Tuesday, November 21, 2017

NEW TV Review: S.W.A.T.

Funny thing. When I was looking up SWAT for the DVR, I discovered ... the pilot for the original TV show. It opened with cops being ambushed by a gang who just wants to assassinate police officers. Any police officer.

Nothing freaking changes, does it?

While the opening of SWAT 2017 is painfully obvious, you can tell that a LOT of PC BS was left on the cutting room floor. It opens with an utterly unnecessary "shootout where cop shoots a civillian caught in the crossfire," leading to Shemar Moore's Hondo being promoted to team leader, in a PR stunt that's so blatant, the entire SWAT team is questioning it. The solution to the episode, however, was actually interesting -- our killers have been manipulating the public to expect domestic terrorism, political agendas ... and it's all in the service of a bank robbery.

I really wanted Hans Gruber to come out and laugh, saying "Who said we were terrorists?"

Much of this movie tries to take from the 2003 Sam Jackson film with Jeremy Renner and Colin Farrell -- it's why Shermar Moore is Hondo, one of our shooters is a Hispanic woman (who isn't replacing Michelle Rodriequez, honest!), and why Jim Street is regarded as a hothead who doesn't play well with others (which, while threatened in the 1975 version, never really followed through on). The new-guy hothead is a cliche that they're at least trying to ring the changes on, but they're not quite there yet.

Despite the commercials threatening to have SWAT play at community policing, it's not really that bad. In fact, I'm trying to imagine what the point is. Most of the "changes" and "being nicer and gentler" mostly just comes off as being common sense -- sorry, but DEFENDING A WITNESS and treating an obvious civilian as a human being doesn't really come off as anything special. I don't know if they're trying to imply that police just routinely brutalize people for fun, or if they're just suggesting that, hmm, maybe something called SPECIAL WEAPONS AND TACTICS generally don't interact much with the general populace. You know, maybe.

Right now, much of this show is resting on Shermar Moore's charisma. Thankfully, he has plenty. It's okay. It's not stand out. Hell, it's not even NCIS: New Orleans. It's watchable. It's okay. And if I have five minutes, I'll have this on in the background while I do something else. 6/10

NEW TV Review: Must Miss TV

I think I'm going to skip the in-depth reviews, and just to straight to the stuff that sucks.

The Good Doctor: An autistic savant wants to become a surgeon. The show jumps straight to the surgical residency, and has totally avoided medical school. Sorry, it's already stretched my credulity to expect that someone who literally doesn't answer anything phrased in the form of a question to have progressed this far in a medical career. Yes, I'm serious about the inability to answer questions. The emotional manipulation evident in the show is ham-handed, ham-fisted, and just plain "shoot me now." It's easy to make a character likable when nearly everyone else is a scumbag, a parasite, or a pathological schumck-- one character steals every idea from the autistic and claims them for his own, one surgeon is a coward who lies to patience as long as they think good things about her, and one of the hospital board is busier trying to play Game of Thrones than running his department. It's blatant emotional manipulation, making everyone a dick. There are only two characters here who are worth the time -- our savant, and Richard Shiff, who plays the president of the hospital, but he's still playing Richard Schiff, really.

And what do you expect from the guys who brought you House? Doctors who are actually interesting and likable? And the flashbacks break the pacing to Hell and gone. Daniel Dae Kim left Hawaii 5-0 to produce this crap? Oy.


Inhumans: I watched the two-hour pilot, and the third episode. They had some interesting moments here and there, but it got lost in the slow, plodding execution of the story. The Inhumans have a base on a moon -- an invisible city, with a city run by those with powers, while the unpowered drudge away in the mines beneath the city... what they're mining, we have no idea. A Game of Thrones hostile takeover ensues, sending four (later five) members of the royal family to Earth.

There are some interesting bits of business, such as the mute Black Bolt communicating largely through faces, and some of the fighting is okay. But really, Ken Leung ran from The Night Shift for this? It is slow, it is ponderous, and when only the bad guys get the best lines, I'm out.


X-Men The Gifted: I'm getting to the point when I hate the X-Bitches. Hugh Jackman carried the movie franchise, and I haven't been interested in the series as a whole since the animated series went off the air in the 90s. The X-Douches are whiny, angsty, and a pain to watch. But I'd try this for Amy Acker. The pilot opens strong, with a mutant being chased by the cops ... for reasons we don't get. It's followed by a strong, intense action piece. It ends with one of the rescue team being chapters, and the scene punctuated with -- wait for it!!!-- and angsty scream of futility. Oh, come on.

This is then follow with Amy Acker and her character's husband in a principle's office, then followed by her managing children at home ... no. Thank you. I'm done. Good bye. They can waste someone else's time. This is a gift that should be returned.

Review: The Defenders

So, I saw Marvel's NetFlix series for The Defenders a few weeks ago.

What did I think?

Here's a hint: It took me this long to review it. What do you think?

The short version is: it was okay.

The premise is simple: The Hand, magical Yakuza Ninjas, have come to destroy New York.

How? I'm not entirely certain. There's something about a dragon underneath the city, and if you take too much away from the dragon, the city falls down? I think. It was either never spelled out fully, or it was partially explained in Iron Fist (which I'm so glad I didn't see), or I fast forwarded through it by accident -- and I made it a point to watch everything the good guys were in in full, so if it wasn't explained to them, it wasn't explained to me.

Slowly, each of the quartet of heroes is dragged into this little fiasco. Danny Rand / Iron Fist is given a warning that the Hand are going to destroy New York. He chases a hired street kid working for the Hand ... a kid who Luke Cage is trying to keep off the streets. They fight. Hilarity ensues. Meanwhile, Jessica Jones is hired to find an architect, and when that goes bad, she's represented by a blind attorney from Hell's Kitchen. They end up colliding together in an office building owned by the Hand. Then the fun starts...

The fun takes a while to get there. About episode 3. There are the occasional moments before that, but ... eh.

On the positive side, when these people are together, they're actually not too bad. Most of them balance out each other's more annoying qualities. Luke Cage is the rock upon which everything else could stand if they wanted. Iron Fist's whining and stupidity is balanced out by everyone smacking him upside the head. Daredevil is still probably the best part of the show. Jessica Jones' misanthropy is balanced out by her having to share the screen with everyone more interesting than she is.

And of course, "Jessica Jones, stop talking" is so perfect a line I want it as my ring tone.

Though one of the crowning achievements of this show are bringing the side kicks together. Sorry, but I really enjoyed watching the Night Nurse with Colleen Wing, or Hellcat... sorry, Trish ...meeting with Murdock's law firm. It was fun. And strange.

And then there's the downside: the bad guys. Sorry, Marvel, unless the villain is Kingpin or Kilgrave, or they just go full comic book villain, we don't care. We really don't. Sigorney Weaver was wasted as Nameless Psycho #4 (no, really, I can't recall what the bleep her name is). She was amazingly boring, she's obviously too old for this crap, and her next step on the creepy train is to go full Susan Sarandon.

Then there's Elektra... sigh. Yes, for those who remember the end of Daredevil season 2, Elektra died. It's a bad habit she's kept from the comic books. Another bad habit is that she keeps coming back. The only difference is that she's been brought back ... wrong. I don't know if she's supposed to have been programmed as a mindless super weapon, or if she's just even more broken than she was from her first appearance. Here, she's as crazy as a bag of cats.

Another major downside: some of the idiocy that just falls trippingly off the tongue. If I hear "White Privilege" one more time, I will hit someone with a 2x4. Thankfully, that was only one particularly stupid conversation and was never repeated ... or I fast forwarded right past it, and never heard a thing about it.

