4 Questionable Means of Cheating Death–Friday Four

The shadow of the reaper looms long over the human race. As mankind’s oldest foe, death is an opponent not to be taken lightly. And in fear of our very nature, a few terrified souls such as yourself have set out on a desperate search for a way to avoid fate. I could say be careful what you wish for, but I know that’ll fall on deaf ears. With time standing against you and old age eroding everything you wish to save, it’s pretty clear that you’ll take any Faustian bargain which poses a potential solution.

Instead, let me walk you through some of your options–although be warned, most of them have less than pleasant side effects. Here are 4 of the more attainable, if highly questionable, means of cheating death.

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4 Tips for Talking to the Truly Alien–Friday Four

Extraterrestrial Communication ContactIf you’re lucky enough to live in a universe with precursors, however negligent they may be, then the aliens you encounter might have more in common with you than you’d expect. But what happens when the life among the stars is so different that even basic communication is difficult? How can you hope to strike up a peace agreement, or a trade deal, or simply acknowledge each others’ right to exist, when their way of thinking is totally incompatible with us? Just imagine how much we could learn from people whose perspective is that different from ours!

As long as the guns aren’t blazing, there’s nothing to fear. With enough time and effort, communication will become possible, so stick with it. Peace is attainable, and we can reach it together by using these 4 tips for extraterrestrial communication.

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The Philosophy of Good Sci-Fi

This week saw the premiere of APB, yet another in a long line of police procedurals with a thin veneer of sci-fi slapped on top (the thinnest yet), the third on FOX in particular following the abysmal receptions of Almost Human and Minority Report (still can’t believe that got the green light). The basic premise is a Libertarian power fantasy: a tech billionaire, personally affected by crime, takes over the incompetently run police precinct by throwing his money around against the city’s politicians and turns it into his privately run force that works perfectly through the use of apps and drones and tech buzzword #37 not found. Admittedly, the premise annoys me on its face; this kind of billionaire “altruism” is just not true to reality, and by forcing this into the setting of a real, modern city like Chicago, it just makes the difference that much more stark. Yes, I’m aware it’s “inspired” by a real event, and the show had a female cop to voice the audience’s potential concerns in the pilot…

But, ironically, that’s exactly where it falls apart. In an attempt to head these off, they fall back on standard police tactics even where it doesn’t make sense, eschewing the tech advantage that they’ve built for “experience and street smarts beat all.” Trust me, the show had plenty of other issues in terms of acting and storytelling, but if it could commit to the idea at its core, it wouldn’t fall into the same category as its predecessors. Because after looking at dozens of these sci-fi TV shows over the last few years, there’s a pattern that’s emerged:

The longer a show has run, the more likely it is to have a clear philosophy to its story. Shows that aren’t founded on a core belief inevitably flounder and fail.

Why? Let’s take a look.

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4 Tips to Avoid Body-Snatching–Friday Four

A shockingly common adaptation for life among the stars, body-snatching is a problem that any would-be explorer needs to consider before setting off. Even if the alien being in question doesn’t set its sights on your body directly, it can still be a serious issue that your ship has to deal with; after all, you wouldn’t want to accidentally facilitate some kind of subversive invasion of another planet, slowly occurring behind the scenes, would you? I mean, could you imagine if the planet’s leadership just suddenly went totally nuts for no apparent reason? Like, if they just started making nonsense declarations and lying about things you’d just seen them say and do with your own eyes. It’d be so obvious that something was seriously wrong, and yet no one seems to notice this suspiciously body snatcher-like agenda…

Oh, sorry. Maybe that just happens sometimes? Either way, here are 4 points to consider when dealing with aliens that can steal the appearance and/or minds of another.

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A Subjectively Obscure Sci-Fi Primer: Legend

Legend 1995 TV title cardThe Subjectively Obscure Sci-Fi Primer returns for the new year with another unusual genre crossover. We’ve done the SF legal drama; we’ve looked at a sci-fi soap opera; and now, it’s time for the Western genre to have a taste of science fiction goodness. While we often hear about the Western influence on the sci-fi genre, through shows like Star Trek with its “Wagon Train to the Stars,” or most obviously in Firefly, it’s not too often that this influence flows in reverse–but 1995 UPN series Legend is one such example. There have been others, and more notable ones, too, like The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., so what makes the brief, 12-episode Legend worth a look first? Come along and learn why.

