OK. See that picture up above? All you have to do is click it, enter in a few details and BAM, you’ll get FOUR free sci-fi books in your inbox. If you happen to be one of five lucky winners, you’ll also get ebooks for all the books pictured. And one lucky winner gets a prize package that will include over 17 (!) signed physical books sent to your house. So…what’re you waiting for?! Get clicking!
Each week, my pal Preston Leigh (owner and operator of The Leighgendarium blog) features a short story as part of an ongoing series. This week, one of my stories is up for the weekly honors, but the competition is tougher than ever. I really feel like Z Ball (originally in The Z Chronicles) is one of my best tales, but I’ve got the likes of Hugh Howey’s Second Suicide (featured in The Alien Chronicles), Vincent Trigili’s The Storymaster (from The Dragon Chronicles), Ann Christy’s Unnatural (from Alt.History 101), and Susan Kaye Quinn’s Restore (from The A.I. Chronicles).
So…I’m not going to win. But, let’s give these master storytellers a run for their money.
Click on the graphic below to go to The Leighgendarium and vote for Z BALL:
(Oh, and while you’re there, hop in on the conversation about Michelle Browne’s story The Factory, this week’s story selection.)
One more thing…
LONG LIVE Z BALL.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about eternity. In a mostly scientific sense at least…well, science fiction sense I suppose. The search for immortality and the quest for eternal life has been at the forefront of human existence for millenia. We want to live longer…we want to push the boundaries of life and death…we want to be a part of the universe for just a moment longer…
In the past few days, I’ve been able to read through the next Future Chronicles anthology, entitled The Immortality Chronicles. Samuel Peralta, the braintrust behind the FC series, has already laid the foundations with Robots, Telepathy, Aliens, A.I., Dragons, Zombies, and Alternate History. I have the privilege of having a story in Immortality and after finishing reading the entire collection, it’s safe to say we’ve done it again with a fantastic group of stories.
As I read through the various stories, I found a few different themes kept popping up. Life. Death. Agony of existence and purity of the grave.
Ultimately though, a few of the stories kept coming back in some small way to one thing. And that one thing kept running through my head long after I put my Kindle down.
We all have them. Whether it was the thoughts from this morning when you ate pancakes for breakfast, or the memories of climbing the oak tree in your backyard as an eight-year-old, memories are a constant in our lives. Some are welcome: the rich memories that flood my mind whenever I smell a fresh donut…the times I spent reading books on my bed as a teenager, dying to spend a split second in the worlds I jointly created with the author…the small moments I’ve spent with my wife from our first time holding hands to now.
Some memories are seemingly random. For example, whenever I iron clothes, my mind backtracks to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Its the one where Picard is basically a babysitter for some of the children on board the Enterprise when the power on the ship fails. He has to be their leader and their comfort, even singing with them in a powerless lift shaft. I have no idea why I think of that when I iron clothes, but that’s where my mind goes. Always. Every morning when I comb my hair, I think of a scene from the zombie movie Dawn of the Dead. The one from 2003 or 2004. I don’t even like the scene so much, but whenever I’m applying hair spray in the morning, my mind drifts back to that stupid movie. Memories are silly and capricious. At times they seem to control us more than we control them.
Some memories…maybe are more difficult: the pain and anguish we went through as we struggled to get our son home from Africa over the past few years…the torture of seeing siblings struggle with infertility and adoption setbacks of their own…rejections and losses throughout my life.
Ultimately though, a running theme that seemed to reverberate with me was memories. When a person ends up immortal (or close to it), we as the author tends to assume the human brain would run out of space to hold the memories. That there is a finite space for those and an infinite life is too much for that grey matter to hold on to. How do we solve that problem? Maybe the protagonist simply discards chosen memories here and there, perhaps the memory wipe is more…invasive. Perhaps the brain does its own purging and keeps the memories that it deems more important and relevant to life…
It’s really fascinating how the authors handle these situations. I don’t want to give anything away, but for some, the memory issue is a key factor in the plot of the story and yet in other stories, the memories are a side mention.
If I was facing eternal life, I would think that my memories would soon be my preferred currency. What is life if we cannot remember the times we surprised someone with a birthday party or a puppy, or even a nice pizza? What would be the purpose of elongated life if we couldn’t remember how we got there? If the lessons we learned in hundreds of years of life were suddenly stripped away and gone, I would mourn the loss of those memories. I’m not sure that eternal life is worth it if I can’t take a look back on where I came from along the way. It’s really hard to say what we would actually choose, however, when we’ve never had this option before.
There is so much more to The Immortality Chronicles from David Bruns’ courtroom drama, to Harlow Fallon’s deep space prison ship, and John Gregory Hancock’s cigar shop on an alien port. I loved reading all the stories and I think you will too. If you haven’t preordered The Immortality Chronicles yet, get on it. Just $2.99 during preorder and then it will go up to $5.99 after the launch, so you want to buy it now.
I like to include my Amazon reviews over here as well, and there are a few that I missed lately. I am so impressesd by so much that I see coming out of the indie publishing scene — so many great and new ideas and great voices to showcase their works. Without further ado, here are my reviews for Stefan Bolz’s Apocalypse Weird entry Genesis: The White Dragon, the latest short story from Carol Davis entitled Being of Value, and a great novel by Travis Mohrman, Humid.
Stefan Bolz has a unique style to his writing that I have yet to see duplicated. Even as he destroys the world in his Apocalypse Weird story Genesis, there is a hope and an optimism that is still visible. But, while that hope is there, that sometimes makes the violence all the more brutal knowing the end may not be pretty for everyone.
In Genesis, we follow Kasey Byrne on the day she turns 18 years old. What should be one of the best and most joyous days of her life takes a dramatic turn in the opposite direction very quickly. She watches in horror as hundreds of dolphins turn up en masse to commit suicide on the beach, then is helpless as her mother commits suicide, and is stuck with an insane police officer who is about to murder her and her boyfriend in cold blood. And that’s just the first couple hours.
What’s great about Bolz is that he presents a Young Adult Apocalypse Weird tale. The immediacy of Kasey’s actions are all the more intense as we follow her life from the graduation party on the beach to the end when everything changes. The emotions and inner turmoil of teenagers is so much more intense, then say a 35-year-old man. We sense that not only is it the end of the world, but it’s also the end of everything Kasey knows. Everything is ripped from her as the forces of evil search for something only she would have.
I loved Bolz’s take on the apocalypse and if any is due a sequel, it’s this one. Bolz bold and memorable characters are prime for the next chapter in their lives and I know his fans will eat up the story Bolz has up his sleeve next.
In Carol Davis‘ writing, the reader can almost always get a clear picture of the drama and action. She has a definite style that lends itself towards visualizing the story on the screen, whether as a movie or TV show. Her latest sci-fi short Being Of Value is right there as well, putting the reader in an unfamiliar environment, but making the story so palatable and palpable you can picture it immediately.
As is the case with so many great A.I. stories, the protagonist of BOV, Matthew, makes you question what it really means to be human. Is it just flesh and blood? Is it an organic mind, born from a lifetime of experiences? Or…is it something else? Is human even something to aspire to? The tale moves along at a good clip, but the questions of ethics, of right and wrong, of whether humanity is defined by our morals continue to haunt Matthew and the reader along the way.
Davis’ background of writing with the sci-fi TV screen in mind definitely plays a part in this story. There is a general positive futuristic vibe to it, almost a Star Trek related theme of sorts when we see Matthew host some foreign dignitaries in the Dome — a Holodeck of sorts in a contest between man and android. Although androids have advantages of a body and mind that never tires, the contest ends up more than he was counting on.
I enjoyed the story and could definitely see a continuing series with Matthew as he continues to discover who he is in relation to the human universe and what that means.
Ever since I read Travis Mohrman’s book Singular Points, I’ve been excited to see what else he had up his sleeve. In many ways, Humid is a spiritual successor to SP as we see Mohrman’s signature style on full display with a flair intense sci-fi action.
What happens when all of a sudden, the weather patterns stop, the humidity gets cranked to levels off the scale, and water all over the earth no longer stays on the surface, retreating to the atmosphere? That’s what everyone wants to know, including our hero, Wendy, a meteorologist living in St. Louis. Wendy is tasked with being the lone researcher left at a weather station as the humidity continues to ramp up, destroying modern society in its wake.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the book, but Wendy encounters interesting characters along her journey to discover the truth of what is happening to the planet. Eventually that truth leads to a confrontation between her and the cause of the entire planetary disaster. I liked the characters, and was constantly looking for what Mohrman had up his sleeve next.
There’s just something about science fiction that causes the reader to look, not just towards the future, but also to our past and our present. I found myself thinking about a lot while I read the latest Future Chronicles installment – The A.I. Chronicles.
Throughout humanity’s existence on earth, we’ve continuously defined what it means to be a person. Men (especially white men in the Western hemisphere in the past 2,000 years) have long since had the power over everyone else, determining a person’s humanity by their gender, their skin color, their age, even the amount of property they owned.
Along with the growth of science and technology, mankind has evolved to the point where nearly all of those disputes are in our past. The next wave of humanity may deal with a similar issue, but it will be of our own making. What is intelligence? Does intelligence equal humanity? Do those with “artificial” intelligence deserve the same rights as those born naturally?
Those are tough questions for sure, and many of the stories in The A.I. Chronicles tackle those issues head-on. I thoroughly enjoyed each of the thirteen stories put together in this collection and know I will go back in the future and re-read them again and again.
There were more than a few that caught my attention, starting first and foremost with “Vendetta” by Chrystalla Thoma. The story tells about a future war between humanity and the A.I., long since fought and nearly forgotten about. Humanity has moved on, keeping technology in their lives, but not at the center. As a reader, I really enjoyed this story which kept me asking questions about who the protagonists were and their place in this futuristic society.
I also loved Patrice Fitzgerald’s “Piece of Cake.” As someone who is overweight, and struggles with those issues, I see stories in the news about the government taxing additional calories, prohibiting super-size drinks and snacks, and imposing restrictions on meals for kids in school. It is troubling to see the government legislate those things, and Fitzgerald takes that and advances the idea to include a 1984-type society complete with the food police around every turn, thanks to an A.I. who monitors food intake and weight. Fascinating and scary, with the trademark Fitzgerald humor attached.
I could talk about each and every story and some reviews may do so, but I’ll leave it at this — you won’t regret buying this collection.
The short story is a wonderful form, especially in science fiction where so much unmined ground can be found. I am constantly amazed by each and every story I find in the Future Chronicles anthologies and eagerly anticipate each to come.
(Reviewer Note: I received an Advance Reviewer Copy in exchange for an honest review. In the interest of full disclosure, my story “Uncle Allen” was previously published in The Alien Chronicles and I am slated to appear in the upcoming anthology The Z Chronicles.)