When Trolls Get Really Nasty

trollIn my life, I’ve gotten into many heated debates. The majority were intelligent, but some were painfully stupid. In the former case, many were face to face, civil, and almost always resulted in some kind of resolution. In the latter, they all took place over the internet, were quite pointless, and generally resulted in me losing that much more faith in the human race.

Might sound harsh, but consider this most recent example. Over at Goodreads, I joined with a number of people in debating the merits of the Ender’s Game boycott. Without getting into the details too much, let me just say that these people and I were of the same mind and we successfully and intelligently debated against numerous people who’s point of view ran contrary to our own.

troll3Then came along a man named… let’s call him Igor! Igor began by debating with us and telling us we didn’t know what we were talking about, even though we routinely backed up what we said with direct quotations and citations. After awhile, i chose to call him on his unwillingness or inability to acknowledge what we were saying, and that’s when things got personal.

This coincided with him engaging in name-calling to a number of people in the thread. His words of choice were stupid, dishonest, trolls, and the like. For this, we called him petty, childish, and hypocritical, since he routinely would make insults in one breath and then claim we were the bad guys in the next. In no time at all, he chose to get really personal, and started attacking me on my author’s page.

troll6Yes, as if insulting my colleagues and I in an open forum was not enough, he chose to begin rating every book I’ve listed on Goodreads with one star. He even started a shelf especially for them, entitled “Sci-fi authors who hate science.” Naturally, we all wondered just how stupid he was, seeing as how any review can be flagged for abuse, much like posts.

At this point, I cut the lines of communication, but he continued to rail on in the forum against everyone. And when my colleagues all came to my defense, good people that they are, he claimed he was merely criticizing my books because of scientific inaccuracies he saw in them. Naturally, everyone called BS on that and told him he was just doing it out of spite.

troll2Not only was it abundantly clear he hadn’t read a single book in my list, the reviews were all made within a day of his opening salvo of insults. Nevertheless, he kept coming back to the forum claiming that he was a scientist and that he’s taking a stand on ethics, and even claimed my attempts to have his reviews flagged was some kind of censorship.

At this point, I just have to wonder, who does this? What kind of person decides to get back at a person who’s debating them by giving their work terrible ratings? What kind of person then has the nads to show their face again and make incredibly transparent excuses for doing it? What kind of person persists in claiming they are somehow the victim when they are the one constantly on the offensive?

troll4But of course, Goodread’s moderators have been slow to respond. Apparently, this individual has flagged every member of our group as well for abuse, and seems to think he’s in the right and will be vindicated. Worse yet, we know for a fact he trolled by the profiles of the other members in the group. But since they do not have original material posted there, he had nothing to work with.

An upside to this spiteful episode is that it made my colleagues in the group realize I was a writer. Somehow, it just never came up, and my friends were not one to troll my profile looking for something to use against me. Now, however, they’ve all taken an interest, and one was even sure to start reading my books and gave them all very high ratings (5 stars each!)

Facebook Reece ElliottBreaking my communications embargo just long enough to thank him, I let Igor know that his little explosion of pettiness actually did me good. I was also sure to let him know that as soon as his trollish one-star reviews were removed, I shall have several five star reviews to take it place. I hoped he could appreciate the irony, or at least incredibly foolish. That will be our last communication, as I have no interest in indulging this individual further.

One thing is for sure, though – Goodreads needs to seriously consider its terms of use! It’s getting like YouTube over there, with the people at the shallowest end of the gene pool setting the tone and ruining it for the rest of us. Wasn’t it supposed to be a site dedicated to literature and intellectual pursuits? Yeah, and they said that the internet would bring the world together and create a “Global Village”. Look how that turned out!

In the meantime, if you’ve got any interesting troll stories you want to share, please feel free to share them. Nothing beats the misanthropic blues like knowing that there are other people out there who can’t stand pettiness, stupidity, and general jackassery, the very stuff that trolls are made of. And in the meantime, remember…

troll1

The Grand Old Word Count

sb10067155f-001A little while ago, I saw a challenge – not sure where, could have been Goodreads or Facebook – where indie authors were challenged to take all the stories they had written and tabulate a total word count for them. Like a lot of writing exercises, it was clearly designed to put things in perspective.

All too often, writers can get hung up on sales numbers or the total number of books they’ve managed to get out there. Especially for indies, these numbers can seem underwhelming or discouraging at times. So naturally, its fun to take a look at some bigger numbers and see just how much we’ve really shared, because that is what writing is all about right?

So I did my grand total. And just for some added perspective, here’s some other big numbers for comparison. The average person has a vocabulary of between 35,000 – 75,000 words*, depending on their age, level of education, and life experience. And in the course of a day, people speak between 7,000 and 20,000 words, depending on their gender (apparently, women speak more than men)**.

ar_storybookBetween Data Miners, Whiskey Delta, Papa Zulu (yet to be published, but is complete), my Legacies short stories, Source, my Yuva shorts, and other assorted tales I’ve put up on this site, my grand total of words is:

531,944 words published so far!

And that doesn’t include the countless words that are sitting in my Stories folder that haven’t been published yet. I’m telling you, there has to be at least 250,000 words between all those unfinished stories, novellas, and shorts. So I really can’t count those… yet!

word_cloudBut I would be remiss if I didn’t include the roughly 1250 articles I’ve published on this site. God only knows how many words I’ve spewed in those! Obviously, I’m not about to add them all up, but a random sampling of five articles put the average at about 2000 words each. Multiply that by 1250 articles and you’ve got… oh my God… 2.5 million words!

Okay, let’s upgrade that then to roughly 3.000.000 words published so far. So basically, in the two and half years that I’ve been running this blog, I’ve written the equivalent of what an average man speaks in the course 428 days straight, or the average woman does in 150 days. Is it me, or is that nuts?

And now I put it to you indie writers… between your indie published stories, blog, articles, short stories, novellas, full-length novels, and flash fiction, just how many words have you generated and shared with the world?

*bbc.co.uk

**dailymail.co.uk

New Anthology Sample: Arrivals!

