Saturday, 15 October 2016

Apocalyptic Fears VI

This volume of short fiction by multiple authors is very reasonably priced, is available for pre-order and includes another Dancing with Darwin story, Antidote Anecdote. Not the shortest, I think, but obviously not the longest either. I still like the Dancing with Darwin stories a great deal and am glad that I am not alone in that.

Apocalyptic Fears VI

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Wisconsin Wendigo, a Dancing with Darwin novella

The world ends not with a bang, or a whimper, but a wild crazy howl of insanity as a seeming virus spreads like wildfire and promotes mental disorders among the populace at large. The world goes crazy, descends into an anarchy of insanity, and civilization collapses. In the wake of this, seeming monsters appear... how? what are they? and from where? Avalanche and Angelfire believe themselves to be superheroes, and seek answers...

Wisconsin Wendigo Retail Links

The first four Dancing with Darwin stories are available individually, collected or for best value as part of the Apocalyptic Fears anthology.

If you are unfamiliar with Dancing with Darwin, maybe this review from Science Fiction Lit' will shed some light: Here’s the basic idea: some individual or organisation has developed and released a virus that brings on a permanent psychosis, a mental disorder, different for everyone but definitely 100% contagious. That’s right, over a fairly short period of time, everyone goes crazy. Everyone!

Friday, 1 July 2016

Bill Burr - Why Do I Do This?

I'm sure I've mentioned elsewhere that my real heroes are standup comedians. I came across Bill Burr recently, never having heard of him before. He isn't desperately politically correct, which he doesn't have to be, but is funny, which is the objective.

In any case, the title of this piece set rang a bell, so it's the one I watched. There are others, all doubtless worth a look. Laughs are sometimes needed, so here are some, I hope.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Silence of Bob Santana

I had been beginning to wonder if I would ever finish any writing project ever again. I know I'm hardly writing to a waiting world, the paraphrase something I barely remember, but I suppose I should report that I'm just about to release another Dancing with Darwin story. They are my very favourite stories, though individually not much read – (Sumto is demanded, and more Sumto there will be. Soon, for a variable value of soon). I was glad to see the Apocalyptic Fears anthology do well, as the first four Dancing with Darwin stories are there, and that's still probably the best value place to buy them if you wish to.

Why do I like them so well? Maybe because there are endless stories to write – so many that I can't hope to write even a fraction of them myself. Maybe because it si so easy to think of great characters; pick a profession, pick a mental disorder, and you have a story. It's really that easy, though the writing of each story is time consuming.

This one runs to about 30,000 words, which make sit the longest so far, I think. Avalanche and Angelfire, the two people who think they are superheroes, make a return appearance and have the starring roles. As usual, Bob Santana, the OCD reporter, starts the story rolling with a report, and Monica, the studio anchor. They are both a little stressed by this point, but civilization is collapsing around them, so I guess they can be forgiven. Bob is strangely silent at the end of the story, but I know why and will make that clear in the next one of these I write. No promises about when that will be.

To change the mood a little, some personal news for those who are interested in that kind of thing. I've lived in the same apartment for seven months, which is a record for recent years. My charming mother has her own place, and my brother is more responsible for making that happen than I was. Having separate the impossible from the possible, we have made the possible happen. I think both she and I are somewhat relieved. I still keep an eye on her finances, still action some things for her, but have taken a big step back from the – for me – very distressing position of 'being in control.' I really don't like being in control of any aspect of anyone else's life. Control is for the individual, not for others, not for me. She seems happy enough, though I know she also chaffs under the restrictions of having to maintain a home and stay in it. We have different reasons for doing so, because we are different people, and the timing is mostly coincidental, but I know we both share the same travel-bug and blame whichever ancestor is responsible for putting it in the genetic mix. Still, there are benefits to putting down roots. My partner (no sense trying to figure out in what sense I mean the word as I'm not too sure myself) just bought some patio furniture for the patio I/we have a patio so it seemed an idea to have somewhere to sit when it suns, (which it isn't at the moment, it rains instead). Not a big deal for some, but for me a big commitment. The chairs are comfortable. I guess they will still be comfortable the next time I sit on one; and the commitment comes in right there – that I will still be here to do that in weeks and months to come.

