Worldbuilding Wednesday 2/19/20: Female Transformers

The feminine but undeniably powerful Autobot Arcee, who could transform into a pink sports car.

For the first few years of its existence Transformers was strictly an all-male universe. By universe, I mean the line of toys, comics and cartoons in the US; there may have been some distaff members in the Japanese lines, which are traditionally more accepting of females in action roles. It was not until the mid-1980s that a female character, Nightbird, was featured in the cartoon. **  Appropriately for the gender roles of the time, she was a Decepticon. (Shades of Mata Hari?)

Shortly after this, a heroic female Autobot, Arcee, was introduced who could transform into a cool pink sports car. Unfortunately, she never became a main character in the cartoon or comic and didn’t even get her own action figure until years later. Think of the opportunity the toy manufacturers fumbled marketing a line of kick-ass, but feminine, robot dolls to girls.

It took decades for female Transformers to come to prominence. In recent years, Windblade, Chroma, and Codexa are receiving adventures of their own alongside the botboys.

In some alternate universe, female Transformers were there from the beginning and had their own toy line. Here’s some randomgenned names for them.

 

Female Transformers

Ballista

Cosmina

Dreamblade

Enertrix

Galaxica Prim

Galveartha

Globella

Hydrawelda

Mechasong

Metalily

Miss Altitude

Motorflame

Planetaria

Plasmeena

Pneumawave

Raptura

Quarkspark

Motortrix

Novaspar

Novasynth

Paraflyer

Scorpiana

Spinnera

Steelpink

Synthetrine

Thermobow

Toasterette

Torqua

Toxina

Transparkle

Vectostar

Vitalina

** In the French version of the first Transformers cartoon, several male characters, including Starscream, were changed to females for unknown reasons.

Silly Centaur

Because he’s talking out his ass, that’s why.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 2/12/20: Rejected Transformers

In addition to the toy lines and TV series, Transformers had a successful comic book run. Not surprising as Marvel helped create them.

As the picture above ** suggests, some Transformers just never made the grade. Since part of the fun of them are those oh-so-easily parodied names, here’s a list of those Autobots and Decepticons who never should have been born. I’ll call them Aborticons.

 

Aborticons

Cosmiclutter

Dirtbag

Lumplizard

Dinofart

Kittenstrike

Hysteridemic

Crunkbrawl

Skysnort

Menhonk

Hypimple

Moonbacon

Polyfluff

Thunderstool

Mouthbreather

Neurotoast

Hydrogutter

Gunkhead

Transpanic

Hamscorch

Nitrosplat

Necropissant

Acceleraver

Lousebite

Electrasnot

Jetwaffle

Unimuddle

Blitzmew

Battleglob

Toastette

Plasmapunk

** They are robots. Why do they need pink, fleshy tongues?

Go away, don’t bug me.

Artwork by Dan Hillier

Worldbuilding Wednesday 2/5/20: Transformers

Starscream of the Decepticons. He transformed into a jet.

Do you know American President Ronald Reagan is to thank for the success of the Transformers franchise?

In the early 1980s Hasbro executives noticed a line of Japanese toys called the Diaclones, which were robots that transformed into vehicles. They thought the concept had merit, so the company licensed them to be sold in the States with a new name and new backstory. The cool but faceless robots became two warring factions from Planet Cybertron, the good-aligned Autobots and the Evil Decepticons, both marooned on Earth after a battle and awakened from stasis by an erupting volcano. They were given names like Megatron, Optimus Prime, Ratchet and Buzzsaw by a team from Marvel comics, who also developed their backstory.

Where does Ronald Reagan come in, do you ask? Before 1980, there were restrictions on children’s TV advertising for the protection of young minds (and parent’s wallets) that studies said were unable to tell the difference between a character in a cartoon and that same character in a commercial. This made sense when animated favorites like the Flintstones regularly shilled cigarettes and other vices, but Reagan no longer saw the need for such restrictions. He lifted the ban, opening the toy market up to half-hour commercials disguised as TV series. The rest, as children of the 1980s know, is history.

(Not only the Transformers benefited from such a cross promotion. GI Joe, My Little Pony, the Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake and He-Man all developed series or specials of their own. )

Transformer proper names were unrelentingly macho, cobbled together from the names of tools, car and computer parts, and rocket and jet terminology. This February I will be running wild with them. For today, here’s a list of Transformer names that don’t sound too far out of the ordinary. If you’re writing fanfic, one of these would do for an original character. Or perhaps you need a name for a Transformers-like clone for your own work.

 

Transformers

Autobots

Omnitron

Megaminder

Hot Loader

Cyclosting

Hypergy

Astrohawk

Magnofoil

Lunalator

Gammafire

Scramblesynch

Polarflip

Thermothunder

Plasmatank

Quasister

Isonotron

Decepticons

Scarshatter

Stargoblin

Unijacker

Megastomp

Tyrannihopper

Starscreech

Catapincer

Gigasnitch

Moonwrack

Nitrofist

Hot Fusion

Punchbar

Vertiblast

Unihurl

Technomuter

 

Airbender

Most people know the term Airbender from the anime, but it’s also English slang meaning one who has just laid a big fart.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/29/20: Minor Magic Spells

The Laughing Fool, by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen

Oddball spells to use and abuse.

 

Minor and Mundane Magic Spells

Lungs of the Jester: Allows the caster to tell jokes in a loud voice that carries over the noise of a crowd, and the jokes will always come out amusing.

Olnatra’s Cold-blooded Pancake: Turns any normal-sized cold-blooded animal (reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects) into a pancake for the duration of the spell, squishing them into a flat, round, harmless form.

Jopal’s Irritating Rune: This rune creates such agitation in whoever sees it that their reaction checks are compromised.

Wall of Ash: Creates a wall from the ashes of a campfire approximately 8’ x 20’. It has no substance to it but can obscure vision for a few seconds. Creatures passing through it will cough and choke.

Fairy Flask: Shrinks a normal potion down to micro size, altering the dosage so a fairy can take it safely.

Tenacious Scrimshaw: Protects any carving done on a sea mammal’s tooth for up to 100 years.

Parsimonious Enchantment: When cast in conjunction with a spell that requires physical components, this spell reduces the amount used by 10%.

Phoryind’s Hail-the-Castle: Projects the caster’s friendly greeting from the front gate of a castle up to the top.

Avian Blindness: The target of this spell will not see any birds for the duration of the spell. However, they can still sense them in other ways.

Bed of Shadow: Creates a resting place from intangible shadows. Anyone sleeping there will appear as a shadow as well.

 

Rubber

The industrialized world depended on rubber once. There was rubber everywhere. But then, one day, it came to life.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/22/20: Malls

Oxford Valley Mall, PA, in the mid-1970s

In the recent hit Netflix Stranger Things the high school students hang out at Starcourt Mall to alleviate the boredom of their small-town lives. Though treated as an exotic element in the show, hanging out at the mall was, once, very common in the 1970s and 1980s. There was an element of snobbishness in it because, number one, you actually had to have money to buy something, and number two, because most were in suburbia, you had to have a car to get there, or know someone with a car. Or you could take the bus, like me and my friend did when my mother refused to drive us.  It was a whole afternoon’s excursion and we had to transfer in a bad part of the city. To naive 15-year-olds, it was like flying to Paris for the weekend in terms of time, money, and energy expended.

The mall pictured above is Oxford Valley, not the one we went to, but one we visited every once in a while. It opened in the year 1974 and as a child I remember running full speed down that winding spiral ramp pictured in the lower photo, clutching a double-dipped ice cream cone from Baskin Robbins — peanut butter and banana. My first credit card was from the Bamberger’s store.

Malls had many different naming conventions, depending on where they were and if they were upscale, outlet, suburban, or specialized. In my part of the east coast they tended to be named after historical places or landscape features, but in the big city, the names were more snobbish and creative. Here’s a list free for use. One of them is meant in fun — can you find it?

 

Malls

Shoppers World at Linden Park

Hardbattle Grand Junction

Cuban Square Mall

The Brick Market

The Lemon Yard

Gazena County Market

Midlands Mall

The Galleria at Cherryview

Angelfort Woods Market

Winter Gateway Center

Dillun Market

The Skymall at Sunset Field

Swan Place

Shieldburn Farmers Market

Aqueduct Town Center

The Terminal at Seafeld

King’s Olde Plum Orchard Mall

Shield Bridge Riverwalk

Stonefort Shopping Mall

Metro Fashion Outlets of Loganham

Oldbridge Shopping Mall

Eldertower Family Center

Limeiurs Riverview

Uptown City Center

Queen’s Trinity Yard

Hillfeld at the Hub

Moorcult Mall

Crossroads at Redvale

Metro Mills

The Promenade at Capitol Court

Bear Meadows Shopping  Mall

Frustration at the Hub

West Outlet Shops at Pennyhem

Playgrove Mall

Tri-Cities Luxury Court

The Mall at Summer Spirit

Pennythorough Shoppes

The Crossings at Rockfield

Cloughrin Shopping Mall

Gilaray Grand Junction

Heathland Bridge

Thorogood Pike Luxury Mall

Bayrion Shopping Center

Alamo Market Square

The Mall at Pointbattle

Trentham Place

Postover Crossing Mall

Outlet Shops at Anderweldt

Waltine Mall

Town Center at Alder Chapel

Belfred Mall

The Queen’s Quad at Shelderlay

 

Persepolis [Reading Challenge 2020]

Persepolis

by Marjane Satrapi
Pantheon Books, 2003

I finally got around to reading Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis which served as the graphic novel for this year’s reading challenge. It retread a lot of the ground I had just visited when I read Reading Lolita in Tehran, but I loved it nonetheless. There’s a sequel that I will definitely be reading at some point.

The book is autobiographical, being about the author’s life in Iran as a young girl from the time of the Iranian revolution up to the age of 14. It differs from Lolita in that is told from the viewpoint of a child with no agency and no context for the tumultuous events she lives through. In a way, it book can be described as a female version of Art Speigelman’s Maus – simple childlike illustrations used to tell a more serious political story. Like Maus, it caused a lot of buzz when it came out and was even made into an animated film.

Sample page from the book

I don’t have much more to say except that I loved it and it made me consider doing my own graphic novel at some point.