Doom Star Series (books)

2014-12-02 by . 1 comments

Back in August I saw a promotion for some free Kindle books and I decided to grab a copy of one titled Star Soldier (Doom Star #1) by Vaughn Heppner. I had never heard of the author or the series, I just wanted a free book. I knew the promotion was designed to get me reading the first book, and then purchase the remaining 5, and being an unknown author/title, I wasn’t sure it was what I was looking for. Obviously I decided to give it a chance (otherwise this article wouldn’t exist).

doomstar1 doomstar2 doomstar3 doomstar4 doomstar5 doomstar6

The series focuses on the main character Martin Kluge. The son of dissidents, he lives under the thumb of Social Unity, a communist regimen that controls the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars). Martin wants to be free, to be able to have his own thoughts and live his own life. His thoughts and temper get him in trouble with the Policial Harmony Corp, and he is sentenced to forced labor deep underground in Australia. Meanwhile, the genetically engineered super-soldiers, created by Social Unity, have decided they are superior and they should be the masters of homo-sapiens. Renaming themselves as Highborn, they start an interplanetary war against Social Unity. This conflict eventually spills into the outer planets, as a third threat arises and the whole solar system jockeys for power.

The series reminds me of Starship Troopers, with their battle suits and extreme ideologies, along with the training and space battles of Ender’s Game and the Eugenics Wars of Star Trek. There is a line taken straight from Space Seed, when one of the Social Unity generals is referring to the super-soldiers “superior ability breeds superior ambition.”

These books include, but are not limited to, the following tropes:

I was taken in by the first book and subsequently purchased the eBooks for the remainder of the series. The adventures of Martin Kluge and others were interesting. The second and third books suffered from repeating information from the first book. I know why authors do this, but I find it irritating, particularly when I’m reading the books back to back. Once you get to book four recapping reduces to the minimum so the story can progress.

Filed under Review

Detective Comics #27 – Introduction of the Batman

2014-11-10 by . 7 comments

Detective Comics #27 (Introducting the Batman) is available for free in your favorite eBook form. This issue is a 6-page story featuring the one and only Batman.

We know that the Batman has evolved over the years, and is typically retconned every decade or so. So how far as Batman come from his first iteration? Here are a list of things that strike me as very strange in that first appearance of my favorite character.

  • They can’t decide if he is Batman (cover), Bat-man (spoken), or “Bat-man” (narrative).
  • Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon are close friends, so much so that Bruce Wayne is often hanging out at Gordon’s house.
  • Despite the size of Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon is routinely called on to investigate single homicides. Ɨ
  • Gordon decides to invite Bruce Wayne to visit a fresh murder scene with him.
  • Gordon rides in Bruce Wayne’s car to the crime scene (red car, Gordon arrives at a location later in a green car, stated to be his car).
  • Batman’s chest symbol was originally just a black bat, no yellow circle.
  • Batman drives Bruce Wayne’s ordinary red car around while dressed as Batman.
  • At one point Batman ‘speeds his car forward to an unknown destination.’ Presumably this destination is known to Batman, just not us. Because in the next page Batman arrives at the correct place.
  • Throughout this episode, Batman is operating during the day time.
  • There is a lot of action narration that today’s comics omit. Batman picks up a wrench, jumps into the glass chamber, and smashes it with the wrench. In today’s comics, all of that would be derived from the art, and probably not stated.
  • Batman punches the murderer, who then crashes through a railing, and falls into a vat of acid. He’s dead. To this Batman says ‘a fitting end to his kind.’ The next day Bruce Wayne describes this story as ‘a very lovely fairy-tale.’ Bruce Wayne is a sociopath.

And here are the most glaring differences between original and modern Batman.

  • Batman considers Gordon to be a close friend, but Bruce Wayne is just something of an acquaintance to Gordon.
  • Batman prefers to work at night.
  • Batman wisely decides that driving around in his alter-ego’s car is a bad idea, and builds his own unique ride.
  • Gordon may still be a detective who holds the title of Commissioner, but at least he isn’t inviting rich kids to tag along and gawk at bodies.
  • Batman still kills, but he does it in a ‘I don’t have to save you’ kind of way, instead of ‘I’m punching you into a vat of acid’ way.

