Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Fantasy Monsters, Realistic Fights

Samurai donjon03.jpg
Almost every fantasy story I've read deal with fight scenes in one of two ways. The first is to make it a spectacular show, with special moves, acrobatics, magic, powers and other feats thrown around to dazzle and impress the reader. The second is to describe the battle in broad strokes, seeking to capture the spirit, the energy, the tactics and strategy, and the drama of the clash without delving too deeply into the mechanics of each technique.
Unfortunately, they don't work for me.

Red River Part 8


To The Knife

Even the New Gods had rules for war.
Never shed the blood of the innocent. Never whack a cop in cold blood. Never, ever, target the Speakers of rival gods.
But the Court of Shadows weren’t sticklers for rules.
The Speakers of the New Gods served many roles. They defined and codified doctrine. They communicated the will of the gods to believers and non-believers alike. They negotiated with the mortal authorities and rival gods. They were high priests, policymakers and ambassadors rolled in one, the closest the New Gods had to divinely-appointed rulers.
By targeting a Speaker, the Court was calling for war to the knife.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A TRAITOR TO DREAMS - A Book Recommendation

A Traitor to Dreams by [Hellene, Alexander]

Elpida Kallistos has a secret.

You see, on the outside she is the confident, ultra-competent corporate embodiment of Grrrl power. On the inside however, a gnawing self-doubt is eating her alive. Despite her best efforts to lose herself in her career, the ticking of her biological clock is a constant reminder that she is deep into the wrong side of her thirties (the side that can't help but stare down the double barrels of the big 4 0!) and not only has she no family of her own, she doesn't even have a boyfriend.

Elpida has no children because she has no husband. She has no husband, or boyfriend for that matter, because she can't find a man worth a damn. It's not for lack of trying. As an attractive young woman she has plenty of suitors, many of which she deigns to date but, none of them inspire her to commit to more than a second date before she loses interest in them.

The tale begins with Elpida fleeing one such date through a restaurant's side door. It's a scene that works really well as both comedy and characterization. And as someone who worked in restaurants for twenty years, I found it especially amusing, having twice witnessed distressed damsels similarly escape dates through the kitchen and out the back door.

Ms. Kallistos returns home that night, less than proud for ditching her date in such a manner but, mostly she is upset with herself for her growing feelings of inadequacy which propel her out on dates with men who invariably prove to be 'soft and weak.' Why should I feel less than fulfilled without a boyfriend, husband or children, she asks herself and the universe at large? Why isn't my career enough? Why should I crave affection? I have two loving cats, after all!

Surely, there must be a way to rid oneself of unwanted desires.

No longer wanting to be subject to these nagging feelings, Elpida revs up the nearest search engine and goes trawling the web for a solution. And Lo and Behold! she stumbles across an advert for 'The Dream Trash Can' made by a company out of Silicon Valley called Ideomatic Inc. The product seems to be exactly what she needs. It has plenty of rave reviews but the literature is rather light on how the machine actually works.  She hems and haws at first but Elpida's hard-nosed New York skepticism is ultimately overcome by the company's offer of a free trial of their gizmo.

She hooks herself up to the contraption and tries it out on a small, harmless desire. It seems to work. But how does it work? It bugs her to no end that the company keeps the details close to its chest. The label strictly warning users against opening the device quickly becomes an irresistible challenge. Fetching a screw driver, Elpida decides to play Pandora and pries the lid off the Dream Trash Can.

Instead of unleashing varied ills on the world, Elpida finds herself 'fallen' into an alternate reality peopled with all sorts of strange beings, a great many of them monsters churned out of her own unconscious. It is here the novel's pace reaches pulp speed as our heroine begins her quest for a way home with the aid of a few, equally lost allies, her wits and trusty screwdriver. Along the way she will discover the occult secret at the heart of the alien world, the sinister design of the technology that brought her to it and a few things about herself as well.

A TRAITOR TO DREAMS  is the fun-filled and fast-paced first novel by Alexander Hellene, a new writer to keep an eye out for in the future. Purchase a copy for yourself and see what I mean.

Red River Part 7

“The suspect you arrested has cracked,” Pearce said. “He’s a captain within the ranks of the Guzman Cartel, and privy to a number of operational secrets. Among them is the existence of a group of elite killers operating in Riveria. These sicarios are all Elect, heavily armed, and highly dangerous. Taking them out will significantly reduce Cartel operations and influence in Riveria.”
Connor pursed his lips. He hadn’t expected to bring in a high-ranking Cartel soldier in the foot chase. But such things happened in this line of work.
“Our target deck is almost complete,” Pearce said, “but our priorities have changed. We need these sicarios removed from the picture ASAP. I’m bringing in more agents and specialist teams to help, but you, Black Watch of the Special Tasks Section, are at the tip of the spear.”
“Does that mean no more undercover patrols?” Wood asked.
“Yes and no. We need to develop evidence against these suspects. Until we have a solid case, we still need you out there. But we may call on you to perform or support surveillance operations. And once the target deck is ready, it’ll be game time.”

