Friday, March 22, 2019

A Night With Jeremy McCarter

(Author's Note: This post is dedicated to my daughter Riley.)



First off, a word about my daughter Riley. (That's her in the middle.) Other people have teenage kids who run all over town causing problems and giving their parents no end of heartache. I have a teenage kid who asks her dad to take her to meet an author. I'll take my kid over one of those kids any day and twice on Sunday. I'm pretty proud to have a daughter who acts right and knows respect. It helps that I like Hamilton too, but I'd be proud anyway.

Oh, did I mention Hamilton? Listen, I know that like elebenty bajillion of you probably already know all about the musical (and don't call it a play in Riley's presence, especially if I'm standing next to you.) but for those of you that don't, it's a play about Alexander Hamilton (yes, the ten dollar bill guy) with a soundtrack dominated by hip hop tracks. I haven't had a chance to actually see the show, but the soundtrack is amazeballs.

Anyway, Jeremy McCarter is the guy in the picture and he literally wrote the book about Hamilton.

*SIGH*

Who died and made you an English teacher? Yes, I mean literally literally. Look at this thing:


Do you see his name listed on the cover? Do you know why? It's BECAUSE HE WROTE THE DAMN BOOK!!!

Yes, I have been interrupted in the past by people telling me I was using the word "literally" when I meant "figuratively" why do you ask?

Come to think of it, why did they ask? Was it their business?

Anyway..

It was a great time. If you get a chance to hear Jeremy speak, go. Seriously. He's smart. He's funny. I think I'm supposed to say "He's gracious" when what I mean is "He's really cool" but he's both so I guess you can take your pick of the two and assume that's what you read. I'm good either way.

Jeremy has a ton of funny stories about the making of Hamilton and he's met all of the original cast, so he's got a lot to talk about. He also had a hand in the making of the musical itself, although he served more as a person who encouraged Lin Manuel Miranda than as a true creator, but it was still fun to hear about.

Seriously, I'm really sad that I'll never get to her Lin singing Helpless. I bet that was a hoot. I mean, it was part of the demo of the music, so it'll never get released but imagine if it did. How awesome would that be?

Anyway, I got to interact with Jeremy just a bit because there was a question and answer session at the end of the presentation and also because he signed my book. See?


I don't think he believed me when I told him I'd been a fan of hip hop since the early 80s, but whatever. I get told that I look younger than I am all the time. (Seriously. I'm Fogey-Two and everybody tells me I look like I was in my twenties. I really did rock out to Run DMC's Raising Hell and had to save my allowance for over a month to get He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, back when they still called him The Fresh Prince.)

I thanked Riley after the program for asking me to take her. It was a good time and something I would have missed if she hadn't told me about it. Oh, and I didn't thank anyone from the Troy (MI) Public Library for scheduling it, or the Troy Community Center for hosting it, but I will so here:

THANKS GUYS!!

Oh and thank you to the Friends of the Troy Library for raising the funds to make it possible. Feel free to visit their Donation Page. Maybe leave a little something while you're there. They can use the help and they've earned it.

Oh, if it seems a bit weird that I dropped a donation page for a group I don't even belong to in the first place just realized that there was no admission charged for this event and I'm sure getting Jeremy in from his home in Chicago was not free. I'm just trying to help them make some of it back.

And of course, thanks to Jeremy McCarter for coming out and giving the talk in the first place.

For my part, I'm just happy that I got to do something like this with my daughter.

She was talking to her friend Malia at dinner (of course we had to eat something before we went) and they were all excited about going. Something about "We've been talking about doing Hamilton stuff for months." I think I may have fudged the quote a little bit actually. As a divorced dad I don't get to see my kids anywhere near as often as I'd like and stuff like this is really cool because I get to share a moment.

I will say this much though:

If this kid tries to keep me from listening to Guns and Ships in my car one more time, she's grounded. I have no idea how I'd make that stick since I don't live with her but I grew up on Bone Thugs 'N' Harmony and I like the fast rapping. Darn it kid!

As for the book itself, I haven't read it yet. I picked up a copy from the talk last night (several copies were brought in for sale by the local Barnes and Noble)  and I will say that the pictures of the original cast inside are incredibly awesome. I guess I should have expected that from a production of this magnitude, but I found myself surprised. The last time I saw a book this gorgeous was back when I got a trade paperback about the Annie movie back in the 80s. Really. The work that went into designing these pages really paid off.

Bottom Line:

For the Troy Public Library: 5.0 out of 5 Stars
For the Friends of the Troy Public Library: 5.0 out of 5 Stars
For the Troy Community Center: 5.0 out of 5 Stars
For Jeremy McCarter: 5.0 out of 5 Stars
and
For my daughter Riley: 4.75 out of 5 Stars
(Next time, I bet she lets me play Guns and Ships!)

Hamilton: The Revolution is available for purchase at the following link:

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

It's Coming. It's Almost Here. I'm Geeked.

Below is a list of excuse for a geeky/nerdy person to have not seen Stranger Things as of Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at 10:45 AM EDT:

a.) I died the day before it came out.
b.) The dog ate my Netflix.
c.) I ran out of gas on the way.
d.) I blew a tire.
e.) I'm giving up my nerd card and becoming a mundane.


Seriously. If you haven't seen the first two seasons, hie thee off to Netflix and come back when you're one of the cool kids. I'll wait.


...

...

...

...

...

OK, back now? Awesome. You're obviously as excited as I am about this series. Wanna see something cool? Here's the trailer for Season 3:


Looks pretty cool, huh? I mean, it's SOOOO 80s it's ridiculous. I'm so ready to spaz out over the tubular shot of the mall! And that new monster? Gag me with a spoon!

Right?

Listen, there are those of us out there who lived and grew up in and around the times portrayed in Stranger Things. I was there. I hung out at the mall. I played Dungeons and Dragons and I loved it.

Hell, I want to find a new D+D group. If you're near the Detroit Area and like to play, hit me up!

AHEM

As I was saying...

It doesn't get much better than Stranger Things. Really the only bad part about it is that it's a Netflix show and the whole season hits on the same day. I think I might have to cancel life for a few days afterward. Who has time to work, play, see the kids when there's a new season of Stranger Things to watch?

Although, come to think of it, my oldest likes Stranger Things so maybe I can geek out with her over a bag of popcorn.

Anyway...

I'm geeked. It comes out on July 4 and it sounds like I just found a great way to celebrate American independence, because what could be better than partying with crass commercialistic capitalism and the death (I'm guessing) of a bad guy?

I'm in! I'm sooo in! I'll see you at the land of Flix on the Net!

Some Stranger Things items are available for purchase at the links below:








Saturday, March 16, 2019

NOMINATE, NOMINATE, NOMINATE... LATER!!!!!

Friends, Romans, Country-men, lend me your ears...

Or sumfin'. I mean, it's a cool saying and why should I have to do all of the work around here?

I mean, I write about five thousand words a month on this blog. That's almost as much as a lot of indy authors write in a day. I'm clearly overworked and have no sense of irony.

Or sumfin'.

Look, I love all of you out there in cyberspace and I love the geeky people more than most but help me out here...

Listen, I understand that, once again, the Dragon Awards nominations ballots are available. I get that it's the only award truly given by the fans. (No, the Hugo Awards are not fan awards. They're given by a cabal of professionals and have intentionally run the fans out of the nominating process). I fully support what they're doing and love the fact that theirs is truly a trophy given to someone out of the love of the people who support the product. I even get the fact that they urge you to nominate early. I'm just asking you to wait.

I see you working. Yes you, out there in some other part of reality with the red face and smoke coming out of your ears.

Or sumfin'

You're trying to conflate this with an attempt to tell people to not nominate at all, but that's just not what it is.

You're trying to say that I'm denigrating the nomination process. I'm not and in fact I will release my list of nominations later this year.

I'm just using my towering perch to reach the masses of humanity..

Or sumfin'

 Look, I've received two emails recently thanking me for "all you do for the genre" and now I'm starting to suffer delusions of mediocrity. Any more of this and I'll start believing that this blog actually matters. I don't know if I can stand the ego boost that would give me. If I start thinking that I'm good at something life gets weird.

... To point out a simple fact:

Works first released between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 are eligible for this year's award. Seriously. I totes stole that wording right off of the ballot. Yup, I'm a bad boy alright. I mean, that ballot could have been copyrighted. I'm a rebel!

Or sumfin'

What that also means is that any works published between now and June 30 will not be eligible for next year's award because eligibility for the 2020 Dragon Awards will start with works published on July 1, 2019.  So, if an award worthy work comes out between when you nominate and the end of the eligibility period, you don't get to nominate it. If enough of this happens, we could end up leaving out some people whose only crime was waiting until their product was ready to release it. That sucks.

Or sumfin'

Look, I'm not telling you who to nominate. I'm not telling you to avoid nominating something that has already been published. I'm just urging you to think about this:

Today's date is March 16. The end of the eligibility period is June 30.  That's three months and fourteen days away. That means that over twenty-five percent of the eligibility period is still left. That's a quarter of all the books, games, shows and movies that aren't even released to the public yet. None of us (unless you're an ARC recipient, of course) have seen them. You can't know how good something is, and thus whether it deserves an award if you haven't laid eyes up on it.

I mean, if you've got your mind made up in some categories, that's good. I know I'll be voting the most recent WoW expansion (Battle for Azeroth) for Best Video Game. I know I'll be voting Hell Spawn for Best Horror Novel, etc.

I'm just saying to give some time to people who are still hard at work on what they're doing. They deserve it and I, for one don't want to see someone rushing out product that's not ready just so that they can get it done before nominations start. We're all better off when creators take their time to get things right. No one likes their SF/F to suck. Especially me.

Or sumfin'

Now don't get me wrong.  I understand that a lot of creators and/or publishers have published lists early. That makes sense. There are people out there, The World's Most Awesome GF(TM) included, who buy everything on a nomination list and read/watch it before voting. There are others who may not buy everything but might not ever have heard of a particular creator before they get nominated. The Dragon Awards are not just an award, they're free marketing and they attract the attention of the target market for a lot of this stuff. It makes sense to try to get onto the ballot. And guys, I approve.

Publishing, whether it's books, movies/TV or games is a for-profit business. Publishers employ people who use the money to care for their families. Creators skip the middleman and use the money they make off of their work to feed their families directly. This is a good thing. We all need food in our bellies and a roof over our head and if getting their work nominated makes it easier to do that work...

Hell, I'd do it too. Seriously.

Or sumfin'.

And there might just be an ulterior motive behind my belief that the Dragon Awards should do an award for Best Fan Site. Maybe that makes me a bad guy, but at least I'm an honest bad guy.

Here's the thing though: The marketing is the marketing. One nomination is one nomination. Think about this, too: The list isn't released until after the end of the nomination period. So, even if you are helping people to promote their product and feed their families, you're not doing a better job of it by nominating earlier. It's a wash either way.  And one that doesn't even have a harpoon sticking out of it's stomach.

Or sumfin'

 So yes, send your nominations soaring into the Dragon Awards like a leaf on the wind...

But do it three months from now and not today. Because later works deserve consideration too.

Or sumfin'

And no, I'm not including a link to the ballot now. I'll do that when I post my picks in three months time. Because I practice what I preach and I'm not locking anyone out.


Some works that have been nominated for Dragon Awards past are listed below:



















Friday, February 22, 2019

Image Comics Saga Volume One Written by Brian K Vaughn Art by Fiona Staples


When a person criticizes something, they should offer a solution. When someone else follows that solution they should be commended. And let's face it, I've done some criticizing.

Something I have stated repeatedly and to anyone who would listen is that I'm not against "representation" at all, but I believe it should be done right. I've had multiple conversations with people who believe that this is tantamount to not wanting representation, but they're wrong. I'm all for characters in books/movies/games/whatever else who happen to be of whatever race/gender/orientation/whatever else that anyone out there would like to be. I'm just not for stealing someone else's hard work and pissing off an entire fandom by altering an existing character to fit a political agenda.

People point to Star Trek: The Original Series as a leader in representation and they're right. At a time when integration just didn't exist on TV, Gene Roddenberry added an Asian man and a black woman to the bridge crew of the USS Enterprise. They went on that five year mission. But here's what the Social Justice Bullies in the world always miss: Roddenberry did it right.

Right how? Right by inventing new characters (Nyota Uhura and Hikaru Sulu were never seen before characters) and new stories .(It's hard to believe for a guy in his forties, but there was a time when ST:TOS was still putting out new episodes.) Seriously, when a rumor surfaced that Sulu would be gay in a Trek movie George Takei, the actor who played Sulu and is actually gay and married to another man in real life came out against it. (Google the wedding pics. They both looked fabulous.) His response was simple: Create another character. It's not that hard to get and it would have been easy to do: The Star Trek have introduced many new characters over the years. That's the way it should work. Seriously. You want it? You got it. Just do your own work to make it happen. If you're wondering, this is why Wonder Woman made ginormous piles of cash and the Ghostbusters reboot didn't. Wonder Woman has always been female.

So why am I bringing this up now?

When I was at a book fair (I guess that's what you'd call it)  over the summer at Detroit's own Eastern Market, I picked up a trade paperback. It was called Saga: Volume One. The woman working the table at the book fair was really excited when I bought it. I was attracted by the cover, which pictured a woman with faerie wings and a man with devil's horns. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that the reason she was so excited and thanking me so profusely for buying it was because they were both black and so was she. I guess she never realized that guys like me have been consuming entertainment with and by black people for decades. Seriously, if you had asked her I'd be she would've told you a guy like me had never seen a Blade comic or movie and never watched Independence Day either. Whatever, it's not like it was the first time I'd ever been stereotyped. I grabbed the book and headed home. Life happened and I didn't get a chance to read it until today. That sucks. I want those months back, because Saga is a good comic and I missed a chance to catch up on what comes up after this because I was screwing around reading other stuff.

Saga: Volume One is a good story in and of itself. Being the first trade means that you can easily read it by itself and enjoy it. Come to think of it, that's exactly what I did. I don't plan on stopping here by any stretch of the imagination, but it worked the first time. There is a lot in here. The book asks more questions than it answers, but that's what it's supposed to do. It's the first book and this has the potential to be a star spanning, galactic, epic magnum opus... But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The main characters of Saga are a committed couple  Marko, the demon horned father and Alana, the faerie winged mother and their daughter, Hazel who is apparently going to grow up to have both. As of the beginning of the comic though, Hazel is just being borned. It's weird though, because Hazel also narrates the story. It's like the whole thing is done in flashback. I like it.

The world of Saga is a rough place. It is a galaxy where pretty much everyone is at war with everyone else. Marko and Alana come from opposite sides of that war. They're on the run from both sides because they're considered to be traitors. This becomes obvious on like the fourth or fifth page. That works so well. This entire TPB is filled with action. There is never a dull moment. You're constantly glued to it because there's no let down, no waiting point. By the time I realized I had turned the first page, I was done with the first of the original issues. It flows that well.

The art is gorgeous. This is the part where the guy who can't draw a treble clef unaided is supposed to provide you with all of the technical details, but I don't work that way. I just don't have the technical knowledge to do so. What I can tell you is that I've seen Hollywood movies with huge budgets that don't look half this good. I can also say that the art, like all good comic book art, adds to the story instead of being a distraction from it. I could stare at this all day.

Being a story set in space, there are a lot of aliens. I like aliens. I'm not sure if Fiona Staples came up with these appearance all by herself or if she had help but whoever did it and however it worked, they look awesome. It's always kind of nice to see aliens in comics because the artist isn't stuck with something that looks like a human in a costume and Staples did a damn good job making her original artwork look original. The cool part about the fact that I've only read the first one so far is that I still get to find out what she came up with after this. I can't wait.

But it's not just science fiction. I mean, it'd still be awesome if it was but why stop when you can add in more awesome? Marko himself is capable of some kinds of magic. That already adds a lot to the story and it's just starting. It also appears to be a rare gift. I don't want to give away too much here but it's obvious that magic is both uncommon and feared. There is a lot of potential here and I can't wait to see what they do with it.

The language in Saga is real. Marko and Alana talk the like the people where I grew up talk. What I'm saying is that they sometimes use a couple of those words that your mama always told you not to when you were growing up. I approve. I use the same kind of language at times. Marko and Alana both served in the military of their cultures and military personal have a tendency to use a lot of bad language. I bring this up as a warning to those of you who can't handle honesty in fiction. If you're offended by the occasional swear word I'm sure there's an old issue of Archie Comics laying around somewhere that you can get your hands on. For those of us who don't get all worked up over something that is quite frankly realistic, Saga is a real treat.

And part of the reason Saga is so enjoyable is because the characters act like real people as well Marko and Alana are two people in love who really just want to be left alone but can't be because of who they are and where they came from. They're both deserters from their respective militaries but they left because they couldn't be together. The villains in the book are chasing them because they've been paid to. It makes sense. I mentioned how gorgeous the book was earlier and I meant it but that's not all there is to it. Saga is a good story as well as awesome art.

All in all, I'm really glad I picked up Saga Volume One at the book fair. I wish it had been a little longer, but that's just me whining because I'm not ready to be done with it yet. It's probably the highest honor you can give to a creator. Seriously. Next time you see someone whose work you enjoy tell them you were disappointed because it wasn't long enough and you wanted more. See how disappointed they're not. I had a similar experience about something I used to write called "The Rules". You get geeked up when people tell you they want more.

Here's the good news: I'll be heading out to Great Lakes Comic Con tomorrow, on the campus of Macomb Community College. That's my alma mater. There is a good chance I'll be able to run into the same people that were at the book fair. It's only like fifteen-ish miles away. I'll be looking for a copy of Saga Volume Two and maybe three depending on how things look otherwise. I'm sure it'll be a good investment.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Swaddled Babies

Saga Volume One
Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Image Comics, 2012


Saga Volume One is available for purchase at the link below:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Importance of Communication - A Short Story by Jim McCoy

(Author's Note: Once upon a time, I met a girl. Her name was Stephanie, and she was sweet and nice and cute and smart and totally the type of woman I needed to stay away from because I knew if I didn't I'd fall in love with her. I mean, not only was she all of the above, but she didn't like to dance! I freaking hate dance floors...

Anyway, that was just a bit over four years ago. I tried to act like I wasn't actively pursuing a relationship with her from the second I first contacted her, but I'm pretty sure I failed miserably. See, the awesome part about dating a smart girl is that they can carry on an interesting conversation and they can analyze a situation and help you see things with a point of view that you've never realized existed. They can understand what you're saying when you talk about things that maybe some other girls wouldn't. Having a smart chick is awesome. Of course, the down side of having a smart girl around is that she can undoubtedly interpret things in an intelligent manner and when you try to pretend that you're okay with just being friends when you first meet and you really want to pursue a relationship from the time you first said "Hello" she's bright enough to see through your bullshit. It's a trade-off to be sure, but it's one that I'm definitely glad I made.

Steph has been with me through a lot, too. Life has not always been easy the last four years and I use reading and this blog the same way some people use drugs. I mean that literally. Sinking into someone else's reality is a way of escaping my own. Reading and writing are not what's kept me sane though. My Stephanie is.

We live six hundred miles apart and yet she's there for me every time I need her. She's closer to me than anyone I know, even with all of the physical distance between us. There is no one I can count on more than my girl and it means a lot. Lord knows there were times when I wouldn't have blamed her for leaving, but she didn't.

This is my two hundredth blog post. Tomorrow is the four year anniversary of the day I started this blog. This is a short story that I actually finished when I'm in the habit of never finishing my fiction.  Today is, of course, Valentine's Day. I'm celebrating. Because of all of the above,  I'm dedicating this post to my rock, my love, my Stephanie. I wuvs you honey. Here's hoping for a lot more than four more years. Smewches!)

Lieutenant Junior Grade Jim McCoy sat at the communications console on the bridge of the UES George Washington, a United Earth battlecruiser . He had dark hair and a headset on that would have looked familiar to any person in a twenty-first century call center. He was talking into a console mounted microphone while typing things rapidly into a tablet with a keyboard. “Right, so Sarn't Major Joshua Chamberlain is going to be ok? Dr. Vinogradov has managed to regenerate both his skin and his lungs after the explosion. You know, engineers were never the sharpest knives in the drawer. He was the one in charge, so why was he standing at the highest spot when everything went to shit?”

McCoy cocked his head and smiled. “I hear you. He's an important guy, but how in the hell did the whole team manage to blow themselves up simultaneously during a training exercise?” McCoy nodded. “Yes dear, I get that it's a dangerous job, but damn. Oh, and isn't that the last one?”

Jim's smile got even bigger. It wasn't every day one got to talk to his girlfriend while on duty, even if he had to do it on laser to prevent his emissions from being detected while on what basically amounted to ambush duty. “So how are you?” He paused to listen. “How was your day?” He paused again, briefly. “Did anything exciting happen?” He chuckled. “You always say that. One day, you're going to get caught up in a massive ball of excitement though. I have foreseen it.”



Lieutenant Junior Grade Stephanie Sounders sat a nearly identical communications console on bridge of the nearby hospital ship, the UES Karl Marx. Her short, curly hair was a sandy color. Her smile was heart-melting and her button nose and ears in the shape of sea-shells just made her that much more beautiful. Her glasses were wire rimmed and fit well under her own headset. “I see,” she said in a voice that was sexy without trying to be, “You have foreseen it. Can you tell me precisely how that happened, oh boyfriend of mine?” Steph let out one of her trademark cute little giggles. “I see.” Souders face showed a brief look of confusion. What the hell? Wait one.”

Souders took a look at the display in front of her. “It's confirmed. Weird.” She turned toward her commanding officer“Captain Mao,” she said, “Something's between us and the Washington, sir.”

Mao left his command chair, “Define something, Lieutenant. What is it and how long has it been there?” said the balding, middle aged Asian man in the fancy uniform.

Souders shook her head. “I'm not sure what it was sir. I only know it happened because my panel notified me of a brief interruption of my comms laser with the Washington. I wouldn't have mentioned it, but with us being so far out...”

Mao nodded. “We're also along the likeliest course into the system for an invader. You did the right thing. Shields up, red alert. Lieutenant Lenin give me an active scan of the entire neighborhood. Souders, inform the Washington. Make sure they saw it.”


Ensign Flrtp of the Inngrit Empire dreadnought Mhsgah looked up from his tactical display toward his own captain. His wings fluttered with concern across his four foot tall ant like carapace as he began to speak in his language of hisses and clicks. “Captain, something lased the hull.”

Captain Flrtq looked back at the ensign. “Any damage?”

Flrtp shook his head. “None sir. It was far too weak to make an effective weapon. It appeared to be something more along the lines of a communications las... Sir, WE'RE BEING SCANNED!”



McCoy looked up from his console, his smile turning to a frown, “Sir, the Marx reports that our comms laser was interrupted. I never detected it, but dammit, Lieutenant Souders is good. If she says that...”

“HOLY SHIT!!!” Lieutenant George Patton came up out of his seat, still staring at his screen. “The Marx just went active on scanners. I don't know how they got this far, but we're in the middle of an Inngrit battle group. I've got at least four Dreadnoughts and screening elements.”

Captain JP Jones took charge. “Shields u...” The bridge lurched and a loud boom was heard. Klaxons sounded as Jones nearly fell out of his seat. “...p, Red Alert. REPORT!”

Lt. Patton kept his eyes glued to his station. “We took a hit from a maser sir. We're venting atmo on Decks Two through Five. Casualty reports are still coming in. We've lost two missile tubes and the tactical array, sir. Shields were undamaged as they weren't up yet.”

Captain Jones looked up. “Great. We can shoot but we can't aim. We also have no way to control the space based planetary defenses. I need ideas about how to complete our mission.”

Lt. McCoy looked up. “Sir, I have an incoming message from the Marx.” The ship lurched again and the ensign at the damage control station went into a bulkhead and left a bloody spot as his body hit the deck.



Lt. Souders looked up from her station. “Tactical says the Washington's tactical array was hit. But this WILL work, sir. If our targeting radar can localize a single crewman floating in the black well enough to hit them with a tractor beam, it can certainly localize a dreadnought. Send me the information and I can tight-beam it over to the Washington. After that, they should be able to run it through the targeting computer and generate their own firing solutions.”

Captain Mao looked thoughtful. “How quickly will they be able to generate solutions?”

Souders shrugged. “A lot quicker than they can get a replacement ship out here from orbit, Sir.”

Mao nodded. “Do it.”


Ensign Flrtp looked at his tactical console. “GOOD HIT! The battlecruiser's tactical array has been destroyed. They have no way to target us with the planetary defenses. Our plan worked, sir. Our EMCON was perfect. They never spotted us with our drives off, coasting. We caught them flat-footed, sir.”

Captain Flrtq clacked his pincers together. “Good. When we seize Earth, the queen will surely decide to mate with the drones from our clan. If we get lucky, the next queen could be from our clan. They know we're here. Begin accelerating toward the planet.” The ship bucked and the captain bent nearly in half.

Flrtp dropped to all sixes. “Sir, the humans are returning fire. That missile just reduced our forward shields to thirty percent.”

Flrtq shook his head. “How? They have no way to control their weapons.”



Back on the Washington, Lt. McCoy watched his ship coming apart around him. The bridge was in shambles. The ship was buffeted like a schooner in a storm. Sparks flew from consoles. A small fire broke out near the engineering panel. It was lit up in various shades of red and orange fading to yellow. A panel at the next station over blew out in an electrical frenzy and lit McCoy's shoulder board on fire. “I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS!!” he screamed, throwing it onto the deck and stomping out the flames.

The captain looked at him. “Can you keep the feed going? We're doing a good job of slowing them down.”

The look of determination and rage on McCoy's face would have scared Satan himself into retreat. “Sir, you keep me in line of sight of my St... The Marx sir, and we'll beat these fucking bugs.” McCoy gave an evil smile and touched his right headphone. “YES!!”

Captain Jones turned toward McCoy “Report.”

McCoy looked down at his station again. “Sir, I haven't had the bandwidth to get through to Command. It wasn't meant to be a tactical array too. BUT STEPH DID!!! That was Admiral Halsey, sir. They're plotting microjumps and should be in range of the enemy fleet in less than two minutes.”

Jones's eyes blazed. “Can the Marx hold out that long?”



In space, the battle was on. Millions of projectiles flew from tens of thousands of stealthed platforms toward the Inngrit fleet. Unmanned weapons exploded. Ships came apart. Others were crippled and turned away from the fight, seeking the shelter provided their comrades. But the fleet kept coming. The screening elements were taking a pounding. Cruisers and destroyers were consumed in fireballs of destruction. That was their job. At the center of the fleet though, stood the dreadnoughts and they were mostly untouched. Inside his ship, the Inngrit commander watched his tactical display, satisfied. Things were going according to plan. Two lone human ships stood at the center of the maelstrom taking a pounding. It was gutsy, but they had no chance.



Lieutenant Souders wiped away the blood trickling from her right nostril and kept at her job with her ship dying around her. She could hear damage control losing its battle to keep the Marx alive. No one was giving up, but there wasn't much they could do. Suddenly, her face lit up. “Sir, the fleet is jumping! Sir?” Souders turned around when her captain didn't respond. She didn't see him.

Back in Earth orbit, Admiral William Halsey smiled grimly. The United Earth Fleet had so far kept its new micro-jumping technology secret. It sucked to expose it, but this was an attack on Earth itself. He looked to his own communications officer, Lieutenant (SG) Lewis Puller “Message to the fleet. Prepare for immediate contact after jumping. Jump five seconds from my mark. Good luck, and good hunting. Mark.”

Five seconds later, in a near simultaneous transition, millions of tons mass death waiting to happen winked out of existence and appeared to the rear of the bug formation. The fury of the fleet's crews knew no bounds. Crippled Inngrit ships that had fallen to the rear were swatted out of existence to clear firing lanes. Ships fired every weapon they could as fast as they could. Missiles swarmed like angry bees whose hive had been violated. Earth's ships poured it on from an unexpected direction and slapped away a much thinner screen.



Back on the Marx, Lt. Souders was working hard, furiously pushing buttons on her console. She felt her forehead wrinkle in concentration. It was working despite the pounding her ship was taking. If she could keep it going for just a few more minutes...

“LIEUTENANT SOUDERS!!!!” came a voice from behind her. It was Ensign Trotsky.

Souders felt her heartbeat, “Not now.”

Trotsky's voice went up two octaves. He was obviously desperate. “Ma'am, the other officers are all dead. YOU'RE IN COMMAND!!”

Souders shook her head. “I don't have time to be in command. I'm keeping us all alive. Just keep me in line of sight of the Washington and find a way to keep the ship from breaking up.”

Trosky nodded. “That sounds like in command to me. You heard her helm.”

Souders felt the ship heel, hard. She stopped pushing buttons on her console. “What the hell?”

Trotsky looked panicked. “That was the targeting radar ma'am.”

Souders turned around. “Get us the HELL OUT OF HERE helm!”

Ensign Ho responded. “What heading ma'am?”

Souders felt her face turn red with frustration. “Away from the Bugs!” She turned back to the comms station.


Lt. McCoy looked up from his comms station on the Washington. “Sir, I just got word from the Marx. Their targeting computer is down. We won't be getting any more data. They're leaving.”

Captain Jones looked up. “So are we. Helm do your best to match velocity, but keep us between the Marx and the Bugs. They're a hospital ship. Comms, inform Admiral Halsey that he needs someone to take over here. We've done as much as we can.”

Aboard his flagship, the Inngrit admiral hissed in approval. The humans' static defenses had fallen silent! The way forward was clear and the enemy ships were behind him. “Increase acceleration. The planet is ours!”


Admiral Halsey stood on his flag bridge waiting for the next thing to go wrong. It was that kind of day.


“Sir,” came the word from Ensign Ray Spruance at tactical, “the defensive ring has fallen silent. The
enemy has increased acceleration toward Earth.”

“I can confirm sir,” said Lt. Puller, “the Marx has lost its targeting computer. Neither ship can aim. Both are leaving.”

Admiral Halsey nodded. “It's the right move. Comms, inform the Hornet to Execute Option X-ray. Then inform our reserves in orbit to get ready. All units, continue to pour it on.”

Halsey looked toward his own tactical display. Ten seconds later, two battlecruisers and their screen of five light cruisers and ten destroyers winked out of existence, only to reappear seconds later, right where the Washington and the Marx had been only shortly before.

Spruance spoke up. “Sir, the Hornet has resumed fire control over the platforms. Fire is resuming and the bugs are walking right into it. The dreadnoughts will be in range in five seconds, sir.”

A voice came from the comms station. “Admiral, the reserve fleet awaits your orders.”

Halsey smiled. “Inform the assault fleet to focus all weapons fire on those dreadnoughts. Defense system fire remain focused on the screen. Don't give them time to do their job. It's time to end this threat.. As for the reserve fleet, I don't think we're going to need them. Have them dispatch a few ships to protect the Marx and the Washington. Those crews have earned it. Have the rest of the fleet remain on standby, just in case.”

With their targeting and tactical arrays missing, neither Souders nor McCoy got to see what happened next. Military historians, however, would talk for centuries about the battle, using terms like “overkill” and “unnecessary levels of violence” when they referenced the First Battle of Earthspace. The bugs had been caught unaware by the micro-jumping capability of the humans and hadn't been prepared for an attack from behind. Had either of them known that, they wouldn't have cared. What they did care about was their world, their duty, and each other. The multitude of dead bugs behind them were merely a byproduct of what they had been trained to do.

Back in Earth orbit after the end of the battle, Lieutenant (SG) McCoy sat at his communications console watching repair crews swarm all over the bridge. He smiled. “It's true,” he thought, “There truly is no more exciting feeling than to be shot at... and missed.”

