Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Alternity 2017 and Green Ronin Publishing Talent Search

Ready to design a planet? Seriously, a planet. Your business card could read, “[INSERT NAME], Planetary Architect and Wanna-lancer”. If that, or trying out for Green Ronin Publishing’s female-centric RPG talent hunt, appeals to you, read on.

Alternity from Sasquatch Game Studio

Alternity 2017 – A Science Fiction Roleplaying Game by Sasquatch Game Studio LLC
Kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday, May 4 2017 11:59 PM EDT.

“A modular Science Fiction Tabletop Roleplaying game limited only by your imagination. Choose your future!

Alternity is back—and it’s better than ever!

Strange new worlds and deadly aliens? Mercenaries for hire? Post-apocalyptic survival? Explore your favorite visions of sci-fi adventure in the new Alternity Science Fiction Roleplaying Game from Sasquatch Game Studio.

Many Worlds, One Game: The Alternity Core Rulebook includes a wealth of campaign-building guidance and a modular rules design so that you can model your favorite SF setting or create your own. We’re also launching with one “pre-built” setting, our Protostar universe . . . but we’ve got plans for more worlds if you want ’em! We plan to unlock at least one more setting through our stretch goals for the project.

Alternity Rule Books

What’s your future?

In 1997, Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker created the original Alternity game—a powerful tabletop RPG engine for science fiction adventure across a wide range of genres. Now, twenty years later, Sasquatch Game Studio is creating a new sci-fi RPG inspired by the original game. We’re rebuilding the game mechanics to take advantage of 20 years of advancement in the art of game design. We’re marrying bold new ideas and exciting new subgenres to the original scope and vision of the Alternity game. And we’re bringing it all together in a convenient, full-color, handsomely illustrated Core Rulebook with supporting adventures and sourcebooks.

But don’t wait for the Kickstarter to finish! A Beta Test release of the Alternity game is currently available as a free download on DriveThruRPG! The Beta release includes an overview of the rules, an introductory scenario, and a sample adventure. We’ll be collecting feedback from testers and backers throughout the coming weeks to make Alternity awesome!

Want to see more about the development process? Visit our website at: http://www.sasquatchgamestudio.com/Alternity and check out our Alternity Design Blogs!

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Alternity or Primeval Thule? Alternity is going to look amazing!

Sasquatch Game Studio is the design team behind the Primeval Thule Campaign Setting and the Princes of the Apocalypse campaign adventure for 5e. Our Alternity team includes the creators of the original game published by TSR. You can learn more about us and our products at www.sasquatchgamestudio.com.”

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Egg’s Thoughts:

Sasquatch Game Studio, the designers behind Primeval Thule Campaign Setting, produced the first vanity press purchase I participated in. That setting – best described as Conan meets Cthulhu – stands tall among the 5e products I’ve bought along the way. The quality of their production (writing, direction, and art) is second to none.

Using Primeval Thule as a guide post, I think Alternity will be one of the best sci-fi products available. Being a new, wholly original iteration of the original TSR game, Alternity will provide both a retro-fix and break new ground.

As an added bonus, they have a vanity press pledge level that allows you to name and design a planet for their Protostar Mission Guide, the first campaign setting for Alternity. Ever had a whole sci-fi planet you wanted to design? Here’s your chance to do that and work with some of the top talent in the RPG industry. Based on my experience, I cannot recommend this enough.

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Green Ronin Publishing’s Talent Search Submissions are open!

“This is just one part of Green Ronin’s larger and ongoing diversity initiative. In this specific case, we’re interested in hearing from women-identified and non-binary individuals with a passion for dark fantasy. What we’d like to see are writing samples that illustrate a grasp of the elements typically involved in RPGs: rules design, world-building/setting write-ups, character profiles, and fiction vignettes, as well as writing that aims to hybridize these elements. Familiarity with the Lost Citadel property is not a requirement at this stage.

We will be accepting your submissions from today until May 15th and the winner will be announced to the public as part of our Lost Citadel Kickstarter on June 6th.

  • Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 total words.
  • Submissions should be sent with an introductory email that includes your name and contact information; during the evaluation stage we will be stripping the submissions of identifying information and assigning each a code number as part of a blind reading so they can be judged without regard to name, existing reputation (or lack thereof), or anything other than the quality of the work.
  • Submissions should be saved as a document file and sent as an email attachment to lostcitadelrpg@greenronin.com. Don’t worry about heavy formatting, tone-appropriate font choices, or other stylistic flourishes.

While the setting is dark fantasy and its core expression will be in 5E, you are NOT required to adhere to those specifics in your submissions. We welcome submissions featuring mechanics from any edition, or those for our in-house system (AGE), or even those featuring other popular systems you feel might be dark fantasy-appropriate.

Green Ronin Publishing – Lost Citadel

Keep in mind that this is not a math test disguised as a talent search. While submitting a well constructed Pathfinder stat block may be acceptable, it doesn’t go very far toward showcasing one’s talent and/or ability as a writer, only one’s ability to do math. Remember, the idea is to make a strong impression with your writing.

By submitting your work for evaluation, you represent that you are the sole author of the material being submitted, agree that Green Ronin and its agents have the right to read your submissions for the purposes of this search, and acknowledge that Green Ronin is under no obligation to use, buy, license, or adapt your talent search submission for any other use.”

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Egg’s Manplanation:

Green Ronin Publishing is a Top Five RPG publisher. To be picked by them during this talent search would be a career jumpstart. Add to that, they’re targeting the expansion of the RPG industry by getting more women behind the keyboard. If you meet the above criteria and want to test out the freelance RPG waters, this is the talent hunt for you.

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Break out the fake hacking, techno, martial arts, and black leather! Why a Matrix relaunch could work.

I’m a huge fan of  The Matrix, and from a creative side of things, an even bigger fan of the overall universe/ concept of the property. On the other side of things, I’m lukewarm to outright “will turn the movie off because I’ve been bored to tears” when it comes to Matrix: Reloaded and Matrix: Revolutions.

The movie, along with a few other creative sources, propelled me into my career as a writer of all things super heroic, epic, sci-fi, and all around kick ass.

So when I heard that Warner Brothers was giving some thought to possibly restarting the franchise, I thought I’d just share a few opinions. Really trying not to rant here.

There’s enough of that on the internet, so call this a “calm laying out of ideas/ thoughts”.

Original Recipe or Crispy is the true answer we seek……

-In the second movie Col. Sanders, I mean The Architect, established that there had been other “One’s” in the vein of Neo.

He explained that fights/conflicts like the ones of the Matrix trilogy had happened before, suggesting that this was sort of an endless loop.

So like it or not, the Wachowski’s left the door open for more stories to possibly be told for a concept which they no longer completely own (when they sold the idea to New Line Cinema/ Warner Bros.).

Unless they signed a kick ass deal which put the complete rights of the franchise in their hands, then WB always had the possibility of telling more stories in this universe without them, and they inadvertently (or maybe that was their plan from the beginning) provided a really solid jumping off point for future stories to be told.

It would be nice for Warner Bros to bring them in on a creative front, but legally speaking, they probably aren’t obligated to. Definitely sucks, I know.

Or not, which leads me to my next point……


-As much as I love The Matrix (one of my favorite movies of all time and a trend setter for modern sci-fi film) the subsequent sequels were a’ight to just horrible. I’m not a huge fan of the Animatrix as a whole. Enjoyed some of the shorts. Others just weren’t my cup of tea.

So any other stories that could be told in this universe, which is extremely expansive, should be told probably by someone else.

I like Sense 8 well enough, and even enjoyed that Channing Tatum roller skating in the sky space opera movie they directed, but with the subsequent Matrix sequels and other movies they’ve directed since then (though I hear Speed Racer has a cult fan following) I’d rather have them on as producers, or hands off, sort of in the vein of Lucas and the current round of Star Wars.

The Star Wars franchise has hit an all time creative and pop culture high with handing off the reigns to other creators, examples including Rogue One and Star Wars: The Force Awakens

-There are some awesome creators who can tackle this material in the form of screenwriters and directors who could kick ass in this universe, and I think they deserve a chance to tell stories set in the world of The Matrix. Once again, look at the Star Wars franchise, and the hiring of such modern/ talented storytellers as J.J. Abrams, Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson, Phil Lord and Chris Miller to continue to expand this universe.

Heck, I’d be up for writing an expanded universe comic for The Matrix.

Warner Bros: hit a dude up.

Please let this be good. By all that is holy, please let this be good.

-I think between this possible relaunch and the burgeoning Harry Potter film-verse restart with Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, I feel that Warner Bros. is trying to get a viable franchise in their hands because the DC film-verse is currently just not cutting it.

Though the Matrix movies steadily got bad in quality, they still made a crap ton of money, and that’s all these studios care about.

-Lastly, don’t do a reboot. Just pick up with another The One as suggested by Col. Sanders. Create a new story, new conflict, higher stakes, etc.

That’s about all that I have. Just a few opinions.

Please discuss below, share, and be civil. 🙂

Tessera Guild at the Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo 2017 – March 11 and 12

Come meet the members of the Tessera Guild at the third annual Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo on March 11th and 12th, 2017.

North DeKalb Mall in Decatur, GA. Admission is free.

Robert Jeffrey IIJohn McGuire, and Egg Embry, along with Sir Leland Beauchamp, will host four panels over the two days:

 

I AM BlackSci-Fi.com
Saturday, March 11th from 3:00 to 3:50 EST

Hosted by Robert Jeffrey II as well as William Satterwhite

“Since its inception BlackSci-Fi.com’s goal has been to be “the premier site for the latest updates on Sci-Fi, Sci-Fact and Fantasy entertainment, news, people, places, and events and the measure of their impact on the African-American community, while also seeking to inform and inspire the imagination of individuals who aspire to live beyond the boundaries of everyday life”

Join Editor-in-Chief Robert Jeffrey II, and contributing writer William Satterwhite as they discuss the in’s and out’s of working for BlackSci-Fi.com, the websites goals and future plans, while touching on the general state of Black speculative fiction.”

 

You wrote something. Now what?
Saturday, March 11th from 5:00 to 5:50 EST

Hosted by Robert Jeffrey II as well as Bobby Nash and Milton Davis

“Join writers Bobby Nash, Milton Davis, and Robert Jeffrey as they discuss what happens after (or during) writing a book (novel, comic, short story, etc). Enjoy this insightful look into each writers path to becoming a published author followed by a Q&A session.”

 

John McGuire co-hosting: Freelance Writing and the 9 to 5

Freelance Writing and the 9 to 5
Sunday, March 12th from 3:00 to 3:50 EST

Hosted by John McGuire, Robert Jeffrey II as well as Nicole Kurtz, and William Satterwhite

“The Ups, the Downs, and Everything Between
By day, mild-mannered 9 to 5-er, but by night they create worlds! Join freelance writers as they discuss keeping a balance between the daily rigors of their 9-5s and writing careers.”

