Author Archives: Jill

News of the Week

Roswell/Alien News:

Admittedly, I haven’t lived in Roswell that long, and my move here coincided with a busy life of editing, formatting, and working outside the home. As a sci fi writer, I find living in Roswell intriguing, but I haven’t spent as much time as I would have liked searching out the local culture for writers, alien enthusiasts, skeptics, and Christians (that last becomes relevant in a bit). Earlier this week, my husband listened to an early-morning talk show with a local author; he couldn’t remember names, but did recall that a documentary on aliens — from a Christian perspective — would air at the Allen theater on March 12th. That is ultimately my news: the release of Alien Intrusion: Unmasking a Deception.

As usual, I wanted more information, however. Who put together this documentary? Who was the local author my husband had heard speaking on the radio at an ungodly hour of the morning? The documentary was done by Gary Bates, who is a creationist (see creation.com), and the author of the “Amazon top 50 bestseller” Alien Intrusion. As much as I would like to purchase the ebook, I get my hackles up when publishers/authors charge more than $6.99 for an ebook.*

I’m guessing the local Roswell author my husband heard was Guy Malone, whom I found here: alienstranger.com. But I can’t be sure. In any case, this guy (heh) is probably worth reading, as he calls himself a “Roswell Author, Lecturer, Iconoclast, Trouble-Maker”. Also, he states that he’s offering a Christian perspective on aliens here in Roswell. Clearly, this is my type of person, albeit iconoclasts may or may not get along. I’m sure you can fathom the reasons for that.

*I format books for a living. Ebooks are much easier to format than print books, and don’t have the production costs associated with printing on paper with ink.

News In the Sci-fi/Fan Industry:

Have you heard of Cirsova yet? If you haven’t, please check out their offerings. They just released their 7th issue. I like to read this magazine because it’s made of paper* (or, at least, I have issues 1-6 in paper, but only contributed enough to their kickstarter this time to get the ebook — I was broke — what can I say?), and because it has pulpy style spec fic. It’s fun. That’s about what I can handle these days in literature. Fun. The magazine has also introduced me to new SFF authors who are writing fun stories, which is a definite bonus. They also get points for their pulpy cover art. All in all, good stuff.

I almost forgot to add that one of the stories from their 5th issue, “Beyond the Great Divide”, has been nominated for the 2017 Ursa Major Awards in the best short fiction category. You can find out how to vote here.

*Going back to the paper: obviously, paper editions don’t make a magazine great. I was always hoping Jessica Thomas would go the paper route with her Common Oddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow. Ebooks for sale on Amazon are good, too. Selling copies and paying authors is a more viable business model than free e-zines.

News About Me:

Twitter friend Gitabushi reviewed The Minäverse on his blog, Must Read SFF. Did you catch that — Must Read SFF. This is my favorite line: “She skewers current society with an acerbic wit by showing where some of the trends we see today are leading. She provides some touching insight into love, (mis)communication, ego, ambition, loyalty, and even faith.” Go read the review, and then go buy my book. The Amazon link is there for you on the side.

Share

News of the Week

In the good old days, I wrote humorous News of the Week offerings, which, incidentally, nobody read. I can’t explain it, but my usual friends tend to turn away in distaste from my sense of humor. Or maybe they just miss it altogether. It’s possible I’m not actually funny.

That was then. This is now. Today, after I’ve spent a year posting nothing but chapters of The Minäverse to keep my blog from dying, I’m going to write a different kind of News of the Week. It’s going to be serious. Very, very serious. If any absurdity creeps in, I’ll smack it right back out. Okay? Do we have a deal?

News About Me:

That’s right. I’m going to lead with my own news. Back in 2014, I wrote the first draft to The Minäverse. Issue in major life changes: being abducted by aliens and dropped down in Roswell, NM; trying to maintain a stressful “day” job, while keeping my freelance business going; still trying to chip away at a degree that might come in handy someday. That’s about it, to be honest. Still, that’s my excuse for taking so long to publish my book. But now it’s available as an ebook at the great price of $3.99 and as a paperback at the great price of $15.00.

News In the Sci Fi Industry:

Jon Del Arroz is using GoFundMe to raise money for a discrimination lawsuit against WorldCon. From what I’ve witnessed of Del Arroz, his detractors’ idea of abuse equals tagging people in social media who don’t want to be tagged by him, let alone associate with him, and calling on his followers to do the same. Supposedly, all of this was in response to these people gossiping about him. There was also talk of his having emailed the president of SFWA (maybe even more than once), but that isn’t necessarily abuse if he had a legitimate reason for doing so. After all, the president of SFWA is operating in the capacity of headship for the members of the organization. She isn’t a superstar out of reach of the unwashed plebes. Sometimes, when it comes to these he-said, she-said disputes, your perspective will largely depend on who you talk to, who you choose to depend on for truth, and your POV regarding politics. Ie, people who align themselves with progressive politics hate Jon Del Arroz. That is almost indisputable. So what is the truth in between all the holier-than-thou handwringing and gossip-mongering? Is Jon Del Arroz a bully who hides his abuse from the Twitter sphere, where I regularly see him interacting with others? God knows what infractions others consider to be abuse.

If my take sounds snarky, I apologize. The holier-than-thou handwringing and gossip-mongering accusation belongs to those who aren’t speaking the truth (or who are spreading falsehoods without knowing the full truth). That doesn’t mean I’m accusing you. Most people know by now that I’m more inclined to side with the person willing to keep things public despite violating social norms and niceties. I prefer being impolite to the behavior of nice, moral Wormtongues who like to whisper behind others’ backs. Wormtongues cannot be trusted. Ever. But that doesn’t mean I’m right.

As a last point of interest, there have been a few people who said they would report Del Arroz for violating the fund-raising site’s policy of not allowing the raising of legal funds. I don’t think that’s exactly GoFundMe’s current policy, which states that it doesn’t allow money on their site to be raised in defense of people who have been accused of crimes, harassment, discrimination, etc. Del Arroz isn’t raising money to defend himself. But GoFundMe can remove any campaign from their site if they decide it violates their policy, which is why I’m not linking to Del Arroz’s campaign. I’m not going to add fuel to the fire.

Artificial Intelligence and Alien News:

I waxed on and on in that last section, so I’ll be brief regarding this section. Let’s be honest. I have a daily stream of news coming in on the AI front. By comparison, I only rarely see news about aliens. That’s probably to be expected. So I’m going to focus on what fascinates me. Today, I found it on Science Daily. Click on it. I dare you.

Are you kidding me? Praying Mantises have a type of 3D vision not yet seen elsewhere in biology:

Humans are incredibly good at seeing 3D in still images. We do this by matching up the details of the picture seen in each eye. But mantises only attack moving prey so their 3D doesn’t need to work in still images. The team found mantises don’t bother about the details of the picture but just look for places where the picture is changing.
This makes mantis 3D vision very robust. Even if the scientists made the two eyes’ images completely different, mantises can still match up the places where things are changing. They did so even when humans couldn’t.

If I understand this correctly, they are using their vision to detect change over time. You know, what you did in a math class at one time…. This is relevant to AI because, you know, if the praying mantis can use this type of vision, why not robots? Now you can cue horrifying scenes of giant invading robot praying mantises. Wearing giant mantis glasses. Backing up a little bit — scientists discovered this unusual type of 3D vision because they made tiny insect glasses. That’s right, tiny glasses. That is clearly the most relevant part of this story. Honey, I just shrunk my head so I could wear tiny mantis glasses! I’ve always been fascinated by head trauma. Why not radically turn myself into an insect-head so I can experience math class in a whole new way?

