Friday, July 31, 2015

5 Fandom Friday: Five Fictional Pets I'd Like to Adopt.

Time for another 5 Fandom Friday!  But before I get started on this week's prompt, now that I've been participating for almost two months, I just want to shout out a huge thanks to The Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick, who first dreamed up and organized this phenomenon (and who graciously welcomed me and my long list of prompt ideas--I tend to hit the ground running when I'm excited--by using three of my suggestions this month!), and another huge thanks to EVERYONE who participates in 5 Fandom Friday, because all of you have made my Fridays something to look forward to--I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through so many different perspectives every week, representing such diverse fandoms, that all share the whole-hearted enthusiasm we each have for the things we love.  Your excitement has led me to find new fandoms to explore and get excited about--and finding new community is really so much of what fandoms are about, isn't it?  So thank you for welcoming me into your community. :-)

This week's prompt is "Five Fictional Pets I'd Like to Adopt", because I constantly find myself falling in love with the pets and non-people sidekicks...I'm so much more an animal person than a people person!  So my struggle this week--okay, it's basically the same struggle as I have every week--is narrowing down a ridiculously long list into a list of my top five....

1. Goliath (Ladyhawke)

This movie holds a strangely special place in my heart because of how I stumbled upon it: when I was somewhere around eleven or twelve, I was channel-surfing, and happened to catch this scene--of course, two knights astride beautiful horses and engaged in an epic battle inside a church caught and held my attention, and afterward, I occasionally wondered for years what movie it had been, with its cryptic "night without day, day without night" bit at the end, but I never had any luck with my casual efforts tracking it down...until, one day in high school, my dad randomly handed me this movie he picked up in a $5 bin that he remembered watching years ago and thought I might like.  I didn't realize until I got to that particular scene, that this was the mystery movie I'd been hoping to find for so long!

There are a few movies every horse lover should watch (such as Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken and The Man From Snowy River), and this film makes the list because of Goliath:

Goliath ("Ladyhawke").

Played primarily by a 19-year-old Friesian stallion named Othello, Goliath alone makes the movie worth watching.  Isn't he gorgeous?  (I'm afraid the pictures just don't do him'll have to watch the film to see him in all his glory!) But the movie itself, though rather dated by its style and soundtrack (I lived too little in the 80's to appreciate the era), is actually pretty good.

2. Rancor (Star Wars)

I've wanted a rancor since I first watched Return of the Jedi when I was six or seven.  (Yes, I've always been that weird.)

Rancor ("Star Wars").

I mean, it wasn't his fault he fell into the hands of the cruel Jabba the Hutt, who kept him chained underground and fed him the guests who displeased his owner.  Oddly, I always identified with this guy:

( know, the one who sobbed after Luke killed the rancor.)

So I love this adorable comic, with its cute backstory and happy ending:

"BFFs" by Chris Gugliotti; print can be purchased here.

If I had a rancor, we'd totally be BFFs.

3. Velociraptor (Jurassic World)

In a lot of ways, I feel like Jurassic Park and The Lost World--both books and movies--defined my middle school years, and I thought the newest addition to the saga, Jurassic World, lived up to to the legacy of its predecessors wonderfully (you can read my full review here).  JW also inspired a new life goal: to become a raptor whisperer.

Velociraptors ("Jurassic World").

Obviously, I missed my calling.  Global extinction event aside, I really feel like I was born to train to raptors.  Plus, making a man the alpha of a pack in an all-female dinosaur park?  How patriarchal is that?  (Kidding!)  But maybe a woman could have kept the clever girls in line when the new girl, Indominus, tried to stake her claim as top dog--after all, there are lessons every girl learns in high school hierarchy that might have come in handy in putting down the new girl. :-P

But while Jurassic Park inspired my eleven-year-old self to learn all the dinosaurs, my interest in the extinct creatures had actually been awoken long before that, through James Gurney's Dinotopia.

James Gurney's "Dinotopia".

I used to pore over every illustration and pick out which character in it I would be--usually it boiled down to, which dinosaur do I want to ride?  The only reason the raptors in JW edged out any of the dinosaurs in Dinotopia this week is that Gurney's world paints a picture in dinosaurs are far more partners than pets.

4. Sam (I Am Legend)

Just as I, as a horse person, had to include my favorite horse in film or literature--as a dog person, I have to include my favorite dog: Samantha, of I Am Legend.

Sam ("I Am Legend").

At the end of the world, the last man standing--or so he fears--has one companion to keep him sane: his daughter's dog, Sam (short for "Samantha", we learn).  She's so much more to him than a pet--she's his loyal friend and faithful comrade in their fight for survival and search for some semblance of a life, in the midst of basically the zombie apocalypse.  MAJOR SPOILER: I don't think anyone's heart broke at his death the way it broke for Sam's.  I'm pretty sure even my husband, a cat person, cried when Will Smith sang to her in her final moments, and I credit that scene to my hubby's willingness to even consider letting me get a dog someday.

5. Dragon (The Pit Dragon Chronicles)

I'm guessing dragons are going to be a popular pick this week, though I'm also guessing that most will be of the Game of Thrones variety, with perhaps a few Eragon or The Hobbit outliers thrown into the mix.  But while I haven't yet met a version of dragons that I truly didn't like, my absolute favorite dragons are the ones in a book series I read well over a decade ago: The Pit Dragon Chronicles by Jane Yolen.

"The Pit Dragon Chronicles" by Jane Yolen.

Set in a harsh world of desert climate and brutal dragon-fighting, the first book of the sci-fi/fantasy series follows a bonder (low caste) boy who steals a baby dragon to raise on his own, training it to fight in the dragon pits so he can buy his way up in the world.  I instantly loved the Australia-meets-Tatooine vibe of the world Yolen created, but her breed of dragons only grows more interesting as the series progresses.  Not the average fire-breathing, treasure-hording creatures, hers are intelligent and telepathic, and her series explores the impact on humans of the closer relationships with dragons that the protagonist incidentally forges.

Apparently, there's a fourth book out now, which was released long after I'd read--and purged from my "too-large" book collection, which I still regret--the original trilogy...just talking about her dragons has me itching to read the whole series.  So, on that note, I'm going to wrap this post up so I can look up the ebooks on Amazon... :-P

So who/what are your favorite fictional pets?

Friday, July 24, 2015

5 Fandom Friday: Five Fictional Vehicles I'd Love to Travel In.

So many of our fandoms are escapes.  That's not a bad thing--sometimes we need a break from the real world, and sometimes there are truths in the real world that we find are best expressed in fiction.  Nonetheless, I think the escapist nature of fandoms in general lends itself very well to imagining ourselves escaping into it.  So, for this week's 5 Fandom Friday, here are a few "getaway" vehicles I could see myself travelling in:

1. TARDIS (Doctor Who)

Obviously, the TARDIS tops my list.  It has it all--it's both a spaceship and and time-travelling machine, with bigger-on-the-inside Time Lord technology which means you never have to worry about packing light or running out of foodstuffs.  Plus, it comes with the Doctor!

The travel possibilities are endless...past or future?  Earth, or the furthest reaches of outer space?  Stay aboard long enough, and you're guaranteed at least a few truly epic trips.  (I think I'd start with travelling back to see dinosaurs!  Probably gonna stick with the veggie-sauruses, though.)  Allons-y!

2. Serenity (Firefly/Serenity)

What Browncoat wouldn't want a chance to fly aboard Serenity?  She's a Class B mid-bulk transport ship with a standard radion/accelerator core, 03-K64-Firefly, with all the hidden nooks and crannies to make it the preferred ship for smugglers; and, as Kaylee puts it:

(Though not everyone agreed on that, at least in the beginning...)

But Serenity's lovingly thought of as the "tenth character" on the show.  She brings the crew together, and keeps them flying.  She's what gives Mal and his crew their piece of sky that no one can take, and she's the heart of it all.

Yes, please!

3. Millenium Falcon (Star Wars)

Another smuggler's choice, the Millenium Falcon can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

I think all of us who grew up on the original Star Wars trilogy have daydreamed about piloting the Falcon.  Especially while driving in snowstorms...

(You know you've done it.)

4. DeLorean (Back to the Future)

Never mind that the entire second movie is a gaping plot hole (Biff could never have gotten the DeLorean back to his future, where Doc and Marty were, once he'd gone back to 1955 and changed the past--he'd have ended up in the alternate future!), the DeLorean is probably the coolest car in all of film history.

As I'm sure you're aware, we've almost reached Back to the Future II's future ourselves--Doc and Marty travel forward to October 21, 2015.  Only three more months until we'll all have hoverboards, flying cars, and shoes that shrink to fit!


5. Hogwarts Express (Harry Potter)

Mostly because it goes to Hogwarts.  (I'd be a Ravenclaw--what's your house?)

I actually love travelling by train, and wish we did it more in the U.S.  I've never gotten to travel in one with the little compartments, though, and it's sort of a dream of mine to take an overnight train, with the little rooms with the bunks....But of all the trains, the Hogwarts Express would be the most magical in every way!

Can you tell me where I might find Platform 9 3/4?

What fictional vehicles would you love to travel in?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

DIY: Steampunk gun mod.

Dragon Con 2015 will be my third convention, ever, and I've decided it's finally time to try my hand at cosplay.  As such a novice, I'm a bit nervous--there are some amazing cosplayers at Dragon Con, so it's a bit intimidating to think of brushing shoulders with them while garbed in my own feeble attempt at cosplay.  But I've met enough welcoming folk at Dragon Con over the last two years that I've decided to go for it, despite my insecurities!

I took care of some of the simpler pieces of my cosplay first, before tackling the two most daunting parts--the gun and the belt.  I'm putting a steampunk twist on a well-known character, so of course I needed some sort of steampunk gun.

I browsed through quite a few Nerf-gun-turned-steampunk pictures and tutorials before stumbling, quite accidentally, on this on Pinterest.  No tutorial, no notes, no text except in a language I don't speak--but it was exactly what I was looking for!  So I did what I do best: I winged it from there.

DIY Steampunk Gun Mod.

The first step was finding suitable guns.  I loved the ball bit on the pin I'd seen, and the way a section of the water gun fit around the barrel of the pistol, so I scoured Amazon for a similar water gun.  After tracking down a cheap pirate pistol and comparing its measurements to my options, I found one I thought looked promising.  From there, I just thought ahead to potential obstacles--like needing a hot knife to cut the plastic, and how to fill the holes cut open in two hollow guns--and put together a pile of supplies to pull it off.

Here's what you'll need:
I used a few things from the crafting stash I've already accumulated over the years--like the super glue, spray paint, and acrylic paint.  Since I already had a woodburner (for various other projects, very few of which involve wood!), I opted to try that before shopping for an actual hot knife.

First step: dissecting the guns.  These are what I started with:

Here's the water gun with the tank unscrewed and set aside:

I stared at it for a good ten minutes before starting, just determining which bits to cut off and what to leave intact.  It's good to go into this step with a plan, and a thorough understanding of how each piece connects to the whole.

I used this tip on my woodburner:

Hard to tell from this angle, but it's flat like a leaf, and it was the closest tip to a flat "knife" as I had.  It worked just fine for me, though.

I set up my woodburner and a work area (I used an edged cookie sheet, which wouldn't be damaged by the woodburner or hot plastic) out on the back porch--I started off indoors, but this step created some very unpleasant fumes!  I figured it was safer to work on it outside.

Here are the pieces I ended up cutting off of the water gun:

And here are the pieces I cut out of the pirate pistol:

I brought all my pieces back inside and laid out the ones I wanted to use:

Next came reassembling the gun.  For this, I planned to fill any holes or gaps with the moldable plastic, and fit the pieces together, gluing everything in place.

I followed the directions on the back of the bag for the InstaMorph moldable plastic.  It starts as tiny white plastic balls, which you pour into 140*F water, and they stick together and turn clear in two minutes, at which point you can fish it out and shape it until it cools.

Every piece of this step took me several tries.  The plastic cools rather quickly, and if you start with the wrong amount, adding more leaves quite a line where the new stuff joins the old, and pulling some off to leave yourself with less stretches out the bit you've already started shaping.  I found the best method was to just play around with it until I had the correct amount of plastic, then re-submerge that lump (keeping it separate from what was left in the saucepan) for a good two minutes, to give myself the maximum amount of time to shape it once I'd fished it back out.

I started with the most important section: where the two biggest pieces join.  I laid an oval of plastic over the hole in the water gun, then pressed the pirate pistol into place (taking great care to line it up exactly as I wanted it) so the plastic would form correctly to both pieces.  Then, before it could fully cool (and harden completely), I pulled it out of the water gun hole, smeared super glue on the moldable plastic in the lines where it would meet the water gun, and pushed it back into place.  Without gluing the pirate pistol into place yet, I used the pirate pistol to press the plastic firmly against the water gun until the glue had dried sufficiently.

Next I added the bit of plastic that would go beneath the barrel of the pirate pistol, to do away with the gap, since that piece on the side had a wider circumference than the pistol barrel and I wanted more than one point of connection between the gun pieces.  Again, I figured out the right amount of plastic, reheated it, shaped it, pressed the pirate pistol into place to ensure the fit, removed the plastic before it hardened completely, added glue, and replaced it, using the pirate pistol to press it into place as the glue dried.

Once both pieces of moldable plastic were solidly glued in place, I smeared super glue onto both pieces where they would meet the pirate pistol, then glued the pistol into place, pressing firmly:

As you can see, it isn't perfect--it would have been nice to have cleaner lines, rather than those lumpy, rounded edges where the plastic is--but it gets the job done.

Next came filling all the other holes left from removing pieces of the water gun:

I followed the same basic steps of determining the amount of plastic needed, reheating it, shaping it, removing it, and gluing it, for each hole.

Once I'd glued it, I tried to smooth out the edges as best I could.  After getting an annoying bit of super glue on my fingers, I figured out that it worked better to cover my fingers in plastic wrap (the kind you cover leftover food with), so I didn't have to touch the plastic and glue directly.

I filled in the hole left by the water gun's trigger assembly as well, then moved on to connecting the muzzle from the pirate pistol to the front of the water gun.  That was the hardest part, but I'm not sure there's an understandable way to explain exactly how I did it, without using pictures; but part of the problem was that I needed to fit everything perfectly quickly, so I really didn't have time to photograph the process.  In summary, I inserted the barrel-end of the muzzle into the water gun, wrapped a thin piece of plastic around where the pieces joined, and glued it all in place.

Here's a shot of both sides of the pieced-together gun:

Definitely starting to come together!

The next step is painting the gun, starting with spray-painting the base coat.  No matter what your plans, you'll want to use a color you don't mind showing through.  I went with a black base coat for my black-and-silver gun.

I spray-painted one side at a time, reaching into my cardboard box to get every nook and cranny of the gun that I could.  Following the directions on my spray paint, I let the first side dry for about an hour and a half before I flipped the gun over and sprayed the other side just as thoroughly.

Still, after letting it dry for a couple days, there were bits that I had to touch up with matching acrylic paint.

Here's a shot of both sides, once the base coat was finished:

I actually really liked the way it looked, all black like this--very sleek.  I considered leaving it there, and part of me still thinks I should have--but while I think the front half looks better all black, all the flourishes on the pirate pistol definitely needed to stand out with a metallic accent color.

Finally, all I had left was to apply the accent paint and finishing touches.  I had originally planned to use Rub'n'Buff (which so many steampunk crafters swear by--this was my first time using it) in two colors--silver leaf for the accents, and ebony for the rest.  But after finishing a coat with the silver, I started applying the black, and realized that I actually liked the matte better.  I think part of the problem was that I used a paintbrush, rather than my finger, to apply the Rub'n'Buff--it's a very waxy substance, and it's hard to apply much pressure with a paintbrush, so the silver wasn't smeared around as smoothly as I think it was meant to be.  But I just had too many tiny details that needed to be painted where my fingers wouldn't fit, and there were enough parts where I knew I'd encounter the same problem with the black--so I opted to leave the nice, smooth base coat unmarred, rather than risk ending up with a rougher finish.

Here's the finished product, from both sides:

There are a few parts that I actually went back and touched up again after taking these pictures, like the back of the hammer:

And some of those rectangles near the muzzle:

The perfectionist in me has a hard time with finding the right balance between painting in every crack and cranny, and leaving a bit of the base color showing for a worn effect.  I'm not skilled enough yet to even attempt adding battle damage to a project like this, so I wanted to leave a little black showing in some of the deeper crevices, as if some grime had been left behind by the last few cleanings, but it was hard to know how much.

In the end, I was pretty happy with how it turned out, especially given that this was my first time tackling a project like this!

Have you ever tried your own steampunk gun mod?  If so, I'd love to see pictures!  In fact, feel free to share pictures of steampunk anything you've crafted--link it in the comments! :-)

Friday, July 10, 2015

5 Fandom Friday: Five Spin-offs I'd Like To See Get Made.

While I'm often disappointed in the execution of spin-offs, I love the idea of them.  I love the opportunity to dive back into a world I already love, to explore it further or in a new direction.  There are quite a few spin-offs I'd like to see get made (in fact, this topic was one of my submissions to the 5 Fandom Friday virtual suggestion box--though I'm guessing, since no credit was assigned, I wasn't the only one to suggest it!), so I really didn't have to think very hard to come up with a list for this week's prompt.  Here are the ones I would be most excited to see:

1. Firefly: The Next Generation

This is at the top of my list, hands down.  It's been over a decade since the show and the movie now, so I think it's highly unlikely we'll ever get a continuation picking up where we left off. generation, anyone?

I'll admit I've only read about half of the comics released, but I know that it's revealed in "Float Out" (which I haven't read yet) that Zoe, after the events of Serenity, is pregnant with Wash's daughter.  We know Kaylee and Simon didn't waste any time getting busy by the end of Serenity, so they probably popped out a few kids of their own, and surely Mal and Inara produced some beautiful offspring as well.  Add in a few of Jayne's bastards (you know they exist), and you've got a whole new crew to keep our beloved Firefly flying high.  Seeing Serenity back in the air (and on the air) would be my very favorite thing!  You can't stop the signal.

2. Doctor Who: Rose's Torchwood/Doctor Who: UNIT

I'm one of the newer Whovians--I didn't grow up on the original series, but I found the new series during my second pregnancy and binge-watched all that was available (through Matt Smith's first season, I think) with my then-one-and-a-half-year-old (who, at four now, consequently still loves the TARDIS).  We got a "Torchwood" spin-off, which I enjoyed, but it definitely took a very different (and far less family-friendly) tone than "Doctor Who", and I'd like to see a spin-off more in keeping with the overall feel of its predecessor.

There are a few characters I'd love to see more of, so I actually have two ideas for spin-offs I'd love to see from this fandom:

1) Rose's Torchwood: Ten is my favorite Doctor, so I'd love to see more Tennant in a series exploring the function of Torchwood in Rose's parallel universe.  As "Torchwood" (the show) proved, there's plenty for Torchwood to do without the Doctor, so I don't think that a human Ten, without his Time Lord-iness and TARDIS, would detract from anything, and I'd love to see more of the badass Torchwood Rose we got a taste of when she jumped back to help Doctor-Donna save the world.

2) UNIT:  Martha is underrated.  I was heartbroken with Ten when he lost Rose, so Martha just couldn't compare for me either, and Donna remains my favorite companion of all time, but upon rewatching the series, I realized that Martha was actually pretty awesome.  Intelligent, resourceful, resilient, and determined, she saved the world when the Doctor needed her most.  And I always felt bad for Mickey after Rose left him for the Doctor, so I loved that we got that shot of him and Martha in "The End of Time".  I'd love to see a series delve into Martha's career at UNIT, her and Mickey's freelance alien-fighting, and how the two of them ended up together.

3. The Silmarillion: Beren and Luthien

Confession: My daughter's middle name is "Eowyn", but I've never even read The Silmarillion.  Though I loved The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I've only skimmed bits of The Silmarillion, and just never got around to actually reading it in its entirety.  But since Peter Jackson just came off his latest Middle-Earth kick, I'd love to see him take some of the better stories (like the tale of Beren and Luthien) from The Silmarillion, and turn them into movies of their own.

"Beren and Luthien in the Court of Thingol and Melian" by Donato Giancola

More than just a love story, the tale of Beren and Luthien centers around a dangerous quest to retrieve one of the stolen Silmarils, and they both (yeah, Luthien's fairly badass, too) have to overcome obstacles and fend off bad guys (including orcs, werewolves, and Sauron himself) before they find a happily ever after together.  Just, please, Peter Jackson, if you do do it--stick to one movie per story! ;-)

4. The Walking Dead: Vatos

I've wanted a "The Walking Dead" spin-off since I first discovered the show after its second season, as I was waiting for season three and dying for more zombie apocalypse to feed my newest obsession.  The whole post-apocalyptic survival scenario is fascinating to me (and, obviously, to hordes of other fans who have made the show such a hit), and I've always been curious how groups other than Rick's have fought for survival in the world created in the "The Walking Dead". I'm torn between wanting to see what's going on elsewhere in the world during the zombie apocalypse, and following up with some of the characters we've already met on the original show.  I've always wondered what happened to Morales and his family after they left for Albuquerque instead of the CDC, but even more, I'd love to find out how the fierce but good-hearted group we met in the episode "Vatos" fared after our characters' departure.

These dudes, scary as they first seem to be, turn out to be the only ones who stuck around to take care of the elderly residents left behind in this nursing home.  The selfless don't seem to survive long in this new world, but I'd like to see if Guillermo and his guys could have the strength to weather the inevitable turn we know so many of their patients will take, and everything that follows after a hit like that on a good group.  I'm rooting for them, and hoping Rick and the rest cross paths with them again.

Fortunately, though we're not likely to see more of those guys, we are getting a spin-off series later this year, set on the West Coast, and this companion series will start before the current show did, meaning we'll get to see how the zombie outbreak began.  Dying to see it!

5. Galaxy Quest: The Show

By Grabthar's hammer, I would love to watch the actual "Galaxy Quest" show.  Who didn't love the movie?

Even Picard loved it.

Rumor is, we may actually get a chance to see the show.  I expect it will be necessary to find a different cast--the movie, made sixteen years ago, was supposed to take place eighteen years after the end of the show's run--but hopefully the writers will find a good balance between creating a show that takes itself seriously as sci-fi (which the original was meant to have done) and maintaining the sense of humor that the original actors brought to the movie.

That wraps up my top five (well, six--I cheated a bit with two "Doctor Who" ideas) spin-offs I'd love to see!  What spin-offs would you most like to see get made?