Observations in SF/F Authors – There’s No Debate

As much as people view me as some hyper-political figure, I rarely actually talk much about politics. I don’t spend my time talking issues or arguing about what this or that politician said on repeat on social media. Obviously in what’s gone on with my near-industry-wide blackballing at this point, I’ve had to state a couple of things, but for the most part I keep topics to books, comics, science fiction, or instances where oligopolies/monopolies in those fields or these big tech platforms abuse their power to hurt individual artists. Something pretty non-controversial that if taken out of the identarian political game and put into a vacuum of ideals, almost everyone would agree with.

The reason I don’t discuss these things on walls or the like is for a couple reasons. One, because I want to be open to all audience, not just those who agree or disagree with whatever platform I’m interested in on that day. And two because of the way social media works where it’s not something ever fruitful. This can be broken down into 2 parts which is:

  1. The whole concept of social media is to a. attack b. defend or c. promote. There’s nothing else to it at all unless we’re posting pictures of our ham sandwich for lunch that day. which most people then ignore.
  2. The Pile On Effect. No matter what the topic, it devolves into angry attacks where one or both’s friends/followers just start picking at things and so you can’t have a rational discussion.

It’s pretty simple. So I, like most, keep things at the identarian level. And my identity by itself offends the hell out of the SJW establishment that has a complete monopoly on the science fiction industry. It’s funny to think about that way, but it’s true. And, pointing that out and how ridiculous that is, is why I do it, and simultaneously why they find me so threatening that they have to relentlessly block, call me names and blackball.

In my observations on their identarian games, I’ve found that they’re always very quick to wax about their emotions on any particular hot topic of the day, in a condescending way that shows their perceived virtue. When they’re threatened, they’ll flip out and call upon their audience to hate someone, or simply block. It’s always a heavily emotional gambit, nothing rational (or they wouldn’t be discussing it on social media).  Vox Day has pointed this out on his blog via several commentaries on dialectic vs. rhetorical arguments. Once I saw the rhetorical game and viewed none of this as dialectic (because none is), it opened my eyes to how and why they act. Which, of course, made it easier for me to show up and get them to freak out at me for my identity, and thus grows my audience every time they do.

Now I’ve never seen one of these establishment figures in a formal debate about policy. Not once. If you look at their social medias, the whole idea that anyone could have any opposing opinion to whatever their selective outrage of the day is, they find incredibly offensive to the point they will tell you about it — and never stop telling you about it. So it’s not surprising. On the flip side, I’ve seen folk in my circles debate and debate each other over micro-issues that really aren’t all that relevant to a larger discourse.

I wanted to remedy this. So last night I challenged John Scalzi to debate Free Speech. He is, by all I see on his Twitter account, opposed to free speech, as are those that he follows in his industry (as they don’t allow any art produced that is outside their ideological bubble).  I want to know why, and if that has a net benefit to society in his mind. I think his audience would love it. I think my audience would love it. It’d be a great time, and we can show a path forward for creative society that we don’t have to block and echo chamber each other out, but can talk in appropriate forums. Think about what this kind of regular exercise would do for the community.

Naturally, this was very popular among my crowd. They would love to see this happen, as would I. I don’t think Mr. Scalzi is an unintelligent person or anything like that, so it would be rather fun. I myself was on debate team in college, so I’m a bit rusty, but I loved those formal rounds back in the day. It would be a good mental exercise at the very least. But of course, Mr. Scalzi has yet to respond.

If someone from that camp wants to show they’re not just a rhetorical freak-out game, and take me up on that, I[ll open this call to any Hugo winner. Let’s have some fun, show that this is intellectual and it’s not about “hating the other” as Mr. Scalzi so put it on his blog when he went off on the Dragon Awards. We are the intellects and creators of our time. It’s time to act like it.

Uprising Review Interview

Uprising Review is a website dedicated to putting out short fiction, free speech (they actually take blind submissions for their fiction to make sure it’s all about the story and no risk of being blackballed as an author, which is nice) and now doing regular author interviews. I sat down to talk to them a couple weeks ago and did an interview which was released last night:

Podcast Episode #14 with Jon Del Arroz

You can also read a couple of pieces  my flash fiction on their site free here:

The Battle Cry Of The Liliana

Project Scarecrow

Congratulations Gab!

