Category Archives: Geek

Signed copies of all my books up for auction to benefit Con or Bust

Now you can get all my books — including an advance reader copy (ARC) of MJ-12: Shadows — via the charity auctions set up by Con or Bust starting today.

I’ve got two lots up for bid this year. The first consists of signed mass-market paperback copies of the full Daedalus trilogy — The Daedalus Incident, The Enceladus Crisis and The Venusian Gambit — which you can bid on here. The second is a hardcover copy of MJ-12: Inception and the ARC of MJ-12: Shadows, which you can bid on here. And yes, I’ll sign every book.

This is the first time anywhere you can get your hands on MJ-12: Shadows. We haven’t even released the cover images yet — though stay tuned for that soon — so you can get a good jump-start on the series before Shadows comes out in September. And of course, I remain super proud of the Daedalus trilogy and the reception it’s received over the years.

This is the fourth year I’ve supported the Con or Bust auctions. Con or Bust provides free SF/F convention passes to people of color, which is a beautiful thing indeed. Science fiction and fantasy needs more voices and different perspectives, and this is a really solid way of bringing more people into the fold.

The bidding started this morning and will last until Sunday, May 7 at 4 p.m. EDT. So you have some time. That said, the money goes to a most worthy cause, so bid early and often! There’s some super-cool stuff up for bid — lots of signed books, some manuscript critiques, jewelry, art, a signed Farscape script, delicious treats…just check it out. Support a great cause and maybe get some awesome SF/F swag!


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Believable, credible villainy

I’ve been meaning to write this up ever since I recorded the Skiffy & Fanty podcast on Fantastic Four, because I think the biggest problem with that film wasn’t the casting or the special effects — it was in the way the villain was written. In fact, I think the movie is an object lesson in how not to write a villain.

Julian McMahon is a decent actor, but as Victor Von Doom, he’s given pathetically little to do, and the stuff he actually does carries so little motivation and weight, it’s comical — and not in a good way. In short, Doom funds Reed Richards’ space experiments, which go wrong and gives everyone — the Four, plus Doom himself — strange superpowers. The Fantastic Four, of course, ultimately decide to use their powers for good. No problem there, because that’s who they are.

What does Doom do? Well, given that Richards’ experiments were deemed a failure and waste of millions of dollars, the board of Doom’s company ousts him. So Doom exacts revenge on one of the board members by killing him. And…well, that’s that. And as Doom becomes more metallic and his lightning powers increase, he decides that Richards and his friends are to blame, so he decides to kill them too. And the Fantastic Four stops him.

End of story…such as it is.

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Podcast! I joined the Skiffy & Fanty crew to talk about Fantastic Four

We interrupt this stream of angry political rants to give you something much more fun — a Skiffy & Fanty podcast! Torture Cinema! Chris Evans before he was Captain America!

I joined the Skiffy & Fanty crew a few weeks ago to talk about the movie Fantastic Four. This isn’t the 2015 film, which was extremely horrible, but instead the 2005 edition which was only mildly bad in comparison. And it marked Chris Evans’ first foray into a Marvel Comics film as Johnny Storm/Human Torch. Obviously, Captain America was a much better move for him.

It also featured Ioan Gruffudd as Mr. Fantastic. Ioan is a very underrated actor, and if you can get your hands on his Horatio Hornblower films from the late ’90s/early ’00s, do it. He did a great job as Hornblower through the various stages of the character’s life.

In fact, the entire cast of Fantastic Four is top-notch. It’s the rest of the film that’s the problem. And on the podcast, we delve deep into the entire rainbow of problems this film has. So many problems. So many.

So if you like having a bunch of geeks talk smack about a mediocre superhero film — with humor and grace and drinking, of course — then click here and start listening, or be sure to subscribe to the Skiffy & Fanty podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. When not torturing people with bad movies, they do a ton of great stuff with authors and SF/F generally. Check ’em out.


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Plot, character evolution and Sherlock

sherlockSpoiler warning: This post was written after the last episode of Sherlock series 4, and is kind of a response/riff on that. If you’re a big Sherlock fan, like I am, or just want to view it unspoiled at some point in the future, you might just give this one a pass. On the bright side? No politics in this one!

