Today’s SCOTUS Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

American HumanistThe Supreme Court of the United States made a pretty big decision on marriage equality today, in a 5-4 vote supporting same-sex marriage.

Naturally, I have a few attendant thoughts on this, which I’ve posted on my private Facebook page, but which I will copy here nevertheless just in case my thoughts weren’t already more eloquently and better served in the above image from American Humanist Association quoting the majority opinion from today’s ruling. So, here’s my take on things.

  • “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
    -Declaration of Independence. July 4, 1776.

    Nice to see that 239 years later, we are getting closer and closer, one step at a time, to making these words all the more honest and applicable to all.

  • Bonus points on yesterday and today’s SCOTUS rulings: the 2016 GOP candidates continue to dig themselves further and deeper into the realm of irrelevancy, spouting nonsense that puts them farther afield of the fringe contingent, the conspiracy-minded goofs who call themselves Truthers with nary a trace of irony, and the insane asylum inmates that periodically gather for their silly Tea Parties.

    The more they bitch, moan, whine, and complain, the more clearer that progress is, in fact, being made, and maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll actually achieve the ideal of American Exceptionalism that they so often wistfully refer to with misty eyes averted toward a halycon, bygone day, even while they try to work harder and harder, and in ever smaller numbers, to destroy, tamper, and bury it outright.

Today’s SCOTUS Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

Works In Progress

chronicles
I’m not in any of these. But I’ll be in an upcoming Chronicle soon!

This year has been nicely productive, and in the back-half of the year we should be seeing a healthy bit of output as the finishing touches are put on several anthologies that I’ll be appearing in. Of course, this could all go to hell in a handbag, but as long as the marvelous editors and curators I’ve been working with are happy to publish the stories I’ve written for them I should be making a sizable splash in various arenas soon.

Earlier this year, I released Emergence, a follow-up to last year’s debut title, Convergence. I was also fortunate enough to be a part of the No Way Home anthology as fellow indie sci-fi writer Lucas Bale put on his curator hat to assemble some mighty fine voices in the speculative arena.

Not quite content to rest on the success of our first anthology, we’re all teaming up again to release our next wave of speculative fiction short stories with Crime & Punishment near the tail-end of summer, so keep an eye out for news on that one as we get a bit closer.

I recently had a small chat with Samuel Peralta, who has simply been killing it with the production of a number of anthologies in The Future Chronicles line-up (see the image above!), and who will soon be expanding his efforts with a second series of anthologies revolving around alternate history, alternate universes, alternate realities, etc. Naturally, this line-up will be branded under the Alt.Chronicles label, with Alt.History 101 launching soon.

I’ll be making my debut in a Peralta production later this year, under The Future Chronicles banner with The Cyborg Chronicles. This is, literally, a dream come true for me. There’s a few benchmarks I’m hoping to hit in my writing career, and getting to appear in a Chronicles anthology was damn near the top of that list, so this is a huge, huge deal for me. Not only are these collections superb, but I’ll also get to join the ranks of a long line of Chronicles luminaries like Ken Liu, Hugh Howey, Jennifer Foehner Wells, Peter Cawdron, Therin Knite, Susan Kaye Quinn, and so very many more. This is just some damn fine company to be in!

Finally, my first-ever fantasy (!) story will be appearing in Undaunted, from LARRIKINbooks, later this year. There will be some news on this front soon, though, and I don’t think it’s completely verboten for me to mention that this collection will actually be in the realm of fantasy-noir. Talk about an intriguing cross-genre mash-up! Plus, Delilah S. Dawson, author of Hit and Servants of the Storm, to name but a few of her novels, is doing the foreword on this one, and there’s a great stable of indie talent coming together here, as well. Check out the announcement at this LARRIKINbooks blog post and stay tuned here for more news in the coming months.

  • Crime and Punishment Anthology
    • THE MARQUE, approx. 12,000 words. Post-apocalyptic sci-fi western, a sort of “aliens vs. cowboys” thing.
    • submitted
    • Release – Aug. 31, 2015
  • Undaunted
    • DEBTS OF BLOOD AND FLESH, approx. 6,700 words. Fantasy-noir.
    • submitted
    • Release – TBA/October 2015
  • The Cyborg Chronicles
    • PRESERVATION. Manuscript of 4-10K words due July 17. Can’t say much about this one yet, but it will be a stand-alone short story with some very loose ties to my two DRMR novels.
    • In Progress!
    • Release – TBA/September 2015
Works In Progress

Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge – Six Month Check-Up

GoodreadsYesterday, I hit my goal of 50 books for the year in the Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge. I’m fairly certain this is the fastest I’ve ever hit my challenge goal. In 2014, I set out to read 45 books and hit that mark by the end of August. I suspect I’ve read a lot more smaller novels and novellas this year, but will hold off on doing a closer breakdown until later in the year.

