Watch This Double Amputee Control Two Robotic Arms At Once

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

It’s rare to see the future unfold in front of our eyes this dramatically but here it is: the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab has helped a man who lost both his arms in a “freak electrical accident” connect to dual robotic arms by connecting to and reading from his nervous system. The results aren’t quite staggering as he still has limited control over the arms but the future is bright for amputees.

Human-controlled robotic arms are getting better and better (check out the video below of a woman controlling an arm with her brain), and the hardware needed to drive a usable arm is improving yearly. It won’t be long before we can expect to see amputees like the gentlemen in the video regain use of their limbs. The future, as they say, is here. It’s just not evenly distributed.

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Watch This Double Amputee Control Two Robotic Arms At Once

Year-End Top 10

Earlier this week, Chuck Wendig asked his readers to post their Top Ten of the Year. I hastily responded, and am reposting my picks here, in it’s very own blog, with some slight revisions… My updates, notes, or second-thoughts are in italics.

1) Favorite novel of the year? ELEANOR by Jason Gurley

I’m standing by this one wholeheartedly. This book has really stuck with me throughout the year, and you can find my review on it here.

2) Favorite non-fiction book of the year? Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye

I didn’t get through as many non-fiction titles as I would have liked to this year, but UNDENIABLE is totally tops. Science deniers will hate it, but I found it to be a terrific and enjoyable exploration of the natural world and the process of evolution. [my review]

3) Favorite short story of the year? BLACKOUT by Tim Curran

As soon as I finished BLACKOUT, back in August, I was ready to name it the best DarkFuse novella of the year. That hasn’t changed. [my review]

4) Favorite movie of the year? Didn’t see many, so I’ll go with X-Men: Days Of Future Past

You know what, I really slipped on this one. Yeah, I loved the new X-Men flick, but I had a bit of a brain fart. I’m knocking this one down a peg or two for one simple reason that I somehow, stupidly, forgot about. And that reason is…. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

5) Favorite TV show of the year? Hannibal

‘Nuff said. This series is absolutely terrific. And that season finale?!?!? It has now officially been too long of a wait for season three, and I think the upcoming holiday break may be a good time to rewatch seasons one and two. I just seriously love the heck out of this show.

6) Favorite song of the year? Don’t have one…

7) Favorite album? See above.

8) Favorite video game? Really wish I had more time and a bigger budget, but Dragon Age: Inquisition wins for me.

9) Favorite app? Godus

I love this game a ridiculous amount, and have really dug what 22Cans brought to the table with the expansion/update that launched a second bit of land to explore and develop. You can read my review of it over here, but I also want to take a brief second to plug THREES, which I discovered this past Wednesday night. Totally addictive and well worth the $2.

10) Favorite [something else] of the year?  I jumped on the Funko Pop! bandwagon, and will thus vote for my Funko Batman figure/statuette.

Batman_Funko_POP_Blacksuit1_POP

Yeah, seriously. I’m letting my geek flag fly with this one. And, actually, I’m a bit torn, to be honest. I recently bought my first couple Funko Pop! vinyl figures, and am debating which one I love more. I’m sticking with Batman, though. Very close second is this zombie from their line-up of The Walking Dead figures:

twdfunkowave1rvwalkerAll right. What’s ranking in your Top 10 for 2014? Sound off below!

Year-End Top 10

Review: Facial by Jeff Strand

facial

About Facial

Greg has just killed the man he hired to kill one of his wife’s many lovers. He’s now got a dead body in his office.

Carlton, Greg’s brother, desperately needs a dead body. It’s kind of related to the lion corpse that he found in his basement.

This is the normal part of the story.

From Jeff Strand, the author of Benjamin’s ParasiteThe Sinister Mr. Corpse, and Fangboy, comes a tale that’s weird even by his standards.

Facial. It’s not about what you’re thinking. Well, okay, part of it is…


About the Author

Jeff Strand was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but moved to Fairbanks, Alaska when he was six months old, so his memories of Baltimore are hazy. He grew up in the cold, where he desperately wanted to be a cartoonist. Then he wanted to make video games. Then he wanted to write movies. Actually, he still wants to do all of those things, but for now he’s quite happy writing lots of demented novels.

He was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. His novel PRESSURE has been optioned for film; he’s hoping the movie will be made soon so he can scream “My baby! What have you done to my precious baby?!?”

His novels are usually classified as horror, but they’re really all over the place, from comedies to thrillers to drama to, yes, even a fairy tale.

Because he doesn’t do cold weather anymore, he lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife and a deaf cat.


My Thoughts

Throughout my reading of Jeff Strand’s Facial, one thought repeatedly crossed my mind, primarily in it’s long, NSFW form: WTF.

I’ve read a few strange books over the years, but this one takes the cake and may very well be on of the most farcical horror stories I’ve ever read.

Despite it bold oddness, the story is actually pretty simple and summed up pretty well during a moment of exposition when Greg explains his, and his brother’s, predicament to his cheating wife by telling her:

[T]his scary face appeared on the floor of Carlton’s basement, and it gave us gold coins in exchange for feeding it severed heads, and we figured that if we had to kill people, it might as well be people who are cuckholding me, so I’m a monster!

And that’s Facial in a nutshell. It’s a trippy, hallucinogenic story of bloodlust and murder, with a comedic bent. It’s a quick, short read, and the story flops around between alternating viewpoints from Greg, Carlton, Felicia (Greg’s cheating wife), and a few of their victims.

Unfortunately, this novella didn’t quite work for me. I typically don’t have a problem with shifting narrators, but here, they all carried the same voice and personality, and sense of humor. Overall, it was just a little too Looney Tunes for my palette, a little too off-wall and improbable, a little too long and a bit too one-note.

That said, the one thing that is strongly apparent in this work is its originality. I can honestly say I have not read anything quite like it before! And given that, I am very curious to see what else Strand has up his sleeve and will be checking out some of his other works in the near-future.

Buy Facial On Amazon
Review: Facial by Jeff Strand

CONVERGENCE is SciFi365’s Book of the Week

Breaking news: CONVERGENCE was chosen as SciFi365’s Book of the Week. I’m absolutely thrilled by this. They write:

Our new book of the week, ‘Convergence’ by Michael Patrick Hicks, is one of those where it’s summary just doesn’t do justice to how good it is. It is truly an excellent Sci Fi novel and a worthy ‘Book of the Week’.

A cyberpunk thrillride…. The conflict between the humanity of the main character, Jonah, and the things he has had to do to survive in this harsh new world makes ‘Convergence’ an absolute pleasure to read.

Again, just sheer delight from me, and many thanks to the SciFi365 team for their support and their kind words.

CONVERGENCE is still on sale, for a limited time, for only 99 cents, so go feed your eReader!

| Kindle | Nook | Kobo |

Also, be sure to check out SciFi365 and sign up for their mailing list. I’ve found lots of great suggestions from their e-mails, and plenty of good deals. You can subscribe right here.

CONVERGENCE is SciFi365’s Book of the Week

Review: The Dark Servant by Matt Manochio

the-dark-servantAbout The Dark Servant

Santa’s not the only one coming to town…

It has tormented European children for centuries. Now America faces its wrath. Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey. All that remains are signs of destruction—and bloody hoof prints stomped in the snow.

Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes on December 5 feeling depressed. Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy’s devastated when his dream girl rejects him. When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, endangering his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why supposedly innocent high school students have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint’s ruthless companion—that cannot be stopped.