Share

Camus Kaze and the Best School Project Ever

The world, at times, is not a happy place. So it was for Al Camus from the time he was a small girl. If he was a girl -- which he doubted. He was also never small. Large, tubby, corpulent: these were the adjectives that described Al.
 "Alberta!" his mother hollered from the bathroom. "You used the last tampon and didn't tell me!"
 It was useless to explain to his mom that he couldn't have told her he'd used her last tampon because boys didn't use tampons. Al's mom believed he was a girl. Al's mom was frustratingly unenlightened about the world.
 Often, and especially at times like these, Al wished his mom were Japanese. Oh, she was Japanese; she just wasn't uber identity-based Japanese. She was American and had slovenly American ways. When Al passed the bathroom, he had to turn his head because the bathroom door was cracked open, revealing the mess of clothes and towels on the floor. At dinnertime, Al generally wished his dad were really French, too, so they could eat decent food.
 Put it all together, and Al was disgruntled with his life. He snagged a package of Nutter Butters and a bag of Hot Cheetos, and made his way to the back patio table where he could work on his homework in peace. He swept off his dad's beer cans and cigarette butts and spread out his books. He opened his math book and closed it. Al hated math. He opened his science book, and then shut that one, too. He was failing science, and it was too late in the year to fix it.
 But Al had a bigger problem. Tomorrow, he had to give his oral report for history class. The students had drawn World War II topics from the teacher's disgusting greasy ballcap; he had drawn "kamikaze pilots". At his peak performance, Al was a mediocre student. He had resigned himself to this reality years ago. Someday, he would no longer have to be a student. For now, he put most of his effort into keeping his head above the social waters.
 Oral reports were not the best way to prevent this particular style of drowning. By now, it was standard practice for someone to make farting noises at him while he walked up to the front. Last year in English, someone had oinked like a pig, while Al had stumbled, blushed, and forgotten what his topic was mid sentence. It didn't matter that the teacher had sent the oinker out of class because the damage had already been done. Even the teacher couldn't quite keep the grin off her face.
 This year, he'd prepared ahead of time by dying his hair black, and then adding white stripes. Sick dyed hair was a good way to gain instant street cred. Until oral report day, though, he had to wear a beanie. He didn't want the shock value to be lost.
 Al's phone bleeped at him, and all thoughts of schoolwork fled from his mind. Well, not exactly. Al was trying to recruit the class gamer boys to help him with his presentation by doing cosplay. So far, two wanted to be samurais, and the third said he would come as a sumo wrestler if it wasn't blatant cultural appropriation.
 "But I'm Japanese," Al reminded them.
 They'd all laughed uproariously. "Sure, you are, Alberta."
 They'd repeated his name several times, as if it was relevant to being Japanese or not.
 One of the samurai volunteers had just texted him to ask him where his sword was. Al had promised to provide real swords in exchange for their help. It had seemed a good idea at the time, an easy prop to acquire -- surely, something the school would allow once they realized it was for a history lesson. Because kamikazes. Because kamikazes had nothing to do with samurais, but they were both Japanese, and Al was Japanese, so...
 "I'll have them on the day," he texted back.
 "You'd better," was the response.
 Al racked his brain, trying to come up with a secondary option. If he couldn't get a hold of real samurai swords, maybe he could empty his mom's change jars and buy Nerf swords at Wal Mart. If he couldn't get anyone to drive him there, he guessed cardboard and foil would look snazzy.
 His phone bleeped again. "Hey, ur going to be the sumo, right? Lololol."
 That was all the text said. Al's face heated up, and his heart pounded. Didn't the gamer boys like him? Wasn't he one of them? Maybe they wanted to include him in the cosplay. Maybe it wasn't a dig on his weight.
 Who was he kidding? It didn't matter, anyway. What mattered was their making him look cool.
 From the kitchen this time, Al heard his mom hollering at him. "Al, get in here and clean up this mess! I want the kitchen clean when i get home from work."
 His mom worked nights at Circle K. Since his dad was still gone God knew where, nobody would be around to take him to Wal Mart. Al would have to make cardboard swords. If he worked really hard on the design, they might look even better than real ones.
 He pushed aside his largely empty 3x5 cards and spread out some soggy broken down boxes that were in a stack on the porch. So he hadn't gotten around to writing relevant facts and information on the cards. He figured he could fudge a little, as long as everybody was distracted by samurais.
 After working steadily for a couple of hours -- he'd never had any intention of doing what his mom had told him to -- his swords didn't live up to the image in his head.
 But he was tired now, and he had to live with what he'd prepared for his oral report on kamikazes, which included a few samurai swords and a vague idea that kamikazes were suicide pilots. He'd be fine.
 Alberta was never fine. When he rolled himself out of bed the next morning, he threw up. Nerves. Or too many Hot Cheetos. Why couldn't his parents make dinner like normal people? He opened a bottle of Red Bull and chugged it. After that, he pulled off the beanie he'd been wearing for a week and pressed his hair down with water. After that, he barely had enough time to make a run for the school bus.
 Once he'd managed the social nightmare of sitting down, he realized he'd forgotten the swords. It was no use asking the bus driver to stop so he could run home and fetch them. She waited for nobody.
 The school's air conditioner had broken, which made Al sweat profusely. That didn't even count the sweat that poured down when he thought of history class. He saw the gamer boys at their lockers, and he turned from them, afraid. They weren't popular. It wasn't that. They had a place in the world, and Al didn't.
 If they helped him, people would say, "Oh, I didn't know Al was a geek. That explains everything."
 But eventually, history class rolled around, like all dreaded classes did. And when he arrived, there was nobody there. A note hung on the door: "Meeting outside today at the lunch tables. Too hot inside!" Al groaned. Sunlight was the worst kind for his complexion.
 From a distance, he watched his classmates settled comfortably on the benches, including the gamer boys, who were leaning over their phones. Phones weren't allowed inside, but now they were outside, so...
 Al pulled out his phone. There was a single text: "No swords, no deal. But awesome sumo costume."
 He couldn't do it. He couldn't go through with it. And that was when it happened, the sudden compulsion to squash them like the tiny insignificant bugs they were. Either that, or hurl himself from the roof and end it all. Conveniently, the air conditioner work people had left a ladder for him to climb.
 Wow, they really did look like insignificant bugs from up here.
 "Hey!" he screamed. "I'm giving my oral report up here!"
 Their pleasingly shocked faces stared up at him. Mr. Thorpe, the teacher, looked like he was sending for help, as his pet student went scurrying off.
 "Alberta, you need to come down from there!" he shouted, hands cupped around his mouth.
 "My name's not Alberta!"
 The entire class was now huddled beneath him. They looked worried. Good. The teacher was on his phone now, completely ignoring Al. Or calling the po!ice. Oh, God, not the police. He hadn't meant for this to get out of hand. He paced nervously at the edge of the roof, huddled over in anxiety.
 One of the gamer boys pointed at him. "Oh, my God, she really is a sumo!"
 "I'm not a she," Al cried. "I'm not a..."
 This was going to be his best oral report. Melancholy filled his soul, as he now knew what he had to do.
 "I'm a Camus Kaze!" He declared, as the divine wind rushed through his godlike hair.
 And then he jumped, aiming himself right at the teacher.
 It was too bad he missed.
Share

The Minäverse

minaversetitlepage

This what a sample title page looks like.

Oso Beñat was born to be a hero. With advanced cognition and an ability to remember the future, he knows he’s meant for more than the subsistence farming his father scrapes out in rural New Mexico. Armed with an education and his best friend, a biotech engineer, he creates advanced biological androids that are awakened with the voice of infrasound.

When his beautifully intelligent androids, known as Minäs, are rendered window-lickers through government mandated lobotomies, his eponymous corporation turns to inventing mindless robotics, leaving the idiot Minäs to roam in a wasted economy.

Even with his future instinct, he fails to foresee this mess. Now that his life is nearly over, maybe it’s not too late to fulfill his destiny by helping someone besides himself. Sometimes, being a hero means passing the torch to his biological creations. His granddaughter seems willing. But what about those Minäs? There might yet be one left in the world who isn’t too stupid to care.

Share

Book Review: City of Sand

This was my first experience reading Robert Kroese. For some time, I’ve been meaning to read The Big Sheep, but I cringe at the $12.99 ebook price. Generally, I won’t pay more than $7.99 for an ebook. Buying ebooks opened a world to me beyond my small town library due to the low prices: I’ve been able to read a lot of fiction this way, while not stealing from my children’s dinner plates.

Or at least I read them up until about a year or two ago. After that, I just bought them but found I couldn’t get past the first few pages. I don’t know why. Have I become impatient? Has fiction changed? No good answer. Reading solely nonfiction doesn’t quite fill the soul’s need for stories, though. So I continue searching for fiction that will engage me.

Little by little, I’m finding some good reads again. City of Sand is among them. I found it on my Kindle — don’t even remember buying it. However, I’ve become so skeptical of my ability to enjoy fiction that I just ignored its presence until my insomnia was so intense that I clicked on it.

I read it in a few hours. Now that I’ve wasted most of my projected blog word count telling you why I won’t buy expensive books and complaining about fiction (and/or my new inability to focus), I’m going to quickly explain why I liked City of Sand. A. It was a detective novel that B. turned into science fiction (those are my favorite genres) that C. piqued my interest because it was philosophical and a little weird. Think Man in the High Castle weird.

I’m not off in thinking that it’s Philip K. Dick weird, either. He reveals that he had intended for it to be a “Chinatown as told by Philip Dick” in the afterword. In other words, what we have here is a hard-boiled, weird, philosophical science fiction book. Could there be any better fusion of elements?

I didn’t have any serious issues with the plot or writing; I really just enjoyed the read. At first, I thought the detective noir tone was a little forced, but I ceased thinking that as the book picked up speed. And the ending could have been really bad. I’m just stating a fact, a kind of warning. Somehow, the author pulled it off. Some people won’t agree with me, but there are all manner of people who disagree with just about everything I say.

If Kroese’s other books are of this vein, I’ll have to read them, too. There’s one called Schrodinger’s Gat* that I might enjoy.

*I left out the umlaut because I’m too lazy to html it in. Or as friend Jay DiNitto said, “To umlaut or not to umlaut, that’s the question.”** I doubt those were his exact words, but it raises one’s fame status marginally when one is misquoted.

**I wrote a book with an umlaut in the title and would add it in or leave it out at my leisure; hence his response. As I’m not just editing in Sigil, but rewriting whole chapters there, I find myself annoyed at myself for all the obvious reasons. Btw, the main character also has a tilde in his name. ä ñ — … is no way to write a book. Those will show up as the characters instead of the html entities in my blog post. Oh, never mind.

Share