Monday, September 29, 2014

Blog Update


I've just finished a series of articles on nukes that I think you're going to like. After they're done, though, you may be on your own for a while. At that point, instead of posting an article every Wednesday, I'll be posting articles whenever the hell I feel like it.

Lucky for you, between the nuke series and some other material I've already completed, I have about two month's worth of articles in the kitty. By which I mean, they're literally inside a cat. See, whenever I have more articles than I can post, I feed the excess to Ms. Sprinkles and she poops them out on a semi-regular basis, thereby providing me with a slow trickle of material for the blog. So if you ever think my articles are shit, you're technically correct.

Anyway, why is this horrible thing happening to you in two months?

It's because you masturbate. God hates you for that and so do I. Also, I'm at various stages of writing, editing, or agent-shopping three different novels right now. So yeah, I'm a little over-committed on the novel front and this poor, innocent, non-masturbating blog is going to suffer for it.

Sorry.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Unspeakable Horror of Pee Wee's Playhouse

Pee-Wee's Playhouse Sign

Have you ever wondered how Pee Wee’s Playhouse came about?

No, seriously. How do you explain a cowboy living in the same neighborhood as a member of some sort of cow aristocracy? How can furniture talk? How can early ‘90s technology produce a sentient robot? Why would the King of Cartoons deign to visit a backwoods playhouse on a weekly basis? What kind of sea captain can trek inland on such a regular schedule, leaving his ship idle at port? How can “the most beautiful woman in Puppetland” be a human being who, due merely to her species, must be a hideous abomination to most of the locals? How can fish speak while underwater? Why does a playhouse with one occasional resident need a full time lifeguard? Who the hell would be brave enough to sit in Chairy? How could such an aerodynamically compromised pterodactyl manage to fly? How could a person, even a person as shallow as Pee-Wee, waste magic wishes on such petty desires? How can a kite predict any element of the weather apart from the wind direction? Why does Pee Wee let tiny little Randy intimidate him? Why is Randy even allowed to stay in the playhouse, if he’s so abusive? Why are the ants the most typically human characters we ever see? How could someone bring themselves to eat talking food?

So many unanswered questions. It seems that it would require a vast and complex theory to explain it all.

Or perhaps not. In science, we look for simple answers. But what single factor can explain all of these strange and diverse mysteries?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have your answer. The single factor that can explain everything is Jambi.

Pee-Wee's Playhouse Jambi

Jambi is the only character on Pee Wee’s playhouse with the incredible power necessary to cause these paradoxes. Jambi is the only one who could create such terrible, sentient monstrosities, and at once rob them of all self-awareness of the bleak horror of their existence.

But wait, there's a problem with our theory. Jambi can’t execute his will by himself. He needs a person, a host if you will, to make wishes so that he may grant them.

But who would be sick enough to wish for such things as these?

You may be tempted to say Pee Wee, and in a way you’re right, but it isn’t as simple as that. Pee Wee may be clinically insane, but he isn’t hurtful. He would never wish a human being into furniture. In fact, he would never do harm to any living thing, except by accident.

Except by accident.

An accident such as… a misguided wish? A misguided wish, fulfilled by a genie—a mystical creature who, according to myth, is capable of evils even greater than humanity’s.

Genie Djinn

And so the picture becomes clear. Pee Wee discovered Jambi’s box, perhaps on an archeological dig. We don’t know what Pee Wee did for a living, after all. He could have been anything. Perhaps his history is less glamorous. Perhaps he was merely a janitor, cleaning the archives at a museum, when he found The Djinn’s Box.

Whatever the story, however Jambi caught hold of Pee Wee, the djinn offered him the customary wish. And Pee Wee, because he is such a kind soul, wished for something selfless, something pure, something good.

He wished for an end to world hunger. The evil djinn Jambi grinned and chanted those chilling, fateful words: “Mekka lekka high, mekka hiney ho!”

Pee Wee stared into the eyes of the powerful creature and, too late, saw the evil lurking within. “No!” he cried. “I take it back!” But it was too late.

Pee-Wee big eyed stare

For the only one left was Pee Wee. He ran out into the street to find that he alone was left alive in a world of the dead. A world without life, but a world that would never, ever go hungry.

“You seem like a nice boy,” Jambi the Worldkiller said to Pee Wee. “I’ll grant you another wish, so you can fix things.”

Pee Wee fell to his knees and begged, “Take back my wish! Please take it back, Jambi!”

“I can’t take back your wish, Pee Wee. But I can grant you another.”

