The Martian

11 October 2015 | Hisham | | Books, Misc Sci-Fi

IT'S BEN AFFLECK!The Martian is a book written by Andy Weir.

It is also my graduation present from Ain, in lieu of flowers. A book, I thought, would not wilt after a couple of days. I spent the same number of days for flowers to wilt reading the whole book. It was very engaging.

Also, the book did not wilt. Yay.

The premise is simple, astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist - who looks like the guy who Tom Hanks had to rescue back in World War 2 - gets left behind on Mars in a freak accident while his fellow astronauts had to leave immediately because of a dust storm. What should have been a fatalistic "that's it no one knows I'm still alive and doesn't matter not enough food I'm dead anyway good bye everyone" 3- day short story becomes a full length novel for survival that extends for months and years as Watney uses his engineering and botanical skills to keep himself alive using material at hand, like spanners, nuts, bolts, potatoes, hydrogen gas, an RTG buried in the ground some kilometres away and the Mars Pathfinder probe a couple of hundred kilometres away.

Mark Watney is an interesting character. He is a man of the internet. Although he speaks English, he speaks it in the manner of a man who probably knows what 4chan is and are aware of ALL THE MEMES. This is a realistic build of an internet-wired 21st century character. I don't believe there has ever been such a character. No, not even Keanu Reeves in that mind-blowing, sensational cyberpunk movie that everyone knows him for... Johnny Mnemonic.

NASA is interesting. As a red tape bound organisation, there are quite the many problem solvers that put their career on the line to save Mark Watney. And more importantly, they are a multi-ethnic bunch of heroes that attempt to reflect the reality of a multi-ethnic nation and planet. I'm sure they'll find someone race-appropriate to play someone named "Kapoor" and "Park" in the movie.

Wait, the movie's out?

Anyway. Watney's life on Mars is like my life in Kuala Lumpur: One thing after another, where "thing" is usually some form of shit hitting some fan somewhere. He weathers all the problems well though, if you can count being blown up by a hydrogen explosion "well". He survives, probably because he looks like that guy from Elysium, and I'm not talking about Wikus.

Anyway. Anyway... this pain up my nasal cavity is bad and it's pushing into by jaw and eyeballs. And I don't think the meds are helping. So go read the book to see how Watney kills the Pathfinder probe. What did the probe ever do to you, huh? Damned amperage. How do they work?


Ruthermore's First Cover: Redux

30 June 2015 | Hisham | | Artwork, Books, Misc Sci-Fi

The cover of Ruthermore Heidigens and the Fifth Planet was the first in the series that I drew for Ebb and Folks back in 2011.

There was a request for an enhancement of the cover. Originally painted in water colours, I employed GIMP to give it a digital upgrade by smoothing out roughness and applying digital paints where required.

That's a big book

For a look at the original painting, click here.


Ruthermore's Fourth Cover

05 June 2015 | Hisham | | Artwork, Books, Misc Sci-Fi

After creating the cover of David Leyman's debut entry of his science fiction story Ruthermore Heidigens and the Fifth Planet, followed by the covers of two subsequent entriesRuthermore Heidigens and the Voices and Ruthermore Heidigens and the Nights at the Round Table, now comes the cover I made for the upcoming fourth installment of the series in Ruthermore Heidigens and the Fires of Avalon! Check out the dragon. He seems nice.

Keep an eye out for its ebook release on Amazon at David Leyman's website here!

There be a bragon! Perhaps there be also a bungeon!

Ruthermore Heidigens and the Fires of Avalon


Lords of Nal Hutta

05 May 2015 | Hisham | | Books, Role Playing Games, Star Wars

One of the gifts given to me by Kai and the Gamers of KL crew on our trip back to Kuala Lumpur was Lords of Nal Hutta, the recently-released sourcebook for Hutts and Hutt Space for Star Wars Edge of the Empire roleplaying game by Fantasy Flight Games. Bonus: it was co-written by Gary Astleford.

I Visited Hutt Space And All I Got Was A Sha'rellian Toop Infestation

It would certainly help my gamemaster (GM) the campaign I ran for GOKL, entitled "Modesty Blazing", because we were about to meet Sassatania the Hutt, Zeltron pilot Darter Kel's former fling and daughter of Teemo the Hutt.

An illustration of Sassatania can be found in this blog post. Coincidentally, several locations described in the book had been featured in two different Star Wars D6 campaigns I ran for GOKL. (Well, one campaign and one one-shot session.) 

Weequays are teh awesome

Sriluur of course showed up in A Bad Example in the Spacelanes campaign which was never finished.

And I first ran a session with Kwenn in Tatooine Manhunt back in 1989

Kwenn Station was where the player characters started in The Rancid Putrefaction of a Cosmic Caterwauling Cabal one-shot game.

So many other features in this book, from a list of Hutt kajidics, vehicles, weapons and Hutt Space systems from Kintan to Toydaria, that I will try to include in future Edge of the Empire games I run.

Especially ones that lead the players into wretched hives of scum and villainy.


A Package from DwD Studios

28 April 2015 | Hisham | | Books, Role Playing Games

Copies of roleplaying game books arrived today from DwD Studios, sent by Bill Logan! 

A bunch of awesome digest-sized books!

As has been documented on the blog before, I've played BareBones Fantasy with Irfan the first time here, then during International TableTop Day here and finally here when he experienced his first player character (PC) death. The boy also gamemastered (GM) his first ever RPG with BareBones Fantasy last year!

I'm hoping he'll hone his GMing skills some more with the easy to play BareBones d00% lite system, and eventually play some contemporary spies in Covert Ops.This will help him develop his oratory, problem solving and critical thinking skills.

This autograph will be worth mllions! MILLIONS!

Thanks, Bill! I will do just that!


Laundry Photo Goes Viral For Some Reason

03 April 2015 | Hisham | | Books, Role Playing Games

When I was reading the Laundry RPG rulebook away from home in Lunas, I thought I'd take a photo of the "What is a Roleplaying Game" section of the book and post it on Google Plus and Twitter. Here's the link on G+. Over 130 reshares!

And on Twitter the picture achieved close to a phenomenal 1,100 retweets!

What Rep is this on Eclipse Phase? f-Rep?

Here's the screencap I took when it hit a thousand retweets. Even Cubicle 7, the publisher of the Laundry RPG, mentioned it on their official website!

I bought this book used from Ivan

As usual I'm blaming the viral outbreak on the many-angled ones living at the bottom of the Mandelbrot Set.


Age of Rebellion Core Rulebook

09 August 2014 | Hisham | | Books, Role Playing Games, Star Wars

After almost a month waiting, the Age of Rebellion Core Rulebook from Fantasy Flight Games finally arrived. I went to the Pudu post office to pick it up right after a meeting elsewhere in Kuala Lumpur. The Edge of the Empire rulebook allowed us to play in fringe campaigns as smugglers, mercenaries, bounty hunters and the like. Age of Rebellion (below right) allows us to play as members of the Rebel Alliance in their struggle to topple the tyrannical Galactic Empire.

In Edge of the Empire your character has Obligation that would help or hinder the player in a Fringe campaign in terms of how he acts in it and how he is able to acquire resources. In Age of Rebellion, Obligation is replaced with Duty which helps freedom fighters to define why they are in the fight against Imperial forces. Obligation and Duty are compatible with each other, allowing characters from Edge of the Empire to be able to appear in an Age of Rebellion campaign.

Also, this book cover stole the laptop's wallpaper.

Careers you are able to play are Ace, Commander, Diplomat, Engineer, Soldier and Spy, each with three Specialisations. You're also able to mix and match Specialsations (even from Edge of the Empire Careers) to personalise your character.