There was also the obligatory superhero beat down. There were two of them. No one one's surprise, it was beating up on Iron Fist. Because this Danny Rand needs to be beaten routinely.

And, honestly, the intelligence of the characters was 100% dictated by the needs of the plot. Thankfully, Iron Fist is stupid enough to be more than stupid enough for everybody. The best idea he's had all throughout the series was that they would make a good team.

The team is fine, when they're actually on the move and DOING SOMETHING.  Seriously, this was a major issues with Supergirl, why is this the end of a Marvel series? They usually do things fairly well. Nope. Not any more.

Sigh.

At the end of the day, yes, I do recommend this ... on fast forward. There is exactly one moment where watching the bad guys comes in handy, and it's Elektra's best moment. But aside from that, you don't need to watch them, and they are in dire need of editing.

Crisis on Earth-X

Another four-part crossover. How bad will this suck?



Okay, it doesn't look too bad. I would call this game on account of "Nazis? Really? Again? Are they actually trying to virtue signal with this?" but there is at least one of the 52 universes where Nazis won World War II. I think it's called the Wolfenstein universe.

Also, they brought back Snart. From the dead. Again.... I'll take it. He might actually have a hope of saving Legends of Tomorrow, even though the show has become as stupid as their series name.

The action looks good -- as in they have any-- though I really want Hellboy to show up. Because it's DC Nazis, there should be Hellboy, damnit. Where's Ron Perleman? Time for him to suit up again.

I will watch the four part, though I haven't bothered with the other three series since the season began -- Arrow is the only one I'll tolerate regularly.

Will this suck?

Probably.

... Damnit.

Facebook Launch Party: The Awful Truth About Forgetting

Starting at 2:30PM Eastern, today, L. Jagi Lamplighter will host the Facebook launch party for The Awful Truth About Forgetting, the fourth book of the "Books of Unexpected Enlightenment."

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text

Or as the press release says...

Coming from Wisecraft Publishing, the YA Imprint of Superversive Press, the fourth Book of Unexpected Enlightenment: THE AWFUL TRUTH ABOUT FORGETTING

The launch will take place on Tuesday, November 21st on Facebook from 2:30 to 5:50. There will be games, giveaways, a video reveal of the book trailer made by Superversive’s own Ben Zwycky and lovely singer Sarah Koolbeck, and conversation with Rachel Griffin and Sigfried the Dragonslayer.

There will also be a Spoiler reveal, so get your questions in early!

The invitation reads:
Come one, come all and join in the wonder! 
Rachel Griffin and Sigfried the Dragonslayer invite you to a Facebook Launch party for the fourth Book of Unexpected Enlightenment: THE AWFUL TRUTH ABOUT FORGETTING. 
Festivities will included: games, giveaways, meet the characters, guest authors (TBA), and one Spoiler in response to reader’s questions (the person who submits the winning question will receive a set of four Unexpected Enlightenment bookplates signed by the author and illustrator. )

Grand prize winner may choose one item from among The Wright Stuff Zazzle store’s Roanoke Alchemical Shoppe.

The giveaways might include freebies some people you recognize.


I enjoy this series. I suggest you join in.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

MAGA: Why Trump?

After last year's election, I had the attack of the psychotic Leftists attacking me.  The following is a comment I made back then. I didn't realize it was a whole essay.

But now that MAGA 2020 has come out, I thought it was time to have this discussion.

Yes, it's about politics. Because how can you avoid it?

By the end of this, you will have to comment to tell me if the headline was clickbait. Perhaps this is less a matter of "Why Trump" and more a matter of "Anybody But Leftists."

You'll have to decide.

Obviously, some of the observations I made at the time have become invalid. As I said then, one of the biggest things against Trump was that he switched parties to become a Republican.

I think people should be forgiven their mistakes when they as for it.

Heh.


"Every slander said about Trump has been said about almost every Republican nominated since 1980, if not 1960. (Look up Barry Goldwater sometime. Especially Johnson's campaigns against him.) Reagan was going to lead us to nuclear devastation. George Bush the first was supposed to be too stupid to know anything. I don't think I even need to go into everything said about George Bush the younger. And of course there was McCain. And Romney. I can show you some very interesting anti-GOP ads. And know the exact same thing is being said about the exact same political party's candidate. And the same exact people are having hissy fit. The same exact people are faking swastikas and lynching nooses.

"Look up every single incident for the last 20 years about supposedly racist threats. You find that they are faked by a Democrat. Though in the case of vandalism against one's own church / temple / et cetera it is typically a member of the congregation. The same exact people are threatening violence again. Democrats. Every time Democrats lose, it is the electoral college is at fault. Because they would rather have 5 particular sections of the country rule over every other section of the country.

"These people born me. With the threats and their swearing and the calls of nazi-ism, racism, mysogyny, homophobia, transphobia, phobia phobia.

"While their side of the aisle seems to be scared of anyone armed with anything more than a plastic butter knife. Democrats say to call the cops, you don't need to gun. Then they say the cops are evil and racist and then ... in which case, why are we calling them?

"At the end of the day Democrats, liberals, SJW's, are all boring. Repetitive. Frankly, if you want to fight an author by telling their readers what the author believes, you should do something as radical as look up the author, read their blog, because for all you know, the readers already know because the author has it plastered all over their blog.

"My general disdain for Trump stems from his history of basically being a Democrat. That is the only regard in which I would believe that he was a member of the Klan. After all, the Klan is a Democrat party institution. Just asked Robert Byrd. Though I gotta tell you, Vs Hillary, everyone short of a serial killer looked more interesting... or at least like a better option.


"Okay Gary Johnson look like a complete moron, but what can you do?

"Though to be honest, I was more of a Ted Cruz person. Though I am relatively sure that everybody protesting in the streets right now would be bitching about him as well."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

NEW TV Review: Wisdom of the Crowd

Everything wrong with Wisdom of the Crowd can be summed up in an episode of The Orville called "Majority Rule."

Though for the more politically inclined, perhaps this is better summed up by the realization that the lead, Jeremy Piven, is also one of the producers, a Bernie Sanders supporter, and the setting is San Francisco, hippie capital of the universe.

Zuckerberg knockoff Jeffrey Tanner (Jeremy Piven) leaves his social media empire in order to hunt down "the real killer" of his daughter, who died over a year before. He's using Sophe, an AI program that uses crowd sourcing to investigate crimes -- presuming that a few million eyes on the same piece of evidence will see more than a few cops working a case.

Think about this a moment, please: the Internet is going to solve crimes. Yeah, really. But don't worry, we have magical filters that will not only filter out political bias, but also internet trolls. This smacks of The Machine from Person of Interest, and making is an app feels like the late lamented APB. Then they layer on political BS, because it's San Francisco, we have a good socialist Brit (played by Harry Potter's Natalia Tena), a lefty Muslim "hacktivist" idiot, another IT guy who I expect to come out of the closet any time now ... because it's San Francisco, no one can be straight.


Of course, we have Tanner's ex, a member of Congress played by Monica Potter. Sorry, but Monica Potter is beautiful. I used to confuse her with Julia Roberts ... many, many moons ago. Here, they make her look kinda ugly, as though she has had heavy plastic surgery. I'm not sure if Potter has had the Mark Hamill face lift, or if she's supposed to look like Nancy Pelosi. She's grating, adds nothing to each episode, but will probably be the key to the year-long conspiracy series arc.

By episode three, we have the politics-heavy episode, where every right-winger is a Nazi.  Because we're supposed to believe that San Francisco is a racial powder keg ... and no, they don't discuss Oakland. Because that would be racist, I'm sure.

