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So, over on alt. Dark Matter twitter account (@DarkMatter_show) I uploaded the above pic, snapped very early on in the show’s first season.  It’s a beautiful set, beautifully lit, with gorgeous playback displays and…a truly awful star field out the front.  The production purchased it from somewhere in the middle east – and it didn’t come cheap.  It was, I was told, a top of the line star field often used in planetarium shows and displays.  Which would have been great – had I been putting on a planetarium show or display.  On camera though, the stars looked terrible – big and bright and oh-so-fake.  Our attempts to dial them down were less than successful and a consultation of the handy guidebook that accompanied the purchase proved equally problematic given that it was entirely in Farsi.  Despite our eventually securing a translation, the damn star field never quite worked and, in the end, the majority of our looks out the window had to be helped along by VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson and the visual effects department.

When we got our second season pick up, the first thing to go was that pricey star field.  We took a page out of Stargate: Universe’s playbook, replacing it with a simple black curtain studded with tiny lights and tinsel.  At less than a tenth the cost, it looks roughly a thousand times better.

How’s that for behind the scenes trivia?

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Also part of the DarkMatter_show’s twitter feed season 1 flashback were these pics of our cast – back when they were young, oh-so-innocent and, frankly, didn’t know any better.  Jodelle Ferland (FIVE) above, and the boys (Alex Mallri Jr., Roger Cross, and Anthony Lemke) below.

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Anyways, I’ve put a handy little widget in the right sidebar of this blog that will allow you to keep up with the latest twitter developments.  Oh, and before I move on, there was also this –

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First version of the Ferrous Corp guard outfit that was eventually toned down considerably to basic black.

So, hey, amid the prep, post, on-set action, and spinning ideas for season 3, I now have considerably more free time on my hands and have returned to my reading ways.  Here are a couple of recommendations I’m throwing your way:

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Beyond Redemption By Michael R. Fletcher

This title topped the list of author/blogger Terry Ibele’s “Six Amazingly Bizarre Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels You’ve Never Heard Of” –

https://octotea.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/six-amazingly-bizarre-sci-fi-fantasy-novels-youve-never-heard-of/

Intrigued, I purchased a copy and was absolutely blown away by the most outrageously heinous characters in the most outrageously good fantasy novel I’ve read in recent memory. If you like your fantasy (grim) dark, this is the book for you.

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4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, and Thomas Mauer

It opens with a D&D dragon-slaying expedition and ends with a diner reveal.  In between, it’s sheer comical, caper-centric, character-driven brilliance.

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At present, my love for this title knows no bounds.  Check it out.

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Turncoat by Alex Paknadel and Artyom Trakhanov

via BOOM! Studios: “300 years since humanity was brutally subjugated by the alien race known simply as the Management. Two years since these invaders abandoned Earth to return to their home world. Following her participation in the brutal massacre of human-alien hybrids left behind by the Management, resistance fighter Marta Gonzalez declines to join the new human government and starts her own private detective agency instead. Gonzalez is forced to confront her own bloody past and acknowledge the fact that the transition from oppression to emancipation is anything but clean.

The latest from Alex Paknadel (Arcadia), one of my favorite comic book writers.

Okay, off to get in a little more reading and a little more season 3 story spinning before tonight’s Game of Thrones premiere.  Who’s watching?

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“Happy Birthday!”I said, handing my girlfriend, Akemi, her presents.  Then, as she reached for them, I pulled them back.  “You’ll have to wait until Monday to open them.”  And I set them aside.

It was a sad cap to a disappointing birthday weekend that saw our planned Saturday Afternoon Picnic Lunch in the Park to Check Out the Cherry Blossoms go the way of that promised Sunday Afternoon Couples Pottery Class.  Now before you criticize, I feel the need to point out that neither missed opportunities were my fault.  Fortune conspired against us.  Or maybe it was the squid ink risotto. Whatever.  One or the other had Akemi waking up feeling nauseous and dizzy Saturday morning, forcing us to cancel our picnic.  In retrospect, it may have worked out for the best.  We’d failed to locate either a picnic basket or sitting blanket and, by all accounts, the cherry blossoms aren’t even in bloom yet.

