Friday, May 26, 2017

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for May 26, 2017


Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with a whole lot of space opera, Star Wars at forty, Alien Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the return of Twin Peaks, tributes to Roger Moore, the 2016 Nebula Awards as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, awards news, a whole lot of con reports, crowdfunding projects, science articles and free online fiction. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Space opera week: 

Comments on Alien Covenant

Comments on the new Twin Peaks

Comments on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:

Tributes to Roger Moore:

Awards:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Crowdfunding:

Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Preservation: A DRMR Short Story by Michael Patrick Hicks

Release date: April 28, 2017
Subgenre: Military science fiction, Cyberpunk

About Preservation:

 

Memories are the most dangerous beast.Kari Akagi is ex-British Special Forces, augmented by her government to be the prime soldier. In the wake of a devastating attack that cost her her legs, she has a new mission - protecting South Africa's endangered species as a ranger for the Kruger National Park game reserve.

The number of animals within the reserve is rapidly dwindling as poachers mercilessly slaughter them for black market trade. Somebody is paying and equipping the poachers, and after her unit comes under assault, Akagi is determined to end this impossible war.

All she needs to do is capture one of the poachers alive, hack into his brain, and find out who hired him. A lifetime of fighting, though, has taught Akagi that things are rarely ever that simple...

Preservation is a stand-alone short story set in the world of the DRMR series.

Excerpt:

 

Kari Akagi sat in the crook of a massive baobab tree, a rifle in her lap, roughly twenty meters above the low-lying plains of the Kruger National Park.
From her perch she could see the Olifants River, which divided the southern and northern regions of Kruger. The north was elephant country, and she watched as a herd bathed in the shallow depths and grazed along its banks.
There was a simple joy in watching the massive creatures live their lives, in seeing the young ones play.
Their life expectancy was too short for her liking, but the luckiest among them could live for fifty years or more. If the poachers didn’t get to them first.
Her morning had started with news of another rhino killing. The reserve had less than one hundred left, and there was a countdown hanging over the heads of the survivors. Each one dead drove the black market prices of their ever-scarcer horns higher and higher into the millions.
The news had woken her like a kick to the gut, and she’d wanted to rage at the rangers and volunteers who had fucked up and let this happen. Unfair, certainly, but her anger was palpable. Instead, she retreated and cut off her commNet, fuming.
She zoomed in on the Olifants, increasing the resolution of her blink-powered retinal upgrades and recorded the lackadaisical scene playing out below. This was a memory she wanted to keep.
Standing to stretch her torso, she set the rifle aside and raised her arms above her head, holding the pose for several deep breaths. Then she bent at the waist, stretching her spine, shoulders, and the muscles of her one remaining thigh, the flex deep enough that she was able to touch the two long blades that had replaced both feet.
Her legs had been lost to an IED years ago. Her left leg, from the hip down, was a mechanized limb replacement system. Both high-grade prosthetics were equipped with hundreds of ultra-fast quantum-load microprocessors, hydraulics, rotors, flexions, actuators, and sensors. A neuronal interface allowed her to control each limb as if it were the real thing, and the built-in multi-directional response coordinators allowed her to move with ease and grace in virtually any environment.
With her chin practically touching the tough Kevlar shell of the artificial knee joint, she could feel the absorbed heat boiling off the deep blue fabric.
Although she was warm and hadn’t eaten real food in several days, she had little concern for dehydration or starvation. The military had seen to her well-being both before and after her mandatory four tours in Afghanistan and Syria. Keeping her in-country in such harsh climates that ranged from desert tundra to colder mountain terrain had required significant modifications to her meat suit.
Akagi’s innards had been replaced with artificial organs to regulate her body’s water loss, and nasal cavity inserts and heat exchangers implanted atop her jugular veins and neck arteries inhibited water loss that occurred through exhalation and perspiration. There were even filter systems installed in her bladder and large intestine to capture, concentrate, and store any water lost through digestive waste. In her rucksack was a three-month supply of hard-shelled, egg-shaped candies. Each one contained a liquid center and provided her with her daily requirement of nutrients and calories.
While the military had designed her to be an optimized soldier, she had found a more satisfying niche working as a wildlife ranger. The truth of it was, she had merely traded one war for another, exchanging a cause for a cause. Her cause, nowadays, just happened to have four legs and tusks or horns.
Rising from the stretch, she again lifted both arms over her head and pulled her torso first to the left, then the right, stretching her oblique abdominals.
Her body felt looser, her mind more composed. Until the ping hit her commNet with an urgent alert and a geotag.
Another kill.
She felt her cheeks warm in anger, then quickly cool as her implants triggered a temperature regulation control and systolic dampener. The physical stressors were muted, but they didn’t do shit for her emotional state and only made her feel that much more pissed off.
“Has anyone heard from Gerhardt?” Command asked.
“Negative,” she said. “What was his last status?”
“He checked in for morning debriefing, but no updates since.”
“Roger that, Command.”
Another kill, and now a missing ranger. She swore softly to herself, unsettled.
 

