New — Space Opera serial SUPERLUMINARY!!!

The following post is from: John C. Wright

0 SUPERLUMINARY

An internet magazine hired me to write an old-fashioned space opera in the mood and flavor of ‘World Wrecker’ Hamilton to run in fifty or so weekly episodes of two-thousand word each.

However, the magazine folded and returned the rights to me. It is my wish to bring it to my fan (Hi, Nate!) directly.

The title is SUPERLUMINARY.

The plot is this: The sole survivor of an illfated expedition to Pluto finds the Infinithedron, a library of supertechnology from the alien race that created life on earth and guided evolution to produce mankind.

He returns to earth only to discover world war has decimated civilization. Rather than sharing the secrets, he uses them to conquer mankind, impose peace and order, but also abolishing aging, disease, famine.

Lord Tellus (as he calls himself) imprints each of his children with a different branch of the alien science, but the whole of it is taught to none. These Lords of Creation (as they call themselves) are commanded to create life on each of the worlds and moons of the solar system. Scores of artificial intelligent races are fashioned, who adore the children as godlike. The secret of faster than light drive Lord Tellus keeps to himself: mankind he keeps in the solar system. But what is his reason?

He goes mad, and his children rise up in rebellion, and he vanishes, leaving behind mysteries and guesses.

Aeneas Tell, son of Lady Venus, youngest of the imperial family, dreams of overthrowing the his family in favor of a republic, but when he introduces a rebel into the imperial palace for a coup, he is betrayed, and barely escapes with his life, and flees to Pluto.

Here Aeneas discovers the horrific secret his grandfather was hiding, and an ancient evil that sleeps beneath the eternal ice. Aeneas finds himself snared in a labyrinth of intrigue, striving somehow to convince his Machiavellian family to cooperate against a mutual foe none of them credit.

Read the first episode here:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/superluminary-01-5489523

Machine Masters legal counsel

Machine Masters legal counsel
From the Washington Post–

robot-evolution-GIF

One of the country’s biggest law firms has become the first to publicly announce that it has “hired” a robot lawyer to assist with bankruptcy cases. The robot, called ROSS, has been marketed as “the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney.”

ROSS has joined the ranks of law firm BakerHostetler, which employs about 50 human lawyers just in its bankruptcy practice. The AI machine, powered by IBM’s Watson technology, will serve as a legal researcher for the firm. It will be responsible for sifting through thousands of legal documents to bolster the firm’s cases. These legal researcher jobs are typically filled by fresh-out-of-school lawyers early on in their careers.

“ROSS surfaces relevant passages of law and then allows lawyers to interact with them. Lawyers can either enforce ROSS’s hypothesis or get it to question its hypothesis,” Andrew Arruda, chief executive of ROSS Intelligence, explained to The Washington Post. “Until now, lawyers have been using static pieces of software to navigate the law, which are limited and put hours of information retrieval tasks on a lawyer’s plate.” The software allows the legal team to upvote and downvote excerpts based on the robot’s interpretation of the question. ROSS uses machine learning technology to fine tune its research methods. The legal robot is accessed via computer and billed as a subscription service.

China buying up robots

China buying up robots
If you think robots really are going to take all the jobs, then owning one of the world’s biggest robot-makers would seem a smart strategic move.So the offer by Chinese consumer appliance group Midea for a probable majority stake in Germany’s Kuka is logical — even if the 60 per-cent premium is outlandish by the normal standards of takeover deals.Four companies — Germany’s Kuka, Switzerland’s ABB and Japan’s Fanuc and Yaskawa Electric — dominate the market for industrial robots. If you want an experienced robotics group with a global footprint and top-notch technology, you don’t have many options. ABB’s robot arm is a core part of the Swiss conglomerate while Fanuc is famously independent and secretive (just ask activist Dan Loeb).
Robot Overlords
European and Japanese companies dominate the market for industrial robots.

12065683-Silver-android-robot-with-thumb-up-smiling-3d-illustration-on-white-Stock-Illustration

The Quantum Thief trilogy by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief by Hannu RajaniemiI’ve probably established that I’m a fan of giant robot stories by now, but that’s not actually where my fondest love lies, sci-fi-wise. Mecha and power armor are great features that I absolutely love, but they’re not a necessity. A story weak on sense of wonder (or some other draw) won’t pull me in just because it’s got Teh Mechs. And it’s hard to really put a finger on one thing or another that is my absolute favorite sci-fi setting or future, but I’ll be darned if I don’t go nuts for a good far future setting that’s barely recognizable as a human society.

Which is a pretty darn good description for the setting of Hannu Rajaniemi’s mostly-nameless post-cyberpunk trilogy. (I’ve heard it referred to as “The Gentleman Thief trilogy,” but that could very well be drawing from its inspiration rather than Rajaniemi himself.) Set sometime after a technological Singularity in the mediumly-distant past, the trilogy’s solar system is host to a number of civilizations descended from humankind. On Earth, more-or-less baseline humans live in a city tormented by a world-girdling desert of rogue nanotechnology in a distinctly Arabian Nights setting. On Mars, humans live for a time as human beings, and for a time as robotic “Quiet” who maintain the cities. The Oort cloud is home to a culture of a people descended from the Finnish living inside hollowed out comets. Finally, there is the Sobornost, a group of god-like uploads from the Singularity who more or less control the solar system, save for opposition from their only real competitors, the Zoku. The Zoku themselves are another group of uploads, and probably my favorite of the bunch; they’re descended from MMO guilds. Hundreds or thousands of years later, when the trilogy happens, they’re nerds with recognizable tastes who now sometimes don material forms to have LAN parties as a cultural ritual.

