Trigger Warning: Military Sci-Fi Ahead

If having your assumptions challenged and your mind blown could upset your delicate little psyche, you’re gonna want to click away right now.

If harrowing scenes of speculative, futuristic combat or stories about the men and women who fight for something greater than themselves fill you with dread, flee from here.

If center-right positions, hard science, or frank discussions of our past mistakes and future concerns make you want to hide behind your momma’s petticoats, you’d best stick to your internet safe-zone with all countervailing opinions neatly blocked away.

If the phrase “Trigger Warning” is something you watch out for and is itself a potential trigger for bad-thought . . . yeah, I got a book you’re gonna want to avoid.

However, if you can handle it and are a fan of kick-ass science fiction, of near-prescient analysis on what our future holds, or of some of the best writing you’ll see all year by great authors both new and old, well, for you I have your new favorite book.

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Riding the Red Horse is a new anthology of military science fiction and analysis edited by Tom Kratman and Vox Day, from the fine Finnish folk at Castalia House.  The title refers to one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in this case the Second Horseman of War.*  The anthology, which contains 24 short stories, essays, and commentaries, is in the vein of—and an homage to—the There Will Be War anthology series by Dr. Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr, which started in 1983 and ran for 9 volumes.  This series is also intended to be an annual endeavor and it very well could prove to be a highlight of your year.

So, what’s in Volume I of Riding the Red Horse that’s worth your time?  This one has it all, from stories set on Earth’s land, oceans, and orbits, to stories set in the far future, in outer space far, far away from home.  In some tales you may have to consider AI starships, or drone warfare and our vulnerabilities at home, and in others how we should respond to future kidnappings and terrorism by non-state actors.  For those that like a little post-apocalyptic swords and horses in their military sci-fi, we have a tale from Hugo and Campbell nominated author Brad Torgerson with a pair of the best female characters you’re likely to come across.  And if you prefer pure physics and high tech, we have a guide to the constraints of real space warfare with game designer Ken Burnside, as well as a treatise on how battlefield lasers will change warfare forever from Eric S. Raymond.  Super-prolific author Christopher Nuttall gives us a glimpse of his ARK ROYAL’s past while Steve Rzasa shares a fantastic tale about artificial intelligence and loyalty to principles (and this one should be a potential Hugo nominee in a just world).  Early reviews seem to agree that this is $4.99 VERY well spent.

Full disclosure, I also have a tale in the anthology, an honest-to-goodness sea story from the future.  “Within This Horizon” deals with what happens when your dream job in space is denied to you, when your chance at redemption is snatched away after a loss, and how different people deal with assumptions and expectations.  It’s also about kick-ass naval warfare between men and drones, with hypervelocity missiles, lasers, railguns, and rocket torpedoes all in the mix.  After you read the anthology, I’d love you to come back and tell me what you thought of “Within This Horizon”!

Oh!  I didn’t tell you!  Riding the Red Horse also has classic contributions by those aforementioned worthies, Jerry Pournelle and John Carr themselves, which I think is very cool, as well as being great reading.

And last but not least, top-selling Baen Books author and editor Tom Kratman pulls no punches and spares no tender sensibilities as he introduces each piece and provides some commentary on the principles of war.  Vox Day, the proudly infamous blogger, editor, and writer provides the preface and a great couple of tales (one of which vies for the top spot).  These guys embrace the controversy and aren’t shy about their perspectives, nor should they be.  As I joked above, some folks can’t handle differing opinions, or can’t separate the art from the source.  Well, if you are that sort, you should nip that inclination in the bud and give this work a chance.  You might be surprised to find how much you enjoy the ride, and how much it makes you think.

So, rush out now to either Castalia House or Amazon and pick up your copy!  And after you’ve recovered from all the awesomeness, leave a review, recommend it to your friends, and then swing by here to tell me what you thought of “Within This Horizon.”

Thank you and Happy Reading!

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* (No, Riding the Red Horse is NOT a euphemism for either Bolshevik heroin or a rude act.  What, are you in 3rd grade?)

Riding The Red Horse

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When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” Then another horse went out, a fiery red one, and its horseman was empowered to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And a large sword was given to him.

Revelation 6:3-4 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Oooooh, golly.  That’s a creepy way to begin a post.  Here, how about something a leetle bit mo’ fun and funky:

Oh, war, huh, good god, y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again!