Captain Jones sidled over. “That was some damn good work by both yourself and your girlfriend. I don't know if you heard. She took command of her ship and saved the lives of her whole crew. She'll probably get a command of her own pretty soon. I'll do my best to see that you come out of this decorated as well.”

McCoy gave a huge smile. “Yes sir, she did. I hope she does get a command. She's earned it. It was her plan that saved the planet, sir. I just followed it.”

Jones shrugged. “You did a damn fine job doing it. Stay with that woman. She's going places.”

McCoy nodded. “Oh, I intend to sir. Now, if only I could talk her out of going to my favorite steakhouse for dinner tomorrow.”

Jones looked confused. “Why would you want to talk her out of going to your favorite steakhouse, Lieutenant?”

McCoy shook his head. “She always gets the chicken, sir.”

Jones was horrified. “She gets chicken at a steakhouse? Is she a communist?”

McCoy chuckled. "Apparently so, sir."

(Copyright 2019 by Jim McCoy. Don't steal my shit or I will sue you to the ends of the Earth.)


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Cedar Sanderson's Lab Gremlins

(Author's Note: Back when Jimbos' Awesome Science Fiction and Fantasy Reviews first started I wasn't sure if I had what it took to do a blog like this. I mean, I had confidence in my ability to put a sentence together and I know how much I love SF/F but I wasn't sure if I could make it work. The first author to send me a second book to review was Cedar Sanderson. That was a huge boost to my confidence at a time when I really needed it. So I'd like to take a chance, as part of my 199th review to say thanks. (I have something planned for my 200th post and that will be coming soon.) There are a lot of authors out there who have gotten their books reviewed since because that gave me the belief in my self to continue. You rock. Also, while I really did enjoy the book and I'd like to think I was completely objective, I'll let the reader be the judge of that.)



What would you do if your boss told you there was a gremlin in your office? I know what I'd do. I'd look for the thing right between the aluminum magnet and the blinker fluid. Totes. I'm guessing that our hero, Steven, is slightly less credulous than me because he didn't believe in them. I can't say I blame him. I mean, Gremlins is a funny Eighties movie, right? That's all there is to it. Or is it?  As Steven is forced to learn to his chagrin, in the world of Lab Gremlins the little monsters actually exist.

I've always been a fan of what I think I heard someone else (don't ask me who because I sure don't remember.) refer to as Hidden World Fiction. Basically, there are things that most of us never know about... And that other people work their entire lives to keep hidden and protect us from. I enjoy this type of thing because I'd like to think that, out there somewhere, there just might be something fantastic that I just might be able to glimpse once, if I'm lucky...

And yeah, I know it's never going to happen, but it would be pretty awesome if it did, right? Who among us hasn't thought of taking a ride on a pegasus or slaying a foul demon in full sight of God, everybody and that one girl we're trying to impress because once I've covered myself in awesome she'll finally...

*AHEM*

Sorry, I got a bit carried away there.

So, I like this Steven kid. And I can call him a kid because he's fresh out of college and so are the children of the people I went to school with. At any rate, he's hard working, ambitious and inquisitive. He doesn't necessarily have the most exciting job at the beginning of the story but he's got two degrees and a big brain. Seriously, I'd have a drink with this guy.

He's also nobody's fool. I wonder if that kind of trait could get you in trouble in a Hidden World novel? I bet you'd find out if you bought the book. It's worth the time and the money. Seriously. I loved this thing and I went through it in like an hour.  It's not a very long work, but it's a very good one and that makes up for its brevity. Also, do you wanna know a secret?

I mean, really wanna know?

I think there might be a sequel or six hundred coming for this book. It hasn't been announced or guaranteed, but I have reason to believe that Steven will be back. I'm waiting (im)patiently. It's not like I'd actually bother an author about something like that. Just ask Elise Hyatt and I've never bothered her (at all today) about a sequel. I won't bother Cedar (at all today) either. Oh, by the way. I'm writing this on Wednesday and posting it on Thursday, so by the time you read this I'll be free to pester whoever the hell I want to. Ain't life grand?

And the cool thing about a book like Lab Gremlins is precisely that we don't know what all is out there. If a series were to sprout from this thing it would be pretty much boundless in what it could do or introduce. With Steven being a scientist he could also easily get called in for his expertise and/or opinion on just about anything. What I'm saying is that there is a buttload of potential here if Sanderson decides that she wants to continue the journey and take the rest of us with her. Oh, and I'm in if/when the sequel hits.

Seriously, there is enough suspense here for a novel twice this size. It's also my favorite type of tension. Don't get me wrong. I'm all about some military fiction with a well defined enemy. I love some religious drama with a villain we can all know and hate. Trust me, the only person in fiction I hate worse than Voldemort is Delores Umbridge. But there is something about the protagonist not knowing what they're getting themselves into that makes it even better. I like not knowing what's going to happen next. It adds a lot to the experience for the reader.

And listen, I really did like the Gremlins movies, but I'm happy to say that the monsters in Lab Gremlins are original creations of Mrs. Sanderson and not carbon copies. As a matter of fact, they're not even really all that close. (I know I don't do spoilers and this IS a work of Hidden World Fiction, but the name of the book is Lab Gremlins. You had to know they were part of it. So get over yourselves and stop being offended. Also, where did you get that Gizmo toy? I want one.)