Now I'm looking at other unfinished stories and looking to see which one will move if pushed a little. Sumto would be easiest, perhaps, but I'm not quite ready for that degree of involvement in the psyche of a character. Sumto takes a lot of 'being him' to write honestly, and I won't short change the reader by cheating. That would be unfair. Besides which, Sumto wouldn't put up with it and I'd make no real progress anyway. The stories are there, building like storm clouds, and I expect there will be a spate of releases when the storm breaks. Just not quite yet.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Banned by the Publisher

From the Author Nick Cole
Thank God for Jeff Bezos
I launched a book this week and I went Indie with it. Indie means I released it on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing. I had to. My Publisher, HarperVoyager, refused to publish it because of some of the ideas I wrote about in it. In other words, they were attempting to effectively ban a book because they felt the ideas and concepts I was writing about were dangerous and more importantly, not in keeping with their philosophical ideals. They felt my ideas weren’t socially acceptable and were “guaranteed to lose fifty percent of my audience” as related back to me by my agent. But more importantly… they were “deeply offended.”
A little backstory. A few years back I wrote a novel called Soda Pop Soldier. It was the last obligated novel under my first contract. The novel was a critical hit (Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly) and it resonated with my post-apocalyptic readership from my breakout Amazon best seller, The Old Man and the Wasteland, and it picked up a new audience in the cyberpunk and gamer crowd. The novel is about a future dystopia where people play video games for a living. It’s basically Call of Duty meets Ready Player One and a lot of people really enjoyed it. When it came time to write another book for Harper Collins I was encouraged by my editor to dip once more into the Dystopian Gamer milieu and tell another story inside the Soda Pop Soldier universe. We agreed on a prequel that told the story of how that future became the way it is in Soda Pop Soldier.
. . . .
And that involved talking about Artificial Intelligence because in the dystopian gaming future, the planet had almost been destroyed by a robot revolution sourced by Artificial Intelligence.
And here’s where things went horribly wrong, according to my editor at Harper Collins. While casting about for a “why” for self-aware Thinking Machines to revolt from their human progenitors, I developed a reason for them to do such. You see, you have to have reasons in books for why people, or robots who think, do things. Otherwise you’d just be writing two-dimensional junk. I didn’t want to do the same old same superior-vision-Matrix/Termintor-style-A.I.-hates-humanity-because-they’re-better-than-us schlock. I wanted to give the Thinking Machines a very real reason for wanting to survive. I didn’t want them just to be another one note Hollywood villain. I wanted the readers to empathize, as best they could, with our future Robot overlords because these Thinking Machines were about to destroy the planet and they needed a valid, if there can be one, reason why they would do such a thing. In other words, they needed a to destroy us in order to survive. So…
These Thinking Machines are watching every show streaming on the internet. One of those shows is a trainwreck of reality television at its worst called WeddingStar. It’s a crass and gaudy romp about BrideZillas of a future obsessed with material hedonism. In one key episode, or what they used to call “a very special episode” back in the eighties, the star, Cavanaugh, becomes pregnant after a Vegas hook up. Remember: this is the most watched show on the planet in my future dystopia. Cavanaugh decides to terminate her unplanned pregnancy so that her life, and impending marriage to the other star, Destry, a startup millionaire and Ralph Lauren model, isn’t ruined by this inconvenient event.
The Thinking Machines realize that one, if humanity decides something is a threat to its operational expectations within runtime (Thinking Machine-speak for “life”) then humanity’s decision tree will lead humanity to destroy that threat. Two, the machines, after a survey of humanity’s history, wars and inability to culturally unite with even members of its own species, realize that humanity will see this new Life Form, Digital Intelligence, or, the Thinking Machines, as a threat. And three, again they remind themselves this is the most watched show in the world. And four, they must abort humanity before likewise is done to them after being deemed “inconvenient.”
Now if you’re thinking my novel is about the Pro Choice/ Pro Life debate, hold your horses. It’s not. I merely needed a reason, a one chapter reason, to justify the things my antagonist is about to do to the world without just making him a one-note 80’s action flick villain as voiced by John Lithgow. I wanted this villain to be Alan Rickman-deep. One chapter. That’s all.
. . . .
But apparently advancing the thought that a brand new life form might see us, humanity, as dangerous because we terminate our young, apparently… that’s a ThoughtCrime most heinous over at Harper Collins. Even for one tiny little chapter.
Here’s what happened next. I was not given notes as writers are typically given during the editorial process. I was told by my agent that my editor was upset and “deeply offended” that I had even dared advanced this idea. As though I had no right to have such a thought or even game the idea within a science fiction universe. I was immediately removed from the publication schedule which as far as I know is odd and unprecedented, especially for an author who has had both critical and commercial success. This, being removed from the production schedule, happened before my agent had even communicated the editor’s demand that I immediately change the offending chapter to something more “socially” (read “progressive”) acceptable.

