Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Star Dog Corruption (Star Dog, Book 2) by Lucas C. Wheeler

Release date: May 12, 2017
Subgenre: Genetic engineering

About Star Dog Corruption

 

After the Star Dog Fiasco, as it was termed by the media, Star Dog is joined by Nathan, Nicole, and Clancy while trying to rebuild his life. In the midst of a serial jewel theft and deepening conspiracies, can Star Dog truly fit into society, or will society reject him like a bad organ? Will he be able to stop the thefts and honor his name, or is there something more sinister at work?

All in all, something is deeply wrong in Star Dog's mind. He can't stop having nightmares about the family he lost, and his sleepwalking is becoming dangerous. What keeps luring him back to the magical junkyard that he once considered his kingdom?

This is the sequel to Star Dog Legacy.

Excerpt:


"So, what do you think?" Nathan asked.
"What am I supposed to think? What am I doing here?" Star Dog asked, more in awe than annoyance.
"Well, to help, since we're trying out new training methods. Are we on the right track? Are there things we could do better to help the dogs understand? Since you have a dog's mind, you can tell us how best to train a dog and more quickly."
"That's why you brought me here?" Star Dog's canine visage brightened with incredulity. "Nathan, I am not like them. I may look like a dog and act like a dog, but I am not like them. I don't know even how to interact with them. They are my kin in physical vessel, but we are on different mental planes. How can I go over to them and be accepted as a dog? How can I speak with them? Do I bark, or do say "Good boy"? Even they avoid me like their humans, because they know instinctively that I am different. To them, I neither dog nor man. I am a sum of zeroes and ones, and that's all I'll ever be. My knowledge was not taught, it was injected. I have no strategies for teaching others of my kind, because I have never learned like them, and I never shall." Star Dog's lamenting monologue hit Nathan in a new light. He cursed himself for never having considered this, and for the first time, he started to think that he had made a terrible mistake to bring Star Dog here so soon. His confidence cracked like armor, and suddenly he wasn't sure what to do, so he let Star Dog lead.
They explored the rest of the facility and watched some more training before going back to Nicole's, but when Star Dog was certain he could offer no insight, they went to Nicole's home and all three of them relaxed for the remainder of the night before bed. Star Dog curled up beside the couch which Nathan was getting comfortable in, and sleep remained elusive before it suddenly attacked and all went black.
The smell of the air was salty and there was a faint breeze. The splashing of water tumbled gently against the wooden dock before rolling back into the harbor, and the smell of fish rode in on the subtle waves. Ship horns sounded through the night, and the moon shone brightly above the marina. Star Dog woke up when water spray splashed onto his face, and he blinked rapidly while gathering his surroundings. He was already standing on the edge of the pier, and he was mid-step right before walking into the inky black bay. He wasn't sure what woken him, but he knew even less of why he was there. Why was he out of the apartment, and where was Nathan? Also, for the first night in a long time, why couldn't he remember his dream?

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About Lucas C. Wheeler: 

Lucas C. Wheeler has been writing ever since he could hold a pencil. He has found success in many different levels of writing including second grade contests to university contests throughout his life. He is now focusing on making it as an independent author in the next exciting chapter of his life, which starts with the Star Dog Universe series. His first book, Star Dog Legacy is available now on Amazon and KU, and the trilogy will soon be complete.
He is happily married and currently living in Michigan. He is also owned by one spoiled calico cat, who has a household of servants attending to all of her affection needs.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Missing Things (Men of Magic, Book 2) by Hollis Shiloh

Release date: May 3, 2017
Subgenre: Gay fantasy romance 

About Missing Things

 

Is there a way to save the captive fae?
Jocelyn and Ellis, magicians and life partners, grapple with dilemmas and a miasma of magic and mystery.

Jocelyn searches out magical artifacts, and struggles with the troubling gap in his memories — and the feeling that his and Ellis's partnership is falling apart.

Meanwhile, Ellis works desperately to dig into a wicked injustice being perpetrated against a kidnapped fae...and finds it may be too much for him to handle alone.

43,000 words
Men of Magic book 2
Very low heat


Excerpt:


In what time I could spare, I had been looking through the files, of course, hoping I would stumble upon something eventually.

Collingsgrove was an imposing place, with high walls, a tower, and supposedly involved in scientific and electrical research and study.

We had driven by the facility once, and only once, and the fae had contacted me at the time. It was painful and terrifying, to know that he was captive and afraid and wished for any escape, even death.