In the midst of all this is Jean le Flambeur, the gentleman thief. Apparently based on Maurice Leblanc’s Lupin (which I’ve not had the pleasure of reading), Jean has long since ran afoul of the Sobornost and has been reduced to a single iteration locked inside a Dilemma Prison in the outer solar system, forced to repeatedly play simulations of the Prisoner’s Dilemma with other inmates as a kind of rehabilitation. Fortunately or maybe unfortunately for him, however, one of the Sobornost minds has use for his skills and sends the Oortian Mieli to break him out of the Dilemma Prison.

Most of The Quantum Thief takes place in the Martian city of the Oubliette. Time is a currency here, and when you run out, your mind is uploaded to the “Quiet” for several decades to earn enough time to live on again. (The book predates Andrew Niccol’s film In Time by about a year.) The portions that don’t directly follow Jean or Mieli center on amateur detective Isidore Beautrelet, hired by a wealthy citizen to investigate a note promising that Jean le Flambeur would be breaking into his mansion during a lavish party. As you can probably guess, hijinks ensue, and by the end of the trilogy, the stakes broaden out quite a bit, driven by the individual agendas of Jean, Mieli, the various Sobornost minds, and anyone else with the clout to make things happen in the solar system.

I enjoyed The Quantum Thief enough to preorder its followups (The Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel) as they became available– which is high praise. Usually, only John C. Wright gets a pre-order from me. Like I said, I like strange far futures and Rajaniemi’s future is probably one of the strangest. So that’s a selling point for me.

It’s also the source of my biggest criticism of it, however. As much fun as I had with these books, as much as I enjoyed seeing them unfold and seeing Rajaniemi playing around with his ideas, the man’s narrative style is unforgiving. I’ve literally been reading science fiction for almost as long as I’ve been able to read; I hit A Wrinkle In Time around 7 and Pocket Book’s Star Trek novels around 9. I’m not exactly a newcomer to the genre, and there were times when I was still struggling to grasp the details of Rajaniemi’s universe. Some things were fairly clear, like time as a currency and the use of “exomemory” on Mars. But other things, like the layers of virtual privacy that the Martians call gevulot, required some research to get the gist of.  Usually you can let the strangeness of a story wash over you and get the idea from the shape of it; there’s so much strange here that trying that will suck you out to sea. And going into each novel with a year or so between them was harder than normal because of that– particularly when The Fractal Prince moved the events to Earth and The Causal Angel to Saturn, both vastly different settings from the Oubliette.

But again, I own these books in hardcover, two of which were bought when I knew how dense and obscure they’d be. They’re on my list to come back to one day and reread; I have a feeling that they’ll reward a rereading. Probably not like Wolfe. It’s a different sort of novel, and a different sort of dense. But I do feel like they merit a return, and probably consideration by other readers.

The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur)

Instalanche for Nobility Among Us!

Checking my post-countdown sales figures to see if the final day’s momentum was being continued, I noticed an unusual (and very welcome) upturn in sales of Nobility Among Us yesterday and today. A quick google search revealed the source, Nobility Among Us has the honour of being being featured at Instapundit, thanks to the ever-awesome Sarah A. Hoyt. People in the comments have been saying some nice things about my writing, making me literally jump for joy (causing my middle son to come running into the room to find the source of the loud thumping noise) :)

http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/234415/

Click the image below to take a look at the book itself. (the left image is for the ebook, the right one for the paperback

 

This sales boost has meant a new record Amazon ranking for the kindle ebook:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,144 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

 

Nethereal BOOK BOMB!

I’m proud to announce that today I’m joining forces with best selling author Larry Correia to BOOK BOMB! my breakout SF-fantasy novel Nethereal.

What is a BOOK BOMB? I’ll let Larry explain:

For those of you unfamiliar with Book Bombs, what we do is pick a good book and a deserving author that could use a publicity boost, and then all purchase their novel on the same day on Amazon. Since Amazon updates its sales rankings with this rolling average algorithm, the more books bought on the same day, the higher it gets in the rankings. The higher it gets, the more new eyes see it, and the more new readers the author is exposed to. Success breeds success, and most importantly the author GETS PAID.

In this case, the lucky author is me :)

I’ll actually be posting the Book Bomb post the night of the 17th, because it appears that Amazon now has about a ten hour delay before the sales register. Gone are the wild west days where a book would begin climbing an hour after the Book Bomb started, and it isn’t nearly as awesome to hit the peak at 2 AM when most people are asleep and won’t see it.

You might be wondering how Larry selects books to bomb. Here are his stated criteria:

Why did I pick Brian for this month’s Book Bomb? First, I really liked the book. Second, he’s just starting out, and he’s a super nice guy.

Thank you, Larry! I’m honored to be lavished with such high praise from an author as accomplished as yourself. Your manatee will be released on schedule at the agreed-upon site–which is a relief, because he’s halfway through my last drum of Cheetos.
Anyway, welcome, members of the Monster Hunter Nation and all readers who’ve taken an interest in the BOOK BOMB! Here’s a foretaste of what Nethereal has in store.
About Nethereal
A woman like no other who longs for acceptance.
A precision killer inspired by the dream of his captain.
The last member of a murdered race, fighting to avenge his people against the might of the Guild…and the dark powers behind it.
The Sublime Brotherhood of Steersmen holds the Middle Stratum in its iron grip. Jaren Peregrine, last of the Gen, raids across fringe space with Nakvin—her captain’s best pilot and only friend, apprentice steersman Deim, and mercenary Teg Cross.
Hunted by the ruthless Master Malachi, Jaren and his crew join a conspiracy to break the Guild’s monopoly with an experimental ship. But when its maiden voyage goes awry, the Exodus flies farther off course than its crew could have imagined.
OK. You know about the book. Larry has recommended it. Get over to Amazon and buy it! Nethereal (Soul Cycle Book 1)
And for those who already own Nethereal, the even better sequel Souldancer is on sale now for $2.99.
Thanks again to Larry and everyone who’s helped to make this BOOK BOMB! a success.

NEW ANTHOLOGY SUBMISSIONS OPEN: Tales of the Once and Future King

  • Submission Period: May 16, 2016 – July 16, 2016
  • We will accept .doc and .docx submissions ONLY
  • Only standard manuscript format accepted
  • Payment: Pro Rata depending on the number of stories accepted – an equal percentage of royalties will be split
  • Word Count: Anywhere between 500-10,000 words
  • Poetry WILL be considered
  • Send stories to kingarthuranthology@aol.com
  • E-mail subject: SUBMISSIONS/Story Title

Calling all writers! As of today, I am opening up submissions to a new anthology: “Tales of the Once and Future King”. This will be an anthology of juvenile stories about King Arthur and all things Arthurian related. Juvenile is a broad term that can mean anything from a “Chronicles of Narnia” reading level to the later Harry Potter books.

The guidelines are very broad. Since it’s juvenile:

  • No sex
  • No unnecessary gore
  • No nihilism

HOWEVER – “juvenile” is not the same as “sanitized”. So:

  • There CAN be romance
  • There CAN be fighting
  • Things CAN get dark

We don’t want to see stories that talk down to children. Children are young, not morons.

No stories that insult the Arthurian tradition. This means nothing like “And King Arthur was really a BAD King and later scribes changed it!” or “Chivalry is sexist and horrible and the knights were all misogynist pigs”. This is one that’s more on our end than yours – if you think it might work, submit it, and we’ll see what we think.

Stories that insult Christianity probably won’t be accepted. I have no problem if you’re more interested in things like Druidic mysticism or Paganism than Christianity, it’s just flat-out insults I’m not really interested in. Once again, if you’re not sure, submit it and we’ll make the call.

“Arthurian” is a broad term. If any of the knights are mentioned, or the Holy Grail, or Merlin, we probably will count it. If you’re not sure, submit it and cross your fingers. The stories can be set literally anywhere or any time. If you want to submit a story where Arthur and his knights are fighting Lovecraftian Eldritch abominations, or Arthur is a pirate, or they’re all cave men, go to town.

The anthology will be edited by myself and my assistant editor, Mariel Marchetta. It will be released in September. Simultaneous submissions ARE permitted so long as you tell us IMMEDIATELY if you decide to go with another publisher.

Now go crazy! This should be fun.

Saw “Captain America: Civil War”

Bullet point style review:

•I was seriously impressed at how they set up the fundamental conflict. I went into the movie expecting to be team Captain America. When I walked out I was nearly team Iron Man. Then I talked myself back into team Captain America again. Great job.

•The airport fight scene was, hands down, the best superhero v. superhero fight scene of all time. Spider-Man and Ant Man did indeed steal the show, but man, that whole scene was just spectacular. Absolutely amazing.

•Speaking of Spider-Man, yes, Tom Holland was absolutely PERFECT. I hate to say it, but he was better than Tobey McGuire. I was quite surprised, when Tony asked why he fought, he didn’t pull out the “with great power” line…but the gist was the same. Singlehandedly had me looking forward to yet another Spider-Man movie.

•Black Panther impressed me as well. Looking forward to that movie too.

•SPOILER: How was Rhodey paralyzed anyway? Tony dropped from, like, three times that height in “The Avengers” and escaped with no obvious injuries. I know it’s Marvel physics and all, but…odd.

•SPOILERS AGAIN: The biggest flaw: The movie ran too long. The airport fight scene should have flowed directly into the Iron Man/Cap/Bucky duel. That duel, separated by such a relatively long length of time, was meant to be the climax but felt a little underwhelming in comparison. Better to have the scenes flow into each other and end the movie there. I can think of a few ways they could do it and keep the plot. This is minor, though – it’s not like the scene was a bad one.

•SPOILER: That said, the final twist – that Bucky killed Tony’s parents – genuinely surprised me. It probably shouldn’t have – Chekov’s gun was really hiding in plain sight there – but it did.

•I normally don’t pay attention to the soundtracks of Marvel movies, but “Civil War’s” soundtrack was fantastic.

“Civil War” is not my all-time favorite MCU movie, but that’s less because of any flaws and more because the quality of the franchise is so consistently high. This movie ranks with the very best. I probably liked “Winter Soldier” a bit more, and “The Avengers” (“Guardians of the Galaxy” is also A-tier but is such a different type of movie it’s hardly fair to compare. That’s a comedy space opera, not a superhero movie). “The Winter Soldier” benefited from better pacing, and “The Avengers” from better dialogue.

And yet, like with “The Winter Soldier”, I completely understand why one would prefer this movie over “The Avengers”. Whedon is, of course, a master at dialogue, but the Russo brothers unquestionably have the edge in action scenes. I rank dialogue over action, but if one prefers this super amazing Avenger on Avenger battle over that one scene in “The Avengers” where everybody stands around arguing as Loki escapes, who can blame you, really?

This movie gets an A from me. Highly and unreservedly recommended.

Some “God, Robot” News

Big stuff happening! First, author Jonathan Moeller AND the Injustice Gamer have reviewed “God, Robot”. From Moeller:

I rather liked this anthology.

It’s a play on Isaac Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics: 1.) A robot can’t injure a human being, 2.) A robot must obey orders, so long as it doesn’t conflict with the First Law, and 3.) A robot must protect itself from harm, so long as this doesn’t conflict the first two laws.

…I definitely enjoyed it – I think my favorite stories were the ones featuring the bumbling scientists who lived in terror of their boss, and the final story, when a woman prepares to unleash a long-prepared genocide, but has doubts at the final moment. The best speculative fiction always asks the “what if” question, and this anthology does a good job of that.

From The Injustice Gamer:

To begin our list of infamous acts, the book is not just science fiction, but advocates throughout for Christianity. Theobots are created to assist in churches, the first problem encountered is the problem of logic versus evidence, and the flaws of building a philosophical Christianity without evidence in the way of testimony…

While this anthology only commits the act of treating Christianity not only as serious, but correct, it does so consistently, and with tales to terrify the heart of the Socially Just. In fact, the writing is so scandalous as to cause me to overlook it’s lack of other crimes against Social Justice, though some if it’s authors are crime enough.

Nine of ten fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Great stuff!

And last but certainly not least, the “God,  Robot” crew will be appearing on the Catholic Geek radio show TONIGHT at 7:00 PM EST!

This includes authors Anthony Marchetta (me), MJ Marzo, Steve Rzasa, John C. Wright, Josh Young, L. Jagi Lamplighter, and – possibly, if he can make it – Vox Day himself! Unfortunately, EJ Shumak can’t make it, but he’s there in spirit.

Check us out here!

Great stuff!

Beyond the Mist (and others) for 99 cents!

Beyond the Mist has started its second Kindle Countdown deal, so now all four of my books are on sale for 99 cents until midnight PST at the end of the 19th. Grab them while you can!

 

BOOK BOMB! for Nethereal: Wednesday, May 18th

Quick but huge update!

International Lord of Hate Larry Correia has decreed a Book Bomb! for my first novel, Nethereal on May 18th.

The way a Book Bomb! works is for as many people as possible to buy the book on Amazon on the same day. That drives up the title’s ranking, gets Amazon’s algorithm to promote the book, and most importantly, helps the author GET PAID.

Mark your calendar and tell your friends. Nethereal storms Amazon next Wednesday.

Nobility Among Us and Selected Verse for 99 cents!

New Kindle Countdown deals on Selected Verse – Heroes and Wonders and Nobility Among Us started this morning, they will be on sale for 99 cents for the next week. Selected Verse – Faith and Family was recently permanently reduced in price to 99 cents. Grab them while you can!

 

A Quick Thought

Currently I write on a kindle, my laptop having broken. So apologies if thisis more brisk than normal. But it did occur to me that the grouping of the nominated My Little Pony episode with Chuck Tingle’s dinosaur porn is rather unfair.

The most justification I’ve seen anybody make for such a grouping is…actually, I’ve never seen anybody try to justify it. I guess because it’s a children’s show?

Of course, this ignores that “The Sword in the Stone”, a non-puppy related work, is already a winner of the retro Hugo award…and is a children’s book. It’s absolutely insulting and unfair to group MLP with Chuck Tingle’s parody erotica.

How you play the game

This year’s list of Hugo finalists held a few surprises for me.

The magazine that published my first short story–SciPhi Journal (SPJ)–and the online group to which I was a contributing member–SuperversiveSF (SSF)–were listed under Best Semiprozine and Best Fanzine, respectively.

Wow, what an amazing year… I would have liked to think.

But it didn’t take long to realize that the Rabid Puppy slate had heavily influenced this year’s Hugo nominations process and that SPJ and SSF had likely benefited from it. This was both highly ironic and highly troubling for me, given that my main contributions to SSF last year–beyond commentary–were two essays criticizing Sad Puppy (RP) and Rabid Puppy (RP) campaign methods.

While mulling over what to do, Anthony M posted an essay at SSF, explicitly arguing that  SSF’s nomination was due to the RP slate and only the RP slate.  His post motivated me to publicly challenge his position at the site while privately raising the question to the group if SSF should decline the nomination.

Sadly the answer was no, and involved a number of responses, some of which were credible and others I felt were less than credible.  The following points go through my process of reasoning based on those responses and the conclusions I have reached.

1) The exact role the RP slate played in SSF’s nomination is unknown

It was a relief to find that others at SSF did not share Anthony’s beliefs.  The fact is that many members of SSF–including the editor of both SSF and SPJ–are active SP and/or RP supporters.  Throughout 2015-16 they were active in publicizing to and networking with those communities, with SSF podcasts targeted primarily to SP/RP interests.  Likely due to these efforts, SSF and SPJ made the SP reading list too, which was definitely not a slate.

With this in mind, it was plausible for them to argue that SPs and RPs alike had a genuine interest in voting for SSF and SPJ.  In that case being on the RP slate did not in itself distort or unduly amplify the interest of those voters in the nomination process.