“Okay,”said Akemi, throwing a quick glance to her birthday gifts before swinging focus to the task at hand – prepping the dogs for our Sunday outing.  “But you have to wrap them for me.”

Damnit!  Next to driving around looking for parking and fielding Candy Crush invitations, there’s nothing I hate more than wrapping presents.  BUT it was her birthday and even convincing her to let me buy her a new iPad to replace her laboring 5+ year old existing model had been a task and a half.  Unlike myself, Akemi is incredibly low maintenance.  She generally refuses to let me buy her anything, preferring instead to wear the same jacket she brought with her from Tokyo seven years ago, the same dilapidated running shoes she’s been sporting for years.  Despite my insistence, my observation that uninformed passersbys might assume I was dating an escaped mental patient, she has stuck to her guns.  Until her iPad starting crashing at which point she knew – it was time.  Time for a NEW iPad.  AND one of those special pencils for scratching up the screen!

I was able to find some wrapping paper in the back of the upstairs closet and put my little used but unquestionably awesome wrapping skills to good use.  And…voila!

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Pretty impressive, no?  Maybe in my twilight years, I’ll retire to Japan and become one of those professional gift-wrappers.

When Monday rolled around, we celebrated by my getting to set for 7:00 a.m. call, but cutting out a little early (Thanks to Ivon covering for me on set!) so I could put the rest of my plan in motion.

Akemi is a big fan of chouquettes.  They’re basically creamless creampuffs studded with sugar granules (that she likes to pick off before eating).  She used to buy them in bunches, ten at a time, at a nearby patisserie until sometime late last year when the chouquettes found themselves off the menu along, apparently, with their then pastry chef.  I checked online and discovered this place –

http://www.thetemperedroom.com

I called in and they were kind enough to satisfy my request for 100 chouquettes.  I picked them up on my way home and then surprised Akemi.  Note her trademark Akemi-esque excitement:

After inhaling a half dozen delicious chouquettes, Akemi changed and then it was off to her favorite sushi restaurant, Yasu, for dinner.   Yasu sources its fish from all over (Hokkaido, Portugal, Vancouver, Greece!) and offers a very Japanese counter-style omakase dining experience.  Omakase basically means “chef’s choice”.  It’s sort of like that time in early high school when a bunch of us went to my friend Nick’s place for a barbecue.  After soliciting our requests, Nick poked his head out to the backyard where his mom was manning the grill and informed her: “We’ve got orders for two medium-rares, two mediums, and one well done!”.  His mother’s voice was shrill and laced with fury: “You’ll take ’em like you get ’em!”.  Nick ambled back to our table and, without missing a beat: “We’ll take ’em like we get ’em, guys!”.  So, yes.  Sort of like that time at Nick’s, except with fish instead of meat, more rice, and a lot less Dungeon & Dragons.

Anyway, some of the culinary highlights of the night:

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Firefly squid (hotaru-ika) – so-called because, well, here they are lighting up Toyama Bay:

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Wild.

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Sea Urchin – one from Hokkaido (left), the other from Boston (right).

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I did the sake pairing and, of the ones I sampled, this – Wandering Poet – was my favorite.  The little blurb on the label reads: “The poet Rihaku would drink a big bottle of sake and write a hundred poems“.  I, on the other hand, could barely string two sentences together by night’s end.

We returned home where I presented Akemi with not one but TWO glorious birthday cards – the first a pop-up card that played the Happy Birthday theme when opened, the second an inflatable green dinosaur card she actually picked up and gave me to give to her in the event I forgot to get one.

She went upstairs, I watched the season finale of Better Call Saul (or, as Akemi refers to it, Better Coleslaw), and then we called it a night on Akemi’s best birthday celebration ever!

Next year, that couples pottery class!

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Well, I’m pleased to report we are in majority agreement.  Presenting our choice for the Ishida cruiser:

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Thanks to everyone who weighed in with their votes and opinions.  And thanks to artist Jon Hrubesch for gorgeous design.