The character of Sherlock Holmes is among the most famous in all of literature. I would venture to say only a handful of Shakespeare’s creations, a couple of superheroes and two or three horror icons have stood the test of time alongside Mr. Holmes. It’s not just the iconography — the hat, the pipe, the magnifying glass — that makes him so well known, nor the individual cases written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We know Sherlock Holmes’ character: His hauteur, his uncanny perception, his unfailing intellect, his lack of social graces, his dalliances with drugs, his relationship with Dr. John Watson and, of course, his ongoing search for justice.

The latest iteration of the Holmes mythos, BBC’s Sherlock (seen here in the U.S. on PBS’ Masterpiece), is not only the best modern interpretation of Holmes, but one of the best interpretations of the character ever done. Benedict Cumberbatch had the tall task of inhabiting an icon, and yet not only succeeded, but made his Sherlock perhaps this generation’s definitive take on the character. And Martin Freeman had an even more daunting task — to turn the perpetually confused and amazed Dr. Watson and breathe life into that character, to make him more than just Holmes’ cheering section. He did so beyond any expectation — while Jeremy Brett fans may quibble with Cumberbatch’s interpretation, Freeman’s Watson is hands down the best of them all.

This is why the last episode of Sherlock series 4, “The Final Problem,” is so disappointing. It’s not because it’s poorly written or poorly acted, but because the entire concept of it, from soup to nuts, neatly disregarded all the excellent work Cumberbatch, Freeman and writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have done with the characters for the 12 episodes prior. “The Final Problem” had so many interesting ideas and moments, but ultimately became a case study in how you really shouldn’t sacrifice your characters on the altar of plot expediency.

Let’s discuss, shall we? The game is on.  Continue reading

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Rogue One review: War is hell

Last year, in anticipation of seeing Star Wars return to theaters with The Force Awakens, I reviewed all the Star Wars films. (You can click here to find them.) And I was quite pleased with The Force Awakens; a year later, I can report I’m still pleased as punch whenever I see it again.

So naturally, I was excited about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. And the good folks at the Disney-owned Lucasfilm did not disappoint. However, this needs to be said right up front: This is not your typical Star Wars movie.

Last week, I saw more than a few folks on Twitter laughing at reviewers who said Rogue One was the first Star Wars movie to deal with war. “War” is in the title of all seven movies! How could they not be about war?

But I get it now. Rogue One is very much about war. This movie is about suffering, sacrifice, moral gray areas, fighting for a cause, losing and winning and the costs of both. Moreso than any other Star Wars film, Rogue One is a meditation on war and its effects. And when viewed through that lens, it does a pretty damn good job of it.

Spoilers ahead! I don’t feel like parsing my language or writing around certain topics, so I’m gonna just roll with it. It’s not horribly spoileriffic, but if you don’t want Rogue One spoiled, don’t read on.  Continue reading

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Fantastic independent bookstores for all your holiday gift-giving needs

Found by a friend at Powell's up in Oregon. One of many reasons indie bookstores rock.

Found by a friend at Powell’s up in Oregon. One of many reasons indie bookstores rock.

Let me start by saying that I realize Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the two big choices for book buying, and honestly, I have a lot of respect for both of them. Both companies have been good to me and my work, and I deeply appreciate that. I’m glad they’re there.

But you know what’s awesome? Independent bookstores. I love indie bookstores, man. They are an absolute labor of love for the people that own and run them, and they are vibrant and, dare I say, critical pieces of community life around the country. So this holiday season, I would encourage you to check out independent bookstores in your area for all your gift-giving needs.

Or maybe check out the ones I have listed here if you don’t have a local indie close to you. These are the independent bookstores that I’ve enjoyed visiting around the country, and if you’re in the market for books this holiday season — whether it’s my books or just any books — I would strongly encourage you to check them out. The vast majority of these offer online sales and shipping, and many offer ebook sales via Kobo, too.