Yuva_coverWow, its been awhile since I’ve posted anything from my group’s Yuva anthology. But that’s been the nature of my writing in these past few weeks, picking up projects I haven’t been working on lately and getting busy on them! And one of the fruits of these labors is the next installment in the short story “Arrivals”.

It came after I finished reading over my friends’ proposal for another story – Amber Iver’s and Goran Zidar’s “Ember Storm”. Somehow, reading another’s work always seem to help stoke the creative fires. And since “Arrivals” has been sitting on my desk without improvement for months now, I figured it was time to dust it off and make some headway!

YuvaAs the story that starts off part III of the anthology, “Arrivals” deals with the Second Wave of colonists who come to the planet of Yuva some 200 years after the first Terraformers set foot on the planet. Naturally, this new group of settlers is fare more advanced than the first, and has made the trip in less time thanks to the superiority of their next-generation, interstellar space ships.

The first segment of the story, which I posted back in March, dealt with the signal from these distant ships being received. This second part deals with the repercussions, as the Yuvan authorities come to see the ships in distant space and realize they will be arriving in orbit within two years time. Preparations need to be made, and the possibilities need to be addressed.

Will these new “arrivals” be friendly, or hostile? Are they simply people looking to join the first wave in creating a new home, or are they intent on pushing them out of the way? And just as importantly, what news and developments are they bringing with them from Earth, a world the Yuvan people have not heard from in over two centuries?

Planetary Research Council
Zarmina, Vogt

Anuja Padda tapped the table before her, loud enough so that everyone arranged in the circle would hear her and come to attention. Slowly, the many conversations that were passing between the board’s various members came to an end and they looked in her direction.

“Good morning, all. I thank you all for coming, especially those who joining us from overseas. I think we can all agree, we meet here under some rather extraordinary circumstances.”

There were mumbles of agreement from all around the table. Padda continued.

“And though I’m sure everyone has had a chance to review the information, I know my colleagues won’t fault me for reviewing our situation for the sake of posterity. Future generations will certainly appreciate it.”

That got a few snickers, and some people looking around the expanse of the room. From multiple angles, holorecording devices were capturing their every word, gesture and nuance. Someday, posterity would be looking back on the recordings made, and she was determined to give them a good show.

She cleared her throat and started from the beginning. “Less then twenty-four hours ago, a remote monitoring station on the western coast on Bonfils reported receiving some anomalous readings. The station assessed the readings and determined that they were in fact a transmission, which appeared to be coming from an extra-planetary source.”

She paused for emphasis. The next segment of her introduction required a few seconds grace, given the heady nature of it all.

“Ever since we arrived on this planet almost two centuries ago, we’ve entertained the notion that one day, another flotilla would follow in our wake, bringing a second wave of colonists to this world. Yesterday, we finally heard from them. And today, we will receive our first glimpse of them.”

The room’s lights suddenly went dark and a million specks of light slowly began to appear around them and grow in luminosity. The image that was now filling the Council meeting room could be seen in every Planetary Research office on the planet, the video feeds that were being captured from orbit streaming in through their own holodisplay devices.

Raising her hands and the image responded, the holodisplay reading the embedded sensors in her fingertips and responding to her manipulations. The image began to move and zoom in on a particular region of space. Holding her left hand steady to prevent lateral movement, she pulled her right hand back several times, increasing the magnification on the desired region. Three grey blobs appeared in this area, indiscernible and bland, until the image improved the resolution.

What they saw then instantly amazed and left them all speechless.

There, at the center of the room and hovering above their heads, were the mottled images of three large space-born craft. Their edges were sharp, their profiles long and contoured. There was no mistaking them for asteroids or any other kind of stellar mass.

“The image quality leaves something to be desired, but as you can see, we are detecting three ships flying in a wedge formation.”

“In other words,” said Councilor Moltke from the other side of the room, “a formation and disposition which matches our arrival exactly.”

Padda nodded, as did numerous others who continued to watch with awe. Within seconds, questions began to follow.

“How long until they get here?”

“Our scopes indicate that at their present velocity, they will arrive in orbit of Yuva in just over two years’ time.”

“What was the message they sent?”

“We don’t know yet, as it was encrypted using a rather complex cipher. But our technicians are sure we can decode it before long. Most likely, it’s a message of greeting.”

“The ships they are using, they’re faster than the ones that brought us here, yes?”

Padda turned to address this question, though it was more of an observation. Given their apparent distance and the timeframe she gave them, one could not help but draw that conclusion.

“Yes, they do appear to be using a form of propulsion technology that is superior to the one that powered the Avincenna, , and . This should come as no surprise, given that they’ve had well over a century to refine their methods.”

“And what of their intent?”

Padda looked around the room to find the source of the question. It appeared to be coming from the back wall, an alcove which was temporarily shaded due to the display of lights above. As the speaker stepped forward, she suppressed the urge to sigh and greeted them politely.

“Minister Astrakhan, this is a surprise. We weren’t expecting a visitor from Planetary Defense.”

“Perhaps if you had invited us to this session,” he said dryly, moving closer to the center of the room. “Nevertheless, my question still stands. What is their intent?”

Padda cleared her throat. “We can’t be sure at this time. However –”

“All we really know is that have a flotilla of ships arriving in our system from Earth. They are more advanced than we are, they have sent a message we can’t interpret, and yet we assume that they are here bringing a new wave of colonists who plan to peacefully integrate into our society.” He stopped and looked at the display; nodded, as if appraising the image and finding something within it that he approved of. “Have you even considered the possibility that their intent might be hostile?”

Padda shook her head. She tried to respond, but incredulity prevented her from finishing her sentence. “I’m sorry, I –”

“It’s not unheard of for new waves of colonists to displace those that came before them,” he continued. “Or have you forgotten your Earth history?”

Padda’s face went warm. “I haven’t forgotten anything sir.”

“Ah, then you recall the last time in Earth’s history when exploration and colonization took place? During the 18th century, many waves of Europeans arrived on the shores of what they liked to refer to as ‘The New World’. In the north, settlers landed in large numbers along the eastern shores, and after clearing the lands of its native inhabitants, subsequent waves of settlers triggered a series of conflicts. Colonies switched hands as their respective nations demanded the right to control the lands that were already spoken for.”

