USA Today: “10 great sites for a ‘Star Trek’ pilgrimage.”

klingon travel guide-coverAs part of the ramp-up leading to the release of Hidden Universe Travel Guides – Star Trek: The Klingon Empire, the nice folks in charge of marketing and publicizing the book had me talk to a number of people. I did a few podcasts (more to come!), of course, particularly some of the higher profile ones within the Star Trek (and Trek fandom) community.

One of the more interesting – and atypical, at least for me – interview opportunities came from journalist Larry Bleiberg and a special feature for USA Today. Rather than just write a simple piece about the Klingon Guide, Larry instead picked my brain for some real-world locations with ties to Star Trek, be they locations referenced in the shows or films or else places that go “above and beyond” so far as celebrating Star Trek in some manner. The result?

USA Today: 10 great sites for a ‘Star Trek‘ pilgrimage

Many thanks to Larry for asking me to help out with this piece, and to Eric and Matthew at Insight Editions for hitting the marketing and publicity pedals hard on this one. It’s been fun!

Oh, and be sure to check out that Klingon Travel Guide. I hear it’s pretty cool. 🙂

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Talking Klingons, Travel Guides, and vacations with Engage: The official Star Trek Podcast!

Again, with the babbling. Again, with people recording the babbling.

engage-logoLast week, I sat down for a brief chit-chat with Jordan Hoffman, host of Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast. During our little jawing session, we talk (mostly) about the recently released Hidden Universe Travel Guides: Star Trek – The Klingon Empire from Insight Editions. Yeah, that book I’ve been pimping, lately. Yes, I’m pimping it again, because it’s pretty and awesome and is filled with unicorns and rainbows and bat’leths, oh my.

klingon travel guide-coverThe truth is that like the Vulcan book, I had a tremendous amount of fun writing the Klingon guide. Yes, it was a lot of work — much more than you might expect, particularly when compared to writing a novel — but the end result is so worth it. Naturally, my text is only a part of the package; it’s the efforts of artists Livio Ramondelli and Peter Markowski that truly make the book sing, to say nothing of the sweat invested by art director Chrissy Kwasnik, designer Ashley Quackenbush, and my editor, Chris Prince. I honestly can’t lavish enough praise on these folks.

Don’t believe me? Come stick this in your ears:

Engage, Episode 55: Hidden Universe Guides with Dayton Ward

jordan-engage

Many thanks to Jordan for having me on to chat Trek and travel guides. Hopefully our paths will cross, however briefly, in a few weeks at the upcoming ginormous Star Trek convention in Las Vegas!

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Happy 30th Anniversary, RoboCop!

Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”

Take one police officer in the wrong place at the wrong time. Add a host of state-of-the art cybernetic and computerized implants, all provided by a soulless, greedy corporation looking to “modernize” an overworked,  undermanned police force while making a tidy profit for themselves as they design a “city of the future.” Give the resulting creation one gigantic mother-fucking hand cannon, and the keys to a police cruiser. What do you get?
robocop-poster

Released on this date in 1987, RoboCop is filmmaker Paul Verheoven’s dark, violent, often satirical, occasionally funny and in ways very prescient action-crime thriller doused with a liberal helping of science fiction.

The plot is pretty simple: Detroit police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is mortally wounded while attempting with his partner to apprehend a gang of nasty bad guys with absolutely no qualms about torturing and killing a cop just for something to do. Declared dead but also still the “property” of Omni Consumer Products, the private corporation that has taken over the Detroit Police Department, Murphy — what remains of him following the shootout with the bad guys — is used as the “organism” part of a “cybernetic organism” project dreamed up by opportunistic junior executive/first-class douche canoe Bob Morton (played by the late, great Miguel Ferrer). Morton’s dream project, “RoboCop,” is intended to give OCP a cheaper, more reliable alternative to the law enforcement droids championed by senior exec Dick Jones (Ronny Cox).