Ɨ To be fair, they didn’t actually name a city, but the only cities that bother to have commissioners are large ones, with thousands of police officers under the administrative guide of the commissioner.

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Science Fiction Technologies that People are Hoping for in Their Lifetime

2014-11-01 by . 3 comments

I asked people from Facebook, reddit, and the meta.scifi.stackexchange.com what science fiction technologies they really wanted to see within their lifetime that they believed were achievable. Immediately some people forgot about that last little requirement, but that is okay. The few who gave estimates were in the 25-50 years time-frame. Few people explained why they wanted a certain technology, so I had to infer their intentions using wit and cynicism.

Space Travel – We gotta get off this rock.

  • Mars Mission / Colony – You’d think 45 years after landing on the moon we’d already be permanently stationed there and going to Mars. What happened to our future?
  • Cheap Access to Space – Why only rape the Earth of its natural resources? There is a whole Solar System out there, people.
  • Asteroid Mining – I’m looking to get my hands on the literal Silicon Valley.
  • Space Elevator – It’s what Michael Scott called ‘the big ride’ in The Office (S1:E3)
  • Anti-Gravity – America’s solution to morbid obesity.
  • Interstellar Spaceflight – Once the Solar System is ours, the whole universe will be ours.
  • Worm Hole Generator – Find out just how terrible living in the movie The Event Horizon would really be.
The thing I like about space travel is most of this stuff doesn’t sound like science fiction, it is just a matter of investing billions (or trillions) and hoping it pays off.

Advanced Computers – Life is too boring.

  • Artificial Intelligence – The supporters were keen to mention it would be a ‘friendly’ A.I.
  • Iron Man’s (or Mass Effect’s) Holographic Computer Interfaces – I hate physical contact with everything, even computers.
  • Virtual reality – Finally, the ability to commit murder using all 5 senses instead of the 2 you get from today’s limiting video games.
  • Artificial Artist – I’m not really sure what this is, but I guess we could finally free up all those starving artists out there so they can do something they truly love.
  • Sex Bots – I have nothing to say.
We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t make killer robot police? – Dave Barry. Don’t worry Dave, we are totally going to make them friendly.

Healthcare – What I like to call ‘fear of death.’

  • Starship Trooper’s Full Integrated Prognostics – Cyborgs of the future unite.
  • Full Body Regeneration – The K12 from Better Off Dead just made my bucket list.
  • Star Trek Medical Tricorder – This device can tell you when you are going to die, but modern science can’t do anything about it.
  • Elysium’s Health Care – All conditions can be diagnosed and treated; eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you will be cured.
  • Mind Uploading – Transcendence and Lawn Mower Man are apparently not cautionary tales.
Death isn’t so scary if you believe we’ll have technology to talk to the dead later (see The Insane).

Transportation – When I travel, I want it to be exciting.

  • Back to the Future 2′s Hoverboard – Because skateboards need to be more dangerous.
  • Jet Pack – I’m pretty sure Budget has already mastered this.
  • Flying Car – Because everyone is good enough to become ace pilots.
  • Self Driving Car – I promise not to crash if you wash me regularly.
There are two kinds of people, those who believe traveling is too dangerous, and those who believe it isn’t dangerous enough.

Manufacturing – We hate blue collar jobs.

  • Replicators – Say goodbye to even the premise of a healthy diet.
  • Nano Tech – Big projects just need lots of little solutions.

Energy – Save the planet.

  • Back to the Future 2′s Mr. Fusion
Only one person mentioned cheap clean energy. Personally, I see that as the technology that allows for all the other stuff. A new abundant energy source means we can finally build autonomous robots, and then we can upload our brains into them and live forever. With everlasting life, traditional space travel just becomes an exercise in not being bored, cue the virtual reality (which will be easy, since we are robots). Everything falls into place when we get a Mr. Fusion or a Tony Stark miniaturized Arc Reactor.

The Insane

  • Talking to the Dead – That’s a technology? Okay.
  • Pleasure Gun – I have nothing to say.
  • Bender Robots – I guess a robot would have to be crazy to wanna be a folk singer…

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Favorite Questions and Answers of All Time

2014-10-15 by . 3 comments

It was suggested we do a favorite questions and answers post, so here it is.