 

Sir Leland Beauchamp co-hosting: Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in

Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in
Sunday, March 12th from 12:00 to 12:50 EST

Hosted by Egg Embry and Sir Leland Beauchamp

“Role-play, write-up, and crowdfund your RPG adventures!
Have an original adventure, series of monsters, or tabletop game? Interested in crowdfunding its publication? Join Egg Embry and Leland Beauchamp for a a beginner’s guide to monetizing your tabletop RPG products. We’ll create a D&D creature to take through a hypothetical Kickstarter (idea to pitch to funding to production to delivery to what comes next).”

 

Egg Embry co-hosting: Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in

For directions to North DeKalb Mall and this free convention, visit the ASFE website here.

 

 

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Missed the show? Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

 

 

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Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want to destroy the stars?

 Darkness Between the Stars

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3,000 years from today, Earth is all but recognizable.
Stark cities made of black towers and white houses dot the planet. Tiny robots and powerful dream-inducing software keep humanity entertained. Nearly everything is automated.
But on one rural farm, a lone family lives a remarkably old-world lifestyle.
They harvest wheat. They repair their machines by hand. They drive the only combustible engine car left on Earth.
At night, the family’s youngest member of watches the stars and dreams of one day flying between them.
And when he sees them begin to disappear, he knows what will happen…

The beginning of the end.

Darkness Between the Stars

A science fiction journey by J Edward Neill

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DarknessPaperbackFront

Consume me.

Review me.

Thank you,

J Edward Neill

Sci-Fi! Action! Adventure! Oh My!

First and foremost, posts are coming.

Like, soon. 🙂

Wanted to kick things off though with a new release announcement. If you’re looking for some awesome comic books, and sci-fi adventure check out some new offerings that I’ve written below.

The Scribes of Nyota: Our Voices, Our Imagination, A Compendium 

I’ve got a story in The Scribes of Nyota: Our Voices, Our Imagination, A Compendium, titled The Crossing: Moonlit Skies titled The Crossing: Moonlit Skies.

Edited by Maurice Waters, President of BlackSci-Fi.com and Creator Shawn Alleyne of Pyroglyphics Studio, “The Scribes of Nyota” aims to inspire imagination, while shining a light on a segment of society whose stories aren’t often heard.

Definitely check out the book because there are a collection of awesome stories and art to be found in the anthology.

The Crossing: Moonlit Skies, tells the story of two dimension hopping heroes, who find themselves on the run from crazy moon god worshiping acolytes.

In other words, for our protagonists, a typical Monday.

There’s gun play, hover trains, snappy dialogue, and high action. The story acts as sort of an interlude within a comic book series concept that fellow Tessera Guild member/ novelist/ comic book writer John R. McGuire and I have come up with.

Stay tuned for more news on the comic book series, but for now you can take a dip into the world of The Crossing by picking up the anthology here.

 

Terminus Team Up #1

Who doesn’t love sci-fi superheroics with great dialogue, awesome art, and kick ass stakes?

Not you intrepid reader! You can find all this and more in a story I wrote titled Terminus Team Up #1: Amber Fox vs Terra Force.

A description of the book reads “Amber Fox is just your regular dimension hopping acquisitions expert. But sometimes you end up needing to take a job from the more shady of characters. So when Amber is hired to steal a rare item of note from a team of super-powered individuals known as Terra Force, she may have overstepped her bounds. And let’s just say that Terra Force don’t take too kindly with people breaking and entering…”.

You can also pick up Tessera Guild member John McGurie’s second issue in this series that takes place in the world of his creator owned project The Gilded Age, here.

And more posts are coming, I swear.

My Somewhat Secret Love of SciFi (and a Giveaway!!)

Nature, earth, magic, wildlife, folklore… I think these are the words most people associate with me, and my art. They wouldn’t be wrong. But it might surprise you to know that when it comes to movies and books, I tend to gravitate toward Science Fiction. One of my all-time favorite films is Alien (and it’s sequel, Aliens). I’m also a big Star Wars fan. I had so many Star War toys growing up–so many!! For a short time, when I was a kid in Laurel, MD one of my cousins lived with us. She was an amazing woman. She worked for NASA as an engineer on the Hubble Space Telescope program. I received the VIP tour of Goddard Space Flight Center!

So yeah, I love Science and Science Fiction. If you’re an artist, the things you love inevitably end up in your art.

None of the pieces above are new, but I haven’t shown them on my website till now. For a long time I didn’t think they fit with my other work, but nowadays I just don’t have time to worry about it. It’s all a part of me. I was surprised though, when J Edward reached out to see if we could strike a deal on the use of my SciFi art for book covers. I never imagined how awesome they might look…

You can find A Door Never Dreamed Of and Darkness Between the Stars on Amazon.

I do focus more on my fantasy and nature art, but you can probably assume I always have something else in the works, behind the scenes. Right now it’s a piece I’m calling Remnants. I hope to finish it and unveil it in the next couple months. I’m also beginning to add prints to my shop!

www.amandamakepeace.com

http://makepeaceart.storenvy.com/


To celebrate the release of Darkness Between the Stars and officially incorportating my SciFi art into my portfolio, J Edward Neill and I are hosting a giveaway!! Using Rafflecopter, one person will win a paperback copy of his new book and 16×20 inch print of the original art, The War for Jupiter. This giveaway is only open to US residents (SORRY!!). The winner will receive their prizes separately from myself and J Edward Neill.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***Winner***

Congratulations to Kerry Correa for winner our giveaway!!

What if the stars started dying?

3,000 years from today, Earth is all but unrecognizable.

Stark cities made of black towers and white houses dot the planet. Tiny robots and powerful dream-inducing software keep humanity entertained. Nearly everything is automated.

But on one rural farm, a lone family lives a remarkably old-world lifestyle.

They harvest wheat. They repair their machines by hand. They drive the only combustible engine car left on Earth.

At night, the family’s youngest member of watches the stars and dreams of one day flying between them.

And when he sees them begin to disappear, he knows what will happen…

Follow Joff as he begins his journey into the Darkness Between the Stars.

Now available on Amazon.

The first chapter is free right here.

darknesskindle

The cover art is by Amanda Makepeace. Find her here.

Free ARC copies are available for reviewers. Find me here.

J Edward Neill

Author of A Door Never Dreamed Of

A Door Never Dreamed Of gets all cut up

For the next few evenings, my sci-fi novella A Door Never Dreamed Of is only $0.99 (or £0.99 in the UK.)

It goes a little something like…

A thousand years from today, nearly all of humanity is jacked-In.
We sleep, connected to machines, dreaming our lives away.
For most people, it’s the perfect life.
But for the few who never jacked-In, it’s exile.
Abandoned, persecuted, and betrayed, the Outs plot their vengeance across the centuries.
And when they open the Door, only one way of life will survive…

dnd

Buy A Door Never Dreamed Of here.

And learn more about my other titles here.

Thank you for reading,

J Edward Neill

Cover Reveal – Darkness Between the Stars

A young boy will journey into the Darkness Between the Stars.  And he may never return…

I’ll have 20 softcover editions to give away as ARC’s (advance review copies.)  If you’d like one, and if you’re willing write an honest review, look me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

And now, the amazing Amanda Makepeace cover art:

darknesspaperbackfront

darknesspaperbackback

A free preview (the entire first chapter) is here.

Darkness Between the Starsnow available via Amazon

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J Edward Neill

Author of sci-fi hit, A Door Never Dreamed Of

Creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series

A Thought for Every Thursday – How or Why?

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday at Tessera Guild I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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Finally, a Simple Question

In past ATFET’s, we’ve been pretty wordy.

This week we’re keeping it quick and easy.

So…

 Given the choice, would you rather know HOW the universe works, meaning you’d understand all the hard science behind each and every interaction taking place in our existence?

or

Would you prefer to know WHY our universe and all the individual objects within it exist, meaning you’d grasp the purpose behind everything?

Explain your reasons.

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Past ATFET’s are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

 

All Hallows Book Sale Part III

I’ve got a game for book lovers to play this Halloween.

img_2293

Every Monday through every Thursday until All Hallows Eve, I’ll be offering random Kindle books for free.

The catch, I’m not telling exactly which ones will be free on which days. You’ll just have to guess.

Each book will be free one day of each week. With six books to choose from, some days will have two freebies.

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Here’s the books:

Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover 415+yIHxswL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ WebImageFront 101 Questions for Women Cover soul-orb-ddp-cover the_strange_things_p_cover_for_kindle

Trick or treat!

J Edward Neill

The quest for book reviews – A Door Never Dreamed Of

It’s my top-selling book of all time.

It’s a deep glimpse into the darkest corner of humanity’s future.

It’s about two sides squaring off against with the entire world at stake. There is no evil. There is no good.

There is only…

A Door Never Dreamed Of

DoorNeverDreamedPaperback1

All I ask is if you pick up A Door Never Dreamed Of, you kindly leave an honest review on Amazon.

Oh, and here’s a quick and easy guide on how to review a book in 60 seconds or less.

Open the door tonight…

J Edward Neill

Funny. It doesn’t feel ‘Dark.’

Ok.

I’m done writing philosophical books for now.

I’ve got no plans to publish anything else like this weird little thing.

And I’m pretty much out of horror ideas.

So it’s like this. I’m getting back to my roots. It’s time for more darkness, more shadows, and more end-of-the-universe type books. It’s my bread and butter. It’s my dice-move on the dance floor.

My new book? It’s called Darkness Between the Stars. It’s now available to buy right here.

Here’s a splash of the Amanda Makepeace cover art:

DarknessTesseraBanner

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Oh…and here’s the entire first chapter:

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Earthbound

  

Many years before they selected me to save humanity, I knew who their choice would be.

Maybe that’s why they picked me. Maybe they planted the idea in my head when I was only a little boy. Or perhaps it was a simple matter of me guessing right. But somehow I knew.

I’m meant for something else, I remember thinking.

I’m not destined to be earthbound.

Those were strange thoughts for a six-year old boy. No, they were beyond strange. They were surreal. It was the year 4901, and I had no concept of what those feelings meant. I didn’t know anything about deep space travel, the Thousand-Year War, or humanity’s exodus from Earth. Everyone else in the world knew about these things, but not me. Not little Joff.

All I really knew were my father’s wheat fields, my mother’s love for me and my sister, and my teddy bear, Alpo, who was missing his right arm.

Alpo’s story was a funny one. He was named after an aluminum can. And it wasn’t just any can, but a three-thousand year-old one I found in the dirt in one of Dad’s fields. ‘Alpo,’ it said in faded yellow print. Maybe that’s why Dad used to say our fields were the most fertile of all. Something about being on a landfill. Something about wheat growing better on top of thirty-century old garbage.

Whatever.

I didn’t care. I was six years old. The same night I found the ancient can, I sprinted home and renamed my teddy bear. Everything in the world seemed right.