Episode 4 is the "viral suicide game," which was so message-heavy, it's fake. And in a world where we have crowds gathered underneath a jumper, you're going to have at least one idiot crying "JUMP! JUMP!"  So having "the internet" come to the rescue there? No. I call BS.

Their politics is so out of touch, they literally brought out a white militia group from 90s central casting. We won't even go into the lousy "business law" subplot which is a struggle over ...600 lines of code. Which even I know is solved by REWRITING THE CODE.

Despite having an okay start, and Richard T Jones (who deserves a much better series, that will stay on for any length of time) this show is really only for the socialist at heart.

Given that Piven is one of many Hollywood types that is accused of sexual molestation, assault and / or rape, I expect this show to crash, burn, and die in a fire. The show started at a mere 8.83 million viewers, on CBS, a channel that canceled the far superior shows The Mentalist and Unforgettable when they had 9 and 10 million viewers, respectively. The low point for the raitings have been under 7 million.

So even if you like this show, expect this crowd-sourcing fantasy to require crowd-funding to stay alive.

While the pilot is okay, starting at a strong 7/10, it's going to 4/10 and crashing. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

NEW TV Review: SEAL Team / The Brave

Never have I seen two parallel TV shows on at the same time, doing similar things in such a different fashion, down to the extent that they basically had the same exact premise for their pilot episode. They both have stock, cliche characters that are in painful need of development, but while one tries, badly, to develop those characters, the other makes no real attempt to, but is perfectly okay with that.

To begin with, there is SEAL Team, starring David Boreanaz, who is rapidly approaching 50, and he looks it. He is the epitome of "getting too old for this s**t." The former vampire FBI agent is trying very hard to convince us that he is a SEAL door-kicker burnout waiting to happen, but the only believable part is the burnout. Mr. Boreanaz is dangerously close to joining the Tom Cruise club for actors who don't realize that they're too old to be the sexy heartthrob anymore -- and even Tom Cruise has reached the point in his career where his ego acknowledges that taking body shots to the ego is good for him.

The premise of SEAL Team is simple: Boreanaz is a leader of one of the Teams, and he has just lost his best friend before episode 1 begins. His marriage is on the rocks, and his buddy may have left a secret behind. And meanwhile, there's a new recruit going through training, the offspring of "a SEAL who wrote a book" ... so, Richard Marcinko, I guess. The two storylines had diverged after the pilot, and appear to have no chance of intersecting ever again.

Half of every episode seems to be dedicated to the home life of the SEALs: the burnout, the marriage, the newbie getting a college coed into the sack... ie: pure melodrama. The other half is dedicated to some well assembled action pieces.

I think I would rather bring back The Unit.

At the end of the day, it's hard for me to care about any of the characters here. The pilot episode had Michael Rooker as the head of SEAL training. He had less than five minutes for the first episode, and has disappeared. I would have rather had a TV show about him.

I must admit though, I like their CIA spook, played by blatantly hot Jessica Paré -- that's not a complaint. She's got surprising amounts of depth in her character, even in the first episode. I didn't know that spies were allowed to be human. Pity that Team members aren't allowed to be.

Cliche characters out of central casting, poor development, half of each episode is boring melodrama, broken up at the end with some action pieces. If you watch the show, bring your fast forward button, and don't watch it live.

On a good day, 5/10.  At most. I recommend finding old episodes of The Unit instead.

Then we have The Brave ... who also have a collection of stock characters. Seriously, these people are so cliche, some of their character names are probably labels that they had in their notes. The Brave is seriously plot heavy, and character light. The most vivid character with the best overall development is the guest du jour, especially in the first few episodes. Everyone else is a collection of personality traits, not people.

You've got the petite female sniper, who wants to be Michelle Rodriquez when she grows up. There's the white bread leader be named Dalton -- I don't know if they wanted to steal from the original or the new MacGyver ... though he's way more tolerable than the more recent version. There's the obligatory skinny Muslim, the spiritual black guy literally named "Preach."

At this point in the series, one of their most interesting characters is analyst Noah Morgenthau, who has already had an episode where he got to insist that he's "just an analyst, not a field agent." I actually want to see more of that guy than the actual shooters. I could seem him groomed for Scott Murphy at some point down the line.

Overall, the series is a plot in search of personality for the main characters. But the stories themselves are good, some nice witticisms here and there. I don't really hate this show. They want to be military fiction Mission: Impossible, and they sometimes manage it, though the original Mission: Impossible had more charisma from the beginning. I can honestly say that the show is getting better as it goes along. At its worst, 6/10. At its best, maybe 8/10. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review of Thor: Ragnarok

If you know Norse mythology, you know that Ragnarok is basically the doom of Asgard. It is the end of all things. Can Thor, god of thunder, stop the cataclysm from happening?
Going by the first minutes of the film, yes. Yes he can.

When last we saw our intrepid Avenger, Thor had flown off in search of the Infinity Gems (the shiny MacGuffin devices from half the franchise). Finding none, he is now in search of the cause of his dreams: dreams of Ragnarok. It leads him to Surtur ... some sort of magma ...Satan ... thing. Surtur monologes a bit about how he will destroy of of Asgard, bwahahahaha ... and Thor interrupts him for some comic moments, and we're off.

However, the end of all things isn't quite averted. Hela, goddess of death, has been trapped for half a million years, and she's out, and she's ready to rule everything.

So, nicely epic. But can they pull it off?

Largely, yes.

Hela is released, and due to a problem with the Rainbow Bridge, Thor and Loki don't get a full confrontation with Hela, but are thrown down onto an alien planet. Thor is captured via cheap technology tricks, and is made to fight in a gladiatorial arena owned by Jeff Goldblum.  Yes, Jeff has tired of playing with dinosaurs, and wants to play with comic book characters instead. It's all very strange.

The whole film is strange from start to finish. There is a definite departure in tone from the other Thor films, giving it more of a Guardians feel to it. Thor, the deadly serious, makes for a surprisingly good slapstick artist. I was surprised too. I think I laughed at this one more than I did at Guardians.

All in all, this was straight up fun. There are shoot outs that make me think of Flash Gordon (the one with Topol, Queen, and Max von Sydow) to such a point that I thought excerpts of the soundtrack would start playing at any moment. At one point, "Pure Imagination" does start playing. Yes, really. There's comedy. There's some well-done plotting. Nothing is really forced (okay, one scene is, to be seen below). I'd even say the Pulp crowd would be entertained, given that we have a space ship firing a machine gun at Fenris while a horde of zombie soldiers are being mowed down by a lightning-wielding demigod, who shot his way out of an intergalactic gladiatorial ring with a laser rifle.

Now, you know that there are several elements they must address in the film. such as the post-credit scene in Doctor Strange. You know from the end of The Dark World that Loki is on the throne of Asgard, pretending to be Odin. You know that he was looking for the Infinity gems. You know that someone might want to mention that Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) isn't in this movie -- and frankly, I have no idea how they could have fit her in as well. All of these plot points are actually addressed and resolved within-- at a guess-- about fifteen minutes in.

I have two major problems with the movie, and a minor one, below. One, we have a moment that is a variation on the "you have hidden depths" meme that we've seen before -- though I don't have a problem with how they did it, I have a problem with where they put it. It's rather awkwardly jammed in. I blame whoever edited the film together. It's fairly jarring.  You'll see where they put it. I liked the scene itself (it could have been a minute longer), and it had some witty lines, but it's sort of shoehorned in, like the editor went trigger happy somewhere along the line. I know there are several shots and lines of dialogue cut from the trailer to the film; I know that it happens, but given some parts of the ending, I think someone went overboard.

My second major problem: character deaths. Of the five character deaths in this film, only one is lingered on for any length of time. The other four were murdered off-handedly, making me wonder why some of these people were even brought in.

The acting is surprisingly well done. Hemsworth is a great straight man, and pulls off the big epic moments, as well as the slapstick. Don't worry ladies, you'll get shirtless Thor -- though he seems to have bulked down, and has gone more for martial art muscle than gym muscle.

Cumberbatch as Strange is even better, and funnier here than he was in his own movie. It was fun, and they got rid of him in a matter of three minutes, a good thing, since he might have stolen this film if he was more than a cameo.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki ... is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Has anyone ever had any problem with his Loki? Loki's still insane, but dang, he's got style. And he knows how to make an entrance.

Hela ... she's a serviceable villain. She's fun, and she leaves more of an impression than the dark elves from The Dark World. She even comes with her own army of zombie Rivendell elves. Yes, I know they're supposed to be old Asgard warriors. And she comes with Fenris as her pet.

Valkyrie -- Sigh. You know, I didn't mind Idris Elba as Heimdall, because he brings gravitas and .. he ACTS LIKE HEIMDALL. I didn't mind a random Asian dude thrown in as one of the Warriors Three, since they're largely background characters. But when you replace Valkrie, a six-foot blonde who should be built like Red Sonja, with a 5'4" Tessa Thompson, I have multiple levels of why this is a problem. It will help if you have no actual attachment to the comic book character in the first place. Trust me on this

Karl Urban as the Executioner ... while I like Urban, pretending that this character is anything like the comic book version is idiotic. I presume that this is the last Thor film, for multiple reasons, but most of all because they felt the need to jam in certain characters without bothering to make them anything like their comic book counterparts. Damn it, Idris Elba at least acts like Heimdall.

Again, a fun film. Possibly the best Thor film. Definitely the funniest Marvel film. Though I'm surprised at their restraint: I had expected at least new one Infinity Gem, and didn't get one. If I recall correctly, there are still two missing.

But we'll see.

Right now, I don't have an analysis for what this means for the rest of the Marvel universe. I have some guesses, but it's pure speculation.

Ragnarok is definitely recommended on the big screen.

Publishing Schedule, 2017-2018

I finally got around to that break. I've only been threatening to take one since July. But this year has been a bit busy.

Let's recap quickly.

2017

January: Live and Let Bite

July: Rerelease of A Pius Man
Astounding Frontiers 1: Give Us 10 Minutes, We'll give you a World, magazine

AugustGood to the Last Drop

September: Tales of the Once and Future King, anthology.

October:  Lyonesse, Volume 1, anthology.
Paragons: An Anthology of Superheroes

November: MAGA: 2020 & Beyond, anthology.

December: The Hundred World's anthology (ed: JF Holmes)

Oh, yes, and while we're at it, I've coauthored a novel with Dawn Witzke, the cover artist, and I'm halfway done with the book. AND I sent a space opera to Baen. They'll take a year to reject me -- I'm just assuming I'll be rejected, the odds are against me.

Meanwhile, as I'm waiting for Baen to reject me, I'll be working on a few things.

I know that I had previously mentioned that I was going to have three murder mysteries released by year's end... but my time was sucked up by the anthologies. And they needed more work than I thought they would.

But wait, there's more.

2018

January: The rerelease from Silver Empire of A Pius Legacy: A Political Thriller
The Mercury anthology, from Superversive Press

February: The rerelease from Silver Empire of A Pius Stand: A Global Thriller
The Mars anthology, from Superversive Press

March: The rerelease from Silver Empire of Pius Tales
The Venus anthology, from Superversive Press

April: The rerelease from Silver Empire of A Pius History
The Earth anthology, from Superversive Press

May: Silver Empire project To Be Announced.

June: Silver Empire project To Be Announced.

July: Silver Empire project To Be Announced.

August: Silver Empire project To Be Announced.

September: Silver Empire project To Be Announced.

October: The Moon anthology, from Superversive Press ... probably

November: The Moon anthology, from Superversive Press

December: The collected plantary anthologies.

Yes, you read that right, I'm going to be releasing 9 books through Silver Empire next year. On top of (minimum) six anthologies.

So, yeah, next year's gonna be fun.

Illegitimi non carborundum



The Love at First Bite series. 



Monday, November 6, 2017

Signal Boost: Silver Empire UF Giveaway

Russell Newquist of Silver Empire press is giving away 10 Urban Fantasy ebooks this week, and 2 signed paperbacks.


10  Urban Fantasy eBooks + 2 Signed Paperbacks!


The URL is: The books:

  • Beast Master by Shayne Silvers - plus SIGNED paperback! 
  • War Demons by Russell Newquist - plus SIGNED paperback! 
  • The Builder's Pride by J.A. Cipriano 
  • Devil's Descent by Percival Constantine 
  • A Game of Witches by Kit Hallows 
  • Fade by Daniel Humphreys 
  • Fae Generations by Tom Keller 
  • Death Mage by Brad Magnarella 
  • Skull Master by William Massa 
  • Underground Druid by M.D. Massey

For YOUR chance to sign up for these novels, just click here.













Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NEW RELEASE ANNOUNCEMENT: PARAGONS

I am proud to introduce to you the latest release from Silver Empire publishing: Paragons: An Anthology of Superheroes.

Silver Empire's mission statement is "to find and publish the best heroic, wondrous adventure fiction out there. Like you, we wanted stories that still showcased heroism. And we like fiction that dares to show us wonders we've never imagined."

To seek out new authors, creating new civilizations. To boldly go where no fiction has gone before!

... Okay, yes, I added that last part. But if you read it again in a William Shatner voice, with the original serious music in the background, wouldn't that be cool

Anyway, with a mission statement like that, an anthology about superheroes was something we all should have seen coming.

On the flap copy.

Look - up in the sky!

They awe us. They fill us with wonder. But most of all, they inspire us – to be stronger, faster, and smarter. Superheroes teach us how to aspire to the best versions of ourselves. Enjoy this master collection of collection of 13 tales of all-new, all-original superheroes from today’s up and coming science fiction and fantasy masters!

When the police fail to take down the super powered mobs a rogue vigilante steps up to the plate in Nightstick by Kai Wai Cheah. Peek in on a superhero marriage proposal via Blackout by Morgon Newquist. When a young nuclear engineer gains superpowers, the Soviet government wants to control her for the sake of the motherland in Stalina by Sam Kepfield.

Enjoy these tales and more by Alt-Hero novelist Jon Del Arroz, Dragon Award and Hugo Award nominee Kai Wai Cheah, Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and others!
My own particular contribution to the series is "The Weather Witch."  I originally used the story as an origin for a superheroine in a series to be developed with Robert Bertand, who I count as a friend, though we haven't talked in a while, so we may be down to acquaintances. My fault as much as anything else. We outlined this novel together, came up with some concepts.  This was one concept he decided to take a completely different route with, so the story, as written, became useless.

Then Russell at Silver Empire decided he wanted superhero short stories. Guess what I just happen to have lying around.

"The Weather Witch" about an African girl, raised in a missionary school, attacked by slavers. Only in this case, the leader of these slavers is a giant fellow, with crackling yellow electricity eyes. He jokes that "His mother was the lightning."

And since this little girl has grown up with this risk her entire life, she decided that she's not going to go down easy -- she jabs the guy in the eyes.  They both get a bit of a shock...

So what happens when a ten year old girl basically finger jabs the eyes of a monster run on elemental forces?

Fun fun fun.

Obviously, there are some really obvious parallels. African girl with weather powers ... comic fans will think "Ah. Storm. X-Men. Mutants again?" Not quite. Get the book. Find out.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

NEW RELEASE: MAGA 2020

MAGA 2020 & Beyond by [Yiannopoulos, Milo, Del Arroz, Jon, Lamplighter, L. Jagi, Fontaine, Marina, Torgersen, Brad, Wright, John C., Finn, Declan, Andrews Sr., Arlan]
I wrote two stories for MAGA 2020, and one will be coming soon, via my newsletter.

But the one that will be appearing in the anthology, out on November 8th, is "Mad Dog Moon."

If you guessed that this was going to center around Secretary of Defense, Marine General James "Mad Dog" Mattis (Ret) ... you'd be right.

The general joke around Mattis is that he is an unstoppable killing machine that will knife-hand you as soon as look at you. Perhaps sooner.



And, as one person asked ... what sort of Marine do you have to be for other marines to refer to you as "Mad Dog"?

Let's just say that it's a question I try to answer.

If I were writing a flap copy for my MAGA 2020 short, it would be "President Trump has had it with ISIS, and has sent in his ultimate weapon of mass destruction: General Mad Dog Mattis."

Funny enough, I'm told by one of my military experts that ISIS seems to be slated for demolition by the end of the year. ISIS may not even be around long enough for my short story about them being destroyed to be published. Damn it. Now I know what it was like for all of those thriller authors in 2003, when they thrashed about getting in one final Iraq is the villain stories before Saddam fell.

This is going to be fun.

Review: Monster Hunter Files

If you don't know Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International series, this would be a place to start.

Monster Hunter Files is an anthology written (mostly) by the best fantasy authors in the business


“Thistle” by Larry Correia
Owen and his team take on a new kind of monster in Arizona -- It starts as your straightforward monster killing story. Then Larry does a twist at the end of this one that makes Rod Serling proud. I didn't see it coming, but I should have.  5/5

“Small Problems” by Jim Butcher
MHI’s new janitor has to deal with some small problems -- It's Jim Butcher. Do I have to say this one was awesome?  It's like he hasn't recovered from all of his Roman legion research from Codex Alera ... while watching The Secret of NIMH.  6/5

“Darkness Under The Mountain” by Mike Kupari
Cooper takes a freelance job in Afghanistan-- The Chinese have dug too greedily and too deep... and that's a line in the story. It's almost a Monster Hunter procedural novel, with a soupcon of MCB BS. 4/5

“A Knight Of The Enchanted Forest” by Jessica Day George
(Trailer park elves versus gnomes TURF WAR!)-- A straight up comedy from the first page, with the redneck elves, meets hippies.  4/5

“The Manticore Sanction” by John C. Wright
(Cold War era British espionage with monsters) -- This one was dark. Very British. Also very Universal monster movie... the black and white version, not the new crap with Tom Cruise. This one was ... surprisingly powerful. It left a mark.  6/5.

“The Dead Yard” by Maurice Broaddus
Trip goes to Jamaica on some family business-- It was okay. It needed more meat to it. It was awkwardly paced, and over suddenly. I think it needed more room to work. 3/5

“The Bride” by Brad R. Torgersen
Franks wasn’t the only thing Benjamin Franklin cut deals with-- BWAHAHAHAHAHAAH.  This one was awesome.  Brad writes Ben Franklin perfectly. I can hear the actor from 1776 when I read the story. Also, Franklin's a badass. Though this one pissed me off ... I wanted it to run another ten pages. Dear Larry: Can Brad write the novel on the Revolutionary War history of monster hunting? Please? 5/5

“She Bitch, Killer of Kits” (a Skinwalker Crossover Tale) by Faith Hunter
Jane Yellowrock teams up with MHI -- This was okay. I honestly think that the author is more interesting than the story she wrote. Which is odd, because the inverse is usually the case. 3/5.

“Mr. Natural” by Jody Lynn Nye
an STFU mission in the 70s has to deal with plant monsters and hippies! -- Hilarious. Fun as heck.  I deduct half a point for the bunny ex machina ending. 4.5/5

“Sons Of The Father” by Quincy J. Allen
Two young brothers discover monsters are real, and kill a mess of them -- Quincy is apparently a newb author, but I couldn't tell from the story. It was very Supernatural, if they focused more on being badass than anything else.  4/5

“The Troll Factory” by Alex Shvartsman
Heather gets some help from MHI for an STFU mission into Russia -- Yeah, this was fun. A post-Siege story. It has a nice setup of a newbie hunter, and it has an awesome, awesome punchline. 5/5

“Keep Kaiju Weird” by Kim May 
A Kitsune may have already earned her PUFF exemption, but she’s not going to let some monster squish Portland -- I really enjoyed this one. I was having flashbacks to the better episodes of Grimm, though. Heh. 5/5

“The Gift” by Steve Diamond
Two of the Vatican’s Hunters from the Blessed Order of Saint Hubert the Protector on a mission in Mexico -- I wanted to like this one more. It felt like someone condensed a novel with a lot of backgroundinformation left out. Perhaps this would work betters as the first five chapters of a full novel.  4/5 stars... maybe 3.

“The Case of the Ghastly Specter” by John Ringo
while studying at Oxford, Chad takes a case -- Was Ringo watching old Sherlock Holmes movies? There were moments when Chad sounds like Basil Rathbone. I might like this one better in the full novel of Sinners, as downtime in an action packed novel. But here, in this anthology, it just feels like the slow bit. The difference is jarring. It's still good, so I mark it a 4/5

“Huffman Strikes Back” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Julie Frost
Owen’s vacation gets interrupted for some monster revenge-- This was part comedy, park action scene. Either way, it was awesome. 5/5

“Hitler’s Dog” by Jonathan Maberry
(It is WW2 and Agent Franks really hates Nazis)-- Do I even have to make comments? It's Franks versus Nazis. But I think it needed a little more fleshing out. 4/5

16 great stories, at a little over a dollar a story. You can't beat this deal.

Monday, October 30, 2017

New Release: Lyonesse Volume 1

Those of you who might remember Silver Empire's Lyonesse short story service now have the ultimate sampler pack: Lyonesse, Volume 1, bringing you the best stories from the first run. It has psychics, time travel, gods, and sci-fi battle angels. We have a woman with the power to raise the dead. A man stranded on another world, fighting all alone for a lost cause. Zombies invading New York. Alien artifacts. Sci-Fi battle angels. Samurais fighting demons. Interplanetary detectives and lost unicorns.

Featuring the Dragon Award Finalists Kai Wai Cheah, L. Jagi Lamplighter ... and me, Declan Finn.

This collection, for the low low price of $2.99, includes the following 16 short stories:
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral by L. Jagi Lamplighter
  • The Dreaming Wounds by Anya Ow
  • The Dragon's Teeth by David Hallquist
  • Zombie Jamboree by Declan Finn
  • The Artifact by Dean Abbott
  • We Bury Our Own by Kai Wai Cheah
  • Number 43 by Jonathan Ward
  • The Last Winter by A.R. Aston
  • Shini Tai by C.L. Werner
  • The Case of the Unicorn by Nora M. Mulligan
  • The Harsh Mistress by Mike Murphy
  • St. Lucian's Star by Dawn Witzke
  • A Day Without the Horned Goddess by Kieran McKiel
  • In Another Life by Morgon Newquist
  • Moonset by S.D. McPhail
  • Mile High Murder by Declan Finn
Zombie Jamboree opens with
New York City’s first zombie on record walked onto the train platform at Queens Plaza at 6:43 in the morning. Nobody noticed the zombie for one reason: it was a fresh zombie, and thus indistinguishable from the rest of the commuters shambling onto the platform during rush hour.
Heh. Yeah. I had fun.  One review even noted, "I loved it, and I don't normally like zombie stories. A great read."