“War”, 1970, by Edwin Starr

Okay, that’s a bit better, but I still think ol’ Edwin is missing out on the . . . ummm . . . positive aspects of war? Not that war is a really positive enterprise!  No, real war sucks big time.  Death of the innocents, crimes against humanity, the achievement of political goals through maximum destruction and the scarring of a nation’s collective psyche.  Yep, all bad things.

But, war stories?  Those can be one hell of a lotta fun!

War fiction, military fiction, and my favorite:  military science fiction scratches the itch with a lot of readers in a way nothing else can quite match.  We LOVE US some combat sci-fi, whether it be on the screen with Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Edge of Tomorrow, Starship Troopers, Battlestar Galactica, or Space: Above and Beyond; or if it’s on the printed page with many of the franchises above as well as Battletech/Mechwarrior, Legacy of the Aldenata, the Lensman series, Honor Harrington, pretty much anything by David Drake, or my own A Sword Into Darkness and REMO.  We thrill to tales of soldiers, starship officers, and space marines battling the bad guys, whether they be bug-eyed monsters, the implacable other, or just the poor schmuck on the opposing front.  Give our boys (and ladies, ladies) some powered armor, a gravitic railgun, and their trusty laser pistol, slap ’em in an orbital drop-ship, and point ’em at the ravening hordes of robo-zombies and you’ve got yourself a story!

Yeah, yeah, you can indulge in a little philosophy, and I GUESS you can devote a line or two to show your characters are deep, tortured souls, but by-gum something better blow the fuck up in a satisfying manner or you might as well keep walkin’, mister.

Does that sound like your cup-o-tea?  Well, if so, hot DAMN do I have something for you.  Finnish sci-fi publisher Castalia House is dropping the Mother of All Bombs of military sci-fi on you this month.  And I’ve been invited to the party, so I’m inviting you along as well!  Riding the Red Horse, the new annual anthology of military science fiction and fact will be coming out with its inaugural volume on December 15th.  This kick-ass collection features my story “Within This Horizon” (which is worth the price of admission alone), but the rest?  WOW!

I’m just honored to be even considered on the same list as these authors, not that my stories are a patch on theirs.  You’ve got Tom Kratman and Brad Torgerson, Christopher Nuttall and Chris Kennedy, Ken Burnside and Eric S. Raymond, William S. Lind and Vox Day, James Dunnigan and Rolf Nelson, Steve Rzasa and Henry Kitchener, Giuseppe Filotto and Benjamin Cheah, and James Perry, John Carr, and Ted Roberts.  You’re going to find essays and fiction on the future of combat, on the land, at sea, and in space.  You’re going to be amazed, but BONUS, you’re also going to find a story/essay by one of the grand masters himself:  Dr. Jerry Pournelle.

Yep.  Jerry freakin’ Pournelle.

If you aren’t headed to Castalia House or over to Amazon (beginning December 15th) to pre-order or buy it direct, then I have no idea how your head works.  Go!  Go, buy, read, review, then drop me a line here to tell me what you thought of “Within This Horizon.”

Sooooooooo cool!

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Author-itative

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Oh, you poor, poor fools that have the misfortune of living outside driving range of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and North Carolina. Why do I pity you? Well, for so many reasons, honestly, but mostly because you will be missing out on a GREAT event this Saturday.

Pshaw, you say! I have a lot of things going for me outside the Norfolk / Chesapeake / Virginia Beach area. Why, I have the life of the European bon vivant, you say. I’ve got the excitement of the Big Apple — I’ve got the coolness of the West Coast — I’ve got the great vistas of the Rocky Mountains!

Pitiful, pitiful, pitiful, pitiful. Your protestations are but the last desperate gasp of the uninformed. You cry foul, but I know better, because I know about Authorfest.

Hampton Roads Authorfest, a kick-ass collection of 25 local-area authors with well over 100 books between them, books that excite, books that inform, books that stir the soul and the imagination. Books by authors who have both succeeded in the traditional publishing industry, and books by those who have struck out on their own and gone indie. Books of every genre from my own favorite (SCIENCE FICTION and all its varied sub-genres), to horror, thrillers, romance, mysteries, fantasy, young adult, crime, true crime, memoirs, humor, children’s books, travel books, and philosophy, etc. Books by such local luminaries as Chris Kennedy, Vanessa Barger, Lara Nance, Nancy Naigle, Tracy March, Malcom Massey, Dave Poyer, and Lynn Yvonne Moon. Books by authors you’ve loved for years, and books by authors you have yet to discover.

