Thursday, February 28, 2019

Writing Faith in Fiction

Samurai donjon03.jpg
It is fashionable in modern SFF to denigrate religion as oppressive and outdated superstition. Priests are corrupt hypocrites, gods are dead or evil or both, religious doctrine is a lie -- and the worst offender is always Christianity in fantasy dress. Science fiction goes one step further, portraying technologically advanced societies that have outgrown religion -- including Christianity. Alternatively, religion is treated as window dressing, or as an afterthought plastered on to the setting.
Such derogatory or half-hearted portrayals of religion undermine the genre.
A key element of science fiction and fantasy is awe and wonder. The writer evokes this feeling by portraying an organic world and a cosmology much larger than the characters, and by extension the readers. Drawing upon religion and mythology is a powerful and time-tested method of achieving this.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Red River Part 13


Dewdrop World

One can’t challenge an Executive Assistant Director of the PSB without consequences.
Mere minutes after Pearce left, a barrage of orders came down from above. The mission was declared complete, with all operational duties handed over to the Riveria field office and local ESWAT team. All STS operators would catch the first flight back to Babylon. Team Black Watch would be suspended and placed on administrative leave to support a post-shooting investigation by the Office of Professional Standards and Ethics.
After every mission, if an STS operator fired shots, there would always be a post-shooting investigation. But unlike regular law enforcement agencies, STS operators weren’t pulled off the line during the investigation. Their operational tempo and small numbers simply couldn’t support it. What investigations OPSE performed for the STS never took longer than a week, rarely longer than a day or two, long enough to establish that, yes, the operators faced extraordinary threats in an extraordinary environment, yes, the operators were required to employ dynamic tactics and specialist weapons to meet these threats, yes, the operators acted within policy.
It took a major fuck up to be suspended.
And the Black Watch did not fuck up.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Red River Part 12


The Balance

The conference room was small but cozy, befitting the intimate and confidential nature of this meeting. Executive Assistant Director Robert Pearce, wearing a bespoke blue suit of fine silk, leaned back in his chair and smiled at his three guests.
“I am pleased to report that the Public Security Bureau has smashed the Guzman Cartel in Riveria. We have rounded up their leaders, facilitators and soldiers, and have confiscated millions of dollars in illicit wealth, assets and weapons.
“We are continuing to pursue their remaining members in Riveria. However, their ability to conduct criminal operations have been significantly diminished. We judge they are no longer capable of anything more sophisticated than street-level crimes.”
“That’s wonderful,” Emily Anders said. “Please convey our thanks to the brave agents who made this possible.”
“Thanks. I will.”
“We—the Pantheon—are most delighted to hear of this development,” Nav Chaudhari said. “With that said, I understand there are some ongoing investigations that touch upon mutual interests.”
“Yes,” Anders said, nodding. “My congregation is traumatized by the demise of so many of our fellow members. We need answers.”

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Red River Part 11


House of Shadows

The operators stayed aboveground for fifteen minutes.
Long enough to replace their expended magazines with spares from their vehicles. Long enough for the RPD to swoop down and form an outer perimeter. Long enough for the flying ambulances to recover the former hostages and send them to hospital.
As the last ambulance took to the air, Yamamoto found the senior cop on scene and clapped his shoulder.
“Sergeant, we need your help.”
“What do you need?” the cop asked.
“We still have work to do here. We need you to maintain the perimeter and make sure no one breaches the scene. Not even the New Gods. We also need more paramedics on standby, prepped for a mass casualty event and evacuation.”
“What are you going to do?”
“To save lives.”

Friday, February 22, 2019

Red River Part 10


Shots Fired

“Shots fired, shots fired inside the office,” Fox called.
“Anybody got eyes on?” Yamamoto asked.
“I can’t see inside the office from here.”
“Negative visual here,” Wood said. “Lycan?”
“I’m…” He inhaled sharply. “I’m tapped out. Sorry.”
“We need to go. Now,” Connor said.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Red River Part 9



The House of Shadows looked nothing like a church. It was a simple brick building, five stories tall, painted in cheerful blues and reds. The signboard said ‘SAFEKEEP SELF-STORAGE SOLUTIONS’. There were no altars to the Lord and Lady of Shadows in a three-block radius. No iconography, no goons hanging around. A perfectly innocent business.
And yet…
A wall surrounded the building, concrete to waist height, steel bars to eye level. Security cameras watched the entrances and exits. A guardhouse controlled vehicular access, and the guard on duty wore pistols at their hips.
And one more thing.
“The place is warded,” Mustafa reported. “But it’s… odd.”
“How so?” Yamamoto asked.
“The office on the first floor, and the storage areas on the upper floor, are transparent. I can pass in and out through them. But the floor of the office is warded. I think there’s a hidden basement.”
“What kind of ward is it?”
“A complex one. It keeps out intruders on the Aether. If I touch it, I’ll bounce off. In meatspace, if someone enters the warded space, it’ll set off an alarm. And, I think, if the ward goes down, it’ll trigger an alarm too.”
“Can you penetrate the ward?”
“I could try, but it might set off an alarm.”
“Before you do, search for a way to physically access the basement.”
The six operators of the Black Watch had surrounded the building. Fox and Tan had taken positions in an apartment block opposite SafeKeep. Wood and Mustafa were in an unmarked car in a nearby parking garage. Yamamoto and Connor, ensconced in a black van with tinted windows, were parked three blocks down the road.
During the conversation, Connor was busying studying the target. Seated in the back, he trained a pair of binoculars out the window, staring at the entrance, noting all traffic. Next to him, a suite of phone interceptors and trackers waited for someone to call SafeKeep.
Stakeouts were boring. But Connor understood why he needed to do this, and what he needed to do. His nerves wanted to be in motion, but that would defeat the mission, so he willed himself to remain still. As Yamamoto would say, it was merely the chattering of the monkey mind, and the mind could be mastered. Sometimes, what Yamamoto said was too esoteric for Connor. But he grasped the concept of discipline and self-mastery immediately.
When this was all over, he really should ask Yamamoto the title of the book he recommended.
With that note filed away, Connor resumed his task. He dutifully logged every vehicle coming and going from the facility, confirming details with Tan and Fox. When someone called the office, Yamamoto slipped on his headphones, listened intently and took notes. There had been three phone calls so far, all of which were routine enquiries.
“Samurai, Lycan,” Mustafa radioed. “I think I’ve found an access point to the basement.”
“Tell us more,” Yamamoto replied.
“The elevator shaft. The control panel shows buttons for floors one to five, but the shaft itself runs deep underground. I followed the shaft down, and I found a hidden door. A warded door, at that.
“The elevator control panel uses a thumbprint identification system. My guess is that if an Elect presses his thumb against the reader, the lift will automatically descend to the basement.”
“That sounds plausible,” Yamamoto said. “But look around for hidden stairs. I want to see if there’s another access point.”
“Roger that.”
Time crawled past. Connor swapped out with Yamamoto, drank some water, and listened to the police and PSB radio chatter.
It was a war zone out there. STS and ESWAT were still running hard, hitting target after target. Gunfights were springing up all over the city, and the police were scrambling to keep up. Elect were sighted in multiple districts. The New Gods were getting their kill on. Through the window glass, he heard the muffled pops of faraway shots.
“All call signs, Lycan. I’ve found a secondary access.”
“Go ahead,” Yamamoto said.
“On the white side of the building, there’s a mechanical room. Inside the room, on the white side, there’s a storage room. The white side of the storage room conceals a false wall. Behind the wall, there’s a staircase heading down. And the stairs are warded.”
“Any way to access the false wall?”
“Checking now.”
“Lycan, Boomer. How thick is the wall?”
“About half an inch thick. I can’t tell for sure, but I think it’s drywall. I’m seeing some kind of sliding mechanism behind the wall. The wall slides to the left.”
“Good thing I brought my MOE kit,” Connor said.
“Samurai, should I penetrate the wards?” Mustafa asked.
“Are you able to ghost in?”
“I’m almost tapped out. I’m losing my connection on the Aether.”
“Take a break. Once you’re fresh, you can try again.”
“Got it.”
“ZT, how’s progress?” Yamamoto asked.
“I’ve hacked into SafeKeep’s systems, but I’m not seeing anything of use,” Tan continued. “Invoices, inventory, payroll, but nothing damning.”
“What about control systems for the elevator or the false wall?”
“Nothing. I could keep looking, but if you ask me, the control systems are air-gapped. I’ll have to physically access the elevator control panel before I can work my magic. Likewise, I think there’s some kind of lever or catch inside the storage room.”
“Keep looking. We have time.”
“Roger that. I’ll poke around their security system some more and see if there’s anything I can work with.”
Connor grabbed his bags and checked his kit. This was a low-profile op; there was simply no room for mechanical breaching tools, and he had to leave his heavier explosives behind.
Which wasn’t to say he had nothing to work with. He had a pair of door knocker charges in his pouches. The small shaped charges were just powerful enough to blow in a lock. For more extensive cutting work, he carried breacher strips in his backpack Where explosives were contraindicated, or if they needed to go fast, he had mounted an underbarrel shotgun to his carbine. And finally, every operator carried a breach pen, a small but powerful thermal cutting tool.
More than enough to break into a House of Shadows and say hello.
“Convoy entering SafeKeep. Three vans,” Yamamoto reported.
Connor sat up. That was unusual.
“Copy, I see three vans,” Fox said.
“Lycan, are you ready to go?” Yamamoto asked.
“I’m… Yeah, I’m good.”
Fox rattled off the vans’ license plate numbers. Tan ran them against the local and national databases. Routine, so far, but one question nagged at Yamamoto.
Why three vans?
“Subjects are exiting the vans,” Fox said. “Two subjects per van. Six subjects total. They are all wearing ball caps, shades, jackets, cargo pants.”
“Can you get a read on their faces?”
“Already on it,” she said. “I’ve captured vid and photos. Uploading to the database now. Stand by, stand by. The subjects are opening the rear of their vehicles. Can’t see what they’re doing.”
Her rifle’s telescopic sight had an integrated camera for occasions like this.
“Roger. Break. Farmer, do you have visual?”
“Negative,” Wood replied. “Wait. One guy is running over to grab a trolley.”
“I see Trolley Man,” Fox said. “He’s pushing the trolley to the vans. Stand by. He’s parked the trolley by the vans. The other subjects are unloading crates from the vans and placing them on the trolley. Wooden crates, green storage containers, footlockers… Hey, some of this stuff looks military.”
“Lycan, look inside the boxes.”
“Roger. Wait one.”
“All six subjects are going to the elevator,” Fox said. “Hurry.”
“I’m in the Aether,” Mustafa said. “Peeking in. Stand by… I’m seeing guns. Rifles and shotguns. Boxes of ammo. And… people. Two individuals, one male and one female, stuffed inside a wooden crate. Another two inside a second crate, both males. And… well, they’ve entered the basement.”
“That does not sound good,” Connor said.
“Agreed,” Yamamoto replied.
The Court of Shadows used blood for many rituals. None of them good.
“Samurai, Deadeye. We have a hit. One of the subjects is Jose Luis Gutierrez, one of the sicarios on our list.”
“Gotcha. I’m going to update the TOC. Stand by.”
Yamamoto pulled out his phone and dialed.
“Sir, this is Yamamoto. We have a positive sighting on one Jose Luis Gutierrez, a sicario on our target deck, at the suspected House of Shadows. Gutierrez has five others with him. They were carrying weapons, ammo and four hostages into the House. We need authorization to breach the facility and rescue the hostages. …A what? The hostages— Right. Understood.”
Yamamoto sighed and switched to the radio.
“Samurai here. I’ve updated the boss. He said he’s going to apply for a warrant. We need to send him our reports so he can submit them on to the judge.”
“A warrant?” Connor asked. “What the hell for?”
“We need to keep our ops nice and legal.”
“This is the Court of Shadows we’re talking about. They only have one use for those hostages.”
“We have ‘no proof of imminent danger’,” Yamamoto groused. “Look, we already have a judge on call. The sooner we send in the reports, the sooner we’ll get the warrant.”
Connor grumbled.
Half the team maintained surveillance. The other half prepared their reports. Connor dictated his into his phone, edited the transcript, then bundled it with the other reports and sent them on.
“Hope he’s happy now,” Connor said.
“We’re accountable to the taxpayers,” Yamamoto said. “We need to satisfy them.”
Connor just sighed. If he were younger, he would have demanded the team to jump out and hunt down the Elect. But he was older and hopefully wiser now. He knew that if they didn’t comply with the legal process, it’ll come around to bite them in the ass.
“Heads up,” Fox said. “A four-car convey is approaching SafeKeep.”
“I see them,” Yamamoto said.
“The vics are driving in… They’re not parking. They’re pulling up in front of the office. Subjects are jumping out. I count sixteen, one-six, subjects. They all have carbines, body armor, full-face helmets. Eight of them are entering the office. The rest are fanning out and pulling security positions.”
Connor’s eyes widened.
“Deadeye, Boomer. Is it a raid?”
A pair of gunshots cracked in the air.
“They just shot the security guard in the face!” Deadeye reported.
“Did you get images of their faces?” Yamamoto asked.
“Stand by… Negative. They have full-face helmets with tinted goggles and ballistic plates. Break. Two guys have broken away from the security team and are going around the back.”
Helmets with ballistic plates? Shit.
“Boomer here. We have to load up for bear. Swap your ammo for SLAP.”
Saboted Light Armor Penetrators were probably overkill for helmet-mounted plates. But in cases like this, it was better to penetrate too much than to not penetrate at all.
“Lycan, Samurai can you look inside the office?”
“I’ll… Yes.”
“Do it. We need eyes inside.”
“Copy… Ah!
“What’s wrong?”
“Headache. Exhaustion. I’ll be fine. Looking…”
Connor swapped out his loaded magazine for one filled with SLAP. As he replaced the mags on his plate carrier, Mustafa spoke again.
“There are eight suspects in the office, and six hostages. They’ve gathered the hostages in the corner. One of the suspects is yelling at the hostages. The others are pulling security and tearing up the file cabinets. One guy is plugging his laptop into the manager’s computer.”
“It’s not a robbery, that’s for damn sure,” Connor said.
“The front man grabbed the manager and is shouting into his face. The manager seems scared. The hostages are panicking and—”
Mustafa groaned.
“Lycan, what’s wrong?”
“He’s woozy,” Farmer muttered. “Looks like exhaustion to me.”
Yamamoto muttered darkly. “Roger. All call signs, monitor the situation. I’m calling this in.”
Connor scooted into the back, picking up the binoculars. Out the window, he saw all of nothing.
“All call signs, this is team Black Watch,” Yamamoto radioed over the guard net. “We’re mounting a stakeout at SafeKeep Self-Storage Solutions. A group of sixteen, one six, gunmen have invaded the site and have taken hostages. Suspects have carbines, body armor, and full-face helmets. Immediate response required. We need backup. Over.”
“Black Watch, TOC. Roger on the hostage situation. Everyone’s tasked out, but we will reroute the moment we have available teams. ETA three-zero mikes.”
“Copy that.”
Six on sixteen were poor odds, even for STS. They’d need backup. The more the merrier. Other STS teams, ESWAT, regular SWAT, hell, even ordinary beat cops would do in a pinch. As Connor framed the thoughts, Yamamoto got on the police net and—
A sharp crack filled the air.
Cheah Git San Red.jpg
If a brutal-yet-realistic dungeon crawler is right up your alley, check out the Kickstarter of Dungeon Samurai here.
To stay updated on writing news and promotions, sign up for my newsletter here.

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!