Archive for the ‘Tropes and Writing’ Category

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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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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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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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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