It’s been really fun to watch Gab.ai, the social network for free speech, grow since its inception. Beginning when Twitter banned journalist Milo Yiannopolous, it was great to see someone taking action and standing up to the silicon valley elite, banning people from platforms for political speech — even talking about movies is apparently a bannable offense if it’s the wrong movie!

Over the course of the last year, I’ve watched Gab grow from a handful of people, to more than 200,000 of all races, religions, creeds and even countries.

It’s been fabulous for me. I’ve made so many great friends who have been super supportive, including people on the Gab team themselves, of which I treasure to this day. It’s been a great service.

Now here’s what’s happened: Gab put out a call for investments and they raised more than a million dollars from the people out there — not from big venture capital, but from people on the internet who just want free speech to grow. In the wake of Big Tech going crazy and trying to shut people out of having a voice, raising money, anything, this is a huge deal. It shows there’s a market for freedom, and that people want the ability to speak.

You can invest here still, I believe. Might want to get some shares before there are none:  https://www.startengine.com/startup/gab

Otherwise, head onto http://gab.ai and start gabbing with the rest of us!

Comic Review: Golgatha

I picked this up because I saw a kickstarter that had a science fiction comic, and those are pretty rare. It looked very heavy on the SF, which I was excited about. So how did the story break down?

Golgatha is the story of colonists who get sent on a mission to colonize a new world on a sleeper ship. When they get there 80 years later, they find that there’s already a robust colony set up, and that technology was discovered that surpassed where they were at, making them redundant. The world promises to be different and disorienting, and conceptually, what a cool idea. Unfortunately the book breaks down from there.

There’s four parts here, four issues, and the first whole issue is spent on showing us a character who is really dark, did some dark things for the military, and basically is getting forced away from his home after his wife disowns him. That’s the main crux of it, not much sci-fi at all. This is very much too dark for my tastes, and the pacing and way it played out reminded me of those mid-90s comics that tried really hard to be edgy. I ended up liking the character well enough to continue.

Now on the kickstarter and on a full page here — we get introduced to this crew of this sleeper colony who has all these skills, do different things and…. then never appear in the issue. The colony ship crashes and so the promise set up by these introductions evaporates immediately. We’re reintroduced to the “you’ve been gone a long time…” new cast, and find out that the head of the world is the main character’s grandson.

Now the colony is huge, like a big city, and… we don’t get to see much of it. We’re told there’s a culture that’s very different, told there’s no place for soldiers anymore (later there are soldiers and battle drones). We never see anything, however.

A crisis gets explained to us in issue 2, where someone basically suicide bombed the city, and we don’t really get much clear explanation of that other than the colony leader’s ex wife disappeared years ago after finding some “anomaly.” Another interesting premise, cool concept, and comes back with some poor execution. We get a lot of talking, a romantic plot that doesn’t quite work out with the only other survivor of the colony ship (the others I guess died after that intro page) and a really slow build. These first two issues could have been used to set a way more epic stage for issues 3 and 4, or show us some of the culture of Golgatha, something.  The character set up was fine but I keep seeing “oh this is cool…” and then it misses the cool parts.

In issue 3, they set out to find the lost ex-wife of the colony leader, they find her after a little bit of cool action, and it gets kinda cool again. A small twist is set up and I’ll try not to spoil it. From this point on, the story flowed pretty nicely, albeit still with some pacing issues to the more interesting elements of the story.

The action was very light, the promise of “needing a soldier” — well they didn’t really need one. The main character could have had any background and really done fine with what was thrown in front of him. The scientist that also stated how smart she was several times, and also went in some weird Bhuddism stuff… also wasn’t really needed. She could have not existed in the story and it would have proceeded fine, and maybe given some more pages to try to flesh out some of the cool alien stuff, the cool world, and the cool missing doctor influenced by the anomaly stuff a bit more.

While I hit the pacing for several pages of talking that didn’t go anywhere, some odd religious references that didn’t quite feel natural, introducing some concepts (like the colony’s AI) that didn’t really get used for much, it did flow very well. I read this very fast and in one sitting, so the comic didn’t drag, despite its diversions.

The story was alright at the end, and though I really picked it apart. I didn’t hate it. I don’t regret reading, and it wasn’t boring for the most part. And most importantly — there were no politics in it! It just went on a lot of little tangents that didn’t come anywhere near to fruition, and hit a lot of backstory that really didn’t matter to the plot. The side vignettes in the kickstarter version are pretty interesting, enjoyed those, but the “science “content at the end was skippable.

