Monthly Archives: May 2018

TitanSpeeder

Kronos Colony. Primary outpost of the System on the Saturnian moon Titan and one of the most populous and important colonies in the outer Solar System.

Situated on the shores of the Ligeia Mare close to the mouth of the hydrocarbon river known as the Vid Flumina, Kronos began as a harvesting operation for Titan’s exotic hydrocarbons and nitrogen, but has grown into an important and diverse colony.
Titan’s liquid hydrocarbon rivers, lakes and seas make the usual mechs and rovers less fully useful for getting around, particularly in the polar regions where the majority of the lakes and flumina are. More than anywhere else in the System, Titan’s Kronos colony employs ground-effect speeders for the majority of its local transport.

Recently, rumours of a secret Blacktron separatist base in the Xanadu region of Titan have prompted an increase in patrols, and Keyshawn Friedman and Jan Meyerdahl pilot their R22 Avalon speeder across a spit of land jutting out into the Ligeia Mare. Titan was a big moon, however, larger than the planet Mercury. Surely the Blacktron couldn’t be anywhere close to such a large and important System outpost…?

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Okay, technically I built the speeder and then decided to locate it on Titan, but Titan’s an interesting place to put a Neoclassic Space outpost, and I decided it needed to be done.
All the locations on Titan are real astronomic features of the moon, for added realism. I’m not sure that black is necessarily the right colour for Titan’s liquid methane seas, but it works for modelling purposes.
Anyway, here’s my Titan-speeder.

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LSS Cytherous

Dragon-carved star frigate of the Galactic League, LSS Cytherous is typical of the League’s design approach to spacegoing vessels.

The Galactic League is an ancient transstellar body of numerous sapient species, whose incredibly high technology masks the inherent reactionary conservatism of its members. Most member species advance technologically only at a glacial pace, and the few fast-paced galactic species like humans are considered disruptive and dangerous.

The League’s conservatism and high technological level manifests itself in a predilection for ornate design, and figureheaded starships are the rule rather than the exception.

Given the League’s ancientry and dislike of humans, it might be surprising that a human mythological creature would be used as a figurehead, but dragons and dragonlike creatures are common to the mythology of many Galactic worlds. The Cytherous is the form of draconid in the mythology of the Sthan Ka Ree, one of the eldest Galactic species – a pseudo-avian race who occupy many administrative positions within the League.

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Apparently I like the idea of dragon starships, because this isn’t my first. This 100-stud SHIP uses the head of Zane’s first ice dragon from the Ninjago theme as a figurehead. I’m also pleased with the incorporation of the Coruscant planet sphere elements like I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.

Built in mostly studs-forward configuration, this could be thought of as SHIPtember practice, or simply as something I built because I wanted to. It’s also my first SHIP which I built without actually trying to get it to 100 studs. I just measured it afterwards and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it does actually measure the magic 31½ inches.

Space Sphinx

LL-817 Sphinx

No, not the mythological creature. Nor the Egyptian monument. I’ll explain.

The inspiration for this was simply to build a nice, solid Neoclassic Space transport ship, medium-to-large in terms of original set comparisons and carrying at least two crew.

Shape-wise, I had the Cayman somewhat in mind, though this is its own ship and not a stunted copy. Anyway, that’s where the broad-bodied, blunt-nosed look comes from. Enter the Sphinx.

The angled wings are what gave the Sphinx her name. A modern aeroplane with a diagonally-angled tailplane is said to have a “butterfly tail”, but the wide body and stubby wings put me in mind of a rather fat moth rather than a butterfly per se. Something like a hawkmoth, in fact.

The typal species of hawkmoth, the Poplar Hawkmoth (native to my homeland Britain), is in the genus Sphinx, so that’s where the name comes from.

The build itself is fairly conventional, but sometimes that achieves the right look perfectly well. I think perhaps an old-style 4x6x2 trans yellow windscreen element might have integrated better with the rear passenger section, but those things are expensive. I’ve recently upgraded to a better-paying job, so money isn’t quite as tight as previously, but I still have enough poor-person habits of mind that I rebel against the idea of paying upwards of $5 US for a single dinged-up windscreen element.

Look! Undercarriage! 😀

Still, I’m pleased with the overall shape and look of this, far more than the relatively conventional mostly-studs-up construction might suggest.  Possibly one of my better NCS ships, in fact.

Black Viper

The clean, conventional lines of the Colonial Viper are most unBlacktron, really. However, having built a Cylon Raider (1980s version) in Futuron colours, a Blacktron Viper does complete the symmetry.

This isn’t a straight copy of the Colonial Viper, either the original version or the reboot, but like my Futuron Raider, it’s definitely in the “inspired by” category.

Blacktron I hardware tends either toward the sleek and streamlined (like the Battrax) or the nastily unconventional (cue the asymmetricity of the Renegade); and while this is smooth, the shape doesn’t give quite the impression of sleekness and is certainly a very conventional, hero-type design.

However.

As I’ve been mentioning on this blog, in these parts at the moment the Blacktron movement is a heroic rebel Alliance rising up against the brightly-coloured tyranny of the System and its shiny Classic astronauts (frowny faces punishable by Disappearance). And in that inverse version of the Classic Space/Futuron/Blacktron shared universe, the conventionality of the Viper-esque lines make a certain amount of objective sense.

Or it’s a sophisticated visual irony and the Blacktron are their usual bad selves.

Either way, I built a Blacktron Viper to go with my Futuron Raider. And of course, I had to take a pic of them facing off.

I think that with this creation I’m done with this mini Classic-Space-meets-‘80s-Battlestar-Galactica kick. Though I do wonder whether a Blacktron Battlestar would work…?

By Your Command

Apparently I’m in ‘80s Battlestar Galactica mode or something.

Futuron Raider

Normally we might expect that if we’re building a Futuron interpretation of a 1980s Battlestar Galactica ship, it would be the Colonial Viper, leaving the Cylon Raider for the Blacktron. However, in this part of the universe we run on an inverted, mirror-dimension sort of setup in which the Blacktron Alliance are the good guys and the Classic Space/Futuron/Space Police triad represent an oppressive megacorporate System. So it’s the Futuron that get the Cylon Raider.

Cylon Raider (original 1980s version)

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The Colonial Raider-class transatmospheric fightercraft is a tailless flying-wing design space fighter with twin nuclear engines. The configuration is inherently unstable for unpowered atmospheric operation, but it is considered unlikely that any fighter would have to make an atmospheric flight without power. The weapons systems of 24th-Century combat tend towards utter destruction of a struck vessel of this size rather than any survivable hit.

The Raider includes twin wingtip-mounted lasers and a pair of plasma cannon mounted in the nosecone. The cockpit is large and spacious for a single pilot, and the command variant includes a second seat in tandem with the first for no increase in overall size.

Planet Futuro’s colonists are a mixed bag of allegiants of most of the major System transcorporations, and their white-with-black livery is a departure from the older blue-and-grey livery of the System, selected initially as warning colouration to make astronauts aware that the vessels are interstellar-capable and include antimatter power plants.

Since almost everything moved into the Tau Ceti system that includes Planet Futuro was powered by antimatter, the livery has become associated with the “Futuron” colonists.

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Now, how about a Blacktron version of the Colonial Viper…?

Original Colonial Vipers

Hydra Deep Space Probe

The Hydra deep space probe, LL-817

Well, it seems like I still haven’t got the elements for a full-scale Classic Space SHIP, but this does represent a substantial increase in size over my previous “largest Classic Spaceship”. At 25¼” long, it tops out at a smidge over 80 studs, which is 160% of my previous 50-stud Classic maximum.

This represents my first minifig-scale spaceship with a real interior rather than just a cockpit. The inside isn’t all that interesting, but there’s space for several astronauts to sit, stand or walk around. As built, it contains a red astronaut, a white astronaut, a blue astronaut, a green astronaut and my new yellow astronaut, so now I only need a black astronaut to have the full set of available colours.

It’s perhaps a little boxy and clunky, and those three fins give it something of a scaled-up Colonial Viper look, but as an experiment in “just how big can I build a Classic Spaceship these days?” I’m going to call it a success.

Engine section. Those half cones make a pretty good scaled-up Classic Space-style rocket nozzle.

As far as names go, with that obvious Colonial Viper ancestry, it needed some kind of scaled-up snake name, but nothing too predatory. It’s a probe ship rather than a combat craft, and the name should reflect that if possible.

After some thought, I went with “Hydra”, putatively after the constellation rather than the mythological monster, so this is the Hydra Deep Space Probe.