With a baby on the way though, I suspect my future reading habits will change significantly in the coming months. So, rather than change my annual benchmark and up the challenge, I’m leaving well enough alone (as I usually do with these reading challenges). I doubt I’ll hit the personal high of 86 books as I did last year, but that’s perfectly fine with me. Anything past the 50-book count is just gravy at this point, and there’s still plenty of works I’m planning on consuming in the back-half of this year.

The stats thus far are 11,658 pages read, with the longest book so far being Ramez Naam’s Apex, at 608 pages, which I read in the latter half of May. As usual, I’ll do a more thorough breakdown of the challenge at the end of the year as I did for 2014 and 2013.

There has definitely been an increased focus on reading the works of fellow indies and small press titles this year, and several have really stuck with me.

The recently released zombie anthology, The Z Chronicles, was a top-notch effort with a number of stand-out short stories and a terrific platform to get introduced to some new-to-me authors. My buddies Lucas Bale and Nicholas Sansbury Smith continue to knock it out of the park with their ongoing series. Chuck Wendig’s Atlanta Burns was a very strong opening salvo to a new heroine that I hope to be reading more about in 2016. And Ania Ahlborn continues her ascent in my list of authors to watch. She’s just got a great authorial voice and is a very effective horror author. This year marked her first release with Simon & Schuster and there’s a few more titles coming down the pike in the next few months including a digital novella, The Pretty Ones, and a second novel, Brother. Both sound superb and I’m looking forward to snagging copies of each as quickly as I can.

How’s your 2015 Reading Challenge shaping up at this half-way mark?

Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge – Six Month Check-Up

Review: Extinction Age (The Extinction Cycle Book 3) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Extinction AgeAbout Extinction Age

Book III in Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s #1 bestselling and top-rated Extinction Cycle Series continues the fight for survival!
___________________________
 

On the eve of extinction all seems to be lost, but there is still one final hope…

Operation Liberty has failed. Humans are losing the war. With no other option, General Kennor decides to pull back the troops and give science a second chance.

Trapped in the extensive sewer system beneath New York, Master Sergeant Reed Beckham and the survivors of 1st Platoon must battle through the tunnels–where they make a grisly discovery in their attempt to escape.

At Plum Island, Dr. Kate Lovato is working on a new bioweapon to destroy the Variants. But when a derelict Navy Destroyer crashes into the Connecticut shoreline, she is forced to deal with a nightmare she thought had ended.

As the doomsday clock ticks down and military bases fall across the country, the human race enters the age of extinction. Will science prevail–or will mankind vanish off the face of the planet?


About the Author

Nicholas Sansbury Smith is the author of several post-apocalyptic books and short stories. He worked for the State of Iowa for nearly 10 years before switching careers to focus on his one true passion–writing. When he isn’t daydreaming about the apocalypse he’s likely racing in triathlons around the Midwest. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa with his family and several rescued animals.

If you’d like to hear more about Nick’s books, you can join his spam free mailing list here: http://bit.ly/NicholasSansburySmith.

Or visit Nick at: http://nicholassansbury.com.


My Thoughts

[Note: I received a copy of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Over the course of his Orbs and Extinction Cycle series, Nicholas Sansbury Smith has risen to the top of my go-to list for rocking sci-fi/horror military thrillers. With Extinction Age, the third in this series, he is at the height of his game.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous two books, you’ll be welcoming this latest with eyes glued to the page. Ghost Team is back, along with Dr. Kate Lovato, whose deepening relationship with Ghost leader, Reed Beckham, has her fully recommitted to developing a weapon to destroy the Variants.

Mankind is plunging further toward extinction thanks to the Variant threat, but even worse are the human enemies embedded in the upper echelons the military’s hierarchy. Their incompetence and duplicity have led to several bad decisions over the course of this series, as these men are revealed to be less interested in saving the world than in covering their own rears. As such, they’re a great force to root against and you’re constantly waiting and hoping for them to get their comeuppance.

