Monday, May 20, 2019

Richard Hummel's Radioactive Evolution

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I like mashups. They make me happy. So, say, if someone were to cross some LitRPG with a bit of Post Apocalyptic Fiction and maybe toss in a medical technology angle, I think I'd probably enjoy that. Uhh..


Richard Hummel already did that.

Radioactive Evolution is a successful mix of all of the above. I really enjoyed this one. And for more than one reason.

I'm a fan of zombie fiction (and I've got a review coming as part of my Memorial Day event that is exactly that) but sometimes I think that modern day authors have forgotten that it's possible to do PA Fic without zombies. I'm glad to note that Richard Hummel remembers.

The Earth of Radioactive Evolution is not a friendly place, even if Jared, our main character, is a pretty friendly dude when he can be. The fact remains that most of humanity lives in the ruins of what went before. Radiation is so pervasive that humans that live on the surface have to have regular boosters of nannites in order to protect themselves from the radiation. The good news here is that they energy provided by the nannites powers their bodies and they have no need for food as long as they're someplace with a high radiation count. I'd hate to be an unaugmented human there, but as long as a person gets the nannites they need, they're okay. Of course, it's not always easy to get the boosters...

So yeah, conflict happens and the people on the surface suffer. They people of the Cities, which are in the sky, appear to be much better off. People on the ground resent them, even though they're the ones who make the boosters. So far, we don't know much about the people of the Cities and they're kind of cardboard cutouts, but this is the first book in a series and I'm thinking that Hummel didn't want to give up all of his secrets in the initial volume. That makes sense. Keeping some things to reveal later is how an author keeps his readers interested. I approve.

Part of what really kept me in this book is the LitRPG angle. Players of just about any MMORPG will recognize the process of improving a character and gradually becoming immune to what were once deadly threats. It doesn't matter if we're talking about a Young Kodiak in the West Commons or a Gorilla in Stranglethorn Vale, at some point the deadly threat becomes chump change. That happens here. Radioactive Evolution is a story of survival. It is a story of character progression and accepting responsibility.

It is also, however, a story of RPG style progression and building a character through fighting and gaining experience. The book refers to the process as absorbing and assigning nannites, but that's basically how it works. I like the method of progression too. If you played World of Warcraft during Vanilla or Burning Crusade and can read Radioactive Evolution and not scream "OH MY GOD TALENT TREE" at least once you're either superhuman or not paying attention. New abilities get added as Jared and Scarlet level up. And get this: It's not an artifact that gets taken away at the end of the expansion either.


Nope. Not bitter. Why are you asking?

I don't really like to do spoilers, but if I don't mention that Jared finds himself a dragon to bond with early in the story then I'm not doing my job here. Scarlet is just too much a part of the story to leave out of a review. She's more intelligent than a human. She can evolve using nannites as well and she does... a lot. She has this weird function, where she's the carrier of ancient lore, but also doesn't know much about humanity. She's Spock mixed with Kess, with a side of Worf and maybe just a touch of Odo.  (If you're not a Star Trek fan you don't get that. I feel bad for you.)

Fans of the Post Apocalyptic genre will be familiar with the Mad Max type thing where what's left of the world consists of only one type of environment. I'm happy to say that's not the case here. We see cityscapes, wilderness, military compounds, flight and even underground tunnels. There's a lot of variety in places and things. Jared and Scarlet are constantly moving and experiencing different things and different threats. The threats are great, but so are the rewards.

And there are most definitely threats. If you feel safe at just about any point in this story, you're not paying attention. Even some of the things that shouldn't be dangerous are. Jared and Scarlet can run. They can hide. They can fight. The one thing it never makes sense to do is relax. Something is always out there. Something is always watching. In the world of Radioactive Evolution, getting lazy means taking unnecessary risks.

It's fun to watch the two grow together too. They start off not knowing much about each other. They start off not knowing much about each others' species. By the end of the book, they're very much friends and, while they still don't understand each other perfectly, they're getting figuring things out between them. They're learning to relate to others better as well.  I can't wait to see how close they get in the future.

And there will be a future. Or, maybe it's closer to the truth to say there already IS a future. The next book is already out and, while I'm not real sure if I like the fact that the titles are so close together (I recently received a link to the book. It's called Radioactive Revolution and when I first looked at it, I thought it was the same book) I really am excited to read it. There is a lot of story left to be told. I'm guessing there will be more than one sequel, but I haven't read the new one yet so I can't say for sure.

Seriously folks, this one is worth your time and money (Although Kindle Unlimited users can get it for free as part of your subscription). I'd definitely encourage you all to check it out.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Nannite Boosters

Radioactive Evolution
Richard Hummel
Hummel Books, 2018

Radioactive Evolution is available for purchase at the following link:

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Happy Stuff, Sad Stuff

(Author's Note: I'm typing this on my phone. I'll do my best to make it look like it was typed by an adult and not written in crayon by a three year old but my odds of success are dubious. )

So Chewbacca has joined his Princess in Heaven. This is a travesty. I've not met Peter Mayhew in person, but everything I've heard about him says that he was a gentle giant, kind to all and especially his fans.

Just as importantly to those of us who didn't know him personally, he was a larger than life icon. For many of us, he was a part of our childhood. Who didn't love Chewbacca as a kid? You'll be missed Mr. Mayhew. Take good care of our Princess.

In related (but much happier) news...

May the Fourth Be With You!

It's Star Wars Day! Let your Geek Flag fly!

Yes, we' re all a little melancholy because we lost one of our heroes. We should still celebrate. Let the greats never be forgotten! Wear your Star Wars gear! Post a meme! Play a Star Wars video game. Read a Star Wars comic. THIS IS ONE OF ONLY TWO DAYS OF THE YEAR THAT IS ALL ABOUT GEEKS! PARTY LIKE ROCK STARS!

Oh, did I mention days that are all about geeks? Do you know what today is?

(No, 90s R+B fans, it's not our anniversary.)



(That's Local Comic Shop for all of you mundanes out there.)

Go get your free stuff and enjoy the party! I'm about to take my daughter out for it.

No links today because I know all of you are on the way to your LCS to support local businesses.

Have fun!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Kai Wai Cheah's and Thomas Plutarch's Hollow City

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All is not well in Halo City. Gang bangers are on the loose. The Halo City Police Department is stretched thin and their ace in the hole, their superhero, their "Prime", Amp is having a rough time with Internal Affairs. Life is interesting, in the sense of the ancient Chinese curse. And Hollow City brings us along for the ride with the users, the losers, the accusers and the police cruisers.

So how do you make a bigger bad-ass than a Marine Raider? Well, first you start out with a Marine Raider, and then you give him super powers. I like this approach, because let's face it. Having superpowers and knowing how to use them are two very different things. Being able to throw lightning or fireballs is awesome. Being able to detect an enemy who thinks he is hidden is terrific. The fact remains that in order to take full advantage of those powers, a certain level of skill is required. Detective Adam Song has those skills in spades.

Seriously, I've been a fan of comics since the 80s and a fan of superhero novels for as long as I've known they existed. There are very few supers (whether hero or villain) that I'd fear more than Detective Adam Song. Not because he's a bad guy, but because he's flat out dangerous. He's not overpowered. He can Amp his senses up. He can move extremely quickly. Yes, Song is a powerful man, but that is not his only strength. Not only has he been to war, but that was before he developed his powers. He has a sense of what works and what doesn't for normal people. In a way, this makes him more dangerous than guys like Superman or Green Lantern, even though Song doesn't have anywhere near their power levels. Why? Because he can THINK. Every nerd thinks they have some hotshot, super slick method of defeating the hardest, toughest best trained, most experienced Special Forces operator with some goofy bullshit. They're wrong.

Song is a man who is bound by a different set of rules than the ones he is used to. Police work in Halo City is not combat in Iraq. The fact remains that a sense of what works and what doesn't and the experience gained by actual operations is invaluable to him. I like the fact that Cheah and Plutarch have made Song that way. He's not a hero that gained all of his gifts simply by chance. The man can think his way through an operation because he's been part of them before.

The action sequences in Hollow City are amazeballs. The fight scenes have a natural rhythm to them and they feel totally legitimate if you allow for the existence of superpowers. Things don't always go the way the heroes want them to, but that's life. There is a reason that Helmut von Moltke the Elder said that "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." The other side get its own input into the way things work out. Humans, including superheroes, are not perfect and there's plenty of that here as well. Song doesn't always select the perfect option. Often there IS no perfect option. Nonetheless, Song persisted.

And yet, although Song is superhuman, he's not all that far out of a normal human's experience. Dude has some serious pressures at work. He has a family that doesn't always believe in what he's doing. IT shows. He feels a duty to them anyway. His life is a mess of contradictions. It feels right. Cheah and Plutarch capture the essence of what it is to be human. Nothing in life happens exactly the way it should. Even less goes the way we want it to. Hollow City is a book that just makes sense.

There is a significant amount of intracity politics in this book. It adds a lot to the believability as well. Politicians will leave anyone out to dry if they think it will benefit their careers and Song is no exception. It's sad to see it happen, but it fits. I'm wondering where the Song character goes from here because things don't look good for him. The man has a strong sense of duty, but I'm not sure how well his sense of loyalty is going to survive the events of this novel. We could be looking at a rogue moving forward. I almost hope we are. If Song ends up fighting for the right things, but doing it from outside the establishment, the next installment is going to blow us all away.

But for now, I would urge you to sit down, strap in, and get ready for a wild ride. Hollow City starts off with a bang and it doesn't let up. I had a really slow day at work yesterday. I didn't make what I expected. I didn't care. I sat in parking lots reading this book all day and it made me happy. Of course, I eventually finished the book. My earnings didn't improve, but at least my mood was better than it could have been.  I hate to think about how cranky I would felt if I hadn't had this book to cheer me up.


Yes, I know that addicts use drugs the same way, but since when were books not safe, legal and easily obtainable methods of distraction? I mean, seriously, a good book is better than a narcotic. Think about it.

Or maybe I'm just goofy.

I'm excited about this work though, and I'll tell you why:

Hollow City is a book in the Heroes Unleashed universe and is the first book in the Song of Karma series. I'm looking forward to more in both the universe and this series. I'll be looking into Cheah's  and Plutarch's other work soon as well. If they can write one book this well, there's a good chance he's written more of the same caliber. I'll admit to not knowing much (as in well, anything) about them before I read Hollow City, but I'll be finding out more. If anyone has a suggestion about which Cheah or Plutarch novel I should try next, go ahead and drop it in the comments.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Crooked Politicians

Hollow City
Kai Wai Cheah and Thomas Plutarch
Silver Empire, 2019

Hollow City is available for purchase at the following link:


Monday, April 15, 2019

Marvel's X Men: Magneto: Testament Review and Some Commentary

(This review and commentary will contain spoilers.)

I have a history degree. I am not often fond of the teachers out there (and they know who they are) who use fiction to teach it. As someone who was once forced to read a thirty page scholarly paper on what was wrong with The Last Samurai, I can assure you I'm not one of the most rabid in that conviction however. And, as someone who learned to love history by watching John Wayne movies and other World War Two flicks, I can assure you that there is some value in encouraging youngsters to watch fictionalized account of history even if I believe they should be kept out of the classroom.

Enter X-Men: Magneto: Testament. I found my first copy of the work in the gift shop of my local Holocaust Museum. I had heard about it, so I picked up a copy. Given the fact that I was at that Holocaust Museum researching a paper that I wrote about the involvement of the Heer (that's the German Army. The Wehrmacht was the German military as a whole) and just happened to stop into the gift shop on my way out almost definitely means that I should be consigned to the academic version of Hell. Fortunately for me, the place would be filled with comic books and fictionalized accounts and I would enjoy myself thoroughly. I mean, I never said I was a GOOD academic..

But anyway..

For all of its faults, X-Men: Magneto: Testament is a superb comic. This is not your typical fare though. Testament is not a World War II Era Captain America comic. There is no superhero coming out of the woodwork to massacre these Nazis the way they deserve. Testament is not some triumphalist narrative about beating the Fuhrer and his goons into submission with the power of one man's fists. In some ways, I wish that it were. I wish that it could be.

No, Marvel made their story much closer to the truth. The truth is that it sucked to be a Jew in Nazi Germany. The truth is that millions were murdered. The truth is that millions of people were mistreated not because they had done anything, but simply for existing. They were accused of living lives of wealth and privilege and annihilated. All of societies problems were blamed on Jews and they were slaughtered like cattle as soon as a chance arose.

Testament portrays that very well. It also portrays the patriarch of the family urging his family to go along to get along. To not resist so as to not invite a beating. What must have seemed reasonable at the time soon turned sour. Things get ugly quickly. But that's what happens when you appease an abuser. They may come for you last, but it's going to happen eventually, even if you acted as an ally.

The story is about one Max Eisenhardt, later known as Magneto. In the beginning he is a young boy with a desire to be like all the men in his family. He is learning, at the age of nine, to make jewelry. Soon, he is in school and excelling; both academically and athletically. He is tormented because of this and held to a higher standard because of his ethnic background. Eventually, he gets put into a camp.

Both before and during his imprisonment he continues to make decisions based on his fear of punishment. He won't retaliate for the treatment of his people because he is afraid of what the Nazis might do to him and to his brethren. What had started out as matter of words, of people complaining about the wealth and privilege of others, ends in the massacre of millions.

The ironic part being that even in his captivity, while hating every minute of it, he aids his Nazi captors. Magneto serves as a member of the Sonderkommando, (Special Command in English). They were the people who burned the bodies of the Jews, and others, who had been murdered.

Listen, I love comics. I have since I used to save up my allowance and ride my bike two miles to the Antique Paper Shop to buy back issues. I've used a lot of adjectives to describe my favorite comics: Entertaining, gorgeous, engaging, interesting, the list goes on and on. With the possible exception of gorgeous (and that because the art reflects the horror surrounding the main character. It is actually very well done) they all apply here. The one adjective I'm going to use that I never have before is powerful.

Testament is exactly what it claims to be.  It is a testament to what happened to the Jews under the Nazis. Yes, there are some historical inaccuracies to be sure (no one EVER survived two years as a member of a Sonderkommando for instance.) but the gist of the story is correct. Testament doesn't have the importance that something like The Diary of Anne Frank would have because it's not a first person account, but it may still be the most important comic ever published. Maus (which I just bought a used copy of but haven't read yet) is  probably up there, and there was an issue of Spiderman (help me out if you know which one) was the first one to ever deal with drug abuse,  (and no, comparing drug abuse to the Holocaust is not belittling the importance of either. They've both killed millions) but Testament deals with the Shoah (as the Jewish people call the Holocaust) in a way that nothing else ever has. Entertainment is not a good way to study the hard facts of a subject, but it attracts attention that no scholarly work ever will. Both are important.

Which leads me to two problems I have with Marvel right now. I'll deal with the less controversial one first.

Physical copies of X-Men: Magneto: Testament are currently out of print. I get that this isn't the newest and latest comic. It came out a decade ago. There are newer comics to promote and Testament doesn't really fit into the way that Marvel is re-releasing a lot of its older works. I got an e-book version on Amazon lately, so it's still available that way but it's mainly going to sell to people that go looking for it that way. A copy of Testament should be available in any Holocaust Museum/Memorial that attracts enough English speaking individuals for it to sell. That goes the same for speakers/locations appropriate to any languages Testament may have been translated into. I mean that. That's how I found out it existed. If I were Marvel, I'd do a run and market it specifically along those lines, as well as to any Local Comic Shop that wanted copies to sell. Why? Because it's a way for Grandma and Grandpa to get their teenage grandchild(ren) who don't read history to learn about the Holocaust. We can't let this be forgotten because if we do we're asking for it to happen again.

As for my second point:

Uhh... Marvel?






This is a bad idea. I mean, I get your point. You need a white dude to turn into a Nazi. It didn't work with Captain America so you thought you'd switch things over to another white guy in the form of Magneto. I get it. Here's what you're missing:

Not every Straight White Male is a Nazi. Nope. Not even a significant percentage of them. I mean, I get what the Social Justice Bullies demand but that doesn't mean you have to give in to them. You're losing a lot of respect from me here. This is unnecessary. It is sick. It is twisted. It is wrong. YOU ARE BLAMING THE VICTIM.

Seriously Marvel. I'm begging you. Don't do this. Not to your fans. Not to the general public. And damn sure not to the victims of the Holocaust. You're implying that they did it to themselves here. This is a step too far.

Bottom Line for X-Men: Magneto: Testament: 5.0 out of 5 Stars

X-Men: Magneto: Testament
Greg Pak, Carmine Di Giandomencio, Marko Djurdjevic
Marvel, 2009

The comics for  X-Men: Magneto: Testament are available for purchase at the link below:

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Episode 9 Teaser is Here!

Listen, I know some of you didn't like The Last Jedi. I disagree. I thought it was excellent. I'm guessing that a lot of what went into TLJ was to set up the last movie. This is it.

I'm geeked to say the least. Did you hear what came at the end of the trailer? DID YOU HEAR PALPATINE LAUGH?

Hell yes, it's time for that. It's time to bring this thing full circle. All of you out there whining about how Palpatine's reappearance lessens Vader's sacrifice at the end of Return of the Jedi can pucker up and blow.

So yes, it appears that they may finally be depicting Rey as the badass she was always meant to be. I want to see her chop that TIE fighter in half, or maybe go through the cockpit and put her lightsaber into the pilot. What could be better?

I hate the fact that I have to wait for Christmas to see this.

OH, and by the way...

Disney as announced that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the end of the Skywalker saga. In some ways, that makes me sad. In others it makes me happy.

Listen, I was late to the party. I didn't go see Episode IV in the theater because I was still in diapers when it came out. I couldn't even walk yet. I wasn't much older when The Empire Strike Back hit. So, as a result of an accident of birth, I didn't get to see a Star Wars flick until Return of the Jedi. As a result, I've ONLY been watching Skywalkers dance across my screen since 1983. I'm a virtual n00b.

The fact remains that I've known this family for thirty-six years. We've hung out together in movie theaters, living rooms and bookstores for that whole time. I love these guys and I always will. I am, in short, a fanboi. Knowing that the line is ending and I won't be able to follow them into the future makes me sad.

That much having been said, I'm also kind of excited. I loved The Force Awakens, but I'll be the first to admit that it didn't really need to end with the destruction of another F(*&()&()()&*()*()ING Death Star. I loved The Last Jedi but the attempts to remake the Battle of Hoth weren't my favorite thing either.

Look, it's like this: The classics are the classics. They came about in my childhood and they'll always be a part of who I am. I love them. I don't, however, see a need to redo them. A new story with new heroes and new villains requires a new plot. The benefit of ending the Skywalker saga is that we can stop redoing the same old things and start a different story in the same universe.

I mean, I agree with many of my friends who state that Star Wars is, and should remain, more than just a propaganda tool for the social justice left. I'm not proposing taking things down that route. I'm just saying that it's a big galaxy and there are more people in it.

So let's get HYPE!!!! It's time to do what has never been done. It's time to show us all what might come next in the official canon. It's time! It's time! It's Star Wars TIME!!

Some Star Wars related objects are available for sale at the links below:

Friday, March 22, 2019

David Weber's Through Fiery Trials

This is the series that never ends...
Yes, it goes on and on my friends
Some people started reading it not knowing what it was
And they'll continue reading it forever just because
This is the series that never ends...

All smart-aleck remarks aside, I'm really glad this series didn't end because the end of the last book, At the Sign of Triumph, it really looked like it could. I mean, there was obviously a lot of work to do and another war (or more) to fight, but it's not like the illustrious Mad Wizard Weber

*rises from his chair and places his hand over his hearth*

Whom I loves and respects.

*Sits back down*

Hasn't left us all dangling with a lot more story left to tell after the initial Big Bad gets theirs. (I won't say Prince Roger if you don't.)  Fortunately though, there was an afterward that said the story wasn't over. It turns out it really wasn't.

I was kind of surprised with this one. Anyone who has read much Weber at all (and I definitely include myself in that group) is used to massive amounts of combat. Weber's best known series is, after all, the Honor Harrington novels which take place over a series of wars and star a naval officer who has a well-earned reputation for always being at the center of the battle. The crazy thing about Through Fiery Trials is that it's not combat heavy.

The other key component to Weber's writing has always been political maneuvering and there is a lot of that here. The planet of Safehold (and this is the tenth book in the Safehold series) has just come through a long period of religious war and a schism in the church that the entire population had been part of. Things are getting better for the most part, but if Cayleb and Sharleyan, the leaders of the winning side in the war, want to see what they fought for come to fruition it's going to take some work after the fighting stops.

That's the main thrust of Through Fiery Trials. It's not all just Cayleb and Sharleyan. This is the first Safehold novel to not feature a Dramatis Personae and I'm wondering if that's strictly because of space considerations, because the cast hasn't gotten any smaller. The thing is that the huge cast and the enormous world is what makes Weber's work really function.

Safehold is a living breathing world. Through Fiery Trials bounces across the globe keeping up with everything that is happening. It's apparent that Weber has spend a long time and a ton of effort producing this book and indeed the entire series. Each chapter begins with a header telling us where we are. Then we find out what characters we're there with. It takes a bit of getting used to if you haven't read something this epic but once you do, it's awesome. I love Harry Turtledoves work for much the same reason. No epic story, especially a war or the recovery afterward, can be well covered by only one character and their point of view. There are forces at work that are incomprehensible even to the people that are trying to control them and the Law of Unintended Consequences fully applies. Only by showing thirty two gagillion points of view can one attempt to make a balanced view of a massive war. Weber does that like a champion.

Now, it does have to be mentioned that this is the tenth book in a series that doesn't show any sign of ending anywhere in the foreseeable (at least to me) future. I really do recommend starting with the first book and working your way through because it's easy to miss things when you HAVE read all the books and you DO know what's going on. Coming in mid-stream is going to be rough and the earlier books are each worth your time in their own right. Seriously, start this thing where it starts because there is too much to try and backfill on your own.

There were a couple of moments in Through Fiery Trials that had my heart pounding. Weber seems to like toying with his audiences emotions. Now, that's a good thing in a writer but few are this good at it. Of course, part of the problem is that I try to predict what's going to happen next and in a few cases things I could tell that things were about to go horribly awry but I wasn't sure what or how. Actually, in at least two case I WAS sure how, but I was wrong. But still, this is not a book for the weak at heart. It put me through the ringer. Oh shit moments abound so be ready for them.

My one complaint about Through Fiery Trials is the same complaint I've had about every Safehold novel and will continue to have in the future: The names in the book suck. I'm being dead serious when I say that. One of my biggest pet peeves in all of literature is when authors change things and mess with language just to say they did it. Mr. Weber decided that due to a millenium plus of linguistic drift he'd make all of the names look weird and it works. They certainly do look weird. It can be kind of a pain though. I've known how to read for over thirty-five years now and having to sound out the name of a character in a book can be a bit annoying. It doesn't kill the story for me. If it didn't I wouldn't still be here ten books in. The fact remains that the stories would be better without it.

All in all though, Through Fiery Trials was awesome. I can't wait for the next one and Weber has set it up nicely. I know Weber uses history as source material and I'm wondering if one particular group of people is going to do what I think they're going to do based on history. I hope not, because if so the bloodletting is going to be massive. Then again, they're not real people and wars are what Weber does best. I guess I'll find out eventually. Sooner would be better.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Riot Batons

Through Fiery Trials
David Weber
Tor, 2018

Through Fiery Trials is available for purchase at the following link:

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.


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?


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:


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
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!


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!


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.


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


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.)