And Mile High Murder is the story of a murderer running around an airplane, stalking his prey. Very Alfred Hitchcock. 

I recommend Lyonesse Volume 1. Do try it.

Review of Discovery: one STD that isn't catching

Yes, this is our ship: The USS Pizza Cutter
The really short version of this review is simple: the more I look at Star Trek Discovery, the more I like The Orville.

Star Trek Discovery set the bar so low, Inhumans looked awesome in comparison, even though the pilot was weak.

Let's go into why STD isn't catching.

You have to first accept that this is before the era of Captain Kirk ... yet the ship has better technology, including holographic interfaces. And someone took the criticism of lens flares seriously: this ship is so damn dark, how does anyone see anything.  The special effects are gorgeous. They are beautiful. You can see every penny of their $10 million an episode on the screen in high-res CGI.

Pity that not a single penny went into the acting or writing.

In the beginning of the episode, we meet Captain Michelle Yeoh--who I think just showed up and read lines-- and "Michael," a woman Starfleet officer who was orphaned by a Klingon attack on a space outpost, then adopted by Spock's father, Sarek. Michael appears to be our main character, and being raised on Vulcan, she has obviously been taught to purge most of her her emotions ... leaving only "smug" or "insane" as her only remaining default positions.

Yeoh and Michael are called out to repair a probe. They get some odd sensor readings, and decide, "You know, our sensors can't read a thing. Something's there, and it may have screwed with our probe. Instead of calling in backup, let's send in a person in a space suit." They send Michael ... a Xenoanthropologist. Because anthropologists just do that, don't they? Once Michael is inside a deadly radioactive field and has eyes on the cloaked space station, she decides, "I have to go over there and poke it, lingering in this deadly radioactivity." Because that's exactly how radioactivity works... and that's how anthropology works -- I see something new, therefore, I must poke it.

Michael lands on the space station, encounters a Klingon, and promptly kills him.  There is no "I come in peace." There is no warning. She pretty much hits her jet pack, and runs him through on his own sword.

When Michael returns, she leaves med bay to storm the bridge, demanding that it's the Klingons, therefore we must attack them now. Because that's how first contact protocols work (In this timeline, no one has talked to a Klingon in 100 years. Vulcans just shoot first, and never ask questions. Yes, really.)

In order to get the Klingons to decloak, Michael says "Target them!!!"  Upon further study, the massive space station is really ... a glorified tomb, covered in coffins.  And she had them target it. Because all anthropologists want to blow up culture.

I'm on the side of the Klingons. Especially as Michael drops "smug" and goes to "hysterical" with a side of "Pathological hatred of Klingons to the point of dementia."

There was just so much stupid here. Michael is the usual "I'm the main character, therefore I'm always right" syndrome that you need tons of charisma to pull off without being a prick (Patrick Jayne from The Mentalist pulled it off. House didn't). But she doesn't have it. Michael has no emotion .... except for smug. Smug is the default position. And she never stops talking. She blathers on endlessly whether we want her to or not. And it may have been less painful if the dialogue didn't all sound like a stilted first draft of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. And I may be insulting Flash Gordon.

Space Orc, Commander Smirk, Saru,
and Captain "I'm just here for a paycheck"
And Michelle Yeoh took the script so seriously she sounded like she was trying not to laugh during the reading -- I do not call it acting. I concur with Yeoh's judgement, but it undercuts what should be serious moments.

There was one other person who bothered acting .... Saru, the one who said "Hi, on my planet, I'm prey. I'm telling you, time to RUN."

No, seriously, first rule of acting should be pretend you're invested. Second rule is "At least pretend you're getting paid." Seriously, when your visuals are mind-bogglingly gorgeous, and the actor looks at it like she's bored, the illusion is massively undermined.

Then there are the Klingons. The long-winded, preachy, Klingons who only speak in Klingon, even in private, so we are subjected to long winded, translated conversations. They are less Klingons as they are space orcs, and this is an insult to the makeup in Lord of the Rings. The Klingons here are obviously rubber suits, screwing up a history of good makeup. Really, Christopher Lloyd and Michael Dorn are laughing, saying "I hated my makeup, but God, it must suck to be those guys."

I gave up at the 40 minute mark. So, all of this is, of course, before I got to the stuff that was designed to offend me. I'm told there are gay, bisexual and other sexes all over the place, that the Klingons were supposed to be Trump supporters, that they use cussing but can't say "God" on the show.  Heck, I didn't even get far enough into the episode to see "Michael" assault her captain, take over the ship in a mutiny specifically so she could commit an act of war on the Klingons... which happened.

The acting is terrible. The writing is worse. The effects are lovely, fit for the big screen, but not the small minds we have here. This actually reminds me of a CSI episode that had an obvious Star Trek analog, and then murdered a producer who was going to remake it as a grimdark parody... only Discovery is the grimdark parody.

This is one STD that will never go viral.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Torchship Pilot


Torchship Pilot by [Gallagher, Karl K]

The sequel to Torchship, by Karl Gallagher follows our intrepid heroes on a journey through space, and right into a war.

Due to events that happened during Torchship, the Disconnect has declared war on the Fusion--the high tech, monolithic world that makes 1984 look subtle.

Michigan Long and her Captain have been hired to do some shady missions for the Disconnect, and everything they did in Torchship have come back to help them .. or bite them on the ass.

As the description says
WAR IS BAD FOR BUSINESS: The crew of the freighter Fives Full want to enjoy the profits of their dangerous voyage, but when war breaks out they're pressed into service for missions a warship can't do. Winning the war demands pilot Michigan Long act ruthlessly . . . and may cost her her conscience and her marriage.
Despite my fears, Torchship Pilot never went into cliche territory -- Long never becomes a Captain Ahab knockoff, despite her own worries.  Three characters from the last book have character arcs, even when they're off screen. Yes, really. 

Several question asked in the previous book are resolved quite handily. There are one or two points where I'm wondering "Why aren't they just doing X?"  I suspect the answer lies in book 3, which is also in my possession. 

Torchship and Torchship Pilot are really one book. They read continuously, and book 2 takes place only days after book 1. Torchship Pilot, however, is one novel, and is treated as such, instead of a series of tales, as in Torchship. The reason they're not one book is simple: it would be too dang long.

The science is still rock solid, and it may have gotten better from the first book, which is a cute trick.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

ANNOUNCEMENT: MAGA 2020 AND BEYOND

Just when you thought life couldn't get any stranger...

The trump anthology is coming.

Nope, not even slightly joking here.

As you can see, the title is MAGA: 2020 and Beyond, from Superversive Press. It's mostly scifi / fantasy, with some essays thrown in. 

It's due out on November 8, 2017.

Personally, I think this works on multiple levels of strange. All of the stories in here reflect a positive future brought about merely by Trump being elected. Though from what I can see, they range from semi-serious breakdowns of Trump's stated policies leading to a utopia, to stories where one of Trump's cabinet is a werewolf. So, yeah, I would say there's a bit of satire in there.

Frankly, if you're interested in something other than the standard "TRUMP IS TEH EVIL AND TEH STUPID AND TEH CRIMINALZ MASTERMIND" chanting from the media and various and sundry celebrities ... or if you're interested in an over-the-top comedy about how utterly brilliant and golden the future will be because of the Great Pumpkin President, then yeah, I think this will work for you either way.

So, we have a foreword by Milo Yiannopoulos, author of Dangerous,

We have a short story by best-selling author Brad Torgersen.

We have the usual thought-provoking essays by John C. Wright.

We have Gab.ai founder Andrew Torba.

The flap copy is...

Generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment - this was the time - when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.

This was the moment we elected Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America.
MAGA 2020 & Beyond tells the tales of a prosperous future where evil is defeated, the border wall is built, society has righted itself, space exploration is common and world peace has been attained. These aren’t just fantastical stories of a far-fetched future, they are stories of a future that can be obtained.

Lead Editor: Scott Rhinehart

Cover by: Dawn Witzke

Forward by: Milo Yiannopoulos

Essays by: John C. Wright and Andrew Torba

Authors include:

Best-Seller Brad Torgersen

Dragon Award Nominees
Jon Del Arroz
Declan Finn
Marina Fontaine
Daniel Humphreys
L. Jagi Lamplighter

Paul Alan Piatt
Arlan Andrews Sr.
Tamara Wilhite
Sandor Novak
Monalisa Foster
Elaine Arias
Chris Donahue
Justin Robinson
Richard B. Atkinson III
Scott Rinehart
Christine Chase
Dawn Witzke
Scott Bell

And you can preorder it right here.

Enjoy.

A PIUS MAN, ONLY $0.99, NOW TO OCTOBER

So, book one of my epic thriller trilogy, A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller, will be only $0.99 from this minute, until 11AM Eastern on Wenesday, October 4.

For those of you who don't recall what A Pius Man is about, the flap copy reads as follows.

Ahem.
Murder in the Vatican!

As the head of Vatican security, Giovanni Figlia must protect a new, African Pope who courts controversy every other day. The Pope’s latest project is to make Pius XII, “Hitler’s Pope,” a saint. Things haven’t gotten better since the Pope employed American mercenary Sean Ryan.

Then a body fell onto the Vatican doorstep.

Mercenaries, spies, beautiful women, international intrigue and ancient secrets – The Pius Trilogy has it all!
I won't be pretentious and say that this is my masterpiece. If I knew what I was doing, it probably would have capped a 12-novel series, and included everyone from Merle Kraft (from Love at First Bite) and almost everyone in the cast would have appeared in other novels as bit players. But it does have a love story, a spy story, an action adventure novel, a murder mystery, a techno-thriller, geopolitical war gaming, and the cast of the Lord of the Rings... Okay, that last part is a bit of an exaggeration.  Though one of my goals was go make it look like every Catholic conspiracy cliche ever... and then take them and turn them on their head.

I remember once doing an entire blog post where I was debating whether or not A Pius Man was pulpy. Jon del Arroz replied with "Dude, you had a bomb on page 5. Of course it's pulp."

Heh. Okay then.

Though as I look at the page for Pius, I see that people who viewed it also viewed: Forbidden Thoughts, and Carnage and Culture. Heh. That's some ... interesting company to be in.

Anyway, the book is up from now until October 4th for only $0.99.  If you were waiting for a price drop, this is your chance.

APM will be on sale for $0.99 through Wednesday, October 4.

NEW TV Review: The Orville

My standard policy on TV shows is to give them three episodes... unless they do something to really drop the ball, and / or piss me off.

The Orville has had three episodes.

So, what do I think?

I have no idea.

Really, I don't know what to do with this one. I think I like it. Then they do something strange and off-putting.

The Orville opens with Ed Mercer (played by writer / producer Seth MacFarlane) walking in on his wife (played by Agent of SHIELD's Adrienne Palicki) with an alien in their bed. Given the writer, I expected a gag. A joke. Something over the top and insane...

Mercer turns around, gets in his vehicle, and flies off. It strikes me as being fairly realistic.

The next scene is a year later. Mercer's career has been derailed ever since his wife cheated on him. But, hey, they've got an expanding fleet, they need captains, here's your ship, don't screw it up.

Then his ex-wife becomes his second in command. (Does that makes her his Ex-O? .... Yes, I'm sorry. But the joke was right there)

I was expecting it to be a variation on Ringo's A Ship Called Francis. But ... nope.

Granted, we have a lot of strangeness. Junior security officer Alara (Halston Sage) is this tiny little slip of a thing ... from a heavy gravity world, so she hits above her weight class. There's an all-male species, a racist cyberman, and a sarcastic chief medical officer who might be out of the McCoy school of medicine (played by 24 and Deep Space 9's Penny Johnson Gerald). And a drunk pilot.

We get halfway through the first episode, and it looks like simple set up, and ha ha, this is going to be funny / awkward... Then their first mission, a milk run, turns into a running shootout. Talk about narrative whiplash. We have some funny humor (including an alien that looks like Schlock), one awkward moment that I don't think is supposed to be funny, and then we're in the middle of a run and gun?

The solution to the action bits are actually quite well executed, as well as entertaining, and, dare I say it, even intelligent.

End of episode one, we get the sense that we might have a cliche that I don't see too often: "Your ex still loves you."

Episode two just opens with one of the most awkward sequences I've seen in a while... and then it becomes an actual episode in the first five minutes. I'm sorry, we're going to go straight into the plot? Huh? The resulting episode involved a junior officer having to take over the bridge, and do the captain's job. It's mostly a straight-faced episode. Things that could be played for laughs, aren't. The plot of the episode is Rod Serling (People are the Same All Over). The solution is both innovative and hilarious.

I will give the acting a lot of credit here. The drunken pilot is played relatively straight -- he's not a fall down drunk, or doing a drunken "Hic!" every few minutes. Palicki has decided she wants a career, and Agents of SHIELD didn't provide nearly enough acting range for her.

Then there's episode 3, the Transgender episode. Which is the one that surprised me. The all-male species crewman has ... a daughter. Immediately, he demands the procedure to swap her gender. The doctor says "Hell no." The Captain says, "I'm not ordering the doctor to do anything." When said crewman calls for a ship from his homeworld, the Captain is pissed for the chain of command being violated.

There is some discussion about trans issues, but while they don't smother your face in what stance the show wants you to take, it's very clear that the show has a side. The solution is ... very Babylon 5. Captain Kirk can show X species that their culture is wrong, but that doesn't mean X will be happy and thank him over it.

I was surprised. Seriously, what do they want to do with this show?

The biggest drawback to this show is the ... humor, I think. I honestly don't know if they're supposed to be funny bits of business, or just awkward. Almost all three episodes have had this awkward moment in there that is so narratively jarring, it's hard to get a firm grasp of what this show wants to be when it grows up. The only time we even have a solid musical cue is when they have an action sequence. For that, I will give the music department props.

This show has a lot of promise, and a lot of potential to grow... But it's a scifi show on Fox, so before we hold out too much hope, let's see if it lasts long enough to find its footing.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A review of Torchship, by Karl Gallagher

I'm behind in my reviewing. 

You know why? Because everything is digital, and I prefer hard copy. (Sorry Marina. With any luck, I'll have The Product reviewed before 2017 is over).

Because I've had a lot dumped on me.

Because this was my month off, and this was the month that every anthology and novel that's up for editing has decided to pick this month to have a chat. (Tales of Once and Future King? Check. MAGA? Check.)

So, yeah, I'm a little slow.


Imagine, if you will, a Firefly that did not suck.... and that it is written by David Weber, before Weber's world became Game of Starships with 500 characters you can't remember. 
A captain who’ll take any job if there’s enough money in it.

A pilot with an agenda of her own.

And a mechanic with an eye on the pilot.

