Here we go again stalking our favorite book writers, and Blizzard’s creative freelancers all over the globe. This time our friendly convention-hopper Keith R.A. Decandido has pop on my long-range radar — [gee, this guy writes his stuff on trains, airplanes, airports and hotels, he doesn't miss an event. Does he?]
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be signing at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting held in Boston, Massachussets. There’s no Blizzard booth here, but you can go say hi and sneak in your Starcraft: Ghost novels and manga nonetheless to get those signed. Here’s a video showing what the American Library Association (ALA) is. If you manage to take photos or video of yourself with Keith R.A. Decandido at this event, send’em to us to post it in the front page.
When: Friday, January 15th
Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (map)
415 Summer Street, Boston, Massachusetts
Where: BOOM! Studios Booth # 1471
If you had pre-scheduled to go to Arisia 2010 in Cambridge, Massachussets, Keith said on his blog that he will be sneaking around there on Sunday, Jan 17 in the evening, and on Monday.
Arisia 2010 – Cambridge Hyatt Hotel (Map)
575 Memorial Drive
I acquired a copy of Starcraft: Ghost Academy from Barnes & Noble to review this product. For a soft cover, I really like the texture and feeling of the material. Volume One contains 192 pages full of action and it’s divided into a prologue and five chapters.
The manga starts out strangely from the point of view of yourself as the one receiving a letter from Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. In this letter you are required to volunteerly submit your son/daughter to the Psi-Ops Division of the Terran Dominion (Ghost Program) and how proud you should be for making this step for the defense of the Dominion from alien threats.
The prologue is a follow up to the events of the Starcraft: Frontline manga concerning Colin Phash and Corbin Phash. Corbin has started to feed the media with accussations against the Ghost Program, requesting people to rise against the taking of their children for underground experimentation.
Kevin Bick (Director of the Ghost Program) appears on the UNN to respond the accussations and displays video of what happened at Maltair IV, blaming ex-Dominion Senator Corbin Phash for refusing to volunteerly bring his son to the Ghost Program for proper training of his abilities. If he had done as requested, the events of Maltair IV wouldn’t have happened in the first place – said the director.
We do know from Starcraft: Frontline that it was the Dominion command who authorized the wrangler Randall to use lobotomized zerg units as psi-hounds to track down the telepath boy: Colin Phash. Thus, the Dominion is simply covering up their lies with false info to the UNN, making it look like the boy is a threat to himself and everyone around him without proper training — blaming the kid for attracting zerg to planet Maltair IV.
CHAPTER ONE: It’s all over now, Team Blue
We learn that the entire UED squadron was not decimated by Kerrigan’s zerg in Starcraft: Brood War. In this volume, we see the Team Blue led by Gabriel Tosh and composed of Nova, Kath, and Lio. They are here on a mission to inflitrate a planet-hopper ship overtaken by UED Pirates — you heard it, UED Pirates. Their goal is to rescue a senator and three aides on board.
Nova doesn’t look like a team player who likes to follow orders. She takes off ahead of the team and doesn’t even listen to Gabriel Tosh’s instructions. Her cockiness puts her in harm’s way jeopardizing the mission once she figures out the UED pirates are wearing psi-screens.
I found difficult sometimes to differenciate one marine from another, as they lack any serial number, marks or logos. For example, I found it helpful in Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 4: Fear the Reaper to identify who was who among the Reaper squad. Not much of an issue, really, due to the nature of this specific mission.
Things in this first chapter are not what you think, but we get to see how the Ghost trainees get to learn, hone and improve their skills the hard way. I could see a bit of a Star Trek influence here, and it’s no surprise with the large track record of Star Trek novels written by Keith R.A. DeCandido.
There’s a curious shadow in the complex’s hallways that resembles a child, and Nova did see the shadow, but dismissed it as something she thought she saw. Considering Nova is PI 10 and the child Colin Phash is PI 7.5, it makes you wonder how the kid got to fool Nova. In the Starcraft: Frontline series you learn that Senator Corbin Phash taught his son how to project his thoughts with false leads (repeating something in his mind to be picked up by telepaths, while doing something else), and the kid has a special gift described as “Quiet Voice” — which sorta cloaks his presence from the Zerg with the power of his mind, even when he is at plain sight. And another ability described as Astral Projection or relocation of his mind. (Paul Benjamin & Dave Shramek read X-Men, alright). Colin probably used this ability to evesdrop on Nova, while remaining out of sight from her own telepathic abilities.
