Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years!

We are nearing the New Years. Joy!

And we are nearing the revitalization of the Quantum Spin Plates blog, because frankly, it is downright shameful how terrible I've been about writing this blog.


We're back!


What the bloody hell do I talk about?

Lets start with what you've all missed!

1) I pronounced my entire second novel - Shattered Sky - to be guilty of the capital crime of being terribly written and awful. So, I shot the book in the head, rolled it into a ditch and started re-writing from scratch. This is going very well and I'm quite happy with it.

2) My Sunday Rogue Trader game is going astoundingly well and I am very happy that I've made so many awesome friends there.

3) My mother has been watching Glee, which makes me want to listen to songs covered by Glee. It's a sickness, I tell you.

4) I have recently finished the first three novels of the Gaunt's Ghosts Series. If you like military sci-fi, they're worth checking out, but if you ask me, they don't really start getting good until Necropolis...though Necropolis is easily the grimmest of the lot, so be ready for lots of grit, grime and grinding of teeth.

That's the short and sweet of it.

Now, next year, I will resume the blog with some rambling discussions about something or other. I hope that, by creating a continuing stream of random, meaningless posts about whatever crosts my mind, people will be mildly entertained.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Peril, Profit and Adventure!

Man it has been a very very very incredibly extremely long time since I have updated this blog! So, first things first, some updates!

1) As anyone who has been near me for five seconds can attest, I have a kickstarter now! If you use this, you can get my book and sweet merch!


2) I have been working on my various books. This is all going great, better than I have any right to expect.

But now, on to the exciting part, the adventurous part. For the past three weeks, I have had the chance to run my all time favorite roleplaying game: Rogue Trader. Rogue Trader is a game wherein you - the players - take the part of a star-faring merchant princes who captain titanic, kilometer long starships in a dark, gothic future where humanity is beset on all sides by horrific aliens, demonic entities, and foul mutants.

As Rogue Traders, the player characters (PCs) are expected to explore the dark corners of the map, fight evil creatures, land on distant planets, and make HUGE, TITANIC PILES OF MONEY!

And so, I decided to begin leaving a record of these stalwart heroes.

Let us begin...with a DRAMATIS PERSONAE!

Our dashing and brave Lord-Captain, Ansin, is the Rogue Trader. He holds the group's sacred warrant of trade and is a charismatic man who has an exceptional skill with leadership. He is able to boost the abilities of the other characters and generally gives the orders.

Under Ansin is his First Officer, York. York is a Void-Master: A pilot without compare, York is a former naval officer with a burning hatred for Space Orks (which are like regular Orks, but in space!)

But even the best Void-Master can't take a ship through the nightmarish hellscape of the Warp, an alternate universe which allows humans to travel faster than light. Only those blessed with the Navigator Gene can guide a ship through the warp, and for this vessel and crew, the Navigator is Julia Benetec. A proud and noble woman, Julia and her third eye will see the crew to any destination they set their mind too.

Still, a ship is a fantastically complex technological construct. In the grim darkness of the distant future, technology is stagnant and moribund. Science has become, literally, a religion. And so, the next member of the bridge crew is the Enginseer Regina. Enginseers are experienced Tech-Priests, able to maintain the ancient technology of the Imperium, while also finding "new" technology amidst the ruins of the ancient past.

But a ship is more than machinery. It has a crew as well, and that crew needs their souls tended by the fiery sermons of a Missionary: In our case, we have Lady Cenna, a noble born Missionary who seeks to bring the light of the God-Emperor into the benighted regions of space.

And, at last, there are the needs of the Trader Dynasty beyond the vessel itself. Ansin is the latest in a long, proud lineage. He has thousands on thousands of serfs and servants, spread across the galaxy at large. There needs to be someone to organize and handle these vast, spread out fortunes. That responsibility falls on Ansin's Seneschall, Sem. Sem is a logical super-genius with an eternal eye for profit.

Now that we know the names and places of our characters, there is only a single thing left to introduce: The Fortuna!

The Fortuna is our crew's starship: A five kilometer long Dauntless-class light cruiser, designed for long distance exploration and combat. It has been equipped with macrocannon broadsides and lance turrets, weaponry that could shatter a continent if unloaded on a planet. It has a barracks, containing thousands of loyal marines who can board enemy ships and capture them. It has a cargo bay, to carry home the lucre earned in distant planets. It is a stolid ship, and despite it's use in exploration and combat, it has a somewhat plodding, lazy character.

Next week, tune in for the first voyage of the Fortuna into the untamed Koronus Expanse: Ancient alien enemies, piratical miscreants and treachery most foul await!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why Creationism is an X-Risk

So, I'm not a big fan of Creationism. For one thing, it seems like a really silly part of the Bible to stake a claim on. I have read parts (not all) of the Bible for my Early American Literature course. I mean, Moby Dick pretty much requires the Bible to be used as a cultural cipher...the best comparison would be if you are an ancient Israelite who can somehow speak English and you watched Robot Chicken. That's about how confusing it is to read Moby Dick without reading the Bible.

And you know what? There were some great ideas in the Bible. Some bad ideas. Some weird ideas.

But none of them, as far as I can tell, are predicated on the Earth being 6,000 years old or humanity not being descended from previous lifeforms. Maybe this is because I'm an atheist, and thus, don't have to see the whole thing as connected, but there are a load of parts of the Bible that are just fine on their own.

You know the rules: The ones about distributing your wealth to the less fortunate, refraining from gossip and being a dick (to paraphrase) and so on.

Those are good ideas in general.

Saying that our species is only 6,000 years old, and that the Earth was made in it's present form at the same time, well, it is less of a good idea. In could be a DEADLY IDEA.

How, you might say, could thinking that be a deadly dangerous risk? How could it be an X-Risk?

I'm glad you asked, random internet person!

Let me list the ways...

  1. Plague: Evolution is the basis of modern biology and medicine. Understanding and believing in evolution, plus studying it and using it as a model on the activity of bacteria and viruses, is vital. Without this, we're defenseless against the next pandemic. The Black Death killed 1/3rd of Europe's population and they had no shield against it. If something like that were to come again, we'd at least have a chance of figuring out a cure before it kills 6 billion  people. 
  2. Calderas of Doom: I am living in California, which means that I am used to earthquakes. These are due to plate tectonics. What does this have to do with Creationism? Well, um, the Earth is clearly changing. The force of that change is the movement of our tectonic plates, which creates earthquakes and volcanoes. And that leads us to the Yellowstone Caldera, which is basically a supervolcano. If it went off then the whole world would have a really really bad day. In the Creationist model, we lack the understanding that there is even a threat. Without that understanding, we can't even think of a way to stop it. Not that we HAVE a way to stop it, but we might figure it out in the future because we're aware of the issue.
  3. SPAAAAAAAAAAAACE: Space can kill us. Really badly. The first example is the asteroid impacts that wiped out the dinosaurs (which isn't mentioned in the Creationist model), but you can argue that there's no reason those asteroids aren't 6,000 years old. So, a Creationist can still keep their eyes open for an asteroid and nuke it. But what about all the other ways that space can kill us? Gamma ray bursts, supernova, galactic impacts (okay, that one is a few million years off, so we're safe for now) and other nasties can be chucked at us...and that all requires an understanding the universe that makes it clear that the thing isn't 6,000 years old. So, was the Earth created near the tail end of the universe's creation? If so, then what was God doing the rest of the time? You know, I'm actually interested where this train of thought leads...
  4. Climate: So, climates change. We should all know this by now. Unless, of course, you see the world in a Creationist way...but then you'll get sideswiped by climate change, either the human made or the "natural" kind. Ice ages suck just as much as global warming, and unless you are aware of these threats, you can't prep for them, you can't DO anything about them. This can lead to extinction of other species, which can lead to the extinction of our own. And that's a major drag for everyone involved. 
  5. Hubris: This...this is the most subjective of all the X-risks here. But there is a certain...pride involved with the belief that the world was made for us, by a god who loves us, for the express purpose of us to run and do with as we will. A good person will take a gift and do what they can to make it better...but it is dreadfully easy for even a good person to become careless or conceited when they're showered with gifts. It's important to remember just how precarious and dangerous our home is...and just how much we have to remember to work together to make it better, rather than pull it apart to make it worse. Or, you know, nuke it into oblivion. 