And what an event it’ll be! There’s the authors, of course, whom you’ll be able to stroll around, talk to, and connect with from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. And there will be books to browse, books to buy (for yourself or as a gift for the holidays), and prizes to win. And there will be seminars throughout the day, full of priceless guidance if you’d like to one day be a selling author yourself. They’ll cover the Children’s Book biz, Small Press Publishing, Indie Publishing, Book Trailers and Advertising, Writing for Young Adults, Steampunk Basics, and The Game of Love in Romance Writing. I myself don’t know if I’ll be able to resist the seminars, even though I’ll be sitting a table and trying to sell my own humble pair of books.

Should you happen to have the fortune of residing within the greater Hampton Roads area (and by this I mean if you left RIGHT NOW, you could legally and safely hit the Authorfest from a range of 4000 miles), you can totally attend the event — AND YOU ABSOLUTELY SHOULD. We’ll be kicking things off at the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library in Virginia Beach, at the 4100 block of Virginia Beach Boulevard, from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. It’ll be a blast and you owe yourself the opportunity to meet these authors and try out their wares.

Plus, BONUS!!!, I will be there in all my humble glory.

Honestly, how could you NOT show up now?

Bows Grow Taut, Battle Approaches . . . .

(Read in the voice of a stereotypical New York Jewish grandmother) “Oi, Morty!  Whateva happened to that nice Tommy Mays boy?  Ya know, the writer fella, with all o’ dem science fictional stories and books and what not?  Ya neva heah from him no more.”

“Who?” (Hard of hearing stereotypical New York Jewish granddad)

“Tommy Mays, autha of A Sword Inta Dahkness, RAYMO, Da Rememberists, Strategic Deploymen, Dreams f’Sale (Oh my, a sale!), an’ otha fine works of science fiction and wonda!”

“Who?!”

“He was woikin’ on a sequel, and a new book o’ Christian science fiction (oh, dem gentiles, gettin’ to their shenanigans), and a couple o’ short stories?  Tommy Mays!?”

“Who!?  Where’s my sandwich?”

Aaaaaaand, SCENE!  Hi, y’all.  Just wanted to drop a line before making a pre-emptive donation to the Anti-Defamation League.  I’ve been off the blog for a while, but wanted to let you know of some things going on.

First, I AM WRITING, but I’m probably not writing on the things you want me to write on.  No progress on the sequel to ASID and only marginal growth on either Echomancer, or Demigod, my two young-adult urban fantasy projects.  I’ve had a lot of short story stuff (as well as a lot of life) interfere.

First, of course, I didn’t make it with the Baen Fantasy Award and my story “The Commuter”, but it is working its way through the magazine rejection files now, as is “Bumped”.  Should they not make it, I might do a final polish and offer them through Amazon Singles (which is not a dating site.  I stand corrected).

My first new short story product is a definite WIN and I’m VERY excited about it.  This is a quasi-sequel to an anthology of science fact and fiction regarding future warfare produced back in the 70’s and 80’s.  I forget the title of that one, but Castalia House is publishing an unofficial follow-up called Riding the Red Horse, an obvious allusion to the Red Horse of War.  Headed by Tom Kratman and edited by Vox Day, the new anthology will include essays on the future of warfare, science articles, and a BUNCH of great new short stories by some of my favorite authors, including Tom Kratman and Vox Day, Chris Kennedy, Christopher Nuttall, and little old me.  My story, “Within This Horizon” is under editing now, but I can’t wait for the book to launch and for you all to see it.

The second bit of news requires YOUR PARTICIPATION!  I have just submitted a story for The Writer’s Arena, sort of a short story Thunderdome (Two Stories Enter!  Only ONE STORY LEAVES!!).  They hold weekly fiction contests where each writer has a week to submit a story about the same particular topic.  That topic may be AI gone awry, a carnival from Hell, or ghosts – madness or reality?  Once both writers have submitted their tales, both stories get posted on the website and readers vote on the winner.  These are short tales, usually under 4000 words each, and they are a lot of fun.  This week the topic is AI gone awry, so do please go check it out and vote.  Next week is my week, which deals with “fake” hauntings:  either you have to describe someone who is a victim of a made-up haunting, or you have to describe a real haunting that won’t allow itself to be disproved.  My story, “The Gaslight Consultant” will be appearing there in mid-October.  I absolutely need your help and your judgment, with your vote going to the best of the two stories.  And if you like it, consider supporting the site with a small donation, like what you would pay for a show or an issue of a magazine.

