Thursday, December 28, 2017

Year End Ebook Sale!

From now until January 1, you can grab five of my ebooks for free!  The books in question are Political Pies, “The Future is Coming,” “The Most Powerful Man in the World and other stories,” “Lonely Phoenix,” and “Relics.” If you’re looking for short stories, science fiction, and essays about future technology, I have you covered.

Everybody complains about politics, but does anyone do anything about it? My attempt to do something about it is to collect forty of my short stories with a political element into my Political Pies anthology. My stories are either politically neutral or equally condemning of the national parties. Instead of trying to sway you to one ideology or another, my goal is to just get people thinking about politics in the hopes a rose might grow out of all the political manure.

As a science fiction writer, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how technology will change the way we live. I’ve come up with these ten short essays about science fictional elements that will – almost certainly – one day become science fact as a way for people to start coming to terms with them. Because I’ve spent time thinking about clones and AIs, I feel I’ll be okay when they do finally show up whereas most people will probably freak out. I hope these essays will get people to start thinking about the future because, no matter what we do, the future is coming.

The Most Powerful Man in the World and other stories” is a collection of five, short, scifi stories to provide a sample of my writing.

A being from the distant future with almost unlimited powers comes back to help Ian Steele make the world a better place in “The Most Powerful Man in the World.” One bookstore customer has an entirely different reason for wanting books in “Black Market Books.” “Motherhood” tells the story of Thomas Gillespie, the surrogate mother for a baby AI. “Storyteller” is about an author thinking his book into existence. And “Deadworld” is about the alien world humans are reborn on – in alien bodies – after we die.

In “Lonely Phoenix,” board member Geoffrey Ames is woken from hibernation by the caretaking crew of the Lucian partway to a new colony world. They require him to look into the matter of their fellow crewman Morgan Heller. Morgan’s claims – such as being over 1500 years old – would normally land him in the psychiatric ward, except he can back up some of his other claims.

This work contains some profanity and sexual situations. It is intended for mature audiences only.

A plague that kills men has devastated the world’s population. Only a few thousand boys and men were able to be quarantined. But Mike Shay is the only man known to have a natural immunity to the plague. Therefore, he is practically the only man in a world of women. He spends his days reading, playing video games, and making the occasional sperm donation. Then Dr. Veronica Barrett shows up, disrupting what passes for his life. She says she’s there to investigate his “mental wellbeing,” but is there more to her visit?

Instead of the normal, adolescent, heterosexual male fantasy of being the only guy on a planet of women, “Relics” tries to give a more realistic view of Mike’s life.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ideas for Episode IX

Given how things ended in The Last Jedi and the death of Carrie Fisher, here is my idea of how Episode IX will start.  I don’t really have an idea on how it would end, but it doesn’t really matter since it’s unlikely they’ll do anything like this.

Anyway, I’d say Episode IX will be set at most two years after The Last Jedi.  Rose and Finn will probably have a baby, maybe with another on the way.  The Resistance just has a handful of transports and fighters and are probably hidden out in some asteroid field.  (I’d love to see the remnants of Alderaan, but they probably wouldn’t do that.)  Poe will be second-in-command, after Leia.  Leia will be off meeting with a group somewhere trying to get them to join.  There will probably be a couple staticky transmission on her progress.  Possibly during one she’ll be talking and then there will be background explosions and someone shouting, “They’ve found us.” She’ll look at Poe and say, “May the Force-” and then the transmission will end.  I know, I know, killing Leia off-screen in a transmission will offend people.  But killing her off between the movies, saying that she’s retired and no longer part of the Resistance, saying that she’s off on some mission which we never see, hiring a new actress, hiring a new actress but CGIng Fisher’s face onto them … whatever is done will offend someone.  Also, it would probably make sense that Chewie would be flying Leia around in the Millennium Falcon, maybe with C-3PO, but killing them all off-screen would be too much.  Anyway, fearing they may have been discovered, the Resistance moves on. 

Meanwhile in the First Order, Hux is having a ball reforming the Empire and crushing any dissent.  But while Hux needs to take a cold shower whenever reading they massacred 10,000 civilians on some planet, Kylo is bored with the day to day tyranny.  That’s why I said it would probably be no more than two years because that’s probably how long before Hux tries something stupid with Kylo and is killed.  Kylo is focused on his White Bantha, Rey.

Rey isn’t with the rest of the Resistance.  She is probably out spreading the message of the Force is for everyone.  At first I thought she might be going around with Chewie in the Falcon, but she probably realizes that the Resistance needs it more than she does.  This might lead to some humor over whether or not Chewie will let Poe fly the Falcon.  Rey travels the galaxy by hopping freighters, maybe earning her passage as a mechanic.  Never knowing where she’ll end up, she lands on a planet and goes out and talks to the people. 

She ends up back on Jakku.  She probably goes back to her old home, only to find someone else is living there.  Maybe she goes off to some hidden cave and recovers a box of little treasures she had hidden years before.  She probably has a long discussion with Force Luke.  And then her old boss sees her and calls in the First Order.

So that’s my idea of the setup.  How it ends, I don’t know.  Rey will confront Kylo, but it won’t be the simple, She kills him, the end.  It will probably be some Forcy-Worcy stuff.  As to the First Order, really the best way to defeat it would be if the people of the galaxy rose up to do it.  But I have no idea how they could set that up.  Rey talking to the people would be part of it, but there’s no social media for the Resistance to spread their message.  Instead they’ll probably just do the Resistance – somehow – gets a small fleet of warships and by the skin of their teeth they take out the First Order fleet and the whole galaxy celebrates.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thoughts on The Last Jedi

So I watched The Last Jedi a couple of days ago and I’ve had time to think about it and see some reviews.  My thoughts on the movie are … it was okay.  It isn’t the timeless classic of the original trilogy, but it’s not forgettable like Rogue One. 

When I think of the original trilogy, I think of them as joyous, fun, adventures.  To be honest, I don’t know how much of that is a result of it being simpler times and I was young and na├»ve.  And to be honest I don’t know how much my being more experienced and bitter shaped my reaction to The Last Jedi.  But instead of seeing a fun adventure, I saw more the manipulation of the movie business.

The most obvious manipulation being the porgs.  Let’s be honest, I’m sure Chewie has eaten cuter things while more of the cuter things watched.  When I first saw the porg in the trailer, I rolled my eyes seeing it as a blatant attempt to sell toys.  But when you’re dealing with such an unknown franchise, you have to explore other ways to make money in case the movie bombs.  I mean, the movie itself has made like half a billion in a week, but the $20 porgs will be what finances the next movie, if they decide it’s worth the risk.

But seriously, a more subtle manipulation was the deal with Rey’s parents.  I would bet that Rey’s parentage was determined before her name was.  I’ve heard that nothing was really settled when they started filming Episode VII, which almost horrifies/confuses me.  They spent billions on this property, and then they decide to just wing it?  Really?  But if we found out in The Force Awakens that Rey’s parents were just scavengers on Jakku, or Luke, or whoever, there wouldn’t have been two years of speculation on who her parents were.  And then there wouldn’t be two years of speculation over whether or not Kylo lied to her about her parents being nobodies.  I love that she – for now at least – is just a random nobody, but why couldn’t we have learned that in the last movie?  Or why couldn’t we see the graves of her parents and Rey lives with her grandmother, who is killed in the shootout when Rey and Finn are leaving Jakku, to keep the plot point in The Force Awakens where she wants to go back.  Or maybe only her dad died – so we don’t think her dad is Luke – and her mom went out for a pack of death sticks and just never came back.

These simple manipulations to get the audience to react a certain way are understandable, since that’s what movies are supposed to do.  I can more-or-less forgive them.  What I can’t forgive – and my biggest issue with The Last Jedi – are, I guess you can call them manipulations instead of plot.  For example, why didn’t Holdo just tell Poe her plan of going to Crait?  I mean, you’re going to have to tell everyone at some point so they can get the transports ready and loading personnel and gear takes some time.  The only reason not to make the plan widely known is if you fear there’s a spy who will inform the First Order.  But that doesn’t happen since instead of a spy the First Order has a technobabble solution to following the Resistance ships.  But if Holdo had revealed her plan, then that would negate the entire Poe/Finn/Rose storyline.  Poe and Finn need to do something, they can’t just be on the ship having a singalong to keep everyone’s spirits up. So we’ll manipulate things to manufacture this pointless side-trip to Canto Bight. 

Now I’ve heard some people explain the Canto Bight bit as an example of plans sometimes fail, and how because they went on this sidetrip, brought DJ to the First Order who sold them out, Poe, Finn, and Rose are now responsible for the deaths of hundreds of fellow Resistance members.  I hadn’t thought of that, in part because I don’t think any of the characters have thought of that.  I mean, I doubt there will be a scene in Episode IX where Rose is crying over these deaths and Finn has to comfort her.

But what could they have done?  How about this.  They know they are near an old Rebel base that has shields, communication, and say an ion canon.  The plan is to send a small team – Poe, Finn, BB-8, Rose, maybe some others – to the base to get it ready and send out a call to their allies.  Then in one hour, the fleet will jump to the base luring the First Order into a trap with an ion canon on the ground and more ships in space.  So Poe flies them to the base – perhaps taking damage on the way so they can’t leave – and they find that there was a cave in and the ion canon is destroyed.  But they send out the message and get the shields back on line.  The Resistance fleet arrives, and since they don’t expect their ships to last long being out of fuel, they send everyone down to the base in transports.  But there’s no ion canon and none of their allies show up.  So perhaps Holdo still has to sacrifice herself to save the last bit of the Resistance.  Their plan failed, and now most of the Resistance is dead.  They end up at the same point, it’s just now more streamlined without you questioning Holdo’s command style.

Speaking of Holdo’s command style, I’ve seen some people say that they hated Holdo at the beginning.  And that’s understandable because you were supposed to dislike her, thus making her later sacrifice seem all the greater.  Since people like Poe, but Poe didn’t like her, there must be something up with her.  Maybe she’s a spy, or just incompetent.  Of course, since she apparently doesn’t tell anyone her plan until the last second – which doesn’t make any sense – my lasting impression of her is that she is a tad incompetent as a leader.  Trying to manipulate the large shift from disliking her to respecting her left a bad impression for me.

Now let’s talk about Holdo’s end.  Like everyone my first thought was, “Damn!” But that was quickly followed by, “Why didn’t the other ships do that?” In desperate situations, it is logical that when the only weapon you have left is your ship you use it.  I can think of multiple occasions in Star Trek or Babylon 5 where they go with “Ramming speed.” But has that ever happened in Star Wars?  In the movies at least, I haven’t watched any of the shows.  Well, the reason the other ships just ran out of gas and got blowed up instead of ramming the First Order ships was so that it would be all the more dramatic when Holdo did it.  First you manipulate things so you dislike a character, then manipulate things so their end seems all the more heroic, instead of just having a good character people will hate to see go.

I’ve spent some time going over things I had problems with, but was there anything I liked in The Last Jedi?  Yeah.  One of the issues with the original trilogy – partly based on it being a simpler time – is that the good/evil light/dark thing is rather simplistic.  So I did like the far more gray approach they seem to be going in now.  I also enjoyed the idea of the student outgrowing the master, although I do wonder if they made it a bit more “This is less of a continuation of the trilogy you love so much and more of a new thing.”

I’ve said before that I think I’ve outgrown Star Wars.  I wasn’t excited to see The Last Jedi.  It was just a movie to see so I’d know what everyone was talking about and to maybe get a few blogs out of it.  I watched The Last Jedi trailer two or three times; I’ve seen the Infinity War trailer about ten times.  (Just writing about it made me go watch it again.) But Star Wars doesn’t really do it for me anymore.  I’ll see Episode IX so I know what everyone is talking about, but I’ll probably be more excited for whatever the next big MCU movie is.  I’m sure the owners of the MCU are happy to hear I like their movies more than Star Wars.  The owners of Star Wars, probably not so much.