Thursday, 30 August 2012

Crowd Sourced

Another cinema, another senseless urban mass-killing. When will it stop, the folks in town had asked.

The answer? Never.

Gun ownership in the land is entrenched. It's a person's right to bear arms. It's IN the Constitution, dummy. Don't beat yourself over it!

But these are modern times, right?. Do we still allow people access to powerful weapons like the semi-automatics?

It's not the guns that kill, stupid. It's the people.... so goes the argument. Meanwhile, people continue to die in the most innocent and unexpected ways.

Ok, so it is going to happen again. Another city, another mad man. Another cinema maybe. Or restaurant. Or supermarket. How about an office? School, more likely.


Bad press, that's what the arms manufacturers will continue to get. We have to do something about it, they say.

Meanwhile, more bad press. An infantry unit in Afghanistan has just shot dead a whole village of locals. Women and children included.

The shit is going to hit the fan on this one, says one weapon company CEO.

Hmm, an opportunity, says another.


Stress - that common enemy of soldiers. They make them do the darnest things. Kill civilians; kill their own; kill themselves.

Let's take that stress away.

What? Stop war?

No, don't kid. We're just one Fortune 500 company.

Then what?

De-weaponise them.

Huh? But we sell weapons!

Decisions lead to stress, stress leads to wrong decisions, more deaths. Wrongful deaths.

That's rather cryptic. Care to explain?

Sure. We split that decision.

What??? That's no explanation!


In the lab, the designers end a meeting. All smiles around. What a simple solution! they all agree, patting each other on the back. Semi. Auto. And now, 'Team'.


In the field, the soldiers reach another village. It's been a long dusty trek. The soldiers are weary. More insurgents to hunt, more houses to search, and more villagers to suspect.

The squad leader stops his troop. He whispers into his intercom. "Switch to Team now", he commands. Click. Click, then another, and another.

The troop enters the village, weapons poised, all clicked. It will take more than one soldier to decide to massacre a village. Impotent, the troop commander muses, but for public relations, we'll play it safe. Much better to watch out for IEDs, he mused, as he scanned the banks of the roads for tell-tale signs. He keeps his hand on his Army-issued Glock.


It's Saturday night, the car park by the cineplex is full. A white car is the last to arrive.

Its boot is soon popped.

The driver he unzips a bag and takes out a handgun. He then removes two more. One piece he tucks into a shoulder holster, the other into his waist belt. He puts on a green camouflage hunting jacket. It's not chilly outside, but a cinema will soon turn cold.

In Cinema 6, a movie is about to begin. It's about a superhero dressed as a bat. Weird, isn't it? A bat is mostly blind, eats and shits upside down. What a choice! Never mind.

Outside Cinema 6, the driver of the white car dons a mask. He throws the doors open and shouts: "The Joker has arrived!" A quick thinking movie-goer mutters: "Oh fuck, not again!" and dives under his seat. The Joker then opens fire.

Screams. Panic. More shots fired.

A beam of light turns on. "Stop," it says, "Or we'll shoot."

A turret in the ceiling turns. A robot-eye has decided to pop a gun barrel out.

"Shoot him!" someone cries. "Yes, shoot him!" another concurs.
"Shoot him! Shoot him! Shoot him!" as more people chorused.

Five concurrences is all it needs, and the gun turret fires. Five shots, five hits. The gunman is dead. Another Joker is dead. The gun turret retracts, barely smoking. The crowd has spoken.


The next morning, news of the shooting in the cinema are all over the various social media. Two dead, including the gunman. Five movie-goers are hailed as heroes. But more than that they are the first to activate a "crowd-sourced defensive weapon" in a public arena. The incident proved that such a weapon can actually work. Better one dead then a roomful, went the refrain. The unfortunate dead victim is hailed as a hero. Senseless, they say. Thank God not more is hurt, they also say.

In Wall Street, that ceiling weapon's manufacturer stock goes up by quite a few Index points.

No one needed to fire a weapon, yet a weapon was fired and a killer dispensed of.  An "instant" payback from the public not s0 hapless anymore.  Responsibility is diluted, everybody's conscience is clear. It is egalitarian, someone said. Heroism is shared.

Heroes that saved the day and survived.

Everywhere, weapons and security company CEOs are smiling and wringing their hands with glee. A new future has begun.

[An original story by TC Lai. Copyrights reserved. Note that graphic is web-sourced.]