Padda once again suppressed a sigh.

“You’re saying you think these colonists are here to push us out? Or demand we submit to their authority?”

“And why not?” he asked, turning around to face her. If they do possess superior technology, what’s to stop them?”

Low murmurs began to erupt around the room, growing in intensity as more people joined the chorus. It wasn’t long before she could hear remarks being shouted in Astrakhan’s direction. All the while, he continued to look at Padda, a cold stare on his face.

All too quickly, she remembered exactly why she hadn’t invited him to this meeting. She knew he would be likely to raise some pessimistic possibilities. Unfortunately, not inviting him had had the effect of exacerbating the situation. Amidst their awe and distraction, he had managed to sneak in and stir the pot even more.

“Excuse me, everyone!” she said finally. Slowly, silence returned to the room. “Let us not get carried away with speculation. Minister Astrakhan, it is your contention that we do not know what these ships and their crews are doing here, correct?”

“It is not my contention, Madame Councilor. It is a fact.”

She smiled. “Then it would be foolish of us to be taking an alarmist position, would it not? If we are indeed ignorant, we shouldn’t allow such ignorance to manifest itself in fear.”

No one chuckled, but she felt the room respond favorably to her remark. The only one who didn’t appear impressed was Astrakhan. Despite his next words, his face registered no reaction to her rebuttal.

“Indeed, Councilor. It would be foolish to assume the worse anymore than it would to assume the best. Perhaps we can agree then that more information is needed?”

Padda nodded silently. She sensed there was more coming, something she wasn’t going to think too highly of.

“A good first step would be to decode the message they sent. I recall you saying it had a rather advanced encryption?”

“That is correct. A quantum encryption that will take some time to crack.”

“Good…” Astrakhan brought his hands together in front of him. “Then might I suggest Planetary Defense and Resources arrange for a collaborative effort. Between our two ministries, we could be able to dedicate all our quantum processors to the task and break their codes that much quicker.”

Padda was about to respond in the affirmative, but was interrupted by Moltke.

“A valid suggestion, Minister. But might I suggest that we extend that collaboration to include all major settlements? Between all of us, we have over a dozen processors that could be networked and dedicated to the task.”

Astrakhan quickly turned around to confront Moltke. “That would require breaching whatever security we have in place with this matter. The entire planet would be made aware of the arrival of these ships.”

Stepping into the light, Moltke spread his hands in a gesture of defeat. “They are likely to have heard of it already, Minister. If we want them to remain informed and calm on the subject, I can think of no better idea than to get in front of the story. Besides, if Planetary Defense is determined to learn of their intentions is what we want, then any measure that could accomplish this task sooner is in order.”

Astrakhan bristled noticeably, then turned back to look at Padda. His face was still painfully neutral, but she could tell from his body language that Moltke had ruffled his feathers.

“I shall have to speak to my superiors, and of course the Planetary Council will need to be informed, and will retain final approval of anything we propose.”

Padda smiled, inwardly suppressing a sense of sardonic joy. “Yes, they will, Minister. I commend you and my colleague on the sensible recommendations made here today.”

Astrakhan left without further incident. The mood lightened the moment he was gone and the rooms main doors slid shut behind him. Within seconds, murmurs began to erupt again. It wasn’t long before questions began to be asked as well.

“There’s the matter of their arrival,” said another Councilor. “What shall we do to prepare?”

“A welcoming committee?” said another.

“What about a series of shuttles going into orbit to greet them?” said Moltke.

Several heads turned to him and began muttering curiously.

“An orbital meet and greet?” said Padda. “Not a bad idea, but we would still be waiting a full two years before they would be close enough for our standard aerospace jets to reach them.”

“Perhaps then we should prepare something with greater range and capability,” Council Mond suggested, their resident expert on aerospace. “If they are going to be two years in coming, we could dedicate the next year to developing shuttles that could meet them half way.” Everyone in the room began to voice their approval of this idea. Mond took that as an invitation to continue. “Until now, we’ve had no reason to build ships that were built specifically for space travel. But between the orbital stations and our resources here on the surface, we have the capability to build a series of shuttles that could be sent from orbit to meet them in space before they reach our world.

This produced additional hums and vocalizations of assent. Eventually, numerous people looked to Padda again to see if she agreed. After a brief consideration, she nodded approvingly.

“A good idea,” she said. “And one I’m sure Minister Astrakhan will be suggesting himself. No doubt he would emphasize that we need to get a look at these people before we allow them to set foot on our planet.”

“Looks like Planetary Defense and Research will be collaborating on something else.”

Everyone chuckled at Moltke’s remark.

New Anthology Sample: Arrivals!

Yuva_coverGood morning ladies and gentlemen, or evening depending on your time zone. As it stands, my cold endures, even after a whole week! I tell you, we need to learn how to weaponize little kids and use them in bio-warfare. No one will ever fire a bullet again because entire countries will be too busy nursing colds and flus to fight…

But I digress. One upside to this down time is that it has allowed me to catch up on some projects which have been sorely neglected of late. And one such project is my the anthology collection that my writing group and I are working on. After many months of recruiting and beating the bushes for more members, the authors and I decided to double up and take on some additional stories.

And I picked the story idea named “Arrivals”. Taking place in Part III of the anthology, Arrivals deals with the coming of the Second Wave of colonists, people who are at least a century more advanced than their First Wave brethren who left Earth some two hundred years beforehand. Naturally, there are some difficulties merging the new people in with the world, given that a great deal of time and space separates the two.

And what’s more, the new wave arrive telling stories of Earth, stories that aren’t exactly encouraging. It seems that amidst the Climate Change-fueled crises that was rocking the Solar System when the First Wave left, a new group of neo-fascists have taken power on Earth. A war was imminent between Earth and its Solar Colonies when they left, which is now believed to be underway.

Knowing that war is happening at home does not bode well for the colonists of Yuva, especially if the neo-fascists win and begin looking in Yuva’s direction. Anyhoo, here is the first sample of the story, an introduction for the story I intend to write. Enjoy!