Murphy is to be the prototype. All memories of his past life  are (supposedly) erased, and everything but his brain, face, heart, and other vital organs is replaced by cybernetic technology, turning him into a walking, talking armored tank with the ability to tie directly to any computer database and receive instructions the way you might program your own home computer. He’s also got a pistol the size of a damned baseball bat, that shoots like a Gatling gun and is stored inside his cybernetic leg. In short order, the new cyborg is given to the Detroit Police Department and he takes to the streets, and it doesn’t take RoboCop to strike fear into the hearts of evildoers everywhere and become the hero of a city beleaguered by crime. Everybody’s happy: citizens, the police force, and OCP.

Everything’s awesome until he runs into one of the bad guys who “killed” him, and his memories start to come back.

Then, shit gets real.

Thirty years after its initial release, RoboCop is still one of the absolute best science fiction films to come out of the 1980s. Though things like technology are of course dated by today’s standards, it’s the story — including peeks at the future of news and “infotainment” programming, the relentless quest for corporate profits at the expense of everything else including the people who provide those profits,  the bitter view of the military industrial complex — that still holds up. In typical 1980s/1990s Verheoven style, the humor here is dark…I mean, dark, yo.

Peter Weller is perfect as Alex Murphy and his cybernetic alter ego, struggling to hang onto those few vestiges of humanity that haven’t (yet?) been stripped from him. Nancy Allen is criminally underused as Murphy’s partner, Anne Lewis, and Ronny Cox and Miguel Ferrer are ruthless as the OCP execs who want to cash in at any cost. But it’s Kurtwood Smith who steals every single damned scene he’s in, playing evil-as-fuck Clarence Boddicker with unrestrained relish. It’s Boddicker who leads the murder of Alex Murphy, including taking the kill shot, and once Murphy realizes who and what he is and how he got here, you just know these two are going to clash like Godzilla and King Kong. For my money, Smith’s portrayal cemented Boddicker as one of the all-time great screen villains.

boddicker-grenade

The idea of marrying mechanical implants to a living being was already the stuff of SF film and literature well before RoboCop, of course. One of the more recent and popular manifestations of this trope had come along 15 or so years earlier, and also featured an unwitting test subject chosen by chance or fate to be “augmented” by cybernetic technology: Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man. Several themes hinted at or explored in RoboCop, particularly with respect to Murphy being a “tool of the state” and wondering if he can retain any of his humanity — if he is in fact more than the sum of his parts — are also found in early episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man as well as the novel on which that series is based, 1972’s Cyborg by Martin Caidin.

RoboCop was a critical and commercial success, spawning two feature film sequels as well as a TV series, a TV mini-series, and (incredibly enough) not one but two animated series…precisely none of which are anywhere as good as the first movie. It’s also been successful in the merchandising arena, including toys and games as well as a run of comic stories from two different publishers. 2014 brought with it an inevitable remake, which isn’t quite as bad as some people would have you believe while still coming nowhere close to holding a candle to the original. I recommend watching it at least once so you can see what they were trying to do, and how they brought some interesting twists while still (at times, anyway) somehow managing to completely miss what makes the original the enduring classic it is.

But, then you should definitely go back and watch this one, because Hell. Yeah. As Clarence Boddicker might say, this flick is “state of the art bang-bang.”

Posted in fandom, movies, nerdity, tributes | 3 Comments

ReWard: “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.”

In one of the…let’s see, three, four, carry the one…six bazillion Facebook threads or updates I post, or the ones I visit, the topic of my personal writing “rules” came up. I was reminded of an “Ask Dayton” question I answered last year that touched on this very thing. On that occasion, I was asked about my “10 Commandments” of writing. I was also asked about my thoughts about such rules for existing in and moving through a fandom community, but the bulk of my long, bloated, meandering answer to the question was focused on the writing “rules” I was dreaming up.

After the more recent Facebook conversation, I dug up that post from last year, and tweaked the “Commandments” I had devised back then. For this go-around, I’ve removed the parts about “fandom” rules, because now I’m thinking they deserve their own post, too. We’ll see about that.

(NOTE: I thought about cleaning up the language a bit, since this was originally written for my curmudgeonly “Ask Dayton” persona, but I decided to leave it as is. You’ve been warned.)

So, without further ado, let’s revisit “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.”

