Workin’ at the car wasp

I went to pick up groceries today, and when the guy came out to put my order in the trunk, he noticed that the milk was close to expiration, so with my permission, he went back in to get a fresher one. He left the trunk lid open, so I got out to shut it while I waited. I was rather shocked to discover there was a wasp’s nest built into the driver’s side rear corner of the trunk lid, with a bunch of wasps swarming around it! (At least I think they were wasps. Hornets are bigger, right?) Apparently the store guy missed it because the corner was up high away from the trunk while the lid was raised. Or maybe trunk wasps are common and he’s used to them. Anyway, I was tempted to ask the guy to move my groceries to the back seat when he returned, but I figured that was too much of an imposition — plus I was worried a wasp or two might get into the car along with the groceries.

So I determined that I’d do something about it once I got home. I decided to try using my long-handled ice scraper (still on the floor in front of the passenger seat, where I usually keep it) to knock the nest away. But when I went to get out my groceries and attempt to do that with the nest, there were just too many swarming wasps and I was afraid to try it. I just gathered up my grocery bags as quickly as I could and hurried inside. Although I did manage to get rid of a smaller, perhaps nascent nest on the opposite side of the trunk lid.

It occurred to me to find out if wasps were active at night, and I did enough web searching to confirm they’re relatively dormant then. So I waited until after sundown, then went out to the car with the long wooden bar that I use to reinforce my sliding balcony doors at night, which I figured would be long and sturdy enough to deal with the nest from a reasonably safe distance. I wore my jacket and gloves for protection just in case. The wasps weren’t completely dormant, but I was still able to knock the nest away with the bar, though not all in one piece, and I managed to avoid getting stung. Then I used my phone flashlight to check the crannies inside the doors and under the wheel wells to see if there were any more nests, not finding any (although I just realized I forgot to check inside the back doors).

In retrospect, I think that nest may have been there for a while, since I’ve had to contend with a few wasps flying around the trunk on my past several grocery trips. I figured they were just flying over from the trees on the edge of the lot, but it makes more sense if the nest was there.

And now I really need to stop writing about wasps, and hopefully get out of the state of mind where I fear that every little itch is a wasp crawling on me. I hope I don’t dream about it.

Categories: Uncategorized

Thoughts on GODZILLA SINGULAR POINT (Spoilers)

Godzilla is back on Netflix, and in animated form again. The first attempt at an anime Godzilla, the 2017-18 3D-animated film series known as the Godzilla Earth trilogy, proved to be ponderous, pretentious, and disappointing. This time, we get Godzilla Singular Point, a 13-episode series in 2D animation (with cel-shaded 3D for the kaiju and vehicles), written by Toh EnJoe and directed by Atsushi Takahashi. This series goes in a very different direction — not only set in the very near future (2030) instead of the distant post-apocalyptic future, but far more lively, fun, and conceptually dense.

The lead characters include the staff of the Otaki Factory, a catchall fixit service run by eccentric scientist Goro Otaki to fund the construction of his robot Jet Jaguar (about one story tall, with an operator’s cockpit in the chest and short, apelike legs), which he believes is needed to defend the Earth against UFOs, kaiju, ghosts, or whatever. Its employees include Yun Arikawa, a Holmes-level deductive genius and programmer who prefers to communicate through his AI assistant Yung because it’s more accurate than he is, and Haberu Kato, who initially seems like a muscular everyman but turns out to be quite scientifically knowledgeable himself, like most of the characters in the series. They’re investigating a radio signal transmitting a mysterious song, which turns out to come from the Misakioku radio observatory. Mei Kamino, a nerdy-cute, purple-haired grad student, is called in by the observatory staff to troubleshoot the problem on behalf of the professor she assists.

Mei’s connection to the other leads is tenuous: She and Haberu went to high school together, and Mei happens to download a free copy of Yun’s AI assistant, which takes over her computer like a friendly virus and customizes itself into a cute avatar she names Pelops II after her late dog. It’s weird that a computer-savvy grad student would be so cavalier about downloading unknown software, especially after its malware-like takeover of her laptop and casual invasion of her privacy to build its personality profile. But it’s played as cute and friendly and propels her into the larger plot, so whatever.

