Month: August 2012

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Scott Bieser of Big Head Press

(The Enquiring Hitchhiker was a science fiction literary “zine” that myself and several friends published in high school. I thought it would be appropriate to resurrect it as an interview series)
Scott Bieser is one of the founders of the libertarian comic site Big Head Press and has worked on some classic video games that most anyone who owned a Commodore 64 or an Amiga is familiar with.
The Hitchhiker Asks-
 1. Scott we have some battle chess fans in our audience can you tell us a bit about how you came to be involved with the creation of that classic game?

I was hired by Interplay Productions to do the animation work for the Commodore 64 version of the game. The pieces and the animation concepts had already been designed by Todd Camasta (for the IBM/PC version) but the C-64 had different technical requirements so someone had to re-do the animations. The concept for the game came from Brian Fargo, president of the company, who had been inspired by the “chess game” scene in Star Wars IV.

I also animated two other Battle-Chess games (as lead artist this time), Chinese Chess and Battle Chess 4000.

Over the following decade I worked on a number of games for Interplay, including ST 25th Anniversary (although my involvement in that game was fairly minimal — some assistance on some of the animations, and laying-in text for the opening credits animation. I also assisted on StarFleet Academy (video processing and clean-up) and StarFleet Command (as art director).

2. How did you get involved with the libertarian movement?

As with many libertarians, Ayn Rand was my “gateway drug” but my active involvement began when I came across a trio of libertarians at the University of Texas at Austin campus, who were running a literature table for the Young Libertarian Alliance (which I think was a project of Society for Individual Liberty). Before long I was supporting Libertarian Party candidates and eventually ran for office myself, once for Austin City Council and twice for state-legislature. In college I also became an editorial cartoonist for The Daily Texan (circulation roughly 55,000), and hoped to get a similar job on a “real” newspaper after graduation but that never happened.

Anyway, I  consider myself a Rothbardian philosophically, although lately I prefer the labels “agorist” or “voluntaryist.”

3. Also how did you get involved with Big Head press?

My brother Frank and I created Big Head Press in 2002 so we could publish a graphic novel adaptation of The Probability Broach, which was L. Neil Smith’s first (and most popular) novel. I had shopped the project around to several comics publishers but found no takers.  TPB: The Graphic Novel remains Big Head Press’ best-seller. After that book we continued producing more graphic novels with libertarian themes, although not always by libertarian authors. Mike Baron (The Architect) is a conservative, Steven Grant (Odysseus the Rebel) is a liberal, and Adi Tantimedh (La Muse) is one of the most eclectic social democrats I’ve ever met. We did produce three more graphic novels written by Neil Smith: _Roswell, Texas_, _Time Peeper_, and _Phoebus Krumm_.

More recently, looking at the way on-line audiences develop, we’ve shifted our emphasis from graphic novels to continuing comic-strip series. In a sense, we’re making the old new again by re-inventing the adventure serial, which has all but died out in print newspapers. And we’ve narrowed our focus a bit to science-fiction, for branding reasons. Our first was Escape From Terra, which we recently concluded after four years. We continue with my strip Quantum Vibe, which I started in January 2010.

4. Who are you voting for this fall? A follow up would be do you think libertarian candidates hurt Republican chances and do you feel that removing Obama rises above party affiliation?

I gave up voting and electoral politics in general as a lost cause in 2000. Both the GOP and the Democrat Party are owned by the same (or similar) gangs of crooks, and third parties are hopelessly out-matched. It’s really true (at least above the level of small-town politics) that if voting could actually change things, it would be illegal.

In this election, I think the LP’s Gary Johnson is likely to take roughly the same number of votes from both Romney and Obama (as well as votes from people who wouldn’t vote at all without a third option), so I don’t think he’ll have any spoiler effect. I also don’t think a Romney administration will be significantly different from the Obama administration in substance, although there will be differences in style.

If Ron Paul had won the GOP nomination, I’d possibly think differently about all of this, but he didn’t, so I don’t.

5. We like to do things in fives on our site so this fifth question will be the last.
  Tell us a little about how you think online entertainment especially libertarian, rational conservative, and objectivist entertainment can be used to counter tyranny and socialism?

The real battle for this civilization is in the realm of ideas, and on-line entertainment can play a key role. We transmit and reinforce our values and ideas largely through storytelling, or at least we have since Jesus and his parables, and Aesop and his fables. The Marxists and socialists understood this well, which is why they made sure to ensconce themselves in university departments of English and literature, and in publishing and in Hollywood. I don’t think they can be rooted out, but they can be superseded by the new, online media, which is still up for grabs.

So, this is the mission of Big Head Press: to promote libertarian themes and ideas via on-line comics.

Thanks you for the interview Scott. It seems that Big Head Press and The Freehold have some similar goals. I recommend that anyone who has any interest in libertarianism or simply likes stories about rugged individuals head on over to Big Head Press and check out their site.

The SteamGoth Anthology Series

The SteamGoth Anthology Series


I hate to make blatant plugs for things that I have written or I am involved in, however I will make one exception for the SteamGoth Anthology series.

For those who are not familiar with SteamPunk or SteamGoth this is a great primer into the genre. SteamPunk stories take the Victorian era and add science fiction elements to create an alternate world which is more often than not powered by steam and 19th century science. SteamGoth is the slightly darker half-brother of the SteamPunk movement. SteamGoth incorporates stories set in the same sort of alternate 19th century but these tales are darker and involve magic, or horror. The first book of the series Monsters, Magic, and Machines is linked above (the link is to the amazon page) and was written entirely by scientists and high end computer professionals. The stories run the gauntlet from zombie attacks, the depredation of mad gods, Alien visitations, and even a little fantasy intruding into the uptight world of the Victorian era American South.

Yesterday was the deadline for authors to submit their stories for the second anthology. This second book entitled Sorcery, Steam, and Steel should be out before Christmas and it was written by crowd sourcing from various SteamPunk sites across the web.

Orexin-A    The End of Sleep

Orexin-A The End of Sleep

What would you do if you had over one third of your life to live again. That is what a black book DARPA program is attempting by replicating the effects of Orexin-A. Orexin-A is a neuropeptide that is produced in the brain to excite neurons into action. Without Orexin-A humans and other animals would become narcoleptic and fall to sleep without warning. An abundance of Orexin-A prevents sleep even rendering the subjects who have taken it wide awake and feeling like they have had hours of restful sleep.  DARPA is studying this substance to create a drug which will provide them super soldiers that never need to sleep. Now that is fine for DARPA, but imagine the non-military applications of a drug like this.

According to the sources I have read Orexin-A is not addictive and has no negative side effects. It does however render a sleepy subject wide awake and gives him increased libido, cognitive function, and increases muscle activity. This stuff is basically mega coffee with a little Viagra mixed in. It may not be physically addictive but I can guarantee people are going to abuse the hell out of this. I certainly would use it. Imagine no more jet lag, no more sleep breaks when driving across country, not to mention making a night job bearable. For some of you this could mean no more sleep breaks while playing video games. Imagine 72 hour marathon gaming sessions without any sleep related fatigue. This is the stuff of real science fiction. Where do I sign up to get a bottle?

I have just been informed that this is the type of drug that is always in development just before a zombie outbreak. So if you use it beware of zombie inducing side effects.

This Weekend We Once Again Return to Mars

This Weekend We Once Again Return to Mars

No, this is not an article about the new Total Recall movie.

The next generation of NASA rovers will be landing on Mars this Sunday. I have always been a supporter of NASA. One of the reasons I have supported NASA is that it is the only government program that has consistently made more money than had been invested into it. This was accomplished through the licensing of technology developed over the years by NASA scientists.  As a consequence of this success it has been perpetually underfunded and the money and ideas derived from NASA projects have been wasted in other areas rather than invested back into the program. Of course the current administration has cut back NASA more than any previous administration and so today America can not even lift an Astronaut into space for the first time in 50 years.

Luckily this rover project was funded and the money spent before the current presidential officeholder came into power or it too would have been mothballed in favor of the new NASA mission…Muslim outreach.

In honor of NASA and their success please take a minute to consider life in this country without the pittance that has been spent on the space program. Here are five everyday items that we owe to NASA.

1. The computer you are reading this on is a direct result of technology developed for the Apollo program.

2. Modern Home insulation. How much money in heating and cooling has NASA saved you over the years? I bet it is more money than you paid in taxes that went to fund NASA.

3. GPS – did you use yours today?

4. Satellite communication- Almost every communication device we use goes through a satellite network. Without NASA the technology to launch and maintain those satellites would never have been developed.

5. Fly by Wire systems- When you see commercial airliners fly over head the intricate flight paths and flight systems are direct descendants of the same systems used in the Apollo program. Think about that the next time you fly.

NASA is one of the few programs where I feel my tax money is used wisely.

If you want to read a more technical report of technology that has been developed as a result of just the Space Shuttle program please read this article.