The Writer Emergency Pack just received full funding (and well beyond!) on Kickstarter, which is excellent news because I have absolutely no idea how to wrap up my current WIP!

Congrats to John August on this wonderful project. These helpful cards got the backing of 5,714 awesome people (me among them, of course) and raised $158,109, which is well above the initial $9,000 goal.


Sci-Fi November: Hard Sci-Fi Film Classics – From

Contemplate Your Place in the Universe with Hard Sci-Fi Film Classics! |

Earlier this week, sci-fi/fantasy publisher, Tor, released this list of must-watch hard sci-fi films. Among its selections are Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, Contact, with Jodie Foster, and the recently released Interstellar.

I’ve missed out on a few of their choices, particularly Moon, which I actually blind-bought on Blu-ray but have yet to watch. Nor have I seen the original 1972 version of Solaris. I’ve been wanting to give the George Clooney remake a second viewing, though, as it’s been a few years since I last saw it and I remember enjoying it a bit. I think Sunshine merits another watch, as well, particularly given the close involvement of Professor Brian Cox. And, of course, 2001 is an immortal classic and has pretty well set the standard for space movies. I’m hankering to rewatch Contact, a film that I know I saw, but which I cannot remember a single damn thing about.

As far as dislikes go, I was completely underwhelmed by Gravity. I found that one to be too repetitive, dull, and the film wasn’t able to convince me that Sandra Bullock’s character ever should have been cleared to leave Earth.

I also dislike that none of these films are available on Netflix!

I haven’t caught up with Interstellar yet, and will likely wait until it hits Apple TV. I know Phil Plait has knocked the science in this film, and Lee Billings wrote, for Scientific American, that “some of the science in Interstellar is laughably wrong.” I typically don’t have a problem with suspension of disbelief, and I typically love Christopher Nolan’s films, so I’m not terribly bothered by the scientific inaccuracies (and it sound like there is a lot!) so long as I can enjoy the story.

So, what does Tor consider to be the best? Here’s the quick run-down, but be sure to check out the link up top for the details.

Interstellar (2014)

Contact (1997)

Gravity (2013)

Gattaca (1997)

Silent Running (1972)

Dark Star (1974)

Solaris (1972)

Sunshine (2007)

Moon (2009)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

What are your thoughts on’s list? Any you would add or take-away? Let’s hear it!

Sci-Fi November: Hard Sci-Fi Film Classics – From

Inforgraphic: Self-Publish or Traditional?

The folks at The Write Life developed this infographic as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek guide to choosing your best publishing options.

Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing: Which Should You Choose?
Courtesy of: The Write Life


What are you thoughts?

Inforgraphic: Self-Publish or Traditional?

Sci-Fi November: Film Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

apes_1Confession: I never saw the original Charlton Heston films in the Planet of the Apes series. I’ve seen bits and pieces of them here and there, mostly as a kid flipping through the channels and catching snippets between commercial breaks on the Saturday or Sunday afternoon movie that aired on the stations higher up on the dial. Most of what I knew of these films was absorbed through the cultural zeitgeist and pop culture references in things like Spaceballs or Mystery Science Theater 3000. I did see the Tim Burton remake and was not impressed. So, color me surprised when, in 2011, I decided to check out the prequel/reboot of this 20th Century Fox franchise with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and was thoroughly impressed. And it was based on the strength of that film alone that I needed to see the follow-up, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

So, I bought and watched the latest on my Apple TV via iTunes this past weekend, and really loved this flick.

Since we know these films are basically leading into the original 60s-era Heston movie, we know that war between the humans and apes is inevitable, and we know who the victors will ultimately be. But, damn, the journey to get there? Excellent, excellent stuff.

It’s been ten years (movie-time) since the simian flu leveled the human race and the apes became ascendant. In fact, at the movie’s start, head-chimp Caesar and his lieutenant and friend, Maurice, speculate that the humans may have become extinct. This isn’t the case, of course, and the moment of first-contact between the two species in at least a decade is one that’s fraught with peril.

Throughout the movie, there’s a wonderful simmering tension between the various divisions, and the threat of violence is nearly constant. Both the apes and the humans find themselves divided over issues of trust and loyalty, and the relationship that develops between Caesar and Malcolm, our central human protagonist, played by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), is borne out of a mutual desire for peace that is not equally shared by their compatriots.

caeserOne of the central themes at the heart of this movie is what it means to be ‘human’ (so to speak). There’s a definite fear of The Other on display here, distilled most cogently with Kirk Acevedo’s (Fringe) Carver and the ape, Koba. Both are twisted by their prejudices, and Koba bears the scars of his time as a test subject in a lab, where he was tortured by humans. And while Caesar and Malcolm work to overcome the pressures placed upon them by these darker, more animalistic fears, whatever peace they can arrive at is tenuous, at best. A stalemate, or even cooperation, may be achievable, but both are so overwhelmed by the events surrounding them and have come too far to make anything other than temporary accommodations.