Beofett suggested the answer to Are all Stormtroopers as poor soldiers as the ones in the movies?, which was answered by Jeff.

This is my single favorite answer on the entire website. It’s one of those answers that just shattered my preconceived notions about one of my favorite titles in a way that makes me enjoy the movies more than I had originally.

Mooz’s favorite question is What is the song of ice and fire? asked by Shevliaskovic

A Pretty underrated question. It’s one of those funny ones where you see it and you’re like “why didn’t I think of that?”. The entire story hinges around this one simple line, and none of us questioned what exactly is the “song of ice and fire”…

His favorite answer is by Thaddeus to the question Is Thor the only Avenger that can’t die?

Thaddeus always takes the time to give us well-researched and wonderfully formatted answers, he even gives us a nice tl;dr for all of his answers. This one stands out for me as I really enjoyed the subject matter and all of the links and extra reading linked in the answer.

Slytherincess has exactly 3 questions favorited.

Why didn’t Fidelius charm on Shell Cottage stop the heroes from apparating there from Malfoy Manor? asked by jogabonito. Why did the Fidelius Charm on the Potters’ house break? asked byKevin. And the infamous Is Santa Claus a Time Lord? asked by Tango

She asked How Was the Sound of the Nazgûl Composed? and received an answer from Gabe Willar.

Gabe Willard’s answer was absolutely the most surprising and unexpected one I could have imagined! The question is just okay, but the answer is unbelievable.

Darth Satan has a favorite answer, his own. To the question Word for female dunedain asked by Envite.

At the risk of a (probably fair) accusation of self-promotion, I was very happy with the detective work I got to do for my answer to “Word for female dunedain”. I understand why it only got +8 rather than the obvious +several billion it undoubtedly deserves (smiley goes here) since it was a farly niche-interest question, but it’s still amazing what one can dig up in obscure footnotes and side-references.

Richard liked the question Who, or what, are the human characters in the original 1977 Hildebrandt Star Wars poster? asked by Major Stackings.

It took me a while to puzzle out why the poster (drawn after the film had been made) looked like it had completely different actors on it.

SQB says What is the origin of the phrase “on the gripping hand?” asked by Bill the Lizard and answered by Gilles.

…because I learned something that I didn’t even know I could learn.

DVK has a number of favorite questions, of which he predominately answered.

The top 4 favorite questions on the site are:

Filed under Question of the Week

The Flash – Pilot Episode

2014-10-08 by . 8 comments

The show opens with an 11 year old Barry Allen coming downstairs to see a swirling yellow and red thing encircling his mother. Suddenly he is teleported a few blocks away from his house. By the time he makes it back home, his mother is dead from this mysterious presence.

The Flash

Flash (pun intended) forward to a now 20-something Barry Allen. He is a junior forensics analyst for the Central City police. He’s a scientist (Batman’s a scientist!) and he is excited for the opening of a Star Labs in his town with a new particle accelerator. He ends up missing the opening day and returning to his lab only to see an explosion in the distance (the particle accelerator) and an energy wave pass through the city. Some of the energy collects above his lab and he is struck by lightning, and then rushed to the hospital (who knew to call an ambulance for him? He was alone).

At the same time his adoptive father is running down a lead on a couple of bank robbers who drive a Mustang (product placement). The perps manage to escape in a plane, but not before the same energy wave hits their plane, destroying it and leaving the two presumed dead.

Barry Allen awakens from a coma nine months later and has the abilities of The Flash (i.e. super speed and super reaction time). He works with a few people from the now defunct Star Labs (the explosion really spooked the investors) and not only starts to learn his own abilities, but also learns of the existence of other meta-humans that were created as a result of the particle accelerator gone bad.

When a man who can control the weather starts robbing banks (you might say he is something of a wizard at it) Barry has to decide if he is going to use his newly found powers for good. He has a short conversation with Arrow about it, and ultimately decides to go all super hero and become a vigilante.

Overall I thought it was a pretty decent pilot episode. I’m much more of a Batman fan, but I enjoyed The Flash pilot a lot more than I enjoyed the Gotham pilot. Gotham is apparently all about silly cameos and corrupt cops, while The Flash has a lightheartedness to it that makes it fun. I couldn’t really get into Arrow, but I’m definitely going to be following this sister-series.

