A Subjectively Obscure Sci-Fi Primer: Dark Skies

The Primer is back, unexpectedly as it may be, to cover little known 90’s UFO series and X-Files coattail rider, Dark Skies. Set in the 60’s with the backdrop of the cold war ever-present, Dark Skies poses an alternative to what you thought you knew about that time. But is being a period piece and limiting yourself primarily to UFOs instead of the SFF kitchen sink approach enough for this series to stand on its own, or was it right to be so quickly forgotten? It’s time to find out.

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4 Hazards of the Ubermensch–Friday Four

Super Soldiers. Augments. Transhumans. Call your pet project what you will, but the endgame is the same: to create a variety of human that surpasses our natural limitations. I won’t bore such a… “forward thinking” scientist such as yourself with trifling arguments like ethical and moral concerns about playing god or fostering ideas of supremacy. But for someone who seems to be so enamored with your own understanding Nietzche’s ideals, you might be interested in some advice on self-preservation, at least. Because if there’s one thing an engineer of a new race should be aware of, it’s the Hazards of the Ubermensch.

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4 Signs of A Doomsday Cult–Friday Four

The end of the world often looms large over sci-fi and fantasy settings; AI uprisings, alien invasions, experiments gone wrong and earth-shattering superweapons are just some of the ways your life could be cut short in an instant. After a while, people could begin to feel powerless, like their lives lose meaning when it could all be over regardless of what they do… so when someone shows up claiming they have the secret to salvation, who wouldn’t be at least a little inclined to listen? Be careful, though, because this smooth talking man with a plan might just have a very different goal in mind. Did you think people joined a doomsday cult for the fun of it?

Here are 4 things to look for when you’re trying to find out if this bold new group is actually selling snake venom instead of just snake oil.

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A Subjectively Obscure Sci-Fi Primer: Otherworld

Otherworld Title CardThe Primer is back with another odd, forgotten series: Otherworld. Originally debuting on CBS in 1985, Otherworld tells the tale of the Sterling family, who get lost in an alternate, dystopian world called Thel after being ditched in a pyramid by their tour guide during a once-in-10,000-years planetary alignment. Stranded in a world of androids, beastmen and authoritarian rule–how did they get there, and how can they get back? Given its short, 8-episode season, the odds are against them, but let’s find out. Read more

4 Signs Your AI Companion is Becoming Sentient — Friday Four

Jarvis AI Companion MarvelA great way to interface with your new technology is to give it a little personality. Make it responsive, reactive, maybe even predictive, and next thing you know it’s catering to your needs before you’re even aware of them. An Artificial Intelligence, or AI companion is a great option for those remote planetary outposts or long-term space voyages, keeping you sane when you’d otherwise be alone. But there’s a funny tendency with these sorts of AI to become far, far more than they were originally programmed to be, and they’re almost as likely to go crazy evil as they are to become a benevolent buddy. That’s a pretty convincing argument to at least keep aware of their development, so here are 4 indicative signs that your digital companion is evolving beyond its limitations.

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Coming Soon: The Resonance Enigma

Book 3 in the newly re-branded Dystopian Detective series is now available for preorder at a special price. Check the description for The Resonance Enigma below:

“Playing a game in the real world means you’re never logged out.”

To find a gamer’s killer, private detective Lance Canela must log in to the Augmented Reality Game, Resonance. But even in a virtual world, the machinations of the megacorps are always in motion. What secret lies within the game’s servers, and how does it relate to the strange girl waiting for her murdered friend to return?

ARGs are a topic that hasn’t been discussed much in sci-fi, so I’ve used my own experience playing games like Ingress and Pokemon Go to construct the story, which I hope will give it that feeling of authenticity that so many stories about gaming lack. Virtual reality, location-based gaming, and artificial intelligence come together to create a mystery that I think even those who aren’t gamers will enjoy.

Thanks for looking, and I hope you’ll give the book a chance. The previous two books, The Arcology and Eidolon, are already available if you want a headstart!

4 Options at the End of the World–Friday Four

Well, the day has come. I think we all knew it had to end like this; whether it was the environmental collapse, Robot Revolt, or some villain’s unexpected superweapon, the Earth’s time is up. But, hey, this isn’t the time for getting down. Just because the Earth is doomed doesn’t mean the human race has to be. And hell, what have we got left to lose by trying? Even if you and I don’t make it out, we can at least fight against the encroaching darkness by making sure that our achievements aren’t forgotten. So here’s to you, my fellow Ozymandias; perhaps one of these four choices will ensure our memory fairs a bit better than our namesake.

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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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