Transformers Haiku Returns! HEAD ON!

hm19Last summer, I wrote a haiku for each episode of the original Generation One Transformers series that aired in the United States. (Plus five based on the ’86 movie.) I had a great time with this little project. There were many episodes I had never seen, though I’ve owned the series for years. As a big Transformers guy, I needed to see them all.

After the release of my third book, I rewarded myself by picking up the complete Japanese Transformers collection on DVD. This set includes three Transformers shows that never aired on American shores: The Headmasters, Masterforce, and Victory. Never having watched a single episode, I’ve really been having fun with the first show, The Headmasters, and bringing back the haikus seemed like a no-brainer.

A few thoughts on The Headmasters 2/3 of the way in:

The quality of these DVDs isn’t as good as that of the G1 show. It looks like Shout Factory didn’t restore it in any way. Fuzz and scratches are apparent throughout, and the colors seem washed out and bland. The quality of the screenshots for the haikus has taken a hit, as a result. It’s certainly watchable, but hard to ignore.

hm01I’m happy that Titans Return was so heavily based on characters featured in The Headmasters. I’m more of an early G1 fan, and don’t have much interest in the often-weird(wolf) toys from 1987 and beyond. Watching this show has changed that for me, just as it must have done for Japanese kids in the late 1980s. Thankfully, I’ve got many of these characters in their inexpensive Titans Return forms. Hopefully, they’ll remake the Horrorcons and Autobot Targetmasters in Power of the Primes!

The American G1 show was tame, due to the standards imposed on kids’ TV at the time. The Headmasters is brutal in contrast. Characters die horribly – often. The Decepticons blow up entire planets. They straight up murder human-like aliens onscreen. One particular episode stands out. A civilian Transformer gets whipped (not beat up, WHIPPED), mind-controlled, and implanted with a bomb. He’s sent on a suicide run and one of the Autobots, who was the poor guy’s friend, has to kill him to save everyone else. It was really shocking to see this in a cartoon intended for kids! Maybe not as shocking as seeing Optimus Prime die (glad I never saw that as a kid), but still shocking.

The Headmasters has been a fun series to watch. There are some cheesy slapstick moments, and Daniel and Wheelie are still around, but the good outweighs the bad for the most part. I’m not as excited for Masterforce, as I’ve heard it’s not as good. But Victory will surely be better. Follow me on Twitter for a daily dose of Japanese G1 in haiku form, and see the whole collection here!



Listen to Periphery, Narrated!

Post-place-holderI am a big fan of the Twilight Zone television series. I’m not sure when I first watched the show, but I have an early memory of reading a book with several short stories based on episodes of the show. I watched them off and on for years, and when I got a DVR I filled it up with episodes. I even used certain episodes in my social studies lessons when I taught fifth grade. I just love the show!

I’ve been a longtime listener to The Twilight Zone podcast, hosted by Tom Eliot. Last summer, Tom announced a contest, where a listener-submitted story would be narrated for the 100th episode. The contest is what inspired me to write “Periphery”. It was my attempt at writing a Twilight Zone episode of my own.

I’m happy to announce that “Periphery” is one of two stories that was selected for narration! Tom does an amazing job of narration, and hearing his wonderful voice tell my story was a fantastic experience. You can check out this episode at the link  below, and I’d encourage you to check out the rest of the episodes if you are a fan of the show.

Episode 100: Listener Stories


New Short Story Available on Kindle!

peripheryI know, I know… where’s the NaNoWriMo book, Marc? Well, I was making really great progress with the second revisions. Then I reached a spot where I had sort of written myself into a corner. It was a boring part to write, and I am certain it would have been boring to read, too. So, I decided to make a significant change to the middle third of the story. That meant a major rewrite of about 8,000 words or so. I was kinda bummed by this and it got very, very easy to put it off.

However, I just finished reading Stephen King’s “On Writing”, and one suggestion he has for getting stuck is to stop and work on something totally different. The Thing from the Drive-in is a funny, fast paced sci-fi adventure. What sort of writing would be  a good palette cleanser?