Things I noted;

  • The mysterious death of Barry’s mother is obviously going to be a major plot point. Particularly since it makes a viewer think that Barry himself could potentially be responsible.
  • Barry has already revealed his secret identity to five people. This means he tells his secret faster than Batman. I wonder if that will become an issue down the road…
  • We’ve already seen a major antagonist of The Flash perish. Comic Tv shows and movies seem to hate recurring villains, I guess that is why they die so often.
  • The explosion, which potentially affected lots of people, opens the path for many meta-humans to appear in The Flash and in Arrow.
  • We see a news article 10 years in the future which says that The Flash mysteriously vanished during a crisis. Is this the kind of crisis that could span infinite Earths?

Filed under Review

Highlights from 2014 – 3rd Quarter

2014-10-06 by . 2 comments

The question with the highest score and the most views was Why did the Matrix simulate 1999 instead of a pre-computer year?. This was also a favorite question of Richard “the Lion Heart” Lion Heart. He felt it was a “good question that provoked a pretty good range of answers.”

The question with the highest answer score was Hogwarts: So why aren’t the kids “doing it”? which was answered by Richard “the Lion Heart” Lion Heart.

Close behind it was the answer to Why was Han Solo on Tatooine? asked by TZHX, which was a favorite answer to the aforementioned Richard “the Lion Heart” Lion Heart. It was answered by phantom42.

Speaking of “the phantom,”* he liked the question Whose underwear is this? which has the advantage of being in the #2 spot for up-voted questions, and is more appropriate than the Harry Potter sexy times question. * (not actually a phantom)

He also liked the answer to Is Big Brother an actual person in the novel 1984? asked by Santa Claus (he doesn’t have any claws at all!) and answered by Thorsten S.

Was your favorite question/answer callously forgotten? Drop a link in the comments (scifi.SE links only).

Filed under Question of the Week

Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 Report

2014-09-10 by . 0 comments

Well Attended, Not Well Organized

The 2014 Salt Lake Comic Con saw over 120,000 attendees. Thursday evening some people still weren’t getting their wristbands until ten minutes before the convention hall closed. This was particularly frustrating for people who had purchased a 3-day pass. Saturday, the last day of the convention, more than 90,000 fans came to the Salt Lake Convention Center (Salt Palace). The line to get in (even for those with wristbands) stretched around the block and then some, as capacity was at its maximum. All tickets had been sold by Saturday around noon, but lines outside persisted well into the afternoon.

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Convention Floor - Courtesy of Salt Lake Comic Con

Convention Floor – Photo courtesy of Salt Lake Comic Con

Convention Floor

Tom Cook – animator and director of a number of 1980s cartoons (He-Man, She-Ra, Ghostbusters, Bravestar, Blackstar).

On Blackstar, the Wikipedia entry says:

John [Blackstar]‘s race is not specified in the series, though it is often speculated that he could have Native American heritage.

However, as I was visiting his booth I heard Toom Cook explain how Blackstar was originally meant to have black skin, but the networks didn’t like it. Instead the title character was changed to have deeply tanned skin.

Tom Cook

Tom Cook

I saw a couple of Groots, and their costumes were pretty good.

groot

I am Groot.

The Utah Lego Group was back with more builds.

batman

Lego Batman

friends.

And friends.

Eventually I got thirsty, but fortunately I found an oasis.

Voldemort isn't the only one who likes to relax with a glass of blood to wind down.

Voldemort isn’t the only one who likes to relax with a glass of unicorn to wind down.

I also saw this, when I peeked my head in, I was just a little bit frightened.

Cosplay your way into love.

Cosplay your way into love.

Panels

I attended a couple of panels while I was there. This being my first panel experience I learned a few things.

  • When you line up for a panel, there are no ropes or anything to keep the snaking line from merging, even when they press the lines together. Despite this obvious flaw, people tend to be honest and snake along their given path and not cut.
  • Sitting near the edges is a great way to go deaf from the speakers
  • Most panels are comprised of random fans and not celebrities or people in the actual know.

The first panel I attended was 75 Years of Batman. This panel consisted of six people talking about their favorite aspects of Batman, from comics, to films, to villains, and everything in-between. I left this panel early to make sure I made it into the next panel (Marvel Movies: Phase III). Panels might not be my thing. I’d like to see more insiders and less random local people.

