The Brotherhood

Read my short story "The Brotherhood" at Altered Reality Magazine, an e-zine devoted to speculative fiction.

Brotherhood is about a guy that loses his girlfriend and power to his apartment. He goes on a quest for Wi-Fi with his roommate, Double Sam so they can play Death Kingdom. He finds something different that he sets out for.

Sometimes, I drop little Steely Dan easter eggs into my stories like the name Double Sam from a song on Can't Buy a Thrill--"Please make mine a double, Sam." I know I'm not supposed to reveal my own easter egg but this one has no hope of ever being found otherwise. I would have named the arcade they enter A Gentleman Loser, but William Gibson already used that one in a short story. I guess I shouldn't worry about borrowing something that someone else borrowed?

For more of my fiction, check out the following:

Atomic Rocat
Tower Defender
Sherman: A Novel

Star Wars Holiday Special 1978

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The Star Wars Special sucks, but it was created in the ethos of the Star Wars franchise.

This movie is terrible, nearly unwatchable even. I admit that I used YouTube's preview feature to jump ahead to the scenes with a star, and by star, I don't mean to include Jefferson Starship. Carrie Fisher once called the Star Wars special "a punishment from God." The score is played poorly and its association with this film cheapens otherwise great music. Chewbacca's family scenes are rage inducing--the Wookie kid is inexplicably playing with an X-Wing toy. Mark Hamill's makeup makes him look like a Ken doll. And the height of the conflict is Han Solo's combat with a lone stormtrooper.

To All Your Scattered Bodies Go - Philip Jose Farmer

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In some cases, eternal life sounds like a bad deal. To All Your Scattered Bodies Go is one such place. There, death is a momentary affliction, followed by adulthood reincarnation. 

White Noise - Don DeLillo

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Don DeLillo's White Noise isn't commonly thought of as sci-fi, but I maintain that not only does it fit in the genre, it's one of the more important science fictions. Two elements of the book merit closer attention: the Airborne Toxic Event and the influence of pop culture on identity.

Cold Storage - David Koepp

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David Koepp is a proven screenwriting talent--he worked on the screenplay for Jurassic Park, for exampleHis 2019 novel, Cold Storage, returns to the Crichton canon, this time mining from Andromeda Strain. Foremost, the book operates as cli-fi, dealing with anxieties of changes to our ecosystem as a result of carbon emissions and other human activity, but it also deals with anxieties of nuclear proliferation and the diversifying of America.

How to Write Great Characters

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Are you ready to learn how to write a great character? Let's hope so, because otherwise you're way off track. 
Writing great characters is integral to writing great fiction. Did you ever read a book that you loved that didn't have interesting characters, likable or unlikable? Good characters stir our passions. Readers identify with characters and make stories memorable. This article provides seven tips for writing characters that your fans will love or at least find somewhat agreeable.

1984 - George Orwell: Disinformation Campaigns

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George Orwell made the title 1984 an anagram of the year in which he wrote, signifying that his fiction was critical of his present day. Indeed, he had a lot to reflect on in post-war England as he wrote his now classic dystopian novel.

Blade Runner - Analysis of Roy Batty's Final Monologue

Roy Batty's Monologue:

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die."

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

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Some people are cruel. I knew guys in high school that joined the football team so they could hurt people on the field. I knew guys after high school that joined the military so they could kill people on the field of duty. 
Some of the human desire to hurt is a tricky, somewhat skewed part of regularly functioning human nature. We evolved with the pressure to defend our tribe against attack. We are supposed to be ready to hurt others when safety and survival requires radical action. But people can get warped by abuse and other traumas, and the abused learn to abuse.

Old Man's War - John Scalzi

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Old Man's War by John Scalzi is a fantasy of medical and male proportions. Mankind longs for a fountain of youth found in emerging medical science. Aging men wish for the tumescent wood of their youth, for the fountain like discharge of their teenage years. 

