuses mostly on Mac, but many of the others are also there. One bonus is that he also develops characters that we are familiar with from the television series. Two of those are both from TNG lore, one being Edward Jellico from the sixth season two-part episode, Chain of Command when he took command of the Enterprise-D for a brief time while Picard was on a special operations mission, and the other being Elizabeth Shelby from the season three two-part episode Best of Both Worlds where she became first officer for Riker while Picard was under the influence of the Borg.  Thanks to the author of The Returned, both of these characters have been given personalities that are extensions of their canon counterparts on the series. Neither of these characters in the series (in my opinion) were very likable.  In this book, they do retain their on-screen personalities, but are also given human faces. Really, their characters are very well developed through the entire New Frontier series of books.

Retuned, Part 1 is not a stand alone book. I think it is essential to go back and read at least some of the New Frontier books to get the background needed to understand the events that are taking place. The author does provide some of the background that will help with understanding, but to get the full flavor, the previous volumes are better.

This story ends with a pretty good cliffhanger of an ending and I am looking forward to reading the next of this three part story.

Speaking of that, while I was looking at other reviews, I noticed that was some animosity toward the author and/or the publisher that they chose to release this as three smaller novels as opposed to one larger volume. As those who have read all three parts know, one was released in July, the second in August, and the third in September. Personally, I do not have a problem with this and feel that whomever made the decision to release it in three parts is completely free to do as they wish. I kind of like the idea that I can read other material in between parts and anticipate what will come next. It isn’t as though either the publisher or author is going to make any more money as the price for the book is $2.99 and is the same for the following two parts. It should also be noted that this is an E-Book series exclusively.

Peter David
At any rate, I think that if you have enjoyed the previous installments of the New Frontier books, this one is an excellent re-introduction to the series. It is my hope that there are many more on the way.

Well, there it is…


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Star Trek: Section 31: Disavowed By David Mack - Our Man Bashier Returns To The Mirror Universe

Star Trek: Section 31: Disavowed by David Mack (2014)

Following on the novel Rise Like Lions, also by David Mack, I picked up Disavowed mostly because I was interested to see what happened to Dr. Julian Bashier. Bashier was the Chief Medical Officer of Deep Space Nine until he learned of a disease that would have wiped out the Andorian race had he not intervened. Unfortunately, he was forced to obtain knowledge in a rather shady way which resulted in him not only being drummed out of Starfleet, but making him a criminal as far as the Federation was concerned. On the other side of the coin, Bashier was successful in saving the Andorians from becoming extinct, and also made it possible for the Andorians (one of the founding races of the United Federation of Planets) to rejoin the Federation.  As a result, Bashier was granted asylum on Andor where he is revered as a hero, just the opposite of what he would be considered in every other corner of the Federation.

Rise Like Lions sets up the events of Disavowed as much of the latter deals with events that take place in the Alternate Universe.  Briefly, the Terran Rebellion is successful in gaining their freedom from the Alliance thanks to the help of a secret organization calling itself Memory Omega that develops and uses technology that is far superior to anything that can be found in the Alternate Universe. They share some of their technology with the Rebellion, which includes a form of propulsion called the Jaunt Drive which allows ships to create artificial wormholes and travel instantly between points in space.

Now on to Disavowed…

This is unrest among the members of the Typhon Pact, and they are starting to vie for a showdown with the Federation for control of the Alpha Quadrant. One member of the Pact, the Breen, have learned about the Jaunt Drive developed by Memory Omega in the Alternate Universe and find a way to open a wormhole from the Prime Universe into the Alternate Universe with the intention of sending a ship through to steal a ship equipped with the Jaunt Drive, thus hoping to gain the upper hand in their bid for control.

At the same time, Bashier and his significant other are pressed into service by Section 31 to also go to the Alternate Universe to stop the Breen from obtaining the Jaunt Drive technology.