I totally get that indie books are more expensive — they’re generally full list-price, plus shipping. And sure, Kobo is a little more expensive than Kindle or Nook. Given the huge impact a good bookstore has on its community, I would urge you to shop indie anyway, if you’re able to do so. It’s fantastic karma.

Finally, I’m highlighting the stores that are offering the Geeky Giving charity anthology, which I was proud to be a part of this year. There are some great stories in there, and proceeds go to the Barrow Neurological Institute. Buying it is a win all around, y’all.   Continue reading

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Worldbuilding overload is a real thing

I had a colleague come into my office this morning with, as he put it, “a geek question.” Obviously, he’d come to the right place, but I couldn’t actually help. He was looking for a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, but mine went AWOL years ago. (Note to self: Get new copy of LOTR.)

We got to talking, as colleagues do when deadlines near and we don’t want to deal. He had just finished up The Hobbit and wanted to read the trilogy next, but was bracing himself for it somewhat. You see, J.R.R. Tolkien is absolutely the granddaddy godfather O.G. of epic fantasy writers. There is no doubt. But man, he loved his worldbuilding. A lot.

So much so, he kinda shoved as much of it into his books as possible.

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Inspiration where you least expect it

My day-job office is at Rockefeller Center, which is pretty awesome most of the time. (The Christmas tree is beautiful for about two days, then the throngs of tourists begin to wear on one’s nerves, admittedly.) I remember the first day I arrived, I saw this plaque in the elevator lobby.


Pretty cool, eh? The office itself is pretty unremarkable now, but it’s nifty to think that a critical piece of the Allied war effort played out on the same floor where I drink coffee and talk football with my co-workers. And yes, I revisited this plaque more than once as I was writing MJ-12: Inception.

Sir William Stephenson was a Canadian businessman prior to World War II. As war broke out in Europe, Winston Churchill asked Stephenson to open up the British Security Coordination office in New York. Room 3603 in Rockefeller Center was the place he rented. Officially, he was a passport control officer. Unofficially, he helped coordinate intelligence activities throughout North America.

MJ-12-newcoverPrior to late 1941, part of Stephenson’s job was to try to sway public opinion in the U.S. in favor of aid to Britain. After the U.S. joined the war, his office in Rockefeller Center became a hub of activity, coordinating U.S., British and Canadian covert action against the Axis. He was the one who set up Camp X up in Ontario, where O.S.S. and MI6 officers trained during the war.

Yes, the Camp X training manual was a real thing, and I used it in MJ-12: Inception as a guide to how Variants would be trained at Area 51. In fact, researching Stephenson led me to Camp X, which led to that key piece in the book.

Stephenson was also instrumental in the creation of O.S.S., which would later become the CIA.

After the war, Stephenson went back to being a businessman, and I haven’t found much more about him after that. It was sorely tempting to include him somehow in the MAJESTIC-12 series, but alas, I don’t think he’ll make in there. But it’s nice to know that a piece of history is right here in my office, and helped me discover more of the history that went into my work.


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Writing books for fun and prophecy

prophetThe cool online magazine Inverse has this great column called “Ask a Prophet,” which is an interview with science fiction writers about the genre and their ideas for the future. And, well…heck, I guess I’m a prophet?

Sadly, all I got is Magic 8 Ball that I received almost two decades ago from a now-defunct e-commerce site…back when people called them “e-commerce sites.” And the 8 Ball, as you can see, is less than impressed with my prophetic skills.

Anyway, Lauren Sarner chatted with me for the column, and it turned out to be a pretty nifty interview. We talked about the Daedalus trilogy, comic book movies and diversity in the genre.  Go check it out!


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Superpowers, alienation and Deadpool

Oh, yeah. We’re gonna do a think-piece on Deadpool, baby. Grab a chimichanga and buckle up.

I admit, I didn’t see Deadpool in theaters, and only had a passing knowledge of the character to begin with. However, I’ve seen the movie several times on video – twice courtesy of United Airlines, where at least some things are still free besides dry-mouth and turbulence. And since I’m in the midst of writing about superheroes, of a sort, in the MAJESTIC-12 series, I have thoughts.

Ready? Cue the music.  Continue reading

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