Night

_____________________

Thursday was the latest session of the VA OT Creative Writing group I’m participating in. I’ve missed a few sessions because of issues mentioned in a previous post. The writing prompt for the day was “Night”. This is what I came up with.

_____________________

We own the night.

For as long as there have been commando and special operations units, that’s been the unofficial slogan for all of them. Between the advantage of blending into the shadows and the weakness of human eyesight at night, quiet professionals work behind the scenes and usually minus the headlines. The inventions of infrared and night-vision systems produced greater advantages for the warriors who live in a world mostly colored by blacks, greys, and fluorescent green.

When the U.S. Space Command (USSC) stood up, it was only a matter of time before the first “ground” units were created, and, of course, since space is one endless night, they were spec ops from U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The days of the large and clunky, but deadly and almost silent helicopters yielded to the slightly larger and more agile, but even deadlier, and actually silent drop ships as bases of operations shifted from static forward operating bases on the surface of Earth to the mobile Sheppard-class battle cruiser space ships operating beyond the asteroid belt.

While ground troop units now include non-special ops forces (sof), the sof units still hold the status of first in, last out, no matter where USSC deploys.

When the Aldrin, the newest of the Sheppard-class battle cruisers, ventured out towards Saturn, part of its unit component was two spec ops teams and their specially designed Artemis-class drop ships. When the Aldrin disappeared from the Sol System, while taking a shortcut over Saturn’s northern pole, enroute to an emergency on the moon Titan, on the non-Earth-side of the planet, it took with it the first two Artemis-class drop ships.

What was to be the first operational deployment of the military’s newest toy, instead became the USSC’s biggest nightmare. Worse, details returning from observatories, satellites, and other operational ships in the area display and describe an event not one observer believes their eyes on.

As the Aldrin passed over Saturn’s north pole, the hexagon previously believed to be a storm, much like the infamous red circle on Jupiter, turned into the base of some kind of hexagon-shaped box that formed around the Aldrin before filling with a purplish cloud. When the cloud cleared, the Aldrin was gone.

The USSC eggheads are still trying to come up with a theory to explain what the observers and camera systems recorded. Some say the ship’s destroyed. Others say the ship’s moved somewhere else. Either way, they’re lacking evidence to support either theory as no trace remains of the Aldrin within the Sol System.

In the meantime, USSC has twenty-four hours to come up with a way to explain to SOCOM how its newest assets are lost in space.

Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

_____________________
Note:
I will avoid spoilers here and request that any comments remain spoiler free as well.
_____________________

The Russian scifi novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky is one of those books that kept showing up on lists of recommended books but I kept putting it off for some reason. Recently, it kept showing up in references and cross-references so I finally decided to pick it up and read it.

When dealing with non-English scifi, there’s always the question of which version or translation should you read. Luckily for me, I found and discuss here is the 2012 Olena Bormashenko English translation which Boris refers to in his “Afterword” as “completely restored and returned to the author’s version” (209).

Roadside Picnic is about the aftermath of alien visits to Earth and what happens as people try to make sense of the things that get left behind after they leave. The title and concept is best described by one of the characters:

A picnic. Imagine: a forest, a country road, a meadow. A car pulls off the road into the meadow and unloads young men, bottles, picnic baskets, girls, transistor radios, cameras… A fire is lit, tents are pitched, music is played. And in the morning they leave. The animals, birds, and insects that were watching the whole night in horror crawl out of their shelters. And what do they see? An oil spill, a gasoline puddle, old spark plugs and oil filters strewn about… Scattered rags, burnt-out bulbs, someone has dropped a monkey wrench. The wheels have tracked mud from some godforsaken swamp… and of course, there are remains for the campfire, apple cores, candy wrappers, tins, bottles, someone’s handkerchief, someone’s penknife, old ragged newspapers, coins, wilted flowers from another meadow… (131-2).

Of course, in this description, the aliens are the picnickers and the humans are the ants.

Specifically, Roadside Picnic follows the story of Red Schuhart, a stalker, who goes intot he visitation zones and brings back artifacts to sell. The story is told over a sequence of four period’s of Red’s life and primarily deals with the actions and consequences of messing with things we don’t understand.

Other themes that stick out are: The irony of jobs and statuses. When Red works for scientific institutes, he’s a hero and paid employee; when he works for the benefit of his own family, he’s a criminal and punished. Mutations and the dead returned to life, but not in the zombie and monster sense, and the impact on the families involved And the moral dilemma faced by those who recover the artifacts weighed against the knowledge that they might be used for weapons.

This book should definitely be on your must read list if you’re a scifi fan, post-apocalyptic/dystopian fan, or have an interest in scifi that doesn’t originate from U.S. and U.K. origins. The fact that this book, published in the Soviet era of Russia, has messages for our modern world, should push this one closer to the top of your to-be-read list.

_____________________
Note:
I again request that any comments remain spoiler free.
_____________________

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

_____________________
Note:
I will avoid spoilers here and request that any comments remain spoiler free as well.
_____________________

I’ve always been a fan of monster movies, especially ones with the giant monsters sometimes referred to as kaiju. So I’m always looking for new movies and even sequels in this subgenre.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (GKotM) has been on my watch wishlist since I first saw the preview during my viewing of Avengers: Endgame. My only regret in watching this one was not getting a chance to see it on the big screen when it was out. There’s definitely some scenes that are made to be seen on the big screen, or even better on the IMAX.

It’s a sequel that’s not a sequel in the traditional sense. There are some characters who carry over from the previous film, but the focus of this one is a family who was tragically affected by the events in San Francisco during the first film. However, if you missed the first one, not to worry, a short catch-up clip is offered to demonstrate that this is the same world, but these are different reactions to the events that happened then.

All the big themes of Godzilla and kaiju movies are here. Mankind (read the military) panics and creates a worse situation for the humans. Scientists, who warned of the dire consequences of military action, pull an amazing solution out of their hind quarters to get things back on track. Cities are destroyed. Military vehicles crash. Humans scramble around on the ground as the big fight monsters duke it out in the big fight scenes.

My only real negative on this movie is I’m not a fan of Serj Tankian version of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla”. (Sorry Serj.) I’m just too much a fan of the original song, but even not caring for the song isn’t enough to make this a bad movie.

If you’re a fan of Godzilla, monster movies, or kaiju, this is one you don’t want to miss. Besides, you can’t go wrong with a movie that has a very promising post-credit scene, credits paying tribute to the creators of Godzilla, and listing Godzilla, Ghidorah, and Rodan in the credits as playing “himself” and Mothra as playing “herself”.

_____________________
Note:
I again request that any comments remain spoiler free.
_____________________