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Posted in lists, ReWard | 1 Comment

Star Trek: The Klingon Empire

klingon travel guide-coverHidden Universe Travel Guides

Explore the homeworld and vast dominion of Star Trek’s most formidable race, the Klingons, in this thrilling travel guide.

nuqneH! Bored of standard vacations to places like Risa or Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet? Want to discover a unique and ancient culture not bound by standard niceties and social mores? Then Qo’noS and the vast Klingon Empire are for you! This one-of-a-kind travel guide will give you all the information you need to plan, enjoy, and survive your trip to the very heart of Klingon territory, from an overview of Klingon history to tips on what to wear (fur and leather are very popular) to a glossary of important phrases like “mamI’ DaneH’a’? nItebHa’ mamI’ DaneH’a’?” (Would you like to dance with me?).

Every major location in the Klingon Empire is covered in-depth, with tips on where to eat (you’ve not lived until you’ve eaten Klingon skull stew), how best to get to and from your chosen destination, and what to do if you find yourself challenged to a bat’leth battle to the death. Locations include the homeworld Qo’noS and its famous locales such as the First City, the Caves of No’mat the Hamar Mountains, and the city of Krennla, plus neighboring moons Corvix and Praxis, and many, many more must-see areas. The book also features exclusive maps and illustrations that bring to life the Klingon Empire and form the perfect reference guide for any visitor. So what are you waiting for? Qapla’!

Trade Paperback and e-Book from Amazon.com
Trade Paperback and e-Book from Barnes & Noble
Trade Paperback and e-Book from Books-A-Million

(Note: the e-Book version is slated to be available beginning on August 1st.)


jerk-newbook

As with the Vulcan Travel Guide, writing this book was such incredible fun.

Once again, my text greatly benefits from the creative stylings of Insight Editions art director Chrissy Kwasnik, designer Ashley Quackenbush, artists Livio Ramondelli and Peter Markowski, and my editor, Chris Prince. You’ve probably seen some screen grabs of various pages over the past few weeks as we approached the publication date, but they don’t do the actual book the justice it deserves.

Want some more of this action? Check out the special blog post I wrote for Insight:

7 Common Offworlders Questions Klingons Are Tired of Hearing

In addition to providing a permanent home for links to find and order the book, this entry also will serve as the book’s “official” Q&A thread. Those of you who want to chat about the book, feel free to post your questions/etc. to the comments section. Even though it’s not a novel, we’ll observe the normal “rules” for these sorts of pages, and those of you who’ve found this page and perhaps not yet read the book should BEWARE THAT SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

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My Shore Leave 39 schedule!

shore-leave-logoThrough the wonder of scheduled posting, you’re now reading something I wrote late Wednesday night, which was posted while I’m winging my way to Baltimore from Kansas City. Goodness, but technology is nifty. What will they think of next?

Anyway……

So, I’m on my way to Baltimore (and points north) for the annual Shore Leave convention, held as always in Hunt Valley, Maryland, at a hotel which has had three names in as many years. This time around, it’s the Delta Hotels Baltimore Hunt Valley, but it’ll always be the Hunt Valley Inn in my eyes. What’s important, though, is that the hotel is and remains home to one of two conventions to which I most look forward each year. This one is fun because it gives me an opportunity to connect with East Coast-based friends I see only during this frantic weekend. We’ll be cramming a lot of catching up into the three days of con shenanigans. Much of that reuniting will occur in the hotel bar. I mean…..it’s inevitable.

Aside from that, as one of the con’s writer guests, I’ll be doing my share of panel discussions and other mischief throughout the weekend. Want to know where to find me at Shore Leave 39? Here you go:

Continue reading

Posted in appearances, cons, fandom, nerdity, shore leave | 1 Comment

“7 Common Offworlder Questions Klingons Are Tired of Hearing.”

So, you’ve decided to include the Klingon Empire in your summer vacation travel plans. Maybe you’ve even acquired yourself a copy of the brand spankin’ new  Hidden Universe Travel Guides – Star Trek: The Klingon Empire.

What? You haven’t done that last thing? Egads! Read no farther until you can get thee to a purveyor of tomes and lay hands on one of these things, all right? What the hell are you thinking, planning a trip to the Empire without such a helpful, handy reference?