Those were the best of days. We were happy, all of us. We lived in a valley with mountains on three sides. Our fields of golden wheat swayed to breezes that never stopped. All around our little stone house, pale streams tickled the earth, clean and crisp as anything. Life wasn’t always easy, but it was quiet. Our family was untouchable, a last island floating on an ocean of technology.

Although weren’t entirely isolated.

A city lay just outside our valley.

By modern standards, Donva was a small town. To a six-year old boy who’d rarely been beyond his valley, it was awe-inspiring. They’d named Donva after the woman who’d first suggested a settlement there. Like most cities back then, it was all blacks and whites. Not the people, mind you. The buildings. Skinny dark towers jutted skyward from its heart, while warrens of pale, impossibly clean dwellings sprawled in the towers’ shadows. People lived in the little white houses and worked in the big black spires. Donva was so tight-knit that almost everyone walked everywhere. The only time anyone took a train or a hover-truck was to leave the city entirely, which most people rarely did.

I remember one of my earliest visits.

We were in the car on a warm, sunny morning. It was Mom, my sister Aly, and me. We weren’t piloting one of those fancy, matte-grey hover-trucks, but instead we rode in a combustion engine car. Yes, those. The same kind they say fouled the air centuries ago. And so rare in 4901 that only a hundred or so existed, while even fewer actually worked.

So when we rolled into town on a shiny white road everyone else used for walking, we got the best looks from people. They smiled, waved, and stopped to say hello to Mom. They didn’t begrudge our pretty chrome prize, but instead welcomed the sight. It was the way things were in Donva. It wasn’t like the big cities, the scary cities.

I’d have had more fun that morning if not for Aly. She always made it a point to start little wars with me every time we were in the car. That day was no exception.

“You’ll never get to sit up front,” she told me for the thousandth time.

“Yes I will,” I argued. “I’ll be bigger than you someday. Dad says so.”

“But I’ll always be older.” She made a face. “Which means the front is mine. Forever.”

I felt myself getting angrier. If there was one thing I hated, it was injustice. Aly saw me grinding my teeth and grinned at me. I waited for Mom to stop our brewing battle, but she didn’t. I think she wanted us to fight it out without her help.

“We’ll run out of gas someday,” I told Aly. “Dad’s big tank will go dry. Then we’ll have to walk. There won’t be any front seats. You’ll see.”

She laughed at me. “It’ll be funny, you on your skinny legs. You’ll get half a kilo, and Mom will have to carry you. Isn’t that right, Mom?”

In her fancy black shades and wide-brimmed white hat, Mom didn’t say a word. She turned the wheel and drove down a side road. I think I saw her shake her head, but from the back seat it was hard to tell.

“I’ll break your dolls.” I decided to fight dirty.

“I’ll tear Alpo’s other arm off,” Aly shot back.

“I’ll steal your books,” I huffed.

“I’ll chop off your hair while you’re sleeping.” She smirked.

“Oh yeah…well…I’ll steal your skypad,” I dared.

Aly’s mouth fell open. Mom slowed the car and took off her sunglasses. I knew right away I’d gone too far.

“What did I tell you about the skypad, Aly?” Mom stared at my sister, calm as a cloud before a storm.

Aly glared at me. If she’d have turned any redder, her head might’ve burst.

“If your father catches you with it, he won’t even bother to sell it,” Mom continued. “He’ll throw it in the combine and grind it into powder. You know how he feels about those things.”

“But Mom—” Aly tried.

“Tomorrow we’re coming back here,” Mom cut her off. “You bring the pad. We’ll sell it, and you can use the money for whatever you want. But no tech. No vids, no sprites, and no dream-makers.”

“Mom—”

“Non-negotiable,” said Mom.

And that was the end of it.

We kept driving. Aly hated me, and I didn’t say another word. I hadn’t meant to get her into trouble. I’d just blurted out the thing I knew would win the argument. I’d always been good at winning. Not so much at surviving the aftermath.

If Aly was heartbroken, she had every right to be. Our father’s disdain for technology was legendary. He didn’t like vids, which usually just spouted ads for other tech. He really didn’t like sprites, which floated around people’s heads and played whatever media their users wanted them to. And he really, really disliked dream-makers, which were known to be addictive, so much that some people never slept right after just a few days of using them.

But above all those things, Dad didn’t like skypads. Skypads were like pieces of almost indestructible paper. You cold bend them, stick them to walls, wear them, whatever you liked. And using a skypad, with the right hacks, you could connect to and view everything. If you wanted to watch a signal from a satellite on the far side of Earth, you could do it. If you fancied eavesdropping on feeds from near-orbit space stations, it was easy to make happen. But worse than anything, if you wanted live video of world news, which Dad despised, all you had to do was click a button, and every channel in the world opened up beneath your fingertips.

I was sure all Aly used her skypad for was to vid-chat with her friends, but that wouldn’t matter to Dad. He assumed the worst of most technology. And therefore he’d banned it from our household.

That night at dinner, Aly and I sat in silence at the table. Dad heaped potatoes and greens on our plate, and both of us nibbled. It didn’t take long before Dad noticed us.

“What’s on your mind, Joff?” he asked me.

“Nothing,” I fibbed.

“Aly?” he pried.

“Nothing.”

Dad took another bite. He knew something was up. But as was ever his way, he didn’t get angry.

“Nothing?” he said while he chewed. “The funny thing about nothing is that it’s always something. You went to Donva today. That’s something. You brought home salt, spices, and a new kettle. That’s something more. And I’m sure you both saw your mother’s new hat. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? That’s definitely something.”

Aly dropped her gaze to the floor. I knew what she was thinking. And I also knew our father.

He knew about the skypad.

He’d already found it.

“Just tell him, Aly,” I whispered.

“Tell him what?” She stared a hole through me.

“You know…”

Dad gave both of us The Look. We knew what it meant. Whenever he broke The Look out, it meant he wasn’t going to say another word. No one at the table, Mom included, was allowed to speak, eat, or leave until The Look was answered.

And on that night, the only right answer was for Aly to admit she’d been hiding a skypad in her room for almost three months.

I wanted to answer for her. My sense of justice told me that the sooner we fessed up, the better. But The Look that night was less for me and more for Aly. Dad wanted her to fess up, not for me to protect her.

I’m not sure how long we sat there and waited. The steam stopped rising from our potatoes and our greens got cold. Aly looked to Mom for an escape, but Mom just sat there with her hands folded in her lap. She and Dad were a wall. There was no getting around them, no climbing over. The only way to get through was to tell the truth.

“I…” Aly’s voice cracked. “I have a skypad. And I know what you’re going to say, but…it’s not what you think. I don’t care about watching the fights in the wasteland. I don’t hack into the space stations. I just talk to Sara and Melina. That’s all.”

“And?” Dad still wore The Look.

“…and sometimes steal a show from the satellites. But nothing gory, Dad. No war feeds.”

I knew she’d told the truth. Not because I believed her, but because Dad lifted his cup and took a deep swig of warm milk. He wouldn’t have done it had Aly lied. It would’ve gotten a lot worse.

“So…does that mean I can keep it?” Aly asked.

Our father let out a great gust of air. I sensed he was just a little sad.

“No,” he said.

“But why?” Aly pleaded. “I’m not using it for bad stuff!”

“I know you’re not. But the answer’s the same. It’s done, Aly. It’s gone.”

She looked angry at first, then stunned. I think her plan had been to blame me for everything. But it was obvious Dad had known all along. He’d destroyed the skypad while we’d been in the car arguing about it.

Which meant it wasn’t my fault.

 

 

* * *

 

The next months were a strange time.

The same as every day, we worked in the fields. It was summer, which meant keeping up the irrigation trenches, feeding the chickens, and doing lots of maintenance on our aging machines. Dad was teaching me to be a blackthumb, which meant I had to learn all about machinery, and that I came home every night with oily hands and dirty clothes. At six years old I probably should’ve been attending school in Donva with Aly, but Dad didn’t want that for me, and I didn’t mind.

“We’ve got enough tech designers and programmers to last ten generations,” he’d say. “So here you’ll work, learning machines. And if ever you need a job in one of the cities, you’ll be the best damn blackthumb they could hope for. You’ll be a master, and you’ll command whatever salary you want.”

And so I watched, worked, and learned all the things my father wanted, even though being a blackthumb wasn’t what I cared about. I did it because Dad wished it and I loved him, though in my heart I wanted something else. I didn’t know exactly what that something else was. But I felt it inside me, a dream smoldering in my mind, a hot thumping in my chest that wouldn’t go away.

I suppose, if I’d understood it better, I would’ve tried to snuff it out.

I don’t know if life would’ve been different. Maybe they’d have picked someone else.

Maybe not.

It wasn’t until near my seventh birthday, on a cold winter’s eve after a long day’s work hauling wood down from the mountains, I learned something about why my father was the way he was. I don’t know why I decided to go to the storage barn instead of rushing home to dinner. Tired as dirt, I wandered off the path and dropped my last stack of firewood against the barn’s outer wall.

And then I pushed the sliding door open and walked inside.

The barn was dark inside. We didn’t have any animals in it; the cattle were in a different barn. I slid inside to escape the howling wind and catch my breath before dinner, and I pushed the door shut behind me. The smells of old wood, of tools that hadn’t been used since summer, and of cold, hard soil drifted through the air. I reached out for the old bench that sat just to the door’s left, and I sank onto it, limp as a dishrag.

If I’d had a blanket, I might’ve slept the night in the barn. I was that tired.

Yet no sooner did I lean back against the creaky old bench than I smelled something else. It wasn’t wood or rusty tools or dirt.

Smoke, I know.

What’s that old saying Dad made up? About smoke and fire?

I stood back up. I don’t know why I did it quietly. Most of me knew no one else could possibly be in the barn with me.

Or could there be? I wondered.

I followed my nose. Soundless as a falling star, I crept through the darkness. I’d been in the barn a thousand times in my life. I knew where the door to the tool room was.

Five steps forward.

Turn right.

Seven steps through the narrow hall.

Now touch the door.

I reached out and touched the planks to the tool room’s door. They were warmer than I expected, and the smells wafting between the cracks caught me right in the nose. I put my ear to the door and listened. A voice, so far away, made its way to me. It wasn’t Dad or Mom, or even Aly. The voice was too small, almost like it came from…

…a skypad.

I can’t remember just when I’d learned to be so stealthy. Maybe it was part of having an older sister and knowing how to sneak past her bedroom without her coming out to chase me. But somehow, someway, I pulled the door open wide enough to see inside.

And Dad didn’t hear me.

In the little room, in the quiet heart of the old barn, he sat there on a stool, his workbench laid out before him. An old-world cigarette dangled between his fingers, but he wasn’t smoking it. Nor was he working. He had his back to me, and over his shoulder I saw the skypad’s soft blue glow. He’d stuck it to the side of our red toolbox. I saw it plain as the sun shining, a crown of wrenches standing just behind it.

I stood there and I watched. My shock at seeing Dad so absorbed in the very thing he’d always said he hated didn’t last. I guess I wasn’t really surprised. Maybe I’d known all along.

The program he’d found, The Dusktime Dispatch, flickered on the skypad’s screen. It was a blurry image, doubtless stripped from a satellite thousands of miles away. To hear the voices talking, I had to tune out the entire world, which was easier than I expected.

“What we’re looking at is all that remains of the city they used to call Lun-dun,” announced a man in a flak-jacket and a black beanie hat.

“Yes, Lukas. We know that,” said the newsman.

The two men appeared in separate frames on the skypad. On the right, the newsman sat in a too-clean office somewhere in a vast city. Meanwhile the man in the black beanie, Lukas, occupied the left frame, its edges burning bright red from the approaching sunrise. Lukas looked brawny and a bit dangerous. The skeletal remains of a vast city, which must’ve been a thousand times the size of Donva, stretched out behind him. The sight scared me more than a little.

Lukas adjusted his black beanie and continued:

“Now, as we’ve talked before, today’s the day we’re sending a team into Lun-dun to test the Exodus craters for radioactivity. It’s our hope, after all this time, the levels of poisoning might’ve dropped well below critical toxicity.”

Me being not quite seven years old, I shouldn’t have understood all those fancy words. But I did. I’d read all of Aly’s school books a dozen times, probably while she was hiding and watching the very same skypad Dad and I were watching now.

“When does your team depart?” the newscaster asked.

“In one hour,” said Lukas. “They’re suiting up in their safety gear now.”

“Well…” The newscaster looked concerned. “We’ve talked about this before, about the ERM, the Exodus Reclaiming Mission. But what we’ve never really discussed, Lukas, is exactly what you and your team hope to reclaim. Now that you’re there, and now that we’ve got every skypad in the world tuned to this feed, what can you tell us? Can you say what it is you’re looking for?”

Even on the grainy little skypad screen, I swore I saw Lukas hesitate. It wasn’t even a flinch. It was something about the way he breathed.

Whatever he says next will be a lie, I thought.

“Resources,” said Lukas. “Of course, much of Lun-dun was burned away during the Exodus. But there’s still resources. Precious things beneath the craters.”

“What precious things?” The newsman sounded skeptical.

I didn’t know why, but in that moment I wanted to hear Lukas’ answer more than anything I’d ever heard in my life. I didn’t just want to know; I needed to.

And that’s the exact moment Dad flicked the ashes off the end of his cigarette and glanced over his shoulder.

“Joff?” he said.

I didn’t know how to answer. I just stood there, frozen the same as the icicles hanging off the barn’s roof. I’d figured he’d known I was there. After all, he’d always known everything.

But this time it turned out I’d truly surprised him.

And worse, him facing me meant the skypad was blocked and I couldn’t hear what Lukas said.

Oh God. I shivered. Dad’s never gonna trust me again.

* * *

Look for Darkness Between the Stars in stores now.

In the meantime, if you liked this little chapter, you’ll definitely like A Door Never Dreamed Of.

J Edward Neill 

 

A Tale of Sliders and Tow Trucks

Life has a way of repeatedly kicking you in the nether regions at times.

Like, repeatedly.

Case in point: about a couple of weeks ago the head gasket on my car went caput, with a giant C. Smoke and/or steam began spewing from the hood, my car began making a weird sucking/ popping sound, and only by the skin of my teeth was I able to make it out of rush hour traffic to an empty driveway to wait for a tow.

A reenactment of Robert's descent into madness

A reenactment of Robert’s descent into madness

Car was taken to a shop, shop said it would take 5 days, maybe 7 max to repair.

Cool.

7 turned into 8, 8 turned into something else, new days of completion were provided, patience was provided by yours truly, and then those days were missed.

Patience began wearing thin, other missed days were promised, terse conversations followed, and FINALLY the car was repaired. Head gasket was said to be in tip top shape, and I was back on the road.

So fast forward to 6/30 (remember, this whole thing began on 6/15) I’m driving along, listening to Collider Heroes Podcast, maxin’ and relaxin’, enjoying the AC, and then I notice my temperature gauge is running hot.

And then guess what happens?

Smoke and/or steam began spewing from the hood, my car began making a weird sucking/ popping sound, and only by the skin of my teeth was I able to make it out of rush hour traffic to the side of the road to wait for a tow truck.

So there I am, sitting in the car, ticked beyond comprehension after getting off the phone with the repair shop. Told them I wasn’t paying for a repair that should’ve been handled correctly before to which they agreed, and they said to have my car towed to the shop again to be checked out.

Another reenactment of Robert losing it on the phone. Note: notice that my cell phone appears to be modeled after an old landline phone. That's so retro!

Another reenactment of Robert losing it on the phone. Side note: notice that my cell phone appears to be modeled after an old landline phone.
That’s so retro!

What to do? Stew in my anger as traffic whizzed past my immobile vehicle?

Heck no!

This situation called for something epic, something that would get my mind off of the fact that I was slowly roasting even with the windows down:

A live reaction session via FB for the first episode of that 90’s cross dimensional hopping sci-fi adventure, Sliders, through the Netflix app on my phone.

Below is the insanity that flowed from my fingers as I waited for rescue.

Enjoy.

 

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The OG’s of Cross Dimensional Travel, a.k.a The Fab Four

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Epilogue: The car got repaired the next day and is rolling along a bit better.

Thanks Sliders for getting me through it all.

Bonus: Here’s a little diddy from the Crying Man himself, Mr. Rembrandt Brown.

 

Little Mia Doesn’t Stand a Chance

In the old world city of Ellerae, one person goes missing every day.
Poor little Mia doesn’t stand a chance.
Or does she?
One dead. Every night. Forever…  

Let the Bodies

A terrifying follow-up to the short story Old Man of Tessera.

FREE for the weekend.

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Let the Bodies is one of four short stories appearing the novella, The Hecatomb.

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As ever, I appreciate your reviews.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Movie Casting for A Door Never Dreamed Of

Not all that long ago, I dreamed up a book.

And then I wrote it.

And loved every moment of its creation.

When it hit Amazon, the reactions were pretty much identical. “Make this into a movie,” my readers suggested. “Now!”

Gosh, I’d love to, I thought. A Door Never Dreamed Of might make an even better film than this and this. We’ve got opportunities for epic-scale fights and small, quiet moments of reflection. We’ve got beautiful women and huge, scary dudes. As long as we keep Michael Bay at…well…bay, it could be a sci-fi tale for the ages.

Ok. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

Maybe.

No matter. Here’s my dream cast for A Door Never Dreamed Of:

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Moz

 

Michael B. Jordan (Mozelle) – Every story worth its salt needs a hero. And who better than Creed’s shredded, skillful M.B.J. to play Moz. He’s exiled to a far-off space station. He’s millions of miles from Earth, which he dreams of every night. He’s ready for the Door to open and the war to begin. Suit up, M.B.J.. Time to fight!

 

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Anjel Chloe Grace Moretz

 

Chloe Grace Moretz (Anjel) – Gosh, Chloe grew up fast. Her Kick Ass roots revealed not only her acting ability, but her confidence and badass-ness. Therefore she’s perfect for Moz’s love interest, Anjel. She’s also an exile, but she’s definitely not as ready for war as her lover. Brains over brawn, people. Remember…

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Kodi-Smit McPhee Rafe

 

Kodi-Smit McPhee (Rafe) – You remember him as Nightcrawler from the X-Men movies. But in A Door Never Dreamed Of, he’ll play the unlucky Rafe. Awakened from his perfect, plugged-In world, he’ll have to face off against impossible odds, with nothing other than the fate of the world in the balance. Get some, Kodi.

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Absinthe

 

Margot Robbie (Absinthe) – What kind of villain is worse than a maniacal, evil tyrant? A cold, calculating woman, that’s what kind. She’s stunning. She’s smarter than everyone. She has plans that stretch well beyond Earth. I’m confident Margot has the looks and the chops to pull of the cunning, sneaky Absinthe, whose plots know no boundaries.

 

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Gerrard Gerard Butler General

 

Gerard Butler (General Gerrard) – The name similarity is a coincidence. Despite his flop in Gods of Egypt, Gerard’s been awesome in pretty much everything else he’s been in. And as General Gerrard, he’ll get to set the stage for humanity’s biggest conflict. Ins versus Outs. Jacked-In dreamers versus exiles. When he makes plans, you’d best worry.

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Bautista Zamo Kosi Dalip Singh

Dave Bautista (Zamo) and Dalip Singh (Kosi) – As mentors to Mozelle and badasses in their own right, these two behemoths get to suit up and wage war alone against entire jacked-In cities. I wouldn’t want to fight either one, but especially not if they were wearing battle suits that make them weigh 10,000 kilos. Would you?

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Frigg Idris Elba

 

Idris Elba (Frigg) – Idris has some serious acting chops. This we know. He’s also got a commanding voice (Jungle Book – Shere Khan) which he’ll need in order to become Frigg, commander of the Achilles space station, and Mozelle’s big, bad boss.

 

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Yeo Gary Oldman

 

Gary Oldman (Yeori) – Is there a movie Gary shouldn’t be cast in? I mean really? Ever since Dracula, he’s been my personal favorite actor. Here he’ll get to play the cantankerous old warrior, Yeo. He’ll have to adopt a weird accept (not a problem) and he’ll get to blow up Paris. All by himself. Sound fun, Gary? Bring it.

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Emperor Gad Hassan

 

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Gad Hassan (Emperor) – A small role, to be sure. But as Emperor, the cranky, ambitious In scholar, Gad will fall in nicely. He’ll get to poke lots of fun at Margot Robbie. Brave, indeed. Or foolish…

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Kate Beckinsale Silk the Scientist

 

Kate Beckinsale (Silk) – Perhaps no one has more sympathy for our lead character than the jacked-In Silk. We’ll nerd up Kate with glasses and an ugly, post-modern dress, and she’ll fill in nicely as one of few people who really gives a rip about anything happening on Earth.

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Judi Dench Old Woman Krubera

 

Judi Dench (The Old Woman of Krubera) – Wise and benevolent. Fair and calm in the face of any storm, Judi Dench will greet all comers with her wit and utter wisdom. She doesn’t even get a name. It won’t matter. She’ll have a crucial role in all things to come, and she’ll do it all so very quietly.

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The screenplay is in the works. The book is done.

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J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy

Creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series

Short Film: Code 8

You are in for a treat today! Code 8 is a short film that was created as a proof for a feature film. The creators ran an IndieGoGo back in March of this year–a mega successful crowdfunding campaign. This is a movie I want to see! Here’s a description from that campaign:

The film takes place in a world where 4% of the population are born with some type of supernatural ability. Instead of being billionaire superheroes, most ‘specials’ live in poverty and resort to crime, forcing the police to become more militarized.

The story follows a young man with special powers (Amell) struggling to find work as a day laborer. After a dispute over payment, he finds himself in a confrontation with a police officer (Kang) and the autonomous robots backing him up.