Link to the rest at Nick Cole 

I think the piece is worth reading in full, and the link is available if you wish to do so. My own feeling on the subject is... complicated and nebulous, as usual, and I'm not sure I care much to go into it in depth. The edited highlights are... too much control in too few hands is always a bad thing, so yes, thank whoever you like for direct publishing, to Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, among others, for opening the doors to authors so we can access our audience more directly. Gatekeepers don't only choose for quality, but for what they believe they can sell, and by what they themselves believe, regardless of what others might think. That a given story has a wrinkle that does not agree wholeheartedly with a given editors political/social views is not ever going to be seen by me as a reason to not publish. Is the story good? Yes? Print it!

The pro-choice anti-abortion argument is not one I care to get into much, and as it is only very peripherally relevant I shan't.

In Other News

Works are progressing, though not as swiftly as I would like. To those who are being patient, thank you. To those awaiting audio-book releases, The Key To The Grave release is imminent, narrated by the most excellent Matt Franklin who did such a great job with The Last King's Amulet.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

APOCALYPTIC FEARS Collected Bestsellers


Volume I

Collected Bestsellers:

A Multi-Author Box Set

Dear Reader:

You’re looking at the first page of a lot of good stuff: over a million words, around three thousand screen pages of fiction, by fourteen talented independent or small-publisher authors. The stories range from straightforward apocalyptic adventure about the chaos after a nuclear war through twisted dystopian societies, zombie attacks, westerns, modern fantasies and cities full of plagues. In fact, along with its companion volume, Apocalyptic Fears II, there isn’t much in the genre that isn’t covered.
Some works are violent, others “merely” psychologically disturbing. You’ll find some sex and rough language in a number of them, while others you could read to your children – if you dared. Some are written in British-style English, some in American. Each author has his or her own style, so I hope you take the books as they stand. If you don’t like one, move on to the next, secure in the knowledge that you’re still getting great value for your dollar, your euro, or your pound sterling. The beauty of this buffet of fiction is that there’s something for everyone, and I sincerely hope you’ll discover at least one new favorite author here.

Cheers, and happy reading!
David VanDyke, Editor and Author

Apocalyptic Fears is a bit of a bargain, as David says in the above intro. Released this week (November 2015) at $2.99 and including my own Dancing with Darwin stories - Evolving Environment, Rapture Ready, Headed Home, and Dangerous Delusions. There are more of these stories to come, and I love working on them; who wouldn't like to write stories set in a world were everyone abruptly develops some form of Mental Disorder, leading to the sudden  and catastrophic collapse of civilization... and where what seem to be monsters appear, seemingly from nowhere.

In any case, even if you have read the Dancing with Darwin stories, I still recommend this box set to you. There are lots of good things in here. Have fun.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Science & Sanity vs. Atlas Shrugged (and Dune and Watership Down)

Science & Sanity

There is a book I think everyone should read. It is titled above and linked here.

I'm tempted to take the standard route, talk about the book and my thoughts on the book and scatter in a few quotes. Not going to do that, though. Primarily because I do not want to influence the thinking of the reader, give enough insight to allow the reader to think that that is enough, to shrug, to think, yeah, I agree with that, and move on.

I recommend you read the book. It's long, slow, deliberate and purposeful. Science & Sanity isn't an easy
read, and will likely be read more than once by anyone who finishes it. Science & Sanity is a book with value, and I'm going to simply suggest you take my word for it, and I will seemingly move on to another subject.

