Quick update on After the Storm

It’s been a while (nearly a year) since my last update, so with some prodding (thank you!) I wanted to take the opportunity to check in.

Lots has changed since March 2015 – I’ve changed day jobs, moved across the Pacific, and have reworked some longer-term arcs for further Hard Drop sequels (and potentially prequels) that required slowing down a little on the After the Storm process.

The good news is that, going forwards, the process should be a bit more streamlined.

After the Storm is coming together nicely. I’m aware of the shortcomings of various elements of the first novel (proofreading and some scientific elements in particular), and am taking some time to ensure that these are addressed in this and future sequels.

There will be a proofreading update to the first novel, which I am also working on and will figure out how to circulate to those of you who have already purchased it (as Amazon doesn’t make that easy). I will keep you updated on the progress there.

In the meantime, thanks very much for your support, and I look forward to exploring more Hard Drop with you!

Battlefield Science: Laser-Guided “Smart” Rifles

Endgadget’s write-up of the laser-guided rifle raises harrowing questions for the future of combat and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots.

Guided or assisted targeting is not new in videogames, but it is a gamechanger in real life. In the face of computer-assisted targeting, the imperative to fire and move will likely become even more pronounced; any delay at all may allow opponents to lock on from even long distances. And even then, this target assistance module can potentially track an object moving 30 mph at a mile’s distance, so movement alone will be no protection from unseen, unerring death from afar.

While history suggests there is no end to war, and that armies in conflict will adapt to this technology, it seems hard to imagine that armies without “smart” rifles will fare very well in the interim against those armies that do. At least, until a neutralizing technology is discovered.

Modern Combat: Choppers, ATVs and hit-and-runs

Somewhat questionable source and tone notwithstanding, here’s a fascinating, almost sci-fi like description of evolving combat methods as the SAS takes on ISIS via choppers, ATVs, and guerrilla tactics.

While no one part of these tactics is strikingly new, it’s still interesting to see reports of combat forces evolving and incorporating a variety of tools and methods for the modern battlefield (and for specific tactical needs). Further, it’s a striking counterpoint to the idea that drones and robots will take over warfare in future – clearly, there is still room and demand for literal “boots on the ground.”

Finally, it is interesting to compare the combat styles and reports in the Near East as relates to ISIS with the reporting on eastern Ukraine – in one (the latter), the older notion of battlefronts, territory under control, and linear offensives appears still to hold, but in the latter (ISIS/Near East), these are much more fluid concepts, with debatable relevance.

Battlefield Science: Instant Wound Clotting

In tech and medicine news today, a new solution for stopping bullet wounds on the battlefield has been announced: XStat, a rapidly expanding sponge that fills the wound and stops bleeding, could stop bleeding, accelerate healing, and save lives on the battlefield.

This is only the latest in a series of recent battlefield innovations which are accelerating the advent of futuristic battlefield scenarios, from AI to Virtual Reality Overlays to killer robots and mechanization. But of all of those updates, this is the first I’ve seen which creates the opportunity to save lives – instead of providing more efficient means of taking them.

Sci-Fi Inspirations: Halo

For anyone who has read Hard Drop, it will be pretty darn clear that I’m a Halo fan. Not, mind you, in a ‘best FPS shooter/sci fi franchise ever OMG’-kind of way, but in the sense that I appreciate its engaging, simple-but-dynamic gameplay and storytelling.

More than any other game or franchise, Halo manages at once to be everything to everyone – at once qualifying as a simple, entry-level military-style shooter and as an intense, bullet hell cooperative or multiplayer experience, able to satisfy ‘real’ gamers (by which I mean FPS gamers with talent and fast-twitch reactions, of which I am not one), a blockbuster, deep-lore franchise with spin-off novels and a simple, stereotypical cheeseburger buddy action movie replete with absurdly over-the-top characters (Sergeant Johnson, anyone?) and meme-ready one-liners.

It would be difficult to argue that the series is market-leading for the realism of its gameplay (Call of Duty might take those honors), the intricacy of its weapons systems (Borderlands or perhaps Bioshock), the diversity of attacks possible (Bulletstorm), the depth of its lore (Skyrim, Bioshock, again, Assassin’s Creed), or even the uniqueness of its characters (although it is hard to resist the ultimate strong, silent appeal of Master Chief), but at the same time it is impossible (or at least foolhardy) to deny the appeal of the total package. Admittedly, several of the above-mentioned ‘market-leading’ games are sandbox-style, sprawling, build-your-own-adventure games, and so not directly comparable to Halo – but then, that’s the point. It’s difficult to imagine Halo as anything more than what it is: a very nearly on-rails shooter with a few easter eggs (ammo, weapons) if you turn that extra corner. And yet, that doesn’t matter one iota: the whole thing, put together, is so damn fun that it’s impossible to complain.

What Halo does, in my opinion, better than anyone else is provide solid, unquestionably appealing ingredients which players can then apply in any number of ways to great effect, unlocking a cotton candy veneer of wish fulfillment in the storyline. The systems of other games, including Call of Duty, require greater buy-in, or owe greater debts to realism, or else require the framework of the story to intrude on the gameplay experience (e.g. Assassin’s Creed or Bulletstorm, where you are never able to forget the game dynamics completely), but Halo is the ultimate in what you see is what you get.

The result is an impressive, blockbuster franchise that shows no sign of slowing down. Every new game adds a slightly new dynamic, tweaks leveling, adds new weapons or enemies, but the underlying concept – the user-enabling, all-purpose combat platform – remains cheerfully, gleefully the same. It is this unrepentantly happy approach to science fiction, combat, and story that I have tried to incorporate in my writing – and I am pleased to see, from a number of my reviews, that I have succeeded in doing so.

Taking the Fiction out of SciFi: Potentially Habitable Super-Earths are ‘Plentiful’

Not long ago now, there was great excitement when we began to discover signs of potentially Earth-like planets in the theoretically habitable zones around their stars. A number of first followed each other in quick succession, each both more impressive and more fanciful than the last, each revising our estimation on the likelihood of life elsewhere in the Universe.

The trend is only continuing: recent discoveries suggest not only that potentially habitable planets exist in a number of places, but that they may in fact be “plentiful.” Thus, little by little, the odds are improving for the potential of life out there, which, to a degree, is an exciting thing (as long as you ignore the corollary implications for threats, either via other life or in terms of extinction barriers, as has been discussed at length elsewhere).

But perhaps most interesting of all of this is that it’s now very clear that we have been, at best, a curious bystander shining a narrow beam around a very large and dark room: we have barely begun to understand the limits of what surrounds us, or the things which we may encounter there. With each improvement in technology, we discover more, see farther, deeper, or measure better, and so it seems only inevitable that, in the very near future, the odds of life will improve again.

 

Smashwords (and thus, soon, Apple, Sony, and other markets) are online!

Check out the Smashwords page here – other formats (including iBooks) to come.

More details on After the Storm coming shortly – plot details, outlines of characters, and maybe some more details on what, exactly, Flip is up to. Stay posted.