Check out the new artwork for SpecForce Infiltrators. They look almost exactly like the ones on the cover of Rules of Engagement by West End Games from many years ago!

Here are some familiar starships for you to crash or crash into. Newer ships includes the Gozanti transport and the Consular-class Cruiser. Even Jeff's Corellian YV-969 armed freighter design makes an appearance in the ships section.

The Perlemian Haul, the introductory adventure ready to run for players and written by Gary looks intriguing with lots of plot hooks and ideas. I love the dapper Trandoshan Passk illustrated by Christopher Burdett there a concept resembling the dapper Gamorrean I once drew for Gary.

Finally a big thanks to Ryan for helping with the purchase of the book. I'd never be able to acquire it without his help. And for his help - for eldritch reasons - his own infamous player character Asok Yeesrim appears in the book

Can't wait to give this book a spin!


The Blasphemous Bookcase at the 10th Floor

06 July 2014 | Hisham | | Books, Family Pics

The bookcase was getting messier and messier. So Ain thought it was time for a bookcase cleaning. I helped, but I also took some photos.

All these books below were all over the place. I thought this cleanup would be a good time to put them all together on one shelf.Maybe I'll call it the Legends shelf. *snerk*

The Star Wars Trek

Here are more photos of the selection of novels we have on the shelves. Some of these books I bought myself, but more than 60% of these belongs to Sila, which she bought during or just after college. She brought back home loads for me to read. I have yet to read them all. Also, most of her books are back in our home library in Sitiawan and not with me.

Is that a Doctor Who book without the Doctor?

This is a Vancian book, this is:


Westward Comp Copy!

01 July 2014 | Hisham | | Books, Role Playing Games

A package arrived the other day...

Roger Bochs of Alpha Flight

... from Brett Pisinski of Wicked North Games. It be the complimentary copy of Westward RPG! Westward is a game of steampunk western game setting  on an human-colonized extrasolar planet after the colony ship Chrysalis drifted for decades and came to rest here.

Using the Cinema 6 system, players and gamemasters play and create adventures around humans whose ancestors were marooned on the planet Westward centuries ago. Lack of conventional power generation has created new technology that uses exotic local minerals and steam to build airships and steam-powered mech. Politics of the cities and settlements make for great conflict for players to embroil themselves in. And backstabbing politics, feral humans, deadly alien creatures and lethal hazards await adventurers in the waterless badlands of Westward.

Cover and

Also in the package is a handy GM screen.

A shield of some sort - from feral players no doubt

The image below is something I'd never thought would happen. On the left, my artwork. On the right, art made by Mike Vilardi, who has been my favourite Star Wars RPG artist for more than twenty years! I can't believe I'm published in the same game as Mike is! I'm still trying to be an official Star Wars artist myself.

Bucket list, minus one

Here are some of my location artwork created digitally!

digital colours

Here are some of my creature artwork created traditionally! Actual inks and watercolours!

analog pixels

Some playable character template artwork beautifully done by Ryan Rhodes. There are a lot of interesting character templates you can play in the Westward setting.

Asok Yeesrim's great designs and colour palette

Gennifer Bone did a ton of tech designs from hand equipment to weapons to trains to steamechs to airships! 

A "Delimbitnator" is an awesome name

Here's her one of her drawing of a steamech. There are more in the book!

A variant of this suit is on the cover

I will need to digest all the information of the setting from the book, but I will give this game a try some time in the future. Lots of mysteries to be solved in the arid badlands of Westward. Meanwhile, download a pay-what-you-want low resolution version here or download a Premium version of the PDF here.

You can also order the physical book from here.

It was great to have the opportunity to collaborate with Brett, Jeremy Streeter, Ryan, Gennifer, all the writers and artists like Wayne Humfleet, Peter Schweighofer, Deborah Teramis Christian, Rob Chope, Alex Gustafson, Rich Woodall and others for this project!