Extreme Sci-Fi – A Door Never Dreamed Of

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A few days ago, a friend asked me which of my books I’d most want to make into a movie.

‘This one,” I answered. “A Door Never Dreamed Of.”

It goes a little something like:

A thousand years from today, nearly all of humanity is jacked-In.
We sleep, connected to machines, dreaming our lives away.
For most people, it’s the perfect life.
But for the few who never jacked-In, it’s exile.
Abandoned, persecuted, and betrayed, the Outs plot their vengeance across the centuries.
And when they open the Door, only one way of life will survive…

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Get your copy today, and open the Door.

Your reviews are appreciated.

J Edward Neill

Author of the darkest dark fantasy series ever

And creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series

A Door Never Dreamed Of – Opened!

A thousand years from today, nearly all of humanity is jacked-In.

We sleep, connected to machines, dreaming our lives away.

For most, it’s the perfect life.

But for the few who never jacked-In, it’s exile.  

Abandoned, persecuted, and betrayed, the Outs plot their vengeance across the centuries.

And when they open the Door, two sides will meet.

But only one will survive…

A Door Never Dreamed Of

A sci-fi novella

Now Available!

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The beautiful SOFTCOVER, featuring the stunning art of Amanda Makepeace.

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The deadly E-BOOK. Ending Kindles everywhere.

J Edward Neill

Best Works Featuring “Regular Folks with Super Abilities”: Part 1

2016 is going to bring no shortage of superheroes and super-villains on both the large and small screens. We’ve got Batman vs. Superman, Daredevil: Season 2, The Suicide Squad, Luke Cage, Agent Carter: Season 2, Captain America: Civil War, and the list goes on and on.

I’m personally a huge fan of such stories, in all mediums, and as a geek/ fan of pop culture I think that we’re living in a golden age of comic book storytelling, both on and off the pages of comics.

What I’m also a huge fan of are those stories of everyday people blessed/ cursed with awe inspiring abilities who don’t necessarily decide to put on a cape and tights to save the day. Folks who find themselves caught up in a set of crazy circumstances, while trying to continue to live their lives.

Pay the bills. Deal with relationship issues. Keep a job.

Now I’m not saying that these stories don’t eventually go the way of your typical tale of super heroics, but most of the one’s that I’ve become a fan of haven’t necessarily gone this route. As in the case of comic books, there’s a huge amount of action and adventure, with a smattering of some of the best elements of great science fiction.

Sometimes some of these examples start off as solid science fiction, but wind up playing within the spectrum of  the “regular folks with powers” sub-genre.

At the root of most of these works is a focus on how the characters involved decides to work with the abilities they’ve been either blessed or cursed with. There’s no immediate call to save the day, though we eventually get there in some of these cases.

For a while there have been a number of really notable examples of movies, novels, television programs, and comics that have played within this arena. There have also been some that have been not so stellar.

This will be the start of a list that I’ll try to add on to as I come across more examples of what I think is a pretty interesting sub genre of the tights and fights area of fiction.

4400

The 4400 (Television Series)

The USA Network for me was always the home of comedies like Psych and marathon broadcast sessions of dramas like Law and Order: Criminal Intent. It wasn’t a network that delved too much in the fantastical, at least at the points where I had cable.

So color me surprised when The 4400 dropped. I’m planning on doing another post that will go into detail on the awesomeness of the television series. Needless to say USA surprised me in a very good way.

The 4400 told the story of a group of 4400 individuals who disappeared worldwide over the years, beginning in 1946. In 2004 they are brought back to a Seattle, Washington beach and a division of US government agents are tasked with figuring out what happened to them, why they’ve been brought back, and to basically watch over them.

What is soon revealed is that a large amount of these individuals have abilities, and the show then becomes a mixture of X-Files meets X-Men. For the first season we follow a pair of agents, Agent Diana Skouris and Agent Tom Baldwin who tackle a sort of “ability” of the week story line, while we also watch how this plays out on the larger story being told.

The show ran for 4 seasons, with an abrupt cancellation in the last season. There have been four novels set within the continuity of the TV show which builds the world even further that should also be checked out.

Though the show focused on the concept of people with abilities, as mentioned before, these individuals weren’t trying to be superheroes. You have people who abused their abilities for selfish gain, saw the abilities as a blessing, or even tried to use them for committing disturbing acts.

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For example there was one episode during the first season where one returnee attempted to use his ability to simply save his neighborhood, after seeing the state of decay it had experienced in the years that he’d been away. But even then, you see the effects of what happens to an untrained individual who, though they had a set of “super” abilities, paid the consequences of the harsh reality he’d attempted to change, good intentions be damned.

The story grows in scope over the later seasons as we see the true purpose for these individuals being brought back, and definitely throws in a large amount of sci-fi elements. But at the core of this larger story we always come back to how these abilities are affecting these normal, everyday folks who are in essence caught out of time.

Chronicle (Film)

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Simple synopsis of Chronicle: A group of teens at a party find a glowing rock, investigate, experience nose bleeds, black outs, and develop telekinetic abilities.

And everything else afterwards is f&^%$ing awesome.

What works about this movie is this simple synopsis. Only towards the end of the flick do we get some obligatory, grandiose hero vs. villain fight. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome, but that’s not the strongest part of the flick.

No, before then we simply get a tale of kids gaining super abilities, and just being kids.

They get a handheld camera, and just do what teens nowadays would do: show off, and have fun with these new found abilities. Whether it’s pulling pranks at a grocery store, or just flying through the Washington state skies, the teens are just enjoying these awesome abilities.

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We have the popular nice/ intelligent dude (Steve/ Michael B. Jordan), the middle of the road likeable guy (Matt/ Alex Russell), and the sympathetic outcast (Andrew/ Dane DeHaan). Through the gifting of these abilities an unexpected friendship organically grows between the three, and makes you enjoy these characters even more.

In addition to this focusing on the budding friendship between the trio, we also get a really good example of something that I’ll tackle in Jumper: a focus on what a person who has been physically/ mentally abused might do with such a set of abilities.

One of the strongest, and depressing character arcs that we see in this movie is Andrew’s, played masterfully by DeHann. He’s the butt of everyone’s joke at high school, he’s the kid with the alcoholic father who verbally and physically beats him down it seems with every single day.

Imagine what a kid like that might do if granted god like abilities? Put on an outfit and fight crime?

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Nope, he’d be more inclined to probably F’ ‘ish up, as he lashes out with a huge well of pent up pain and frustration that’s been building over the years.

Andrew probably should’ve seen a counselor in the years before the events that play out in Chronicle, but that’s not the case. Even as his new friends try to intervene and help him to see the awesome guy that they see, it’s too late.

That’s why this story works extremely well for me. You have a kid who doesn’t go the typical route that teenagers endowed with abilities might go in the world of super heroic tales of do gooders.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit the dude gets a bit too super villain-esque at the end, but the build up to that, and even the final fight make up for this.

Chronicle is a great movie, featuring a believable take on teens gaining super abilities that shouldn’t be missed.

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 Jumper by Steven Gould (Novel)

First, let’s start with this: get that movie out of your head. The one featuring that guy who played the whiny Anakin Skywalker, and Samuel L. Jackson with yet another weird wig.

The movie was fun in spots, bad in others, but got too convoluted and grandiose in the story that it was trying to tell. Nice special effects, but kind of “blah” at the middle.

Jumper, the novel was much, much, much more in terms of a sci-fi story about a kid who discovers he has the ability to “jump”, or teleport. But David Rice, the stories protagonist, doesn’t do this for the sake of fighting crime, or saving lives (at first). For a large chunk of the book this kid is running from an abusive relationship.

David’s mother left him when he was a kid, fleeing the abuse that her husband was tossing out. Rather than eventually be continually hurt by him, or worse, she decides to leave the household, unfortunately leaving David to be the sole receiver of David’s ass-hat of a father’s abuse.

So when David discovers that he can teleport, he becomes the ultimate runaway kid. And you do nothing but root for him the whole time that he does this. Imagine being able to wondrously get away from a person who does nothing but berate you, hit you, psychologically just break you down to the point where you just want to die.

That’s where David is at in the book, and we see his growth into a stronger individual as the story plays out, the further away he gets away from his father.

Later on in the story David does use his abilities for good, but this is only after he suffers a personal tragedy of sorts. Throughout the book he’s constantly escaping the crappiness that life had heaped on him, and it makes for a compelling story.

Just as Jessica Jones focused on what someone with super abilities who had been psychologically and physically abused might deal with that, I think Jumper does the same in telling a science fiction based story of a runaway who is trying to simply escape a set of crappy circumstances.


 

That’s it for this round. I’ll add more in upcoming weeks to this list. Thanks for checking it out and happy viewing/ reading.

End of Year Check-In: Writers Edition

I like writing. I love writing. Writing kicks all kinds of butt.

Writing for me has always been a way to get these crazy ideas out on paper, to give them some type of life. Ideas of those who save the day, and those who seek to destroy said day. Characters who struggle internally with self doubt, and those who are so full to the brim with cock-assurredness that they drown on it.

Writing about anything and everything is what I like to do. It’s my trade, and I’ll continue to do it for as long as I can.

So in keeping with this, I’m going to do a rundown of some of the writing that’s come and gone in 2015, and what’s slated for the future. Sit back, relax, and read on!

                                                                               2015

 

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Route 3 #3

What began way back in 2013 has now been completed in 2015. 🙂

And I’m darn proud of it.

My wife has been extremely influential in keeping me going with this series (and everything else that I write), and for that (and many other reasons) I love this woman a lot. Living with a creative type is not the easiest thing to do, and I commend her for it. Love you T’.

Without the help of John, Tony, Mark, Tanya, Pete, Sean, Ann, Omi, Anthony, Vincent, Khari, and the whole Terminus Media crew, this book could never have come to fruition in the awesome way that it has. I can’t thank these folks enough.

As of this writing, the third issue seems to be doing fairly well in terms of the reception. Feedback has been pretty positive, as folks are either jumping onto this series for the first time, or have been down with the Route 3 cause from the beginning.

With the completion of this initial story arc, I’ve completed the first part of my goal with telling Sean Anderson’s story. Here’s hoping to have many opportunities in the future to build the story of this potential hero in the making.

RFA-Book-3-Final-small-1

Radio Free Amerika # 3

Once again, major props to creator/ writer/ artist Barron Robert Bell for giving me a chance to play in his sandbox known as Radio Free Amerika. 2015 saw the release of Radio Free Amerika # 3, and a limited print run of the Radio Free Amerika graphic novel, Radio Free Amerika: Season 1.

As in the case of the Route 3 series, the third issue wraps up the first story arc of Mose B and his crew as they struggle to fight the good fight. Reception to the book has been pretty kick butt, and word continues to spread about the series.

On the writing front, it’s been an awesome opportunity to help lay out a world spanning story of war, hip hop revolutionaries, and important current event topics.