How about a tense, eerie story about a man who keeps seeing bugs in his peripheral vision?

“Periphery” was an absolute joy to write. I had to flex a totally different set of muscles, for sure. It’s just under 5,000 words, and is available for 99 cents on Amazon for Kindle and most reading devices. Check it out and let me know what you think!


NaNoWriMO 2016 – Final Update

book-textbookNovember has come and gone, and thus NaNoWriMo 2016 has also come to an end. I started the month with the beginning of what I thought would be a short story. I set a goal to make it a novella by the end of the month. It’s not quite there yet, but after connecting the dots here and there, and taking the ending beyond the bare bones, I do indeed have something publishable on my hands.

This year, I kept track of my output in a Google Sheet. I wrote 21 out of the 30 days in November. I began with 4,640 words, and ended with 26,078 just before midnight on December 1. That is 4,000 words short of my original goal, but I don’t mind that at all. You can see my progress in the nifty chart below. I love data!

So what next? I did write just a bit on December 1, just to get a bit closer to the end. Now, I’m in the middle of taking a few weeks off. I plan to come back to it over the holiday break, finish it up, and get the edits and such going in order to publish as an ebook by February. I have a con appearance coming up in March, and I would like to get physical copies ready for that if possible.

Here’s a final excerpt from the story, which I’ve decided to call “The Thing from the Drive In”. Enjoy!

Then, a deep bass rumble filled the air, and a spiraling burst of light shot out of the marble, heading over my shoulder. I turned as the dazzling lights zipped in an arc across all the rows of parked cars. On the movie screen, the scene changed, showing a closeup of the Thing that Time Forgot. The Thing opened its gigantic maw, filled with huge, razor sharp teeth. The horn on its snout glowed with radioactive green flame. It began to roar just as the blast of light from the marble hit the screen. Thousands of rainbow colored sparks exploded from the surface of the screen, raining down over the first few rows of cars. The Thing let forth a scream of primal fury, but this time, the sound wasn’t coming from the tinny speakers next to the cars. This time, the roar was coming from the screen itself.




NaNoWriMo 2016 – First Update

writing-1209121_960_720I wrote most of the words in my two books during NaNoWriMo, the first in 2013-2014, the second last year. This year, I am continuing the tradition. This time around, I’m actually writing fiction for NaNoWriMo, which his more appropriate since it is supposed to be about writing a novel, after all. I’m finishing up a fun tale I started in April. On Halloween, it sat at 4,640 words, and now, before I begin writing today, the 12th, I’m at 9,425 total words. My goal is to hit 30,000 words by the end of the month. That is short of a novel, in the novella range, I guess, but if the story fits in that space, it fits.

Here’s an excerpt from the new story.

My bed never looked more inviting. I took off my jeans and threw them on the floor, then walked over to the small black and white TV set I got for my birthday and turned the knob. A rerun of one of my favorite episodes of Stellar Warlords was on. It was the perfect thing to fall asleep watching. I didn’t even bother changing into my PJs before turning back the covers and propping myself up on my pillow.

Captain Schattmore of the Spacestar Thunderhawk was stuck on a desert planet with his arch enemy, the Martian Emperor Lar’sonis. Schattmore was one of the coolest heroes in all of science fiction. He was smart as well as strong, and had a predilection for alien women in skimpy outfits. (I wouldn’t mind if my future wife had purple skin and antennae if she was as pretty as Lunetta Ludbaalaup from Galaktika-III.) The head Martian bad guy, Lar’sonis, was a perfect foil to Captain Schattmore. Lar’sonis had four arms ending in claws, a slitlike nose, and enormous glowing red orbs for eyeballs. He wore a suit of high tech armor with all sorts of futuristic gadgets on it.

In this episode, though, aliens had sent these two mortal enemies to a strange planet where they had to fight one another without the benefit of any of their technology. No phason pistols, no communicatrix, no force field armor, nothing. Of course, the planet was full of all sorts of dangerous stuff, like rock slides, a mutant lizard, and atomic solar flares. The Captain and the Martian Emperor had just realized the importance of working together before I slipped off into a deep, dreamless sleep.


