Posted on Leave a comment

2021 Awards Eligibility

It’s that time of year again. Time to talk about 2021 awards eligibility so that the powers that be (you) can go out, read my works, and nominate as per your heart’s desire. There has been a lot of great stuff this year, and I’m sure you have a long reading list.

I’ve been working hard this year. I have! Really! My list is short because a lot of what I’m doing isn’t eligible for one reason or another. Let’s break it down a little.

Short Stories

Escape from the Sunset Vista – This is my science fiction nursing home escape heist, and I really love this story. It deals with memory loss, regret, and that eternal drive to discover the truth. I write a lot about competent elderly protagonists, and I think this story encapsulates everything I love about doing that.

Unfortunately it’s a bit difficult to find. It was published through OnSpec Magazine on paper, but they don’t make everything available online. SFWA members can find this story on the forum.

The Last Tangerine – This is a late addition to the lineup. It came out late December and is now available to read on Issues in Earth Science. The earth science in this one is a little tenuous, but they liked the story and there’s enough teachable stuff in there that I think it was a good fit.

Novellas

My self-published Colony of Edge series is almost all eligible this year, so I’m just going to lump the whole thing together here. Of a Strange World Made came out in 2020, but the entire rest of the series was released this year. In particular I’d like you to check out Upon Another Edge Broken, since I absolutely love how colony-driven sci-fi worked with a cozy mystery wrapped up in it. Beware the Columbo references. I’m not sorry. You can check out the Colony of Edge series page for details on where to get those books (everywhere).


That’s pretty much it! Yeah, I know it’s not that exciting this year, but there’s more to come soon. The Grandfather Anonymous release this year was technically a re-release, so no eligibility there. My novella Beyond the Hazards Unseen is only available to people who sign up for my mailing list, so that’s not really eligible (I really do like the story, though).

And, of course, the stories I publish on my Patreon have WAY too small an audience for any real award consideration. If you’re interested, you’re welcome to check them out, though.

Happy reading, everyone. As always, it’s going to be a great award season. There are tons of great stories out there.

Posted on Leave a comment

Above a Distant Sky Seen Launch

A woman looking into the distance where a spacecraft hovers above the ground

Above a Distant Sky Seen is finally here. The final book in the Colony of Edge series has launched, and WE DON’T KNOW WHERE IT’S GOING.

The Colony of Edge series has been a fantastic journey for me, and I hope it has been for you, too. We’ve followed Ash Morgan as she’s discovered treachery in her colony’s AI, tracked down a murderer, and uncovered the mysteries of the planet’s long history.

But how does it end?

The problems Edge has always faced are coming to a head. Danger is threatening the colony from all sides–and from the sky.

There’s only one good solution.

A heist. Ash Morgan’s putting together a team, and they’re going to steal everything.

All of it.

No matter what.


To celebrate the completion of the Colony of Edge, the first book, Of a Strange World Made is totally free (through Friday). If you haven’t started this series, please grab a copy and welcome to the Colony of Edge.

Posted on Leave a comment

Grandfather Anonymous Launch

Elderly, unarmed, and extremely dangerous.

The day is here! Grandfather Anonymous is launching on all platforms. Ajay Andersen struggles to protect his granddaughters from unknown dangers using nothing but his elite hacking skills and a solidly built cane.

Before Ajay retired, he was the best hacker the NSA had ever hired. He sank corporations, toppled governments, and broke cryptography. All of it.

And don’t think retirement has slowed him down one bit, thank you very much.

When his estranged daughter shows up on his doorstep with his two granddaughters, Ajay will do anything to keep them safe. He’ll hack biotech corporations and criminal enterprises alike. Nobody after his girls will be safe, but the more he digs, the more he dredges up the shadows of his own dangerous past.

He only needs to know one thing:

What makes his granddaughters so darn valuable?

Posted on Leave a comment

Grandfather Anonymous is COMING BACK!

Elderly, unarmed, and extremely dangerous.

This has been in the works a good long while. Grandfather Anonymous never did much when it was traditionally published. I don’t blame the publisher, and I don’t blame myself, but there were definitely things that could have been done differently. It’s a strange thing, this publishing business, especially in the year 2020.

So, when the publisher offered me the rights back, I took the chance. With the sudden start of my self-publishing career (wow it’s been a year since my layoff), this seemed like a good opportunity to put together a relaunch. I crafted a new cover, reedited the book, and I’ve done everything I can to give Grandfather Anonymous another swing for the fences.

The trick is going to be getting it into more readers’ hands, getting those critical reviews, and giving it a chance to really shine.

And now it’s time.

The relaunch is scheduled for July 5th. You can now preorder anywhere ebooks are sold, and the hardcover is up for preorder on Amazon. I’m already very happy with how preorders are going. It has more than twice as many preorders of any of my previous books. That might be the special launch pricing of $0.99 or it might be the fact that something that drifts more toward technothriller has a bigger draw than my other books, which are solidly in the sci-fi category.

