Your Wires Are Showing

“The future is already here — It’s just not evenly distributed.” – William Gibson

It was so much easier to write cyberpunk fiction in the days before laptops, iphones, and bluetooth. Or maybe easy isn’t quite the right word, since the authors of the 80’s & 90’s were making up the technology as they went, imagining it freshly in their minds as they forged the motherboard of a genre that was just as much about style as it was substance.

High Tech Low Life

It was glorious. I cannot say enough about how shaped I have been by the works of William Gibson, specifically Neuromancer, the Shadowrun and Netrunner pen & paper role playing games, the anime Ghost in the Shell, and of course our man Philip K. Dick with stories and resulting film adaptations like Minority Report and Blade Runner. I love the movie Johnny Mnemonic, and no gushing about cybepunk from decades past would be complete without mention of The Matrix.

To write cyberpunk now, in the year 2017, is a different endeavor. So much of the technological advancements that get imagined in the above works are now commonplace. The sorts of “oh wow” moments that used to hit hard in cyberpunk works just don’t hit quite the way they used to, at least for most of us. I know there are still some basic cable shows that try to present hacking as people typing Really Fast and Looking Stressed at cascading lines of gibberish while they say “someone is hacking our network”, and while that isn’t remotely what real hacking looks like (and no amount of fast edits and soundtrack could make it exciting to watch), those shows and their presentation illustrate the line we creators have to walk between real life and dynamic fiction.

For “Beautiful Resistance” we did our best to imagine a near future that moved along a similar path of technological advancement as we are now. We created our fictional “CodeSource” to be the more conventional ‘system’ that is what we basic users experience today, even if amped up for dramatic purposes, so that it would ring true to a contemporary audience. We created our fictional “MassNet” as our ‘full immersion’ system, the computer dream world of our story, which functions much like the simulations in The Matrix films, or the Neuromancer and Snowcrash novels. Throughout the story we work to present an engaging story with near-future technology that feels legitimate given where we are, as a contemporary society, today. We knew that we had to give you just enough tech-speak to make sense of everything happening, but we did not go so deep into it that A) readers poke holes in our science and B) the story doesn’t get slowed down. Though the hacker parts of the story were the most difficult, there was also the ‘combat operative’ element, where we had to present cyborg warriors who had upgrades and implants that felt realistic enough for a near future setting, but were still exciting to read about.

We also had to look at implications of near future technologies, and what they might do to the political, environmental, and economic landscape. For this we imagined a post-WWIII world, where the great superpowers finally went for blood, and our story picks up some years later. In our imagined near future corporations have taken the place of most world superpower governments (that’s a theme with me I know) and the inequality of the world has become more dramatically pronounced. In our story the mega-cities of the first world country are the neon spectacles one might see in films like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, while much of the rest of the world has experienced very little growth compared to where they are in our contemporary real world. Much of the setting, in fact the story itself, is based on the above William Gibson quote. While we don’t get preachy at all (we’re writers, not politicians, economists, or activists) we do address some of the unavoidable elements of setting a story about high powered agents pursuing first world agendas in the boardrooms and back alleys of what we call in our story ‘low grade regions’. In this way we were invited to present a rather poignant illustration of High Tech Low Life in a way that may conjure up images of Neil Blomkamp’s work from films such as Chappie, Elysium, and District 9.

As for the street shaman and the jungle island vampires, well, that’s another post all together.

This has been a project that I have wanted to create for some time, and am happy to finally be able to present it. Our goals are to give you a reading experience that feels less like science fantasy and more like science future, while still delivering on the style & substance promised by dubbing it a work of cyberpunk.

Naturally it is for you to decide if we accomplished any of this, and we are excited to get your feedback!

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Necrospace Teaser Trailer

A little something I put together using a digital piece by artist Tithi Luadthong, the audiobook(s) prologue from Jeffrey Kafer, and some bootleg garage band sounds from yours truly.

Hostile Salvage Confirmed

NECROSPACE BOOK 5 

At long last the fifth book in the Necrospace series has reached publication. We are at the halfway point in this sprawling tale, and as we meet new characters with their own trials and tribulations there are a number of familiar faces who return to the stage. This book more than any before it embodies the ‘pulp noir’ style that has become the hallmark of the series. Enjoy!

 

Rhett Calibos is a bounty scrapper, his life as an indentured soldier a welcome alternative to imprisonment on a penal colony. A man haunted by his past, Rhett throws himself into the work, his only sanctuary. Sokol Targe is the leader of a mech warrior squad, stationed aboard an ancient and deadly warship, and conducts violent raids on behalf of a Red List commune. Cast away from corporate society, they have embraced the ravager way of life.

As these troubled men endure furious combat across the ragged edges of civilization, neither of them realize they’ve become entangled in the deeper mysteries of necrospace.