There are some very serious issues at work in both Rise Of… and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, with both movies exemplifying important social issues. I always enjoy it when science fiction films can take certain touchstones of the modern world and expound on them in interesting ways, as the original Star Trek was able to do against the real-world backdrop of the Cold War era. There is a certain relevance to these two films, but neither get bogged down as ‘message films’ that feel the need to beat you over the head with their self-importance. You can look at them as deeply as you need to, or enjoy them as pure entertainment.

movies-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-performance-captureBeyond a fine script, the digital effects and set design are massively impressive. A lot of credit has been given to WETA and the motion-capture performance given by Andy Serkis, and rightly so. These mo-cap actors playing the apes have done an incredibly job bringing their respective primates to life, using prosthetic aids to help change their posture, gait, and movements, to make the CGI overlays all the more realistic. On the set design front, a lot of work and detail have gone into making a suitably post-apocalyptic San Franscisco, showing us what the city would look like as nature begins to overrun the area and its human inhabitants have taken to old buildings repurposed for shelter areas and quarantine zones. The forest dwellings of the apes are quite a marvel, as well, and a lot of work has clearly gone into making it look and feel like a community for this burgeoning, intelligent, and connected species.

The iTunes digital release boasts terrific sound and audio, with the surrounds picking up some nice sonic details, particularly during rainy scenes or the roar of a waterfall, and, of course, during the chaotic action of the finale. There’s also an array of iTunes Extras, including a commentary from director Matt Reeves and a bevy of behind the scenes production materials, along with an image gallery and theatrical trailers.

All in all, I enjoyed the heck out Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. It’s a terrific installment that lives up to the expectations set by its predecessor, and sets the stage for the third film, which is expected in 2016.

Buy Dawn of the planet of the apes at amazon
Sci-Fi November: Film Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Sci-Fi November: DEFIANCE Release, and the works of Lucas Bale

heretic     defiance      whatitmeanstosurvive

Regular readers of this blog are probably aware that early next year, Lucas and I will be releasing a sci-fi anthology, along with a number of other terrific writers with some truly great stories to tell. I’ve reviewed each of his works and dug them all, and I think you’ll like them, too.

Lucas has a new release out today called DEFIANCE. This is the second book in his Beyond The Wall series, and I got to read an ARC of it last week. It’s killer stuff, and well worth picking up. As an added incentive to buy, it’s only 99 cents today!

But, Lucas isn’t stopping there. If you haven’t read the first book in his series, THE HERETIC, that one is currently free. Also free, his recently-released short story WHAT IT MEANS TO SURVIVE.

So, you can grab all three of his titles for just under a dollar. Not too shabby.

Check out his Amazon Author profile for the links to his titles and enjoy:

Sci-Fi November: DEFIANCE Release, and the works of Lucas Bale

Review: In The Shadows Of Children by Alan Ryker

in_the_shadows_of_childrenAbout In The Shadows of Children

Aaron hasn’t been home since his younger brother mysteriously disappeared without a trace from his bedroom fifteen years earlier. He thought he’d moved on with his life.

But when his mother dies suddenly, he finds himself back in his childhood hometown to attend the funeral and see to the estate. Aaron soon finds his hopes of reliving fond childhood memories evaporating as he discovers something in his old closet that shakes not only his beliefs about what happened to his brother, but his grip on reality.

In the hungry darkness, a shadow as old as time itself has been waiting for his return for a long time. And its wait is nearly over…

About the Author

Alan Ryker is the product of a good, clean country upbringing. Though he now lives with his wife in the suburbs of Kansas City, the sun-bleached prairie still haunts his fiction. To learn more about his work, go to

My Thoughts

Hot damn! In The Shadows of Children is the first story I’ve read from author Alan Ryker, but it certainly will not be the last.

This DarkFuse novella finds Aaron returning home following the death of his mother. Fifteen years ago, he’d fled to California and found every excuse he could not to go back. It’s been fifteen years since his brother, Bobby, disappeared, and seven years since his father passed away. Now, he’s grudgingly picking up the pieces of his old life in the wake of his mother’s passing, and starting to recall the horrors of his youth. His adult mind has long since shuttered those old memories, to the point that he can’t even really recall what childhood terrors made him leave and never come back. When Bobby appears in their old bedroom closet, still fourteen years old, Aaron begins to remember and, in the process, is threatened with the loss of his son, still at home in California.

I didn’t bother reading the book description and went in blind; knowing this was a DarkFuse title was enough for me. At first I thought that Bobby’s reappearance was going to make this title a simple, straight-forward ghost story, but Ryker went for richer veins by relying on an ancient, worldwide mythology that still has its foot in the modern door. We call it the boogeyman, and in Ryker’s hands it becomes a thing a frightening beauty.