Cover for My Name Is Not A Number

17 June 2014 | Hisham | | Artwork, Books

David Leyman commissioned a cover recently for his new novella entitled My Name is Not a Number. I read it so I could do art direction for the cover myself and I thought this was his best work yet.

My Name is Not a Number.

My Name is Not a Number

And the cover turned out well too I think.


Ruthermore's Second and Third Covers

11 June 2014 | Hisham | | Artwork, Books, Misc Sci-Fi

After illustrating the cover of David Leyman's first "Ruthermore Heidigens" science fiction novella, Ruthermore Heidigens and the Fifth Planet, here are two more cover artwork from two other stories in the series, Ruthermore Heidigens and the Voices and Ruthermore Heidigens and the Nights at the Round Table - the former of which I made over a year ago but forgot to post here since.

Ruthergens Heidimore and the Voices!

Ruthermore Heidigens and the Voices

Ruthergens Heidimore and the Nights at the Round Table!

Ruthermore Heidigens and the Nights at the Round Table


The Gifts of Star Wars Books

10 December 2013 | Hisham | | Books, Star Wars

Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopaedia

Tsing visited with a gift: The Old Repubic Encyclopaedia, with material from the Star Wars MMO game set 3600 years before the movies and more than 300 years after the Knights of the Old Republic / Dark Lords of the Sith comic series. It's a great treasure trove of information not just for the game, which I do not play. It also has a ton of stuff I can mine for Star Wars RPG sessions set in the present.

Proto-CR-90 Corvette

New ships! Not much but PCs might come across some of these vessels in deep storage for thousands of years, just ready to be explored or to be used as their vehicles. Just make sure there are unknown dangers aboard after being dormant for millennia.

Proto-YT-1300 Freighter

Strangely enough, my current desktop wallpaper is of an XS light freighter berthed in a landing bay.


Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook

13 August 2013 | Hisham | | Books, Role Playing Games, Star Wars

Upon arriving home from Pasir Mas after an overnight drive via Jeli, Gerik and Kuala Kangsar, I discovered this note from the post office right outside the door of the house.

They never arrive when I'm at home

So Irfan and I went to pick it up. It was a box and I was ecstatic at the size, shape and weight of it. Even if I was cautious about it. With my luck, it could have easily been some court summons because I'd accidentally strangled some duck to death 15 years ago or some weird thing like that.

It's from Brett who lives at some pixellated address

Cover for Five's The End

18 April 2013 | Hisham | | Artwork, Books, Misc Sci-Fi
Cover with the creature Three

Here is another cover commissioned by Ebb and Folks. Five's The End is a novella by David Leyman that completes the trilogy that begins with Three's Company and continues with Four of a Kind (the second artwork in this post). The style of digital inks and colours (instead of a painterly look) of the cover for all three novellas is an editorial decision.


Irfan's Transmogrifying Present

04 April 2012 | Hisham | | Books, Family Pics, Friends

Irfan received a gift over the mail from Ryan Rhodes.

There is a great sketch of Irfan with the octopus plushie at Wan Chor's house in the inner cover! Here's hoping Irfan will never stop dreaming. (Although he has been dreaming of zombie attacks these days...)

Octopus on the head!

It's a Calvin and Hobbes collection - which in my opinion is tied with Bloom County as the best newspaper comic ever.

He will learn the scientific method from this book

Irfan says, "Thanks for the book, Uncle Ryan."

Bo shuda.


Quick Run To Kinokuniya

19 February 2012 | Hisham | | Books, Comics

I am in school. Second year plus change. Which means I am eligible for the RM200 book voucher giveaway for university students.

With voucher in hand, the boy and I quickly dropped by Kinokuniya Sunday morning before the overwhelming weekend herd shambled in. Without consciously deciding to purchase only horror books, we ended up with them anyway!

Irfan wanted the Hellboy and The Walking Dead books. I checked out the storylines online before deciding he was old enough for them. I also bought for him Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. I grabbed for myself Charlie Stross' The Atrocity Archives because one day I want to play the Laundry RPG.