Stealth: Vol. 1, The Life and Times of Allen White (Prologue)

stealthTo be asked to help tell the origin story of a hero that you admire is a once and a lifetime opportunity. So when William Satterwhite, creator of the webcomic Stealth, approached me about writing the origin story of Mr. Allen White, a.k.a Stealth in an original graphic novel, I jumped at the opportunity

Add to this the artistic awesomeness known as Jamar Logan, and we’ve got a winner on our hands.

In 2015 we released a 19 page prologue opening the larger story, and once again, the reception we’ve received has been awesome.

The book has  superhero fights, it has an emotional moonlit conversation in a graveyard, it has a little bit of everything. Heck I’ve even got a scene in the book that got my little brother sort of choked up.

 

 

Machina Obscurum

Machina Obscurum: A Collection of Small Shadows

Once again, I’ve got to say thanks. First to my Tessera Guild crew for accepting me into the fold, way back when, and secondly to Jeremy Neill for sending out an invite for me to contribute to Machina Obscurum: A Collection of Small Shadows.

As a kid I started off writing prose. These pursuits began with a time travel novel which will never see the light of day, and numerous short stories afterwards. I kept up with writing short stories in high school, submitting some of them to my literary magazine. Fast forward to college and afterwards, and the focus then became the journalism.

Fast forward a bit more and now I’m writing comics, while still doing the freelance journalism. Prose unfortunately took a back seat, but the desire to go back to what I’d started with stuck with me.

The CrossingSo then comes Mr. Neill with his offer to contribute to an awesome anthology, and I thought to myself “sit your butt down and write”.

Enter stage left The Crossing: Moonlit Skies. This is a short story set within the larger events of The Crossing, which is a comic book series Mr. McGuire and I are collaborating on. The short is filled with adventure, and a bit of action set on a world far, far away.

 

 

 

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BlackSci-fi.com

During the back half of 2015 my output with BlackSci-Fi.com picked up in a big way. Maurice Waters is doing awesome work with his creation, and I’m just grateful to be able to hitch a ride on this awesome website.

The stories that I’ve written have run the gamut. I’ve been able to write about the personal experience of a cosplayer who was featured on a variant cover of the new Marvel Comics series Sam Wilson: Captain America. I also had an opportunity to review a gut wrenching yet timely anthology titled, APB: Artists Against Police Police Brutality.

So all in all I’m really looking forward to what 2016 will bring in the way of future opportunities.

 

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Tessera Guild

This year was a good one with my blogging pursuits, though it could’ve been extremely better. The goal has always been 2-3 Friday posts per month, and I need to start doing better with that.

The great thing about this website (aside from the awesome folks I write with here) is that I can write about any of my creative or nerdy interests. This year was no exception to this, and hopefully my output displayed the fun I find myself constantly having with writing for this website.

To top it all off, I just realized this was my first full year as a Tessera Guild contributer. 🙂

2016

 

 

DATC

Dark Universe II & The City II

My plan is to contribute to the second installments of each of these awesome anthologies, after being invited to play around in these universes.

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Route 3: Vol 1

Next year will bring the collected Vol 1 of issues 1-3 with a brand spanking new cover, bonus Route 3 content, with the ultimate goal of bring the book to a comic book store near you.

Rdio Free Amerika Season 1

RFA: Season 1

Terminus Media’s first collected trade paperback (extra content included) will be released in comic book stores in early 2016, and I’ll be grinning from ear to ear when I see this and Route 3: Vol. 1 on a comic book shelf.

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The Crossing

John McGuire and I are going to wrap this puppy up with a nice bow. Clean up the pitch. Knock out the first issue. Get it to a publisher.

In addition to this I’m brainstorming an original novella set within this world, which will flesh out the early days of Crossing, The Right Stuff style. I had so much fun with the short story, that want to keep things going with the prose in addition to comic book series.

Kaboom. Magic.

Stealth: Vol. 1, The Life and Times of Allen White (Graphic Novel) 

The hope is to have this entire project completed by the mid to late 2016. Jamar’s killing it on the upcoming book as shown below, and I’m focusing on adding to/ refining the current script.

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peyah_with_mask2 (2)The Best (Title is definitely subject to change): So guys and gals, you’re getting an exclusive preview of artwork from a comic that I and the talented Takeia Marie are partnering on. Without giving up too much, the story features alien zombies, futuristic guns, kick butt space vehicles, and an intergalactic war.

Don’t worry, we’re not taking the Michael Bay approach and jettisoning a great story, and strong character development.

We’ve got that on lock.

With me on the scripting duties, Takeia on the art, with us both building the story of this world, we’re going to kick sooooo much butt with this.

Below (and above) is concept art done by Takeia of one of our stories main protagonists, Peyah, and some of the hardware that she’ll be using.

I’m having a ball writing this, and I hope it’s reflected in the final product.

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Terminus Team Up: Amber Fox  vs. Terra Force:  A cleaned up version of the first issue in this awesome series (with new colors/ cover/ logo) will be released for the first time digitally this year featuring my scripting duties, Sean Hill (Dark Shaman, Route 3) on pencils and inks, and Lauren Brown on the brand spanking new colors.

Did I mention the awesome new cover? 🙂

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BlackSci-fi.com: Still reporting on a host of topics for the website. Assisting with a major overhaul of the webpage, and there will be an announcement soon about my work with the website coming soon.

BSF

 


 

Well, that will wrap everything up for now. The list is definitely subject to change with additional projects, so I’ll keep everyone posted.

If you want to purchase any of the projects mentioned in the 2015 portion of the post, or even from my earlier work, head to http://robertkjeffrey.wix.com/robertkjeffrey. Thanks for the support, and spread the word.

2016’s here.

Deadly Pre-release * A Door Never Dreamed Of

On New Year’s Day, a new breed of science-fiction touches down:

A Door Never Dreamed Of

When the Door between worlds opens, humanity’s last war begins…

 

Want more? Here’s a preview.

The important part: If you’ve got a Kindle, you can pre-order it TODAY.

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Cover art by Amanda Makepeace

See you soon.

J Edward Neill

Star Wars : My Thoughts Before We Wake

featuring art by the late great Ralph McQuarrie

Star-Wars-Concept-Art-New-Hope3

I’m writing this from the past.

All the way back on Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

Because today, Friday, December 18, is a big day. For me. For a lot of us. I wanted to write this post ahead of time. Before today. Before it happens. Before we see it. Before the Awakening. Before the results of all this hype and hope and speculation and excitement are known. Will we be disappointed today? Will we be thrilled? Will our prayers be answered? I don’t know and for the purposes of this post, I don’t want to know.

So I’m writing this from the past. star_wars_r2d2_c-3po_ralph_mcquarrie_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-1054461

Last night (for me, here in the past), The Force Awakens had its premiere at the Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Which means that people have seen it. A large group of people, a lot of them famous, a lot of them on Twitter. And, while I trust that none of them are going to run and tweet “Oh my God! Han Solo is just Dexter Jettster wearing a Mission Impossible Mask!”, I have deleted Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and any other social media app off my phone; deleted the bookmarks in Google Chrome. From Monday until Saturday, I am in as much of a media blackout as is possible in this day and age.

Because I don’t want to know.

I’m not a spoiler-phobe. I actually find that trend more than a little annoying, as I wrote about a while ago HERE. Do I want to know the story? The surprises? The ending? Fuck no. But mostly, I don’t want to know what people think about the movie. I don’t want to read Kevin Smith tweeting “HOLY SHIT STAR WARS IS SO GOOD!” or Patton Oswalt saying “Bad news guys…”. I don’t want to know what the critics have to say. Not a single fucking one. Not because I don’t like critics, but because I have no interest in what other people think about the movie.

I only care about what I think about it.

Two reasons for this:

1. There are at most a dozen people in this world whose opinions on film I actually respect. Who I can talk movies with in a way that satisfies me. Whose praise or condemnation of a film can actually sway my desire to see it. Does this make me a snob? Fuck yes. I embrace being a snob. I don’t care what most people think because I think I know better. It’s an ugly truth about me but a truth all the same. I feel that way about all movies; with Star Wars I feel it tenfold.

2. Knowing the general consensus on a film’s quality undoubtedly taints your experience in watching it for the first time. If the praise is effusive, often times you are disappointed by what you see because it was merely “good”, not “amazing” as every keeps saying. For me, I call this the Something About Mary effect. Conversely, if the word on the film is bad, if people are ripping it, if the cursed Rotten Tomatoes (boy do I hate Rotten Tomatoes) rating is low, you go into it expecting bad and you look for the bad. All you can see is the bad. And you don’t want to feel like an idiot for liking something that everyone else hates. Or you can go the other way. You’ve heard the film is bad, you go see it, enjoy it, and think “That was much better than everyone is saying. I don’t get it.” That happened with me on The Dark Knight Rises. The word wasn’t great on it but when I saw it I enjoyed it. Looking back, I realize those low expectations inflated my opinion of the film. I bought it on blu-ray the day it came out and haven’t been able to watch it all the way through even once. I find it mediocre and disappointing.

star-wars-mcquarrie3I don’t want to walk into the theater today with that baggage.

I’m bringing in enough with me as it is.

Because, well…

I love Star Wars more than you.

Since I don’t know who you are, dear reader, it’s understandable if you find that statement laughable.

But I love Star Wars more than you because Star Wars is my thing.

And it has been since 1980.

When I was four years old, my parents let me stay up to watch the network television debut of Star Wars. It was hosted by Billy Dee Williams (which is how I know it was around 1980), from a badly mocked-up version of what I would later learn was the Mos Eisley cantina. (Did you know it was owned by a Wookiee named Chalmun? Of course you didn’t. No reason you should. But I do. Because Star Wars is my thing.)

Like so many people, the first time seeing George Lucas’s Star Wars changed my life. I was never the same after that. I had, at the age of four, fallen truly, madly, and deeply in love.

I obviously don’t remember every detail of that night, but I remember enough. I remember the opening shot of the Blockade Runner (the Tantive IV) and the Star Destroyer (the Devastator) coming over the top of the screen and thinking the child’s equivalent of “holy shit!”. Being terrified of Darth Vader. I remember the cantina, obviously. Ben cutting off Ponda Baba’s arm. Meeting Han Solo. Seeing the Falcon for the first time. I have very strong memories of the trash compactor and, after that, the image that probably stuck most in my mind: Luke and Leia swinging across the chasm in the Death Star. Of course, the getaway fight with the TIE Fighters was amazing (“Don’t get cocky!”).

But what left an indelible impression on me was the final assault on the Death Star, later known as the Battle of Yavin. It enraptured me in a way I had never experienced. Starting with the scene in the briefing room where they break down the plan (I have this thing. Don’t know what it is, but my favorite scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark is when Indy uses the chalkboard to explain to the guys, one of them the actor that played Jek Porkins in A New Hope, how the Staff of Ra worked. Don’t know why that is.) and then of course the visuals, the action. It was so damn exciting and tense. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I had seen very few movies, so it never occurred to me that of course the hero was going to save the day. I was four. I didn’t know that it was an automatic thing in movies like this. I was terrified for Luke every step of the way. He’s just a kid from a farm! This is so dangerous! How is he going to make it out alive?

