Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Aliens Overboard - Flash Fiction

Here's a sample from my Kosmosflot universe, a flash fiction entitled:

by Viktor Kuprin

After the battle at Attalus III was lost, we retreated with the Tsoor flotilla. Wreckage streamed off the alien ships as we made the mind-wrenching transition into S-space. I closed my eyes, praying that our cruiser wouldn’t shake itself apart.

It was only a micro-jump, just far enough to escape the attacking Helgrammites. The Tsoor group-leader didn’t believe our damaged ships could survive an extended flight. He or it or whatever was right. Three bulkheads ruptured when we re-entered normal space. I hoped no one was in them.

A bridge officer called out that we had suffered 40 percent casualties and 60 percent of our systems were red-lined. He had to shout – all intraship comm was offline.

The tech seated beside me yelled, “What are they doing? Captain!” I shouldn’t have, but I and everyone else looked away from our consoles and glanced at the main viewer.

It was one of the Tsoor ships, still surrounded by St. Elmo’s fire. Without waiting for the warp flux to dissipate, our alien allies had sent a repair team out onto their hull. They looked like four jellyfish in bubble-domed vac suits as they struggled on a safety tether. Insane! Yes, Tsoor biology is very different than ours. Even so, I knew they weren’t immune from electrocution or intense radiation. What could kill us was lethal to them, too.

“They’re desperate to send a damage-control team out like that,” said the captain. He nodded toward the chief-of-the-ship. “Send a runner to engineering. We’ve … ” The Tsoor ship lurched off the screen when an entire section of its hull exploded. We watched in silence as the four aliens were thrown into space. They flashed past our ship, tumbling and spinning on the now-useless tether.

The captain stood and shouted, “Man overboard protocol! Full retros!” He turned to face me. “Can we launch a cutter?”

The launch tubes were clear and operational. “Yes, sir.”

“Take Kuzmenko with you. Go!”

Our inertia was great, and the cutter’s engines burned at full thrust for over an hour before we actually started moving toward the alien cast-offs. No one knew how much atmosphere their vac suits carried.

Kuzmenko and I stood in the open hatch, and shot a line toward the drifting aliens. A tentacle-like arm caught it, and gave a yank.

The alien farthest away raised one of its tentacles. It held some kind of metallic tool, a small blade. With a single motion, it slashed the line and pushed off from its three companions.

“What in bloody hell is it doing?” I cried. The first Tsoor grasped its way into the airlock. I pulled them inside.

Kuzmenko pointed toward the drifting alien. “That one wants to die. Now that won’t do.” He keyed his suit’s propulsion and launched himself into space. The alien struggled briefly, but Kuzmenko was stronger.

We never learned exactly why that Tsoor went suicidal. Warrior’s honor, shock, or grief … who knows? There was no translator or dictionary onboard the cutter. The four aliens couldn’t tell us.

Nonetheless, by the end of the day, every Tsoor in the flotilla knew and honored the name Kuzmenko.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

CIS Destroyer Starship, Top 10 Movies, Samson vs. The Vampire Women, and Our 2nd SF Quiz

Privyet Kosmonati,

At the risk of being labeled a “beanie-wearing fan with a SF hardware fetish” as some wags have recently described lovers of classic science fiction, the next segment of my Kosmosflot universe is about a starship, the Provorny (Agile) class destroyer that will be spotlighted in my first collection of stories. Secure your helmet, activate your oxygen generator, and here we go:

Kosmosflot Universe: Starship Destroyer

The Commonwealth of Independent Stars, the CIS, maintains a huge starship navy. It’s based on an extension of army-air force traditions, unlike the too-many-to-count wet navy versions so popular today. I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of so many modern space operas reading like Horatio Hornblower or Mutiny on the Bounty. I, too, enjoy a good sea-faring yarn, but not all over the entire universe, please.

One conflict that I hope to explore in Kosmosflot is between the advocates for the big battlewagons versus the more economically-minded proponents of smaller, faster starships. And note that I said smaller starships, not fighters. I’m not going to revisit Top Gun or the carriers versus capital ship arguments per se. I’ve made the definite decision that small fighters aren’t going to be survivable in deep-space combat, for lack of power and weapons capability. Small starships like gunboats, frigates, and destroyers will be viable. Yes, fighters will have a place for in-system defense, but even so, they’re going to be considered suicidal at best.

