The whispers in the docks, fairways, and corridors of KEL Port were darker tonight. Up near general intake, where new arrivals to KEL26 were processed, Port Security officers were clustered in small groups muttering amongst themselves. In the cozy noodle shop on Sub-Level B, the little family of Tau-Ceti immigrants weren’t greeting customers with their usual cheer. And down in the Mog’s cantina, where most of KEL Port went to eat and drink, kindly, straightlaced Loadmaster Teller sat in corner, plastered out of his mind, having an angry argument with an empty chair.

Something was surely amiss, Radco thought, but puzzling out exactly what was proving to be a difficult task. Calamity was like a disease to humans; it might not have struck anywhere near them, but it deeply affected them nonetheless. To remain unaffected by the general air of unease would mark him as an outsider, unnatural and automatically suspect.

Radco shivered at the thought. Humans were notoriously cruel to outsiders.

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We make a lot of sacrifices in the service of becoming successful. We sacrifice leisure time to take on additional duties at work or spend more time writing. We sacrifice time with our friends and loved ones. We sacrifice our hobbies and the things we do for fun. We sacrifice our health, both mental and physical.

But it’s worth it, right? If we just work hard enough, one of these days it’s all going to pay off. We’ll be able to pay off our student debt, or afford to buy a house, or be able to send our kids to college, or land a book deal that we can support ourselves with, or develop a big enough following that we can live off the proceeds…

We spend our lives following this mirage of success. One day it’ll pay off. One day we’ll get where we’re going, and we’ll finally be able to relax, catch up with friends, spend time with our loved ones, and do the things we enjoy. People chase this mirage until the day they die– which is likely to happen sooner rather than later if you never give yourself a chance to relax.

We need to talk about this.

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People don’t like unrest. They don’t like challenges to the status quo. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve noticed about a certain percent of the population every time something like the death of George Floyd happens. I guess we (marginalized groups, the poor) are supposed to just shrug and keep going every time one of ours gets murdered.

What happened to George Floyd should never happen in a free and democratic nation; and it doesn’t escape me that we are far from living up to the freedom and equality the United States allegedly stands for. I support those protesting for change. I support those rioting in outrage. Silence and complacency kill.

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For many of us, the world is falling apart. A large section of the populations is struggling to survive without income, while in “essential” sectors, such as healthcare, retail, and transportation, employers are working their employees into the ground to keep up with the booming demand.

Depending on the source, anywhere from 50% to 78% of US workers live paycheck to paycheck– and the general consensus is with the higher of those numbers. The vast majority of Americans also have no emergency savings. When your workplace folds up or is ordered to close, and you find yourself quarantined at home with no income, what are you to do?

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Wondering where the blog posts and Patreon content are at? Well, so am I.

All joking aside, though, I know exactly where they’re at. I have a couple of blog posts and a ton of writing planned out– I just need time to work it. The Other Job continues to eat an extremely excessive amount of time– 75 hours this week– and I’m running on empty.

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Cover of Dead Inside by Barry J Hutchison

In Dead Inside, deceased detective Dan Deadman’s life takes a darker turn. And that’s saying a lot for a series that started out with Dan hunting a child-snatching serial killer.

The action opens with a car chase and doesn’t slow down much thereafter as Dan, Olly, and Artur investigate stolen children, straying spouses, a series of grizzly ritual murders, and a visitor from the Malwhere more nightmarishly powerful than any they’ve faced before.

It’s also dark– very dark. Although it’s hard to name a favorite chapter of a book this good, mine would probably be when Dan and Ollie find themselves in the Malwhere. Ollie runs into her ‘father,’ the hideously evil entity that kidnapped her as a small child. And Dan… Dan relives his own death.

Continue reading “Review: Dead Inside”

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Congratulations! You survived another week.

Your joy at finally reaching the point where you can get a full night’s sleep is tempered by the realization that the weeks are going by faster and faster, and you’re not getting anywhere. You’re just getting a little more tired and a little farther behind each time. It’s like Tetris: your reward for completing each level is to do it over, but faster and more challenging.

You succeeded at becoming your department’s auditor! How would you like to also teach company-wide classes on a subject of great legal importance to the company’s continued operation? You’ll need to jump from thinking like an auditor to thinking like an instructor. You’re also going to need to write your own curriculum, because it turns out that we don’t really have one. And yes, we expect you to accomplish all that while continuing to perform your current duties.

Wow, you did a really good job on those classes! The training department is highly impressed. How’d you like to do all of the above while training a revolving group of new hires?

Continue reading “Don’t Blink: A Flash Fiction”

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Dredd 2012 - Judgement is Coming

For the purpose of disambiguation, this review is of Dredd (2012), starring Karl Urban as Judge Dredd and Olivia Thirlby as trainee Judge Anderson.

When Dredd and Anderson respond to a grisly triple homicide in the high rise mega slum of Peach Trees, they have no idea that they’re walking into the heart of a ruthless criminal’s base of operations. Ex-prostitute Ma-Ma (played excellently by Lena Headey) is the kingpin of a cartel that has risen to supremacy through a brutal combination of extreme violence and drug trafficking. The drug in question is Slo-Mo, a substance which slows the user’s perception of reality to 1% normal speed.

I’ll admit I didn’t have high expectations for this film. I’m not a huge fan of Karl Urban, and I had suspicions that Judge Anderson would be, as happens all too often to female action leads, little more than eye candy. The prominent place of Slo-Mo in the trailers gave me flashbacks to the heavy-handed drug propaganda of the 80s and 90s.

I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Dredd surprised the hell out of me. It was really good.

Continue reading “Review: Dredd”

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Cover of Soul Jacker by Michael John Grist

Michael John Grist’s Soul Jacker is easily one of the most unusual and thought-provoking cyberpunk novels out there. This book is up there with the classics of the genre in terms of style, narrative voice, and introduction of new concepts.

Grist has built a world that is strange and fascinating both inside and out: memories are injectable, mind bombs can disrupt and destroy thousands of minds without leaving a physical trace, and we’ve honed hacking the human mind down to a fine (if dangerous) art.

Ritry Goligh is one such hacker, or Soul Jacker, a former marine left adrift by the end of the war he was created for. He’s a hard individual who’s made a lot of sacrifices in order to survive, but he isn’t a bad guy. Despite picking up the pieces of a psyche shattered by trauma multiple times throughout his life, he never quite succumbs to the darkness. I found myself really liking that about him. He’s a hero, if nothing else than because he refused to become a monster like those that surrounded him. In an ugly world, refusing to give in to cruelty is an act of rebellion.

Grist gives the reader plenty of demons to hate, though, (or cheer for, if that’s your thing.) This is a narrative that pulls no punches, and gory is an understatement for much of the action. We plumb the depths of a world ravaged by fuel wars and rising sea levels, as well as the depths of Ritry’s oft-broken-and-rehealed mind– a labyrinthine maze of hidden memories and missing pieces, hidden behind steel walls of protective scar tissue and stalked by monsters. And then of course there are the traps laid by the enigmatic character known as Mr. Ruin.

Soul Jacker is a wilder ride than I ever expected when I picked it up, full of dizzying highs and sickening lows that I found oddly satisfying. This is a novel that will thrill you, horrify you, and make you think about where we’re going. I loved it, and I think you will too.

Sound interesting? Soul Jacker is available on Amazon in ebook and paperback. I highly recommend it!

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Over the last week I’ve been fleshing out some new ideas for the sequel to Necrotic City. Some have asked “But what happens to the city?” and this is for them. It’s also for all the people Adrian left behind. I’m really excited about this project and I hope you will be too!

Continue reading “Necrotic City: The Sequel”

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