Syfy Z Nation

Everyone knows that San Deigo Comic-Con is the place to see new trailers and test footage for upcoming movies. While Salt Lake Comic Con may bring in SDCC levels of attendance, it hasn’t reached the point where it the place for new content. That’s why I was happy to see that the Syfy Channel premiered the pilot for their new series Z Nation at SLCC.

SLCC’s place on the calendar might make it a good spot for upcoming fall shows to tease footage and other things. What SDCC is for movies, SLCC might be for television.

Salt Lake Comic Con will return in September 2015

Filed under Conventions

Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 – Marvel Movies Phase III Panel

2014-09-08 by . 4 comments

The Marvel Movies Phase III Panel at the Salt Lake Comic Con was basically the summation of confirmed reports and rumors surrounding the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (May 1, 2015) marks the end of Phase II, and Ant-Man (July 17, 2015) will mark the beginning of phase three. None of the panel members were affiliated with Marvel, instead they were a local collection of fans who scour the internet constantly for new information surrounding the MCU.

Warning: If you consider rumors to be spoilers, then you might want to skip this.

Ant-Man Poster

Ant-Man Poster

Ant-Man

Since Ant-Man will be coming out first it is understandably the movie the panel knew the most about. Ant-Man is being directed by a man who is known for comedies, so the hope it is will have that light playful feel of other Marvel movies.

The anticipated style is that of a detective movie. At the beginning, an old Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a retired superhero, has his Ant-Man technology stolen. He enlists the help of a thief to recover his lost property and in the process trains Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to be the new Ant-Man.

The release date of July 17 this coming summer is incredibly aggressive, considering they are still filming the movie right now. Given all the post production that goes into a super hero film, it sounds like a very tight schedule.

Captain America 3

Just as Captain America: The Winter Soldier was something of spy movie, the same director pair has said that Captain America 3 (May 6, 2016) will also have that spy feeling to it. Rumors about supporting characters vary including Hawkeye, Agent 13 (the next door nurse from Winter Soldier), and Black Widow (potential love interest). Few people in the audience thought that Black Widow and Captain America should be a thing. In the comics Captain America has a relationship with Agent 13, but also ultimately has a son with Black Widow.

Here is the line where things go almost full rumor.

Dr. Strange

The only thing known for sure about Dr. Strange is that currently a director known for horror films is slated to make it. Although Joaquin Phoenix appears to be the favorite, there have been some rumors surrounding the idea of Johnny Depp playing Dr. Strange.

Guardians 2 and Avengers 3

Guardians 2 was announced before Guardians of the Galaxy came out. Since both Guardians and the Avengers are dealing with Infinity stones, it is suspected you will see these two ensembles meet in Avengers 3 regarding the Infinity Gauntlet.

Black Panther

Stan Lee has made several statements that support Black Panther will be made, but without any details. When asked by a fan at Salt Lake Comic Con he said this:

Oh, I wish I knew. I love the Black Panther. I know that they’re figuring out how to do the movie. I don’t think it’s scheduled yet, but be patient, because sooner or later the Black Panther will strike.

Marvel has a block of release dates going through 2019 with many of the films untitled. Plenty of room for Thor 3, Black Widow, and others. Someone in the audience asked about Civil War, the rumor on the street is that Disney may do a Pixar animated movie of Civil War.

Filed under Conventions

Starship Troopers – The Mobile Infantry definitely does not accept Hippies!

2014-07-22 by . 6 comments

Starship Troopers is Heinlein’s Hugo-winning right-wing, pro-war, ultra-nationalist (ultra-fascist?) manifesto masterpiece.  Set against the narrative backdrop of boot-camp and interstellar war, Heinlein describes what his ideal military, and by extension future society, looks like.  In Troopers, Heinlein’s paternal characters explain that “might makes right” is the only true moral code and every other point of view is selfish delusion.  At the start of the story, humans live in utopian bliss due to having discovered, and forced to accept, the greatest possible form of government: Democracy where only veterans can vote.

Written after the Korean War, but before the Vietnam War, Heinlein posits the probably naive view that volunteer soldiers are the least corruptible and most moral members of a society.  Non-veteran civilians, on the other hand, are considered unworthy childish scumbag sheep who never had the courage or moral fiber to become true men and women.  Did I mention that Heinlein goes on a 3-page rant about how social-workers and child-psychologists are “pseudo-professional and pre-scientific”, and their notion of not beating your kids (and also not allowing juvenile delinquents to be beaten by the government) led to the downfall of the US before the end of the 20th century?

When ST isn’t explaining why genocide is good, Heinlein is discussing in meticulous and fascinating detail his vision of a perfect military and the awesome array of weapons the Mobile Infantry employs throughout the universe.  One gets the sense that many of today’s sci-fi war franchises, like Warhammer 40K, Battletech, and StarCraft borrow heavily from the torrent of technologies and brutal ideologies that Heinlein presents.  Indeed Warhammer 40K’s ultra-violent Space Marines seem to spring directly from the Mobile Infantry, especially their battle armor, jump-jets, drop pods, and callous ethos.

The Mobile Infantry are soldiers in armored mechanized battle suits equipped with an automatic movement and jump-jet control system, as well as sophisticated communication and sensor equipment.  Each suit has a lengthy array of weapons from hand flamers and rocket launchers to chemical and small-scale nuclear weapons.  This makes the two main battle scenes that bookend the novel graphically entertaining and often thrilling.  Sadly, the couple of other battle scenes are only vaguely mentioned with minimal detail.  One gets the sense that Heinlein only created the two large battle scenes so that he could begin his thinly veiled lectures on his socio-political philosophy and to describe his ideal military.

Heinlein´s Terran military is described in wonderful and intriguing detail.  Though, at times like when Heinlein details the chain of command or the wide variety of possible patrol routes, these descriptions become tedious and down-right boring.  That’s not to say this isn’t a true sci-fi story, it is, but the attention to detail on military matters at times feels more like a distraction. Certain parts stand out, only enlisted men who have proven themselves in battle can become officers, only retired military can vote (no civilians or active military), a small military force comprised entirely of fighting men (no army barbers). The military is hard to join and easy to quit. The book goes out of its way to state this numerous times, and extol the virtues of a volunteer army.

The book has spread to comics, anime, animation, and a film series. In the last few years there has been talk of remaking a Starship Troopers film which will be closer to the books than the 1997 film.

This entry was originally written by markrogers in September of 2011, but was abandoned and placed in a state of limbo. I recently read Starship Troopers and remembered this entry. I decided to finish it and allow it to be published. The title and all but the last two paragraphs are virtually untouched from markrogers’ original draft. – Jack B. Nimble

Filed under Review

Highlights from 2014 – 2nd Quarter

2014-07-15 by . 2 comments

Meta Suggested:

alexwlchan suggested the two questions which happened to be the two highest voted questions in the quarter:

Avner Shahar-Kashtan mentioned DVK’s question How exactly is the Secret Fire similar to the Holy Spirit? He also liked The Valar and their power to create and the answer to Did the force-like magic exist within LOTR books?.

It was a very Harry Potter centric quarter for DVK’s favorites:

I mostly remember these [answers] because they were for the questions I asked, so there’s a certain bias [here.]

How do wizards prevent Accio-fueled robberies?

The answer by alexwlchan is wonderfully canon including sourcing a canon source I wasn’t even aware of before!

Would Severus Snape be classified with ASPD? by Slytherincess – AND a competing answer by alexwlchan. Amazing analysis.

Overpowering The Elder wand by Slytherincess.

Why didn’t Quirrell keep the flying key? by alexwlchan. Especially since it was posted right after I made a fool of myself by commenting that there’s no canon answer.

DVK also liked the research aspect of what initially seemed like a “D’uh” answer to Which are the Two Towers in Lord of the Rings?

Interesting Stats:

The question with the most votes AND the most views goes to Does Batman use Linux? asked by user3058846. The second runner up for most votes was How did Dumbledore, or anyone, know Lily had sacrificed herself for Harry? and the second runner up for most views was What are the rules of Trial by Combat in Game of Thrones?

The top two answers were to Why was Hermione not in Ravenclaw? answered by alexwlchan and Who is / was the “Lord of the Rings”? answered by SQB