Monday, February 18, 2019

Red River Part 6

Red River Part 5

After The Fire

Twenty four hours on, twenty four off.
After dropping off the suspect at the PSB field office, Connor and Yamamoto topped off their ammo and hitched a ride back to Three Rivers. Until the shift was over, they couldn’t relax.
Even so, the massive gunfight had a chilling effect on the neighborhood. The Liberated, the Pantheon and the Court stayed put in their respective corners, all of them taking pains to ignore each other. As cops descended on the scene of the shooting, stores and pubs and restaurants shuttered early.
If they were regular cops or ordinary PSB agents, Connor and Yamamoto would have to spend the rest of the night writing statements and seeking legal advice. Instead, they prowled the streets in their civvies, their carbines stowed in their packs, still looking for signs of trouble.
The STS weren’t regular cops. Hell, they were PSB agents in name only. Their function was closer to military special forces. Once their watch was done, there would be a mandatory debrief, a write-up to explain and justify their actions, but after that, it would be back to the streets, ready for whatever fresh horrors the New Gods could spit out.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Red River Part 5


The Lady of Sorrows

The Elect ran.
The operators pursued.
“Sheriff Three, Samurai. I want this guy alive. Someone has to answer has to answer for this mess. Follow him, but don’t shoot if you can avoid it. State Green.”
“Acknowledged, Samurai,” the pilot replied.
ROE State Green was the strictest set of Rules of Engagement the STS lived by. Lethal force was only authorized against clear, identified threats. Fleeing Elect didn’t count.
Hot on the Elect’s heels, Connor and Yamamoto ran at full speed, the pilot whispering directions in their ears. The Elect had a long head start, but he was slowing down and leaving a blood trail behind.
A tense silence fell. The last gunshot had faded long ago, and only now were the civilians testing the air, peeking out windows and doors. They stayed indoors, shying away from the operators as they approached.
Good. The fewer civilians caught in the crossfire, the better.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Red River Part 4


The Destroyer

A terrible force flung Connor to the ground. He tucked his chin and curled up. His backpack slammed into his back. Gasping, he rolled to his left, bleeding off the energy, and forced himself up to a knee.
People ran screaming and shouting in every direction. Pillars of smoke rose from black splotches on the road. A sweet, greasy odor infiltrated his nose. Shattered metal and plastic debris lay by his feet, and he realized with a start that it was the remains of a drone. To his left, Yamamoto rose into a crouch, right hand parting his jacket.
“Contact twelve!” Yamamoto roared.
Connor spun around.
The Destroyer. Not just an idol, but an avatar of a wrathful goddess of death. She strode down the street, every footfall a colossal boom. Beams of blinding white light issued from her eyes, her floating skulls, the weapons she wielded in every hand. Blasts rocked the world.
Above the noise, he heard… chanting.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Red River Part 3


One Night in Three Rivers

Overshadowed by sprawling Babylon to the northwest, Riveria was the city of the working class. Babylon was glitz and glamor and gold; Riveria was factories and smokestacks and processing plants. The manufacturing and commercial heart of the nation, Riveria was steeped in blue-collar honesty and mercantile hospitality. Yet, like Babylon, it too was a city cobbled together from smaller settlements.
Generations ago, when Babylon was young, and men still remembered the terror of the Long Night that reshaped the world and dragged it off to an unknown universe, this place was called Three Rivers. Named for the three rivers that fed into the sea, all within walking distance of each other, it had begun life as a fishing town.
Over the decades, as neighboring villages and settlements expanded and merged, Three Rivers transformed into the city of Riveria. But to Connor, here, this place, would always be Three Rivers.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Art of Designing Nontraditional Monsters

When I began work on Dungeon Samurai, I challenged myself to employ only non-traditional monsters. They would not be orcs, goblins, or other such fantasy mooks seen in anime, manga and RPGs the world over; they would be monsters worthy of the name, dangerous and horrifying and bloodthirsty man-slayers that roam the dungeon seeking souls.
Why embark on this challenge? Simple: most portrayal of monsters is boring.