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About Michael Patrick Hicks:

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novel Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist. He is also the author of the short horror story, Consumption, and his work appears in the science fiction anthology, No Way Home. He lives in Michigan and is hard at work on his next story.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Star Dog Corruption (Star Dog, Book 2) by Lucas C. Wheeler

Release date: May 12, 2017
Subgenre: Genetic engineering

About Star Dog Corruption

 

After the Star Dog Fiasco, as it was termed by the media, Star Dog is joined by Nathan, Nicole, and Clancy while trying to rebuild his life. In the midst of a serial jewel theft and deepening conspiracies, can Star Dog truly fit into society, or will society reject him like a bad organ? Will he be able to stop the thefts and honor his name, or is there something more sinister at work?

All in all, something is deeply wrong in Star Dog's mind. He can't stop having nightmares about the family he lost, and his sleepwalking is becoming dangerous. What keeps luring him back to the magical junkyard that he once considered his kingdom?

This is the sequel to Star Dog Legacy.

Excerpt:


"So, what do you think?" Nathan asked.
"What am I supposed to think? What am I doing here?" Star Dog asked, more in awe than annoyance.
"Well, to help, since we're trying out new training methods. Are we on the right track? Are there things we could do better to help the dogs understand? Since you have a dog's mind, you can tell us how best to train a dog and more quickly."
"That's why you brought me here?" Star Dog's canine visage brightened with incredulity. "Nathan, I am not like them. I may look like a dog and act like a dog, but I am not like them. I don't know even how to interact with them. They are my kin in physical vessel, but we are on different mental planes. How can I go over to them and be accepted as a dog? How can I speak with them? Do I bark, or do say "Good boy"? Even they avoid me like their humans, because they know instinctively that I am different. To them, I neither dog nor man. I am a sum of zeroes and ones, and that's all I'll ever be. My knowledge was not taught, it was injected. I have no strategies for teaching others of my kind, because I have never learned like them, and I never shall." Star Dog's lamenting monologue hit Nathan in a new light. He cursed himself for never having considered this, and for the first time, he started to think that he had made a terrible mistake to bring Star Dog here so soon. His confidence cracked like armor, and suddenly he wasn't sure what to do, so he let Star Dog lead.
They explored the rest of the facility and watched some more training before going back to Nicole's, but when Star Dog was certain he could offer no insight, they went to Nicole's home and all three of them relaxed for the remainder of the night before bed. Star Dog curled up beside the couch which Nathan was getting comfortable in, and sleep remained elusive before it suddenly attacked and all went black.
The smell of the air was salty and there was a faint breeze. The splashing of water tumbled gently against the wooden dock before rolling back into the harbor, and the smell of fish rode in on the subtle waves. Ship horns sounded through the night, and the moon shone brightly above the marina. Star Dog woke up when water spray splashed onto his face, and he blinked rapidly while gathering his surroundings. He was already standing on the edge of the pier, and he was mid-step right before walking into the inky black bay. He wasn't sure what woken him, but he knew even less of why he was there. Why was he out of the apartment, and where was Nathan? Also, for the first night in a long time, why couldn't he remember his dream?