Now, you can be a Creationist and be concerned about plague. You can look out for asteroids, worry about volcanoes and do your best to not bomb Russia into the stone age. But the problem goes deeper than the X-Risks: It goes to the fact that Creationism is backwards. Not backwards in terms of intelligence or smarts (there are smart people who believe in Creationism) but rather backwards in terms of PROCESS.

Rather than looking at evidence, then figuring out what it means to come to a conclusion, Creationism looks at a conclusion, then works backwards to find evidence to support it.

With Creationism, you don't have a changing Earth. No understanding of the colossal timelines that geology and astronomy work under. No concept of how vast the galaxy is, or how dangerous. No realization (until it is too late) that extinction can come for even the most successful species. No realization that climate change can even happen at all, that ice ages are things that can ruin your whole week. No evolutionary understanding of bacteria and viruses. the end of the day, it's just a date. It has nothing to do with being nice to someone. It has nothing to do with loving your neighbor, or tithing 10% of your income to charity. It has nothing to do actually living by a code of morals and ethics and everything to do with just confirming a bias.

Still, I have to admit, a feeling of pride: I've done it.

I've pissed off, offended and irritated 49% of the American population! Only 150 million to go!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The super-funtime Ayn Rand Post: In which your humble blogger touches on an issue that will never offend anyone ever

Oh Ayn Rand.

People really hate Ayn Rand.

People really love Ayn Rand.

People are fascinated by Ayn Rand. I'd say this is the mark of a great novelist, but in my humble opinion, I don't actually think she was a good writer. Her characters were flat and one note, her books could use a serious trimming and their pace started to get downright glacial at times. What she was good at, though, was inspiring people either to vitriol or virtue, with much gnashing of teeth on both sides.

Depending on who you ask, Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism is either a recipe for babyeating or the one true path for human happiness.

But a friend of mine - a fellow D&D player, actually - came up with an astoundingly astute and clear headed way of expressing the awesome and terrible part of Objectivism, Ayn Rand and her seminal novel, Atlas Shrugged, in a single paragraph.

"[Atlas Shrugged] is, basically, about superheroes. That's how superheroes should act to make the world a better place. That's why it doesn't apply to the real world: We don't have superheroes."

It makes perfect sense. Atlas Shrugged, for those who don't know, is a novel about a world being strangled by communism (literally!), where governmental meddling has caused the collapse of the economy for the most part, and that only certain select people, via their own individual activity and drive, could push the world forward...but they were tired of being cheated by the "looters" (I.E, the government and people who relied on the government) and so they left the world with one John Galt.

Thus, the title: Atlas, shrugged.

But the problem is that it doesn't work, because (almost) no one can actually measure up to these character's shoes. This philosophy requires superhumans and regular humans...but in the real world, we're pretty much all equal. Oh, we have different temperaments and different aptitudes and different desires, but at the end of the day, the difference between a farmer, a neurosurgeon and someone who has memorized every single episode of Project WHAT THEY HAVE SPENT THEIR TIME DOING.

Farming is hard work, with an immense amount of technique and knowledge required to do anything well. Memorization (even of something "useless" like a TV show) is difficult. And the various things you need to learn to actually act as a neurosurgeon is pretty astronomical. Each of these things requires training and practice and study. The only reason why we humans can all find an individual vocation, rather than having to generalize (and thus, lose any chance of becoming a high quality specialist) is because of a huge, complex, interesting society, which lets people support one another through semi-selfish interaction. A society that might have sigma 9 events, people who are above and beyond the normal, average person...


And here is the big but.

We can't call them an Atlas and have it be the end of the day. Because, and this is my personal issue with Objectivism: Everyone ever wants to be an Atlas. People, just by their nature, prefer to put themselves up while also putting other people down. I find myself doing this too, it's really easy to think things like this.

"God, those people. What the hell is wrong with them? How could they be so stupid for X, Y, or Z reasons? Oh, what a world."

That's the flaw. Objectivism works with superheroes, but not everyone is a superhero. And nothing is more toxic and dangerous to a person's brain than believing that they are an entitled, put-upon genius...because thinking that way means that they're really just an asshole. An entitled asshole.

Now, this doesn't mean that I don't agree with a lot of things in Objectivism. But I still figure that you should always take it with a grain of salt...and remember to never ever let an idea (even one you think is awesome and shiny) blind you to the world and ideas around you. Never think the other person, the one who thinks that your ideas are wrong, is just stupid and evil. No one ever wakes up, cackling and twirling their mustache, to look into a mirror and go: "Today, I will destroy happiness and goodness and be...EVIL!"

People wake up and do the things they do because they believe in ideas deeply and truly. Disagree with those things, sure, but don't discount them. Give them the respect of remembering that they are human beings too.

Unless the person is a Republican. They're pure, babyeating evil.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to survive the Twilight Zone

You are entering a blogpost, not just of words and images but of mind. A blogpost where a young man has been watching way too much quality television and has begun to think too deeply...on the Twilight Zone.

Before I go on, I want to say this: Rod Serling was a goddamn genius. The guy belted out almost a hundred stunningly good TV episodes, narrated, produced and generally saw to them not sucking, all on budget that would barely pay for some modern actor's cuisine. I've been devouring Twilight Zone episodes ever since I found they were on a totally legitimate website (that is, Netflix. What, what did you think I meant?) and almost every single one has been creative, creepy and insightful.

But I've begun to notice a pattern, a series of events and character flaws.

So, if you ever find yourself drawn into the Twilight Zone, here are some basic tips.

1) Don't panic. This is a simple one that seems obvious, but is often forgotten by the people who enter the Twilight Zone. Yes, a puppet may be trying to kill you. Yes, the furniture might be alive. Yes, you may be stalked by a teleporting hitchhiker. Still, do your level best to remain calm and rational.

2) Are you dead? Once you have become calm, take a moment make sure that you are, in fact, alive. Call your parents (if you have any). Talk to people on the street. Take your pulse. It will save a great deal of hassle if you realize that you are, in fact, dead and everything is a delusion.

3) Assume everything is real. Now that you have determined you are NOT dead (to the best of your abilities, at the very least) you may ask the question of: Well, what if I am dreaming? Don't. It is counterproductive in the extreme. The reasons are simple: If you are dreaming, then you will wake up and everything will be fine, rendering your actions moot. But if you are NOT dreaming, then taking the correct action will see the difference between being dead or walking out of the Twilight Zone alive.

4) Never ever ever EVER accept a deal from Satan.

5) No, seriously, it's a bad idea. Never do it.

6) Think all wishes through. Never wish something without adding in as many safety or control clauses into the wish as you can imagine. The genie is not going anywhere, so feel free to take time and talk it out with others. So that they don't think you are insane (or try to Bogart your genie) make sure to postulate that this is a hypothetical situation.

And finally, the most valuable trick to surviving the Twilight Zone.

7) Be a racial minority! Because so far, only one black person has shown up on the show, and I'm almost 60 episodes in. I know it's the 1960s, but jeeze people. It's almost like the past was racist or something...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Updates and ponies!

Wow, what an exciting time to be me. Not only have I defeated Baron VonDoom's plan to invade the world from his Moon Fortress, solved the case of the Jade Claw, and aided in the defense of the Frost Academy against the dread Eater-Queen Acheron...but, most importantly, I've found that the second season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is on Netflix insta-que.

Clearly, this is the most important part of my week, and I should devote an entire blog post about it.

MLP:FIM (or just MLP from here on out) is actually a really really good show. I won't say it's the best show ever (Babylon 5) or a perfect show (Firefly) or even a super revolutionary show (The Original Star Trek). Hell, it's not even the best animated show ever...that is a tossup between Batman Beyond, Cowboy Bebop and Captain Simian and the Space Monkies.

