Recently I stumbled across a thread where a group of fans were emphatically agreeing that the protagonists of a book should have been written as 19-22 instead of 14-18.

“Kaz acts more like 20-21 than 17. Like I understand traumas and life can force kids to grow up too fast, but his whole personality and maturity seems better suited for someone older. Even 19 would be better than 17.”

Here’s why this is a ridiculous stance to take.

Continue reading “Realism In Writing: Character Age”

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Cyberpunk Is Evolving

I recently stumbled across an article that sums up what some people have been noticing for a while: cyberpunk is becoming increasingly distorted by its transition into the cultural mainstream.

Cyberpunk was sci-fi for those who saw the power of the computer, its mounting ability to overtake everything personal (attention, time, privacy), and were bracing for impact. It was speculative fiction for everyone wary of the growing influence of massive corporations and ready to be leaders in the technological rebellion.
To reflect this, cyberpunk’s protagonists—the personalities that would become the face of the genre—were uniformly disobedient.

Continue reading “Cyberpunk is Evolving”

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Johnny always was an odd kid.

He got beaten at school almost as much as he did at home– and that was saying something, since he rarely left home without fresh bruises. The beatings gave him a fatalistic streak, but they never seemed to break his spirit. Even when he was spitting out teeth, he always had a middle finger up and a defiant “Fuck you!” on his lips.

We lost touch after high school. I went into the trades, and Johnny went wherever kids raised by violent single dads go. I heard he got busted for something stupid and did a stretch in Arizona. I heard he found true love, got a minimum wage job and tried to go straight. Found out he had cancer. Lost his girlfriend after he tried to kill himself. After that, I didn’t hear about Johnny anymore.

When an angular shadow shambled out of a dark alley, staggered into me, and darted away crowing with glee and waving my wallet, I hadn’t thought of Johnny in years.

Continue reading “Flash Fiction: Middle Finger to the World”

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Conflict ahead sign

Let’s talk believable antagonists and realistic sources of conflict.

I’m not going to get into the four types of conflict, or six, or however many it is now. I am going to talk about creating a believable antagonistic force, rather than one of those cardboard caricature, source-of-all-evil bad guys.

The concept of a having one person be the source of all of a story’s conflict has always seemed overly simple to me. Either the antagonist has help, or the protagonist’s problems are going to be disappointingly simple to solve. A lone enemy, unaided, is easy to overcome.

Continue reading “Antagonistic Forces”

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Don't be one of many. Names matter.

Something came to a head recently that’s been bugging me for a long time: we (Westerners, especially those in the United States) need to get a lot more creative with our names.

Recently one of my employees pointed out the ridiculousness of creepy old men who demand to be on a first name basis with the people who work the front counter. In terms of accountability or identification, a first name means next to nothing. At my company alone, if you were helped by “Jessica” that could be Jessica in Cargo, Jessica in Fuels, Jessica in Accounting, or Jessica in Parts & Acquisitions.

This is a problem.

Continue reading “Names Matter”

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 Cover of Darrell B. Nelson's The Genocide Game.

This week on the author blog, Leland Lydecker reviews The Genocide Game. A megalomaniac billionaire with an automation fetish plots to wipe out ninety-eight percent of the world’s population, and it falls to Stan– pick-up artist guru and self-proclaimed word-nerd– to save the world.

To be more accurate, Stan bumps into Raven, a scientist on the run from her job in the billionaire’s R&D lab, and offers to help her. Pretty soon they’re both on the run from Ferguson’s comically inept goons, racing to reveal the existence of a genetically engineered super-virus before Ferguson can unleash it on the world.

Although it sounds like a cool premise, The Genocide Game has some unfortunately fatal flaws. Let’s start with Stan.

Continue reading “Darrell B. Nelson’s The Genocide Game”

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Content warning: this post discusses suicide, depression, traumatic events, and Facebook’s unwillingness to protect their users from credible threats.

Facebook is Watching You-- For Your Own Good

Hello folks! I’m guessing that by now most of you have heard about Facebook’s new “proactive suicide detection” AI. Reactions have ranged from relief to disbelief to outright horror, but Facebook has already made it abundantly clear how little it cares about users’ privacy. It will not be possible to opt out of monitoring while continuing to use the platform.

Facebook says it trained the AI by finding patterns in the words and imagery used in posts, videos, and live streams that have been manually reported as a suicide risk in the past. It also looks for comments like “Are you OK?” and “Do you need help?” The AI will scan all posts for patterns that seem to indicate suicidal thoughts and forward “worrisome” posts to Facebook’s human moderators. “When necessary” the program will send mental health resources to the user or their friends, or contact local first responders.

Sounds fantastic, right? Well, at least if you don’t mind a Facebook algorithm and a team of dubiously qualified human moderators snooping through your most personal posts– regardless of your privacy settings. Aside from the fact that this is a massive violation of users’ privacy, here’s why this might not be such a great idea.

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I’ve been informed that we’ve entered the holiday season.

Man in bear costume arrested for attacking Black Friday campers.

Oh, I know that the Christmas decorations went up in stores about a month ago, but I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring those.

As a functioning adult, I’ve earned the right to forego participating in these social traditions. I have my own place, so I’m not obliged to sit through any more festive gatherings. I rarely get invites to other people’s parties and holiday dinners. Being the guy who fills up his mug with gin and retreats to a dim corner, my presence doesn’t add much to the festivities.

Some people might assume that my aversion to cherished cultural traditions stems from loneliness or some kind of personality disorder, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I prefer my own company, and I wouldn’t be any more inclined to celebrate if I had others to celebrate with.

You see, this season makes me wonder more and more each year what the actual fuck it is that we’re supposed to be celebrating.

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I’ve heard a lot of talk about how cyberpunk is over. Its predictions of brain jacks and virtual reality never came true. It hasn’t aged well.

In some ways, that’s is true. The classic, 80s-inspired neon dystopia looks pretty dated. Fashion and architecture have moved on. Culture and social standards have evolved.

But cyberpunk is still relevant. In fact, you could say it’s more relevant than ever. Here’s why.

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