About the Author

Matt Manochio was born in 1975 in New Jersey and graduated from The University of Delaware in 1997 with a history/journalism degree. He spent the majority of his 13-year newspaper career at the Daily Record in Morris County, New Jersey, where he won multiple New Jersey Press Association Awards for his reporting. He wrote about one of his passions, rock ‘n’ roll giants AC/DC, for USA Today and considers that the highlight of his journalism career. He left newspapers in 2011 for safer employment, and currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and son. The Dark Servant is his first novel.


My Thoughts

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I’m the kind of guy who thinks that Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever, while absolutely despising A Christmas Story wholeheartedly. And, frankly, give me Scrooged over the straight-up Dickens classic come Dec. 25, or even Lethal Weapon. Heresy? Yeah, maybe, but whatever… All of this is to say that when it comes to Christmas stories, I’m looking for something a bit off-kilter, something most holiday purists would see as largely non-traditional.

In short, give me Krampus over Santa Claus any day.

And that is exactly what Matt Manochio does with The Dark Servant, a delightful bit of X-Mas horror that sees naughty high schoolers abducted by Kringle’s dark, demonic other. Manochio has done his homework when it comes to the hoof-footed beast, with a story derived directly from the mythology of Krampusnacht and what feels like a heaping amount of 1980s-inspired B-horror fun.

While the book is hardly a fright-fest – in fact, I don’t recall finding anything in this book to be downright chilling or truly horrifying, despite the menace Krampus represents and the agonies endured by the cast of high schoolers in peril – it is, at the very least, an entertaining creature feature that’s more The Monster Squad than Alien.

One thing that Manochio does very well, though, are his characters. Billy and Mike have an easy-going and relateable friendship, and I’d wager we all had similar relationships in high school. Billy’s pining over his classmate, Maria, is familiar but nicely done, without ever feeling too cloying or sappy. Both Billy and Maria feature prominently, and I enjoyed spending time with them. The family dynamic between Billy, his brother Tim, and their local cop father also rang some true notes for me.

Although I was expecting, and ultimately hoping, for more of a terror thrill ride, The Dark Servant entertained me well enough to keep me happy. Thematically, the work brings up some important issues regarding bullying and the traumatic physiological toll those cruel taunts can carry, but it doesn’t plumb those murky depths quite deeply enough to satisfy. Overall, it’s an enjoyable read, but feels a bit too light-weight in the topics its author tackles. Still, it’s not a bad bit of holiday-themed reading, even if Manochio pulls his punches a little too carefully and a little too often. (3.5/5 stars)

Buy The Dark Servant at Amazon
Review: The Dark Servant by Matt Manochio

Writer Emergency Pack

Last month, I was proud to back the Writer Emergency Kickstarter. Well, John August really delivered on this one, a full four months early, in fact!

On Monday night, I got home from work to find this beautiful card pack of survival tips and suggestions waiting for me in the mailbox. Not only are they useful, but there are some damn great illustrations on these suckers. Exclusive to Kickstarter supporters is the Dark Mode pack, a one-time use only code, and you can be sure I ordered them pronto. I cannot wait to see how they turn out!

Here’s a couple quick photos of the unboxing:

Be sure to sign up for news on the official release at Writer Emergency and get your hands on a pack or two as soon as possible. It’s well worth the expense, and a nifty little deck of cards to boot.

Writer Emergency Pack

eBook Sci-Fi Sale (But It Won’t Last Long!)

Hey there, readers!

I’m happy to announce that, for a limited time (i.e. today and tomorrow), you can grab some great sci-fi reads for cheap, including my book, CONVERGENCE, over at Amazon. Just click the links below to buy, but act fast because this won’t last for very long.

Convergence-800 Cover reveal and Promotional99 cents!

| Kindle | Nook | Kobo |


hereticFree!


whatitmeanstosurviveFree!


defiance99 cents!


And, as always, my short horror story CONSUMPTION is only 99 cents as well. Just don’t read this one on a full stomach…

consumption-complete99 cents!

| Amazon | Kobo | Nook |

eBook Sci-Fi Sale (But It Won’t Last Long!)