...okay, we all know it's Captain Simian. Seriously, how can you go wrong with a children's cartoon show that stars Jerry Doyle (Michael Garibaldi, Babylon 5), Michal Dorn (Worf, Star Trek TNG), Maurice LaMarsh (Almost every single worthwhile animated TV show ever) and Malcolm McDowell.

Yes, Alex DeLarge voices a cybernetic rhesus monkey whose primary mode of attack is to launch his disembodied brain out of his head. And then it strangles you. With the spinal column.

And the jokes were amazing. Seriously, they had an entire episode that was an Alien parody. And a really well done, funny, witty alien parody.

Such a great show. Should have lasted 5 seasons, not 1.

...what was I talking about? Ponies? OH RIGHT!

What I'm trying to say is that I'm not being hyperbolic here. MLP is liked by many people because it is a good show. Which is, in and of itself, an interesting thing. Not that MLP is good - anything can be good, for gods sake, one of my favorite shows has a guy whose head looks like a Japanese war-fan and talks like a very drunk member of EuroTrash - but rather peoples REACTIONS to it being good.

See, there is this really insidious cultural artifact in our country (our country being the United States of America, the only country that matters) wherein a boys story is for everyone. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, most of Pixar's work, these are all archetypal boy stories. Manly men doing manly things. There's something for everyone!

But if you do something for "girls", it becomes a freaking memetic ghetto: Princesses? That's girl stuff. One is implicitly inclusive, the other is explicitly exclusive and both are alliteratively awful (at least to me). There is no real reason why stories about princesses and pastel colored ponies and friendship and magic should be exclusive to girls. All that such a story requires is quality.

The saying goes that a good comedian can make reading the phone book funny?

(It's true, just make Christopher Walken do it!)

Well, the same is true of writing: A good writer can make any idea appealing. It is all about execution and skill and craft. And, well, MLP takes the IDEA of Equestria - a magical land where three distinct forms of ponies live in harmony, where they tend to the land using magic, where baby dragons are used as walking I-phones and a sun-goddess alicorn rules for thousands of years due to her ability to raise and lower the sun on a whim - and totally SELLS THE HELL OUT OF IT.

It just takes thought. I mean, it's easy to go, "Well, girls like dresses. Make a character who likes dresses. BOOM. DONE! Lets snort cocaine off the breasts of a hooker!"

(I imagine all TV writers to be the corporate guys from RoboCop. It makes watching the latest inane soap opera make way more sense.)

But the hard thing to do is to take a character and actually make her liking dresses (and fashion) not just believable but also interesting to people who, normally, would never be interested in dresses at all. That requires thinking of clever and interesting character notes, possibly writing a catchy song and top notch animation and voice action. It requires good writing and good craft, in the same way that making an archeologist who punches nazis interesting requires good writing and good craft.

Apply this level of good writing to each of the characters, the world, and the plots, and you have a show that doesn't just escape the girls-only-ghetto, but it blows down the walls. Maybe we'll have a generation of men who have realized that princesses are things worth being interested in...and a generation of writers who won't dismiss "girl stuff" as things you can just phone in on the way to a dump-truck of blow.


Me, I'm optimistic.

Till then, if you've seen an airship that's on fire and contains the soul-devouring army of immortal, psychopathic killers, me!

No reason. Just...uh...

Where did I put my Legacy Blade...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why we need more Aberrant

I love roleplaying games. For those who don't know, a roleplaying game (or RPG) is a game where you take on the persona of someone more exciting, sexy and awesome than you. You then guide your persona through adventures orchestrated by your "Game-Master", who plays the other characters, handles the rules, arbitrates differences, and describes the world.

It is group storytelling at its finest, with the storytelling mediated by rules and random chance (via dice rolling) so that everything has a structure and flow that just a group of people making shit up couldn't quite manage.

The grand-daddy RPG is Dungeons and Dragons (though it rarely involves either, oddly enough) but there are many others: Eclipse Phase, Pathfinder, Exalted, Star Wars the RPG, Mutants and Masterminds, just to name a few.

But my favorite RPG of all time is a child of the 1990s.


Aberrant takes place in the (then) future year of 2008. In 1998, an exploding satellite called the Galateia spreads radioactive materials in the upper atmosphere of the Earth, and immediately afterwards, human beings with astounding powers explode onto the scene: Dubbed Homo Sapiens Novus, these meta-humans have a special gland in their brain that let them subconsciously manipulate quantum forces to produce various effects.

So, if a nova (as they were soon called) has a subconscious desire, their brains would literally change themselves and the world around them to fulfill it. A latent nova could be in a car crash, have their gland (called a node) "erupt" into full power...and suddenly be super tough. Or be able to teleport. Or have mastery of magnet!

(Maybe two people got that. Everyone else is just going to call it a typo.)

You might go, "pff, that's not special. That's just like X-Men, but with some quantum handwavium."

And yes, there IS an organization that trains novas to fight for the betterment of humanity. And yes, there is a nova who preaches a credo of nova supremacy and he has an organization of vaguely terrorist novas who bash things up and get into scrums with novas working for the other guys.

But that's where Aberrant gets awesome.

Firstly, the "good guy" organization is Project Utopia: A UN backed regulatory and training organization who is primarily an environmental cleanup and  peacekeeping force. They're more famous for cleaning up after disasters and fixing that hole in the Ozone Layer. And, more importantly, only 20-30% of novas actually work for them, and those that do work for them due to the paycheck and chance at marketing deals. Because novas are basically just people: They're not superheros.

They don't wear masks (most of them at least), they don't have flashy code names (unless they want to sell more records at Quantum Boom, or get that serialized comic book that every money savvy nova wants) and they don't all have a uniform desire to either save the world...or destroy it.

Novas with super-strength don't have a new villain to fight every week. Instead, they usually work a day job: Construction, demolitions, or if they can fly, freight trafficking. Novas who can survive anything that life throws at them have found more work exploring the Challenger Deepness than surviving blasts from Dr. Evilos Ray of Doom-Laser. Of course, those with more violent temperament find flamboyant wrestlers with the eXtreme Warfare Federation, or if they're a few steps more psychotic, as superpowered mercenaries called Elites.

And to add a cherry ontop, Aberrant takes an angle I hadn't seen done very often: That if someone could shoot webs out of their wrists, or fly, or do anything a comic book superhero could do...well, they'd be famous as SHIT. In Aberrant, there is a channel called N!: Thing a combination of TMZ and E! and focused purely on superpowered individuals who can melt tanks with their eyelasers and you've got a good idea of N!. There are nova popstars, nova gay rights activists (or in Tommy Orgy's case, a combination of the two), nova Muslims, Mormons,  Wicca and Buddhists.

It's a great system, a great world, and it is all around great.

But here is one problem.

Aberrant is dead.

It lasted into the year 2000, but was discontinued due to disinterest and poor sales. People just weren't into superheroes at the time. Which is a huge shame, as the game had even more potential that hadn't quite been reached.

But now, it is 2012. RPGs seem to be doing better than ever, with the popularity of Pathfinder, D&D 4th ed...even indi-games like Eclipse Phase are doing better than expected. The company that makes Aberrant - White Wolf - is still in business, mostly by making World of Darkness and Exalted (both fine games, mind you).

And we've just had a huge EXPLOSION of superhero popularity. Bale's Batman movies, the Avengers and every movie that lead up to it, the new Spiderman, superheroes dominate this cinematic landscape. And hell, the last X-Men movie was pretty much the best X-Men movie EVER MADE.

The time is right for Aberrant.

They may not be superheroes...

But they damn well deserve another chance in the spotlight.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Technicolor Ponies

In celebration of it being Friday, I present to you...ponies.

I don't really have anything to add beyond this is amazing.

Friday, June 29, 2012

In space, no one can have the sanctity of marriage

I had the recent pleasure of being linked a blog discussing a newspaper article: Go here to read it.