If they weren't free I wouldn't be able to buy them.

You'd think two hundred is a high number and could buy a dozen books, wouldn't you. Sigh.

Well, I suppose four is better than nothing!


Cover for The Adepts Book 2: Empath

16 February 2012 | Hisham | | Artwork, Books

The sequel to The Adepts Book 1: Furato will soon be released and here's the cover I painted for it. The blog entry about the cover for the first novel can be found here. Without further ado, here's the red-tinged cover painting for The Adepts Book 2: Empath, continuing the star spanning adventures of the powerful Adepts and their guardian Payan warriors. The novel will be on sale at the Amazon Kindle Store very soon.

Red cover is red

For a larger view, please check out the cover at DeviantArt.


Two Covers, One Customer

13 January 2012 | Hisham | | Artwork, Books

Two cover artwork were commissioned by Ebb & Folks for their Iqliptiq Books science fiction imprint. The first is for a prequel and the other a sequel.

Two Blades, One Customer

Rhittach: The Beginning

This short story tells the rise of Rhittach, the Payan warrior featured in the novel The Adepts Book 1: Furato, which was previously shown in this blog post.

Two Characters, One Pile of Gold

Four Of A Kind

This is a sequel to Iqliptiq Books' short story Three's Company, also featured here previously in this blog post.

Both books were written by science fiction author David Leyman.


Book Review: The Cowboys of Cthulhu

27 November 2011 | Hisham | | Books

A Deadlands adventure right there... 

David Bain's The Cowboys of Cthulhu was the first novelette I bought and read on the Calibre ebook reader.

It's a great mashup of weird western and the Cthulhu mythos.

Weird West is a genre of western, where its tales of cowboys and injuns and heading out west is infused with heavy doses of horro and the occult. Other examples of Weird Westerns is the Deadlands RPG and DC Comics' Jonah Hex.

The Cowboys of Cthulhu tells the tale of Gentleman John Brodie the Demon Duelist, Doctor Darius Darke and a host of multi-cultural and strange characters in the guise of a travelling carnival gets embroiled in a hunt for three creatures that kill and eat human brains. However, they discover that they might have bitten off more than they could chew in a box canyon where geometry seems to be non-Eucleidian and darker, more evil creatures may be waiting for them.

The tale is short but solid, and left me wanting more adventures with our heroes. I can see Mr. Bain writing more stories with the characters in a prequel or a sequel story, taking into account the ending of this novelette, and I hope that he does!


Calibre Ebook Reader

26 November 2011 | Hisham | | Books, Linux

I have discovered and installed the free ebook reader and management application named Calibre to read books and stuff!

Apart from reading ebooks, Calibre can also manage your digital book library, search for ebooks in various locations from the Amazon Kindle store to and synchonize with a mobile reader such as my smartphone. Seeing that I'm pretty OCD about book cataloguing, I've used Calibre to ensure all the books' metadata, cover image and such are meticulously entered.

Thanks to Feedbooks and Project Gutenberg, I now have quite a lot of books in the queue to be read. Calibre also has a list of DRM-free ebooks on its website here

Below is the ebook management interface screencap. Click on the thumbnails to view larger images.

Here is the interface used to edit the ebooks' metadata, displaying E.E. Doc Smith's Triplanetary. Calibre could search the metadata and cover image online or you could edit the metadata and upload the cover image yourself.

The reader window here is displaying a page from Rudy Rucker's Postsingular, a delightful transhuman romp - to put it mildly. Calibre is able to read a number of ebook formats, including EPUB, MOBI, LIT, RTF, TXT and PDF. I prefer to download EPUB files.

Thanks to its syncing feature, all the books on the desktop version is also duplicated in my smartphone for quick and easy reading if I'm caught needing to stay put away from bookshelves. I love living in the future.