The crew of the Fives Full are just trying to make enough money to keep themselves in the black while avoiding the attention of a government so paranoid it’s repealed Moore’s Law. They’re not looking for adventure in the stars . . . but they’re not going to back down just because something got in their way.
We cover five missions / stories, but they all build on each other. The opening deals with a bunch of tourists ... which turns into a cat and mouse chase among asteroids, a shoot out, and some additional SCIENCE! 

Events that take place during #1 lead to the next mission with Terraformers ... called "Kitty Chow." Yes, really. Trust me, you won't see this coming.

"Kitty Chow" leads to several bits of business in the next arc of stories, with Pilgrims, the Treasure of the Sierra Madre .... IN SPACE ... and then Hitchhikers. How do you have hitchhikers in space? Heh heh heh.

There are several interludes that take place in between the missions of the torch ship in question, and they both add to the narrative, and provides some exposition. This is important, since there is little in the way of exposition here. There is just enough data here to get you through the story, but nothing else. "The Fusion worlds" are paranoid about technology, because the AIs revolted. Why did the AI revolt? No idea. We don't need to know. We just need to know that they dislike humans. 

But dang, this was fun. Granted, we don't have the scene-chewing, over the top characters from Firefly, but we also don't have their angsty BS. The crew of the Fives Full are ... generally well-adjusted individuals. The story doesn't leave you wanting, but it does leave you with a desire to know more about the world, and what happens next to our heroes.

On the one hand, I would say that this is hard SF -- our heroes plot courses with slide rules, we have terraforming (right now, it's mostly done by Israel), AIs, genetic engineering and using elements for fuel. I think the only thing that isn't merely an extension of current technology is translating through space via various and sundry portals. But this man has planets listed with their gravity well intensity. Who does that? Answer: an MIT grad with an engineering degree.

However, to say that this is hard SF would be terribly mislabeling it. Much of hard SF is so techy, you'd be hard pressed to find character or culture among the people and places. Here? Here, there is something for everybody. There are multiple systems of government, from an auctionocracy (yes, they auction off seats, it's half the tax income for the year) to representative government, et al. The cultures are clear, and unique, and varied all over the place. It's a wonderful array of stuff here, and it's obvious that Karl has put in plenty of time contemplating ... everything. 

One problem I have with this particular novel: why are they broken up into short stories instead of chapters? It reads continuously. Also, the opening few pages (less than five) are disorienting. They do feed into the story, and any confusion from the opening is resolved by the end, so no worries there. It may make it a little difficult for some people to get into the novel initially. Don't worry about it, just push through the first five page (okay, more like page 5, 6, and 7) and you're good.

Is it Superversive? Hell yes. That's the easy part. Is it Pulpy? Well, that's according. You see, there's a romance going on here, a spy story, a thought problem story, with multiple types of adversaries -- the ever present man versus nature of hard vacuum, man versus man, man versus self, and man versus society. 

Anyway, I'd recommend it. I'm going to work on the sequel next. But while I do that, read through Torchship now.

Arresting Merlin in Tales of the Once and Future King


When I started working on my short story for Tales of the Once and Future King, I decided to use one particular factoid I first heard in an episode of Babylon 5 called A Late Delivery from Avalon: Some Arthur myths say that Merlin aged backwards. He knew the future by remembering the future.

If that were the case, it makes sense that Merlin would have to age backwards at a rate of speed so slow that no one would visibly notice.

So how long would it take for Merlin to hit childhood?

Better yet, if Merlin survived into the post-Arthurian world, how would he spend his time?

To answer the first question, I ignored the math. It was just easier to make Merlin 10 years old in 2016.

As for how he would spend his time? That's even easier: he'd be fighting whatever supernatural creatures just happen to pop up. It would be easiest to hide out in big population centers. I happen to live in New York City, so the setting was easy enough.

So, why not have Merlin try to kill a fae Mayor of New York with a wrought iron flamingo?

Yes, really.

While it was tempting to begin with attempted assault with a deadly flamingo, I wanted to jump forward to the police station where Merlin is being processed. Because while assault with a deadly flamingo is entertaining, I want to see how a simple uniformed officer tries to fill out that police report. Hilarity ensues.

Yes, it really is as funny as you think it would be.

Arresting Merlin is just one of the collection in Tales of the Once and Future King.

You can purchase it for preorder today.

Enjoy.

Monday, September 25, 2017

ANNOUNCEMENT: Tales of the Once and Future King Anthology is here

Okay, to be perfectly technical, the anthology Tales of the Once and Future King is only available for preorder. And, as of this exact minute, only available as a Kindle.

Yeah. I know. Don't look at me, I'm not in charge of this one.

As you may recall, the editor of this project is Anthony Marchetta, the co-editor of God, Robot, from last year. In fact, if you recall, this project was first announced on my podcast, The Catholic Geek.

Like God, Robot, this is yet another compilation book. It's got a frame tale that links all of the short stories together.

But Anthony wants to promise more.

When Anthony put together his own package on Tales of the Once and Future King anthology, over at Superversive's blog, he listed it as the following
Prepare yourselves, ladies and gentlemen. We are just a short two weeks away from the release of “Tales of the Once and Future King”, published by Superversive Press and edited by Anthony Marchetta (me), with assistant editor Mariel Marchetta contributing.

So what is “Tales”? Is it an anthology?

Well, yes and no.

Is it a novel?

Yes and no.

Tales is something different. Tales of the Once and Future King is both.

The main story is a post-apocalyptic fairy tale, and it is a full story – more than a simple excuse to fit other stories in between it, like what is seen in God, Robot or the original “I, Robot” that was its inspiration. It has action, romance, knights, vampires, banished kings and fair maidens locked in towers. It’s all there.

But in between it are the stories. And not just one or two. There are eighteen stories from the same number of authors, and they are not just stuck there, but integrated into the main plot. And not just one type of story either. We have your traditional medieval fantasies, yes, but there’s also steampunk, and Lovecraftian fiction, and stories set in the modern day, and stories in space, ranging from a child’s reading level all the way up to young adult.

Tales of the Once and Future King is a book with…everything. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Enjoy the show
.... Okay, I'm not entirely certain how helpful all of that is.

Over at Amazon, we have the write up.
It is said that King Arthur will return in Britain's hour of greatest need.
That time is coming.

Four travelers, searching for the Pendragon, are quickly embroiled in a plot to rescue the beloved of a banished forest lord. And while they concoct their desperate plan a Bard, the new Taliesin, regales them with stories: Tales of Knights, yes, but also tales of robots and vampires, music and monsters, airships and armies - tales to inspire heroism and hope. And when all seems lost, perhaps these tales will be their salvation.

This book is an anthology.
This book is a novel.
This book is a romance
This book is science fiction
This book is a fantasy

This is Tales of the Once and Future King
Sigh. Yeah, that doesn't help much either.

I'll discuss my own contribution to this insanity later on. I also hope to have a radio show about it on Sunday. We'll see how well that turns out.

But look at this list of authors.
  • L. Jagi Lamplighter
  • Anthony Marchetta
  • Mariel Marchetta
  • Morgon Newquist
  • Declan Finn
  • Peter Nealen
  • Bokerah Brumley
  • Matthew P. Schmidt 
  • Jonathan Shipley  
  • Mandy Nachampassack-Maloney 
  • Katharina Daue 
And about 8 other people who aren't even on this list. Or listed on the author page. Which is odd, but whatever.

Tales of the Once and Future King goes life on Saturday. And can be pre-ordered now.

As for my story? Well, let's just say it's called "Arresting Merlin."

Heh heh heh.