As for the Povorny-class destroyer, automation greatly reduces the crew requirements to about 30-to-35 able-bodied spacemen and spacewomen. And, following the Russian military model that is prevalent in Kosmosflot, the crew is officer-heavy, including many warrant officers, the “Praporshchiki.” Technical and engineering tasks are done by officers, not enlisted men like in the US armed forces.

Here are some of the specifications for CIS DD-6941, code name Meineke Draken, “Little Dragon”:

Construction: Dustri Starship Production Complex
Age of Vessel: 75 years
Originally designated RD-6941, Recon-Destroyer, redesignated DD after refit
Tonnage: 5,000 tons
Crew: 33
Primary Powerplants: 2 5000 megawatt Cold Fusion Reactors
Secondary Powerplants: 2 1000 megawatt Cold Fusion Reactors
FTL Drive: Astronian Class-50 Quantum Vacuum Cylinder
Range: 50 light years per transition
Thurster Drive: Two Kuznetsov 6G Standard Engines
Anti-Grav Capability: Three Active/Passive Generators
Endurance: 120 days normal, 180 days restricted
Armaments: 4 35-centimeter 5000 megawatt Luztron laser
Dual missile bays
Defense Systems: N-2 Class Force Field keyed on FTL Drive; Advanced Armor Hull; Advanced Stealth EM Complex

This Little Dragon has a sphere-shaped main hull, with a short-and-straight boom connecting it to a boxy secondary hull. Tin cans like this are cheap to produce (compared to big battlewagons), and are fast and small enough to be stealthy when they employ countermeasures (or hide behind the nearest asteroid!). Destroyers have enough endurance and punch to undertake solitary missions, and are always on-call as escorts for fleet and convoy duty. DD-6941 is an old ship and saw action in the Muj War (2480-2490), and later did deep-space exploration in the Genex Zone. It went into the Inactive Reserve Fleet in 2496, and was refitted, updated, and rechristened when more bad things started happening in “our” part of the galaxy. In the next blog I’ll review the Astronian alien-technology FTL drive and its tie-in to the communictions and force field systems that are widely used in the CIS Space Army.

Captain Kosmos’ Top Ten Favorites List of SF and Horror Films

Last time I listed my Top Ten Guilty Pleasures in SF & Horror Films. Let’s go to the other end of the scale: Captain Kosmos’ Top Ten Favorites List of SF and Horror Films, the best of the best:

1. Island of Lost Souls (1937)
2. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
3. The War of the Worlds (1953)
4. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
5. Forbidden Planet (1956)
6. Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1963)
7. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
8. Soylent Green (1973)
9. Blade Runner (1983)
10. Solaris (2003)

Your comments and your own Top Ten choices are welcome in the comments section.

A Guility Pleasure Favorite: Santo!

Nightmare Theater was central Indiana’s favorite horror and SF movie show in the 60s and early 70s, hosted by the beloved vampire Sammy Terry. Every week, kids all over the Hoosier state would check the Sunday edition of the Indianapolis Star TV guide to see what film Sammy would be featuring on his next program, usually broadcast Saturday evenings at 10 p.m. During the late 60s, about two dozen Mexican horror films made their way into Sammy’s dungeon. They were imported and dubbed by producer K. Gordon Murray, better known for his imported kiddie matinee films. I remember watching Brainiac, The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy, and the Vampire Nostradamus. But the best of these south-of-the-border monster movies was the Samson series.

Known as “El Santo” in Mexico, this silver-masked superhero was also a championship wrestler, drove a hot little sports car, and was always battling supernatural fiends. And like so many dubbed films, they were often unintentionally hilarious. My favorite, Samson vs. The Vampire Women, is a perfect example.

The greatest scene in the movie would make Hulk Hogan (or Indiana’s famous Dick the Bruiser) rightly proud. In the middle of the film, Samson takes time off from his investigation of seductive, blood-sucking vampire women to wrestle “The Black Mask.” He doesn’t know that the real Black Mask has been cold-cocked by one of the vampire women’s ghouls, and that he’ll actually be facing a super-strength killer in the ring. When the match starts, the imposter Black Mask attacks Samson in a berserker frenzy, pommeling him with non-stop blows and karate chops. It looks bad for Samson, but he survives the first round, and is able to regain his strength during the break.

The second and final round is the film’s greatest, most memorable scene. The bogus Black Mask puts Samson into a back-breaker hold, and attempts to remove his silver mask. The Mexican crowd chants (in Spanish) SANTO! SANTO! SANTO! And in a quick reversal, Samson is able to regain control of his crazed opponent. He rips off the Black Mask’s headgear to reveal he has been fighting a WEREWOLF! And, man, is this werewolf one pissed-off lycanthrope! Samson staggers back in shock, and the hairy-faced monster snarls and roars at the panicking audience. The wrestling fans quickly decide that a foaming-at-the-mouth, mad-as-hell werewolf was not what they paid to see, and a mad stampede to the arena exits ensues.

Next, the crazed werewolf bashes the poor referee unconscious, then other wrestlers start jumping into the ring to help Samson subdue the monster. The hairy brute makes short work of them, too, and soon the ring is piled up with bodies! It’s reminiscent of the Three Stooges film where Curly becomes homicidal when he hears Pop Goes The Weasel. Then the arena’s security policemen join in, but this werewolf won’t quit! It attempts to bash and lash the oncoming squad of Mexico City’s finest. Only a volley of pistol fire finally compels the werewolf to transform into a bat (I guess he was a Mexican werewolf/vampire hybrid), and it flaps its way to escape.

Whenever Samson vs. The Vampire Women was shown on Nightmare Theater, my school buddies and I would get together, open a big can of Charle’s Potato Chips, and have a great time cheering Samson on to victory. We had never seen anything as bizarre as this superhero/wrestler/monster-fighter character. And despite the hokum, the cheap effects and over-the-top makeup, every now and then the mood and atmosphere in those south-of-the-border horror shows got it right and were, indeed, some very scary entertainment. Especially for a pack of young monster-movie fans on a Saturday night. You can read more about Samson and the other cult film legends from Mexico at the excellent web site:


In the 1970 film COLOSSUS, THE FORBIN PROJECT, and in the original novel by D.F. Jones, the United States builds a supercomputer to control all its nuclear missiles. All the Western world’s strategic weapons are turned over to this system, called Colossus. Its first message after coming online is, “Warning: There is another system.” It’s soon confirmed that the Soviet Union is about to boot up its own super-cyber defense computer named Guardian. The story develops as Colossus and Guardian link up in their own ad hoc point-to-point network, and begin sharing data and computing capacity. America’s chief computer designer, Charles Forbin, soon regrets that he built Colossus without an off switch.

Colossus’s central-processing units were located deep in the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by an inpenetrable moat-barrier of lethal radioactive waste. The quiz question is: Where was Guardian’s computer core located in the USSR? Hint: there are two possible answers, both correct.

The first reader to correctly answer this blog’s quiz will win a copy of THE INVADERS by Keith Laumer, the paperback novel based on the 1967 TV series, one of the Captain’s favorite SF television programs. Please post your answers in the comment section.

Until next time, D’os Vadanya


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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Building a Universe, Guilty Pleasures, Space Angel, and a Quiz


“It was the Russians who explored and colonized the solar system, and then the stars. Fueled by Siberian oil profits, their huge rocket boosters launched from the Baykonur, Plesetsk, and Kapustin Yar cosmodromes. Paralyzed by economic and social collapse, the Americans could only watch as their former rival led the nations of the world into space. And when man unexpectedly made contact with intelligent life from off the earth, the first greeting was spoken in Russian.”

And so begins the introduction to my Kosmosflot science fiction series of stories. Creating a new universe is no mean feat for a writer. Mine is a work in progress, and I will be sharing some views of this new universe here on the Kosmosflot blog. From time to time I may bounce some ideas out to my blog readers and see what works. I hope it may be entertaining and interesting. And I think posting a writer’s blog will reinforce my B-I-C (bum-in-chair) quota for writing stories set in the Kosmosflot universe.


We all have them, even though we are loathe to admit it. Maybe it’s greasy pork rinds, a favorite worn-out pair of jeans, or some strange music that we would never want our friends to know that we enjoy. Here’s Captain Kosmos’ Top Ten Guilty Pleasure List of SF and Horror Films:

1. Samson vs. The Vampire Women (1965)
2. The Day the Earth Froze (1964)
3. Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet (1965)
4. Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969)
5. The Forbidden Zone (1980)
6. Attack of the Mushroom People (1963)
7. The H-Man (1959)
8. Fury of the Wolfman (1970)
9. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
10. Mars Attacks (1997)

In future blogs I’ll fess up and tell you why I love watching these wierd, sometimes awful movies over and over. God help me. To make a feeble attempt to balance my readers’ opinions of me after seeing this list, next time I’ll post (without shame) my Top Ten All-Time Favorite List of Best SF and Horror Films. And I invite you all to send your own list of Guilty Pleasure SF/Horror films in the Comments section.


One of the earliest SF animated series that had an impact on me was Cambria Studios’ SPACE ANGEL. It appeared on Indiana’s WTTV Channel 4 early evening children’s programming in 1962. Cambria’s first series, CLUTCH CARGO, is more widely remembered. You know, “the cartoon where the only thing that moved was the lips.” Clutch never really drew my interest, but when I saw and heard the first scenes from SPACE ANGEL, I was hooked.

Alex Toth, the famous cartoon artist, designed the characters, and produced a TV series that looked very much like a comic book on the screen. Toth would later design SPACE GHOST and worked on other animated characters like JONNY QUEST for Hanna-Barbera. After watching hours of Popeye, Huckleberry Hound, and Crusader Rabbit, seeing the fantastic SF images of SPACE ANGEL knocked my eyes out.

SPACE ANGEL’s rocket ship, The Starduster, was truly beautiful, a classic late 50s/early 60s design, and the interior shots looked like a real cockpit in all its complexity. SPACE ANGEL (Astronaut-Lawman Scott McCloud) would snap the ship’s hand-held throttle forward, and, more often than not, an intriguing space adventure would begin.

Some SPACE ANGEL trivia: Taurus, the ship’s engineer, spoke with a Scottish accent, and was portrayed by the voice of famous character actor Hal Smith, best known as Otis the Drunk on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW.

One of my favorite SPACE ANGEL episodes was when the Starduster encounters what they think is an unexpected meteor swarm, and one “meteor” lodges in the rocket engine exhaust pipe. When Taurus goes EVA to extricate the stuck space rock, he discovers it to be a small, spherical spacecraft. The little alien guy inside pops the top hatch on his sphere-ship as Taurus is working to clear the ship’s engine. Poor Taurus gets zapped by the mean mini-alien’s blaster rifle, again and again. The tale continues as Scott and the Stardust crew assist the uncommunicative alien to rejoin the fleet of sphere ships and return to his home in deep space.

The other most memorable SPACE ANGEL episode was when Taurus is taken prisoner on a world that mimics ancient Roman society, and is forced to pilot a giant gladiator robot in an arena. Giant robots weren’t common in 1962 like they are now, and it was great fun to watch the robo combat.

I wish the entire SPACE ANGEL series would be released on DVD. But until that happens, two episodes are available from
http://www.bijouflix.com/, at this url:



OK, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, here’s the Captain’s first SF-Space-Horror Quiz. The first reader who correctly answers the quiz will win one copy of THEY CAME FROM PLANET MANGA from TOKYOPOP, a $7.99 value Japanese-style manga comic book of preview stories. And the first question is:

In the classic SF film ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS (Paramount Pictures - 1964), Astronaut Kit Draper (Paul Mantee) is forced to eject from the Mars Gravity Probe 1 mothership, and makes an unexpected first landing on the Red Planet. Following the early 1960s tradition of astronauts naming their space capsules, what was the name of Draper’s landing craft?

Please post your answers in the comments area.

That’s enough for the first shot here on Kosmosflot.
D’os Vadanya.


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