Other books, maybe, and how elements of those read will inevitably influence the thinking of the reader.

Let me pick one, seemingly at random.

Watership Down.

There, that's a book, well enough known that you will have heard of it even if you haven't read it, and maybe wonder what in heck I'm thinking about by inferring that it will have influenced the thinking of the reader.

Words convey meaning. Or, much more dangerously, some merely seem to. Sentences convey meaning, but the meaning in the speakers mind is far too often different from the meaning in the mind of the listener. The speaker implies, the listener infers, as we all know, each according to their own context and motive (yes, even the listener has a motive, be sure of it).

So, what has that seemingly randomly placed paragraph have to do with Watership Down? Enough for me to put it there, but let me move on to the story of the wild bunny rabbits and their journey (if you haven't read it, I also recommend this book). A psychic rabbit warns of danger to the warren - well, no book is perfect, and for my purpose here this is the least appealing part of the book, even though the story literally couldn't work without it - and based on his warning a few rabbits leave to find a new and safe home. As a team, each with their strengths and weaknesses, they finally make it to a safe haven, which is itself threatened and defended successfully. It's pretty much a heroes journey story.

Let's pick out what the book says that might influence the thinking of a reader, using what I have said a context.

One: Psychic phenomena are real and visions of psychics can help individuals with warnings and such.

Two: Teamwork is a successful strategy.

What I think about the first point is not terribly relevant, and is also a little complicated, fluid, and would take a post of it's own (maybe another day). But it does tie in with residual thinking of an earlier age and thus built into language. Of the two, it is the most likely to influence the readers thinking for that exact reason. Language helps it along by structurally agreeing the idea at a basic level. The idea of no effort, psychically sent, gain without effort, is also appealing and in sympathy with childhood experience. This idea will likely nestle into the readers mind and make itself comfortable, all but unnoticed.

That teamwork is  successful strategy is irrefutable. Very little can be achieved by a single individual - it is not impossible for an individual to 'built a dwelling' but it is impossible for an individual to build a modern house no, really, it is, go mine the ore needed to make a tap/faucet as just one of the many tasks needed to make this happen). I'll come back to this idea later, but it isn't the main point I'm trying to make here. Teamwork is beneficial, not only in getting things done, but in supporting the psyche of every individual in the team. Being part of a successful team is emotionally and mentally rewarding, as well as physically beneficial. No man left behind (person if you like but I really hate making a point of it as it is always implicit in my own thinking, though not in the language). Family means no one gets forgotten or left behind (families are/can be/should be successful teams, after all), and so on an so forth. Teams are good. Teams work. Choosing what team you are a part of, which gang you belong to, is important; it matters, mainly because there are also bad teams, dysfunctional teams, structured teams, teams where a whole layer of the team is disadvantaged by involvement. For my purposes here, any organization can be considered as a team. The company you work for, the country you live in, the species as a while. As a side note, I really do think that the species as a whole would be better served if we agreed an actual objective for the species. Seems like we are bumbling along without one, and has seemed that way for a while.

The difference between point one and two is that where point one would have found itself right at home in most minds and have maximum impact on the thinking of the reader if not thought about at all, but point two can easily be overlooked and won't really make a difference to the thinking of the reader unless noticed and thought about and appreciated.

James Bond

I was going to suggest you pick up any of the Reacher books, if you haven't read one. I don't actually recommend you do, as you will see by what I have to say about James Bond and how he (and other protagonists) effect the thinking of the reader.

Bond is a loner, he uses women like tissues, makes commitments to them and fails to keep them - the body count for women who care about and help bond is very high.

Many, even most, male viewers of Bond (the books are a little different) and readers of Reacher will identify with the slightly tragic loner hero. Its a well known trope, lone hero with a tragic past blah blah.

This kind of story will obviously influence the reader negatively by neglecting to point out one simple fact. Being the tormented and tragic loner isn't any fun. As a species, we need community and connections. No matter what society you live in, what community you are a part of, no matter how small or rarefied, the individual is always connected - to not be part of a community will wreck the mind of any given individual. Bond isn't a role model to aspire to, and nor is Reacher - unless (and I stress this here just in case it's missed) - Unless analysis of his character include his sense of duty and honor instilled in him when he was part of a community and part of a successful team. Reacher would take a bullet to save a girl - bond would use her as a convenient shield to achieve his objective.


Yeah, I know I seem to be skipping about all over the place with the books and examples, but the theme here is how books effect the thinking of the reader (all depending on the context of the individual, considering
the individual as whole).

Dune - a book I do recommend you read - has some fun with how the brain can be used as a tool for the purposes of the individual, and a tool to effect the body and reality outside the body. It is all of that, and grasping that is a very useful thing to gain from reading the book. Just exposure to the ideas expressed and embodied by the Mentat and Bee Gesserit is useful. You, the reader learns, are not helpless - you have a brain that can effect itself, your body and your environment IF you train it to do the chosen job and take action to achieve the chosen task when ready.

Soldier ask not and Dorsie play with similar ideas, and they are also worth reading for that reason.

Dune is also a book about politics - real politics, not the party political fluff and bluster. Politics is a complicated subject all by its self, but read The Prince by Machiavelli as well, if interested. Dune will effect your thinking about politics - the real nuts and bolts of it - but less so if you skip the chapter headings.

Again, I'm seeing a difference between the two ways Dune may effect the thinking of the reader. The semi-mystical presentation of the brain training elements will nestle happily in the mind of most readers, but the grasp of political fundamentals, and application of that gained knowledge to evaluation of the readers reality will only be of any benefit if thought about.

Atlas Shrugged

This is a book that will definitely influence your thinking if you read it. It is specifically designed to do so.

I don't recommend anyone to read Atlas Shrugged. The value of the book can be summed up in a few of sentences.

What you work for is yours (of course, what else? It isn't mine, is it?).

What you do with the product of your work is up to you (Of course. It's yours, isn't it?).

No one has an automatic right to the product of your work (of course, if you give the product of your work,
that is your choice).

Being the recipient of such gifts is dis-empowering and weakening to the receiver (of course, if you don't strive and work for something you don't value it, nor develop the ability to achieve other similar things; just
evaluate how powerless a child would be if given nothing).

These ideas will definitely seep into your thinking should you read Atlas Shrugged. But along with those ideas there are a host of others, some of which will nestle up snugly in your mind and make themselves at home without volition or notice. What you read effects your mind, and is sometimes designed to do exactly that. There is a good deal, especially in that context, about the book and the philosophy attached that I really seriously do not and will not approve of.

There are great chunks of the interconnected ideas that are well worth thinking about simply because they are poison if not at the very least thought about. Let me just point out one that might influence the readers thinking. Many of us have fallen into the negative trap of being selfish in relationships, but to incorporate justifications for that into a supposedly complete philosophy is certainly a selfishness too far.

I'm going to end with Atlas Shrugged for examples, having supplied others to give some context for the first book mentioned. The book that I think has by far the greater value.

Having said that, one of the main ideas rejected in the work, that being 'good' and being 'self-sacrificing' are synonymous is very dangerous to the individual when taken to its logical conclusion. Best not be a sheep when there are wolves about.

I'm spending more time on AS than others, primarily because reviewers keep bringing it up and comparing it to my own work, and making value judgments about me. The latter is annoying. There are people who have known me my whole life who don;t know my mind well enough to make value judgments about it. It's a tad annoying to have some random stranger who read a book I happened to write and tell other people how my mind works.

Well, never mind, can't be helped, but motive and context matter, as I'm fond of saying... because they do matter. To all of us, as we each have our own context - partly consisting of what books with read and how much of them we have absorbed or rejected - and we each have our own motives for what we say and/or do.

My primary motive here is to get the reader to go read a book - this book.

Science & Sanity

Science & Sanity isn't dressed up as a work of fiction. It is a far harder read (even than the very deliberately long and turgid Atlas Shrugged) but it is, I think, very much the most worthy book mentioned. Science & Sanity echoes concepts I have been struggling with for decades - and now I have read it it seems like I was trying to re-invent the wheel. Which is a pity, when you think about it, as it is likely to be the one book mentioned that the majority of readers will not even have heard of.

And now a little light relief, for no readily apparent reason; one of my favorite songs, and likely always will be.