Art wise… it looked like a high quality web comic, though not really the standard with which I was used to whenever I picked up a Top Cow book. It was fine, serviceable, but some of the colors blurred in the cooler moments — like when they were falling into the chasm, and it wasn’t as evocative of action in those points where I would have liked. It just came off a little flat, which didn’t help with the oddly paced storytelling.

I don’t love blasting things I read, and sometimes I just choose not to write reviews because of that, but, it’s on my mind, and unfortunately, I also have in my mind what I’d have done to fix it if I had written it. The issue does end with a cool action sequence and some changes that are interesting — and a really intriguing concept again for a promised volume 2. The concepts are cool all around, and they have a lot of them, I just think this needed a lot more tightening up at the end of the day.

6/10

Review: Hugo Nominated Cirsova Magazine – Issue 6!

It’s the review everyone’s been waiting for, of the magazine completely redefining the science fiction and fantasy short fiction market. For the general market – this comes out in September, but I kickstarted Cirsova and so I received an early copy. Hopefully I was able to scoop the first review as well. These stories harken back to a time where magazines like Amazing Stories, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s, etc. were actually what people would pick up to find exciting, fresh adventure stories. I’ll briefly go over each story, then a summary:

To Cirsova Issue #6! 

“The Last Job on Harz” by Tyler Young

I”m already calling this the novelette of the year for 2017. A trilling adventure about two investigators sent to a world who have to deal with high tension corporate intrigue and strange genetically manipulated monsters. Great way to open the issue.

“Death on the Moon”, by Spencer Hart

The issue continues with investigators in a noir-style tale on the moon. It didn’t go full noir, but had a lot of that feeling, including some of the dialogue. I didn’t dislike it, but wasn’t as in love with this as I was the opening tale. A style thing that this may appeal to other folk more.

“The Battlefield of Keres” by Jim Breyfogle

Maybe my favorite short story of the issue. This had two very interesting protagonists on a hunt to go thieve a magical helm from an ancient battlefield. I’d gladly read more in this universe.

“Othan, Vandal”, by Kurt Magnus

Othan goes to steal a talisman from a tribe in order to pay off his debts, and find there’s more than meets the eye here. I particularly liked the character and this may be my second favorite short of the issue. Its ending was very satisfying to read as well.

“Temple of the Beast”, by Hal Thompson

Academics go out to find a legendary beast in an Indiana Jones-style adventure here. Solid work, pretty straight-forward.

“Tear Down the Stars”, by Adrian Cole

A nice follow up in Adrian Cole’s universe, probably the most developed of the stories worldbuilding wise because of the continuation. I’m not sure if this is direct from issue #2 or if there was one in between, but it was pleasant seeing the characters again. I think the original story had a bit more to it on the action thrill side, but this had a better concept, so it balanced out. Totally readable without the prior story, and was happy to see this world again.

“Magelords of Ruach”, by Abraham Strongjohn

This was another continuation story, which is supposed to be a trilogy of stories. It definitely had a Burroughs-esque feel to it with Martians fighting Neptunians and trying to escape from their world. I think I would have done better to have read the first story first, but still a fun ride after I settled into what was going on in the story.

My Name is John Carter, by James Hutchings

Continues the epic poem in honor of the classic series. If you’ve read past issues of the mag, you’ve seen this and it brings a smile to the face every time.

Overall, I’ve now read 4 issues of Cirsova: 1-2, 5-6. It’s obviously far and away the best science fiction magazine out there right now. It’s fun adventure 100%, and never wavers or apologizes for that. While I enjoyed issue 5, I wasn’t quite as into the dark Lovecraftian theme that the issue presented, even though they did a very different take than I see most people do when exploring that framework. This issue I devoured, it hit all the sweet spots. As I stated above, there was no bad story in the mix, just ones I liked more than others and probably just due to personal taste.

Frankly, this issue alone deserves to win a Hugo Award if best stories are the sole consideration. Cirsova has knocked it out of the park with perhaps their best issue to date.

Star Realms: Rescue Run For The Dragon Awards!

Well, what an honor it’s been. Today had a reader call my work some of the best science fiction out there, and Author Russell Newquist came out with his Dragon Award ballot recommendations:

2017 Dragon Awards Final Vote Recommendations

Sure enough, he recommends Star Realms: Rescue Run for the Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy category. Please my readers — and my haters — sign up to vote here. If you follow the blog, this is a great way to help me out and get me some additional exposure. Much appreciated! http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_signup.php

Ballots get mailed twice a week, it’s not instantaneous so please look for your email from Dragon Con when you receive the ballot.