The finale is also one of the strongest and most satisfying in the series thus far, mixing fist-pumping cheers with an excruciating denouement that left me screaming at my Kindle.

Extinction Age is brimming with action and terrific set pieces that include a derelict aircraft carrier and the underground tunnels of a secret FEMA installation, along with a few new characters to root for and villains to despise. The supporting cast each get a chance to shine, as well, particularly Dr. Ellis, as well as wounded warrior Fitz, who seems to be building toward a more central role in the series.

Smith does an excellent job balancing the bleak nature of this particular post-apocalyptic narrative with a sense of hope and optimism, despite how dark things get. If you’ve been following this series thus far, then Book 3 is certainly one to buy. If you haven’t, then hustle over to the Extinction Horizon page and start from the beginning ASAP.

Buy Extinction Age At Amazon
Review: Extinction Age (The Extinction Cycle Book 3) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

CONSUMPTION Is A Kindle Countdown Deal – Only 99c!

Quick heads-up for your Tuesday morning, folks – my short horror story, Consumption, is currently on sale for only 99c for the next few days. Did I mention it’s also a 2015 Independent eBook Awards nominee for Best Short Story and Best Horror?

If you’ve been debating checking this one out over its usual $2.99 price-tag, now’s the time act and go buy yourself a copy (and maybe gift one for a friend, too!).

Here’s the skinny on this Lovecraftian Food TV story:

consumption-completeYou Are

Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.

What You Eat

While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them.

This Meat Is Murder

As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.

One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.

Consumption is a 12,000 word (approx.) short story. It contains graphic depictions of sex and violence, and is intended for mature audiences.

CONSUMPTION Is A Kindle Countdown Deal – Only 99c!

Review: The Z Chronicles – An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

Z ChroniclesAbout The Z Chronicles

Z. Among the most monstrous creations of our imaginations, the zombie terrifies, with its capacity to pursue its prey, to run it down, exhaust it to surrender, unrelentingly.

In this title in the acclaimed Future Chronicles series of speculative fiction anthologies, fourteen authors confront the nightmare, that horrific mirror of ourselves that pursues us with untiring hunger.

The Z Chronicles features stories by bestselling authors Hugh Howey (Wool), Jennifer Foehner Wells (Fluency), plus twelve more of today’s top authors in speculative and science fiction.


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review.]

The Z Chronicles is the latest in Samuel Peralta’s ever-growing series of The Future Chronicles anthologies. While I’ve only read a couple of the previous collections, this zombie-themed antho is far and away my favorite of the bunch and represents one the strongest over-all anthologies that I’ve ever read.

There is a mighty fine assemblage of authors here, and a number of superb stories that, on their own, more than make the price of entry completely worthwhile. And, as with any good anthology, this has given me a nice starting point to delve deeper into the works of authors that are new to me. In fact, after reading several of the stories included here, I immediately hopped onto Amazon and bought a couple titles from writers like Ann Christy and Deirdre Gould. Following here, then, are a few thoughts on my favorites – consider this a LIGHT SPOILER WARNING and feel free to skip down to the bottom if you want to be completely blind going in.

Christy’s story, VINDICA, kicks of The Z Chronicles in grand style with a story of insurrection in an underground habitat built for the rich. It’s a strong stand-along story, but also provides a great taste of the author’s Between series.

KAMIKA-Z by Christopher Boore, and Will Swardstron’s Z BALL are also very strong efforts, with the former featuring cyborg zombies unleashed upon the US during a war with China. This one is told across three viewpoints of a single family struggling to survive. It’s dark, but the characters are richly developed and their own unique voices are allowed to shine across each chapter. My only complaint is that I really wanted to see more of these cyborg zombie things! It’s such a cool concept, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Boore expands on it in a larger work soon.

Z BALL casts the zombie uprising through the bright lights of American sports. This one is a wonderful outside-of-the-box approach to the zombie apocalypse and the way society responds and adapts to changing circumstances. And, just for good measure, it’s all wrapped up in a nice shell of conspiracy and paranoia.

Hugh Howey and David Adams play around a bit in Howey’s own I, Zombie world. GLORIA is a story of a woman coming to grips with her own zombiefication, while Adams presents a similar story of a transgender individual who has been zombified. Both of these showcase a great bit of internal character development as they grapple with their post-death existence that finds their healthy mental states locked inside bodies they can no longer control thanks to the ravages of the plague.