*                    *                    *

Andrewartha Monitoring Station
New Darwin, Bonfils

He walked the length of the catwalk, his every step clanging loudly against the grating. Each one made the headache he was nursing that much worse, and every breath yielded the same taste of oxidized metals and machine lubricant. But it was better than the taste of grain alcohol that still lingered on his tongue.

All in all, it was a typical day for Strauss, tending to the machinery that kept an ear open on this half of the planet’s ecology after a night of hard drinking.

Rounding the corner and scraping his elbow against a pile of crates, he removed the Tab from his chest and checked the readout on it again. It took a second for the screen to power up, him having run down the cells last night listening to music and interfacing with his favorite virtual environments. After a few cups of hootch, he had been known to get a little too engaged in sensory simulations involving cowgirls and a little rolling in the hay.

And of course, he had been thoughtless, leaving it rather than sticking it in a window to draw some meager power from the sun, or attaching to the bulkhead to let it get a charge from an embedded circuit.

Luckily, the cells were in a forgiving mood and powered up. With the display now bright enough for him to read, he selected the message from PR central and gave it another read.

Anomalous readings reported on the following dates.

A series of numerics followed, indicating to the very second when the readings were recorded at Andrewartha based on Vogt Standard Time. The message continued thereafter:

Check comm array for possible malfunction. If specs green, consult relay nodule in 7-B for possible false readings.

Touching the screen with his finger, he drew a line through the first part of the message. The comm array was working just fine, according to his earlier diagnostic. Not that it mattered much, there was very little to report from this station at any given time. The most exciting readings they ever got where when the Bonfils Cluster emitted the high-pitched frequencies that seemed to accord to their mating cycle, right before they blew their stacks and sent embers every which way across the continent.

It was like clockwork too, given that the diurnal cycle had very little in the way of an effect this far south. In addition to being land-locked on this ball of rock, they were also tilt-locked, ensuring that the long nights and dim days barely ever got longer or brighter.

Which brought him to the second part of the message. Possible false readings… The implication being that the fault in the readings he’d sent was on his end. Assuming that the transmission hadn’t somehow garbled the data due to some solar interference or jamming, the techs back home could only assume that a glitch had to be the result of a defective scanner. Not until they ruled out all that would they be prepared to admit that maybe something was going on in the Bonfils plant community that they couldn’t account for. The arrogance of established minds!

Then again, he wasn’t too crazy about the idea of that being the case himself right now. Activity outside that was out of the ordinary could only mean something was up. Eerily, strangely, possibly dangerously up. There was so much they didn’t know about the Deveroza at this point, other than the fact that they could be most lethal when studied without the proper care. Any changes in their behavior could not be considered a good thing.

And until his year was complete at this outpost, he didn’t want anything to happen that would disrupt his schedule. Monotony by day, sound sleep at night, the occasional drunken release, and it would be over before he knew it. No, anything that altered his humdrum lifestyle and threatened to prolog his stay was surely less preferable than a mere technical glitch right now.

Strauss folded up his Tab up and placed it around the wrist of his uniform, knowing that he’d need at least one hand free for what he was about to do. And reaching the terminus of the hallway, he set his eyes on the pressure sealed door before him and took a deep breath. In order to keep the higher ups satisfied, he would once again need to conduct a little hazardous duty and do what he both hated and loved, which was to go outside.

Such was the nature of being confined inside a husk of metal like this one, forbidden to go outside for anything other than the most necessary of missions. He was sure someone back home ought to write a dissertation on it, how it conditioned a certain bipolar fixation among its attendants, making them both simultaneously claustrophobic and agoraphobic. Getting out was the only way to stave off insanity, but doing so required a level of daring and bravado that seemed borderline insane itself.

He would be sure to talk it over with some people in the Social Psych department when he returned home.

Detaching the mask from his belt and placing it on, he pulled the uniform’s hood segment over his head and waited for the seal to form. The goggles powered up next and indicated that he had a prefect pressure seal. Sighing happily, he spoke into his suit’s uplink.

“Andie, are you online?”

A moot question, as the station’s beta-level custodian was always online. Never farther away than a simple voice command.

“Of course, Marcellin. How may I assist you?”

“Need to go outside to reconnoiter,” he replied. “Can you open door 7-B for me?”

“Of course. One moment please.”

He heard a loud hiss coming from the door as inside, the pressure equalized with the station’s interior environment. On the status panel located next to the doorway, a light turned green, followed shortly thereafter by Andie’s chipper voice.

“You may step in when ready.” The door let out a loud thud, the seals opening only with serious force. “Be advised, the pressure change will be noticeable and is considered unfit for human exposure. Advise you have you suit done up in advance.”

“Already done,” he said with mild annoyance, and stepped inside. The door slid shut behind him, the hissing noise returning as the room changed its pressure once again. He got the strange feeling of wind blowing around him, the feeling of sudden cold as outside air filled the room and prepared him for what was to come. When it stopped abruptly, Strauss took another deep breath.

“Pressure equalized with external atmosphere. Have a nice day.”

The outer door opened. He set his boot onto the outer surface and stepped out…

It was like walking into some kind of surreal or psychedelic work of art. At this altitude, the sky was in a perennial state of twilight, never quite day or night, just different shades of dawn or dusk. And the embers against that sky, they made it look as though the entire horizon had been set ablaze. Strauss would get the oddest feeling sometimes, looking out at this sky. It was as if it were speaking to something deep inside him, a memory buried deep within his cellular memory.

His boots became magnetized the moment he began moving across the external surface, a precaution against getting blown away by the high winds that were so prevalent at this altitude. Each step was labored and slow as the magnets kept pace with his movements, anchoring his each step but releasing when he commanded his leg to move. All the while, he could feel the outside wind tugging on his getup and the tiny sparks flying by.

His goggles beeped at him, feeding climatological data directly into his sensory cortex. He could tell without needing to check any instruments that the ambient temperature was well below human comfort levels, that the air pressure was slightly lower than what the average human body was accustomed to, and that the concentrations of ember pollen were normal given recent activity. Everything seemed in the green, an appraisal which didn’t change when he finally reached the array.