Either way, I have high hopes for this book, and how well this does in the next few weeks is going to weigh HEAVILY on my decision of what to write next.

So, head over to the Grandfather Anonymous book page for links and details on next week’s big relaunch.

Posted on Leave a comment

From a Barren Seed Grown Launch

From a Barren Seed Grown is out! Book Four of the Colony of Edge series sees Ash return to the colony, which has had the audacity to change while she was away.

This is running up to the end of the series. Book 5 (tentatively titled Above a Distant Sky Seen) is well on its way, and should be ready soon, but in the end of From a Barren Seed Grown you’ll get a hint about where we’re going.

And what challenges lie ahead.

Every story changes everything, and with From a Barren Seed Grown, we’re getting another lens through which to observe the deadly, empty world of Sky.

So, grab your copy now.

Woman standing in front of a city under a red moon

The Colony of Edge will never be the same.

When Ash Morgan returns after a long time away, she finds she hardly recognizes the place she once called home. Black towers stretch to the sky, strangers wander the streets, and odd smells permeate the very stones.

Monsters roam the streets.

After a terrible attack, Ash must determine what strange monster lurks among the city’s newest inhabitants. How is it connected to all the changes happening in the rapidly growing colony? More importantly, can she determine when the monsters attack next?

And why?

Posted on Leave a comment

On a Forsaken Land Found

The time is here. Ash Morgan’s next big experiment has arrived, and it’s time to find out what twists and discoveries await in the forgotten deserts of the planet Sky.

On a Forsaken Land Found is a huge release, since it sets up the Big Next Steps in the series and marks three (3) Colony of Edge books. I’m so excited to hear what people think about this thing.

As you may have noticed, this series borrows themes from various classic monsters. On a Forsaken Land Found is the mummy entry. Not any particular mummy book, but a huge part of the inspiration (and, roughly, its story structure) comes from the fabulous Brendan Frasier The Mummy, which is a modern classic all on its own. I mean, it’s no Encino Man, but come on.

But don’t expect the twists in this book to resemble what you’ve seen in other mummy stories.

Because what follows them back is not what you’ll expect.

On a Forsaken Land Found

There are some mysteries best left unearthed on the planet of Sky.

A secret is hidden in a dead city at the center of a faraway desert. Lost technology might save the colony of Edge and finally bring sustainable life to a world that has been so close for so long.
 
…But what dangers slumber in that forsaken land?
 
Ash Morgan leads a team of explorers to find clues that will save her people and bring on a new era of prosperity. She battles the elements and hazards of the city, but can she hold together her team when the dangers prove too much? Can she prepare them for the very real possibility of failure?
 
And what if something follows them back to Edge?
 
Maybe that city’s not so dead after all.

Posted on 4 Comments

AI in Sci-fi

Artificial Intelligence in Science Fiction

Artificial intelligence is many things in many stories. It’s hand-waved magic, a fancy literary device, and, more rarely than you might expect, a depiction of technology’s very real steps forward in the fields of machine learning.

I thought about this a lot when I started writing my Colony of Edge series. Even more as I delved into the third book, On a Forsaken Land Found. The AI Traverse plays a significant part of Edge’s heritage, and the way it uses colonists and is used by colonists puts together situations that keep me up at night.

AI in science fiction is rarely an accurate depiction of the modern understanding of technology. Even stories that claim to be HARD science fiction still tend to play fast and loose with artificial intelligence.

And that’s FINE. It really is.

There a lot of ways artificial intelligence shows up in fiction, and they’re all doing cool and interesting things. Here are some that rear their robotic heads ALL THE TIME.

AI as Just This Weird Guy

This is probably the most common. AI is just a guy with weird affectations and a poor grasp of dynamic grammar and dialects. This is Data from Star Trek or Mother from Raised by Wolves. This depiction of artificial intelligence is almost always a humanoid robot trying to do human things.

It’s not at all realistic given the current state of AI, but it isn’t really meant to be.

The Weird Guy AI is a literary tool. This is the guy the writer uses to explore the human condition. It’s the role we often see filled by certain aliens, sarcastic teenagers, and, sometimes problematically, people on the autism spectrum. They give us the outsider’s look at the characters in our stories.

I mean, when did Data ever STOP talking about what it means to be human?

The Dark Menace of Technology

Look, you know we need to talk about Skynet, right? If there’s one thing we know about artificial intelligence it’s that someday we’re going to hook it up to a bunch of nukes and it’ll kill us all. It’s the machines behind the Matrix or our good friend HAL. We see them as living things, autonomous identities that exist in the network, unkillable and distributed amongst its many machines.

These malevolent monsters represent our fear of technology, or, more importantly, a fear of what technology does TO US. They’re in our science fiction to represent our vices, whether it’s laziness (the ship in Wall-E) or aggression (Joshua in War Games).

This type of AI is sometimes still personified because we like our antagonists to have faces. GLADOS is very much a person, even though she represents our tendency to abandon ethics in the name of science, which is SCARY ENOUGH, ISN’T IT? Even Agent Smith gives the machines of The Matrix a face, though he’s separate instance of a program.

Artificial Intelligence: A Tool We Use

I’m not saying technology won’t advance, but right now AI’s real presence is not a guy we talk to or an all-powerful force we battle. It’s in the tools we use every day and it filters every single piece of data that crosses our screens.

Well, maybe that’s starting to sound a little malevolent.

The point is, realistic uses of AI and machine learning look nothing like the weird guys or evil robots we are used to seeing in fiction. For one thing, machine learning and robotics are totally different things. I tend to classify them as a totally different thing, in fact, because they have a very different use from a storyteller’s perspective.

Realistic depictions of advances on the tools we use every day are part of why I love science fiction. In my old job we worked on tools that better diagnosed cancer and found patterns in vast, vast piles of research. I use FaceID on my phone, read about self-driving cars, and I have even started using Facebook Ads. In fact, if a Facebook Ad brought you to this blog post, guess what, AI drove the decision to show you that Ad. That’s great! Welcome! Technology works!

The displays in The Expanse show a use of machine learning only a few steps beyond our current technology. Gestures move data seamlessly from one device to the next. It’s AMAZING. It also is definitely something that would need machine learning to implement. We see this from Minority Report to Iron Man. Nobody cares about the eyestrain inherent in transparent displays, as long as they can interact with data in cool and exciting ways.

Giving humans ways to manage enormous amounts of information is a real thing in AI and sci-fi’s depiction of it is both a prediction and an inspiration. It’s also kinda rare, compared to other depictions of AI.

But I like it because it makes me excited for our future. That’s why it’s there. It comes with a heavy dose of the hopeful, and even if everything else is falling apart, at least we have that.

Artificial Intelligence: The Tool that Uses Us

And then there’s this other side of that coin.

Remember those Facebook Ads? Really, you would not BELIEVE the amount of data Facebook has collected on you. Take that to the next step and watch Minority Report or Altered Carbon. Ads assault people on the street, following them relentlessly. Those cool, hopeful tools represent the future of our technology and can also be used to show the very real dangers of that same AI tech.

This isn’t the malevolent Ultron who just wants to squash humanity. This is humanity squashing itself. Weapons of Math Destruction gives a wonderful view of how large, opaque data systems can be harmful to human life. Are already harmful.

It’s fascinating to me when a piece of science fiction shows a tool we use using us back.

Even something as simple as the language laws in Demolition Man, demonstrate this. Demolition Man is a brilliant piece of science fiction wrapped in absolute absurdity and I love it right down to its ridiculous core, by the way. If you haven’t rewatched it recently, you should.

This kind of relationship with technology is nuanced as hell and that’s why I love it. If you give me a choice between an openly malevolent monster of an AI and the logical progression of Natural Language Processing’s affects on society, I will be more terrified of where we’re really going every single time.

There’s a reason many companies stopped working on facial recognition technology. The reason is that science fiction COVERED this. We KNOW that road is not a good one.

The Tool that Uses Us is a literary tool that futurists use to warn us about the path we’re choosing as a society. It’s the less hopeful side of the realistic depiction of artificial intelligence. The best depictions, are nuanced and complicated in my mind.

On a Forsaken Land Found

This brings us to the book coming out March 10, On a Forsaken Land Found, the third book in the Colony of Edge series. Underneath everything that happens in the Colony of Edge is the idea that people are shape the tools they use and are shaped by the tools that use them.

But they’re the same tools.

There are some mysteries best left unearthed on the planet of Sky.

A secret is hidden in a dead city at the center of a faraway desert. Lost technology might save the colony of Edge and finally bring sustainable life to a world that has been so close for so long.

…But what dangers slumber in that forsaken land?

Ash Morgan leads a team of explorers to find clues that will save her people and bring on a new era of prosperity. She battles the elements and hazards of the city, but can she hold together her team when the dangers prove too much? Can she prepare them for the very real possibility of failure?

And what if something follows them back to Edge?

Maybe that city’s not so dead after all.

AI in Sci-fi

What are your favorite AIs in science fiction? This article isn’t meant to be comprehensive, and I know I’ve left a good many out. Many AIs fit in several categories, but I’d love to hear your ideas on how your favorite machine people tell us more about who we are and how we live.

Thanks for reading. If you’re curious about my thoughts on Sci-fi Mysteries, you can find them here. If you’d rather read about my love of sci-fi novellas, well, I have that, too.