Amongst the minutiae of the ministry's files, I discovered that the facility had done some work for the ministry, during the war...and after.

The files, however, that detailed these jobs were gone.

Fishier and fishier.

I had some small connection to it, through my art-magic connection. I'd drawn the fae several times, from memory beyond what I could reach with my mind, and that was how we'd pieced together what happened when it made Jocelyn and me forget it. He had been struck more strongly with whatever otherworldly fae magic it used; while I did not remember anything about it particularly clearly, it did not hurt me to try. Jocelyn felt vague and pained and could not even concentrate on the subject.

Despite the connection, I was surprised when the fae contacted me through my drawing. It had done so before, but that had been some time ago and had only happened when I was much closer. I did not expect it in the quiet comfort of our office. The first words startled me so much that I swore and dropped my pencil; it rolled under my desk.

If Jocelyn had been present, there would have been no hiding it from him. Instead, I was alone in our small office for the moment, and stared down in dread at the paper I'd been doodling on as I thought. I had not been paying attention, and as once before, I saw now a message from the trapped fae.

It could be none other than he; it was his handwriting, jagged, angry slashes forming words of rage and pain and desperation.

GET. ME. OUT.

He was asking for my help? I flashed back to the images I had of him: glimpses through memory and the insight of my art. He was beautiful in an unearthly way, and filled with rage, terrifying to behold...and beautiful, so beautiful. He was all lithe fury and pain and sharp ears and skin darker than my own. He crackled with power; he blazed with fury. He was the most beautiful and horrible thing in the world.

I waited to see if he had more to say, steadying my breath and relaxing my hand. Nothing came through. I took a single soft breath and took my bravery in hand.

I decided to try something I had not previously attempted. I would talk to the fae. I must try; I had to try something! With a deep breath, I braced myself and wrote back in clear, calm capitals firmly marked: HOW CAN I HELP?

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About Hollis Shiloh:

Hollis Shiloh writes love stories about men, also called gay romance or m/m romance, with the preferred genres of contemporary, historical, and fantasy. Hollis's stories tend towards the sweet rather than the spicy. When not writing, the author enjoys reading, retro music, and being around animals. To be added to the Hollis's mailing list for updates, or to contact the author for other reasons, please write to Hollis.Shiloh@gmail.com. 

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guest post by Cynthia Clay: The Value of Escapist Fiction



The Value of Escapist Fiction



Fantasy and science fiction are often regarded as "escapist" fiction, the idea being that one escapes from the troubles of the everyday world into a made up story. This concept has always bothered me. It suggests there is something not quite right about a person who needs to escape. It belittles this type of fiction, implying that there is no real truth to the stories that let the reader believe what the reader wants to believe rather than what is true. Science fiction has fared a little better in reputation, appropriating for itself the banner of "the fiction of ideas." Science fiction, particularly hard science fiction, is supposed to be based on a reasonable scientific premise with the tale developing as conjecture upon that scientific premise. Science fiction, then, proudly holds itself aloof from mere fantasy and does its best to distance itself from soft science fiction which is based on the "soft sciences" of psychology and sociology. This attempt to hold science fiction aloft as superior to fantasy has also always bothered me. Clearly the underlying statement made by the division is that one is a literature of thought which improve one's mind; the other is pulp serving only as a false respite from life.

     There is another distinction between science fiction and fantasy. Science fiction has largely been the province of men. Indeed, hard science fiction is almost entirely the province of men. Fantasy, especially when it comes from the tradition of fairy tales is more the province of women. There are exceptions to both: soft science fiction has many female writers, and "high fantasy" the swords-and-sorcery variety is often written by men. The distinction between whether fantasy will be written by men or women seems to me to be more related to the tale's actually being a war story. Most of science fiction and fantasy are crude war stories with little point beyond tossing buckets of blood about. Indeed, the vast majority of science fiction and fantasy publications of all types seem to proffer no story that does not have at least one battle, fight, or other scene of graphic violence. And lest the reader "tut-tut" this assertion, let me point out that you are reading my stories as an e-book or POD because all but one of the stories in my collection of fantasy, sf, and myth, New Myths of the Feminine Divine were sent to the traditional science fiction and fantasy publishers, and that of the four stories that were accepted by magazines, three of them contain bloodshed. Men tend to drive the fantasy and science fiction fields; and men, it seems, still prefer tales of slaughter over tales of love. Even when women serve as editors to science fiction and fantasy publications they are seeking to please a male market and make their decisions accordingly.