He brushed at the main panel when he arrived, removing half an inch of dust and caked embers from the surface. Accessing it from the Tab now wrapped around his wrist, he punched in the command to open it. The panel made a loud clunk as the door slid free, revealing a large compartment filled with various electronics. Peering inside, he found the port he wanted and detached a small strand from his Tab, waiting for it to form into a coupling cable that could be patched in.

Activating his comm, he called on Andie again to assist.

“Andie, pal, you still with me?”

With the exception of a few clicks, his voice came through his sensory link, loud and clear:

“I am here, Marcellin. How may I assist you?”

“Prepare transmission for Planetary Research, care of Doctor Gordian.”

He connected the Tab’s cable into the port inside and waited for it to finish interfacing. It was also a second more before Andie was finished moving the transmission dish into position and connecting to the PR band at Zarmina. He chimed back when all was set.

“Transmission link established.”

“Good, now link up to my Tab. All data provided here is to be attached with the diagnostic performed on the main dish earlier. Merge both into an attachment and include it in the transmission. Ready?”

“Ready, Marcellin. Recording now and preparing all data. Do you wish to add a personal message?”

Turning to his cuff, he took a gander at the diagnostic readings coming through. He tapped at it a few times to enter in some parameters, selecting the readings that fell within the dates specified. Even unrefined, the diagnostic search seemed to be reporting nothing out of the ordinary. Day after day, week after week, month after month since he’d been here, the array reported a solid line of green functionality.

It was more than a little depressing to see the time which he had spent here summed up so succinctly. Had it really been that long?

“Gladly, Andie. Begin recording, audio only, please.” He cleared his throat and began speaking slowly and deliberately. “Doctor Gordian, this is Marcellin Strauss. Further to your transmission regarding anomalous readings, I have performed the requisite diagnostic checks and am pleased to announce that there are no technical glitches on this end. Both the signal dish and the scanning arrays are functioning well within established parameters. Whatever you noticed, it must be at your end, or due to something else entirely.”

He waited for a second for Andie to sense his intent and stop recording.

“Are you finished, Marcellin?” he asked.

“Yes, Andie. Send it now.”

“Right away.”

Detaching the cable from the inside, Strauss retracted it into his cuff and closed the panel shut. Within seconds, a new layer of sparkling dust was forming and he was already well on his way inside.

On his way back, his headache let up long enough for him to have a single lucid thought. What if the signals they were reading weren’t coming from the fields and field of Deverosa located inland? What if it were coming from somewhere else entirely, a transmitter or a beacon somewhere outside Bonfils? That would certainly explain the duration and intensity of the signals the scanners had picked up. Short and focused, like nothing the flora ever put out.

He paused at the airlock and considered it a second longer. As much as he hated the prospect of making any additional work for himself, he couldn’t deny that the thought was proving quite intriguing. Already it was burning through his hangover and threatening to bring something akin to clarity to his mind.

“Andie, are you there?”

“I am,” the computerized voice said. “Are you wanting to come back in?”

“Uh, yes, Andie. Please open the door. But while you’re doing that, can you access those readings specified in the original message from Gordian? I want to run some tests on those.”

“Certainly. What would you like me to look for?”

He thought that one over for a second as the door opened to admit him and he stepped inside. As Andie cycled the air and conducted decontamination procedures, he did his best to remember all the elementary lessons he had received back in primary. At some point in his youth, he had heard how the Flotilla had used a free-space optical communication system when they first made to the trip from Sol. Such methods were not used since planetfall, but if it someone were out there trying to make contact…

It was a long shot. But if correct, it would certainly payoff, maybe even get him a transfer sooner than expected.

“Structure,” he said finally. “Isolate the readings and assume they represent an optical transmission. I think someone out there might be trying to talk to us down here.”

700th Post!

fireworks1Yes, I know its a bit of an odd number. But I was still pleased and kind of blown away to find out that I was nearing this landmark recently. And I thought, what better excuse for a little retrospective and a chance to say thanks for the support? My my, where to begin? Well, how about the beginning? Since just the other day I was looking back at the first posts I’d made with this site, I think I’ll start there. Seems as good a place as any…

The very first thing I ever wrote on this site was a simple Hello World message. Nothing too flamboyant or special about that one, just the obligatory “how do you do?” It was my second post where I said the things that I wanted to say and really took the time to state what my mission was:

sci_fi“I love science fiction, always have, always will.  But it’s the kind of science fiction that I love which I think is an important distinction. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that sci-fi comes in two varieties: classic and commercial.  The classical kind is the traditional variety that people take seriously… Commercial sci-fi, by contrast, is your basic stuff that owes much to the original masters but really didn’t follow in their footsteps.”

That’s still true of me. I still subscribe to the idea that the real science fiction is the kind that really makes you think and chooses to appeal to the highest possible standard. Might sound elitist, but given the sheer amount of pulp out there that does little more than entertain, I’d say I’m more of a hopeful optimist. I think people are capable of great genius when you give them a chance, and would like nothing better than to create something myself that appeals to the best in us – be it intellectual, moral, or metaphysical.

My first few reviews were really quite simple. I spoke of Frank Herbert – arguably my biggest inspiration – William Gibson, 1984 and Brave New World. I spoke of my own writing and posted some podcasts of Source’s earliest chapters (no longer available), and pasted some reviews my work had received. However, I was nowhere near as prolific as I am today. It was actually quite surprising to see that the first year of my site being operational could be summed up in just over a dozen posts. Especially when I am now at 700 and just over two and a half years into it!

In any case, I began doing movie reviews shortly thereafter, tackling such sci-fi greats as Blade Runner and the Alien franchise, and such guilty pleasures like Independence Day and Starship Troopers. This went on for some time, with me going back and forth between reviewing movies and great books, and once in a while dropping something in about a favorite miniseries, TV show, or something I happened to find inspiring.

brazil53And then something happened. Something which, I gotta admit, I didn’t even know was possible until it happened to me. I got freshly pressed. At the time, I was minding my own business, doing a post about Dystopian Literature, in honor of the fact that I just joined Writer’s Worth and our first project was an anthology of original, dystopian narratives. Feeling inspired by the fact that I was getting a chance to write within my favorite genre, I compiled a list of the most historically relevant and renowned examples I could think of.