Wow...just wow. Not only is that easily (one of) the worst science fiction stories I've ever heard, but it's also a terrible argument against the legalization of gay marriage. I mean, it falls apart on the logical level before we even get to the astoundingly offensive ideas espoused within.

But it's pertinent to me because it involves the future, marriage, and the rights of men and women and women and women and men and men and cows to get married. Now, I've always been amused by the argument, "Oh, if we let gay people marry, then why can't I marry my dog?"

Well, the obvious logical answer is: Your dog can't consent to be married, in the same way your children can't consent to be married. There is an uneven power dynamic AND a disparity in intelligence and social maturity that makes the entire enterprise problematic. Now, if your dog happened to be as intelligent (and provably so) as a human, I'd say go nuts, marry your dog.

But I'm an odd person.

Frankly, at the end of the day, so long as nothing someone does negatively impacts your life or the lives of others, then we have no moral ground with which to oppose their activity. Two (or three or four or more) consenting sentient life-forms are all we need.

And, as a sci-fi writer, I can more easily imagine a dog who is intelligent than a time where it would be moral to tell these people

That no, they can't get married, they can't have the same rights, the same hopes, the same dreams as you.

There is a reason why I wrote my novel. I had a story to tell. There is a reason why I had my main character be gay. I had a vision for a future: Where we have put these stupid divisions behind us and found reasonable things to be prejudiced about, like political beliefs or whether someone is a cyborg.

Cause there's no way in hell I'm letting those frankenfreak whackjobs live in my neighborhood!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Polyspectral Quantum Gentrification: Or, how I learned to hate Star Trek and love science

This might shock all ten of my readers, but I hate Star Trek.Why I hate Star Trek might seem strange, but I hope that I can explain this in a way that makes sense. You see...I hate Star Trek because it is too good.

Lets take some examples from TNG, which I've been watching a lot of. The Inner Light is one of the most beautifully touching 45 minutes of television ever produced. The Face of the Enemy is a tense thriller that actually gives Councilor Troi something interesting to do. And, of course, who can forget The Best of Both Worlds: A chilling showdown with the second best villain of any Star Trek, The Borg.

The best villains, of course, being the Kazon!

 Awww yeaaahhhh.

These are great episodes, with great storytelling and great acting and great music and some of the worst science ever depicted. For a show that prides itself on "predicting" things like the cellphone or non-invasive medical procedures, Star Trek has about as good a track record with science as it does with feminism. And this was the show that kept one of it's two female leads in a skintight bodysuit for six out of seven years...then went on to do the same thing. Again

So, the best example I can think of to illustrate this are two episodes. 

The first is great: Starship Mine. It's an awesome premise. The Captain (the heroically bald Jean-Luc Picard) is stuck on the ship while terrorists have broke onto it to steal something valuable to sell on the black market. However, the whole ship is being bathed with a baryon sweep, which will kill anything it touches. Don't ask me what a baryon is. Instead, ask wikipedia!

So, ignoring for the moment that I don't think baryons work this way or would be useful in maintenance, here is what gets me about this episode: The terrorists are here to steal stuff from the engine of the Enterprise to sell on the black market as a bomb. This is actually a really sound idea, as the Enterprise uses an anti-matter reactor to produce energy. Anti-matter is actually quite possibly the most destructive ANYTHING in the universe, so it makes perfect sense to be stolen by terrorists in a high risk mission like this. 

Except for one thing.

They're NOT here to steal the anti-matter. They're here to steal "Trilithium Resin." 

Say that out loud.




I would say something very loud right here, but my grandparents read this blog. Seriously, what the flying donglewangle were these writers thinking?! Resin? Resin is hydrocarbons produced by trees! There are synthetic resins, but those are created from manipulating polymers, or fiddling with biological processes. They're not made as the byproduct of a anti-matter reactor, which should only produce energy and some subatomic particles. 

And lithium? Lithium is a metal, most commonly used to treat bipolar disorders! 

Put it together, and you get something that makes LESS sense the MORE you think about it. And the real kicker is the entire episode acts as though it is anti-matter: The storage unit has to be "stabilized" to keep it from exploding (to contain anti-matter, one would need a magnetic bottle to keep the anti-matter from touching any actual matter and thus creating a huge explosion), and the climax of the episode comes when Picard tricks the bad guy into beaming away with the container, unaware that he has disabled the stabilizing device and...


All of this wouldn't have been changed if they had just stolen some damn anti-matter from the reactor. Which leads to the question of why do I care so freaking much? Well, lets save that for a moment to discuss the next episode: Homeward. In this, we find a planet that is having it's atmosphere stripped away by deadly "plasmonic" reactions. This episode pisses me off because it's another one of those forced, "Oh, we can't intervene in the destruction of this sentient species because PRIME DIRECTIVE!" discussions, but lets leave that aside and instead look at the main crux of the matter.

Atmospheres can be stripped off of planets. It's happened: Look at Mars. It has lost it's magnetosphere (the protective magnetic "bubble" created by the rotation of it's iron core) and this has in turn let the blistering radiation of our sun strip away the atmosphere bit by bit over eons. This can happen. It will happen to our planet, if our iron core ever stops rotating (and it won't for a long time, don't worry) and it could happen even if we didn't lose our magnetosphere if we got hit by a particularly huge burst of radiation. 

Now, in the episode, technological failures are a plot point. In the show, they claim it is because of "plasmonic" energies being released by the dissipation of the planets atmosphere. But, in real life, if a planet was losing it's atmosphere due to radiation exposure, this would create lots of ionizing radiation, which would and could cause technological (not to mention biological) failures, thereby giving the exact same story-based effects as this made up hooey. 

And this leads to why this pisses me off so much.

It is anti-science. Good science fiction uses SCIENCE to create interesting FICTION. And the SCIENCE in Star Trek is so thin, so laughably bad, that it actively gets in the WAY of the FICTION. So many episodes of Star Trek are nothing more than a series of scenes where Geordi or 7 of 9 or Trip or whoever is playing the Royal Smart Person for that episode shout jibberish at the screen until they find the right sequence of jibberish that causes the problem to be not there anymore. 

This isn't showing your characters thinking their way out of tricky solutions. 

This is just being lazy.

And in both of these cases, actual science wouldn't have just made the stories more accurate: They would have made any interested person able to actually learn something. See, this is what real science has over "technobabble" can pick apart Tri-Lithium Resin and only get a headache trying to understand what drugs the authors were smoking. 

But you can study anti-matter. You can learn about it and realize that the universe is just that much more complex and interesting and REAL than any fakery thrown your way. And, moreover, it would mean that the actors and writers would have to portray characters struggling through actual stories with actual drama, not "I can't believe it's not drama" provided by "I can't believe it's not science." 

If only there was a show about a bunch of real characters, handling real issues that make sense, with science that's at the very least plausible, and when it's not plausible, they don't make it the centerpiece of their show...a show where the rules of their made up technology is consistent and logical, where you actually learn something when you watch it.

If only...


Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I hate how I hate food

You know what I hate? Food! Not all kinds of food, but most likely, I hate the kind of food you like. But what I hate even more than food is people's reactions to how I hate food.

See, I am a picky eater. Through some joke of genetics or acculturation, I ended up with a pallet that recoils at things like...flavor. Or spices. Or anything that falls out of an incredibly narrow spectrum of tastes and textures. I try, I really TRY to like these things that my relatives, friends, well-wishing strangers and so forth shove at me, but I just...can't.

It tastes bad. I find it really strange how people react to this. There's usually disbelief ("How can they NOT like this?"), followed by a kind of blame or insult - especially if the person in question actually cooked the food in question. Like it's somehow MY fault that I don't like what they cooked. Well, if I had a choice, I'd love food. I'd eat all kinds of food and think that they were delicious and perfect. It'd mean I'd be a lot less hungry during family reunions, it'd mean that when I go out with my friends for food, they wouldn't get increasingly exasperated as I turn down their various choices.

In the grand pantheon of horrible things that you can be afflicted with, being picky is that bad. I could be missing all my skin, for example. But it is annoying, and I don't really see a way of fixing it.

This is just what has been bugging me the past few days.

So, next time you meet someone who is picky, try and imagine what it is like to be surrounded by people who love tasting things that you never will.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Candy within!

Now that you've clicked on the link to my blog's latest post, let me have you click on ANOTHER link!

There's candy inside:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This needs to end. Now.

So, I was recently handed an article. Reading it made me want to face palm, and then kind of slowly hide myself underneath my desk to get away from the rest of my gender.

You see, I am both male and a gamer. I play video games, roleplaying games, tabletop games...all kinds of games. And frankly, games are gender neutral. The enjoyment you get out of clearing a dungeon in Dungeons and Dragons, conquering the galaxy in Twilight Imperium, or shooting your friends in the face (recreationally) in Call of Duty Grenade: Grenade of Grenade is not predicated on gender. The idea that it is somehow is sexist bullshit.

Yes. Bullshit. Cow-hoody. Graboid droppings. Refuse.

Games appeal to personalities, not genders.

This is why I'm overjoyed that more and more women are becoming gamers! It means that games are moving beyond the shallow appeals of just a single demographic and into the comforting embrace of true depth.

...then I read things like THIS.

With stuff like this.

“Do you play PC games?” he asked, frowning.

One of the publications on my media badge was listed as PC PowerPlay. It shouldn’t have been necessary for him to ask such a question, but I answered. “Yes.”

“Well, OK.” I sensed a disbelief in the guy’s voice. “But do you play shooters?”
I remember the silence that filled this space beyond this question. I was horrified that anyone could even ask such a thing. Here I was, sitting with my fingers spread across

WASD, admiring a game world — and somehow, for some obtuse reason, being assumed to be someone who didn’t know anything about the world or how to interact with it.

“I think I better play it for you,” he said finally, prying my hands away and turning the keyboard towards himself.

And so there I was, hands twisted awkwardly and uselessly in my lap as a guy walked me through his game. In laboured detail, he explained to me simple mechanics that any shooter player would be well-acquainted with. He avoided the gameplay due to some apparent strange belief that I was not there to learn about shooting things in a shooter game, that perhaps my delicate girl senses might be offended by killing with guns and missiles. He pointed out rabbits in the grass with all the condescension of an adult trying to distract a noisy toddler, as if my interest in this simulation-grade shooter lay in some wildly misguided assumption that it would be full of adorable, fluffy animals.

And, frankly, it's time to stop. Gaming isn't an all boys club. It never should have been, and it shouldn't be now, and that's a good goddamn things. The more people are involved in something, the more outlooks, the healthier that "something" is. Cultures that stagnate, die. They die quickly, or they die slowly, but they die. The only way to stave off that kind of thing is by continual infusions of new ideas, new insights, new thought-patterns.

Imagine, if you will, that games only had boys again. Imagine how stale, how...bland things would become, if marketers, programmers, publishers, everyone JUST made games for "boys" (specifically the kind of "boys" who would threaten to rape female gamers, who would mock female gamers, who would demand that female gamers "show their tits, or GTFO.)

We'd have an endless parade of samey military shoo-



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

sdrawkcaB gnitirW

I have a grueling, terrifying task before me.

I have to get a job in this modern economy, to support me while I also write and publishing books.

Fortunately, to distract myself from this endless, upwards struggle to a dubious reward, I have my writing tasks! Currently, I am attempting to finish off the short stories that I mentioned a few months ago. And guess what!

Short stories are hard. They're very hard. Unlike a novel, where you have lots of leg-room, short stories are all about economics. It doesn't have questions like, "Is this character important?" No, instead, writing short stories has questions like, "Is this character important enough?"

To illustrate this point, lets think about dozens of background characters of our favorite novels. They're people who don't exactly push the plot forward, nor make any major changes for the main characters...but they usually exist for a reason. They throw the universe into greater relief, reveal details about plot and setting, and show how the main character's character reacts to certain kinds of stimuli.

A novel can take this. A novel has wiggle room. A novel has big pants!

A short story? Nope!

You might like X, Y or Z character, but if they don't advance the plot in a meaningful way, you should cut them to leave room for important things. Economy of character, words and sentence structure are all dominant.

It can be frustrating as heck...and, worse of all, it can be a discouraging wall in the way of writing flow. And that wall has finally been brought down, and like all writing, the method of this destruction makes absolutely no sense.

I wrote backwards. See, the most important scene of the short story, the scene that I wanted the whole story to build towards, is the ending. But the beginning...I couldn't find a good place to start it. Too early from the inciting incident (a militia fighter/bomber taking out the San Fransisco BART stations) and you have 2 pages of boring waiting in line. But too close to the inciting incident and you are left groundless and confused, without really a hook to go on.

So, I wrote the last scene first. And, struck by the kind of thought that makes sense at 1 in the morning when it's too gosh-darned hot outside and inside, I wrote the last scene backwards. Not literally backwards, but rather, the action going back from the ending to the beginning.



The important thing is that it got me to write.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


All right, it'll be short cause I'm tired and depressed.

1) I've finished two short stories! Only three more to go (these are being written for mysterious reasons.)

2) I did my midterm for my summer course on Anthropology. I think I did great! We'll have to wait till next week to find out.

3) Ughhhhhhghghgh. The link says it all. I don't really have much to add except that you Christians really need to start kicking people out of your religion. There's an application form, right? There's some way to  disbar people, right?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dirty rebs!

"Now you must decide how many people you wish to save from death, and what supplies will be required to support them. Any mistake at this point will doom you and your colonists to certain death. Have a nice day."

These were the words that haunted my childhood. Not really, but it sounds like a good opener. This line, spoken by your sexy female AI (is there any other kind?) is the line that introduces you to challenge and choice that comes from playing Outpost.

Outpost, a game produced and released around 1998, is a turn based (that is, similar to chess) strategy game wherein you manage and grow an extrasolar colony from fledgling dome to colossal, sprawling dome city (which is to say, not similar to chess at all.)

It was one of the games that I played as a child growing up, which explains a lot. It was also balls to the wall sadistically hard. How hard? Well, let me count the ways.

If you did not mine enough materials, you died.
If you did not mine the right KINDS of materials, you died.
If you didn't smelt the materials you mined fast enough, you died.
If you didn't grow enough food, you died.
If you couldn't grow food due to the thick clouds over your planet, you died.
If you packed a solar power plant and the planet that you had colonized was 9 AU from the sun, you died.
If you didn't pack a solar power plant and your fusion power plant exploded, you died.
If you didn't make your colonists happy enough, they defected away from your colony to the DAMN DIRTY REBEL COLONY.

...and then you died.

But here's the kicker.

If you made your colonists extremely happy, made huge scientific breakthroughs, and ushered in a new era of peace, prosperity and good vibes...then you still died. Why? Because the aforementioned damn dirty rebel colony would collectively come to the conclusion that your leadership was so damn awesome that they would vote with their feet and trek from the rebel colony to your colony.

And then you'd find your residential units packed to 300% capacity, while rebel babies ate up spaces in schools for loyalist children, and rebels breathed your air, ate your foot, and drove up the costs of living for everyone.

Before you know it, you'd have a massive food gap and everyone starves to death and...yes, you guessed it!


Good thing if you pushed Control, F-4, your planet explodes.

There's no plausible scientific explanation for this.

But sometimes, it feels really satisfying.

And now you know part of how I ended up this way!

Friday, May 11, 2012

What if guns were cars?

WARNING: This blog-post discusses...politics. A more divisive topic I cannot fathom (save religion). And so, I feel compelled to put a caveat before all this, something I think everyone who ever discussed politics should: I can be wrong.

It's pretty simple. I'm not omniscient. Hell, I'm not even 30! These are just my opinions and if you disagree with them, I'm not only fine with it, I'm overjoyed. New ideas and new opinions have to be tested in the crucible of public opinion, tempered with facts, and sharpened by constant thinking. The instant a political thinker becomes threatened by dissent is the instant they've started the slide from freedom to despotism.

And now, without further quibbling, let us get to a very important political topic: GUNS!

As an semi-anarchist, guns are a really divisive topic for me. On the one hand, the old idea goes thus: Only a well armed public can defend themselves from the predations of the minority and other governments. With a well armed public, you don't need things like cops and armies. But, of course, the counterargument to that are plentiful and well reasoned.

1) People don't want to act as their own defenders all the time
2) Guns are inherently dangerous and risky, especially when children are involved
3) Trained professionals are required for certain specialist activities, and policing is one of those activities

And so on.

This is why I'm a "semi-anarchist". I believe there is a place for the government, and the trouble is deciding what that place is. There are some things I'm fairly sure on (the government definitely shouldn't tell me what to drink, eat, smoke, have sex with or marry) and things I'm less sure on (the government might have a reason to help with welfare or medical care, it might be that a centralized power structure is better for providing those needs and less rapacious than private interests like pharmaceutical companies).

But that doesn't mean I don't think that the civilian population can and should get into. If we could localize some things, it'd make things easier for everyone as local solutions to local problems can be tailored and fit to the area.

How does this relate to guns?

Well, imagine - if you will - a world where everyone in the USA is armed. Gay people, straight people, white people, black people, women, everyone. Would rape be as horrifyingly common? Would crime? Would political and social attacks on women and minorities be as accepted if they all had guns?

That's a complex question, but I think it would do SOMETHING to help. It wouldn't be a - for lack of better term - "silver bullet", because I'm not stupid enough to say, "If all women had guns, rapes wouldn't happen", but I am willing to imagine that if we had a culture that understood and accepted that pretty much every woman wasn't just carrying a piece but knew how to use it, then maybe there'd be less idiots who think that women are their property to do whatever they want to and maybe less little boys would grow up to be racists.

But even if that's true, I can hear you say, how do we deal with the number one problem with guns: They are INHERENTLY DANGEROUS. All it takes is one kid to play with Daddy or Mommy's gun and things go wrong in a depressingly permanent way.

Well, I was thinking about that and this led me to this blog post: What if guns were cars?

Imagine an alternate world, a world where in the 1900s, a manufacturer of personal sidearms (lets call him Dord) begins producing a cheap, uniform pistol called the Model-P. It becomes popular, especially considered the violent crime rates at the time. Soon, everyone has a Model-P and over the next hundred years, guns become as common as cars. Kids grow up wanting them, parents have at least one or two, and a culture and set of rules have grown up around them.

In this alternate world, Dord spawned copycats and competitors, all trying to catch your eye with new guns that are smaller, or bigger, or longer ranged, or more accurate. But then comes the 1960s, and people have begun to realize that a lot of folks are getting killed needlessly because guns are just not that safe. So, over the next fifty two years, there are unprecedented improvements in gun safety. Guns become not just bigger or harder hitting: They become smarter and more intelligent.

So, the gun of this alternate 2012 is a computerized gun. It doesn't fire unless it's under a very specific circumstance, it's munitions self destruct harmlessly when they go off target, it's linked to the internet so that the owner can track it, shut it down, or control it. It might even connect to the local police so that (when drawn) it signals a cop car that an altercation is going down unless a "all clear" signal is sent.

And moreover, people have become used to the fact that everyone carries. It's a non-issue, in the same way that we in the real world don't think about the fact that every day, millions of people drive two ton machines down roads at sixty miles an hour, all so close to one another that you could reach from one and touch another, and yet only a vanishingly small percentage of those machines actually collide and only a even smaller percentage of those collisions end with fatalities.

Would this world be better or worse?

I don't know...but I like to think it might just be a touch more independent and free. Because I honestly think that any culture with that many guns would need to...really come to terms with the idea that everyone around them is willing - at any second - to put their lives on the line to defend their fellow human being. The alternative way of thinking (that, at any second, everyone might kill everyone else) is too unbearable to survive and strikes me as an unlikely evolution for the culture.

I don't think guns are a panacea. But I do think that the ability to defend yourself from aggressive parties - even symbolically - is worth something.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


And with a final button press, I had finished my Native American Literature essay, which included one reference to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and ended with a call to arms: We need to travel back in time and assassinate Andrew Jackson before it's too late.

Thus, my college education ends (at least for now), and all I have to do is wrap up a single final and then head home for a well deserved, relaxing vacation at home before coming back up for summer school. But that's all boring stuff that no one cares about: Lets instead talk about everyone's favorite thing ever: Writing!

Writing news has never been more exciting. Sometime next week, my beta-readers will get back to me on Debris Dreams sequel - Shattered Sky. In the near future, I will get to do a guest blogspot (hopefully!) and the sketch of my novel's cover will hit the internet like a face-full of sexy, awesome buckshot. And in the interim, I am splitting my working time between Luna's Lament (which has required a great deal of research in underwater weapons, oddly enough) and looking through an older idea of mine: A Rat's Tale!

A Rat's Tale was an idea that struck me while re-reading an old webcomic called Sluggy Freelance (14 years old and going strong!) wherein the main characters are shocked when their lame friend, Sam, turns out to be a FREAKING VAMPIRE. It was a legitimate shock and marked a turning point in the comic, for me at least, when I realized it had real story arcs and not just a series of throwaway (but funny!) jokes. And it lead to one of my favorite lines ever.

The scene: Our heroes have been captured by a clan of vampires and are forced to watch two other people be transformed. The man becomes tall and muscular, while the woman becomes...statuesque, to say the least. One of the main characters comments, "Wow, you should sell that on prime time TV."

To which the vampire's leader responds, "Do you really think humans will sell their immortal souls just to be beautiful and skinny without having to work" And then she turns to her assistant, who says, "I'm already scheduling the infomercial."

And so, A Rat's Tale takes place in the near future. Humanity has discovered that "metahumans" (or mets) live amongst them, and have for thousands of years. Vampires and a plethora of lycanthrope types (were-bear, were-wolf, were-cat) are real and are ready to become legitimate. Initially, things were tense, but an artificial blood supplement has made vampirisim sustainable on a large scale. Suddenly, becoming a bloodsucker is the hippest fashion choice, and the best health plan available: You never age, are hard to kill, and look awesome.

For those who can't afford (or don't want to give up sunlight) vampirism, there is lycanthropy and a suitable drug that inhibits the wild frenzy of the Lunar cycle. Of course, there is a downside to each animal type: Werewolves are not immortal, but they do live a long time. Werebears live shorter lives, but they're stronger and larger.

And finally, if you are strapped for cash and absolutely have to become a met (for example, if you have inoperable brain cancer or want to live an extra century) you can go for the "economy" version of metahumanity: The were-rat.

But not is all as it seems. Our heroine - a teenage street urchin named Qiwi - happens to stumble on a information trade gone wrong. A shootout occurs, and Qiwi is left bleeding to death. When she wakes up, she finds that a black market doctor has "saved" her by turning her into a were-rat. Needless to say, she's not happy...and she's even less happy when she finds that her witnessing the assassination has brought her under fire as well. But even as Qiwi struggles to escape the threat, she learns that the fate of the world may hang in the balance...conspiracy, murder and a bid for global domination all await in the telling of A Rat's Tale.

I thought it sounded neat, at least.

Still, I should really get back to studying for my Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Good news everyone! I finished the third draft of my novel, Shattered Sky! It is now with beta readers. Hurrah!

This is an exceptionally short blog post.

Well, I guess I can say that I recently went to 7/11 and they did not have Nes-Quick! I felt shocked and confused by this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


So, as an author whose book is going to be published, I've got a major question facing me.

What do I do with the people who release or create fan-art for my novels and works! Well, I am a huge proponent of free expression. I think that remixes, mashups, slash-fics, fan-fics, fan-arts, drawings, scribbles, and so on. I've seen some of the astounding things that fans have created: Fans of Babylon 5 built a whole video game, just as one example!

And so I am making a stand. Right here. Right now.

If you are a fan of my work: Write! Mashup! Create art of all kinds. Even the naughty kind. And if you want your fan-creations to be exhibited here, E-mail me! Include the title of the piece, what you want to be identified as, and I'll provide it. The only thing I'll have to refrain from reposting is the aforementioned "naughty things", as my grandparents read this blog.

And so, our first piece of fan-art!

This was by Rebecca Rozakis, a friend of my editor Kate Sullivan. Rebecca would like to say that she wishes she drew it on better paper.

I think it's fantastic!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Villainy most specific

Recently, I've been reading the latest novel by S.M Sterling (and by latest, I mean latest as of 2001, but I only just found it, so it's latest relative to me), The Peshawar Lancers. Despite not actually being about the Peshawar Lancers, I've been enjoying it immensely. There's lots of swords, guns, airships, villains to be killed and so on. But something has been sticking out to me.

It has to have one of the most evil villains I've ever read.

Seriously! He's a misogynistic, Satan worshiping, cannibalistic Russian who seeks to bring about the end of the world. Also, he killed the main character's father (indirectly).

This got me thinking about villains. Villains are vital for a story. Luke Skywalker is only as interesting as his conflict with Darth Vader. Without Duke Rodger's odiously evil/charismatic presence, Alanna's struggles to gain her knighthood would be lacking an essential drive and stake (beyond Alanna's personal desires, of course). You get my point.

But what makes a good villain?

Trick question!

Villains are all about specificity. You can't just grab Hitler out of a box and file off his fingerprints then stick him into a new suit. Well, you can. But that's a lot less fun! A good villain requires you to think about what kind of story you want to tell. For example, if I were telling a science fiction war story, I'd want a villain that reasonably controls an army, has politics diametrically opposed to the main character's faction, and is intelligent enough to be a credible threat. If I were telling a murder mystery, you'd want someone with a good (or at least, understandable/relate-able/scientifically explicable/coherent) reason for killing, has the ability to enact these murders, and is intelligent enough to be a credible threat. If I were telling a story set in a dystopia - and the main thrust was overcoming and destroying said dystopia - then I'd make a reason for the bad guys to be in charge, a reason for their government to be dystopic, and the intelligence to be a credible threat.

Notice a theme?

Intelligence. I've said it before to friends and publishers and random people on the street and my literature class: The most important thing about a character is that they are intelligent. And if I ever said it was something like being relate-able or likable, well, that's also the most important trait(s). But intelligence is what keeps a character engaging and interesting.

When you are reading a book and swearing at a character for doing something stupid, you are doing it wrong.

Unless, of course, I wrote the book.

In which case, you simply do not understand my genius.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Future Shock and Blind Spots

So, I've been editing my novel Shattered Sky, as well as working (slowly) on my prequel short story...and while doing this, I started thinking about the future.

One of the big problems (and advantages) of writing science fiction is that one gets to look at the picture of today and extrapolate outwards. This lets you take modern culture and look at how it might mutate and change and evolve. This lets you do really interesting social commentary, allowing you to distort our own world to - paradoxically - see it all the clearer. This lets you look at the human condition.

And this lets you throw darts at the wall and see what might stick. Star Trek, for example, is quite proud of predicting the cellphone with their handheld communicators. No one seems to mention some predictions that seem quite silly these days, such as whales being stuck on the Enterprise D to aide in spatial navigation or other assorted bizarre and stupid things that Star Trek has posited about humanity's future in space.

I don't think I'm unique in being an author who has created a rather intricate timeline of the future. I also don't think I'm being an author who profoundly hopes he or she is dead wrong.

The Debris Dreams universe takes place in the year 2068, and as I've alluded to before, it's not exactly an easy or smooth road to get there, and the biggest pothole in said road is The Slump: A period between 2019 and 2029 (some argue 2039, just as even now, some people argue that the Great Depression didn't end till 1946)  where the world's economy collapsed, half a dozen wars between previously peaceful nations erupted, terrorism ran rampant and the internet was almost knocked out for good.

Nasty future shocks indeed.

But what caused it? And, more importantly, do I think it's particularly likely? Will we have to suffer through the horrors of a second American Civil War, ecological collapse and resulting devastation?


See, the Slump is predicated on a sudden and complete collapse of economic structures due to an unexpectedly sharp drop-off in oil quantities in the middle east. Rather than the "slow, bumpy plateau" predicted by most Peak Oilers (who I also don't think are right), the world of Debris Dreams was plunged into a sharp, fast downturn. Alternate forms of energy were too immature to save the world from the collapse, and the resulting system shocks just made everything worse.

I try to keep abreast of up and coming technologies, and everything I've seen points to solar, nuclear and genetically engineered biofuels (which are distinct and different from ethanol based biofuels) taking over for oil within the decade, and that oil reserves (while dwindling) will last us quite a bit longer...longer still if and when our cars get better gas mileage and are used more efficiently.

We don't need to worry about an energy based Slump.

What we do need to worry about is a cultural Slump, a political Slump. I personally hate the standard "oh woe is me, everyone is a stupid, vain, greedy jerk (except for myself, of course)" whining that I hear constantly at college. By and large, I think that most people are good. Most people are intelligent, as intelligent as you (yes you) or I. Most people want what is best for themselves, their families and so on.

The problem is that we sometimes let the worst of us dictate policy for the majority of us. These people - be they politicians, corporate CEOs, kings, queens, junta leaders or would be dictators - are usually harmless until they actually get power, which they normally get by preying on the worst of our thoughts and fears. It is easy to forget that you are not the only sane person in the world. It is easy to forget that every single person on the planet - all seven billion of them - are all as complex, multifaceted, deep and interesting as you are.

In that blind spot, the would be dictator whispers: "Let me protect you from the other."

In that blind spot, the politician whispers: "Let me make a law to keep the other from taking what you have."

In that blind spot, the warlord whispers: "Come, lets kill the other, because they are not human."

That blind spot will exist, whether or not we have solar powered flying cars or regress to the 12th century. So, the next time the world looks scary and confusing, and you just wish everyone would stop being so nuts, think...and remember the blind spot. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Moms' Cabin

This was written for my Tuesday/Thursday Advanced Poetry Workshop! Enjoy!


Moms’ Cabin
By David Colby

                Floating above the mantelpiece

                There is a photograph

Six young men and women

Wearing red berets

Left to Right

Carloz Alvarez:  KIA, a mine blew chunks into his belly under Shi-Armstrong and he died clutching

Lee Sanders: KIA, Loonie sniper shot him over the horizon. He was checking his air.

Trace Yue: KIA, her suit ruptured, shrapnel. Never figured which side threw it.

Gordon Nara: KIA, bayonet…really? In this day and age?

Penelope N’paya: MIA, went to recon, right when the Loonies dropped the nuke outside of New Mubai.                    
            (only found her shadow, not a confirmation)
They’re all smiling, standing beside the shuttle that took them there.

To the left of Gordon

Underneath Carloz

Drusilla Xao: Star of Valor for gallantry under fire, three Purple Hearts, CAASMC Long Service Medal, Distinguished S3TA Service Medallion, Lunar Campaign Medallion, Civil Service Award.

She’s smiling in the photograph. Under her is signed:

永遠忠誠 Semper Fidelis Always Faithful–Unit 201, 12/31/2069

Mom notices me looking

reaches out with a hand marked by three purple hearts

Switches off the ‘graph

And goes back to her tea

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Quantum Spin Plates Update Number 1

Summer break comes to an end depressingly soon, and this brings with it the first ever QSP Update!
These updates are mostly a way for me to talk about what I’m working on, show off, and generally keep my various projects straight in my head. And thus, we have the two categories.

Shiny New Ideas: These are brand new concepts that have just recently shown up. They usually have a die-off rate of 90-95%, because I have a lot of ideas and usually write them for a short time, and then let them die. Sometimes, a SNI sticks and clings like glue!

Unfinished Rough Draft: These are drafts that are rough and unfinished. If an SNI survives to be 10k words, then it is officially considered to be a Rogue Draft. These usually have a die-off rate of anywhere from 60-15%, depending on whether or not it was easy or hard to get to these 10k points.

Note: I have finished drafts that I’m working on, and those will be covered in later issues of my Updates…and not this update because I was writing it at 1 in the morning and I’m about to pass out! Enjoy!



PSYCH-SQUAD: When Jack Hoole was pulled out of his senior biology class by two USAF colonels, he thought he was in trouble. Then, after making him sign an NDA, they explained: For the past ten years, the United States, Canada, France, Britain, Japan, Germany and the Russian Federation had been fighting a secret war against a galactic empire of psionic aliens called the Doyen, utilizing a stolen piece of Doyen technology called the Prometheus Device to activate psionic powers in latent human beings. Using these psionic powers, Psyches (as they are called) are able to create telekinetic, non-newtonian starships called Ego-Ships, as well as produce force fields, read minds, fold space/time to jump lightyears in a single instant, and project blasts of raw kinetic energy across kilometers of space.


Jack, being a latent, leaps at the chance for an actual honest to god adventure. And since the Prometheus Device works best on developing minds, the Air Force is eager to get him. He finds himself warped to Antares Station, a space station built in the binary star system Antares, 150 parsecs away from home. With his powers active, Jack meets a multinational group of other cadets, and learns that while humanity has some advantages over the Doyen Empire, the war remains an obscenely long shot. Still, if extinction is looking us in the face, Jack would rather go out swinging…


PROGRESS REPORT: Moderate to fast when I have the time to work on it.

THOUGHTS: I keep writing and hope that no one notices it’s a mashup between Stargate, Trinity and Evangelion.


Unfinished Rough Drafts

MERCH: The year is 2011. McCain is President, the Iran war has just wrapped up, and the global population of Supers has just hit 7,000. Supers – who appeared on the scene ten years before when Lady Liberty dramatically stopped the 9/11 attacks – have completely changed the world. They’ve invented new technologies, ended wars, cleaned up the environment, and in return, people shower them with fame, attention and money. To be lucky enough to have a Parnell Cortex, the required mutation to exhibit superpowers of any kind, is like winning the lottery ten times in a row.

That’s what Jake Vega thought at least.  And when his Cortex quickened during a high school assembly, everything went great. At first. He had superspeed, for one thing. For another thing, he’s been showered in money, merchandizing, offers for jobs left and right ranging from acting as a superpowered mercenary for Blackwater International to being a mascot for a city. In the end, he decides to front for Marvel’s new comic line.

But…Jake finds out that life as a super isn’t nearly as heroic as he thought. Oh, the money is good, but there’s little to no catching muggers, no supervillains to battle. Nothing but a life of shallow fame, easily earned wealth, and constant paparazzi. A life of being merch.


PROGRESS: Slowed down (Death possibility 65%)

THOUGHTS:  I’m not quite sure how to tell the story of a teenage boy given huge piles of money, groupies and FREAKING SUPER POWERS being consumed by enuii and depression due to this…without the main character seeming like a shallow douchebag. Seriously, just donate your money to charity, damn it!

THE TALE OF KES THE TWISTCATCHER: Forty thousand years in our future, on a distant farming planet ignored by the galaxy at large, Kes is the unwanted daughter of a brutal, abusive drunkard. But then, one day, something new comes to the village. Specifically, something old comes: A man, who had left the village years hence to seek his fortunes serving aboard starships. And back he has come, with three missing limbs, a missing eye, a face scarred by radiation…and a chest full of golden coins. His tales of adventures alighted her imagination. And so, she ran away from home and came to her homeworld’s spaceport.

And, almost immediately, she was set on by a press-gang. Beaten about the head. Shoved onto a shuttle and forced into slavery aboard the starship Revenge, captained by the piratical and brutal Lord-Captain Sadronosticus. There, Kes finds herself apprenticed to Denny Feng-Zhao, a mysterious old man who serves as the Revenge’s Twistcatcher: The officer responsible for managing and controlling and purging the ship’s population of mutants.

However, the history of the Revenge is long, and not all is as it seems…


PROGRESS: Fast when I write it! (Death Possibility 24%)

THOUGHTS: I love this story. Unfortunately, I can’t sell it to my delightful publishers at Candlemark and Gleam because…it is…a Warhammer 40,000 story. This means it has one and only one home: The mysterious and foreboding Black Library. Only these people will accept and publish WH40K stories. So, I guess I will have to toil endlessly at the gates of the Black Library…in between doing my actual works!


Between these projects, I'm working on my short stories, editing my finished books, and trying to graduate college.

And those are all my spin plates! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012


And thus, we come to the second blog post.

My novel, Debris Dreams, takes place in the year 2068. That's 56 years. 56 know, one of my beta readers said that that makes Debris Dreams "near future." This struck me as odd, but I can see the point. After all, if I'm lucky, I'll live to see 2068.

But on the other hand...

Take the gulf between the year 1914 and 1970. In that time, we've had two world wars, total economic collapse, a inverse economic revitalization, a radical explosion of technologies, a moon landing, terrorism, social upheaval, artistic revolutions, actual revolutions, failed invasions...this list could go on for a while, but I think you get the gist.

So, the question logically goes, what happens between 2012 and 2068?

That's what I'm working on as I wait for my next round of edits for Debris Dreams! Three interconnected short stories that chart the history of the DD universe from 2022 to 2068, each one starring a different side character from Debris Dreams itself.

And you, my loyal blog readers (all three of them) will get to read previews, snippits and general ramblings about them. Goodie!


By David Colby

                Portia Brown stopped at the third checkpoint for the day and wished she had shot President Windrip when she had the chance. It was a petty, vindictive thought from a woman who prided herself in a lifetime of non-violence, and she tried to ignore it, even as a security mech stomped around her car. It was an odd mish-mash of old and new. New: Mechanized legs, controlled by a spliced in X-Box Kinetic mkVI scanner and operated with a nationalized OS poached out of Anon’s hands by the FSA’s netwar division. Old: Two ungainly looking Squad Automatic Weapons strapped to either side of the thing’s turreted head, a head that aimed directly at Portia’s car.


                That came from an entirely too human FSA officer, wearing a bulletproof vest that looked like it had stopped a few rounds over the past week. He also had a taser at his hip and an assault rifle over his back and looked willing to use both at the first sign of trouble.

                Portia kept her hands well above her head as she reached up and grabbed her papers from what had once been a holder for sunglasses. She held them out to the FSA officer, who took them and then walked over to the checkpoint scanner. He wasn’t paid to actually read the papers. That was a job that fell to the machine.

                The mech kept it’s guns trained on Portia. She drummed her fingers on the wheel.

                “Get ready for a surprise!”

                Portia’s eyes widened as she looked at the mech, which had just spoke with a warbly, mechanical voice. The mech’s head tilted to the side and the SAW’s…sawed away, dust from the new case-less rounds hazing the air around the mech’s head. The FSA guard hit the deck and the people behind Portia in the checkpoint line screamed, several diving out of their cars to curl up on the ground. Portia herself screamed and screamed, she couldn’t help it.

                The SAWs stopped firing, hissing and clicking as they cooled down. The mech turned and ran off, vanishing around the corner. Portia looked around, her ears ringing. None of the cars had been shredded. No blood spilled the San Franciscan streets, or dribbled down the steep hill that banked before the checkpoint. Even the FSA guard looked fine, picking himself up and brushing his hands over his armor. Dust had coated his body…and both he and Portia looked up at the same time, Portia craning her head to see out her car window.

                Etched on the side of an old red brick building, blasted into the wall by hollow point, crowd stopper shells was a leering face with an exaggerated chin and narrowed eyes. Underneath it, cut into the stone by computer aimed bullets, were three words: U MAD BRO?