Ubik - Philip K Dick

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1967 is the year the first human was cryogenically frozen. Cryo is from Greek, meaning frost. Geneo, also Greek, refers to birth, beginning. Cryonics forged ahead with freezing bodies, hedging bets on the hope that medical techniques of the future will learn to revive frozen bodies and grant longer, if not eternal, life. The goal of cryonics is that it would offer its adherents a frozen fountain of youth.

The Diamond Age – Neal Stephenson

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Science Fiction is something of a didactic literature, keeping readers up-to-date with the latest advances in science and technology and offering a vision of what might be possible in our near and far-flung futures. But The Diamond Age is didactic in a literal way. A teaching primer is tied into the narrative arc of the book. Not only is the book a bildungsroman—Nell grows up and out of a life of abuse at the hands of her mother’s degenerate boyfriend, Bud—but Nell’s development comes as a result of an interactive teaching primer aided by a ractor, a virtual teacher that takes on roles of personalities in the book to better interact and instruct the reader.

Ringworld - Larry Niven

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In the first blush of my love of science fiction, Ringworld's gently curving steel reflected beauty like a brightly burning star. The idea of harvesting space flotsam and jetsam, the material from planets, moons, and asteroids of multiple star systems, to make a ring one AU out from the center of a solar system is insane in scope, fascinating, and bold as hell. I was amazed, at first. But then I started to wonder about a land with nearly nothing where everything reflects a brutal sameness. Big and cool, the ringworld is an image of the sublime, but it reflects the fantasies of a relatively newly minted colonial power: America.

Gateway - Frederik Pohl: A Critique of Capitalism

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Ah, Gateway, by Frederik Pohl, a book so good that it is regularly referenced in movies and video games. In the Alien movies, Gateway Station is a space dock in Earth's orbit, and the book even had it's own text adventure game.

The protagonist, Robinette Broadhead, has made the trip out to an asteroid containing alien spaceships to try to make a fortune. As part of an ever replenishing caste of space explorers, Robinette takes completely random trips on alien spacecraft in an attempt to gain wealth and learn more about the vanished species that left their spacefaring technology. The alien spaceships have preprogrammed flight patterns but no one has any understanding of the program.

The result of taking a flight out is essentially a roll of the dice. Many flights are uneventful, relatively short flights that don't go anywhere of value to humans. Some flights lead humans to alien artifacts or treasure. Other flights pass so close to supernovas that anyone on board the flight is irradiated and killed. Still other flights are so long that passengers starve to death before they can return home.

Most of the space travelers double down on the gambling aspect of their work and spend their hard-won earnings in Gateway's casino. Since death isn't an outcome of gambling in the casino, the space travelers prefer casino gambling to the much more random alien spaceflight version of gambling.

The random aspect of life on Gateway takes a psychological toll on the space explorers. While the possibility of making a major find and becoming extremely wealthy functions as the motivating factor to travel, only a few travelers are so lucky. Most travelers only earn enough to eat and pay rent, and relationships among the explorers are rarely longterm, since the travelers regularly disappear. Sex is viewed as a momentary pleasure to stave off the anxiety associated with alien space travel. But even the big winners of this system suffer the consequences of their involvement in an unremitting system. Those that walk away wealthy retain the post-traumatic stress from manning suicide missions and from losing friends and lovers along the way.

Pohl's story focuses on gambling--alien spaceflight as a kind of gambling and Gateway's casino-based gambling--to comment on capitalism's illusion of wealth creation. Yes, capitalism has its winners, big winners like the fin-de-siècle Captains of Industry--John Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, JP Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie--or the 20th-century winners of big tech like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg. But for every big winner (read billionaire) a sea of people are stuck forever in some state of the middle class or in poverty. Here's the numbers. We currently have about 2150 billionaires in a world population of 7.53 billion. So, billionaires basically make up 0% of the world's population. 585 of those billionaires live in the US, which has a population of 327.2 million. Similar to the ratio of the world's billionaires to the world's population, that means that something like 0% of the US' population are billionaires. Yes, you have a better chance of living in extreme wealth if you are an American, but for almost everyone, that wealth is unattainable, a dream.