That opened the floodgates! Having never exceeded a few dozen views in one day, you can imagine my surprised when I came home for lunch that day and discovered my views numbered in the high hundreds! I checked back as the afternoon progressed, only to see that it had reached into the thousands. By afternoon the following day, the torrent stopped and I was able to take stock of all that had happened. Roughly half my subscribership began following me in that one twenty-four hour period. I got more comments than I knew what to do with and more likes in that one day than the previous year! It felt nice, and I certainly learned something about how this thing called WordPress works!

Since that time, I won’t lie, I’ve been hoping to snag a second FP! No luck yet, but what can you do? Once was nice enough, and since it’s led to my current circulation amongst my fellow bloggers and the general internet-surfing public, I really can’t complain! Besides, several milestones have happened since then, so I shall not linger on this one event. Suffice it to say, as the days and weeks continued to pass, I found my traffic had increased exponentially from my pre-FP days. Not to the point of thousands, but higher than a hundred. That too was nice…

After finishing up the series of Dystopian posts, mainly to address examples other people poitned out and to cover examples of dystopic movies, I began to move onto other ideas. For instance, I had decided it was time to tackle themed-posts, like Cool Guns, Cool Ships, Giant Robots, and the like. These were mighty fun to do and provided endless suggestions from people who knew and liked the same franchises I did, and also saw these lists as an opportunity to stroll down memory lane.

apocalypse-04I also got into serial novel work, as attested to by Crashlands over at Story Time, and posts dealing with futuristic concepts and news. I guess I’d grown a bit tired just talking concepts, books and movies at this point and really wanted to delve into the everday stuff that drives science fiction and the creative imagination that guides people’s writing. At the same time, I continued to pimp any and all work that I was doing with Writer’s Worth, which at this point had morphed into its current group name of Grim5Next, in honor of our first project!

Then came two significant developments, back to back. In June of 2012, I began working with a select group of members from Grim5Next on a new project idea. With the passing of Ray Bradbury and Venus’ transit in front of the sun, it seemed that some of us were bit by the inspiration bug. I can still remember how it all began, in the form of a conversation between my friend and fellow writer, Khaalidah, and myself:

Khaalidah: Four nerds verging on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdiest but fun conversations centered around the question “Would you rather go to space or the bottom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space.
I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a distant childhood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unattainable and unrealistic. But, given the chance, I would go.
This post reminds me of the awesomeness of our great universe, of the chaotic randomness, of the beauty of this world and the things we have to be grateful for, and of how utterly minuscule we people really are in the grand scheme of things

Me: Okay, you need to write this down. I foresee you doing a story where a family does go into space. Ho boy, I smell another anthology here!

Khaalidah: An anthology about space, going to space or anything related sounds awesome. I vote for you to be the editor. What do we need to do to get started?”

Yuva_coverThat was the beginning of Yuva. In the days that followed, we two enlisted the help of many people: Goran, Jenna, William, and Melanie. Through much conversation, back and forth and debate, we determined the location of our story (Gliese 581g), the tone, the structure, and even began producing the first few installments. As time progressed, we were joined by more writers – Charles, Danielle and Cara – who wanted to contribute and began scooping up the later installments in the series.

The second development was the rash of face-eating and zombie-like behavior which seemed to break out throughout that summer. Feeling compelled to comment on the sort of hysteria which had set in, I wrote a post called “Bath Salts and the Zombie Apocalypse”. Much like my post on Dystopia, that one earned me quite a few views, thought it was not Freshly Pressed. I am thankful it wasn’t, as I began to feel a bit iffy about getting lots of traffic over a series of rather sick and tragic events. But I knew I had to comment since it was a relevant issue and I had something to say about it. I also swore I’d never publicize the names of the psychos responsible ever again, since I didn’t want to contribute to the buzz that so often surrounds twisted criminals.

Since that times, its been more of the same. Every day, I do my best to maintain the pace I’ve now set for myself, and am happy when plenty of people come by to see what I’ve written and tell me they are thankful that I post what I do. Naturally, I often complain that I should be getting paid to do this, but that’s just talk. No, this is something I’d gladly do for free, though ideally I would love it if it was a source of income so I could write indefinitely and not have to worry about money. My hope is one day that all of this culminates and I can write something truly meaninful and influential. That way, this site will represent a beginning to something truly big, and I’ll be able to share that with everyone who’s been here from the beginning.

Okay, that got a little mushy there towards the end. Suffice it to say, I’m very thankful for all that I’ve been able to do with this site thus far, and for being able to connect with all the people that I have. I hope very much to be able to write as many or more posts before I use up my allotted memory and either have to pay for an upgrade or move to another web address. Hopefully, the whole “getting paid to do this” thing will work itself out before then so I have the option of throwing money at the problem 😉

Rest assured, I aint going nowhere anytime soon. So expect to see plenty of me around these parts. Peace out, and thanks to everyone for stopping by, then and now. Bless you all!

fireworks

Crashland Chapter 14, Now Appearing at Story Time

Wow, it’s been awhile since I updated this story last. And I believe it was even longer before I updated it before that. But as I’m sure I’ve said, I’ve taken on some other writing responsibilities of late and it seems I’ve finally reached my creative limit. That’s what you get for constantly pushing your boundaries I guess.

Still, today I managed to tear myself away from my other writing and editing commitments and dedicate some much needed attention to Story Time and this unfolding serial novel. And I’m sure you’ll agree, this one’s also a doozy! Much like the last one, the choice is once again a matter of life and death.

Last time, William found himself trapped in a collapsing subway tube and slowly dying from internal injuries. Slipping into unconsciousness, he once again experienced an intense dream that seemed to be speaking to him, almost as if someone else were inside his head and using his memories to give him instructions.

He then woke to find Jacobs standing over him and urging him to follow him out. Though he practically had to be carried, William and Jacobs managed to struggle their way out of the collapsing tube just as the last of it came crashing down. Unfortunately, Jacobs appeared to be mortally wounded, and the people tending to William mentioned that one other person in their party had died as a result of the cave in. Readers were asked to decide which person that would be.