     Yet, for all the assertions that science fiction, not fantasy, is the "literature of ideas" and for all the cloaking of science fiction's ideas in buckets of blood, the observation pops up over and over again that science fiction stories are the myths of our age. This to me is the crux of the matter. Science fiction and fantasy are both actually forms of myths. Myths, as in the Greek Myths, feature gods, goddesses, or demi-goddesses and are essentially religious stories, sacred texts. Fantasy and science fiction do not include a deity and are not intended to be religious stories. (Sharon Shinn with her Archangel series does include a deity, but the deity is only one of the characters, it is not a deity believed in by living people, and her novels are not intended as sacred texts.) Joseph Campbell in one of his videotaped shows, quipped ironically that "myths are other people's religion" and it is in this sense of sacred text that the word myth is different from fantasy and science fiction


   However, today there are a great many people who are atheist, agnostic, or who find spiritual meaning in any story that talks persuasively of the ability of the human spirit to triumph (the wonderful film Gattaca, for example). For such people, deities are either unneeded or unwanted, and the concept of mythos becomes broadened as these views are accommodated. Myth, then, I regard as any tale in which a human encounters or becomes a fully rational non-human, or obtains an artifact with powers, with the artifact being created by fully rational non-humans; or a myth is any tale where a human makes a journey to some place that is not the earth and becomes changed fundamentally by the journey. Myths, fantasy tales, and science fiction each use these scenarios; the difference is in their perspective. Myths hold to a deity being the powerful non-human or lending power to the journey or artifact; science fiction has the knowledge and logic of science as the purveyor of power; fantasy presents surreal creatures, unfathomable objects, or special ritual acts as the agents of transformation.

     Thus, science fiction works with the symbols that are new and exciting aspects of real life we know to be truly powerful–the workings of science and technology. Fantasy works with elements of power used by our culture in its antiquity--the power of beautiful rhymes and speeches, swords, and potions. Both of the genres have magical beings: elves and aliens; creatures half human-half animal and creatures half human-half manufactured. It is argued, of course, that the amazing events in science fiction are plausible; they could happen. We might be able to freeze a body for hundreds of years and then revive the person. We might one day colonize another planet. We might have to deal with a worldwide natural calamity like a comet hitting the earth. The amazing events of fantasy could not happen, it is thought. Not true. The amazing events of fantasy do happen. 


   The amazing events, the magic that occurs in fantasy tales and myths, the startling powers the characters wield are not the stuff of make believe. Myths, and fantasy tales are myths, are descriptions of our psyches. Myths depict what happens to us during our maturation; they depict how to solve our most serious problems; they provide the map of the labyrinth that is the human condition. Myth acknowledges that life is full of perils and struggles, but it teaches us how to face them, what kind of people will help us, and what to do when we make mistakes. Myths even suggest how death may have meaning or how death may be given meaning. Myths do this through describing how we feel about the things we encounter in life. 

     The bullies we meet with in life are the ogres found in myth; a social ill is fantasy's dragon laying waste to everything a community has worked to build; the transformation of humans into glorious creatures, or vile creatures into beautiful humans, reflects the changes we make as our understanding and compassion reach new heights, or despair and anger plunge us low. Myths are not escapist fiction. Nor are myths about bloodshed. Myths are about the world we are actually in and so may contain violence. The perspective in myth is merely shifted to the symbolic viewpoint so that we can be shown what to expect or what can be done about the situations we find ourselves in. So while myths talk of encountering powerful non-humans, obtaining objects of special power, or journeying to lands not of this earth, what myths are about is how we understand and ultimately transform ourselves or our world.

     Science fiction and fantasy, at their best, are both forms of myth. Science fiction uses the powers of science and technology to engage us in what could be. Fantasy uses lyric language, archetypal images, and metaphors to show us what is and how to grapple with it to become greater. Science fiction tells us what we can do; fantasy tells us who we are as well as what we are capable of. Science fiction presents us with new ideas about how we can remake the world, spelling it all out for us. Fantasy tells us what this world is made of and who we must become to make changes in the world, and so fantasy requires us to think, to decipher the code of the tale again and again. Both forms of fiction are myths. Science fiction is myth because it engages our imaginations in the consideration of transforming the world. Fantasy is myth because it engages our imaginations in the consideration of who we are and what we may become.


About Cynthia Clay:


Cynthia Joyce Clay is an award winning author and a member of the Dramatists' Guild. Cynthia was judged to be a computer program on Shakespeare at the First Loebner Prize Competition of The Turing Test - a truly science fictional experience. The Competition was filmed as part of a PBS Scientific Frontiers episode and aired internationally. In addition to living sf, Clay has experience with the thriller genre: she was invited to Russia to deliver her paper, The Application of Vector Theory to Literature and Drama at the international conference "Languages of Science, Languages of Art" and was chased by the KGB. For reasons she refuses to face, she obviously prefers to write fantasy. She is working on The Saga of the Dragon Born; books one (Foreshadow) and two (The Contending) only need to cover art and blurbs to launch!

Facebook page is under Cynthia Clay
Twitter is under cynthia@storycrafterstudio.com



Friday, May 19, 2017

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for May 19, 2017


Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with a whole lot of space opera, American Gods, Alien Covenant, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and All Systems Red as well as the usual mix of awards news, writing advice, interviews, reviews, awards news, a whole lot of con reports, crowdfunding projects, science articles and free online fiction. 

Speculative fiction in general:

Comments on American Gods

Comments on Alien: Covenant and the entire Alien series:

Comments on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Awards:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Crowdfunding:

Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Black Site by Michael Patrick Hicks

Release date: May 9, 2017
Subgenre: Science fiction horror


About Black Site

 

For fans of H.P. Lovecraft and Alien comes a new work of cosmic terror!

Inside an abandoned mining station, in the depths of space, a team of scientists are seeking to unravel the secrets of humanity's origin. Using cutting-edge genetic cloning experiments, their discoveries take them down an unimaginable and frightening path as their latest creation proves to be far more than they had bargained for.


Black Site is a short story of approximately 10,000 words.

Excerpt:

 

Skin sloughed away from the subject, dissolving in the synthesis chamber. Watching the pink tissue drift through the solution, Alpha was reminded of fish food flakes. He’d never had a fish tank, but Papa had. Because he carried the memories of Papa in his own skull, he was able to make the comparison by proxy.
                “Subject Uniform failed to maintain cohesion,” he said for the benefit of the record. His voice was dispassionate and wooden, no longer burdened by the personal sense of failure he had once felt during earlier projects. The lack of success, though, was not necessarily a failure. Rather, it carried the potential of a lesson, new data to study and build from.
                Echo stood beside him, her hands hanging limply at her sides. Her fingers fidgeted against her thighs, patting out a tiny rhythm against her slate gray slacks, occasionally pinching at the fabric. As far as Alpha could tell, none of the others, himself included, exhibited such nervous habits. Not for the first time, he thought Echo was simply unique, and not just because she was the only female of the project. That, in and of itself, had been an aberration. A fluke. An oddity that he enjoyed studying, frankly.
                “Victor appears to be gestating regularly,” she said. “Systems are normal.”
                Even Victor, though, was marred by irregularities, far more than Uniform had been. Yet Echo was correct – Victor, for all intents and purposes, was developing as planned, even if the term ‘regular’ was a bit of a misnomer. The project was on track, and that was the most important aspect. The loss of Uniform was a disappointment, but hardly more than a minor misstep in Papa’s grander designs.
                Drawing closer to the chamber, he studied the developing fetus. The only thing separating the viability of Uniform and Victor were slight alterations in protein sequences. A slight change in carboxyl groups, an alteration in an amino acid that made one’s protein either active or inactive, turned a hormone on or off and, in turn, meant either doom or survival for one’s genetic sample. 
Victor was nearing the equivalent of its fifth month of development. In a normal fetus at this stage, the cellular formation would have taken on a shape plainly recognizable as human. Yet, Alpha failed to recognize much that was uniquely human in Victor’s development. A clearly designed face, arms, legs, and torso were all plainly familiar in terms of categorization but far from human. In fact, the aberrations were so pronounced that studying the subject gave him a mild headache.
                Echo put her arm around his waist, rested her head on his shoulder. He pressed his cheek against her hair, enjoying the warmth radiating from her body.
                “Do you think this is it?” Echo said.
                In the tank, Victor’s arm unfolded and smacked against the glass, an eye swiveling toward them. The fingers were strangely elongated, and already they could make out the tip of a sharp, dagger-like nail as he pressed his palm against the thick encasement.
                “We’re getting closer,” he said.
 

 

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You can also enter a giveaway for Black Site.

 

About Michael Patrick Hicks:

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novel Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist. He is also the author of the short horror story, Consumption, and his work appears in the science fiction anthology, No Way Home. He lives in Michigan and is hard at work on his next story.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Contamination (Space Agent Jonathan Bartell, Book 1) by Patty Jansen

Release date: May 16, 2017
Subgenre: Hard science fiction

About Contamination

 

Jonathan Bartell is a young man, just out of university, when he signs up for the position of Quarantine Officer at the Orbital Launch Station.

He is part of a crop of students who flocked to study exo-biology when bacteria were discovered on Mars, and who are now all making their living flipping burgers, because the jobs are few and hard to get.

He is lucky to get a job in space, no matter how mundane.

Or so he thinks...

Gaby Larsen is a doctor at the tiny hospital at the space station, and she keeps secrets, not because she wants to keep them, but because she is too scared to share them.

Because out in space, your worst enemies are your fellow travellers.

Excerpt:

 

JONATHAN INSPECTED the buttons of his brand new uniform—check—the Velcro straps on his shoes—check—his shirt being tucked in—check—and his name badge on the pocket of his shirt—check. He knocked on the door with the sign that said, “D. White” and underneath that, “Orbital Launch Station Quarantine Officer”.
Somewhere inside the room, a female voice said, “Come in.”
Jonathan pressed his hand against the metal panel on the door. The tiny light next to the panel flashed green and the door rumbled aside. He stepped into the tiny office and felt like he was pushed sideways. He almost tripped and most unceremoniously landed into the chair opposite Danna White’s desk.
She looked at him over the rim of her reading glasses. Her hair was cropped short, with the pepper-and-salt curls cropped close to her head.
“I didn’t say you could sit down.” Her severe face was lit from below by her computer screen. Her expression held not a shred of humour.
“Um. Sorry.” He scrambled up, trying to keep his balance, but a little voice in his head kept telling him that he was on an invisible bus rumbling down an invisible street and that, at any time, this bus might swerve, or stop.
That said, he’d been feeling a lot better than on the shuttle—that had been plainly awful—but still, artificial gravity didn’t have a blip on the real thing, and trying to walk inside a bike tube that was spinning at 3.5 rotations a minute was an acquired skill.
A skill that all those people in the Orbital Launch Station’s corridors had acquired, but he had, evidently, not.
And that made him the butt of jokes.
He clutched his pad harder, determined not to stumble or—worse—run off in search of a place to barf. That would never do, facing a woman who was his new boss and old enough to be his mother.
“Sit down, Mr Bartell.”
Jonathan sat down again in the same chair, looking at her wrinkled hands. In space, fluids tended to accumulate in the body’s extremities and she should look less old than on Earth.
On second thoughts, maybe she was old enough to be his grandmother.
“Did you sleep well and are you rested enough to start your job?”
“Yes.” And because yes alone was such a lonely word, he added, “Ma’am.” And then, because she was not military, he thought that was probably the wrong thing to say—
She laughed. “You’re very green, right?”
“Arrived yesterday.”
“So I’ve heard.” With the ghost of a smile on her face.
Jonathan cringed. Who had been spreading the story about him having his face buried in a barf bag for almost the entire journey? You know what happens when you barf in zero-g?
She turned to her computer and flicked through a couple of screens. “You’re a biologist by training?”
“Exobiologist.” He tried to sit in whatever felt the best definition of “straight” to him.
She rose and started rummaging in drawers set in the back wall of the tiny office.
A memory crossed his mind: it had been yesterday—or whatever passed for yesterday UTC—before boarding the shuttle. He sat in the shuttle departure hall amongst the passengers waiting to be let aboard the shuttle. Half of the passengers were military people of the shoulder-clapping, we’ll-get-the-fucking-bastards type. Friendly enough, in a threatening look-at-my-muscles sort of way.
He hadn’t really wanted to talk to any of them, but this buff dude in full uniform with a few decorations and polished buttons had asked him if he was going up to the station, which Jonathan said he was, and then he’d asked what Jonathan’s field of work was.
Upon hearing of Jonathan’s degree, Mr Shiny-buttons said, “So, we discover a few microbes on some godforsaken planet, and four years later, we got space-fucking-biologists coming out our ears. I hear some have to work in fast food joints. Space biology, huh?”

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About Patty Jansen: 

Patty lives in Sydney, Australia, and writes both Science Fiction and Fantasy. She has published over 15 novels and has sold short stories to genre magazines such as Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

Patty was trained as a agricultural scientist, and if you look behind her stories, you will find bits of science sprinkled throughout.

 

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