Peter Cawdron’s FREE FALL is another excellent piece that begins with a bit of a sci-fi bent as an astronaut returns to a decimated Earth. The opening bit of this story is a terrific slow-burn as the spaceman attempts to establish contact with Houston Ground Control only to slowly realize things are not quite right. It slowly morphs into a more traditional zombie-survival story, one that is really well done. Fans of the comics Y: The Last Man and The Walking Dead should find quite a lot to appreciate here.

CURING KHANG YEO finished off the anthology with a stunningly rich character piece that finds the title character cured after several years as a zombie. Reclaimed by a very different world than the one he left, Yeo discovers that there are worse things than being a zombie – namely, living with yourself in the wake of all that you’ve done and those you’ve killed. His sense of guilt is supremely palpable, with the struggle between his own desires and the wishes of his medical saviors (if you can really call them that) is effectively striking. Author Deirdre Gould scores a huge, huge win with this story and I loved it so much that I immediately grabbed a copy of the first installment in her After The Cure series. While YEO is set in that same series, it is certainly effective as a stand-alone, but I suspect readers discovering Gould for the first time will find it difficult to ignore her novel-length works after reading this one. I, for one, absolutely need to know more about the world she’s constructed and the psychological and societal aftermath of this cure.

As with any anthology, there were a couple stories that didn’t strike a strong chord with me, but those that did, particularly those outlined above, were just incredibly top-notch efforts. Overall, this is a wickedly strong anthology and zombie fans should be devouring this one ASAP. If you’re going through withdrawal’s of AMC’s The Walking Dead, or looking for something to fill the gap left by Jonathan Maberry’s ROT & RUIN series, this fix is now in. Highly recommended!

Buy The Z Chronicles At Amazon
Review: The Z Chronicles – An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

Social Justice Warrior Pride And Why We Fight

SJWForgive me, but the following post may be a bit on the rambling side as I unpack some of the cognitive perturbation that kicked off my weekend.

Friday evening, just as we were closing shop, I got into a conversation with a fellow co-worker, who ended up dragging in a third-party with a penchant for the…well, let’s just say obscene for now. What followed was about twenty minutes of after-hours conversation, and some of the most ignorant, depraved, and bigoted nonsense I’d ever directly heard in my life. I’m usually lucky enough to have this kind of toxic hate speech kept at arms length and encountered only by news purveyors recounting the latest indignities of Fox & Friends or Glenn Beck types. What third-party guy had to say, though, might put even those folks to shame with the kind of stuff that makes you wonder what happened to this person to make them so freaking scarred and awful. The kind of conversation that makes you glad that, at least even on your worst, most cynical day, you’re still not that bad.

I cannot transcribe the full conversation, nor how we even got onto the subject, but somehow the third-party guy made it all about his slash-and-burn rhetoric against “the gays” and their “agenda.” This followed on the foot heels of Thursday’s news that, here in Michigan, our Republican governor signed the RFRA For Adoption bill, which allows adoptions agencies to discriminate against would-be parents on the basis of religious beliefs and to deny same-sex couples trying to adopt. To say that this third-party was in favor of this action would be putting it mildly.

He hates that gay people can parade around openly in society and that he has to watch them kiss or hold hands. He argues that gays should absolutely not be allowed to adopt, because they’ll brainwash children into being gay or molest them, and that homosexuality is a choice, despite pretty much all research on genetic and epigenetic factors that influence sexuality. I made the mistake of asking him why this is different than allowing African-Americans to adopt, another segment of our society that is often marginalized and discriminated against.

More often that not, when this question is posed you get a lot of side-stepping and equivocating and protestations that “it’s just not the same!” Even though it totally is the same because bigotry is bigotry, plain and simple. So, I was a bit taken aback when the third-party’s hatred of blacks let spew, and how abolishing slavery was a mistake, how he wishes his ancestors had been wealthy enough to have slaves, and how “they all” are nothing but savages. Blacks and Africa led to AIDs, he said, which then led to the homosexual community deliberately poisoning the blood supplies in the US with AIDs so that straight people would get infected and, thus, forced to give a shit about this disease. His argument was not only revolting, but amazingly complex in terms of sheer lunacy and fringe conspiracy, as if there’s some kind of gay Illuminati plotting a hostile world-takeover. He argued, though, that the only time he’d be compelled to give a shit about gay people is if there were a bounty on their heads so he could hunt them down.