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Ships crash. People die. Darth Vader starts mowing down Y-Wings in his funky looking fighter (TIE Advanced x1). It was all too much.

Then Luke switched off his targeting computer.

I stopped breathing.

Then, it happened. The moment that brings me chills every time I think about it, let alone see it. Seriously. Right now, seeing it in my head, I’m getting that feeling.

Just when it looked like Vader was going to shoot Luke down. Just when the Rebellion was about to be blown to oblivion, a miracle happened.

“Yahoo!”

The Falcon came down out of the sun and saved the day.

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They came back! Han and Chewie came back! If you were an adult, you probably knew it would happen. Because that’s how movies work. The cynical loner always grows a heart and comes back to help. But as a child? I had no idea it was coming.

And when it did, I felt it for the first time.

The jolt. The shiver. The surge.

For all I knew, at that moment, 35 years ago, it was The Force Itself.

That feeling, you know? The potent injection of emotion that seems to shoot up your spine when you see, hear, read something that just hits you in a place you never knew you had. It’s the white soldiers cheering “give ‘em Hell!” to the 54th Massachusetts as they leave to die attacking Fort Wagner. It’s a brave vampire slayer leaping to her death to save both her sister and the world (“She saved the world. A lot.”). It’s the “Ode to Joy”, when that damn chorus comes in and the bliss crackles like electricity under your skin.

I was paralyzed with… I don’t know what that feeling is. It’s a cocktail of emotions, universally known but undefined. Just that… rush. That feeling.

It was the first time I had felt it.

It was riding my first roller coaster.

It was losing my virginity.

Drinking my first beer.

I have George Lucas to thank for that. And I thank him, as all fans should, for giving us this gift.

I also wanted more.

star_wars_movies_atat_ralph_mcquarrie_fan_art_1280x800_wallpaper_wallpaper_2560x1600_www-wallpaperswa-comThe first Star Wars trilogy was an enormous hit. Millions and millions of people are fans of the films. Made Lucas a brand of his own, the most successful independent filmmaker in history. The original trilogy is beloved the whole world over. Especially The Empire Strikes Back, nearly universally considered the best of the films.

But my love affair didn’t stop in 1983 when Return of the Jedi was released. I didn’t think “Well, that cool thing is over. On to the next thing.”

I was in love. I still wanted more.

And to get more, I had to dive deeper. And there wasn’t a whole lot there.

I’ve seen the two pretty-awful Ewoks TV movies more than a dozen times each. Why? Because they were Star Wars. Same with the “Droids” and “Ewoks” cartoons. I read the seven available Star Wars spin-off novels, including the very enjoyable Han Solo and Lando Calrissian series. I read the lackluster Marvel comics.

But between 1983 and 1991, it was slim pickings for a kid who wanted more of his favorite thing.

But in ’91, a novel was published. Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. It took place 5 years after Episode VI and heir-to-the-empire-coverstarred all of the original characters, and introduced a few new ones, including one of the great Star Wars villains (hell, characters) of all time. Soon after, in the world of comic books, Dark Horse got the Star Wars license and released “Dark Empire”, which took place a year after Heir to the Empire. It was a bleak story about Emperor Palpatine rising from the dead to take one last stab at conquering the galaxy.

With those two pieces of fiction, the entity that would eventually be called the Expanded Universe was born. It would live and grow for almost a quarter of a century.

And I experienced all of it. Every novel. Every comic book. Every video game. Every role-playing game. Every encyclopedia. Star Wars became much more than three movies for me.

Even through the Special Editions and the Prequels, the Expanded Universe thrived. The novels and comics kept coming. Some were great. Some sucked. Most were in the middle somewhere. But the Star Wars galaxy continued to grow outside of the movies. In the case of the prequels, it often times eclipsed it in terms of quality. When 2005 was over, and Revenge of the Sith had come and gone, Star Wars wasn’t over for me like it was for so many others. I hadn’t abandoned it because of the quality of the prequels. Because to me it was so much more than six films. The movies were the most important aspect, sure, but I enjoyed the prequel era. While Lucas’s movies were bad (at times horrible), with several great moments, they spawned so many interesting stories between the cracks. In comics. And fiction. And in the spectacular “Clone Wars” television show.

I can imagine losing faith in Star Wars if all you know is the films. I don’t begrudge anyone for being done with the franchise after the prequels. Nor do I blame people for hopping back on in hopes that The Force Awakens is awesome. Please, come back to Star Wars. But also understand that some of us never left. Not out of blind loyalty, but because we’re fans. Not fans of the Star Wars movies; fans of Star Wars as a whole, the entire multi-media giant it has grown into.

MCQ-dagobah

Now George Lucas is out. Disney, Kathleen Kennedy, Lawrence Kasdan, and J.J. Abrams are in. The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi.Everyone is excited to see what things are like, what’s happened, what’s going, three decades after the death of the Emperor and Darth Vader. So am I. Except, I’ve already seen it. The novels hit “30 years later” a long time ago. In the (now defunct) Expanded Universe, a lot happened in those years. Weddings. Births. Deaths. New villains. New heroes. Wars. Adventures. Tragedies. Triumphs. A fully fleshed-out timeline that has been built upon that first wonderful Timothy Zahn novel.

None of this has any bearing on The Force Awakens. This is a new timeline. A new vision. One that only includes the films and animated TV shows as “canon”. And I’ve come to terms with that. It’s fine. It’s all make-believe bullshit anyway. But it will be impossible for me to not bring all that (fictional) history with me. That knowledge is in my DNA. It’s part of what makes me me.

J.J. Abrams is without a doubt a Star Wars fan. But, if I had to guess, not the same type of Star Wars fan as I am. He loves Star Wars and I think he is going to make a film that represents it well. Except, his Star Wars is not my Star Wars. My Star Wars galaxy is so much bigger than most people’s. The question is really going to be, for me, is “is what J.J. loves about Star Wars the same thing I love about Star Wars?”. Maybe, but maybe not.

RMQ-CarkoonSkiff

What do I want this new movie to be?

I want it to be a good story.

I want it to feel like Star Wars.

I want the Kurosawa screen wipes between scenes instead of dissolves and cuts.

I want Harrison, Mark, and Carrie to be Han, Luke, and Leia.

I want Rey and Finn and Poe to be great characters that I will enjoy watching carry on the saga.

I want it to feel old and new.

I want someone to say “I have a bad feeling about this.”

I want John Williams to make me bawl like a baby.

I want it to pay homage to George but not be an homage to George. There’s a difference. Ask Bryan Singer.

I want Kylo Ren to be badass.

I want Captain Phasma to be badass-er.

I want it to be its own movie but also earn the title “Episode VII” and feel like part of the greater saga.

I want it to be good.

I want it to be great.

I want to love it.

ralph-mcquarrie-star-wars-original-artwork-concept-lucas-films-9

What do I not want?

I do not want Luke Skywalker to be evil.

That is the one thing that could turn me off of Star Wars for a very long time. Make me lose faith in the new regime. I think it would betray the original films, the films that everyone behind The Force Awakens say they are trying to do right by.

“Where’s Luke?” has been the refrain as the hero of episodes IV through VI has been absent from the poster, the trailers, the TV spots, and the toys. “Where is Luke?!?”

There could be many reasons why they haven’t shown Luke Skywalker in any of the promo material. Maybe he’s not in it that much. Maybe he’s only in scenes that are later in the film and they don’t want to spoil anything. Maybe his entrance into the movie is so motherfucking Orson-Welles-in-The-Third-Man-awesome that they want to hold onto it. Make us wait for it. Because when I see Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker, 32 years after he did it last, I’m going to cry. The quality of his reveal will determine whether I just get misty-eyed or curl up into a sobbing ball on the floor of the theater. I want his entrance to floor me. I want to feel like a kid again.

He could also be a bad guy. That would be a legitimate reason not to reveal him until we see the film, as some have speculated. I really hope that’s not true.

Because I don’t know what I’d do. They would have to do it REALLY well to keep me watching.

They could have Jar-Jar and Wickett talk about midichlorians for two hours and I’d still be there for Episode VIII. But making Luke the bad guy…?

Let’s hope not. MCQ-emperor

As this posts, 1:20 pm, EST, I am sitting down with my father and brother at the Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station theater in downtown Atlanta to watch The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D. The last time I saw a Star Wars film in the theater with these two people that I love: 1983. So that, in itself, will be special.

If you are reading this within two and a half hours of me posting it, I am currently sitting in a darkened theater with an appropriately StarWarsian mix of hope and fear. I don’t need this movie to be good. If it’s not, I’ll still be a Star Wars fan tomorrow. I’ll be sad Star Wars fan, sure, for a while, but I’m not walking away. When my baseball team has a bad game, a bad season, even a bad decade, I don’t stop wearing their caps. I don’t stop rooting for them, watching their games, going to see them when they come to town. And even if the last year was horrible, I still start the next season with hope that they’ll get it right this time.

I feel the same way about Star Wars. In all of pop culture, there is nothing that is nearer to my heart. That’s why I wanted to write this before seeing the film. To express my undying love. No matter what I am experiencing at this very moment, I will be a Star Wars fan tomorrow.

As for my opinions on The Force Awakens, I will express them. On Saturday I will be recording another episode of the NEEDLESS THINGS podcast where we will have a round table discussion about the film. The episode will be available online soon after the film comes out, if you really want to hear me talk about it. I’m sure I’ll have one or two or five hundred things to say.

I may even let the other panelists talk. If I’m feeling generous.

Thank you, George.

Good luck, J.J.

It’s time. You psyched? I’m psyched.

Let’s do it. Here we go.

Punch it, Chewie.

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May the Force Be with You,

Chad J. Shonk
December 15, 2015

22 Shadows hit the Streets

Winter is coming…

And with the cold season’s arrival, it’s time to gather ’round the fire and read until the world thaws.

We’ve got just the remedy:

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows

Now available

With 22 sci-fi, fantasy, and deadly modern short stories by: J Edward Neill, River Fairchild, John McGuire, Chad J Shonk, JL Clayton, Phil Elmore, Roy T Dodd, Robert Jeffrey II, and F Charles Murdock

Machina Front Cover

The sexy matte-black SOFTCOVER. A bounty of fantastical tales to steal your nights away.

 

Machina Front Cover

The electrifying E-BOOK. Drown in the deep, dark waters of your Kindle.

Get yours today.

J Edward Neill

A Door Never Dreamed Of – Cover Reveal!

 

A few weeks ago, I teased the backstory for my upcoming sci-fi novella, A Door Never Dreamed Of.

As for the cover art, it’s been done for more than a month.