Thank You for Your Compliance


Here’s the Pop Culture League Challenge for this week.

Aliens Among Us

“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” –Stephen Hawking

What a fun quote! I decided to treat it as a full on writing prompt. Here’s what I came up with, around 2000 words or so. I’d love to hear what you think! Comment here, or contact me @marcallie on Twitter.


Thank You for Your Compliance

A Short Story by Marc Allie

Alex rolled left, barely dodging a deadly phazon missile. His alien opponent, piloting a saucer-shaped spacecraft, dove past Alex’s tri-rocket warship before breaking away for another attack. Brow furrowed in concentration, Alex jammed his control stick left, then right, before firing off a volley of three laser bursts. The first two projectiles went wide left, but the third hit true. The enemy saucer exploded into a blinding flash of white light. Alex smiled and checked his score at the top of the TV screen. He had almost surpassed his previous record, and still had two lives remaining.

Just as the next wave of aliens began their attack, a knock sounded at the front door. Alex’s mother yelled from the kitchen. “Honey, can you answer that? My hands are all sudsy.” Alex sighed in disappointment, dropping the black and orange joystick on the thick shag carpet before walking over to open the door.

Three people stood on the welcome mat, the bright porch light shining down upon them. Two of them were men, both in black suits and ties. The third figure was a woman with brown hair pulled back into a tight bun. She wore a frilly white blouse with large shoulder pads, and a knee length black skirt. A clipboard was in her hand, while the two men held walkie talkies. The man in the middle, the tallest of the trio, grinned at Alex.

“Alex Guest, I presume?” The man’s smile never wavered as he spoke. Alex nodded, then yelled back into the house for his mother. The four of them stood in uncomfortable silence as Alex’s mother came to the door, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel.

The tall man spoke again. “Ah, you must be Mrs. Guest! It’s so good to meet you both. My name is Agent Johnson. These are my associates: Agent King,” he gestured to the man on his left, who nodded solemnly, “and Agent Lewis.” He smiled widely at the woman, on his right. She smiled back at him, showing almost impossibly white teeth, before they both turned back towards Alex and his mother.  “We’re with the CIA.” Agent Johnson reached into his jacket pocket and produced a laminated white card.

At first Alex couldn’t quite make out the words on the card; they seemed fuzzy, indistinct. He blinked, then the badge came in focus. There was a head shot, name, and a fancy logo. Everything seemed to be in order. It looked exactly like government I.D. badges he had seen in the movies.

“Listen, Mrs. Guest. We are here today to talk to you about a very exciting opportunity for Alex. May we come in?” His mother looked at Alex with a hint of indecision on her face. Then she cleared her throat and invited them inside.

Mrs. Guest quickly ushered the visitors to the overstuffed brown leather couch. She dashed off to the kitchen for refreshments while Alex took a seat in a recliner across from the couch. The wide grins on the tall man and woman never wavered. The shorter man wore no expression at all. All three were staring right at Alex.

Alex took a closer look at the odd trio as they waited for his mother to return. He hadn’t noticed it outside, but all three had waxy, shiny skin. Their eyebrows were very thin, and groomed so smoothly that he couldn’t see any individual hairs. The one called Agent Johnson moved his head left and right, surveying the room without blinking. His eyes came to rest on the wood-grain video computer system in front of the TV.

Johnson spoke as Alex’s mother entered the room bearing a tray of four glasses. “Alex, I see you have been playing computer video games! That one is Stellar Warlords, am I correct?” Alex nodded as his mother gave each guest a glass and a straw. None of the agents even spared her a glance. Agent Johnson continued, eyes still centered on Alex. “Thank you for the refreshment. You are very good at Stellar Warlords, aren’t you, Alex?”

Alex shifted in his seat. “Yeah, I’m not bad. I actually sent my high score in to Computer Games Magazine a few months ago.” Alex reached into a pocket on the recliner and produced a copy of the magazine. He flipped to a well-worn page and pointed. “See, here? I’m one of the top ten players in the United States!”