The choice was a tough one. Would it be Simon, the cybernetically enhanced post-human that all their efforts depended on? Would it be Molya, the team’s gunman who never seems to stray far? Or would it be Jorka, the team’s medic and the only woman William had set eyes on since the Crash began. As it turned out, audiences decided on Jorka, the female medic who was intrinsic in saving William’s life. Thus, chapter 14 opens with the revelation that not only was she killed, but that Jacobs was mortally wounded while attempting to save William’s life.

The story is on the move once more. So come on by and check it out, and as usual, stick around to vote on what happens next! It’s all happening over at Story Time.me.

Dystopan Literature Over Time

Came across this list on Goodreads, thanks largely to Molly Spring’s post (which I will reblog next since it’s pretty dawn awesome!). Basically, the table gives graphic representation to historical trends and the popularity of dystopian lit over the past few decades. Though it does preclude Yevengy Zamyatin’s We and Jack London’s The Iron Heel by a few years, it manages to pick up in the early 30′ with the creation of Brave New World.

Cataloging what led to the creation of that and all many subsequent dystopian classics, the creator of this infographic shows how our perceptions and tastes – as expressed through popular dystopian visions – have changed over time. In the end, the point seems to be that we’ve evolved from thinking simply that the state is the primary threat to human freedom in our world. Things like body image, reproductive rights, environmental issues, nuclear weapons, epidemics (both man-made and natural) and agism.

You might think that it’s making the point that people have more to worry about today than they did before. But personally, I just think it’s pointing out how the literature is evolving to focus on our own evolving sense of self and understanding of ourselves. You know the old saying, “the world isn’t any worse, you just understand it better?” Well, it’s a little like that. The literature isn’t any darker, just more complex. Quite the little romp too, if you ask me. 

Updated Anthology Map!

Hey all. As you may know, my writing and I are busy at work producing an anthology about space travel and colonization. We have our location picked out, the star system Gliese 581. We have a planet, known as Gliese 581 g. We still need more writers, I was hoping for a dozen or so people to contribute to our short story collection. So if you’re a writer and enjoy classic sci-fi, space travel, exoplanets, weird aliens, androids, terraforming, sub-orbital colonies, space elevators, terradome and so forth, let me know and I’ll set you up with a project!

In the meantime, I’ve updated our map of the Gliese 581 to more accurately reflect the planets and the names they will be assigned in our story. Have a gander:

Anthology Sample!

Gliese 581 g, a real exoplanet where our story takes place

Hey all. As you may recall, me and my people over at Writer’s Worth have begun working on a new anthology. The concept is space travel and colonization, a phenomena which will most likely be taking place in this and the next century. After a lot of brainstorming and hard research, we have even been producing some first drafts.

The first is being written by Khaalidah Muhammed-Ali, the working mother and writer who I’ve mentioned a few times on this site. In her hands is the first story of the anthology, dealing with the families who are selected to take part in the off-world experiment. The second comes from Goran Zidar, another favorite here on my site, who is covering the topic of the terraformers who venture on ahead in order to prepare the planet for settlement.

And then there’s William J. Joel, another Writer’s Worth peer, who has volunteered to cover the daunting tale of the generational ships that will deliver the colonists to their new home. Already he has advanced some ideas which are complex and inspired, and personally I can’t wait to see some drafts. Between these three authors and a fourth installment dealing with exobiology, the first part of the novel is well underway!

And last, but hopefully not least, is my own contribution. As the opening chapter in Part II, it deals with the efforts of the colonists to create a planetary government. The story is told from the point of view of a synthetic named Winston, an AI who has been assigned to work with the planetary council. Programmed with an experimental social science known as “Ethical Calculus”, he will soon learn that working with humans is not nearly as difficult as getting them to work together!

Here is an excerpt from the story which I have tentatively named “Winston Agonistes”:

The sun was beginning to set, casting the sky into a deep orange. It was the time that the first settlers had called “the magic hour”, the many warm hours between dusk and dark. Winston stood at the dome wall and watched. On occasion, he cast a passing glance at his hands, which the glowing sun seemed to casting in the color of a light citrus fruit. He was sure he would find that amusing, if he could. He was sure there was much about this situation that would inspire an emotional reaction.

Alas, such was not the case. Though understandable to him, such things still remained inaccessible. Perhaps someday, with adequate upgrades in the available software…

“Mr. Winston?” a voice called to him from the doorway. The footsteps and tone of voice immediately indicated who it was. He put on a smile and turned to face him.

“Councilman Mutlu. How are you?”

“I’m fine, Mr. Winston,” he replied, entering the room. He looked around appraisingly, noting the furniture and layout. No doubt it all seemed excessive to him, but at the same time necessary. “I trust you are adjusting to your new surroundings?”

“Of course, Mr. Mutlu. I am settling in quite nicely.”

“Good, good,” he said, looking around awkwardly. Even without the ability to empathize, he could gauge the man’s discomfort. Then again, many people exhibited this reaction when in the company of a synthetic. In such circumstances, it was always best to focus on matters of a professional nature. At least that was what his subroutines told him.

“Would you care to sit down? I can offer you some refreshment as well if you so desire. Tea? Coffee?”

“Ah, tea, thank you.”

He busied himself with a tray of carafes and a heater as Mutlu took one of the chairs in front of his desk. He noted the sounds of shifting against the seat’s fabric, the way he kept moving his hands from one spot to the next. By the time the water had boiled in the heater and had located an appropriate tea from the stores, Mutlu seemed to have found a comfortable seated position. He approached him with all the assorted items on the tray that had been provided. He set it down between them on his desk and offered Mutlu a cup.

“The business of running a colony is quite stressful work, is it not Councilman?”

“Uh, yes, yes it is,” he said, taking the cup that was offered. “Have you had a chance to look over the proposals we have sent over.”