CHAPTER TWO: Taking Care of Business
This chapter introduces Director Kevin Bick and Superintendent Angelini Sarco who talk about the insertion of Aal Cistler into team blue. We get to see Preceptor Soohoo teaching Terran history through the eye of the Terran Dominion, or like a yawning Kath Toom describes: propaganda. The story of how the Confederates fell in Tarsonis with the Zerg and how Kerrigan joined the Zerg was taught wrong. Therefore, the ghost trainees are instructed with the same lies the Dominion feeds the media and the people.
As the story progresses, you kinda start feeling back at college with all the drama, name-calling and angry students stepping on your patience. The interactions between students feel natural. Conflicts arise, while others try to keep things under control — like Gabriel Tosh, leader of Team Blue.
We get to see Lio Travski in action hacking into computers to bypass the Ghost Program’s security sensors in order to buy and consume Hab.
CHAPTER THREE: Seven times fall down, eight times get up
In this chapter, we see another training scenario in the shape of a maze full of booby traps, and robots. Each member of Team Blue is tested to the limit, and their mistakes and pros are measured by percent. The next class is with Sergeant Hartley who trains them in the way of martial arts. All students must wear a psi-screen and must rely on their instincts and physical prowess.
I was pleased to see Keith DeCandido bring up some scenes from the Starcraft: Ghost Nova novel such as Nova’s experience at the Gutter serving Fagin as a slave for six months.
The martial art trainer is a butcher and the training of ghosts in this class look like the harshest boot camp you have ever experienced. A bonus martial match between Gabriel Tosh and Aal takes place. Later, the team vents on Nova for not been a team player.
Nova finds a young telepath girl at some kind of library. Nova reads into her mind to learn her story, and it turns out this girl is the one Wrangler Randall captured in Starcraft: Frontline while searching for Colin Phash. It’s really nice to see continuity treats throughout the manga.
At the mess hall, there’s an informative and amusing interaction between Aal, Kath and Gabriel Tosh which help you flesh out their background, and their personality. There’s another training test to assemble a C-10 rifle within a minute and a half or less. It seems Nova listened to what Gabriel Tosh told her about her lack of a team work, and we see her caring more about her teammates, by teaching them.
CHAPTER FOUR: All I have to do is dream
This chapter shows how much Nova has accomplished earning the companionship of her teammates. Here we also get another flashback from Starcraft: Ghost Nova. The scene where Nova and Morgan Calabas are aboard the yacht en route to the Tyrador IX resort and the moment she finds her parents dead, Her experience at the Gutter for six months as a slave of Fagin, and her rescue by Wrangler Malcolm Kelerchian.
If you read this novel (pocket book), it will be nice for you to see a brief summary and these characters as images. Gabriel Tosh and Nova get closer as friends at the end of this chapter.
CHAPTER FIVE: Redemption
There are some twists at the end, and the entire story has brief hints of Colin Phash been able to eavesdrop his way around the Ghost Program undetected, unless the Ghost Program is using him as their way to eavesdrop on the trainees? I guess we will confirm or discard that in the upcoming volume 2.
While some readers new to Starcraft will feel a bit lost on what’s going on, they don’t necessarily need to have read Starcraft: Ghost Nova, as this manga briefly summarizes some of the most important scenes that shaped Nova’s life.
For a intro, volume one did a good job at showing us how the ghosts are trained, while at the same time exploring each character’s personality and past. Some characters are more caring and friendly than others. The exceptions of course are Aal, and Lio. Aal because he only cares about himself, and Lio because of his addiction to Hab and his continuous efforts to prevent his friends and the preceptors from discovering his addiction.
If you are a lore nerd like myself, collecting all Starcraft novels and manga — you will no doubt appreciate all the continuity nods and mentions.
Did you read Starcraft: Ghost Nova? Then you will love reading Starcraft: Ghost Academy as it’s written by the same author: Keith R.A. DeCandido — who participated in the shaping of the main character and its world. Awesome job, Keith! Fernando Heinz Furukawa is the artist of this manga. The artwork is very enjoyable and consistent. Rich facial expressions really help to transmit each character’s emotions throughout the plot. I am not into manga, but I truly dig Furukawa’s style.