Are you back yet? Okay, then. Where were we? Oh, right. Klingon Empire. Vacation plans. Cool new book. Etc.

There’s always a bit of a learning curve when visiting a strange new world or civilization, amirite? That goes double for a place like the Empire, where the locals have a long history of rejecting outsiders. It’s only recently that Klingons have warmed to the idea of tourists in their midst, but you can bet there are already all sorts of things they’re tired of seeing from offworlders, along with several things they’re damned tired of hearing.

Therefore, in the interest of enhancing your visit to the Klingon Empire, allow me to provide you with some hopefully helpful tips which might spare you the dreaded “Klingon Eyeroll.”

Insight Editions:
Traveling to the Klingon Empire?
Beware These 7 Common Offworlders Questions
Klingons Are Tired of Hearing

All righty, then. I’ve given you the information. The rest is up to you. Happy traveling, and Qapla’!

Posted in books, guest blogging, insight editions, trek, writing | 2 Comments

The somewhat tardy June writing wrap-up.

all-the-wordsWait. It’s already July 5th? What happened to the first four days?

Hell. What happened to June?

Oh, it was that blur in my mirrors.

June wasn’t quite as hectic as May, but I still ended up spinning several plates. I’ll be honest, in that sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming to juggle multiple projects. There are times when I can’t decide what to work on, or which one deserves heightened attention, and so on. Sure, deadlines help with that, but what if you have more than one thing due around the same time? I can’t speak for others, but I tend to work at knocking out the smaller, less complicated stuff first before turning my full attention to the bigger target in my sights. That approach works more than it doesn’t. Your mileage may vary.

So, what did all of that juggling get me during June? Have a look at the monthly rundown:

Continue reading

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Talking Star Trek’s “Arena” with the Enterprising Individuals podcast!

ei-12So, I babbled again, and someone saw fit to record it for future listening and mockery. Call it my Independence Day gift to you.

This time around, I crash the party at the Enterprising Individuals podcast, where “host Ka1iban and a special guest probe deep into a selected episode from the Star Trek canon.”

Seems pretty simple, right? Of course I’m going to do my best to screw it up, somehow.

Host Aaron Coker invited me to sit down and talk Trek with him quite a while back. We actually recorded this episode back in mid-January, but the show records many episodes in succession and then parses them out over the course of several months. I’d almost forgotten about this one, but don’t take it personally, Aaron; I can’t tell you what I had for dinner last night.

The idea is that a given Star Trek episode isn’t reviewed or recapped so much as it is discussed, to we end up talking themes, favorite moments, lasting impact, and so on. When Aaron approached me about coming on the show, he asked me for five episodes I really wanted to talk about, and I gave him five options (not all from the original series, so relax, newer Trek fans).

But first up? One of my early and lasting favorites: “Arena,” from the original series’ first season.

Enterprising Individuals: “Arena” with Dayton Ward

Yes, the one with the Gorn. The one with the big green lizard. The one with the big green rubber lizard costume. The one where Kirk beats the Gorn with the bamboo cannon.

KirkGorn-Sequel

Yes, it hasn’t aged as well as some of the other Star Trek tales, but there’s a timeless, hokey charm that’s impossible to deny. As we discuss on the podcast, this is one of those episodes I’ve loved since childhood, and is one I always hoped was on when I came home from school for the daily Star Trek rerun on my fuzzy black and white TV. Once you get past the rubber lizard suit and what is perhaps one of the all-time worst examples of hand-to-hand combat ever committed to film, there’s a real message and story here, and much to appreciate even after all these years. It occupies a permanent spot in my top favorite original series episodes.

ingenuity

Many thanks to Aaron for hosting what ended up being a fun, entertaining discussion as we revisited this classic slice of Star Trek.

Posted in fandom, interviews, nerdity, podcasts, trek | Leave a comment

Happy 45th Anniversary, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes!

Tonight we have seen the birth of the planet of the apes!

Oh, damn. It’s on now.