Meanwhile, the Galactic Commonwealth, the organization that grew from the victory by the Terran Rebellion, are entering negotiations with the Dominion to work out a nonaggression pact, however, when Dr. Bashier arrives on the scene, the negotiations are thrown out the window as the Dominion demands that he be handed over to stand trial for causing the death of Odo during Bashier’s first trip to the Alternate Universe in the Deep Space Nine episode “Crossover” (season 2, episode 23). With “Smiley” O’Brien retired, Michael Eddington has taken on the role of the Chairman of the Commonwealth, and refuses to turn Bashier over for trial. The Dominion threatens war.

No matter which way he turns, Bashier would appear to be damned.

With all of the story threads in Disavowed, I honestly would have expected to become disinterested and confused, but not with the well organized writing of David Mack. Mack switches between scenes in a story that unfolds at warp speed, but everything is laid out so well, that it is easy to follow and allowed me to focus on the various stories. But not only does he tell a great story about Bashier, the Breen, the Commonwealth, but he also plants the seeds for other stories to grow out of this one. Be watching for future books involving Bashier and his quest to be the downfall of Section 31.

Mack’s writing style very much appeals to me because he seems to make every chapter a story in miniature; each is a snapshot painting a small picture so that when they are all put together, it is very easy to see the big picture. Only a great writer can do this well, and Mack is, in my opinion, one of the greats.

I was never really a fan of the “Mirror Universe” stories as they were in the television series because they always seemed to be mostly silly and much was overstated as the writers of those episodes (especially in the Deep Space Nine series) tried to overemphasize the differences in many of the characters. To me, the television Mirror Universe characters were more like cartoons of their Prime Universe counterparts. This is one area where David Mack has excelled. The characters from the Alternate Universe are different, but not so much so that they are not recognizable. I appreciate this because it makes them more believable and less like caricatures of their Prime Universe counterparts.

When I announced on Facebook that I was going to read Disavowed, it was recommended to me that I first read A Ceremony Of Losses, From "The Fall" series and then Rise Like Lions to get a good handle on the events leading up to this story. While Disavowed will stand alone as a great story, reading the previous installments will greatly add to a reader's understanding of the back story and just how Julian Bashier has come to the state that is finds himself and how the conflict in the Alternate Universe was resolved and how the political situation in this story came about.

Once again, David Mack has penned a masterpiece of Trek lore that I recommend, especially for fans of DS9 and TNG.

Well, there it is...


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dust & Cannibals By Bruce I Schindler - Great Low-Tech SciFi From A South-Central Nebraska Indie Author

Dust and Cannibals by Bruce I Schindler (2012)

Not long ago, I was dragged to the Buffalo County Fair here in Kearney. I am not a big fan of going to the fair that is held in the late summer. It is always hot and miserable, and I don't really enjoy going to where there are a lot of other hot and miserable people who are all walking around looking at hot and miserable animals, not to mention the moldering food and wilting vegetables that are out on display after the judging has been done. But this year was a little different.  As I walked into one of the exhibit buildings, I saw a table with a book display and several people manning a booth behind the table. The banner above the display read Central Nebraska Writers Group.

At the tables were three people I now consider friends, and one other that I unfortunately did not get to know yet. I almost fell over when one of the authors, Mari Beck, recognized me from this blog! Another was Brooke Brouillette.  Both seemed very enthusiastic about science fiction and we discussed it at some length. I asked Mari if she writes scifi, she said that she had not yet, but she then directed me to a man sitting quietly at a table to my right and told me that is the guy I wanted to talk to.

I was invited to join the group. Again, surprised I said "really?" and was told that bloggers are considered writers too. I got a few of the details of what it means to be a member of the Writers Group, thanked everyone and moved on to the next table where I met the author of the object of this review, Mr. Bruce Schindler.