Brightly-Coloured Tyranny

Blacktron bad, dark, evil, chaotic. Classic Space/Futuron/Space Police good, light, ordered.  It’s pretty much standard for interpreting the (lack of) story behind the shared universe of the earliest LEGO Space themes.

But what if we’re wrong?  What if the Blacktron are the good guys?

Yeah, they wear black and have ships with slightly sinister-sounding names like “Invader” or “Renegade”, but so what?  Batman wears black.

This would make the Space Police an evil instrument of tyrannical oppression, which TLG weren’t going to do back then (still probably aren’t) because they don’t want to be accused of teaching kids that regular street cops are villains.  However, we’re AFOLs, and we can do things with LEGO’s products and universe that might not be completely kid-friendly and inoffensive.  The idea of a tyrannical government and oppressive police force isn’t a new one and ought not to shock anyone.  It’s even been used in children’s literature: CS Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had the tyrant Witch Jadis’ chief wolf Maugrim be “Captain of the Imperial Secret Police”, to say nothing of more recent vintages like The Hunger Games.  I think even quite young kids can separate out police in a story from police in real life, especially in a fantastical or futuristic setting, though I can see where a toy company like TLG making their own, non-licensed merchandise with no tie-in to a particular story might not want to go there.

The more I looked at those old catalogue pictures and all the smiling happy faces of the astronauts, the more they looked like Lord Business’ propaganda in The LEGO Movie.  Maybe it’s because I spent some time in the former Soviet Union, but I was suddenly struck by a sort of New Soviet Realism take on the old catalogue images, complete with potential sloganry:  “Working Together For The Greater Good”, or “Bringing Peace To The Galaxy”, or “Be Happy; You’re In Spaaaace!”.  Unhappiness punishable by disappearance.

Developing the idea, I was originally going to call my Classic Space dystopia a “Federation”, inverting the moral polarity of the term that’s been adopted by fans for the Classic astronauts’ political unit ever since Reid and Goddard’s LEGO Space: Building the Future.  Possibly before.  But when I started thninking about how it might function and what the different suit colours represent (genetically determined caste system?), I had an alternative idea.  What if the “Federation” isn’t really a thing at all?  What if the different industries that make the civilisation work are divided up between massive megacorporations run by single corporate dynasties – a sort of Ayn Randian hypercapitalism gone horribly wrong, administered by the Yakuza and the Mob, with a Soviet-esque approach to information control?  Each suit colour might represent a different megacorporate First Family, with different industrial specialisms; for example the white suits might represent some kind of energy/resource extraction corporation – a TransOctan, if you will – whereas the blue suits might be an information-controlling media and communications giant – Bencom? – that manages the propaganda machine.

Welcome to the transcorporate brightly-coloured tyranny of the System.

In such a world, you can imagine that the Revolution picked black as a unifying colour, and countercultural, aggressive ship names that stand the shiny oppression and corporate propaganda of Dark Side rogue hypercapitalism on its head.  The Blacktron movement might be something akin to a political revolutionary movement – not socialism per se, because it’s the future and I’m sure they have new political movements.

Cernunnos-class Blacktron mech

I’m trying to write a story set within this universe, something like Peter Reid and Tim Goddard’s Building the Future, but kind of inverted.  I doubt the LEGO Group would fully approve of what I plan to do, but there are advantages to having no real plans to publish…

Like Reid and Goddard’s book, but unusually for me, all the action happens within the Solar System.  Even as a kid I usually interpreted the Classic Space theme as taking place on an interstellar level rather than merely interplanetary, but the requirements of story overrule.  However, my version of the Solar System is a lot more extensively colonised, including outposts on Mercury, asteroid bases carved into the interior of Pallas, nitrogen and hydrocarbon harvesting on Titan, and of course the usual suspects on the Moon, Mars, Ganymede and in orbit.

Exploring the surface of Mercury: the “Hellsuit” mech

Earth has an orbital ring (which I may try to build a section of): the Bifrost Ring.  I was initially considering multiple space elevators until a friend suggested this concept, and after doing some investigations I have to say I’m sold.

Massive megacorporations control everything, which is less cool, but that’s the essence of this universe.  There is a rebellion in the shape of the Blacktron Alliance, because stories thrive on conflict and I’m not going to leave the future in the hands of evil corporations if I can help it.

And the very first ventures beyond the Solar System are taking place:

Orion One transsolar explorer flying by planet Futuro