It’s a hard universe, and nobody gets away clean.

Call for Reviews

If there are any of you good folks out there who happen to have purchased my most recent novel “Space Marine Ajax” I could really use an honest review on the product page. If you haven’t had a chance to check this one out, and enjoyed my Necrospace novels, you won’t want to miss this one. Thanks!

Click the marine…

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Space Marine Ajax

 

The first novel in my new series, a blend of Norse myths, military science fiction, and a good old fashioned Bug Hunt…

Ajax answers the call of duty and becomes an Einherjar space marine, charged with defending humanity against hideous alien monsters in furious combat across the galaxy.

From the deepest parts of uncharted space an alien menace emerges, devouring all that lay before it, a great swarm that scours entire star systems of all organic life. This space borne hive, this extinction fleet, makes no attempts to communicate and offers no mercy.

Unified against a common enemy, humanity fights back, meeting the swarm with soldiers upon every front.

This is the story of fearless warriors who are sent to fight the wolves at the gate, by power armor and pulse rifle they must prevail, else humanity is all but doomed.

Junk Empire

 

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The new year dawns with me gearing up to re-apply myself to the grind stone of Necrospace, a military science fiction series published by Severed Press that I have been working with for the last several years. At present I have four books in the series completed, with the first three being focused on the story of Samuel Hyst, a salvage marine from a brutal corporate society who finds himself caught up in events that affect humanity at large. All he wanted was a paycheck and pathway out of debt.

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The fourth novel shifts focus to a supporting character from the core trilogy and we are shown a glimpse of the fierce world of the elite mercenaries that stalk the ruins of this scrapyard universe. Since completing those I have taken something of a break from the world of Necrospace and written the first novel in what will be a trilogy about clone troopers striving to save humanity from extinction at the claws and jaws of an alien swarm from deep space. I traded in the futuristic pulp noir of Necrospace for the strange equilibrium of Norse mythology and alien invasion scifi. It was a wild ride, and one I am glad I took. So now I have two series I am working on, with the first of the new series coming out soon and the next Necrospace shortly after, from then I’ll be writing one and then the other in what I hope to be a very productive year.

As I prepare myself to dive back into Necrospace, I find myself planning out the next four books before launching. There are a great many meta-plots and sub-plots at work throughout the first four books of Necrospace, and it is important for me that there be closure. I want to give the series plenty of room to breathe, for not just the epic journey of Samuel Hyst to reach its final conclusion, or for the mystery of the Gedra to ultimately be revealed, but for the Necrospace realm as a whole to reach a milestone that yields a satisfactory series finale. As keen as I may be to develop this series into a number of feature films or an episodic for streaming/television, not to mention my day dreams of table top role playing games, board games, and video games, all of that is a distraction until I am able to complete the robust tapestry that you (the reader) and I (the storyteller) have embarked upon creating.

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As any of you who have enjoyed the first four novels of the series know, there is much that can happen in the span of four novels. As much of an intense journey as the first half of the series has been, you can expect just as much, if not more, from the next half. In the course of the novels we will re-visit our salvage marines, hunt forgotten technology on wasteland planets, and pursue scrap bounties to the edge of the universe. We will fight mutated nightmares, struggle against devastating alien technology, battle space pirates and corporate security forces in equal measure, and we will ride to war with the Folken once again.

Necrospace is rich with salvage, and soon the next chapter in our search for freedom and fortune will arrive. Time for me to get back to work. Until that day…

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Ghost Faction (Necrospace Book 4)

ghost-faction-ebook-cover Available now on Amazon.com

During an apocalyptic battle against murderous machines and hardened soldiers a lone salvage marine turns the tide with a devastating counter attack. Having revealed herself as a consummate warrior, Jada Sek is welcomed into the ranks of the Dire Swords, an elite fighting force loyal only to the contract.

As the other marines return to their salvage duties Jada and her new comrades, each as haunted by the ghosts of their past as she is, plunge yet further into necrospace. They are repeatedly deployed to disrupt and destroy the endeavors of corporate competitors, and along the way discover that the enigma of the machine race is more sinister and complex than any imagined.

Surrounded by the specters of an ancient holocaust and forced to face her inner conflict, Jada must make a choice. When the money ceases to matter, when surviving loses its significance, and the thrill of taking the fight right into the teeth of the enemy seems like the only truth left in this scrapyard of a universe, it is time to let the marine die so that the mercenary can be born.

Realism in Military Science Fiction

The title of this post sounds like a contradiction in terms, and on the surface perhaps the idea of a genetically altered human warrior wielding a heavy plasma cannon against unimaginable horrors from deep space sounds a bit… sci-fi, but come on, plasma cannons!

Well… plasma cannons, awesome though they may be, only get us so far.