After Stargate ended, I would receive all sorts of request from fans for the onscreen graphics used at Stargate Command or the Destiny.  Sadly, I never had the files so the best I could do was offer videos of the onscreen playback.  I’ve sought to rectify that oversight on Dark Matter by uploading and spotlighting all of the amazing work being done by our own playback team led by 1st Assistant Art Director Kelly Diamond.  A lot of these are simple non-featured background elements, but they add so much visual texturing to scenes and the amount of detail that goes into them is incredible…

(Graphics: Victor Mare)

(Graphics: Sumeet Vat)

 

(Graphics: Kelly Diamond)

 Meanwhile, the props department has been hard at work, transforming this –

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Into this –

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Mighty impressive, no?

 IMG_5875Meanwhile over on The Raza: Paula MacNeil and Laura Miyata take a break from the on-set action.  These two need their own sitcom.

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A little something from the Dark Matter wardrobe department.  Costume Designer Noreen Landry’s sketch of an Ishida Royal Guard.

Done and (almost) done!  Today, I completed the preliminary first draft of our season finale, episode 213 (which you’ll be naming at some point in May).  All I can say is: “Holy smokes!”.  The script is now in Paul’s hands.  He’ll do his final pass,pitch it back to me for my final final pass, then back to him for HIS final final final pass.  And then, we’re officially done!

Until we receive notes from Jay.  And we need to make changes during prep.  But, come on.  Don’t be so negative.  Let’s celebrate this small victory with this intriguing but potentially disquieting piece of playback courtesy of Dark Matter 1st Assistant Art Director Kelly Diamond:

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Ishida Cruiser Thumbnails

Let’s get the ball rolling on this totally awesome blog entry with these totally awesome Ishida cruiser designs by the totally awesome Jon Hrubesch.  A LOT of wonderful variety to choose from here.  We’re leaning a certain way, but would love to hear your thoughts.

If I can refresh your memories, THIS was the Ishida shuttle design you chose not too long ago:

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Dark Matter co-creator, Paul Mullie, bowed out on taco dinners Saturday so that he could devote his entire weekend to episode 213, the BIG season finale.  This morning, he delivered an impressive 35 pages – three acts and a bit.  I took over today and got us to the top of page 45 and the beginning of Act V.  I figure I’ll finish a draft by tomorrow, maybe Wednesday at the latest, and then pitch it back to Paul for the polish and finish.  By next week, our finale will go wide…and people’s minds are gonna melt!

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While Paul was slaving away over a hot laptop this past weekend, I was out and about, making the most of my two days off in advance of next Saturday’s 11 hour shoot day in the wilds of Hamilton.  I met up with VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson for those aforementioned tacos, swung by my favorite comic shop, and even met up with blog regular ceresis64 who was visiting all the way from Wales.

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We grabbed some soft serve and chocolate and, of course, some snaps for the blog…

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No spoilers were revealed – even though she did gift me with some Penderyn, a Welsh whisky (and the latest addition to the Dark Matter Whisky-ey Club!

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With the deadline for the 2016 Hugo Awards nominations fast approaching (Thursday, March 31st), I thought I’d help out prospective voters by generating a list of recommended reads to guide them through the myriad titles released in 2015.

In the past, I could have put together a rundown of potential Best Novels but, alas, the past year kept me very busy, much too busy for extensive reading, and I realized that the list I’d offer up would be woefully incomplete.

Being a voracious and fairly quick reader, I thought of tackling the Best Novella or Best Novelette categories but, again, my show running duties on Dark Matter made that impossible.  And so, after careful consideration, I decided instead to take on the Best Short Story category reasoning there was plenty of opportunity in the downtime between set-ups, scripts, and sleep.  As it turned out, I was right and, in the preceding month, I’ve read A LOT of shorts stories – more than I’ve read in any given month.

Yes, even though I read a lot, I’m well aware that I covered but a tiny fraction of all of the eligible short stories out there.  I tried to be as sweeping as possible, selecting titles from varied publications, drawing on suggestions from all over, choosing writers irrespective of politics or personality.