Amazon

 

About Lucas C. Wheeler: 

Lucas C. Wheeler has been writing ever since he could hold a pencil. He has found success in many different levels of writing including second grade contests to university contests throughout his life. He is now focusing on making it as an independent author in the next exciting chapter of his life, which starts with the Star Dog Universe series. His first book, Star Dog Legacy is available now on Amazon and KU, and the trilogy will soon be complete.
He is happily married and currently living in Michigan. He is also owned by one spoiled calico cat, who has a household of servants attending to all of her affection needs.

Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Patreon

Monday, May 22, 2017

Missing Things (Men of Magic, Book 2) by Hollis Shiloh

Release date: May 3, 2017
Subgenre: Gay fantasy romance 

About Missing Things

 

Is there a way to save the captive fae?
Jocelyn and Ellis, magicians and life partners, grapple with dilemmas and a miasma of magic and mystery.

Jocelyn searches out magical artifacts, and struggles with the troubling gap in his memories — and the feeling that his and Ellis's partnership is falling apart.

Meanwhile, Ellis works desperately to dig into a wicked injustice being perpetrated against a kidnapped fae...and finds it may be too much for him to handle alone.

43,000 words
Men of Magic book 2
Very low heat


Excerpt:


In what time I could spare, I had been looking through the files, of course, hoping I would stumble upon something eventually.

Collingsgrove was an imposing place, with high walls, a tower, and supposedly involved in scientific and electrical research and study.

We had driven by the facility once, and only once, and the fae had contacted me at the time. It was painful and terrifying, to know that he was captive and afraid and wished for any escape, even death.

Amongst the minutiae of the ministry's files, I discovered that the facility had done some work for the ministry, during the war...and after.

The files, however, that detailed these jobs were gone.

Fishier and fishier.

I had some small connection to it, through my art-magic connection. I'd drawn the fae several times, from memory beyond what I could reach with my mind, and that was how we'd pieced together what happened when it made Jocelyn and me forget it. He had been struck more strongly with whatever otherworldly fae magic it used; while I did not remember anything about it particularly clearly, it did not hurt me to try. Jocelyn felt vague and pained and could not even concentrate on the subject.

Despite the connection, I was surprised when the fae contacted me through my drawing. It had done so before, but that had been some time ago and had only happened when I was much closer. I did not expect it in the quiet comfort of our office. The first words startled me so much that I swore and dropped my pencil; it rolled under my desk.

If Jocelyn had been present, there would have been no hiding it from him. Instead, I was alone in our small office for the moment, and stared down in dread at the paper I'd been doodling on as I thought. I had not been paying attention, and as once before, I saw now a message from the trapped fae.

It could be none other than he; it was his handwriting, jagged, angry slashes forming words of rage and pain and desperation.

GET. ME. OUT.

He was asking for my help? I flashed back to the images I had of him: glimpses through memory and the insight of my art. He was beautiful in an unearthly way, and filled with rage, terrifying to behold...and beautiful, so beautiful. He was all lithe fury and pain and sharp ears and skin darker than my own. He crackled with power; he blazed with fury. He was the most beautiful and horrible thing in the world.

I waited to see if he had more to say, steadying my breath and relaxing my hand. Nothing came through. I took a single soft breath and took my bravery in hand.

I decided to try something I had not previously attempted. I would talk to the fae. I must try; I had to try something! With a deep breath, I braced myself and wrote back in clear, calm capitals firmly marked: HOW CAN I HELP?

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple iTunes | Scribd | Payhip

 

About Hollis Shiloh:

Hollis Shiloh writes love stories about men, also called gay romance or m/m romance, with the preferred genres of contemporary, historical, and fantasy. Hollis's stories tend towards the sweet rather than the spicy. When not writing, the author enjoys reading, retro music, and being around animals. To be added to the Hollis's mailing list for updates, or to contact the author for other reasons, please write to Hollis.Shiloh@gmail.com. 