In the “far off future” of 1991, people now live in what looks to be an oppresssive, militaristic society. Law enforcement (dressed in the finest stormtrooper fashions) is visible on every street corner, and endless directives and warnings are issued from faceless announcers as the civilian populace goes about its daily affairs. What’s missing? Cats and dogs, all of which have died off as the result of a mysterious disease brought back from a space probe. This little bit of misfortune, of course, was foretold by chimpanzees Cornelius and Zira in the previous film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, though it’s happened far more quickly than they indicated. So too has mankind’s desire to replace their little lost subservient quadrupeds, and they’ve turned to domesticating primates. By 1991, simians are a subclass; a slave race. However, is the collective intelligence of the apes on the rise?

Could be.

So, what happens? Add one intelligent, speaking chimpanzee to the mix–himself the offspring of Cornelius and Zira–to stir up some shit. Before you know it, the apes are pissed and they’re not gonna take it anymore, and so that’s humanity’s ass. Cue revolt.

Whoops.

Released on this date in 1972, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes brings almost full circle the story begun in 1968’s Planet of the Apes. This third sequel to that classic film shows–at least to some degree–what’s promised in its title and tagline. As for Conquest being “the most awesome spectacle in the annals of science fiction,” I think we all can agree this was a bit of overreach from the marketing folks (and, we all know that honor goes to Barbarella, right?).

By the time production kicked into gear on this, the fourth of the Apes films, the cycle of diminishing returns was firmly in place. With each successive movie earning less at the box office, budgets for the next one were reduced accordingly. Therefore, director J. Lee Thompson faced the challenge of convincingly depicting what turns out to be the genesis of the ape uprising hinted at in the previous film, the longterm effects of which are–of course–apparent in the first movie. And, he had to do it on a budget which probably wouldn’t cover the catering bill on a Michael Bay shoot. This was prequel-izing before prequel-izing was rampant, yo!

The first half of the film isn’t the most exciting cinema you’ll ever see, but there’s a deliberate “tightening of the screws” going on as we see Caesar coming to terms with the role of apes in modern society, and deciding that he ain’t playing that game. Once he learns of the death of his friend, Armando (Montalban) at the hands of government officials, watching him slowly yet firmly begin to push the apes around him toward dissent is, oddly enough, satisfying.

A larger budget might’ve allowed for more expansive scenes of turmoil once the apes lose their shit and start tearing up the joint. Still, considering what he was working with, director Thompson does a decent enough job injecting energy and tension into the scenes of ape rebellion which carry the film’s final act. Tight camera angles and deft editing manage–for the most part–to mask the production’s sparse budget, while strong performances from Ricardo Montalban, Don Murray, Severn Darden, Hari Rhodes, and Natalie Trundy (as the chimpanzee Lisa, her third different role in three consecutive Apes outings) help to elevate the material a notch or two above the previous two sequels.

Conquest-CaesarBut, again, it’s Roddy McDowall who carries the film on his stooping shoulders. Starting out as a supporting role in the original Planet of the Apes before moving to top billing in Escape (another actor, David Watson, portrayed Cornelius in the first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes), he dons the ape makeup here for a third time, but for the first time as “Caesar,” the son of Cornelius. As usual, McDowall brings a warmth and–dare we say it–“humanity” to the role, which is sort of important now, as by this point in the series we’re all firmly rooting for the apes to kick humanity right in its collective taint. He would reprise the role of Caesar in the fifth and final of the original films, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, before going on to play yet another chimpanzee, Galen, in the 1974 live-action Planet of the Apes television series.

Moving past the original Planet of the Apes, which (so far as I’m concerned) stands apart from everything which came after it, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is actually my favorite of the Apes sequels. Like a lot of folks, I’ve always wanted to see what comes next. Obviously, we know what ultimately happens, but that still leaves plenty of room for a whole assload of stories set between the events of this film and the next one. Some of that territory has been explored, mostly in comics published by three different companies in sporadic fashion over the past 40-odd years.

And, lest we forget, it’s Conquest that provided much inspiration for the recent reboot Apes films: 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the ApesDawn of the Planet of the Apes from 2014, and War for the Planet of the Apes, which opens on July 14th. Indeed, you can also see more than a bit of Battle DNA in the latter two filmsespecially War, if the trailers are to be believed.

Happy 45th, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

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