What follows is a list of MY Favorite Genre Short Stories of 2015.  If any of these make the short list for the Hugos, I’ll be giving them a re-read and ranking.  I’ll do the same for any other nominees I may have missed.  And then, I’ll vote for what I consider the Best Short Story of 2015.  If the best short story I read is among the five nominees, then I’ll vote for that.  If what I consider the Best Short story doesn’t make the list, I’ll be voting No Award.  Fair?  I think so.

Well, here you go, for those interested.  My Top 13 Short Stories of 2015:

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“A Murmuration” by Alastair Reynolds (Interzone)

An isolated scientist’s research into the flocking behavior of birds yields surprising results.

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“Calved” by Sam J. Miller (Asimov’s)

Amidst the backdrop of a world altered by ecological disaster, a father makes a desperate bid to reconnect with his son.

Read it here: http://samjmiller.com/publications/calved/

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“Dialed-Up” by Tom Maughan (Terraform)

In the near, performance-enhancing drugs give office workers the edge they need to compete.

Read it here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/dialed-up

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“Re-Homing” by Debbie Urbanski (Terraform)

A couple looking to adopt find the perfect match in a remaindered child.

Read it here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/re-homing

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“Re: re: Microwave in the break room doing weird things to fabric of spacetime” by Charles Yu (Terraform)

An unattended burrito instigates a cosmological crisis.

Read it here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/re-re-microwave-in-the-break-room-doing-weird-things-to-fabric-of-spacetime

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“Some Gods of El-Paso” by Maria Dahvana Headley (Tor)

In future Texas, two outlaws deal in the currencies of sex and emotions.

Read it here: http://www.tor.com/2015/10/28/some-gods-of-el-paso-maria-dahvana-headley/

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“The Ninth Seduction” by Sean Mcmullen (Lightspeed)

A goblin crafts weapons and other technological marvels in advance of a coming battle.

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/the-ninth-seduction/

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“The Sixth Day” by Sylvia Anna Hivén (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

A young girl, gifted with the ability to grow corn, receives a dire prediction from her older sister, gifted with the ability of prophecy.

Read it here: http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/the-sixth-day/

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“So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld)

The bird flu apocalypse as related through perky Natalie’s food blog.

Read it here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_11_15/

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“The Ticket Taker of Cenote Zaci” by Benjamin Parzybok (Strange Horizons)

Eduardo, a ticket taker at a popular tourist attraction, begins to suspect that the Cenote Zaci may be claiming some of its visitors.

Read it here: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2015/20150202/cenote-f.shtml

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“The Way Home” by Linda Nagata (Lightspeed)

A squad of U.S. Soldiers must fight their way out of Hell.

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/the-way-home/

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“Things You Can Buy For A Penny” by Will Kaufman (Lightspeed Magazine)

According to legend, the wet gentleman that resides at the bottom of a mysterious well will grant you a wish for a penny…

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/things-can-buy-penny/

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“Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker (Clarkesworld)

An android caregiver to an Alzheimer’s patient mimics the personalities of her prospective visiting relatives.

Read it here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/shoemaker_08_15/

If you have time, give them a read – and then report back.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

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Akemi’s English has vastly improved over the 6+ years (!) we’ve been together. Nevertheless, she’s still prone to the occasional Akemi-isms, those odd turns of phrase uniquely hers.  I’ve covered them in past blog entries, everything from terms like “punching sweet” (super sweet) to descriptives like “tastes like old man’s pillow” (her take on the flavor of truffles) to words of wisdom like “Tokyo crows are very smart. They eat McDonald’s garbage and their brains get bigger!” (on the superior intelligence of Tokyo crows).

Here are a few more to add to the list:

brinkle: to blink

porkupintus: appendicitis

Something’s coming down with me!: I’m coming down with something!

You’re shrinking like a balloon ten days after birthday party!: You’ve lost weight!

grandma eyes: poor eyesight

miss and hit: hit and miss (If you attempt to correct her, she’ll always reply: “Same thing.”)

mooshy-mushy: squishy, semi-solid state usually used to describe the texture of those nut and syrup mash-ups vegan cafes attempt to pass off as “cookies”.

bricklyn style: architecturally, any building with a prevailing brick work structure

 

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