Consider the name of the alien space station for which Pohl's book gets its name: Gateway. In the same way that taking highly random and highly dangerous alien space flights is the gateway to potential wealth, the capitalist system is also the gateway to the extreme fortune of the limited few that have, through luck or pluck, benefited most from the system. But no billionaire earns their riches without exploiting populations. Behind every fortune are the underpaid, the underfed, the forgotten, and the have nothings. The capitalist system, most simply defined, is a system of using the work of others and the work of wealth itself, to gain more wealth. It doesn't take too much mental work to see that people are a form of capital in the capitalist system. Indeed, within capitalism everything is a form of capital. The best capitalist is the individual that figures out how to make more out of what they have.

Capitalism, unfortunately, looks an awful lot like a guy with a lot of money rolling the dice in a casino to try to get more. The dice will fall where they will, and the capitalist system will separate the economic winners of the world from its losers. But why? Think of the size of our world. Think of the resources we have available. The presence of the poor, the exploited, and the hungry tells us that we haven't managed what we have all that well. We shouldn't have the destitute; we shouldn't have the billionaires. We shouldn't have high rollers rolling the dice to control the fortunes of our world and the fortunes of its people.

If you read the biographies of all the world's wealthiest people, you find a common thread. They give away a lot of their wealth to charities and to great social building projects. Why? To ease their consciences over what it took to gain that wealth. Similarly, Robinette Broadhead ends up on a psychiatrist's couch, working through a psychosis that money can't alleviate. Because while capital is the gateway to every commodity the world over, no amount of capital can alter the fundamental essence of the self.

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Consider Phlebas - Iain Banks

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Part of the Culture series, this is one of the most entertaining sci-fi reads you'll find. The main character, Horza, is an anti-hero. You like him because he's an unscrupulous, survivor. He can change his shape and appearance and uses this ability to supplant, Kraiklyn, the captain of a mercenary ship.

The most enjoyable part of the book is Kraiklyn's assault on the Temple of Light. The monks in the temple, far from easy targets, are quite capable of defending their sanctuary, a temple built as a defendable fortress. When Kraiklyn's team fire lasers in the temple, the walls reflect the light, blinding them and the monks take advantage.

Horza's shape changing ability is a reflection of the changing status of English citizens. Banks, of course, is from the UK. By the '70s and '80s, the demographic of the UK had changed greatly. Many of the country's colonial sons and daughters had moved to the metropole, adding diversity to what had, for centuries, been a country of Anglo-Saxons.

After immigrating, second generation citizens became somewhat homogenous English citizens. Sons and daughters of mixed marriages could easily pass as traditionally English people. Although, their status was effectively hybrid. And many immigrants held a certain hostility toward the British for exploiting their ancestor's homeland.

Horza is the rise of Enoch Powell's feared other, and he willingly wields the whip.

The intelligent ship that we encounter at the beginning of the novel is another reflection of the day's postcolonial reality. No dumb vessel, this ship thinks for itself and can avoid larger, slower moving fleets.

The book is also in a series called the Culture series. The cultural analog to the cultural practices in the book is found in the culture of the UK, especially as colonial power. During the colonial period,  the British exerted influence abroad by educating colonial peoples in the British system. Teach others your customs, language, history, and values, and they become much easier to control. But, in respect, those educated in your own system also can much more easily infiltrate your own society.

How can you tell apart hybrid members of your society that are thoroughly indoctrinated into the system? If Horza is our example, not all that easily. It should also be instructive that when Horza does take on the likeness of Kraiklyn, he is rewarded for it. He fulfills the Freudian boyhood wish to supersede and fill the patriarchal place of authority. This itself is Banks' long, hard look at British society. The preeminent British Empire was gone, replaced with its own ersatz creation.

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Why I Wrote an Anti-Gun, Anti-Trump, Environmental Science Fiction Novel

Sherman is an Anti-Gun, Anti-Trump, Environmental Science Fiction Novel. In Sherman, the Trumpian Dick Powers is assassinated and replaced by an automaton that is as much of a trainwreck as the flesh and blood president. Greedy, boastful, womanizing, racist, fascist, and undignified,  Powers is the worst America has to offer. He's a braggart willing to nuke West Virginia to increase his political capital.

Holy Fire - Bruce Sterling

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Bruce Sterling's novels are smart. And, oh man, is Holy Fire smart. In recent years, billionaires have funded projects to get the whole telomere lifespan extension thing going. But Sterling was thinking about telomeres as a route to increasing the human lifespan in the mid '90s.

Solaris - Stanislaw Lem

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Solaris' critique is two-pronged, considering two distinct subjects: the pursuit of advanced scholarship in educational institutions and understanding human psychology. 

Progress and Collapse in Science Fiction

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            In Revelation Space (2000), the name of Alastair Reynolds’ ship Nostalgia for Infinity communicates what was once a systemic view in sf. With his ship’s name, Reynolds invokes the post-war attitudes of the atomic age and its concomitant sf narratives. The reigning monomyth of the atomic age was that with the secrets of science unlocked, progress was inevitable, humans would soon achieve a utopian existence. But instead of achieving utopia in the 20th century, humans irradiated nuclear weapons testing sites and fought endless wars in the name of ideology and for the control of resources. With the dream demeaned, sf dropped its utopian narratives in favor of telling stories that reflected a cultural collapse.

Ursula K. Le Guin - The Lathe of Heaven

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In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven George Orr is treated by the psychiatrist William Haber. Orr is an effective dreamer. Whatever he dreams becomes reality. But he remembers the reality that existed before his dreams. So, he's viewed as a madman, talking about multiple realities that never existed. Haber uses a machine to increase the strength of Orr's effective dreaming and the alteration of reality increases. Weird notches up rather quickly. Aliens appear as a result of one dream. The nuclear destruction of all human society occurs in another. Haber starts using his machine to create effective dreams to change reality and a battle of effective dreaming ensues. Orr's ability to effectively alter reality proves stronger than Haber's. And Orr is able to return reality to a state that's somewhat normal by the end of the book.

2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey traces the development of man from his nascence, learning to manipulate and create tools, and posits mankind's future with the rise of the Starchild.

Last Tango in Cyberspace - Steven Kotler

steven kotler - last tango in cyberspace

Books Received: Last Tango in Cyberspace. St. Martin's Press: 2019

Steven Kotler's influences in Last Tango in Cyberspace are ever present, like neon kanji at night, floating above densely-packed Tokyo streets. Yes, the book is a love song composed to William Gibson and Thomas Pynchon. Kotler imitates the right writers, has a prose style that makes the read worth it by itself, and is an inventive thinker. The only major weakness here is that the book is missing dramatic tension. Because so much of the book is a direct homage to Kotler's literary forebears, while reading Last Tango, you're never quite free of the nagging thought about how would things have played out had Gibson or Pynchon penned it.

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

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Ender's Game
by Orson Scott Card is incredibly enjoyable science fiction.

But why? What makes it so enjoyable? Let's explore.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells - A Marxist Interpretation

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Traveling in time means almost nothing in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. Well, it's a fun way to tell a story. But past that, time traveling is merely a literary conceit, a way to tell a story that considers social, economic, and political realities of 19th-century England.

Best Sci Fi Movies Ever | Top 100

Film as Spectacle

Sci-fi movies often look real enough that we're convinced of the possibility of the worlds we're shown. The silver screen presents visions of utopian futures, dystopian presents, and worlds to explore. The one consideration to keep when viewing SF is that the screen subtly pivots the genre away from its role as the literature of ideas and gives it an operative function of creating spectacle.

Contact - Carl Sagan | Human Technological and Emotional-Cognitive Development

Because of what the science fiction genre is--a genre that considers how science will shape mankind as he moves into the future while retaining the human spirit, then the greatest science fiction novel is Contact by Carl Sagan. During his life, Sagan championed human rights issues and encouraged the search for extraterrestrial life. He was instrumental in developing SETI.

Sunshine - Danny Boyle | Evolution and Sacrifice

Sunshine - Danny Boyle

 (2007) directed by Danny Boyle and adapted from Alex Garland's screenplay is provocative, beautiful, and sad.

Han Solo - The Hero Disney Killed

Han Solo
Fox / Lucasfilm

The Star Wars Franchise, guided by Disney's hand, killed Han Solo--not just in body but in spirit. Sure, Kylo Ren gave into his anger and it wasn't pretty, but it wasn't just Han the character that died. The idea of Han died too.

Cyborg Manifesto | Donna Haraway, Silko, Octavia Butler, & Nancy Kress

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In Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway’s use of the cyborg is, for the most part, metaphorical. She is only tenuously invested in robotics and uses the techno figure of the cyborg to partially refer to the information systems of the cyberneticists like Weiner, Shannon, Kieber, Turing and McCulloch, but mostly to present a de-essentialized feminist vision, one not in need of Edenic metanarratives of patriarchal genesis. As far as information theory goes, she is interested in intersections of a posthuman consciousness vis a vis Katherine Hayles that is free of embodiment. 

Isaac Asimov - Foundation | American History: From Empire to Plutocracy

Isaac Asimov Foundation

Isaac Asimov was more than a sci-fi writer. He was also a historian, a futurist, a thinker. With Foundation, Asimov considered the broad scope of American history along with speculative technological development. But Asimov's purpose for writing Foundation was foremost an exploration of the major iterations of American history.

Permafrost - Alastair Reynolds | A Nod to Chris Marker's La Jetee

Books received: Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds. Tor Books: 2019.

Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds

Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds might be Reynolds' most beautiful book. Its literary qualities--the weight of images tied to the narrative and a light touch with language--are as impressive as the conceit of time travel through sophisticated X-ray devices: computed tomography machines (CT scanners).

Bad Sci-fi | Four Movies that Suck

The Space Vampires

Not all science fiction is created equal. While works like Frankenstein forever loom over all else, other sci-fi haunts our bottom shelves, every bit as terrifying as a Frankensteinian ubermensch electrified into wakefulness. Funny enough, most really bad sci-fi is Frankensteinian, made up of pieces of good stuff from the genre but put together poorly, all the pieces forced to fit into a narrative as if the only thing it takes to create science fiction is a smattering of not-so-new novums and worn-out genric elements. And no matter how good some of the stuff is, when it's sewn unnaturally into a hulking whole, it just stinks. 

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and the Theory Behind Fighting Forever Wars

Joe Haldeman - Forever War

Joe Haldeman's The Forever War is military sci-fi that doesn't operate with the expected thesis of the expected military sci-fi narrative. Haldeman's military sci-fi criticizes political strategies of waging continuous war, pointing out the social evils that accompany a war-based society. Military sci-fi began as a celebration of state militarism, a kind of send-up and affirmation of the military might of a nation. Heinlein used the military sci-fi subgenre to praise the importance of the military, arguing for universal military service in the US. Considering that British sci-fi and American sci-fi was the only science fiction for most of the history of sci-fi, it's clear to see that the winners of the military SF war were the societies capable of policing the world with their militaries.

Cory Doctorow's Radicalized and Audience Awareness

Cory Doctorow: Radicalized

Books Received. Radicalized by Cory Doctorow. Tor Books: 2019.

The same week that Cory Doctorow's Radicalized hit the shelves, a made-for-the-internet terrorist killed fifty people in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

Lots of people dying makes the headlines every time because a high death toll always yields a massive audience. The media networks, well aware of the rubbernecking phenomenon, keep their feelers out for the next big thing. It doesn't matter if people are dying in Paris, London, or New York, big media and little media alike are all on standby, ready to blitz the feeds with intel, opinions, and spin. 

Though it often feels like the media secretly pays off depressives or the terminally ill to go berserk, the truth is that they don't have to. Humans hate incredibly easily. Humans also give into fear and an entire atmosphere of negativity with very little training. It's easy to fear and hate because it almost feels like an antidote to our mortality and the mortality of those we love.

Alastair Reynolds' Revenger | Gender Roles and Liminal Space

Alastair Reynolds' Revenger is a bildungsroman exploring the fluidity of gender roles in liminal spaces. In this book, Reynolds draws heavily on adventure stories of the high seas rather than the westerns that his books normally plunder as source material.

Space Opera and Progress Essay

I wrote a guest blog for File 770: Space Opera and Progress

The essay considers how the Western--horse opera--(as in books about cowboys) was a genre of progress, taking as its main theme the American myth of manifest destiny. The space opera is an immediate analog of the horse opera, updating 19th-century visions of progress to the 21st century and beyond. It's probably a 6-minute read and I'd say it's well worth your time.

Cognitive Estrangement, Science Fiction, and Michael Crichton's Sphere

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How long does it take you to recognize what something is? Have you ever flown in a plane and looked at the ground below and not grokked the vision below? Then you kept looking and realized--yes, that's a river, that's a road, those are cars!

Now imagine that you are in a foreign environment--maybe even an alien planet. You look and look but you don't know what you're looking at. The sky's not blue. The grass isn't green. Heck, the grass isn't even grass. You hear odd things--grinding things, beeps, growls, weird stuff. Nothing makes sense. But you stick around. You begin to make connections. At some point, everything will make sense to you. Though you will always have the memory of not understanding the foreignness of everything. In Science Fiction, cognitive estrangement contains both these elements--the not understanding and the understanding.

Cognitive estrangement amplifies the recognition experience. Recognition is the experience of comprehending a given subject of study. If you've ever had to read something twice or more to get it, then you understand the challenge of comprehension. We don't always recognize the material put in front of us at first, even if the material is standard issue information. Misrecognition is partially a result of how our memories interact with our cognitive function, partially based on focus, and partially based on native intelligence. Humans don't always store memories completely. What we remember is packed away in groups of neurons that, when triggered, fire in the same patterns that the experience was recorded.

Bruce Sterling's Distraction, the Internet, and Media Manipulation

Distraction by Bruce Sterling

Who would ever have thought that internet bots could be programmed to spread disinformation, especially to sew political dissent? Oh yeah, Bruce Sterling did a couple decades ago in Distraction. In the context of the 21st century, it doesn't seem like much of a revelation,  an alarming number of people have a mixed-up read on reality, judging what's real as fake and what's fake as real. Sterling had it right, people are equally impressionable and manipulable, and email, a message delivered right to you, is a perfectly engineered medium for social engineering hacks. People have been falling for mail fraud ever since the pony express took to the trails, accepting as truth messages that forecast the end of the government or the end of Christianity, morality, liberalism, whatever.

Dr. Adder by K.W. Jeter | Cyberpunk and Boundary Transgression

K.W. Jeter's Dr. Adder

K.W. Jeter's Dr. Adder, originally written in 1974, prefigures Cyberpunk fiction by nearly a decade and does so thoroughly, giving characters mobility through using underground sewer space usually off limits, using a primitive form of cyberspace to extend the individual beyond his normal reach, and viewing the body as meat to ignore, abandon, or enhance. Like later Cyberpunk, drug use also figures into Dr. Adder. Drugs allow for immediate psychical mobility, altering perceptions and thoughts, taking individual consciousness far beyond the normal experience.

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 | Misinformation and the Media

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 takes part in an odd paradox. It's a book about the danger of banning books that get banned a lot--a whole lot. Yeah, Fahrenheit 451 has been on library blacklists since it was first published in 1953. You'd think the banning would have stopped somewhere in the 21st century, but it hasn't. Librarians are coached about which books to ban from day one of their library studies. Librarians-in-training receive a time-honored blacklist of every classic book that should never find its way into the hands of a pliable mind. Along with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Mark Twain's Huck Finn, and James Joyce's Ulysses, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is one of the great whipping boys of the puritanical mission to cleanse society of corrupting influences. Yes, sadly, Western society has a long tradition for casting out its best thinkers: think of Galileo and Socrates, or, better, think like Galileo and Socrates and watch as the rank and file hurry to build a pillory to contain you.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein | Human and Social Monsters

Victor and his creation
Victor meets his creation, finding more of himself reflected back than he desires.

In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley offers humans as real monsters. We are the society that offers up the parts to create Victor’s monster. Indeed, the animated monster is merely a reflection of all our worst parts, eyes that covet, one hand to steal, one to kill. Though Victor refuses to animate the female monster he makes as a mate for the monster, the latent threat is that the horror she represents is already fully formed, ready for animation. These monsters merely mirror frightening elements we conceal in our own selves, elements unleashed and at work in the world and elements still in the process of formation.

Ernie Cline's Ready Player One, Cyberspace, and Society

cyberspace is every space

Consider Ernie Cline's Ready Player One (2011), my sci-fi friends. Most of the narrative takes place in the OASIS, the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. The OASIS is not all that different from the matrixes and cyberspaces of cyberpunk literature. The OASIS is a virtual reality ready world. People dial in the world over to use infinite, yet, immediate space. And the OASIS provides an escape from bromidic and squalorous reality; yes, dataspace is exciting and pretty! It's got neon colors. It's got design based on origami-like complexity that appears simplistic. It's got badass computer hackers, coders, gamers, and gender-bending, identity swappers.

Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Egalitarian Societies

Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein

Robert Heinlein believed that in a democratic society everyone should participate in the protection of the nation's sovereignty. Heinlein's everyone is a universal everyone. Men and women alike, so Heinlein believed, should have a mandatory term of service in the military. Heinlein's Starship Troopers follows this mandate.

Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess | Science Fiction Analysis

Books received
Famous Men Who Never Lived (2019). K Chess. Tin House Books.

Famous Men that Never Lived by K Chess

Famous Men Who Never Lived (2019) by K Chess tells the story of outsiders in America, those with minority and immigrant status. In our own 21st century America, the outsider is made to feel unwelcome. Trumpian chants for a border wall might as well be chants of hate for outsiders. Border wall chants confirm that our democratic government has been co-opted by a bigoted agenda to create lasting edifices of division. All those chanting for a wall would do well to study the result of widespread xenophobia in our country's history or in the history of world nations. Hint: stepping away from international leadership roles usually weakens economies and allows strongmen to rise.

The Island of Dr Moreau | H.G. Wells | Biopower and the Savage

The Island of Dr Moreau

By Joseph Hurtgen

H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau (1896) is a postcolonial commentary on empire, examining Moreau’s biological construction and rule over a subordinate species. Moreau fails to civilize his subordinate species, but in his barbaric civilizing attempt demonstrates that civilized men are savage. The Island of Dr Moreau demonstrates that civilization, created and sustained through war and strife, is savage.

Why We Need Science Fiction Books | Sci-fi and Social Critique

Forbidden Planet
Science Fiction does an important job of keeping the institutions in society honest. In a world with too few whistleblowers, sci-fi sends off regular warning shots about a range of problems, including corporate greed, environmental concerns, military practices, technological application, and identity politics.

Philip K Dick Books | A Scanner Darkly & Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

animus and anima

This post will explore Philip K. Dick's recurring theme of the confusion of identity and its relation to Dick's life as well as its relation to larger social and economic forces.

Blade Runner 1982 and the Sublime | Science Fiction Movies

"It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?" - Gaff

Harrison Ford starred in 1982's Blade Runner

I'm going to examine themes of birth and death in Blade Runner (1982) as they relate to the sublime. These themes are shared with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Indeed, you can view Blade Runner as a meditation on Frankenstein. Shelley was preoccupied with the sublime, a sometimes physical, sometimes metaphysical representation of the limitations of mankind. 

Walter Jon Williams - Implied Spaces | Science Fiction Book Review

Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams. Rapid Transmission Science Fiction.

Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams is sword and singularity rather than sword and sorcery, and it will blow your mind. The first forty pages or so might as well be one of Robert E. Howard's Conan books. Like Conan, Aristide fights as no one else can fight, only says what's necessary, and beds all comers. Williams is a prose stylist, so it actually reads better than Robert E. Howard, who was given to writing purple prose every now and then.

Top 100 Sci Fi Books List

Ranking Criteria

This list presents what I consider the best sci-fi books of all time. The criteria for making it on this list includes the following:

How influential is this book?
Is the book fun to read?
Does the book deal with an important theme or concept?

That is to say, these are the best SF reads I enjoyed the most and that I think others should read given their importance, commentary on society and technology, and enjoyability. In short, I'm following Horace's maxim that literature should instruct and delight.

One might argue that some of the books on here are not sci-fi, including my #13 pick, Thomas Pynchon's Vineland. But here is why I disagree. Pynchon writes about shifting identities as a result of social, political, and economic realities. Ursula K. Le Guin calls this kind of science fiction social science fiction. Social science fiction is tantamount to speculative fiction. In my opinion, science fiction focusing on social commentary is the most fun to read and the most rewarding.

Terran Tomorrow: Environmentalism, Evolution, and Othering

Books received
Terran Tomorrow (2018). Nancy Kress. Tor.

Terran Tomorrow | Rapid Transmission

Terran Tomorrow is the last book in Nancy Kress’s trilogy Yesterday’s Kin. It follows the return of the aptly-named worlder ship Return to earth where things aren’t so great. An extremist group, the Gaiasts, see no future for the earth while mankind still lives, so they release the mother of all viruses into sparrows, effectively killing 96% of the human population. A saving grace for humans, a few futuristic domes exist here and there with airlocks to keep out the virus. One such set of domes, Monterey Base, supports a mix of scientific and military communities. The scientists in Monterey Base research genetic hacks for getting rid of the death-dealing virus. The military keeps the scientists safe from New America, a well-organized revolutionary outfit at war with what’s left of the United States. Things go from bad to worse when the aliens—humans, really--from Return infect a dome with a virophage that initiates the next evolutionary leap forward for the human race.

Sci-fi Noir: The Terminator and Tech Noir | 10 Updates to Film Noir

Schwarzenegger | The Terminator

Once you’ve watched The Terminator, you’ll forever associate masculinity with Reese, a guy that built bombs for fun as a kid and selflessly puts his life in danger to save Sarah Connor, putting himself between her and the sightlines of a coldly intelligent, red-LED-eyed cyborg that walks through flames in the hunt for its quarry. You’ll feel much more worried at reports of robotic systems learning to backflip and drones getting loaded with killer AI. You’ll appreciate Arnold Schwarzenegger’s oft-quoted “I’ll be back.” You’ll want to know more about Harlan Ellison, a science fiction writer whose ideas were stolen for the movie’s plot.

How to Write Science Fiction

Image result for sf writer writing

So, you're ready to jet around the US, Europe, and Canada, boozing with the great literati of our day to discuss
the big ideas about science, technology, and society. You're ready to get the call from top government brass to prepare an actionable defense against alien invasions or thermonuclear war. You're ready to have crazies Twitter burn you for not supporting racists and fascists with your influencer Internet power. You're ready to have beautiful humans fawn over you, hoping for a handshake, an autograph, the chance to hear you utter a real pearl of wisdom from out of your unending cerebral ocean of intellect and prophetic vision. You're ready to live in the Villa Straylight, complete with its own cryogenic chamber for you and your loved ones, and an artificially intelligent computer personality to turn off the stove for you when you leave the house in a hurry and unlock the place when you return from a night of revelry only to find that it was your keys that the svelte transgender Pop star threw into the Mediterranean during the mescalin fueled zeppelin ride from dusk to dawn. Well, if all this resonates with you, then, by jingo, you've come to the right place. Or, at least, you could have done a lot worse. Read on and learn how to write some photon focused science fiction and become a card-carrying SFWA sci-fi writer!