Overall, a good read, as expected from the writing-calibre of Keith R.A. DeCandido. The Starcraft: Ghost Academy will only span up to three volumes, but after reading this first issue, I really wish Blizzard and Tokyopop published them as an ongoing series every three-or-four months without a defined end.
The Starcraft comic book by Wildstorm is heading to the Graphic Novel format, so I would welcome an ongoing manga series based on Nova and the Ghost Academy with the same author and artist.
Check out the preview scans and the recent teaser trailer. You can order Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 1 here. The story continues in the second part, Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 which hits bookstores on August 3, 2010.
You will see some slang used often throughout the manga:
PI: Psi-Index (a PI 10 is a powerful telepath/telekinetic)
Chaneed: short for “What do you need?”
E.B. James – UNN Reporter
Director Kevin Bick: He is in charge of the Terran Dominion’s Ghost Program. Director Bick talked to the UNN to deny all accussations from ex-senator Corbin Phash and to convince the populace that Phash’s notion of the Ghost Program’s experiments on children is outdated info as that’s how the Confederates’s Ghost Program worked like, not the Terran Dominion’s. That’s of course a lie.
Preceptor Soohoo: History instructor at the Ghost Program
Superintendent Angelini Sarco – He monitors each of the Ghost trainees through Sparky — the computer that probes each area of the building as a surveillance system.
Jenni – assistant serving Director Kevin Bick
Dr. Gauthier – the Ghost Program doctor overlooking Colin Phash’s brainwashing process and he’s running experiments on Colin.
Colin Phash – ex-Dominion Senator Corbin Phash’s son. Colin is a telepath Psi-Index 7.5 with the innovative and unique ability to create a Quiet Voice mental cloaking field around himself to stay out of plain sight, and can cast an astral projection of himself.
Aldeo Cistler – He is the Terran Dominion’s Finance Minister and a valued member of the Emperor’s Inner Circle. He sent his son Aal Cistler to the Ghost Program to make a man out of him because throughout all his young years he has been an embarrassment to his family.
Kam – Hab supplier inside the Ghost Program. He provides the illegal narcotic to Lio Travski at blind spots where Lio can fool Sparky’s probe detection.
Aunt Yuku – Uncle Desi’s wife and aunt to Lio Travski.
Uncle Desi – Uncle to Lio Travski. Desi is a computer tech at the Kal-Bryant Mining Conglomerate in Pridewater.
Sergeant Hartley: Rude trainer who teaches martial arts to all ghost trainees and forces them to do fifty push ups on one fist.
Preceptor Appelbaum – Overlooks Delta’s training.
Delta Emblock – a very young telepath girl at the Ghost Program. She was born in New Sydney. Her mother died of a lung infection acquired at the factory she worked at. Delta had to work at age seven after her mom died and never learned to read. Wrangler Randall captured her and dispatched her to the Ghost Academy.
Preceptor Lagdamen – a trainer at the Ghost Program who oversees the training of Team Blue.
Preceptor Ryke – he teaches PI 7 and higher index telepaths how to supress thoughts. A P10 can’t control to read memories on people with strong thoughts or memory imprints.
Dr. Neall – She attended Lio’s health at the infirmary when he had a overdose of Turk, and found out traces of Hab in his bloodstream.
Gabriel Tosh – He grew up in the streets of Haji. He is been in the Ghost Program for at least two years and the leader of Team Blue. Gabriel Tosh plays an important role in the Starcraft II single player campaign. He is who gives you the mission titled MINING YOUR OWN BUSINESS at Redstone III [alias the lava planet].
Lio Travski – He can hack into machines using telepathy. Lio can create blind spots where Sparky — the preceptor’s sensor probe can not spy on him or detect that he is sending email to his family. Biometric sensors and cameras can’t pick him up, and he can easily infiltrate and hack into Sparky’s mainframe. He is addicted to Hab — an illegal narcotic.
Kath Toom – She gets bored in history class, yawns often. The pessimistic and complaint girl of team blue. She is the daughter of one of the executive vice-presidents of the Kal-Bryant Mining Conglomerates on Pridewater.
Aal Cistler – Age 25. He is a PI 4.5 — which catalogs him as not a telepath. An opportunistic playboy. An Intelligent and superb martial artist. He got black belts in three different disciplines. He is the son of Aldeo Cistler (the Terran Dominion’s financial minister). His father used his influences to place Aal into the Ghost Program even not being a telepath merely to make a man out of him. Aal has lived a playboy life, surrounded by luxury, lazyiness and bedding many women.
Nova Terra: November Anabelle Terra was the daughter of an industrial robotic manufacturing executive. One of the Old Families of Tarsonis. Her abilities manifested in full at the sight of her parents’ assassination. She lashed out at her would-be executioners and the telekinetic outburst destroyed the top of her family skycrapper and its anti-nuke dome, along with three hundred civilians. After six months in the Gutter, she was rescued by Wrangler Malcolm Kelerchian and brought into the Ghost Academy to hone her PI 10 abilities.
Dylanna – She was the highest rank (68%) in the planet-hopper scenario simulation until Nova broke the record with a 70%. Nova’s team died in the simulation, while Dylanna’s lived. Yet Nova was rewarded with a higher score. This makes Dylanna angry at Nova, and a nemesis.
Lio Travski mentions two locations while emailing his uncle Desi. Desi lives at Pridewater. Both formerly lived in Nidhogg.
Nidhogg – Unknown location where drug addicts consumed Hab [illegal narcotic]. Smoky air and plagued by bugs.
Canis – One of Ursa’s moons. The Hab dealer gets supplies from here to distribute off-world.
The Gutter – a criminal activity and drug traffic zone in Tarsonis where Nova spent six months as slave of its kingpin Fagin.
It’s that time of the year when families get together in special times to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa. It’s meant to be a time of joy. I wish everyone happy holidays, especially all the people at Blizzard including those I have personally met or interacted with such as Chris Metzen, Mike Morhaime, Paul Sams, Frank Pearce, Ghostcrawler, Jeff Kaplan, Nethaera, Karune, Bashiok, Jay Wilson, J. Allen Brack, Wryxian, Changwoon Jung (who takes care of flight and hotel whenever I go to Blizzcon and to the Blizzard campus — thanks a bunch).
I gotta thank Chris Metzen for many things, he creates fantasy and sci-fi worlds that have entertained and enlightened me over the years not only through the games, but through books, manga and comic books. Chris Metzen got me invited to the fansites’ Starcraft II single player hands-on back on July 17th where I interviewed him. It was great when I was recording video of a Starcraft II panel at Blizzcon, and I heard this voice calling my name. When I turned my face to the side, it was Chris Metzen waving at me. That was absolutely awesome, and I felt a lot of joy within to have someone I am a fanboy of remember me and say hi. His work and his worlds inspire to wish to be better each day. You can learn things from certain stories, that you would not learn normally in real life for lack of living those experiences.
I emailed Chris Metzen a couple of weeks ago simply to apologize for that Sargeras article I wrote a few days ago. I had meant to write about it for a long time — ok, two years late — and used a photo by Gadgetress (OCRegister) of Chris Metzen from the 15th Anniversary of Warcraft celebration held at the Blizzard campus. The Sargeras article brought up the retcon, and possible reasons the creative team had to infuse a new direction to the story, while I was also exploring and parodying the reaction from fans when this retcon took place a couple of years ago.
To make a long story short, in the parody I used this photo of Chris Metzen that looked like those facepalm images, and I added a few parody words concerning the retcon. You know, at that moment it looked fun to use the photo in the context of the article, but I still felt uneasy within. I emailed him to apologize. It’s not my nature to cause stress to people or make them feel bad, or do bad things on purpose. I’m a nice guy, honest and overall a good guy. A bit funny sometimes, which contrast with my shy personality.
Chris Metzen was pretty cool about it, no hard feelings from him for using the photo in that context. However, I want to share that at the time that photo was taken, he had a speech about what all those 15 years at Blizzard creating all these worlds meant to him. It’s easy to say 15 years, but it’s a long time and a large chunk of your life dedicated to writing, inventing, jammin’ ideas within and with other fellow writers. It was a very emotional moment, that I can just grasp and imagine. It was a meaningful moment, that I am really sorry to have parodied.
While there’s a lot of trolls out there who might think otherwise, many people — including me — love the work Chris Metzen, Micky Neilson and the Creative Team have done over the years. We are very proud of you, Chris. Merry Christmas!