“Then bring them back! Bring everyone back!” Pee Wee was weeping now. “Please bring them back.”

“If I bring them back,” said the evil spirit, “there will be hunger. That would be taking back your first wish.”

Pee-Wee's Freakout

Pee Wee sobbed into his hands. “Then bring them back without hunger! Find a way, I beg you!”

“Granted.” This time, the magical words chilled Pee Wee to the bone, as the djinn said again, “Mekka lekka high, mekka hiney ho!”

And the dead rose. Not as living flesh, but as horrible abominations. Furniture. Windows. Clocks. Each took the form of some object, and became an animate creature of felt and stuffing.

Awaking to this nightmare and seeing what they had become, their horrible screams tore through windows and echoed through the streets. All humankind woke to find themselves transformed into creatures more ghastly and terrible than Kafka’s worst imaginings.

For they were puppets. But puppets do not feel hunger.

You're a Wee Little Puppet Man! (Angel)

“Don’t despair,” said Jambi. “Not everyone’s a puppet. A few humans remain. Just enough so that there will always be enough food for them. Of course, I don’t know how they’re going to react to what’s happened. Perhaps you should find them and gather them together. I think we’ll all have lots of fun together.”

Pee Wee blinked through his tears and leveled a hateful gaze upon the djinn. He steeled himself and said, “I wish I were dead.”

Jambi smiled. “Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said. “Why don’t you take a walk through this new world you’ve created? Have some fun. Then, if that’s what you really want, I’ll grand you another wish in, say, one week?”

Pee Wee did not respond. He rose silently and walked through the streets. All around him, the puppet people wailed and cried out in their lamentations.

All because of him.

And Pee Wee laughed—a mad little giggle on the cusp of sanity. “Ha ha!”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Memo: The Recent Changes at Alliance Psychic Research Institute

To: All surviving personnel, Alliance Psychic Research Institute
From: New Director, Alliance Psychic Research Institute
Subject: Recent Changes


You may have already noticed some changes here at the institute when you came into work today. If you’re worried about your positions, allow me to assure you: for the foreseeable future , there will be no further layoffs and/or assassinations by shadowy Council agents. So if you’re reading this and not spurting blood onto your monitor from a severed brachiocephalic artery, congratulations! You made the cut.

Which is not to say that you’re off the hook.

You people brought a precocious, hyperintelligent teenager in here, taught her eight types of karate, honed per psychic powers to a razor edge, and then acted surprised when she escaped from your lightly guarded facility. Frankly, I’m only shocked that it took so long, and that she needed any outside help at all. In fact, under the circumstances, I’m surprised she didn’t invent a teleporter powered by your collective stupidity and use it to beam herself out.

Which is to say: we expect better critical thinking from you in the future.

In the weeks ahead, you’ll be seeing some changes in and around the facility. And when I say “around”, I mean it, because we’re planning to move this entire program into space. I hope you like looking at stars from your office window.

Why launch you all into space? To put it in one word: security. If another candidate escapes our facility, we would like it if they escaped into the cold vacuum of interplanetary space. Don’t worry. All the amenities are moving with you. You’ll still have an on-site gym, after work enrichment classes, and Wednesday will still be Hot Dog Day in the cafeteria. It’ll just be Hot Dog Day in space—which, if you ask me, is even better. And if you’re worried about being away from your families, don’t fret, because we’re bringing them all with us.

As hostages.

So don’t fuck up again, or your loved ones will pay the price for your incompetence.

That’s enough admonishments and threats, though. Now on to some good news! We’ll have some new faces joining us soon. Notice that I didn’t say “people”, because no one’s entirely certain about that, but you’ll know these operatives by the blue gloves they wear. When I inquired about it, I was simply told that they’re “afraid of catching germs from door knobs.” So you want to remember to sneeze into your sleeve around them, or they might kill you with a sonic weapon that causes excruciating pain and bleeding from every orifice.

That’s what their resumes say, anyway. They also say that they’re very good at volleyball, so I expect the upcoming  interdepartmental volleyball season to be a hot one. Just be careful you don’t spike the ball into one of their faces, or they might kill you with a sonic weapon that causes excruciating pain and bleeding from every orifice.

They’re here straight from Alliance High Command, so please extend them every courtesy and do not get between them and the cafeteria steam trays on Hot Dog Day. If you get between them and the cafeteria steam trays on Hot Dog Day, they may kill you with a sonic weapon that causes excruciating pain and bleeding from every orifice.