The writing is clean and sharp, and I felt a nice bit of depth in this story. It’s a quick, clean bit of horror but nicely layered with questions of psychological pathos and those notions of terror that we either deliberately or inadvertently instill in our children. As adults, we think of the boogeyman as a bit of clean, scary fun, but in the child’s mind it can take on a much larger, frightening shape. There’s a darkness to it, in the way adults may use that scare to manipulate their children into certain behaviors. Aaron rediscovers this darkness as it begins to intrude on his adult life and put his own family in jeopardy, and it’s just so well done. Buy it!

buy In The shadows of children at amazon
Review: In The Shadows Of Children by Alan Ryker

Sci-Fi November: Review: Defiance by Lucas Bale

defianceAbout Defiance

The darkness in the human heart is infinite.

At a time when power means everything, the ultimate power, the imperium, rests with the Consulate Magistratus. The murder of a man in the lowest caste may be inconsequential, but one man, one of the Caesteri lawmen who still believes in justice, refuses to ignore it.

The woman he hunts is violent and unstable, and haunted by her own callous ghosts. She will drag him to the furthest reaches of space, where the abyss which awaits them hides an unspeakable truth.

When faced with their own mortality, there is no limit to what human beings will do to protect themselves, their family, their property. The human mind changes when exposed to relentless horror. It becomes dehumanised. The grotesque becomes mundane.There is no pity, no remorse – only instinct. An instinct which cannot be controlled.

The imperium belongs only to those who are strong enough to wield it.

The war to control humanity’s future is about to begin…

Defiance is the second book in the acclaimed Beyond the Wall series, an epic hard science-fiction space opera about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past.

About the Author

Lucas Bale writes the sort of intense, gripping science-fiction thrillers which make you miss your train. Stories which dig into what makes us human and scrape at the darkness which hides inside every one of us.

His debut novel, THE HERETIC, is the gateway to the BEYOND THE WALL series, an epic hard science-fiction space opera about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past.

He wasn’t always a writer. He was a criminal lawyer for fifteen years before he discovered crime doesn’t pay and turned to something which actually pays even less. No one ever said he was smart, but at least he’s happy. He blushes when people mention him in the same sentence as Iain M. Banks or George R. R. Martin, bless him.

If you’d like to hear about new releases before everyone else, get advance review copies of those new releases and every short story he ever writes for free then subscribe to INSIDE, his semi-regular newsletter, here:

If twitter is your thing, you’ll find him at @balespen

My Thoughts

(This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy provided to me by the author.)

I greatly enjoyed Lucas Bale’s The Heretic when it released earlier this year, finding it to be the beginning of an ambitious science-fiction series with a heck of a lot of promise. Book Two in his Beyond The Wall series, Defiance, struck me as even better in nearly every way.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding the narrative that propels the book’s central characters into action. Starting off with a murder and the hunt for a fugitive, the story expands on the mythology introduced in The Heretic and the scope of the Imperium’s domain and the power of the Magistratus. We’ve got murder, a fugitive on the run, political chicanery, a lost spaceship, and more. While not a direct continuation of The Heretic, although there are references made to the events that occurred in that book, Defiance is a bit more like a necessary side-journey.

Bale’s series is what he calls ‘series episodic.’ There’s a large, overarching story connecting the two works, although the characters are different and separated by the vast reaches of space. They inhabit the same universe and live under the same threatening weight of the Imperium’s fist. With new characters comes a new locale, as well, and the world of Jieshou feels vastly different than The Heretic’s Herse. The central characters of Weaver, a sort-of policeman, and the fugitive, Natasha, whom he spends the book hunting, are new faces to the expanding cast and take center stage this time around. Through their eyes, we get to familiarize ourselves with the criminal underworld of Jieshou’s Bazaar, and find Weaver up against some significant odds.

I felt that the characterizations were stronger, and the threats they faced to be more immediate and more prevalent. Weaver has a terrific bit of inner conflict, often arguing with himself over the merits of obeying orders versus following a more morally correct path. Natasha, too, is an intriguing sort and seems to possess a rare quality that allows her to navigate through the wormholes connecting the empire, and to pass through the farther reaches of the Imperium’s domain and beyond The Wall, a section of uncharted and uninhabited space. Or is it? Hmmm…

As Bale produces these novels to be part of a larger whole, we’re left with one heck of a cliffhanger. Most of the mysteries introduced along the way are resolved, but plenty more gets teased in order to set up Book Three.

The Beyond The Wall series is shaping up to be a terrific showcase for Bale’s talents with plenty of future-past mythology and an expanding scope that is starting to feel as large as the universe itself. Recommended.

buy Defiance at Amazon
Sci-Fi November: Review: Defiance by Lucas Bale