Website | Twitter

 



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guest post by Cynthia Clay: The Value of Escapist Fiction



The Value of Escapist Fiction



Fantasy and science fiction are often regarded as "escapist" fiction, the idea being that one escapes from the troubles of the everyday world into a made up story. This concept has always bothered me. It suggests there is something not quite right about a person who needs to escape. It belittles this type of fiction, implying that there is no real truth to the stories that let the reader believe what the reader wants to believe rather than what is true. Science fiction has fared a little better in reputation, appropriating for itself the banner of "the fiction of ideas." Science fiction, particularly hard science fiction, is supposed to be based on a reasonable scientific premise with the tale developing as conjecture upon that scientific premise. Science fiction, then, proudly holds itself aloof from mere fantasy and does its best to distance itself from soft science fiction which is based on the "soft sciences" of psychology and sociology. This attempt to hold science fiction aloft as superior to fantasy has also always bothered me. Clearly the underlying statement made by the division is that one is a literature of thought which improve one's mind; the other is pulp serving only as a false respite from life.

     There is another distinction between science fiction and fantasy. Science fiction has largely been the province of men. Indeed, hard science fiction is almost entirely the province of men. Fantasy, especially when it comes from the tradition of fairy tales is more the province of women. There are exceptions to both: soft science fiction has many female writers, and "high fantasy" the swords-and-sorcery variety is often written by men. The distinction between whether fantasy will be written by men or women seems to me to be more related to the tale's actually being a war story. Most of science fiction and fantasy are crude war stories with little point beyond tossing buckets of blood about. Indeed, the vast majority of science fiction and fantasy publications of all types seem to proffer no story that does not have at least one battle, fight, or other scene of graphic violence. And lest the reader "tut-tut" this assertion, let me point out that you are reading my stories as an e-book or POD because all but one of the stories in my collection of fantasy, sf, and myth, New Myths of the Feminine Divine were sent to the traditional science fiction and fantasy publishers, and that of the four stories that were accepted by magazines, three of them contain bloodshed. Men tend to drive the fantasy and science fiction fields; and men, it seems, still prefer tales of slaughter over tales of love. Even when women serve as editors to science fiction and fantasy publications they are seeking to please a male market and make their decisions accordingly.

     Yet, for all the assertions that science fiction, not fantasy, is the "literature of ideas" and for all the cloaking of science fiction's ideas in buckets of blood, the observation pops up over and over again that science fiction stories are the myths of our age. This to me is the crux of the matter. Science fiction and fantasy are both actually forms of myths. Myths, as in the Greek Myths, feature gods, goddesses, or demi-goddesses and are essentially religious stories, sacred texts. Fantasy and science fiction do not include a deity and are not intended to be religious stories. (Sharon Shinn with her Archangel series does include a deity, but the deity is only one of the characters, it is not a deity believed in by living people, and her novels are not intended as sacred texts.) Joseph Campbell in one of his videotaped shows, quipped ironically that "myths are other people's religion" and it is in this sense of sacred text that the word myth is different from fantasy and science fiction


   However, today there are a great many people who are atheist, agnostic, or who find spiritual meaning in any story that talks persuasively of the ability of the human spirit to triumph (the wonderful film Gattaca, for example). For such people, deities are either unneeded or unwanted, and the concept of mythos becomes broadened as these views are accommodated. Myth, then, I regard as any tale in which a human encounters or becomes a fully rational non-human, or obtains an artifact with powers, with the artifact being created by fully rational non-humans; or a myth is any tale where a human makes a journey to some place that is not the earth and becomes changed fundamentally by the journey. Myths, fantasy tales, and science fiction each use these scenarios; the difference is in their perspective. Myths hold to a deity being the powerful non-human or lending power to the journey or artifact; science fiction has the knowledge and logic of science as the purveyor of power; fantasy presents surreal creatures, unfathomable objects, or special ritual acts as the agents of transformation.