Bruce and his wife were quietly sitting at the table. I mentioned that the girls next door had sent me over and told me that he wrote scifi. Bruce then proceeded to tell me that he has written some fantasy. He talked briefly about his fantasy works and then told me that his Dust and Cannibals is the first of a series of post-apocalyptic cowboy (I am pretty sure he did use the term 'cowboy') novels. Two things immediately flashed in my mind; first was that film from a few years ago, "Cowboys and Aliens," which I did, and still do enjoy, and second was Stephen King's Dark Tower series. I love a good post-apocalyptic story and made a note of the title to be read sometime in the near future.

I went home and immediately found the Facebook page for the Writers Group and sent friend requests to Mari, Brooke, and Bruce.

Well, on with the review of Dust and Cannibals...

This story centers mostly in and around the south-central area of Nebraska that is Harlan County. It is a place where there are some wide open spaces with numerous farms, ranches, small towns, and nice people that are pretty well laid back, but do know how to take care of themselves when times get rough. Well, in the story, times have gotten quite a bit rougher than probably anyone could imagine when a chain of disasters hit on a global scale.

Solar flares, nuclear exchanges, earthquakes, volcanoes, and resulting tsunamis all lay waste to vital parts of the U.S. leaving the military in charge in many areas, and local law enforcement in others. Resources are dwindling to nothing, communication is almost nonexistent, and martial law has become the law of the land. With chaos all around, Lyle and Adeline Lillard are pretty self sufficient on their small ranch outside the town of Alma, but there are a few items that they will need in order to weather the storm. Lyle knows that something bad has happened, but is not aware of the scale, so he decides to take a ride into Alma on a green-broke horse with a too small saddle.  On his way, he finds that he is being stalked by a group of cannibals who have taken up residence along a minimum maintenance road not far from his house.  It was probably a good thing that he chose the skittish, half trained horse for his journey, because that may have just saved his life. Upon reaching Alma, he finds that rationing of everything is in full force.

It is only after a couple of strangers arrive on the scene, former soldiers Josh and Mark who have survived and managed to make their way to Harlan County all the way from Afghanistan that Lyle, freshly deputized to take care of the north end of the county, learns of the extent of the destruction and that it is indeed going to be a long term, maybe a lifelong situation. Lyle takes it upon himself to try to bring the people of the county together for the common good, helping others use their talents to make the best of a seemingly hopeless situation.

Lyle and his neighbors soon learn that the cannibals, under the leadership of an imbecile and a former petty criminal, are the least of their worries, because next arrives the Dust. A chemical agent created as a chemical weapon that falls into the hands of terrorists operating in and around Colorado that seem to have a bent on killing everyone that might pose a threat to them.

Dust and Cannibals is a low-tech science fiction story that focuses mainly on the people of Harlan County working together to survive in a situation that would find most of us completely unprepared. It is their isolation in a rural area that helps them avoid some of the problems that come up, but their spirit and sense of loyalty to one another also brings them together to do what the people of Nebraska are best at, that is taking care of each other in times of need.  Everyone in this story that are residents of the county use their unique talents to contribute to the whole community as they band together to figure out the problem and come up with a solution. Yes, strangers are welcome, but only so long as they are willing to work and make a viable contribution. This is the single strongest part of this novel. If you want to learn what the people of rural Nebraska are like, here is a perfect case study.

Another strong point is how well Bruce has hit on a plausible chain reaction of disasters in what he told me was this alternate reality (which I hope continues to stay alternate). At first, it seemed somewhat far fetched to think that this many things could go wrong all at the same time, but after giving it more thought, it became clear that everything could begin with a solar flare that knocks out communications and power grids next leading to misunderstandings and a nuclear exchange between nations that have already unsteady relationships. Throw in with that several earthquake faults that are described as "overdue" for activity and the result would be catastrophic for a large number of people in many locales. It is all a little scary.

That brings me to the most compelling aspect of Dust and Cannibals, that is just how scary and somewhat depressing it was for me. The first thing that comes to mind is how ill prepared a huge number of us are. We all rely on the internet for so much, electricity, fossil fuels, and have become very, very comfortable with our lives. We can just take a quick jaunt to the store for whatever we want or need at a moment's notice and if something is forgotten, it isn't a problem to just go back because we know that whatever we want is there. We complain and take personally almost every minor inconvenience we run into, no matter how small, and then make these problems into major disasters, blasting rants onto the social media which we have come to rely upon for a sympathetic ear. We lounge in our air conditioned/central heated homes in the inclement weather and watch the world go by. Every now and then, we see that a city on the other side of the world is destroyed and that there are hundreds dead and injured, and we say, that's too bad. I know that I, for one, am probably too comfortable and not anywhere near prepared enough for even the most minor disaster.  Bruce's book gave me pause to think about that.

As I became immersed in the story, I found myself wondering where I was during all of this? Where was my family? My friends? I know and work with many people who have cabins on the Harlan County Reservoir. Many of them are people that I care a great deal about. This story not only entertained me, but touched me on a personal level probably because to is set so close to home. Where I live, the locations that Bruce points out in the story are all within a 90 minute drive. I have been to many of the places he mentions in the book. I found myself becoming very uncomfortable with what I read. For me at least, Bruce not only wrote a very entertaining story, but a thought provoking one.

In any case, I highly recommend this book as one that is a good low tech scifi yarn that might also get you thinking too. While the writing style is not the same as Stephen King, I found that there were several aspects in the writing that made me think of that master of horror, somewhat reminiscent of the Dark Tower series as well as other stories he has written. If there is anything that I would have liked to seen added to the book, it would have to be a map of Harlan County to help put into perspective how far distances can become when conventional modes of transportation are no longer viable.

Dust and Cannibals is not Bruce's only work. He also offers the sequel to this novel titled Mud and Horizons. He has also penned an Urban Fantasy novel, Touch Stones, as well as a genealogical Fantasy story The LaGrange Legacy. His works are all available from SmashWords, (in both print format and as an e-book), and by special order from any bookstore. If you live here in the Kearney area, go to the Sequel Bookshop here in town. Finally, you can order your books directly from him by e-mailing him at or from his Facebook author page.

If you want to learn more about Bruce Schindler and his work, Facebook seems is one way to go, or you can read what he writes about himself...

"There is a place so exotic and remote, the Marrakesh Express gets nowhere near it. Even in Kathmandu, this place seems a world away. Its inhabitants call it Harlan County, and describe it as being in South-Central Nebraska.

Many people get within a few miles of it, but fly over it without knowing. Others drive past or even through, and have no idea anything just happened. This is because of a magical veil. It is impervious to the most sophisticated equipment, and makes most people choose not to see.

In Harlan County, the distance between this reality and every other reality is very thin. Some of the inhabitants cross over routinely, and come back with strange tales, spun as though they are the same world as ours.

When I was young, I listened while they told those stories around the fire. The tales were long and involved, and I probably nodded off from time to time. Because of that, some details are a bit fuzzy, but I pass along the stories as faithfully as I can.

I came to Harlan County for love, and found it. I got much more, finding a friend, a muse, and a goddess. That alone was more than enough, but more blessings came: horses waiting impatiently for more hay and a macaw loudly demanding pizza. There is also our ShihTsu, a psychic dog who projects her thoughts, making me do as she wishes.

Life before Harlan County now seems less real than all other realities about which I write. My main indicator about the real world comes when the horses, macaw, and dog make their needs known.

In this, the real world, I find pleasure in sharing these stories. Since there is no way to give escorted tours, they say I must call them fiction - science fiction. You and I know they are real."

Well, there it is...


Friday, August 14, 2015

The Frigate Victory Short Story Collection Volume 1 by Robert Collins - A Review & Introduction To Some Good Short Stories

The Frigate Victory Collection Volume 1 by Robert Collins

Two years ago at OSFest 6, I met author Robert Collins while he was manning his table in the dealer’s room.  I stopped briefly at that time and visited for a few minutes and told him that I would read his stuff.  With the possibility of meeting Robert again, I decided to be sure that I did indeed read at least one of his works before OSFEst 8.

The Frigate Victory Collection Volume 1 is the first of a series of short story collections by Robert Collins.  The rest of the series consists of two more short story collections and a novel.  In the first volume, there are thirteen short stories that all can be easily read in a single sitting.  I took a bit longer to get through them, but still enjoyed them a great deal.

One impression I got from reading these stories is that the author is not one for wasting words. his stories in this volume are concise snapshots of life aboard and involving the crew of the TFF Victory Under the command of the very clever and thoughtful Captain Jason Ayers (TFF is for Terran Federal Fleet).  For instance, the very first story in the book introduces Ayers as he begins his tenure as commander and some of his crew, especially his by-the-book first officer Nina Riggio.  This first story demonstrates how creative Ayers is and how he deals with a situation that is intended to test his ship, but instead winds up testing him in an exercise involving another ship. His solution to the problem of the opposing commander trying to gain an unfair advantage not only shows the ability of Ayers to think his way out of a situation, but it also shows his character as an officer.

My favorite story from the collection is one that is in the middle of the book.  It is titled An Unconventional Little War.

Warning ***SPOILERS AHEAD***

In this story, Captain Ayers announces that the entire crew will be taking shore leave.  When everyone leaves the ship, a group of terrorists from the "Army of the First Day" take over the Victory and manage to leave the area making two jumps. Their destination is an uninhabited star system. Captain Ayers is the only member of the Victory crew aboard for some reason. He takes out some of the intruders but it seems as though they are waiting for something.  Soon, the intruders see another ship approaching and they reveal that their intentions are to sell the ship, but they believe that since Ayers is on board, they can also sell him and make ever more money.  Ayers has other plans though. As the other ship draws near, Ayers manages to launch missiles and destroy it.  Not to be outdone, the intruders have a case with a bomb in it and they set it to detonate as they leave the Victory in an escape pod. They are pretty smug until Ayers teleports the bomb onto the escape pod just before it detonates.

As I mentioned before, I had the opportunity to meet and interview the author at OSFest 8.  We had a really nice visit and I learned a lot about his writing. Before he began writing his own material, he worked writing fan fiction, mostly in the universes of Dr. Who and also a little Star trek.  His goal with the Frigate Victory series was to write space opera in much the same vein as Star Trek, but he wanted his work to be grounded more in reality.  His Frigate Victory stories are very high tech employing faster than light travel, teleportation, and advanced weapons.  The Victory is a smaller ship that travels between star systems representing the Terran Federal Fleet. In space, according to Collins, the Victory works as a police force as systems deal with each other and as humans have relationships with alien races.  When the crew of the Victory is at a planet, their job is to assist the local governments as much as possible.  Much of the space that the Victory patrols is well established and settled, but there are a few places that are experiencing growing pains as colonies work to become established.  Robert said that in Later volumes, alien races play a more prominent role, and that they see humans as dangerous because they have moved out into the galaxy with so much success.  Some of the stories that I read from Volume 1 dealt with legal issues, which prompted me to ask Robert if he had studied law, to which he replied that he had not, so I can only assume that the author is very diligent as he does his research for a story.

I asked Robert to tell me a little about the main Character, Captain Jason Ayers.  He explained that Ayers was raised on the planet inhabited by an alien race known as the Grazhochi, and he understands technology very well.  Ayers is an officer who has a lot of experience because he came to command by rising through the ranks.  Collins describes him as having a good mind and he prefers to think through a situation before he acts. He loves history and probably uses that knowledge to help him resolve situations.

The Frigate Victory series is not the only work that Collins has produced.  He has also branched out to do a more humorous take on Sci-Fi in his Jake Bonner series.  Robert describes this work a series of short stories, novellas, and a novel in which Bonner’s “universe projects forward from today” in much the same was as The Hitchhiker’s Guide. There are also five, character centric more low-tech sci-fi stories found in his Lisa Herbert stories.  Lisa is a character who is “Interested in traveling to establish trade.”

Mr. Collins is currently working on some work in which he has moved from Sci-Fi to fantasy in his defender series which he says is “taking on a life of its own.”

I did enjoy this first look into the work of Robert Collins and am looking forward to reading more of his work.  If you would like to see for yourself, you may get a sneak peak of the first story in Volume 1 in its entirety by clicking HERE. Also should you be interested in learning more about Robert Collins and his work, follow the link below.  He told me that his blog is probably the best starting place to learn more. Robert can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@robertLcollins), Wattpad, Tumbler, Goodreads, and Google+

Well, there it is…


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Weekend At OSFest 8

"As One" by Arden Ellen Nixon
OSFest 8 - The Darkness Within - July 31-August 2, 2015

This past weekend was the eighth annual Omaha Science Fiction Education Society’s convention more commonly known as OSFest 8. Attending this convention is something I look forward to all year and this year, as in years past, I had a great time.  This year was especially fun because I was able to be involved more than I have in past years thanks to my friends of the IKV Raptor's Heart crew. My weekend was balanced between serving on panels and just being a spectator.  I was constantly busy and didn't have a minute to be bored.

Chrissy, Diane and I decided to head out a day early for a stop at the Strategic Air Command Museum in Ashland, Nebraska.  We had not been there is quite a few years and it was great to see how it has grown since I was last there, I think about seven years ago. They have added many new items and exhibits and I would recommend, especially if you are a military history buff, that you consider stopping there. Make sure that you have at least a few hours to spend to take everything in.

We stayed the night in Bellevue and headed into Omaha. The Klingons has asked for assistance with setting up for their very ambitious weekend, and I wanted to be involved, so I wanted to arrive early. I was not disappointed as I was put to work right away setting up displays.

One of the first panels on the program was the Dune Discussion panel hosted by John Shoberg, Pat Kennedy and me. We talked about the history and culture of the Fremen from that universe and the audience participation was very good.  As the discussion progressed, we talked about the Fremen in the books and films and the question came up about whether anyone would ever be able to make a really good film depicting Frank Herbert's creation. It was a great way to kick off the convention. If deemed worthy by my Dune Saga Podcast partners, the audio portion of this podcast will appear on our programming.

Even while the Dune panel was taking place, there was the first of the Klingon activities happening in another room. Trudy Myers was hosting a Klingon Pin Workshop, and thank goodness, it was a two hour event, so I was able to get in on it before it was over. The purpose was to take a blank pin and paint it to look authentic. I am no artist, so my effort fell a little short, but I did get to visit with Trudy for quite some time and that was even more fun than the painting.  As the panel was ending, Trudy gave me a few more blanks to go along with the ones that John had already given me and encouraged me to try again when time is not a factor.  I'm not giving up.

I also got to see a little bit of the Star Wars Match game taking place in the main gathering area. I have participated in this game before and it is quite fun.  It was nice to hear all of the creative answers to finish phrases that the host, Gene Ray Burn was throwing out. I wish I could have been more than one place at a time.

As always, the best part of attending a convention is visiting with friends and making new ones.  I had already had my dinner when Patrick Kennedy invited me to join his family, but I joined him anyway and had a cup of coffee while I visited with Pat and the Artist Guest Of Honor, Arden Ellen Nixon.

Following the opening ceremonies, I attended the Great Tribble Hunt, which turned out to be a game of Tribble dodge ball.  I had intended to participate, but when I saw that it was mostly kids playing, I decided to stand aside; they move way too fast for me.  A couple of the adults did get involved, and I managed to get my hands on a couple of tribbles that went astray, but my aim is not good anymore and I didn't hit anyone.  It was fun to watch the kids run around and expend some pent up energy at the end of the day.

By the end of the Tribble Hunt, it was time to visit with friends at the room parties. I wish to say congratulations to John Shoberg and Trudy Myers on the publication of their books, and thanks for the cake and conversation.

The next morning, I was up early, so I secured a large cup of coffee and sat down to read for a while and waited for things to get started. It wasn't long before my good friend Troy Rutter arrived and along with my family, we had a nice breakfast and visit together. Soon after breakfast, I helped Troy set up his display of a costume from the movie Ender's Game. He managed to acquire the exercise suit from the training scenes that was actually worn by the character Bean, as portrayed by Aramis Knight.

The first panel I attended and participated on was the Babylon 5 Fan Gathering. This was hosted by resident B5 expert Mitch Obrecht and along with myself, included Troy. Mitch kicked off the panel by trying to lead a talk about the possible Babylon 5 film that has been talked about on social media.  Somewhere along the line, the subject swerved off the topic and became a discussion about the economics of TV/movies and especially the recent Sharknado. I am not sure where the panel went off the rails, but there seems to be quite a lot of passion about the SyFy series depicting sharks being lifted into the air by tornadoes and subsequently dropped on our country's major cities.

At this point, I decided to take a walk through the vendor's room and visit with friends there.

Next up was lunch with the IKV Raptor's Heart crew. Their presentation, Dining On Qo'noS included some delicious culinary selections that while may have looked like normal Terran fare, were a very welcome change to the usual restaurant food. Everything was home made and prepared with great care to not only taste good, but looked good too. If you are reading this, thanks to you, Sharon and crew for a good meal and fellowship.

I really had to wolf down lunch quickly to attend Troy's Babylon 5 On The Web panel in the next room. Babylon 5 was one of the very first television series to have a presence on the internet thanks to the efforts of Troy Rutter.  Much of what he did has become an industry standard for promoting and maintaining a fan base for almost every genre television production available today. Troy explained that while in college in Iowa, he worked with others to create websites that gained the attention of the creator of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski who invited Troy to visit the show's location in California. As he tells it, he didn't waste anytime getting a plane ticket the very next day.  He was soon offered a position on creating and running the web activities of the show. Even though I had heard a few of the stories before, I still had a lot of fun listening to the ones I had heard before, and to hear new ones.

With nothing happening that I was involved in, I decided to take a stroll through the dealer's room and art display. I picked up a couple of CD's and a book that will come in handy for the Babylon Project Podcast that I am a co-host on. I also put in my bid on some art for Chrissy and me.  She found two ink drawings from Star Wars and the price was right. I choose one of Patrick Kennedy's Dune prints.  I also visited with Bruce Schindler, a local author that I met at the Buffalo County Fair who writes science fiction with an interesting twist; post apocalyptic western stories. I stopped and visited with Robert Collins, another author of scifi and fantasy, and arranged an interview to discuss a collection of short stories I finished last week from the Frigate Victory series.

The restaurant at the venue closes between services, so while my family, Troy, and I waited to get in for the taco buffet they were offering, I was approached by John who opened our conversation with a question, "Do you think we can get you into (Klingon) uniform next year?", to which I replied in the affirmative.  John then proceeded to tell me that a couple would like to renew their wedding vows at next year's OSFest, and he told me that he would like me to participate as a member of the wedding party! I was floored, to say the least. I agreed, after recovering from mild shock. So, I guess I will be building a Klingon uniform. Thank goodness I have almost a year to worry about that and a wife that knows how to sew.

After dinner, I wandered around admiring the costumes and took a few pictures.

I attended another panel with Troy on collecting autographs, a hobby of his.  Unfortunately, there were only two of us that attended, but we got a lot of interesting information and ideas for those that collect autographs. Troy's specialty is collecting autographs through the mail. He talked about how to tell if that type of autograph is authentic or not. He further explained that there are those celebrities that do indeed sign their own, some that have a secretary sign them, and even some who have a machine that will do it for them.  I learned that I am an IP'er, or someone who prefers to collect autographs in person.

The next panel I served on was called Legends Lost where I joined John Shoberg, Matt McKeever, Dennis Lynch, and Author Guest Of Honor Matt Rotundo where we discussed our thoughts and memories of Leonard Nimoy and Christopher Lee. What I expected would be a tearful remembrance of two of our icons actually turned out to be a fun and light hearted discussion with some good audience participation, and for me, a learning experience.  I was sorry to admit that I didn't know a great deal about Mr. Lee beyond my exposure to him as Dracula and Count Dooku. As John pointed out to me later, a panelist should not only contribute to a conversation, but should also take something away.

After the panel, Troy and I hung out and visited about films, television, and I took a closer look at the autograph collection. It is extensive and distinguished and he personally knows many of the people he has signatures from. Troy is a truly interesting man and has many fun stories to share. Along with that, he mixes up a very good Jovian Sunspot.

On the last day of the con, I was all set to attend a session on the Klingon art of Mok'bara, which is really Tai Chi.  I have always been interested in learning more about it, and figured that this would be a great opportunity, when suddenly the facilities' fire alarm sounded! As if the convention weren't exciting enough. Apparently, while moving one of the retractable walls by the dealer's area, a fire sprinkler was bumped and a weakened pipe burst causing water to be sprayed from the ceiling! Immediately, a bunch of people rushed in and helped with the situation until the Omaha Fire Department arrived. Fortunately, the water sprayed on the floor and beyond that, there was no other property damage. Within a half an hour, the situation was resolved and I and a few others learned about Tai Chi and where to find further information.

From there, I was privileged to co-host a panel on Star Trek Philosophy. Along with Matt McKeever, a very intelligent and thoughtful man, we began discussing Gene Roddenberry's vision of a utopian future exploring the galaxy encountering other races and interacting with them. In a sort of "good cop/bad cop" way, I took a more pessimistic track than Matt did and I think I might have derailed the topic when I asked if we, as a species, would be able to transcend above our nature. From there, the discussion turned to more of an economic and the want/need for material goods as well as other topics.  It was a spirited conversation and most of the audience got involved.

The last event of the day that I participated in was Klingon Jeopardy.  I not only participated, I was permitted to be the MC. The motto was "come for the chocolate, stay for the pain."  So, as is done on the show, the MC presents the answer and the contestant has to provide the question. So I might say, "a very young Clint Howard guest starred on this Original Series episode."  The correct response would be, "what is The Corbomite Maneuver."  If the contestant gets it right, then they get a piece of chocolate, but if they get it wrong, they get poked with a pain stick (which consists of a hand-shake buzzer on the end of a broom handle).  This was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed presenting the questions and acting silly for an hour.

By the end of that, I was pretty well conned out and ready to hit the road for the three hour ride home.

There was so much to do and see this year at OSFest 8. With over 90 panels, workshops, author readings, and activities, not to mention the room parties there was definitely no lack of programming. The only problem with this was that I wished I could be in more than one place at a time.

One of the best things about being at most any convention is to meet up with people you only get to see once a year, and to meet and make new friends. I did manage to sit down and just visit with friends for a while a couple of times and share stories, information, and laughs. I again would like to compliment and show my appreciation to the officers of the IKV Raptor's Heart for making me feel very welcome and for the huge effort they made to make this event a success. They were everywhere doing whatever they could to provide everyone who chose to participate a great time.  I would also like to thank James "Hawk" Hawkswell and the rest of the staff for their courtesy and professionalism. Everyone was very friendly and accommodating and did their part to make this a fun experience for everyone.

So now I begin looking forward to OSFest 9. I better get started making that Klingon uniform.

Darth Vader Force Choking Hawk.

Hawk's Revenge

IKV Raptor's Heart Display

More Klingon Swag

Troy's Display Of The Exercise Suit Worn By Bean In Ender's Game

Batman & Starlord With Their Kids

Star Trek Philosophy Panel

John Stands By With The Pain, Sharon With The Chocolate, I Read The Questions

If You Answer Wrong, You Get The Pain Stick

Sharon Dealing With An Unruly Contestant

Well, there it is...