Red River Part 2


2. New Sheriff in Town

“What a goat rope,” Connor declared.
“Hey, at least we all got out intact,” Fox said. “Can’t say the same for the other guys.”
The men and woman of the Black Watch were gathered around a long oak conference table. Still dressed for war, their presence had caused a stir among the hotel staff. When the call came, they had simply thrown on their gear over their civilian clothing, grabbed their guns, and rushed for the SkyBear.
This wasn’t an operational deployment. Not a direct action deployment, anyway. They came to Riveria expecting a low-pro security mission, and had kitted themselves accordingly. But they were STS, they got the job done despite having the wrong gear. That, and Yuri Yamamoto was either farsighted or crazy enough to demand that the team be loaded for bear at all times. Or both.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Red River Part 1

This was the nightmare scenario. Multiple active shooters and hostage takers, possibly Elect and/or Husks. Multiple hostages. No way of confirming details, no means of reaching the subjects. No backup. No margin for error. Madness.
Will Connor lived for this shit.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Cosmology and Science Fiction

One of my pet peeves in science fiction is reading tales which take place centuries or sometimes thousands of years in the future and yet their universes still function by the rules of a twentieth century cosmology. Except perhaps in an alternate universe sort of story, we would not insist that a sci-fi tale set in the modern day should comport with Ptolemaic cosmology, so why do we assume that today's  Standard Model of Physics  will still be in vogue centuries hence?

No science is ever settled, after all.

Admittedly, part of my irritation with these stories arises from the fact that I've always taken issue with some of what is proposed by the Standard Model of Physics. And when I say 'some,' I mean that whopping   96%   of the universe whose existence can only be inferred, and vaguely at that, by the Standard Model. To say that the Standard Model's consigning of so large a swath of existence to the outer darkness is counter-intuitive is to miss the mark by a light year. The various theories of black holes, dark matter and dark energy have always said more to me about the inadequacy of the Standard Model than they have about the actual makeup of the universe.

I certainly can't fault writers for taking the Standard Model for granted. How could I? I myself have relied on the Standard Model of Physics for The Interdiction, a sci-fi short story in my  CHOICE WORDS  collection. It is neither a failure of imagination or plain laziness for writers to mine the rich ideas and wild possibilities of the Standard Model and use that raw material to forge fantastic stories.  A scientific theory doesn't have to be true to serve as the inspiration for great fiction. Just think of all the great yarns that the  Hollow Earth Theory  produced.

However, I wanted something different for my Holy Terran Empire  space opera. Set, as the series is, three thousand years in the future, I wanted a new physics on which to base faster than light interstellar travel and other futuristic tech and toys. After much searching about the fringes of cosmology and physics I came across the Electric Universe Model. The video below is as good an introduction to the model as any. If you find the EU Model as intriguing as I do, there's a ton of more videos and articles on the subject to be found at the site:

The gist of the Electric Universe Model lies in its replacing of gravity with electromagnetism as the organizing principle of the universe. With this switch the need to posit exotic phenomena like black holes, dark matter and dark energy disappears like a fart in a hurricane. But for me, the real allure of the EU is the fact that unlike the gravity-based theories of the Standard Model, those of the Electric Universe Model can be proved or falsified in the laboratory! (Just like scientists used to do once upon a time.)

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that as a bartender-turned-garlic farmer and high school drop out to boot, I am in no way qualified to even pretend to be competent enough to pass judgement on which of the two models most accurately describes our wonderful universe. I can only tell you which one sets off the clangorous klaxons of my ever trusty, life-long faithful cattle dung detector.

And that one would be the widely-accepted Standard Model.

But whatever the veracity of the models, I decided to use the EU Model as the backdrop for my space opera. Just the backdrop, mind you. The physics of the EU plays a distant third fiddle to the Ray Gun Romance and clash of Galactic Superpowers that is the bread and butter of Space Opera. The second fiddle would be the interplay of Christian and Secularist mores which I hope will favorably distinguish my series from those of my most worthy fellows in the genre.

That aside, some of the immediate implications of the EU Model which the first installment of my space opera touches upon include the replacing of the super massive black hole at the center of the galaxy with a super massive  Plasmoid.  Additionally, light in the Electric Universe does not set the speed limit. Gravity does! Its speed is instantaneous. Thus, faster than light travel is not only possible, but it can be had without the nettlesome effects of time dilation because time exists in the Electric Universe as opposed to the Standard Model Universe which conversely exists in time.
(This point about the absence of time dilation is my own conjecture extrapolated from what the EU Model says of time and gravity and not based on anything I've found explicitly said by any of the model's proponents. If I have drawn an erroneous conclusion, I must apologize to EU scientists, but I will keep said conclusion for my fiction's sake.)
Among the most exciting propositions of the EU Model is the redefining of  space itself. It is no longer seen as an ever-expanding vacuum but rather, as a plenum of plasma and magnetic fields wherein a vast web of cosmic  Birkeland Currents   writhe and crackle, giving birth and dealing annihilation to worlds and stars and whole galaxies!

That is an exciting backdrop in which to set any space opera but doubly so for the Catholic blend of Star Wars and Star Trek which is, The Holy Terran Empire!

If this piques your interest, pick up a copy of   ONE LAST FLIGHT: Book One Of The Holy Terran Empire!  The e-book will remain available for the Low, Howdy Y'all! Introductory Price of .99¢ through Easter!