I’ve been in a bit of a daze following all of this. As I said before, I’ve never come face to face with somebody so noxious and poisoned that they should probably have “hazardous waste” tattooed around their mouth. I knew he had some outlandish ideas and odd political stances (he’s an evolution-denier and a 9/11 Truther, but thankfully neither topics come up this time around), but to inadvertently get lost in such a swamp of toxicity was overwhelming.

I needed to try and reclaim some measure of sanity, and this third-party was a solid reminder of why social justice and education is so damn important. So, I’m chipping in to Jennifer Foehner Wells (@Jenthulhu on Twitter) campaign to raise money to benefit Books For Africa. After this third-party guy ranted on and on about how atrocious the birthplace of humanity was and is, Jennifer’s campaign seems like as good a way as any to mentally recover and do something good for those less fortunate than me.

If you’re willing and able to join the cause, you can order your SJW Pride tee right over here. All proceeds raised are going directly to Books For Africa.

front-bigAs Jennifer writes on her blog, this t-shirt, designed by Sandra G. (@peppermintesse on Twitter),

really conveys the sentiment that people who care about equal representation in fiction for all:

genders/gender identities/races/ethnicities/shapes/sizes

–human or alien–

are not villains but superheroes!

I spent hours researching charities that benefit children and emphasize books and literacy. The one I chose not only perfectly ticks off every box, but serves at the highest level. You can rest assured that Charity Navigator, the top vetting site for charities, gives this organization 5-stars on all levels, including financial transparency. 99.1% of this charity’s total expenses are spent on the programs and services it delivers.

The words “social justice” are used, in some circles, rather disparagingly, particularly in terms of media that strives to be inclusive and representative of the world we live in. In fact, social justice is something that we should not only strive for, but demand. Social justice is what ended slavery, it’s what gave women the right to vote and to have autonomy over their own bodies and medical decisions. As with any progressive movement, there are vocal, and oftentimes nasty, detractors. People like this third-party guy was a rude reminder of exactly why social justice is necessary, particularly in terms of combating and winning against sheer ignorance.

Here’s the thing – I’m a firm believer that education is the best way to destroy ignorance. Books are key to this. Knowledge is power, not fear-mongering and blind hate, and we cannot give in to those toxic, sad, rabid members of our society who would seek to destroy and usurp progress all in the name of petty bigotry.

I try every day to be a good person, to my family, to my society, to this one-and-only world that we live in. I hope that whatever I leave behind on Earth when my days are done, that it is at least a little bit more positive than when I came into it. If I can help an animal in need, if I can help, somehow, for children in our pathetic and overly-swamped adoption agencies make their way into a loving family — regardless of gender or orientation — or to simply raise my soon-to-arrive child well and instill her or him with values and moral fortitude to carry on improving things, then at least I can die well.

Books are how we progress and communicate and disseminate information. It’s not the only way, but it is still instrumental. This is where we record our history, and it’s a part of the human legacy. They should speak about us, and the human condition — all humans, not just a few, and not only the minorities among us, but all of us. They are vital, and they must spread. They must make their way into the hands of those less fortunate. Books are one of the first places that education begins, and educating the world — not just America, but the entire global society — is of supreme importance, particularly in those impoverished nations. Third-party guy may not give a shit about them, but we ignore them at our own detriment.

Remember this old aphorism: A rising tide lifts all boats.

And since I can hear some of you bemoaning about giving money to a project that supports books for Africa when we have problems here at home, problems like the RFRA acts and discrimination against LGBTQ communities at the hands of our very own government, I’ll also be giving money to Freedom From Religion Foundation in an effort to help combat the incursion of religion into American politics, which I see as the epicenter to many of these problems and uphold the constitutional separation of church and state.

It should be noted, too, that American-branded, religiously-fueled hate isn’t merely an issue confined to the borders of the US, but has also become a large export into Africa by figures such as Scott Lively, who helped engineer Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill, so all the more reason to send books to those desiring education and agency of their own. In light of the growing anti-gay legislation in Africa, the Ugandan Academy of Science was a part of a panel formed by the Academy of Science South Africa to study the research compiled on same-sex orientation, resulting in the release of a report on the heritable nature of sexual orientation. More on this at IFLS, and well worth the read.

Hopefully I’ve helped somebody today. And hopefully you can, too. Charity is good for you. But it can also be a hell of a lot better for others.

Social Justice Warrior Pride And Why We Fight