Other great authors have done the same:

2017 Dragon Award Nominations

The 2017 Dragon Award Ballot Is In!

Between SocJus and PulpRev at the Dragon Awards

Thank you so much for the tremendous reception this book has received!

 

 

 

 

 

Star Trek: Discovery’s PR Disaster

I’ve always been a big Star Trek fan. I’ve been known at science fiction conventions as dressing up in my screen-authentic Kirk uniform, and have watched every Star Trek series at least twice, some more than that. Naturally, the Abrams film franchise came as a bit of a disappointment to me as it was certainly not the star trek of past– but a caricature, amplifying the “funny” elements of each character, and providing a reference/nostalgia film not unlike the poor remakes of comedies like the Brady Bunch. It was insulting to fans to say the least, and worse when the film Into Darkness was made with a non-sensical plot and bizarre choices like Spock fist-fighting atop a space ship.

Discovery’s launch announcement was clouded with the decision by Paramount to shut down fan films. Fan films had been carrying on the spirit of the original Star Trek, with people pouring in heavy investments into making their own episodes, not taking a profit, and just creating stories that other fans would like. They were getting so many views, and were so successful in their approach, that instead of doing something like monetizing these properties, Paramount went for full shutdown mode to “protect the brand”. Well, what follows is a sad state of devaluing a brand like I’ve rarely seen for a franchise.

Little info came out about ST:D. All we knew was that we would certainly have a strong, female lead — a requirement for any action film these days — and that the show runner said “we’re not sure what level of diversity” she would have. As if nothing mattered but how “diverse” a show looked. This was a bad sign right away because when a program starts talking about this, we as the audience know there’s nothing else being focused on and a poor-quality product is going to be produced that no one wants. See the video game Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Images of the ship came out — a use of something that was designed in the 70s, and it looks aesthetically terrible.

Then the show was delayed. They were supposed to put this out months ago, but CBS was worried about the quality — rightfully so — and so they went back and did some more work. I’m not privy to the internal workings, but I know that delays of this magnitude are rarely a good sign for end products in film.

Comic-Con ran the trailer of the film, and sure enough, what the audience saw was not Star Trek at all, but generic-dark-action-scifi. Like everything that’s come out the last decade, it looked like Game of Thrones in space, or a cheap Battlestar Galactica or Expanse knock off. Fans of all political persuasions scoffed at this — seeing that these creators had no reverence for the original properties by which they took the brand name, and ran with it from there. Don’t even get me started with the needless redesign of the Klingons. Oddly, Fox is putting out a parody show which actually appears more like real Star Trek than this. When the parody show does it better than you — you’ve got big trouble.

Then on Sunday, the actor who plays the captain of the new ship, a character named Lorca (not a great naming job either for that character), made the ultimate PR error. He admitted that the producers of this show don’t care about Star Trek in the least, and in fact, they disregard it. He told an interviewer in the New York daily news: 

“I don’t mean to sound irreverent when I say I don’t care about the die-hard Trek fans,” he told us at an event in Los Angeles. “I only ‘don’t care’ about them in the sense that I know they’re all going to watch anyway. I look forward to having the fun of them being outraged, so they can sit up all night and talk about it with each other.”

He’s taking an enterprising approach to the sci-fi franchise.

“It’s ‘Star Trek,’ but not as we know it,” he said. “There are places obviously where they’ve observed canon to do with things like uniforms and badges and stuff, but there are places where the rules of storytelling are reinvented.”

Well, he sounds irreverent in the least, and the most for that matter. The signal is clear that Star Trek fans are not supposed to like this — because this is not star trek. The storytelling is going to be vastly different than Star Trek, which was almost universally hailed as good and innovative, and now is going to be something fans don’t want. So who are these “new fans” they’re planning on capturing? As much as “you’ll watch it no matter what” condescension is there, Star Trek fans are not going to tune in for a couple of reasons: 1. it’s clearly a show that’s going to put a middle finger to what Star Trek is, while using the brand 2. it’s on a paid subscription service that no one’s using, and Star Trek fans are, I’ll be honest here, on the cheap side.

It’s a disaster. Saying this is a disaster. I don’t even know how ST:D recovers. There are no known cures. It sounds like it’d almost be better not to air the show for brand management at this point, and give Star Trek Continues a shoestring budget and let them make money on their own.