So, that’s where I’ve been, Jewish Grandma.  Now excuse me while I go prepare for next week’s battle!

 

All I Gots Time For Is Bullets . . . .

– Hi!

– There’s whole bunches of stuff to catch you up on, so I’m turning down the effervescent charm and wit, turning up the maximum information flow (while still remaining effervescently witty and charming.  Handsome too.  It’s a curse).

A Sword Into Darkness has now topped over 200 reviews on Amazon and sits at 4.5 stars overall with 123 5-stars and 58 4-stars, alongside a whole buncha real nice write-ups between ’em.  If you needed an excuse to get yourself a copy, that’s a pretty good one.  I’m still continually surpised about the folks that are reluctant to give it a try because of its indie-published beginnings.  It’s good, folks.  Trust the hoi polloi.

– Speaking of good, I just listened to the first half of the A Sword Into Darkness audiobook from ACX and Will Perez of Sci-Fi Publishing, and it’s like experiencing a brand new story.  It really comes alive, and even though I wrote the damned thing, it’s like I’m just discovering it.  If you’ve read it, but haven’t heard it, you gotta!  And if you haven’t read it or lent it to your friends, ummm, see the bullet above.

REMO continues to chug right along, though it has not had the explosion of popularity that ASID had.  Is it because it’s short stories?  A relatively short collection?  Not as much advertising as ASID had from third parties?  I dunno.  It has gotten great reviews (4.8 stars in 6 reviews) on Amazon, but it has not made it above 7000 in sales ranking yet.  It has more than paid for the investment in its cover from 99Designs, so I’m happy about that, but I would love for it to do ASID numbers.  If you haven’t tried it out, I urge you to give it a shot, or to recommend it to your friends.  And I’m also producing an audiobook on ACX for it as well, with the talented Heidi Mattson of VO Hollywood reading.  It would make your perfect commute companion!

REMO remains Amazon Kindle exclusive, but ASID has turned out to be a dirty little book that gets around to all the e-book sites.  Shameful.  But apparently the elder book has been a bad influence on the innocent story collection, and they will soon both cheapen themselves for all the world to see in an internet wide sale!  I am shocked and you should be too.  In fact, you should tell all of your friends about it and urge everyone to get their own copies during the sale so you can tell them youself how dissapointed you are that such good books would just put themselves on the streets for a mere 99¢.  More details to follow.

– In other news (and these are the reasons I’ve been so busy), I’m waiting on the approval draft of “The Rememberists” for Daily Science Fiction, I’ve gotten a commitment from Baen on “Bumped” if I make some revisions, and I’ve completed the first draft of “The Commuter” for the Baen Fantasy Adventure Short Story competition.  For Stealth Books, I’ve also reviewed and blurbed Graham Brown’s latest SF masterpiece, and I’m working through John Monteith’s latest Rogue sub-thriller.  On top of that, I’m still working on the ASID tabletop game and app with Nathaniel Torson of Jabberwocky Media.  Then there’s life (Don’t Talk To Me About LIFE . . . .) where my brave, strong, and beautiful wife keeps kickin’ cancer’s ass and staying busy, and my three kids are ALL in baseball and softball, each of which have both simultaneous and consecutive games in different locations.  Plus work at my unspecified Day Job, which eats about 14-16 hours a day.

– What this means is, I have not yet made progress on Lancers Into the Light or on Co-Pilot, but I pledge to!  Soon(ish)!!

– Congrats to Ancillary Justice for winning the Nebula!  I gotta read that one to see what all the hubbub is about.  Best of luck to it and all the upcoming Hugo nominees, though I’m pulling for a Larry Correia and a Brad Torgerson win.

– Final note about goings on, I got to spend an afternoon with Chris Kennedy, author of Janissaries and When the Gods Aren’t Gods,  at the Virginia Beach Central Public Library’s AMAZING event devoted to their new Local Author collection.  It was a pleasure to donate books both for the collection and to circulate, as well as to meet so many great local authors and small press publishers.  A good time was had by all and I really look forward to doing it again next year.  If you live in the Hampton Roads area, I urge you to go and check out ALL the books!

– And that’s about it.  I obviously don’t understand the concept behind brief, bulletized statements.  I have a problem.  Pity me!

– Toodles!

Prose and Cons

Whew!  Sorry for the delay in posting my RavenCon report here, but I was so blasted with ideas and advice, I had to get some of it out as actual writing before it vanished like the play-by-play of a dream.  Now, however, with a thoroughly re-written and re-submitted short story complete, and plans upon plans for more SciFi-ish goodness to come, I can now relax and tell you about my first science fiction convention.

Two things stand out.

First, these are awesome people and I’ve been missing out.  It is FANTASTIC that the nerds and geeks among us have the opportunities to gather together to achieve a critical mass (not a fat pun) and then explode outward into a multifaceted mushroom cloud of fandom without reservations.

Second, I’m afraid I’m not awesome enough of a fan to cast aside all inhibitions and revel in it to the n-th degree.  In a place where introverts are encouraged to REALLY extrovert without judgement, I still found myself holding back.  There would be no costuming for me.  When exhorted to get up and dance like a monkey for a good cause, I still found myself only dancing like a nervous cro-magnon.  It was no fault of the Con that I could not release an uninhibited über-nerd upon the Richmond DoubleTree Hotel.  The fault lies with me.  I still find myself on the outside looking in, trying to find the right niche between aspiring author, published author, veteran, sailor, officer, and nerd/geek/neek/gerd.

But I’ll get there with a little help from a BUNCH of amazing new friends.  First, I finally made contact with the Baen Books crowd!  I met Gray Rinehart, their slushmaster who took so much great time helping shepherd along ASID, Tedd Roberts (Speaker to Lab Animals), Michael Z. Williamson, Sarah Hoyt, Patrick Vanner, Jim Minz, and soooo many Baen Barflies (like the Royal Manticoran Navy crew, Peggy, and Julius — who is certain global warming is directly responsible for the rise in superhero movies).  Drinking and woo-hooing were accomplished in style at two great parties on two great nights.  Sailor Jerry, we hardly knew ye.  A special shout-out goes to Joelle Presby and CDR Andy Presby, two great writers and mega-brains living in nearby Norfolk who work with the great David Weber, helping to flesh out the Honor Harrington universe.

I met and got to speak at length with the Guest of Honor, Hugo/Nebula/Campbell award winning author Elizabeth Bear.  Bear gave me a lot of great advice and encouragement and was surprisingly gracious and down to earth for such an accomplished author.  I really hope to be able to attend the Viable Paradise workshop, as she recommended (as long as I can a. Wow them and b. Afford the time and expense).  I’d love to spend a week working with writers and people of her caliber.

Writers, editors, and fans everywhere, and not a single one made me feel unwelcome or unworthy in where I am and where I aspire to be.  My favorite new contact/bud is Chris Kennedy, one of the Con guests who is in very much the same position as myself.  He’s a retired Navy CDR and former kick-ass aviator (he kicks ass in other ways now) who just released his fourth self-published book, the second book of his planned space opera trilogy, the Theogony.  Okay — no lie — go get Janissaries and When the Gods Aren’t Gods today for some great military science fiction, written by someone who DEFINITELY has the bona fides, along with a smattering of myth and fantasy.  I hope to guest at future Cons, like Chris did here.  And he did his panels in the ultimate Navy fashion:  with PowerPoint!  Best part, he also lives nearby in Virginia Beach, so I see some beers in our future.

And, of course, there were the panels and the Masquerade.  I had a lot of fun, learned a lot, and got told the best thing a writer can here:  You, sir, have an ugly baby.  (Yep, that’s a good thing.)  I read the opening of “Bumped” and they INSTANTLY knew what was wrong with it, lifting blinders I didn’t even know I wore.  That was the story I re-wrote on Sunday and Monday.  It’s shorter, smarter, and a lot more professional now.  Hopefully editors will agree.

And that’s about it for RavenCon.  Con virgin no more!  Pics or it didn’t happen?  Well, here’s some pics!20140426_122836 20140426_113456 20140426_202934 20140426_224750 20140425_224736 20140426_202955 20140426_202640 20140426_203825 20140426_131630 20140426_203032 20140426_202926 20140426_201814 20140426_121834 20140426_203001 20140426_202602