Just in case I get too preachy later on, the point I’m attempting to make is that a story has to ring true, even if its about space elves fighting jelly monsters.

The truth of the matter, in my opinion, is that the story is going to be more impactful to the audience if there is a degree of realism, with a specific contemporary sensibility. I’m not talking about making the ‘hard science’ of the afore mentioned plasma cannon sound convincing. I’m not talking about creating an alien/cyborg/mutant/etc enemy that makes sense in light of our current understanding of physiology and biology. All such things are just plot devices and set dressing directly informed by our current scientific knowledge and awareness. Realism when it comes to the technology and biology of a story, explicitly a military science fiction story, is of less consequence than realism relative to the characters themselves.

Perhaps I’m beating a drum that has been well-worn by writers before me, but this it my time, and I’ll take my moment thank you very much.

If a story’s core appeal (or message as it were) is “look at how cool their tech is!” or “gosh this hero is an unstoppable badass!” then once our world develops a similar technology or gets bored with flawless heroes, as an audience, we will not be engaged and that story will likely recede to join the miasma of other genre titles. Not that this is a bad thing, because the world needs pulp, and I’ve certainly contributed my fair share of such (and will be contributing a great deal more), but I’d argue that tech-based-pulp is ultimately destined to be surpassed by our own real-life advances.

The books that really stick with us, in specific regards to military science fiction, are stories like “Forever War” and “Starship Troopers” precisely because they focus on the men and women who live through those stories. Sure the cool ships and equipment those characters interact with are exciting, but what hits you is the characters themselves. This may be an old argument, but it is the human experience, or better yet Personal experience of the story, by the characters, that has the real staying power that transcends the ever-advancing technology of our rapidly evolving modern civilization.

To write military fiction, whether it is historical, contemporary, or science fiction, that ‘rings true’ takes something of an effort on the part of the author, in my opinion. If the author is like myself, and not a legitimate combat veteran, then I think it is important to talk to such people. Even in the most far-fetched science fiction setting, I think that a convincing and accurate portrayal of military personnel is important. Not actually the specific nationality, creed, or equipment, but more the intimate experience of war and the physical and psychological consequences of those experiences.

Truth be told that is an easy gauntlet for me to throw down to my peers, given that I am a military contractor by trade, and so while I am not a combat veteran I spend countless days and weeks in their esteemed company. In fact you could say that much of my work in NECROSPACE is a direct result from transitioning from being an independent filmmaker to being a military contractor. The notions of patriotism and the realities of economics are two powerful forces at work in all such men and women, in my experience, and working alongside them has affected both my writing and my tastes in military science fiction.

I find there to be little value, beyond momentary pulp entertainment (which is still awesome), in bigger-than-life protagonists. There isn’t much to glean from the shallow character arc of “Master Sergeant John Mack” who is the Marty Stu or Mary Stu of the usual genre fare, beyond the mindless fun of reading about a peerless badass of a character overcoming all obstacles against ridiculous odds. I am less interested in the story of a superman in power armor than I am an average soldier with an M4 (or the scifi pulse rifle equivalent). The reason is that I’ve never met super-soldier John Mack in real life, but I’ve meet hundreds of regular people who draw a modest paycheck and carry a rifle.

Realism in our portrayal of the future soldiers in military scifi is about creating protagonist characters who are not perfect warriors. Soldiers who make mistakes, who question their own loyalties and motivations, who can’t help but to bring the horror home with them, are the kinds of characters that I want to read about, and the kinds of character I do my level best to create. Whether they are a ragtag militia of scrappy folk heroes fending off an alien invasion or an elite team of space marines about to drop into hostile cyborg territory, and no matter how far-fetched or fantastical their technology happens to be it is the realism of their humanity that will ultimately engage me as a reader.

Tentacle monsters and plasma cannons are the flashy packaging that will bring me to the table, but the authenticity of the characters is what will make me a fan for life.

Marine Cadets Wanted

necrospaceRedux   DeadWorldsCover   TradeWarCover2

REAPER– Resource Exploration And Procurement Engineer Regiment

Welcome Citizen, to a new life of adventure, including meal plan and hazard pay! Because Grotto Corporation is heavily invested in exploration and military ventures there is always a place for stalwart citizens, twenty-five standard years or younger, willing to risk life and limb for incredible wages and a sense of accomplishment.

As a REAPER, your primary function will be to serve as foot soldiers and salvage specialists for militarized expeditions into regions of both mapped and unmapped space in search of raw materials ready to be exploited.

To claim or re-claim machinery, equipment, and building materials from former battlefields, space hulks, and otherwise abandoned facilities.

Base wages for training and transit time are nearly twice that of the average workforce assignment, and all recovery and combat duties come with additional hazard bonuses.

See your local recruiter for details.

Sign up today!