Agent Johnson didn’t even glance at the magazine before replying. “We are quite aware of your abilities, Alex. In fact, that is why we have come. We are here today to talk to you about a very exciting opportunity. We are offering scholarships to an elite military academy for the best and brightest young video game players across the entire American States.” The tall man was still smiling. Alex wondered if his cheeks were beginning to hurt.

Agent Johnson continued talking to Alex’s mother, giving her details about the scholarship, explaining that skill in video games was an indicator of future potential in military service. Alex listened for a while, but then his attention shifted to Agent King. The short man leaned forward, head turned, watching Agent Lewis take a sip from her straw. Then he grabbed his own glass, and began to take a drink himself. He moved the glass to his mouth before wrapping his lips awkwardly around the straw. His cheeks twitched slightly, but the level of lemonade in the glass never changed.

Alex refocused his attention on Agent Johnson’s conversation with his mother. “Yes, Mrs. Guest, this is a very exciting opportunity. Only the best and brightest have been selected. Alex is in an elite group. And of course there is no expense for you whatsoever. It’s all taken care of by the federal government. All we require is your consent.” As soon as the agent stopped talking, he grinned immediately, his teeth as stunningly bright as those of Agent Lewis. Agent King didn’t share the same odd smile, instead sitting as expressionless as ever.

Agent Lewis moved her hand to her ear and produced a pencil. Alex hadn’t even noticed the pencil before; it must have been stuck in her hair. She placed the pencil on her clipboard, smile never wavering, and spoke for the first time. “We have just a few questions for you before we go. You don’t mind to answer a few questions, do you?” Her voice was saccharine sweet, like a teacher talking to a class of preschoolers.

“No, no, we don’t mind at all,” Alex’s mother said. Alex felt a bit differently. The whole situation struck him as strange. It seemed far-fetched that the CIA was recruiting kids who were good at video games. What was with these weird agents? They seemed like strangers from another country. They reminded Alex of the foreign exchange student that had been in his fourth grade class. He didn’t understand things that everyone else knew, like playing kickball.  These agents didn’t seem to understand how people acted, either. They made Alex nervous.

Agent Lewis spoke in her sing-song voice. “Tell us about the rest of your family. Where is Mr. Guest? Are there any other children?”

His mother didn’t respond immediately, her eyes swelling with tears. Alex spoke up instead. “Dad was a Navy pilot. He, uh, died. In a training accident, two years ago. I’m the only kid, no brothers or sisters.” The entire time Alex spoke, Johnson and Lewis never stopped grinning. Agent King swiveled his entire head to look at his colleagues, then opened and closed his mouth repeatedly. He reminded Alex of a goldfish.

“Very good, very good,” Agent Lewis sang. She scribbled a few notes on her clipboard without looking at it, eyes fixed on Alex. “You probably play Stellar Warlords with your friends, Alex, don’t you? Are any of them as good as you are?” She never blinked. “We’d like to talk to your friends about a very exciting opportunity, also.”

Alex responded as his mother wiped a tear from her cheek. “I take turns playing with my buddy Lou sometimes, sure. Lou beat me a couple times, but never got a score high enough to send in to the magazine.” The female agent scrawled halfheartedly on the clipboard.

“Lou is your friend’s name? Is Lou a male or a female? And where does he/she live?” Alex was taken aback at the odd question. He glanced at his mother, and saw a flicker of unease cross her face. There was something wrong with these people, with this whole situation.

Smiles and silence filled the room. Agent Johnson, still grinning, crossed his legs. One black pant leg came up. Alex could see part of the agent’s leg above his black sock. The leg was pale gray and hairless. A thin green tube ran out from under the sock. Alex watched as the green tube pulsed and quivered. The throbbing green tube made him feel sick to his stomach.

Mrs. Guest stood and spoke, her voice stern and forceful. “Lou is a boy, and he lives next door. Why do you need to know that?” She put her hands on her hips. “What’s with you people? You ask about my poor husband and don’t show a hint of remorse or compassion at his death?” Her eyes got shiny again. She pointed a finger at Agent Johnson. “I’m beginning to think you aren’t really with the CIA at all.” She raised her voice. “Russians, maybe, is that it?” She looked over at her son. “Call the police, Alex, something’s not right here.”

Agent Johnson stood as Alex jumped out of the recliner and ran across the living room. “Mrs. Guest, I think we have everything we need. Thank you for your compliance. We appreciate it very much.” He smiled again, this one bigger than ever. “Let’s thank them for their compliance, agents, shall we?”

Alex rounded the corner, standing next to the phone, as Agent Lewis sang “Thank you for your compliance!” He turned and saw the female agent rise to her feet, the clipboard dropping off her lap. The clipboard wavered like a mirage for a split second, vanishing before it hit the floor.

Agent King and opened his mouth in a round “O” shape. The noise that came forth wasn’t a voice at all. An unearthly warble filled the room, as if a flock of birds had crash landed on a xylophone. The two men stood up as Alex grabbed the phone, jamming 9-1-1. There was no dial tone. The buttons made no noise. Heart pounding in his chest, Alex let go of the phone. It flopped back and forth on the cord.

Mrs. Guest cried out as she turned and ran towards her son. Agent Johnson rotated his head, a bit too far for a human, looking at the shorter agent. “No, no, Agent King, that won’t do. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMPLIANCE! Try it again.” Alex’s mother wrapped her arms around him. He was shaking with fear. He buried his face in his mother’s neck. They held each to each other tightly.

Agent King’s mouth opened again. “Angku oryerk ahmylizz. Angku oyer kahmpliamnzzz. Kahmpliiiaants.”

“Close enough.” Agent Johnson raised his walkie talkie. The air crackled slightly, and the walkie talkie seemed to melt in his hand. It reformed into a metallic spider-like apparatus. Johnson pulled one of the chrome leg-things on the device and a thin beam of green light shot out. The beam touched Mrs. Guest and she was gone. In her place was a cloud of hot, pinkish steam that smelled like burnt bacon. Alex didn’t even have time to cry before another green beam shot out. He, too, disappeared in a burst of steam. In seconds, both clouds dissipated, leaving three things standing alone in the shag-carpeted silence of the living room.

One of the things stuck an appendage down its throat. It coughed a wet, barking cough, then withdrew what now once again appeared to be a human hand. “Thank — you — foryour– com-pli-ant-s,” it said. The tall thing adjusted its teeth and smiled. The three of them walked out, heading to the house next door.






Star Trek Haikus – Now Animated For Your Pleasure

animated05After a few weeks off, I am back in the thick of another Star Trek series. This time, it’s the early 70s Star Trek cartoon. Unlike pretty much every other incarnation of Star Trek, I had never seen an episode of the cartoon until I began watching recently. Overall, I am quite surprised with the quality of the show, though admittedly it does show its age from time to time.

It’s very cool to see some of the best concepts from the original series get revisited. An example would be the Guardian of Forever, from City on the Edge of Forever (the best Star Trek episode ever). The second animated episode, Yesteryear, has Spock use the Guardian to go back in time, visiting his younger self in order to fix a time travel mix-up. Tribbles show up again, as well, and that episode was quite entertaining. I really wish we could have traded a lame 3rd season episode for one of these two stories!

I’ve made some slight changes to the Star Trek Haiku page. All of the Original Series haikus are now in chronological order, in a gallery of their own. The Animated haikus are in a gallery sorted by most recent to oldest, and have their own subpage as well. I will also be posting the haikus on Twitter @marcallie if you are into that sort of thing.

There were only 22 episodes of the Star Trek cartoon produced, so this won’t last nearly as long as the first go round. Still, it should be fun! I’m growing to love Star Trek more and more with every episode I watch. I may need to revisit Star Wars soon before my split loyalties are tilted in favor of the future, rather than that galaxy far, far away…