And if that possibility is true then making the finalist list was not due to anything improper.  Based on this possibility, arguments made by Brandon Sanderson for keeping his nomination, and calls by George RR Martin for finalists not to decline, SSF members had arguable reasons and precedent not to stand aside.

Still, I would argue that “not definitively improper” is not good enough.

2) An appearance of improper conduct remains

Despite the possibility that RP members may have wanted to vote for SSF anyway, we will never know that for sure since they–or at least enough of them–appear to have voted in lockstep fashion with the slate, regardless of their personal interests.  Such suspicions are highlighted by the success of obvious oddball finalists such as Space Raptor Butt Invasion and My Little Pony, and underscored by statements from people such as Anthony M at SSF, who basked in having benefited from the RP slate. Indeed, claims in his essay read more like an indictment to me–or confession?–than what I would expect from a victory speech.

So even if nothing improper occurred, a clear appearance of impropriety exists and is enough for me to argue that SSF should step aside. That “appearance of impropriety” is a crucial distinction, separating SSF and SPJ from other finalists like Sanderson and those Martin discussed.

3) There are additional levels of impropriety

Two contradictory arguments were made in defense of the RP slate.  The first is that it was meant to expose the Hugos as a sham, given the systemic flaws which allow for such exploitation.  The other was that it was meant to overcome an effective if not intentional slate–so fighting fire with fire–ran by elitist, cliquish, left leaning voters.

The problem is that both of these do not account for the nature of the RP slate.  Neither goal required placing nominees in all categories, much less taking all slots within categories.  Those tactics, if anything, seem to support the argued intentions of the author of the RP slate, which was to act as a spoiler for the Hugos. This was a point not missed by SPs last year, but about which many SPs are found silent or dissembling this year.

But more important, neither reason required the author of the RP slate to place himself or those with whom he is associated on said slate.  This is especially true if the author had any intention of getting broadly positive notice and awards for people and works outside the supposed elitist clique.  Finalists would have looked a lot more credible if not stacked among, or almost solely constituted by, those connected to him. Put another way, it would have been more useful if the author of the RP slate had acted more selflessly, than in a seemingly self-serving fashion.

Clearly, the RP slate had the potential to benefit its author, both directly–the author placed himself on his own slate–and indirectly–listing business/personal associates.  This kind of conduct is described by terms such as self-aggrandizement and cronyism, and adds another level/form of seeming impropriety to the RP slate.

4) Declining would not show a lack of gratitude

It was argued that declining the nomination would be an insult for those that voted for SSF. That it would show a lack of gratitude.  I am not sure why this is true.

If I had an extended family that got to feeling sorry for my never winning an award, and then bought enough voting memberships in order to vote me in, with many of them not having read anything I wrote, that would be improper.  And it would not show a lack of gratitude on my part to say “Wow, thanks guys for wanting to help me out, I really appreciate your effort, but this method does not get me what I wanted in the way that I really needed to get it. So I have to decline.”

When people vote, even if they pay to vote, there is no guarantee you will win, and there is no obligation that you have to take the nomination or prize if their votes place you there.  Appreciation is different than accepting the benefits of their actions, which can be declined for numerous reasons, both personal or practical.

As it is, if what those at SSF claim is true, that the RPs were likely to vote for SSF anyway, then the RP slate was the biggest slap in the face–the biggest show of ingratitude–to both SP and RP voters, since it cast an unnecessary shadow over the value of their votes.

And it would seem that anyone championing the RP slate at this point is de facto showing ingratitude to SP voters, by downplaying the importance of all the work done by that campaign to improve their methods this year. In fact it forms an argument that they and their kind are no longer needed next year as they were entirely superfluous.

Frankly, I would have been more impressed with this argument, when used to support keeping the nomination, if it had been backed by actual words of gratitude at the SSF site beyond a singular tribute to the RP slate.

5) Accepting it means hypocrisy and more of the same

For those SPs at SSF that railed against the RPs last year, accepting this year’s nomination would mean becoming hypocrites.  And while I am not an SP, or perhaps because I am not, that would go double for me.

Some argued that the No Award reaction to the slates last year drove many SPs to the RP campaign this year, or made them sympathetic to RP methodology. The strength of this argument is not clear to me. If No Award was a reaction to what one considered an unworthy method last year, then how did its use–even if it was admittedly ridiculous–make that first unworthy method acceptable this year?  It would seem the only stable ethical position is to be critical of both again this year.

What’s more important however, is that in accepting the nomination, and so rewarding such methodology, SSF loses its ability to criticize that method in the future–from any political quarter–while signaling its openness to be party to such methods.  And that makes it more likely such things will happen again.

6) Reaching conclusions.

SSF is a young movement still in the process of finding its character and audience.

While described as a literary movement, the line between that and a political movement has become increasingly blurred.  That is to say SSF has allowed itself to get caught up in political machinations, placing temporal political interests above artistic goals.*

Along these same line, it has yet to decide if subversive acts and statements are in keeping with superversive ideals.  With this nomination SSF has become openly aligned with a provocateur whose general repertoire appears subversive in nature, methods I will point out once again were criticized by SSF members last year.  I do not see how this aligns with the ideals SSF has stated it intends to promote artistically.  Some expressed feelings that they are tired of “losing nobly” and/or suggested that subversive acts are allowed to support superversive concepts. Both appear the exact opposite of what I thought superversive was about. It would seem crucial for SSF to settle this question in order to develop a consistent voice and persona, regardless of larger political interests.**

I should point out that SSF–to their credit–wants to build a diverse community of authors.  I was invited and allowed to contribute despite holding very different political, social, and religious views from many at SSF. I have always been treated well, having been asked to stay on despite the recent issue and told my voice would be of value to SSF. Indeed, I was asked to write a post such as this to show that Anthony’s position is not the only one held at SSF.

The problem for me is that with its character still unsettled, and trending in ways I am not interested in taking part, I find the best solution is to step away from SSF.  Not in anger or as an enemy, but as someone who is no longer clear that SSF will end up fitting with my character, or vice versa.

I tend not to like provocateurs or intentional negative provocations–no matter what political stripe–and I do not like having to deal with their fallout. By attaching itself to, or accepting benefits from, a known provocateur it would seem this will become a regular part of SSF membership. That would not be very fun or rewarding for me, no matter how many awards sticking with it might promise.

Since diversity is one of SSF’s goals, I encourage the group to rethink their position on things like the RP slate. In order to attract authors still willing to “lose nobly”, or who have zero interest in winning “by hook or crook”, it will arguably have to do so.

Outside of dire circumstances, life to me has always been about how you play the game. And with luck it always will be.

In this case, I feel certain that playing the game justly demands stepping away. If not from the nomination, which is not my call, then from SFF.

And so I go.

Cheers!

Kieran Sterling Holmes

*Anyone who wants to dispute this point is encouraged to explain the superversive qualities of Space Raptor Butt Invasion.  Granted, Tingle is all about Love…

** A somewhat cheekier version would be to ask the question: “What good is it to gain the Worldcon and lose one’s soul?”  As cheeky as it is, it is something worth considering.

Machine-Masters hold Europe

Machine-Masters hold Europe

mooc-robots-globe

Growth of Robotic Business Incubators Predicted to Augment the Rise of the European Industrial Robotics Market Until 2020, Says Technavio

LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–According to the latest research study released by Technavio, the European industrial robotics market is expected to record a CAGR of more than 8% until 2020.

The European industrial robotics market is expected to record a CAGR of more than 8% until 2020, according to Technavio.

This research report titled ‘European Industrial Robotics Market 2016-2020’, provides an in-depth analysis of market growth in terms of revenue and emerging market trends. This market research report also includes up to date analysis and forecasts for end-user segments, including automotive, food and beverages, industrial machinery, and electrical and electronics.

Request sample report: http://bit.ly/1SQho2Z

Business incubators in Europe are helping robotic start-up companies get the required funding and professional support. The number of European incubators have therefore significantly increased with a jump of 360% from 2007 to 2014. In the UK and France, most incubators are concentrated around the national capital, and in countries such as Spain and Sweden, these are spread throughout the territory. These incubators provide innovation support to disseminate the technology and competence to robotic ventures across Europe,” said Bharath Kanniappan, one of Technavio’s lead analysts for robotics research.

Robotdalen, an incubator organization, has introduced industrial robots to over 170 SMEs in Sweden since its establishment in 2003. It draws on local universities to provide students who can work with SMEs to introduce robots. The teams assembled by Robotdalen are helping SMEs take up robots, by looking at their business processes. Robotdalen is a part of the VINNVAXT program, organized by VINNOVA, which is the Swedish government agency that invests in making Swedish SMEs competitive internationally.

European industrial robotics market by end-users 2015

Automotive 38.60%
Food and beverage 27.16%
Industrial machinery 14.56%
Electrical and electronics 11.23%
Others 8.45%
Source: Technavio research

Machine Masters progress faster

Power, materials, computing capabilities, robotics self-manufacturing, huge data acquisition capabilities and cloud cooperation between are bringing us closer to Skynet.

robots

Together these five exponential trends could transform manufacturing plants entirely. Imagine a factory that isn’t operated by individual robots, but by one cloud-connected system, where all machines are constantly communicating, learning, and growing as a single fluid system—a system that could learn to simulate scenarios and autonomously recover from malfunction.

What one robot knows, it will share with all of the other robots. Manufacturing robots doing inspections and working in factories will gain the experience of a thousand lifetimes, and this accelerated learning will compound all the previous trends.

RahXephon

 

rahxephonTitleI will make no secret of the fact that I’m kind of fond of giant robots. There’s something about them that appeals to me, and I’m not ashamed to suggest that it might just be the absurd amount of weapons that they tend to carry. But in the last twenty years or so, starting with Neon Genesis Evangelion, some folks have started to look at the giant robot shows they grew up with and addressed them with a more critical eye. Evangelion was something of a deconstruction and sought to answer questions like “Why would you give ultimate power to someone as unstable as a teenager?” Over here in the US, Pacific Rim was Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to giant robot shows. 2002’s underappreciated RahXephon is probably somewhere in between the two. It lacks the cynicism of Evangelion but is more keen on playing with the tropes of the super robot genre than Pacific Rim was. If you asked Gene Wolfe to pen a giant robot show, I feel like it would look a lot like RahXephon.

RahXephon follows Ayato Kamina, a highschool student and artist, in a Tokyo that no longer has any contact with the outside world. Everything but Tokyo vanished a few years before the series began, and the people since then have lived in utter isolation– until, one day, strange fighter planes appear in Tokyo’s skies, and machines stranger still appear to fight them. In the ensuing chaos, Ayato runs afoul of government agents who shed blue blood, meets a beautiful classmate who is largely unconcerned with the chaos, and runs into a mysterious woman, Haruka Shitou, who claims she can show Ayato the truth about the world. Finally, Ayato finds a strange, underground shrine full of bright blue sky containing an embryonic giant “robot,” the RahXephon, that responds to him and him alone. A battle with the strange machines defending Tokyo ensues, and in the aftermath, Ayato and Haruka find themselves in the outside world.

It wasn’t the world that disappeared; something mysteriously walled off Tokyo behind a dimensional barrier. Inside of it, time flows more slowly, and what has been a few years inside has been a decade or two outside. Haruka is an agent working for TERRA, an organization intending to unravel the mystery of the barrier (called “Tokyo Jupiter” because of its appearance), and the RahXephon might just be the key to that mystery that they’re looking for.

Ayatos MomRahXephon is sometimes unfavorably compared to Evangelion, and to be honest, I can see why that would be the knee jerk reaction. Ayato and shares a few similarities with Evangelion’s Shinji Ikari, particularly in the parental area; the woman that Ayato has known as his mother for all this time is revealed early on to have blue blood, like the agents who were chasing him, and the shock of finding out that she is something besides who he thought she was embitters him. Like Shinji, Ayato can be passive and is frequently manipulated. Like Shinji, Ayato is at the center of a web of awkward web of relationships. There are a few similarities in plot, but much of that really boils down to the old school giant robot shows that are in both their DNA. But where relationships in Evangelion are probably best described as “unhealthy” or “sick,” most of the awkward relationships in RahXephon are just damaged. (To be fair, there are still some really warped relationships in the periphery.) Whereas Shinji is whiny and passive aggressive, Ayato learns to be a man and make choices for himself. It’s like someone took Evangelion‘s subversion and subverted it. Dare I say…. superverted it? ;)

Ayato and MishimaWhere Eva is flashy, RahXephon is gentle. Eva is painted in sharp, bright colors; RahXephon in softer, gentler colors. Eva‘s characters are frequently aggressive and defined by their issues; RahXephon‘s characters actually grow into real people. The mysteries of Evangelion are murky, cynical, and impenetrable; the mysteries of RahXephon unfold in a way that requires some thought and rewards repeated exposure, but in such a way as to give you a coherent story when all is said and done. RahXephon, by and large, does not wallow in despair the way Evangelion does, and doesn’t act like it has an artsy axe to grind. It honestly, as I mentioned before, makes me think of the kind of show that Gene Wolfe would write if Gene Wolfe wrote anime shows. Even when all is said and done, when you’ve watched the whole series five or six times and have a pretty good grasp on most of the show’s mysteries, there are still lingering mysteries in the back of your mind– but in a good way. Not to beat the Evangelion horse to death, but it’s not a show that leaves you scratching your head. It’s a show that leaves you daydreaming about the world it takes place in.

All this is not to say that there’s no action and everything is pleasant. RahXephon isn’t afraid of brutality, but it leverages it far more effectively than most shows do.  There’s an episode late in the series, in particular, that takes the monster of the week sort of format (which the show does have for the first half dozen episodes or so, while it is establishing characters) and makes it into something immensely heartbreaking. Ayato and the RahXephon are doing what they are meant to do– defend innocents– but all that goes horribly wrong in a way that will effect Ayato for the rest of the show.  Like most installments of Macross, RahXephon has wonderful characters that feel like living, breathing people, and it knows how to use them– to make you happy and to break your heart.

If it sounds like I’m gushing about this show, well… I am. I watched it fansubbed soon after it aired and, while it didn’t quite have the impact that Robotech/Macross did (I mean, I was into my twenties by then) it definitely became a show that I still count among my influences. I think a lot of my love stems from the show’s superversive qualities; it’s a show that’s okay with decent people doing heroic things because they’re the right thing to do. It’s okay with showing a sense of wonder without irony.

And it’s available on Hulu and Amazon Prime Streaming.

Reviewer Praise for Heroes and Wonders

James Sale, of the Society of Classical Poets, had this to say about Selected Verse- Heroes and Wonders:

Poetry is a delicate balance of language that is prone to either too much yin or too much yang; or put another way, as the poet steers his or her course like Odysseus towards his true soul, Penelope, waiting at home, he must venture through the double danger of Scylla on the one side and Charybdis on the other. The danger is either writing the yin of non-poetry which we often call free verse—though it is neither free (pure prose with lines) nor verse (since structure-less)—or writing the yang of verse, an over-emphasis on conventional forms, dead tropes, and language reminiscent of past centuries rather than the living vernacular of today.

Some of the most popular poetry revered today veers so dangerously to the yin side that, like Odysseus’s devoured crew, the audience of poetry dwindles as well; people can’t tell if what they are reading is prose or just a cruel joke that academia has played on their seemingly sophomoric intellects. Ben Zwycky’s collection, Selected Verse: Heroes and Wonders, is a daring reversal of direction of the ship’s helm, careening us toward a different monster in a maneuver that is both thrilling and at times unsuccessful.

Heroes and Wonders is, as his title indicates, generally an excellent collection of verse: full of wholesome sentiments, familiar themes of love, honour, resisting evil, and at its best has some pithy aphoristic expressions. Indeed, his best verses are his shortest ones. His final verse, “The Beast,” is some 17 pages long and in my view far too extensive to be readable; but contrast that with “Days,” the second poem in the collection. The opening stanza shows Ben at his best:

 

Days of wonder, days of hope,
Days that help you learn and cope;
Days of refuge, days of peace,
Days that give your heart release.

 

The simple repetition, the pleasing and easy rhymes, all help convey a sense of goodness and strength, and  the anaphora of Days in the quatrains suddenly breaks free of that structure in a final concluding couplet, which gives the poem a nice symmetry:

 

Each new day is heaven-sent,
Make every day a day well spent.

 

The final couplet indeed could become a mantra for the kind of people I meet in my own other specialist field of management consultancy: specifically, time management gurus who will love it!

 

Within this simple goodness and strength, there are also gems that paint, not exquisitely but with the right breadth, the universal longing of the human soul without obtrusive preachiness; for example, these lines from “Beauty’s Message”:

 

All flowing from the source of all, who we’ll see face to face,
Where holiness is merged with love as justice is with grace.
There is our true purpose, there is our true home;
That is why down here on earth our hearts will always roam.

 

But in all this there is a sense of predictability, both in the subject matter, the approach to the subject matter, and the forms themselves. Whilst I am a great advocate of the importance of rhyme in and for poetry, the poet must always master rhyme and not be subjected by it.

 

Unfortunately, in some of Ben’s verse the rhyme has clearly taken control of the meaning rather than the other way round. So, in his poem “The Wise Men” we get:

 

This all our fathers saw and knew,
Most honoured gospel scribe Matthew.
We know their tale is one small part
Of a greater work of art.

 

We have here two issues: in the first couplet the oblique (oblique here meaning the rhyming of a stressed with an unstressed syllable) rhyming of knew/Matthew, which seems strained, and the effect of such an oblique rhyme being comic rather than serious; and in the second couplet the sheer conventionality of the two masculine rhymes so close together.

 

But that aside, if you like verse with simple diction, pleasing rhymes, heroic and moral themes, then this book could well be for you.

http://classicalpoets.org/poetry-review-heroes-and-wonders-by-ben-zwycky-2015

My response (which I have posted there) is as follows:

Thank you for the kind words, James.

It is indeed my goal, as a member of the superversive literary movement to create entertaining work that encourages virtue, courage and a sense of beauty and value, to fight against nihilistic drudgery and build up the foundations of civilization.

I am a flawed writer with almost no formal training in poetry, there are no doubt a few instances of my sacrificing content too much to fit a rhythm or rhyme. However I find it interesting that you pick out that stanza from “Wise Men”, since the situation there is actually the other way around. The structure was sacrificed at this point because of the content and historical context, they are the key to the purpose of my writing the whole piece.

It was inspired by the intriguing possibility (with some scholarly support) that the source of the Matthean birth narrative is the Magi themselves, and that Matthew obtained this knowledge by meeting with their sons. The poem is then something of a dramatization of what that encounter could have looked like, with the sons recounting the oral tradition they received from their fathers, and then asking what it all meant.

In those days oral traditions were often crafted into verse, or used puns, thematic patterns, vivid imagery and other linguistic tricks to aid their memorisation. For the original Magi, this very unusual adventure would have raised a large number of questions: all the intrigue, the signs in the sky, the further signs they no doubt heard about from talking with Joseph, all for a baby born in a pauper’s stall? They knew that something of major significance was going to come from all of this, and the great adventure they had been part of was only the beginning, one small component of a divine masterwork.

Decades had passed since any news of the supposed king of the Jews had been heard, the original Magi had almost certainly passed on by the time Matthew came along to gather additional material for his biography.

The sons would have joyfully repeated the flowing, artfully sculpted and polished oral tradition they were taught and then, with trembling lips at the prospect of their great questions being answered (perhaps compounded by only sharing a second or third language with the former tax collector, since they lived a long way from each other), slightly stumble over their words as they summarise “That is what our fathers told us, we know that there is much more to this than what we have heard. We have helped you, now please tell us the fuller story that you have, so that we can know what our fathers longed to understand all these years.”

The whole poem is building up to that life-changing moment for them.

Perhaps I could have conveyed this more clearly in the work itself, but that is what I was attempting to do.

If you’d like to take a look at the full collection, click the image below:

Just Finished: The King Raven Trilogy, by Stephen Lawhead

I’m going to have more to say later – possibly not for awhile, as I may want to get a review up on the Castalia House blog rather than here. But I just finished it and have to say SOMETHING.

The King Raven Trilogy, consisting of “Hood”, “Scarlet”, and “Tuck”, is Stephen Lawhead’s brilliant “historical” take on Robin Hood. Apparently people consider the books fantasies. I think that’s stretching things to the breaking point, but it seems to be a pretty uncontroversial point, so what do I do? Maybe  there’s a hint of druidic mysticism but very little, especially after book one.

There really is a ton to say about it: About how, like in “The Pendragon Cycle”, he does a brilliant job of making it seem like he has something new to say about the legends while at the same time staying true to their core, about his wonderfully drawn characters, his atmospheric settings, his prose that seems simultaneously casual and complex, and his unexpected, but totally plausible and very moving, ending. But in this post, I’ll settle with this:

Stephen Lawhead is a very popular author who has been around a long time. Just look at his Amazon reviews for proof of that. He writes fantasy. He writes sci-fi, even hard sci-fi. And – here’s the kicker – he’s very, very very superversive. So I ask – How are we not talking about him?

I mean we, here, at Superversive SF or even Castalia. How is it just me? Stephen Lawhead should be the poster boy for the movement. We should have statues of him. His writing is moving, inspiring, at times, beautiful, and downright elegiac. The King Raven Trilogy and the Pendragon Cycle represent everything we’re trying to promote.

And he’s popular, no less! And REALLY good!

So how am I the only one here who has heard of him?

I don’t get it.