Friday, 8 June 2012

Timeless Adventures in Space

The much anticipated Ridley Scotts' prequel to his Alien franchise opened to cinemas in Singapore yesterday. I will watch it next week and buy the DVD when it comes out too. That will complete my Alien many-logy box-set. In any case, I hope you enjoy my little humorous effort in combining the 1950s covers of Super Sci-fi Magazine with that of the Prometheus movie poster, showing once again, and after all these years, that horrors and unspeakable creatures still exist in space and in our imagination. And oh, RIP Mr Ray Bradbury. Your Illustrated Man was one of my first sci-fi books and I loved the humanity and compassion in your stories. They also informed me for the very first time that even as we dream of an Utopian time when space travel is universal, the sad truth is that space travel, if it happens, will only be afforded by the very rich and privileged. But that doesn't mean we have to stop dreaming or inventing new spaceships. RIP, Mr Magician.

Kudos to this website for the SSF pics:

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Alphabet For Raising 'Fantasy' Girls

Well, this list has turned out pleasantly long. I've kept it to fantasy and not horror. And urban fantasy is included. Watch out also for new names in the coming 'New' or 'Genre' list.

Note: To view the charts clearer, right click over them and choose "Open link in new window." That will allow you to zoom in as well.

Alphabet For Raising 'Fantasy' Boys

Doing this list was quite challenging because it kept growing longer and longer. Also, quite a few good authors have emerged in the last 10 years or so. Should they then be considered here or in a 'New' list? Should the fella who writes heroic fantasy be lumped in that list for 'Genres'?

In any case, the guidelines are the same. If they are popular, have been well peer reviewed and commended and have a strong fan base, then they are in. Many authors who have made it to this list I notice not only write as a profession but they actually persevere at it. An author's success speaks of good prose as well as dedicated output. And fantasy books tend to come in serial form (a trilogy is a piece of cake!), sometimes very long like Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time.

Note: To view the charts clearer, right click over them and choose "Open link in new window." That will allow you to zoom in as well.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Alphabet For Raising 'Sci-Fi' Girls

As mentioned in the previous post, there are many excellent female sci-fi authors out there - even those who dabble in Hard SF. Some, like Doris Lessing, mixes fantasy with sci-fi, like what Heinlein did. And she, like some of the others, besides ideas, have wonderful prose.

I am glad I did this list. Hopefully, more of them will be mentioned in the same breath when people talk about female authors in sci-fi. And I do hope this list encourages more girls and women to read and write sci-fi.

Note: To view the charts clearer, right click over them and choose "Open link in new window." That will allow you to zoom in as well.

Alphabet For Raising 'Sci-Fi' Boys

I did this on a whim after reading that funny updated version of  'Alphabet for Today's Kids' (where 'S' stands for Skype, 'T' for tablet, etc, but 'A' still standing for 'Apple' (iPhone, i.e.) :-).

So I decided to do one for sci-fi and fantasy reading and share the results with my member group:, formerly the Science Fiction Association of Singapore.

(You can send comments to me at: To see the jpeg at a higher resolution, first click on the image and then select "Show original" at bottom left. This will allow you to zoom in. Strangely, it is not in as high a resolution as the original.)

The task of populating an A - Z list of sci-fi writers is not difficult, but there are challenges. For example, who should you include? Do you favour the writers from the Golden Age of Sci-Fi, or should you highlight instead the more popular authors? How about sci-fi from popular movies? Should novelisations be considered an original book? Also, some popular authors tended to write more short stories than novels. My guideline is that it does not matter. As long as a book (or a series of books) is well received, they deserve a mention. One problem is including new authors who have gained a fan following. My own guideline is that any author who has been in the profession for less than 10 years is 'new'. I also measure their output. Of course, you need not write many books to be exceptionally good. In any case, there is an 'Alphabet For Raising New Sci-Fi Kids' in the works. Those (including fantasy/genre authors) not highlighted in this issue will be featured on that list or other pertinent ones.

Why 'Sci-fi for Boys'? Well, male sci-fi authors seem to be better known. Besides Le Guin, there are many other sci-fi lady authors of note. They can be found in 'Alphabet for Raising 'Sci-fi' Girls'. I am not doing this because I am gender biased; just that female sci-fi writers should be celebrated just as much as their male counterparts. They are certainly on par in terms of imagination, writing skill and ability to awe. But boys are boys and girls are girls. Girls should have a list of female sci-fi authors they can look up to and be inspired by too, not just with those who write romance or vampire novels. Of course, they can combine romance with fantasy like what Sharon Shinn does.

Note: To view the charts clearer, right click over them and choose "Open link in new window." That will allow you to zoom in as well.