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4 Means of Sci-Fi Punishment–Friday Four

Crime is a fact of life in any civilization (well, almost), be it a wretched hive of scum and villainy or the upstanding Federation. And where there’s crime, there’s laws preventing it and punishments for breaking those laws. But with all this futuristic technology at our disposal, surely we can come up with something a little more interesting than steel bars and heavy fines, right? So here are 4 ways to deal with the convicts of the future, ensuring that they serve out their time… although whether these forms of sci-fi punishment are actually worse than rotting in a jail cell today is up for debate.

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Happy Holidays! A Free ebook gift!

unjust_tinyA special, exclusive short has just been released for free! Unjustified Nostalgia, a short story written just for my most loyal fans, is out now. Check out a brief summary below:

Fiona takes Lance out on a special birthday date to see one of his favorite bands perform live, but the fun’s put to rest when Unjustified Nostalgia reveals that it might be their last show. After a trip backstage, the band’s famed cyborg drummer has a request: help find out why the record label they were planning to sign with has suddenly gotten so aggressive. Can the band’s future be saved, or will they fade out once and for all?


If you’re already a subscriber to my mailing list, you should’ve received instructions on how to download it straight to your inbox last night. If you aren’t subscribed yet, no problem! click here and sign up; once you confirm, you’ll get the details, too, no matter when you’re reading this. It’s a permanent freebie! And don’t worry if you haven’t read The Arcology or Eidolon yet; this story’s relatively free of spoilers, so if you like it, you can always go back and get caught up.

Enjoy the story, and if you have any problems or comments, feel free to let me know!

4 Surprising Technologies for Your Next Superweapon–Friday Four

death-star-firingSo you’ve got some very big dreams of destruction to fulfill, and shopping around for Death Stars is a little bit tricky. I mean, there aren’t many manufacturers, and there’s sort of a de facto monopoly on who gets to own one… it’s hard for your average Joe Supervillain to get his hands on the kind of weapon. And hey, we might be mad scientists, but that doesn’t mean we’re all mad inventors, right? But fear not, my ambitious world-conquering friend. Superweapons are actually a lot easier to come by than you’ve probably been led to believe. Giant lasers aren’t the be-all, end-all of earth shattering kabooms. So here are 4 sci-fi technologies you might not have realized double as great superweapons (in order of difficulty to obtain, not destructive force).

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What Could Have Been: Alphas Season 3

alphasSince the end of Battlestar Galactica, Syfy has had a tough time finding a new flagship show. Continuing BSG in the form of Caprica failed, and Stargate Universe died around the same time. Defiance seemed a possible successor, but it bit the dust last year, and it’s only recently that the heir apparent came to be in the form of The Expanse. In between came Alphas, a show about people with superpowers that were pretty toned down compared to the heroes dominating the big screen at the time. And much like SGU, Alphas was canceled in its second season on a notorious cliffhanger. I’ll be honest; I never was much of a fan, getting bored with it after the first two episodes, but I’m not one to turn down a special request if I can fulfill it (especially since I’m not always able to). So here’s what I found, from the mouths of the writers and cast, on the lost future of Alphas.

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A Dismal Reflection: Apocalyptic Alternate Realities

turn-left-titanicWhen it comes to TV, things are always at risk of getting stale; if a series has a twenty episode season, for example, then a savvy viewer might realize that the lead actor’s character won’t die in episode 10. Characters rarely die at all, in fact, and permanent injuries mean permanent makeup (just ask Coulson how long he went one-handed). Even sets are rarely destroyed, since so much money goes into building them; with so little seemingly at stake (usually), it can be easy for the audience to stop seeing the enemies as threatening. How can you show the danger posed by our enemies without upsetting the status quo? Enter sci-fi’s favorite trick, the parallel universe/alternate timeline, where events and circumstances differ from the primary setting of the show in specific ways. By using these familiar-yet-strange settings, the writers can explore facets of the characters and the world in which they live that would usually be unavailable: how they might react to the destruction of their home, or the death of a critical character. Better still, since this alternate world is only around for an episode or two, massive changes to the status quo can be made, giving the writers a chance to explore apocalyptic themes that are usually out of reach.

What? No, it’s an utter coincidence I’m writing about apocalypses the same week as the election…

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