“I have indeed,” he said, taking the other cup and sitting back in his own chair. He knew this to be mere small talk, as the matter of processing those proposals had been a mere matter of dispensation. Assessing the nature of the problem, suggested measures, and weighing them according to the rubrics of his primary programming. Under the circumstances, asking such a question was completely inane, but in keeping with social norms.

“And what have you found?”

He took a sip from his cup before answering. “Quite simply, that the Council’s draft is in keeping with the best traditions of constitutionalism and humanism. That ensuring the rights of all citizens, regardless of their background prior to making the journey, is the most sensible course of approach. Ensuring that such a baseline exists at such an early stage is the wisest approach in both fostering amnesty between colonies while at the same guaranteeing that they submit to further negotiation.”

Mutlu looked down at his cup, back up again to his eyes. He seemed preoccupied with him performing this most basic function in front of him, but did not appear oblivious to his words. Eventually, he took another sip and smiled.

“Good. My colleagues will be most pleased to hear  that.”

He smiled in return. “Does the Council hold my endorsement in such high regard?”

Joviality. The gesture known as playful irony. Suggesting that the Councilor saw his approval as something very high indeed, a testament to his computational abilities. A gentle mockery of his obvious discomfort, meant to trigger a humorous response.

“Well yes…” he said, entirely serious. “I can only assume that you’ve subjected our hopes to proceed with a formal constitution to your… what did you call it again?”

“Ethical Calculus, sir.”

“Right!” Mutlu set his cup down and began to speak more freely. His hands began to provide gestures that accorded visual representation to his words. “After all, we’ve been subjected to a great deal of criticism from within and without, many people think we should be ironing out the basic agreements between colonies before we commit to any kind of draft that could commit us to policies down the road. I must say I find all those arguments…”

“Distasteful?” Winston suggested.  Mutlu nodded.

“Quite right… it seems a shameful thing that such cynicism has set into the process already. It’s almost as if they don’t think the colonists can…”

“Trust each other?”

Mutlu nodded again. He noticed a growing shimmer in the man’s eye. How quickly he was forgetting that the man sitting across from him was not a man at all.

“Exactly the point. And it’s not like we’re talking about disparate factions here. Everyone on this world came here with the same goal in mind. The same hope for a new beginning.”

“And yet, old habits die hard.”

Mutlu looked at him with surprise. “Are you saying you have doubts, then?”

Winston smiled as broadly as the muscle fibers in his face would permit.

“Purely an observation. Nevertheless, you and the Council are on the right track. You should take heart in that.”

“Excellent.” Mutlu retrieved his cup and began to look at curiously at Winston again. One more, it seemed that the knowledge of what he was dealing with was creeping back into his mind. But at least he seemed at ease. One by one, the Council seemed to be adjusting to the idea of having synthetics amongst them, entrusting their most precious decision making to them even. It was a significant step up from the laborious practices that the other models were forced to endure.

And that’s the story thus far. Stay tuned for more on the progress of this and other Writer’s Worth Anthologies. Speaking of which, Grim5Next, the dystopian anthology which began months ago, is coming along and getting into its third and final part. Progress!

Another G5N Anthology in the works!

Don’t you just love it when things come together, and by things I mean talented people and a good concept? Well that seems to be happening once again. A few months back, I joined Writer’s Worth over at Goodreads, a writer’s group dedicated to promoting new talent and aspiring authors. We have since morphed into Grim5Next, an online community with its own site and members all over the world. Our first anthology, World’s Undone, is coming together nicely and should be finished in a few months.

But more recently, a couple of Grim5Next people got together and decided we wanted to get to work on another anthology. Maybe we’re all a little driven, but somehow, we just couldn’t wait for the first to be released. And with the departure of the master-singer of sci-fi, Ray Bradbury, and the news of the Venus transit, we felt ourselves inspired. In fact, it all began with a single conversation between Mrs. Khaalidah Muhammed-Ali and myself:

Khaal­i­dah: Four nerds verg­ing on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdi­est but fun con­ver­sa­tions cen­tered around the ques­tion “Would you rather go to space or the bot­tom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space. I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a dis­tant child­hood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unat­tain­able and unre­al­is­tic. But, given the chance, I would go. This post reminds me of the awe­some­ness of our great uni­verse, of the chaotic ran­dom­ness, of the beauty of this world and the things we have to be grate­ful for, and of how utterly minus­cule we peo­ple really are in the grand scheme of things.

Me: Okay, you need to write this down. I fore­see you doing a story where a fam­ily does go into space. Ho boy, I smell another anthology here!

Khaalidah: An anthol­ogy about space, going to space or any­thing related sounds awe­some. I vote for you to be the edi­tor. What do we need to do to get started?

That’s how it all got started. After some initial brainstorming, we plotted out what we wanted this all to be about. Space and Colonization! In the near future, such endeavors might just become a reality. In fact, they might have to be if we want to survive as a species. And inspired by the dearly departed Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, I thought we ought to tackle some of the same issues he did, taking into account some more recent historical developments. Like Bradbury’s chronicles, it will be a series of interlinked stories, but told from different points of view in different time frames.

After some astrological research, your humble editor selected a location. 61 Cygni, the star system that sits roughly 11 and a half light years away from Earth. Though there’s no hard evidence to support the theory, it has been ventured that there may be a system of planets in the system, including three small objects, two gas giants, and one mega-planet. At right, you will see the little map I prepared for our, and your, viewing pleasure.

And in time, we picked up some more dedicated souls, William J Joel and Goran Zidar, who you may remember from Story Time fame (he’s the inventor). Already, these two have signed up for slots in the opening part of the anthology. Divided into four stories, Part I will tell the tale of how colonization is getting underway here at Earth in the not too distant future. And before it ends, it will address the issues of converting the new world over to human needs, and how the local flora and fauna are not too happy about it!

And of course, I got a few more people who’ve volunteered to help just as soon as they have the time. Courtney, Jinn and Doremy, I’m looking in your direction. You’re initiative is most appreciated and there’s still plenty of stories to be written and slots to be filled. And of course, Parts II and III are still in development, and slots remain open for more writers. Though it’s still in development, I know it’s going to be inspired, thanks to the people we got working on it. I also know we are going to have fun doing it.