It gets worse in the article:

Isaacs says that the new “Star Trek” will be a reflection of our own world, which is something he has a hard time discussing with his own children right now.

Not only do they hate Star Trek, but they are saying this is going to be very heavy-handed, angry, dark political message fiction. Something useless to all of us in these times. The last thing we want in our escapist show about space ships and lasers. The show is about politics, nothing else, not even Star Trek. Dammit, Jim, It’s a sci-fi, not a political propaganda hour.

Who decided to greenlight this?

Film Review: Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

This weekend I went to see Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets. I saw it was the most expensive indie movie ever made, and that Luc Besson was involved, of Fifth Element fame – which might actually be the greatest science fiction movie of all time. So I figured, why not? I got a little worried when I was told there was a message in the movie, as message fiction bothers me for the most part. This didn’t have anything to do with current political climates, so it’s safe on that front. Let’s dive into the rest of the film.

Valerian both suffers and does excellently from the modern-film having to have so much action it hurts and overuse of CGI.  I say done excellently, because while most action of this sort throws me out of the film after a few minutes (Star Trek: Into Darkness and Spock fist fighting on top of a crashing space ship is a great example of how it’s used poorly), I never was thrown out of the action in this at all. It was clever, well done, and actually showed us action that other films haven’t from a creativity standpoint. The visuals were beautiful to look at. And there CGI was everywhere. Way too many visuals with a lot of density, as is the trend. I couldn’t help but want to compare a little bit to Avatar with the blue aliens who were integral to the plot, which is bad in that it reminded me of a bad movie, but everything Avatar almost did, this did strictly better. Pacing wise, it was pretty break-neck, and I think with the amount of action I did start to suffer a little fatigue. It should have maybe been 10 minutes shorter for a tighter film.

A lot of people complained about the casting, that these actors didn’t have enough gravitas to hold a film of this weight. Luc Besson reminds me of a younger Keanu Reeves, an actor I’m not particularly fond of, though mentally, he does prepare me for an action flick like this as Keanu does these kind of movies. I can’t say his acting ever threw me out of the film. Cara Delvinge played the female lead, Laureline, and she is mostly known for modeling and background work, not for her lead roles.  I won’t lie, I was perfectly content to stare at her for two hours. I thought she did a great job actually, but even if she didn’t, I wouldn’t have cared. Where the casting broke down were the tertiary roles. Some of the lines delivered were pretty bad and wooden from those characters who came in to drop information periodically. Rihanna was tough on the dialogue end, but obviously her dancing was pretty crazy to watch.

Plot wise, I really enjoyed it. A good mystery build, investigations, lots of zany twists and turns like you’d expect from the guy who did the Fifth Element, unique use of strange alien species. There were points where things went a little implausible, but the movie and plot didn’t take itself too seriously. It was very clear on that from the get go. The dialogue had a lot of humor in it, which was fun. I enjoyed it, cared about the main characters. The subplot of the romance felt reeeeeeeally forced though, I gotta say. Some of it was cute, but most of it was over the top and poorly done. I liked it when it was some jabbing, but as it got later into the movie it broke down a bit. Not that I mind how it resolved, but something about it just didn’t work. It didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the film much if at all, however.

On the message: it was there a little. Anti-war, don’t use crazy destructive weapons of overwhelming force in war because there’s consequences and innocents get hurt. Love and acceptance is a better way to do things. The blue people were somewhat annoyingly painted as saints, noble savages, like all films do these days, but it wasn’t so obnoxious like Avatar where it was all message with cigar chomping general. Elements were the same, but it wasn’t poorly done, and frankly I can’t say I disagree with that message. No problems on that front.

The amount of fun action and beautiful imagery throughout the movie were about perfect even though I picked out some of the minor problems that, due to how many there are, did hurt the film a little bit. That said, I’d actually watch this one again, and there’s no many movies in recent years I’d do that with. I can’t give in an A, but I rate it a solid B, 8/10.

#AntiFascistSFF – A Flawless Victory!

Yesterday was beautiful. We garnered so much support for tolerance and a real culture change in science fiction publishing that it shut down the people trying to stir up hate. My hands hurt a little bit from my piano performance yesterday, so I’m going to try to periscope some of these thoughts more and post less 2,000 word articles on it so I can save my hands for fiction. Also, video gets more love over time than writing. Here’s my thoughts on the win yesterday:

https://www.pscp.tv/jondelarroz/1vAxRNzVpgPxl