Those of you who work in labs and need an absolutely authentic experience will be relieved to know that Sanderson works in one as well. She uses the names of a bunch of paraphernelia that I didn't even recognize but apparently aren't all that esoteric if you work in or around labs. I just don't so I had to ask some people. I'm assured that it's all legit though.  I did work with petri dishes in high school, so I know that's good to go.  Other than that, I'll have to trust my sources but they're legit so no worries.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Broken Traps

Oh, and I never do this, but I'm in the mood to be magnanimous so...

Cedar has a website which features her personal blog, more about her writing and also some of the artwork that she makes and sells. I have personally purchased her chainmaille (don't look at me, she's the one who spells it that way) dragons for myself and my daughters as well as my girlfriend and we all love them. The girls really got a kick out of the fairy dust she included on the end of the tail of their's and mine is GREEN LANTERN!! Seriously, I love that comic.The animated movies are good too. It's too bad the live action movie never happened. (That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.) She also painted a picture for my girlfriend that I commissioned as a Valentine's Day gift. She got it yesterday and we both live it.

Lab Gremlins
Cedar Sanderson
Self Published, 2017

Lab Gremlins is available for purchase at the following link:

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Declan Finn's Infernal Affairs

Saint Tommy is at it again and I'm never moving to New York. Seriously, if this is the type of thing that goes down there I'm staying in Detroit because it's safer here. Our only problems are a few hundred gang bangers and some corrupt politicians. Never in my life have we been invaded by a hell spawned demon, a crazed death cult or an insane warlock, as in Declan Finn's newest work, Infernal Affairs. What a bunch of whackadoo insanity.

I say that with love though because, once again, Finn has given us a winner.This is one of those times where I really wish I had more hours in a day because I couldn't get enough of this book... And I couldn't get enough sleep either. I drive for a living, so I had to put the thing down, but UGGGHHHH. That doesn't mean I wanted to. I just had to do what was necessary to stay alive?

Oh, did I say "what was necessary to stay alive?"

I think I did!

And, coincidentally, what you'll see a lot of in this book, sort of. While Tommy does literally fight the good fight, and does it well, he's not always looking out for his own wellbeing. He lives up to the title of his series. Tommy places himself directly in harm's way in service to his Lord and he does it willingly and unflinchingly. It's good to see. Finn gets that it's necessary to stand up to evil and that sometimes it takes more than words. It's a refreshing change of pace from what I commonly see now-a-days.

Oh, and speaking of doing what is necessary to stay alive...

There is one particular sequence in the book. It's one of those awesome things where it simultaneously feels like it was over way too soon and like you've been stuck in the action all day trying to figure out what happens next. Like, you want to know what happens but you don't want it to end. I don't know if that makes sense but it's true.

This same sequence also reads like a nightmare. I almost want to ask Finn if he had a dream like this and threw it into his novel. Seriously. I'm half tempted to think that the whole thing was a result of too much cheese before bed and I find myself wondering: Should I try to talk him out of eating cheese before bed for his own good? Or maybe show up with a block of cheddar and a box of crackers just before bedtime for my benefit? Then again, he gets paid for this. Do you guys know if he maybe prefers the mixed color cheese like a Colby-Jack? Hmmm....


Ok, now the disclaimer. I am a Protestant Christian who is divorced and has two daughters being raised as Catholics by their mother. (Yes, I see them and pay for them, but it's a long story.) I was actually undergoing the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults right before I separated from my wife. (For those of you who missed it, that's how you become a confirmed Catholic if you didn't go to Catechism as a kid.)  So, I have no problem whatsoever with the religion as contained in the novel. The thought of a living, breathing, praying saint (or prophet, more properly since no one is officially a saint until after they die) is one I find fascinating and entertaining. On the other hand, if you are an anti-Christian (in general) or anti-Catholic (in particular) type person maybe you'd be better off with something else. I mean, Christian and/or non-bigoted types would love Infernal Affairs but some people just suck.

Oh, and the other disclaimer: Infernal Affairs is the third in the series, coming after Hell Spawn and Death Cult. You could legitimately read Infernal Affairs as a standalone and enjoy it, but why would you? The first two books are awesome as well and, if you didn't read them already, you get the chance that I never had: To binge-read the entire first trilogy straight through. Although, I mean, I do own all three books and there's no law that says I can't RE-read them.

I love villains that I hate. If you've read this blog you know precisely what I mean. Finn's villain this time around is a complete POS. It's good to root for the saint, but it's fun to root against Satan and all of his works as well. Believe me, this is one for the ages. I don't want to give too much away because a lot of the nature of the villain is revealed slowly throughout the book but I'd go to war against this guy. I mean, I'm not a saint and I'd probably get creamed but at least I'd get creamed knowing I was on the right side.

I have to admit to being a bit relieved here, too. I was part of the Kickstarter for Hell Spawn. I'm glad I bought the book, because I got an autographed copy but part of it was that if it raised enough money, Finn would add books to the end of the series. For those that missed it, I'm a fan of Finn's but I was a bit concerned that he'd stretch the story he had too far to try to fill the extra books he now has to write. I'm both happy and relieved to find out that I was wrong. This book contains what it needs to contain and there is no sign that it was stretched unnecessarily. Maybe I should have known better.

HOWEVER


If I'm remembering correctly (and that's a risk I'm prepared to take) we should have at least two more of these coming. I, personally, am looking forward to them and I suppose my bank account will just have to shut up and deal. I mean, honestly, what geek pays attention to what his accountant has to say anyway? I've never met one.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Flaming Drones

Infernal Affairs
Declan Finn
Silver Empire, 2019

Infernal Affairs is available for purchase at the following link: