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.