     Thus, science fiction works with the symbols that are new and exciting aspects of real life we know to be truly powerful–the workings of science and technology. Fantasy works with elements of power used by our culture in its antiquity--the power of beautiful rhymes and speeches, swords, and potions. Both of the genres have magical beings: elves and aliens; creatures half human-half animal and creatures half human-half manufactured. It is argued, of course, that the amazing events in science fiction are plausible; they could happen. We might be able to freeze a body for hundreds of years and then revive the person. We might one day colonize another planet. We might have to deal with a worldwide natural calamity like a comet hitting the earth. The amazing events of fantasy could not happen, it is thought. Not true. The amazing events of fantasy do happen. 


   The amazing events, the magic that occurs in fantasy tales and myths, the startling powers the characters wield are not the stuff of make believe. Myths, and fantasy tales are myths, are descriptions of our psyches. Myths depict what happens to us during our maturation; they depict how to solve our most serious problems; they provide the map of the labyrinth that is the human condition. Myth acknowledges that life is full of perils and struggles, but it teaches us how to face them, what kind of people will help us, and what to do when we make mistakes. Myths even suggest how death may have meaning or how death may be given meaning. Myths do this through describing how we feel about the things we encounter in life. 

     The bullies we meet with in life are the ogres found in myth; a social ill is fantasy's dragon laying waste to everything a community has worked to build; the transformation of humans into glorious creatures, or vile creatures into beautiful humans, reflects the changes we make as our understanding and compassion reach new heights, or despair and anger plunge us low. Myths are not escapist fiction. Nor are myths about bloodshed. Myths are about the world we are actually in and so may contain violence. The perspective in myth is merely shifted to the symbolic viewpoint so that we can be shown what to expect or what can be done about the situations we find ourselves in. So while myths talk of encountering powerful non-humans, obtaining objects of special power, or journeying to lands not of this earth, what myths are about is how we understand and ultimately transform ourselves or our world.

     Science fiction and fantasy, at their best, are both forms of myth. Science fiction uses the powers of science and technology to engage us in what could be. Fantasy uses lyric language, archetypal images, and metaphors to show us what is and how to grapple with it to become greater. Science fiction tells us what we can do; fantasy tells us who we are as well as what we are capable of. Science fiction presents us with new ideas about how we can remake the world, spelling it all out for us. Fantasy tells us what this world is made of and who we must become to make changes in the world, and so fantasy requires us to think, to decipher the code of the tale again and again. Both forms of fiction are myths. Science fiction is myth because it engages our imaginations in the consideration of transforming the world. Fantasy is myth because it engages our imaginations in the consideration of who we are and what we may become.


About Cynthia Clay:


Cynthia Joyce Clay is an award winning author and a member of the Dramatists' Guild. Cynthia was judged to be a computer program on Shakespeare at the First Loebner Prize Competition of The Turing Test - a truly science fictional experience. The Competition was filmed as part of a PBS Scientific Frontiers episode and aired internationally. In addition to living sf, Clay has experience with the thriller genre: she was invited to Russia to deliver her paper, The Application of Vector Theory to Literature and Drama at the international conference "Languages of Science, Languages of Art" and was chased by the KGB. For reasons she refuses to face, she obviously prefers to write fantasy. She is working on The Saga of the Dragon Born; books one (Foreshadow) and two (The Contending) only need to cover art and blurbs to launch!

Facebook page is under Cynthia Clay
Twitter is under cynthia@storycrafterstudio.com



Friday, May 19, 2017

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for May 19, 2017


Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with a whole lot of space opera, American Gods, Alien Covenant, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and All Systems Red as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, awards news, a whole lot of con reports, crowdfunding projects, science articles and free online fiction. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on American Gods

Comments on Alien: Covenant and the entire Alien series:

Comments on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Awards:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Crowdfunding:

Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: