What Are the Aligned Worlds™?

The Aligned Worlds™ are innovative, character-based, funny, exciting, and emotional self-contained speculative fiction stories. Based in robust world building and character design, each book is an epic journey through space and time. You’ll fall in love with these people and may not want to return home when the journey’s over. But please do; there are most stories to be had, more adventures to explore.

The Aligned Worlds, available now at http://smarturl.it/AlignedWorlds .

Year 5601
– A young woman tries to steer her people’s generation ship toward a new home after 5,600 years in space. Mya Landric has lived all of her life aboard the Rebibe, a generation ship that launched 5600 years earlier from a dying planet Earth. Everything aboard the Rebibe is tightly regimented via color-coded bars—status, career aptitude, even whom you date or marry. Mya is stuck in the ship’s middle status layer, unnoticed by anyone and unhappy about it. Now, however, the captain and the ship’s Artificial Intelligence, CAMLO, have tasked her with the most important job of her life: investigating a planet that might, finally, be a home. There’s just one nagging problem: the Rebibe’s Captain is bonkers.

Bohemian Stars – Four humans from different eras and two aliens form a musical group. Between gigs they have the difficult tasks of trying to stop an interplanetary war and stay out of each other’s beds. They are far more successful at the former than the latter, but either option brings them more than their share of trouble. This is epic sci-fi, full of laugh-out-loud moments, thrills, and tons of alien races and planets you’ll wish were real.

Ordinary Dust – A epic science fiction coming of age story, Ordinary Dust is part Sci-fi Gothic Romance and part Interstellar Crime Thriller. The novel follows Eleanora and her half-nephew Finn, as they deal with class conflict, the constrictions of youth, mutual attraction, war, and Eleanora’s desperate chase across the galaxy of the murderer who ruined her life. Finn has his own adventure ahead of him, worlds away from his privileged upbringing. Will he be hero or traitor? Only time will tell.

20 Million Billion Leagues Past Detroit – Herk Delacroix is 7 feet, 2 inches of the coolest dude you ever met. He’s also from the planet Xigán and makes his own space-time portals. Now he’s been asked to lead a team as they investigate mysterious twin planets. Expect strange worlds and aliens, lots of thrills, and more than a little magic. Some of it is between Herk and Jemini Starr, but most is the result of magitech and root magic, both of which were thought to be long forgotten.

Stars Aligned – Herk, Jemini Starr, and their team return to the twin planets of Juvaan and Baache to see if they can prevent a disaster that might destroy both worlds. Plus, there’s also the small matter of getting the band back together for one final, glorious tour. Although the novels in the series are numbered (based on the rough timeline of the events in the books) this is the only true sequel, a follow-up to 20 Million Billion Leagues Past Detroit and Bohemian Stars. Even so, you won’t need to have read the prior books to understand and enjoy this one, you’ll just encounter quite a few spoilers.

If A Robot Play The Blues Do It Still Be Funky? – Rashon Rannell Riley, IV is an android, but he’s not just another bot. He’s on a quest to prove his consciousness—his humanity—and figures the best way to do that is through music. He’s on a jazz tour that will take him around the galaxy and to the distant past. But is he on his way to finding what he really seeks—his soul? You’ll have to join Riley on his circuit to find out. But we promise—it’s a ride worth taking. If you like music, time travel, androids, or have ever contemplated the sci-fi of Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy or Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, you’ll enjoy Robot Blues.

A note to fans of Hard As Roxx, there’s a big surprise at the end for you.

Robots Make Damned Expensive Janitors

From Year 5601, available on 2 September 2020:

“Imagine a task so mundane that only a robot could do it: say, swabbing a deck. Now, assume that in order to do it efficiently you need a conscious brain. You’ll only do the one thing, but it requires a conscious touch.”

I wrinkled my forehead. “You’re smarter than me. I can’t picture that.”

She smiled. “You flirt a lot. Did you know that?”

I did not know that, but it made me stop frowning.

She slid closer to me on her lavender couch and pressed her soft feet against my leg. My right hand grabbed them before my brain even knew they were there. My brain liked it, so I sat still while she resumed talking. “Let’s say that this is deck thirty, the captain’s deck, in the gold chambers. Now, the captain won’t abide just having a robot wash his deck and assume it’s gotten all the dirty bits. The captain will demand that there is no debris, no missed spots, and everything is uniform and up to specs.”

“Any good android could do that, and a robot can too. I’ve seen them do some particularly intricate tasks in the food-service industry.”

“That is true, but this robot has to be able to reach under furniture and reach up into the crevices of the wall to kill those damnable spiders.” She shuddered at the thought. It made me squeeze her soft feet. Kumiko paused, looked at my hand, and smiled again.

I felt myself flush. “Gods, I do flirt a lot.”

“It’s okay. I’m liking it.” She let her smile grow to a grin. “You’re my color, remember?”

“I remember.” We looked at each other long enough to make me uncomfortable, so I changed the subject back to our discussion. “So, what I think you’re saying is that we would need a robot that can do intricate scans, make independent decisions based on that analysis, be nimble and maneuverable, and reach anywhere from floor level to the tops of ten-to-twenty-foot ceilings.” She nodded. “Sounds like a damned expensive robot.”

“Or, you can give a human the barest amount of credits to live on and ell will do that for you. Then you can use that damned expensive robot to do a couple of intricate jobs that humans used to do.”

“Gods, we’ve trained our bots to replace us, but only in the good jobs, not the shitty ones.”

Excerpt: Ordinary Dust

Readers, below is the opening to my science fiction novel, Ordinary Dust, which premiers late in 2020 or early 2021. It is the second or third release of my new Aligned Worlds™ series. (I haven’t decided which one; they are all independent books.) If anyone is interested as performing as a beta reader, and thereby getting an early (free) look at the book, or any in the series, let me know in the comments below.

 

Cheers!

Ordinary Dust 1.0

Blurb:
On a planet where nothing matters as much as status, a twenty-five year-old woman who has always been treated like “ordinary dust” by her family, bonds with her fourteen-year-old nephew and tries to carve a life for herself. When they are both forced to leave home, traveling to distant planets, they will find their idyllic lives will never be the same again. Full of adventure, romance, and suspense, this novel is half literary fiction romance and half science fiction / crime thriller.

Excerpt:

1 – The Goddess Appears

Year 1909 of the Grand Epoch (1909 GE): Findlay Nevrose

I had known Mara, or at least the divine physical form that she secreted beneath her layers of drab cloth, for three months before I was able to convince myself that she was real. She was a puzzle that I would spend the entirety of my childhood seeking to unravel, but that night, just past the zero hour that began our twenty-six-hour day, she was a chimera, a perfect vision of silky flesh in a tattered white shawl that I deemed obscene due to its attempts to barely cover her naked flesh. I was no more than nine years old then, a mere wisp of a man-ling, and before that night no more interested in the ways of feminine adulthood than I was in the mating rituals of fong beasts, but as her storm blew her out of the bathroom and past my door, I became interested in the ways of this one woman to the exclusion of all else.

My life changed, at that moment, solely because I had to wee. I’d emerged from yet another dream about waterfalls, and this time I was determined to have my water fall in the loo rather than my bed. I would have made it all the way, I imagine, except that at that moment this cloistered angel flew across my open doorway and in her haste knocked me from my feet. Though I fell immediately, she barely stumbled, faltering just enough that her shawl briefly fell away from her and I caught sight of her nude flesh: perfect, slender legs that tapered into long, delicate, impossibly curved feet; taut, round buttocks that protruded just enough to allow my eyes to glide over their curves and to the small of her back; rivulets of wet hair that fell provocatively to her mid-back; and though as fleeting as the wakening from a dream, the barest glimpse of the side of one perfect, nippled globe.

Cover Reveal for My New Sci-Fi Adventure!

I am pleased to announce that my new science fiction adventure, entitled Year 5601, is now available for pre-order for users of Kindle software. It will be more widely available, including in paperback form on 2 September 2020.

For now, I just wanted to share the title and cover art, as well as a bit about the book. I think it’s my best work to date, with more to come. This is the first book of a series of independent novels that take place in my Aligned Worlds™ universe, and I think sci-fi fans of all types will enjoy them.

Click to Pre-Order Year 5601!

After 5600 years in space, a young woman is tasked with vetting a planet that might, finally be a home for the thousands of people on her GenShip. More certain is her growing fear that her ship’s captain might be psychotic.

Mya Landric has lived all of her life aboard the Rebibe, a generation ship that launched 5600 years earlier from a dying planet Earth. Everything aboard the Rebibe is tightly regimented via color-coded bars—status, career aptitude, even whom you date or marry. Mya is stuck in the ship’s middle status layer, unnoticed by anyone and unhappy about it. Now, however, the captain and the ship’s Artificial Intelligence, CAMLO, have tasked her with the most important job of her life: investigating a planet that might, finally, be a home. There’s just one nagging problem. Mya and her small group of friends are beginning to believe that perhaps their own Captain Bligh has no intention of letting them land there, and Mya most definitely does not wish to be the Rebibe’s Fletcher Christian.

Emotional, hopeful, and enthralling, this future fiction epic is the first novel in a series of epic adventures in the Aligned Worlds™ universe. Stay tuned for space-time travel, pointless wars, androids and robots, alien life forms, love, sex, and rock and roll, all on planets you’ll have to read about to believe. It’s going to be a wild ride, and Year 5601 takes you there with a roaring start.

If you love sci-fi, you’re gonna want to read these books!

Write Me No Problems

When I think of writers of future fiction, I think of the admonitions of almost every good manager I ever hand. “Don’t tell me problems,” they would say, “bring me solutions.”

Fiction writers could keep that advice in mind, and in particular, authors of future fiction or so-called speculative fiction. It is not particularly speculative to grow a view of the future that is seeded in the past. To be sure, I would guess your Fine Arts instructors told you to keep it real and imbue your writing with a sense of reality. They are wrong, however.

Let me say this aloud, or at least as aloud as a blog can be: if those people knew everything about writing there was to know, they’d be supporting themselves via books and not teaching. No one does. No one can. The act of writing, just as the act of reading, is interpretive and subjective. What is “real” to your instructor is simply short-sighted and pessimistic to me.

I am reading a short (so-called speculative) fiction collection at the moment, one that I will review when I chug through it to the end. As you can probably guess from the proceeding sentence, I am not enjoying it. The author can write. Her details are well balanced. She is imaginative. In a few of the stories, she’s created lead characters I could get behind in a longer work–perhaps even fall in love with. And, looking to the alternate future or near futures in which these stories are set, the problems that have been will always be.

Her Black People do Black People things, deal with Black People problems, and feel some Black People kind of way about them. They talk about, whisper about, think about, or be about White People and their White People ways. And I do not want to read this nouveau-racist bullshit.

I lived through the 60s, 70s, 80s, saw things improve in the 90s, thrived in the 00s, and watched us backslide in the 10s. I have no interest in reading about a future wherein the writer speculates that what has gone wrong will go wrong, or just as bad, that what other writers say will go wrong will absolutely do so. Speculation requires imagination.

Y’all don’t hear me.
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I’ma say it again, so Stephen A doesn’t get more upset. Speculation requires imagination. Stop writing whiny, broken, unimaginative, falsely dark and legitimately pessimistic stories. Instead, think about what a solution would require and then build me a world where it happens. Show the struggles involved, the opposition thereto, and maybe even give yourself permission to imagine that it can be done.

Here’s a master-level tip: not all happy endings are completely happy. There’s room for laughter and tears, even together.

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Future fiction writers lead by example, irrespective of whether they want to or not. The very first use of the word robot was within a sci-fi play detailing how artificial, forced-labor workers revolted and rose up to kill their creators. A century later, engineers worry about the same problem. Know why? Nobody bothered to write about the solutions.

Whether you pen a tome that takes place in the next millennium or next week, don’t just sit on your whiny ass bemoaning the problems in the universe. Fix them, in your head at least.

Bring me no problems. I don’t fucking want to read them. Write me some solutions. Those, we can all use.

Excerpt – WIP #7 from a Collection of Short Fiction

I am working on a short fiction collection that gives canon-level stories to accompany my (at least 10-book) future fiction collection. This is an excerpt from a novelette called The Dragons of Koet’sö. I’ve also penned a novella and one short story for the collection, so I’m making good progress. Not sure of the order I’ll try to publish these, since I’ve six completed novel manuscripts, but those details can be worked through later. Anyway, here it is.

Cheers for reading.

Nora stood up, lifting herself off the ground with all the grace of a feather wafting in the breeze. “I want to get an image of this.”

Herk watched as she trotted over to her pack and pulled out an imager. She floated back to the edge of the precipice and stood on both toes, extending herself to get the shot she liked. He gasped as the saffron and sage beauty held her pose, standing on the tiptoes of her front foot and balanced en pointe on her rear one. He heard the imager’s click and realized he hadn’t exhaled until—for that brief, breathless instant—she lifted her front foot off the ground and held it a beat while she looked over the imager at the scene below. She was ballet. She was grace and more beautiful than any sunset. An instant later, her feet found the ground and the moment was over. Nora turned to leave and Herk exhaled.

“I’m going too,” said Starr. She rolled her body backward, meeting the hard rock with her head and hands, pushed off with her palms, and then cartwheeled one leg and then the next over until she was standing erect facing away. Herk sat looking at her tail swishing away and wondering how she’d managed a 180-degree turn during a cartwheeled backflip without his seeing the move. Nora was a natural ballerina, but Starr was a gymnast. She would rise from a chair and make it seem as though she’d just dismounted the balance beam. Nora as often made Herk want to take her slim waist and send her aloft, though he suspected she never heard the music he was certain she danced to. The universe—this planet included—routinely danced with both of them even though neither seemed to notice.

How am I married to these two women? Why would they choose a lunk like me? He sucked in the emotional breath they’d torn from him, again, and turned to try to lift his lanky loins from the ground. He felt awkward, clumsy, unworthy. Standing, he trotted over to Starr, who was standing near Nora. The sky had gone purple, as though it had seen Jemini and wanted to imitate her coloring. It’s in love with her too.

Precisely then, a bolt of lightning flashed horizontally across the sky and directly overhead. Moments later, it began to snow. Bash and Vash’kir held their hands aloft, catching the flakes. Vash’kir’s eyes were whiter than ever as though it had snowed within his irises. Tris and Alsu were speaking though their voices couldn’t be heard. Alsu kept shaking her head no, as though in answer to the girl’s questions.

Starr looked nervously toward Tris but said nothing.

“Well, that’s new,” said Herk, looking up in the sky.

“Snow in the mountains of Koet’sö during the summer averages one cent every three years,” said Nora.

“Is that from your book?” he asked.

“Yes, page 115.”

“I guess Mother Nature didn’t read it, then.” He pulled his collar higher and pushed himself erect, reaching down and helping Nora up. Let’s go help set up the tents so we can warm up and get a fire started.”

“I’m starting to think this mountain doesn’t like us or something,” said Nora.

“Yeah, or something,” said Starr, still looking nervously at her stepdaughter.

When is Science Fiction Simply Future Fiction?

In recent years, science fiction has moved from the publishing mainstream–a position it enjoyed during the 1980s and 1990s–to genre fiction’s place on the sidelines. As sales fell, fans and critics  began whinging  that true sci-fi is dead, replaced by plot-driven stories that happen to be set in places that do not, and likely will not exist. There’s no wonder, they say. Where are the new ideas? Where is the science?

On the surface, these seem like logical questions. If you scratch beneath the shallow layer of 1960s nostalgia, however, they are absurd. Most modern sci-fi stories are filled with what we once considered to be leading-edge ideas. Whereas a 1950 tome about rockets could hold a child breathless, sixty years of science, fiction, and research have allowed us all to imagine how interstellar travel might work. There are few leading edges here when it comes to inventing new, fictional means of travel. Does that mean that a future-based story wherein passengers hop on a commercial flight to another planet are no longer science fiction? Of course not. It just doesn’t give us goosebumps anymore.

I recently read an article that claimed that early sci-fi “was about real things we might invent or discover” as opposed to more exotic ideas. Then, as the more realistic goals like travel to the moon, became realized, the article claimed, sci-fi began focusing on more outlandish versions of science. Thus was born speculative fiction.

Actually, no. H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, published in 1895, showed that science fiction was dedicated to both realistic and unrealistic concepts from the start. So why aren’t there any new ideas? There are.

What science fiction needs now are new boundaries. But those don’t necessarily require inventing new or more absurd science. Sci-fi has always been about ideas. As long as the genre is pushing the boundary of thought, of speculation, of “what if?” or “how would that work?” then it is doing its job. Sadly, though, too many writers have settled for reusing worlds (with slightly altered appearances) that others have created. Take a Star-Wars-like universe, add interesting characters, and you have a shrink-wrapped story that feels familiar as soon as you see it. But is it interesting? Perhaps not.

Ever notice how set designs in science fiction movies all look similar? There’s a reason for that. They’re based on stories that are similar. Every interstellar ship doesn’t have to look like Ridley Scott or Arthur C. Clarke designed it. That’s actually not a sci-fi law. All androids aren’t required to move like wooden men. Heck, they don’t even have to look human. Unless someone’s going to option your story for a screenplay, you can make them look and act anyway you please.

Other writers, like Ian McEwan, have attempted to separate themselves from genre fiction by de-emphasizing the sci-fi aspects, instead focusing on character-based or sociological stories that happen to be set in alternate worlds. I’ve recently written a half-dozen of these myself, but unlike Mr. McEwan, I don’t claim they aren’t sci-fi, because they simply are. Still, anti-genre-fiction snobbery aside, there should be a way to explain to potential readers what your book is about. Sci-fi has long been far too broad a term, and tells readers nothing about what the story’s subject will be.

I propose that we start with discarding the term science fiction except as a second-order term below speculative fiction. Speculative fiction is sci-fi and/or fantasy fiction, but what do you call sci-fi with magical or other fantasy elements? Is it science fantasy fiction? Magical sci-fi? And what if all of these elements are irrelevant, but you’ve penned a story in an imaginary world that could easily be exported to 21st-century Britain? Is that sci-fi? Is Mr. McEwan’s novel sci-fi?

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Proposed Categorization of Future Fiction

I propose that works that take place in the future but that de-emphasize science as a major theme should be called future fiction.  Now, this is also a broad term, but if your book isn’t about science, should you be slapped with the word in its category’s title? Is my story about an android seeking humanity, the same as a droid in Star Wars? Maybe, unless you realize I’ve penned a story more akin to a James Baldwin novel than something you’d find in Disney’s dark empire. You can all it sci-fi, and it won’t hurt my feelings. I could give two shits about acceptance by the MFA-bred literary cult. But it won’t tell readers anything interesting about the story. Under the categories above, for instance, Mr. McEwan’s book would be Alternate Fiction. While that still won’t stop MFAs from turning up their nose at him, it might not be as dampening on sales as the sci-fi label that people still mistakenly believe is equivalent to what I’d call hard sci-fi.

There are few Asimovs or Heinleins in future fiction anymore, primarily because people understand enough science that you’d end up arguing quantum mechanics instead of just telling your damn stories. So what we used to call sci-fi has shifted to Societal-Fi, and that’s okay. Perhaps that’s what the first amber box should say, “Societal Fiction.” But then we’d need another box for Character-focused Future Fiction, wouldn’t we?

Or, maybe we can all collectively stop separating good stories set in our disappointing world from those in worlds with far more possibilities. Perhaps we can eliminate the term sci-fi altogether, and speak instead about good versus bad fiction.

Wouldn’t that be something to write about?

 

 

First Paragraphs

I have been reading and thinking a lot about first novel paragraphs. In part it is because I am nearing the end of the first draft of my sixteenth manuscript. However, it is also because I have been curious at how the masters begin their greatest works. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right way, except that they must introduce the story or main characters and they must capture the readers’ interest.

I think I’ve learned to do that along the way. Below are samples of my first paragraphs, these from the seven novels and one novelette I have published to date. Click on each image to enlarge.

Writing without Joy; Reading without Enjoyment

JOYless

I must admit, that even after having written twelve novels and three collections of short fiction, I do not understand what readers find to be enjoyable. As an example, I recently completed reading a collection of short fiction by an author I will not name. The collection has received thousands of reviews, both on Goodreads and Amazon, garnering around a 4.6 out of 5.0 average review. Importantly, NO ONE on Amazon gave this collection a 1-star review.

I will admit, the author writes brilliantly. His story lines are clever, on the surface. He is able to describe situations vividly, and he is well enough versed in human behavior that he can describe in detail the odd nuances of his off-kilter characters with accuracy and vigor. His story lines are also unique: “A couple adopts a depressed hedgehog.” The entire work is characterized (by some reviewers) as dark comedy.

But here’s my problem with it. I didn’t find the book tedious; I found it depressing. I read all eight stories, and I enjoyed none of them. In truth, I forced myself to finish it based more on principle than anything else. All of the endings were either depressing, or the entire story managed to suck the air from the room.

Do such authors write for depressed people? Are readers naturally depressive? Am I the oddball who doesn’t find reading about the broken lives of broken people as uplifting? I’m not sure how one is uplifted by downpressing books. I’m even more confused as to why one would want to read stories of misery, unless it is to prove there are people whose lives are shittier than your own.

These stories lack joy. Yes, when I write, some bad things happen to good people. But none of my books and few of my stories lack joy. That’s 4,425 pages in, if you’re keeping count, and I’ve managed to find joy in all of them. Life has its rhythm and balance. Times are good, they are bad, they are desperately bad, and rarely, indescribably brilliant.

Why not write about that? Why not demand to read about it?

This isn’t meant to be sour grapes. I’m not concerned about my own books’ readership, and I am hardly in want of money. I’m concerned about my own reading. Am I the last writer of stories that seek joy?

Gods, I hope not. I’m desperately sick of reading the Internet.

In Too Deep to Quit

So, I’m officially 16,237 words into Book 16, which my word count estimator tells me is around 19% complete. Sixteen thousand words feels like too many to throw away, so even though it’s slow starting writing again after my nearly six month layoff, I will keep going. That, among many other reasons, is why I am a plotter. Of my 16,000 words, just over 12,000 are actual prose developed in three-and-a-half chapters. The rest comprises the outline and plot for the remainder of the book.

It is easy to start slowly and give up. It takes time to understand the main character–how he talks, what he thinks, what he reacts to, and how he interacts with other characters. It’s a new relationship, in a way. By the midpoint of the book, I will be rolling, it will get easier, and by the climax, I’ll be churning out two chapters a day. The last book I wrote took me all of 17 days, because I had it all plotted in advance, and I’d been writing almost continually for a year.

Still, after a few months off, my writing brain resets to zero. To combat this, I don’t dare begin writing until I think I know the entire story, and I’ve mapped out what will go in which chapters. It will change; it always does. Some chapters will split. Characters I envisioned as walk-ons will announce they’re staying for the entire book. It is daunting to think about from this point in the book. There’s one over to the left of this post. He’s minor, for now. We’ll see if he’s polite and leaves when he’s asked to go.

I’ve barely told the reader what the main problem is. That comes at about the twenty-five percent written point. (Yes, I always write my chapters in order.)

So, the only way I know to keep myself from quitting at this point, when the writing is hard, the wording is clunky, and the characters are mysteries, is that damned outline. Four thousand words of plotting is a huge investment to throw out. Sure, I have a couple (or six) other books plotted that I’ve not begun, but I’ve started this one. As hard as it is to start, it’s much harder to restart later if I quit. And throwing out all of this plotting is a terrible waste. It is one thing to plot your book. It’s another to have in your head all the little details and ideas that surround that basic outline once you truly start thinking of it. I couldn’t possibly jot them all down. Most swarm in my head like little thoughts.

If I quit, I will forget most of those little ideas. It will be like awakening from a dream–not the bad dreams you always remember, but the brilliant ones you want to but can’t.

So, tomorrow I’ll write some more. Just a bit, finishing Chapter Four and discovering it’s longer than I meant it to be. That’s how it goes at the beginning, but it’s okay. I’m already in too deep to quit.

May as well try to remember how to swim.