In other personnel news, Gary from accounting will be moving up to the head of that department. So if you see Gary in the hall, please congratulate him.

Looking through my records, I see that no one who survived the layoffs ever worked directly with the Tam girl, meaning that no one currently employed in the R&D department knows exactly what went wrong. To help keep you from making the same mistakes again, I’m instituting the following rules:

  • No VIP guests are permitted in the testing areas. If key members of Parliament want to see what we do here, we’ll make them a goddamn video tape.
     
  • Effective immediately, all fruity oaty bars are to be removed from the vending machines, and no fruity oaty bar or fruity oaty bar advertisements of any kind are allowed on site. This institute will not be held liable for what happens to personnel who break this rule.
     
  • The telepathic abilities of your psychic candidates may be used for personal financial gain, but only during your off hours, and only with approval of your immediate supervisor.
     
  • The telepathic abilities of your psychic candidates may not be used to obtain dating or pickup advice, to learn your coworkers’ network login passwords, or to pinpoint the amount of bribe money required to gain your immediate supervisor’s approval under the above mentioned rule. In these areas, you’re on your own.
     
  • Any seemingly meaningless babble from psychic candidates is to be reported to the nearest blue-gloved operative—preferably in a soundproof room with easy-to-clean tile floors. For, you know, security reasons.
     
  • From now on, researchers will be limited to performing no more than two lobotomies per psychic candidate. Which ought to be one more than anyone needs, really.
     
  • Emotionally unstable psychic candidates will no longer be taught eight different kinds of karate. Seriously people, I know we’re all about value-added services around here, but it’s much safer for everyone involved if we put a  firewall between those two skillsets.

Follow these simple rules, and this program will be smooth sailing from here on out.

And never forget your critical place in the Alliance. We're making better worlds here, and you’re a part of that.

Yours cordially,
Dr. Susan Feng
Director, Alliance Psychic Research Institute
Special Projects Division, Anglo-Sino Alliance

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Go Read a Book

Ah, summertime. It's warm, the sun is shining, and everyone's so cheerful.

I hate stupid summertime, for all those reasons and more.

But you know what makes it better? A good book. Especially because, after you're finished enjoying it, you can use it to block the sun and/or throw it forcefully at the next person who dares to be cheerful at you.

"But Robyn," you say, "with all the choices available to me, how can I possibly know which book to enjoy?"

Answer: I will tell you. I will tell you which book to enjoy. You are going to enjoy this book:


Rosemary Harper has just arrived on the Wayfarer, a wormhole tunneler ship with a colorful (both literally and figuratively) crew. Rosemary is trying to get as far as possible from her old life on Mars, and she's in luck, because Wayfarer's next job will take it straight into the distant, deadly, and war-torn heart of the galaxy. So, umm... mission accomplished?

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a very fresh take on the pan-species starship subgenre of science fiction. The aliens are truly alien, in cultural mores as well as appearance, which adds a fun extra dimension to the personality conflicts aboard ship. Beyond the strife on Wayfarer, the galaxy too feels like a deep, rich, and complex place—the worldbuilding aspect of the novel is truly excellent. The politics, technology, and even humanity's circumstances amid the stars are a big change from what you usually see in science fiction, but it's all sold effortlessly.

Full disclosure: the author, Becky Chambers, has done some editing on one my projects, so this should be considered more of a plug than a review. If it was a review, however, I would still have nothing but good things to say about the book, and I'd still recommend you buy it.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is only $4.99 in ebook format through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. A paperback version is also available from Amazon and Createspace.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Perspectives Differ: Cylons Are Trying Too Hard

From: The Threes
To: The Ones, Twos, Fours, Fives, Sixes, and Eights
Subject: An open letter, regarding “The Plan” to destroy humanity

We Threes believe that the rest of you are making this whole destroy humanity project a lot more difficult than it has to be. We Threes want to run off and be warrior princesses as much—possibly even more—than the rest of you, but there are a few things we need to get straight first.

The colonials know that we can hack into and control any networked computer. Actually, wait a second. How the hell can we even do that? I mean, just because a computer system is networked doesn’t mean it’s open. Running some wires between two or three computers doesn’t change anything fundamental about its accessibility from the outside. I mean, if you asked me before, I’d say it has something to do with tapping into wires with inductive signals or something, but now that I think of it, there are wires inside a computer too. Why can’t we tap into those?

Okay, okay, that’s not important now, and I feel I’ve wandered off topic.

The topic is the Colonial Defense Mainframe, which we can hack into at will. So… why do we need an inside man? I mean, inside woman. Sorry, Sixes.