In August I reached out to Tessera Guild goddess, Amanda Makepeace. It felt like an obvious choice. I mean…she’d already done amazing work on the covers for The Sleepers, Hollow Empire, Nether Kingdom, and Old Man of Tessera. I never had any doubt about who I was gonna ask.

For almost a year, I’d been itching to find a way to get Amanda’s painting, The Jupiter Event, onto one of my book covers. I just happened to be wandering her website when I stumbled across it. After seeing it, I  knew it would be a perfect fit. After all, Jupiter is half the setting of the book (sort of.)

The scary, spidery, black-as-death image she’d created was perfect for the Achilles space station, home of the exiled Outs.

 And so…

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A Door Never Dreamed Of

Update: this title is NOW AVAILABLE!

If you need cover work or if you just want cool art for your house, I suggest Lady Makepeace. You can’t go wrong.

J Edward Neill

Behind The Scenes of The Crossing: Moonlit Skies

Machina Front Cover

 

On December 8th, I’ll have a story called The Crossing: Moonlit Skies published in the short story collection, Machina Obscurum- A Collection of Small Shadows.

Before we jump into this, let me give a little bit of background.

Rewind a few years ago: my fellow Terminus Media/ Tessera Guild teammate, John R. McGuire, and I joined forces and each brought a concept for a story to the table, to collab on together.

For a while I’ve played around with the idea of doing a comic book mini-series which dealt with cross dimensional hopping, high-adventure style. 🙂

So during an initial meeting at Appelebee’s (you’ve got to have great food to generate great ideas. I think Stephen King said that….. yeah we’ll go with that), I brought a concept called The Crossing, which delved into the aforementioned dimension hopping adventure concept. I’d fleshed out some characters, a story, and with the awesome writing/ plotting talents of my writing brother in arms Mr. McGuire, we came up with what I think will grow into an awesome comic book mini-series, heck, franchise.

PARALLELEARTHS

 

We’ve currently got a pitch that we’re prepping to get to publishers.

A kick ass artist in Sean Hill.

Two awesome writers.

A dimensions spanning story.

High adventure.

A diverse cast.

Magic. 🙂

But until we find a home for the series, I’ve had an itch to continue to play around in this universe that’s kept me up many nights.

Enter stage left The Crossing: Moonlit Skies. Sort of an “interlude” within the larger story being told in The Crossing, we get a snapshot of the crazy, and tense multiple dimension travels that series our protagonists find themselves caught up in.

QC

Ever since watching Greg Rucka expertly wind his world of Queen and Country between comics and prose, I’ve wanted to try my hand at doing the same. Having an opportunity to expand the larger story of a property across many mediums, with original stories, is a goal that I’ve wanted to accomplish, and The Crossing: Moonlit Skies is the end result.

 Many thanks to Jeremy for allowing me to add this story to the mix of Machina Obscurum: A Collection of Small Shadows.

Dec 8th. Mark your calenedars.

 It’s going to be bumpy ride. 🙂

Machina Obscurum – Set List of Shadows

Coming in early December…

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows

More than 20 shadowy shorts by authors: J Edward Neill, Chad J Shonk, River Fairchild, John R McGuire, Phil Elmore, JL Clayton, Robert Jeffrey II, F Charles Murdock, and Roy T Dodd

 

Tread lightly into ancient, forbidden realms.  Wander into the futures of apocalyptic worlds. Know what it feels like to face the darkness alone. 

No matter what whets your appetite: sci-fi, horror, fantasy, or hard, dark realistic fiction, A Collection of Small Shadows has it all.

…and more.

Machina Front Cover

Contents:

The Stiletto

Appetite

My Ears Rang 

The Sleepers

Phoenix

The Jupiter Event

Proxy: Fontane Di Roma

Til the Last Candle Flickers

Old Man of Tessera

Let the Bodies

Crispin

Murgul

And I Feel Fine

The Crossing: Moonlit Skies

Ice Cream

The Journal

The Sound of Silence

By the Time I get to Arizona

The Dark That Follows

Herald of Tessera

Crawl 

* * *

Will be sold as a sexy black matte softcover and an electrifying e-book.

The Write or Die Project is complete.

J Edward Neill

Back To The Future II: A Fan Reminisces

For me personally, this week was a GLORIOUS WEEK to be a sci-fi fan.

We got a new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.

I picked up my copy of The City: A Cyberfunk Anthology, a book that I’m loving.

I’ll have the first draft of my short story set in the world of The Crossing ready to be sent off for edits soon, which will be submitted for this awesome anthology.

And then there was 10-21-15.

Before we jump into why I feel this day held so much significance for fans of one particular movie franchise known across the world, lets hop back into the ‘ole Delorean.

It was 1989 and I was living in Chicago. My mother had taken my brother, myself, and a few cousins to the theater to see Back To The Future II. I was a huge fan of the first movie, having killed our VHS copy of Back To The Future upon subsequent viewings (an act that would also occur with our copies of Hook and New Jack City. Weird combination, I know).

Back-to-the-Future

To say the first movie blew my mind was a huge understatement. You’ve got time travel. You’ve got great comedy. You’ve got the weirdest, awesomest (not a word, I know) buddy adventure pairing of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and past/present Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) that I don’t think has been matched since. There was a homicidal bully/ antagonist. Wrongs being righted. Timelines being changed. Crispin Glover in all of his manic weirdness. A skateboard chase sequence. Great acting. A solid story that just damn worked.

And one of the greatest ending’s to a movie ever.

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

And to think that there weren’t any immediate plans for a sequel, that the movie was just going to end on this huge cliffhanger, is mind boggling. As a kid, your brain just starts racing with the possibilities.

“No roads?” younger Robert said to himself as the credits rolled in the darkened living room.

“Means some serious ‘ish is about to go down.”

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The moment young Robert’s mind melted.

Ok, I wasn’t cursing at the age of 7, but you get the point.

So fast forward to 1989. Back To The Future II hits, and my 7 year old mind is just ready to be blown to bits.

And it was. 🙂

Once again you’ve got McFly and Doc Brown (who just work so darn well with each other). Cripsin Glover is gone, replaced by some dude in bad old person make up. The homicidal Tannen family are still around. Time travel. Doubles. Action. Adventure. More time travel.

B2F2

And here’s where it gets crazy.

You’ve got a wacked out version of the future. 10-21-15. There was a time when anytime maybe, 30 years plus ahead in the future was seen as possibly being this crazy foreign period where things would be extremely outlandish.

Back To The Future II wasn’t an exception. You had flying cars. Interactive 3D movie ads. Crazy fashion styles. Video phone calls (yeah, not too crazy now with things like Face Time and Skype). And hoverboards.

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As a kid seeing all of this, and with later viewings, it was a fun peek into what could be. Seeing Marty rolling around on his Mattel  branded hoverboard was awesome, and had all of us debating if some shadowy government program had created this technology in the real world.

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We were kids. Don’t be too harsh.

The flying cars were great. I wanted Marty’s self-lacing Nike’s and blow dry jacket then and there. Griff Tannen and his height growing abilities was crazy. Duck Hunt being seen as a golden oldie of the video game era was a fun nod to the Nintendo games we were then playing. And the Cubs had won the World Series.

As a kid, this is what I appreciated the most. The more visceral, fun nods to what the future could possibly bring.

The movie also ends with a teaser for the third installment that was being filmed shortly after the second movie was completed. As a kid, to have a guaranteed movie coming down the line was a fun surprise, as it confirmed we’d be seeing more of Marty and Doc’s cinematic escapades.

In this day and age where such end credit teasers are common place with big budget movies, Back To The Future II was the first time I’d experienced this. Marty and Doc in the Wild West?

Take my mother’s money, because she was going to be the one paying for that shindig.

Upon subsequent viewings, as I got older, other things started to stand out.

First and foremost, I think this would have been the first time I’d been introduced to the idea of alternate timelines. Sure there were things like Days of Future Past before, and any host of other sci-fi TV shows, and films that dealt with this idea, but this was the first time I’d experienced the concept firsthand.

hell-valley

When Doc Brown broke down how old Biff stealing the Grays Sports Almanac created Hell Valley (please see the movie for further explanation if you haven’t seen it) was just mind blowing as a kid, but appreciated for a cool storytelling tool as I got older. The idea that one man’s selfish pursuit of wealth destroyed the idyllic town of Hill Valley creates a dark tone for the flick , providing a counter balance to the whimsical adventure that we’d been experiencing before. And this alternate timeline confirmed for me that the Tannen’s are a group of murdering psychopaths.

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That face just screams psycho. Actually that face just screams all the time.

Another idea that continues to resonate with me is that as much as you might think you’re laying the foundations for a successful future, that’s not always going to be the case.

Case in point: where future Marty’s life winds up. He’s working a crappy job, his dreams of being a professional guitarist are out the window. His family life is kind of blah, and rather than try to rebuild what’s fallen around him, he continues to make bad decisions based on some crappy sense of bravado.

Now that I think about it, where did dude’s obessession with being called a chicken come from? That was totally out of left field.

Sorry, I digress.

Not saying that all of our lives have a tendency to turn bad or horrible, it was just interesting to see that the screenwriters sought to show that everything wasn’t so peachy keen in the McFly household. Remember, Doc’s whole reasoning to come back was to save Marty’s son from going to jail, which led to a downward spiral in regards to the McFly family. For a sci-fi adventure you could say such a concept being introduced was as Marty would say “Heavy”.

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The same could be said for the horrible direction that Biff takes with his greed filled run of murder and gambling. Biff chooses to be an opportunistic ass, who leaves nothing but pain and misery in his wake. And he accepts this, and revels in it, creating the hellish alternate timeline Marty and Doc head towards.

I know it’s a stretch to think that B2FII (as it’s known to all the cool kids) might have something to say on life decisions. But often we find that science-fiction can be used to speak to our personal experiences. Heck, I know as I get older, that as much as I may want to move things in a certain direction, that’s not always going to be the case, try as I might. But if I don’t at least try, then nothing will happen.

The thing to realize is even though the chips may not fall where you want them to, you still have opportunities to make those decisions. As long as you at least try. Roads less traveled and all that jazz.

I know I’m jumping movies a bit, but I feel the final scene from Back To The Future III sum’s this up perfectly:

bttf3

Jennifer Parker: Dr. Brown, I brought this note back from the future and – now it’s erased.

Doc: Of course it’s erased!

Jennifer Parker: But what does that mean?

Doc: It means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.

Marty McFly: [Marty wraps his arm around Jennifer] We will, Doc.

That scene always gets me on that ‘ole sappy emotion level.

So to round things out, I’ll go on the record and say this is my favorite movie trilogy of all time.

Watch this movie. Heck, watch the trilogy in a binge session and just enjoy some good cinema. Happy post October 21, 2015/ Back To The Future II day.

I almost ran off with this hoverboard. But that probably would've screwed up my future timeline.

I almost ran off with this hoverboard.
But that probably would’ve screwed up my future timeline.