Maybe you're worried that it takes too long for us to hack networked computers. Okay then, I'll give you another plan. Our fighters have incredibly precise faster-than-light jump capabilities. So why not have them jump in a thousand feet above the Colonial cities and destroy them before they can react? It’s a nice, simple plan: in, out, nuke. That way, we cut out the middle-man. I mean, middle-woman. Sorry, Sixes.

And hey, maybe they have some kind of point defense protecting their major cities, but we should be able to overwhelm that. We have enough nukes. Seriously, have you seen how many nukes we have? Because I’ve seen how many nukes we have, and it’s a lot.  Enough to saturate their planets and still hold plenty back. Hell, we can even keep that whole hack-into-any-networked-computer ability in our back pockets, as a backup plan.

For that matter, have you seen the reports from Caprica Six? There are three battlestars guarding Caprica at any given time. Have you seen how many basestars we have? Because I’ve seen how many basestars we have, and it’s a lot. We could assign three basestars to every battlestar and still have a very effective reserve force for any other contingency. We would therefore prevail and suffer only modest and acceptable robot casualties from the remaining colonial force, which would be badly damaged and in desperate need of inspiring speeches.

Which brings us to our other concern: How could the Colonials possibly be this stupid?

They know that we can hack into any networked computer, yet they’ve put networked computers onto all of their battlestars. One of the Fives reports that they use cordless phones in most of their ships and military bases. That’s just asking for it. We even have reports that they’re using wireless networks to land their fighters.

Perhaps, you say, they’ve done a lot of work on their firewalls, and they think that upgrading to Barracuda Pro is going to save their organic butts from nuclear holocaust. Okay, then why only three battlestars to protect an entire planet? Have you seen how big a planet is? Because I’ve seen how big a planet is, and it’s really big.

For that matter, since even their own pathetic FTL computers are capable of jumping a ship directly into a planet’s atmosphere, past any orbital defenses, and then jumping it out before an enemy can respond. Do they not understand the implications of that technology? Do they not see how it makes orbital defenses virtually irrelevant?

Apparently, they don’t. If I were them, I’d abandon those planets (i.e. giant targets) immediately, and try to find habitable worlds somewhere secret, where we can’t find and nuke them. But you know what they do? They just plod along within their own little systems, never exploring past the “red line,” which is what they call the maximum safe range of a single FTL jump.

I ask you, why wouldn’t they explore further? Every FTL-capable ship in their fleet can make multiple jumps. Data from one of the Fives indicates that Colonial FTL drives are capable of jumping once every 33 minutes for days at a time (although this remains to be proven.) With that technology, they could fan out through this entire sector of the galaxy, finding habitable worlds to hide on, or perhaps even terraforming marginal planets.

But they don’t even try. So what does that tell you? That they’re either very smart, or very, very stupid.

The Ones tell us that they’re very, very stupid, and must therefore be destroyed. “Have you seen how stupid they are?” one One said to us one time. “Because I’ve seen how stupid they are, and it’s very, very stupid.”

Okay, if we accept that premise, what harm would it be to leave them alone? If they’re really that stupid, killing them is like abusing a poor dumb animal.

And what about the alternative? What if they’re a lot smarter than we think? They might use this attack as provocation for following us back to the Colony and getting rid of us for good. Okay, I know that's a long shot, but we have to at least accept the possibility.

I’ve also heard, from one of the Sixes, that this may all be part of an elaborate plan by God Himself, to force humans and Cylons to work together, fighting to survive beyond the heavens on a lonely quest to find a shining planet known as Earth, and that members of a nucleus of survivors from each race will breed together to produce a messianic figure whose offspring will populate this planet. That... seems somewhat unlikely to us Threes, but whatever. We include it here for the sake of thoroughness.

In conclusion, we believe that the attack on the colonies must logically be either completely unnecessary or a great deal more dangerous than we imagine. We recommend forgetting the whole thing, and devoting our efforts to expanding and colonizing every corner of the galaxy, except for the Twelve Colonies of humans. That should ensure sufficient strength and containment to deal with any future threat they may represent.

Oh, and if we do happen upon this planet “Earth” during our explorations, and determine that we’re fated to blend with humans there? Then we can just jump back to the Twelve Colonies, ask for breeding volunteers, and save everyone a hell of a lot of time and hassle. Based on what Caprica Six has reported, we can count on at least one human taking us up on our offer.

Hugs and Kisses,
The Threes