To pay the bills, Otaki and his employees display Jet Jaguar to the public as a novelty for kids at a local summer festival, when a pteranodon attacks out of nowhere. Otaki comes to the rescue in JJ. The battle is comical, but the pteranodon is seriously dangerous (and impressively designed — also a realistic size for a pterosaur, unlike past versions of Radon/Rodan), forcing Otaki out of the cockpit and almost killing him before Yun takes remote control of JJ from a tablet. The fight is a draw, and the pteranodon retreats… and suddenly drops dead.

More pteranodons begin to appear, and are dubbed Radons because they emit radon gas. (In the original, Radon was short for “pteranodon.” It was changed to Rodan for the English dub because Radon was the brand name of a laundry soap or something.) They begin swarming en masse, unable to survive long at first but apparently evolving to fit the environment, and are accompanied by a “Red Dust” with strange properties. Yun, Haberu, and Otaki try to draw them away with a radio signal and protect the citizens from them, with help from a robot drone remote-piloted by Pelops II, leading to online contact between Yun and Mei.

Meanwhile, Pelops II continues to cutely take over Mei’s life, organizing her loose research notes into extra-dimensional biology into a preprint paper and publishing it under both their names without asking Mei first. Mei is oddly unoffended by this, and her paper quickly attracts the attention of a Chinese professor named Li Guiying. Mei flies out to Dubai to meet Dr. Li and assist in her work. (Oddly, everyone in Dubai and later in other countries speaks fluent Japanese.) We learn that Mei specializes in “Biologica Phantastica,” the conjectural science of nonexistent species in hypothetical alternate worlds and what rules they would follow (e.g. living backward in time, flying in a 2-dimensional world, etc.). Mei learns that Li has been developing a material called Archetype that seems to violate physical law, and Mei realizes that it transcends time, able to draw energy from the future. She doesn’t think it can be native to our universe.

Yun and Haberu soon encounter an ankylosaur kaiju, Anguirus, that appears able to predict bullet paths and deflect them. Otaki and Jet Jaguar are able to bring it down by firing a harpoon gun at point-blank range (so it has no time to dodge), but Anguirus recovers and trashes JJ, leading Yun to install his digital assistant Yung to operate what’s left of it. Yun and Mei begin to figure out that the Red Dust associated with the kaiju is related to Archetype — and Li eventually lets on that the dust is the basis of the substance. I love how scientifically literate the script is as Mei discusses the physical improbabilities with Dr. Li and with Yun.

So where’s Godzilla in all this? Well, at the end of the first episode, we were shown that the Misakioku observatory has a Godzilla skeleton in its basement. It gradually comes out that it somehow emitted the musical signal that triggered the Radon attacks and the emergence of other kaiju like Anguirus and sea serpents called Manda. The skeleton emits the same Red Dust that’s spreading with the kaiju, allowing them to survive better, as if the swarms of Radons spreading worldwide are terraforming the world for the kaiju.

Along the way, the Factory crew find an ancient artwork which was displayed at the local festival, showing Radons alongside a whale (kujira)-like kaiju named Gojira, said to come when the sea turns red. About halfway through the season, this creature makes an appearance, though it looks far more aquatic than any previous Godzilla, and is recognizable only by Akira Ifukube’s iconic Godzilla fanfare. Yet when it comes ashore, cloaked in Red Dust so it’s hard to see, it begins transforming to fit a land environment, much like in Shin Godzilla. (The initial form is officially called Godzilla Aquatilis; its first mutation is Godzilla Amphibia.)

Other characters and threads are introduced along the way, like a blond guy named Kai who initially pretends to be a journalist but knows about the Godzilla skeleton in the basement, which apparently dates from 80 years before (which would be 1950 — perhaps rounded from 1954?). It’s connected with a crazed-looking scientist from 50 years ago named Ashihara, who had insights ahead of his time about Archetype that nobody understood, but that Mei is able to figure out. Ashihara predicted the evolution of kaiju from the dust’s interaction with living organisms. Red Dust/Archetype is based on a multidimensional, trans-temporal construct called Singular Points. There are 13 levels of complexity for it, of which Li has mastered three. The highest, theorized by Ashihara, is called the Orthogonal Diagonalizer, having something to do with the higher-dimensional physics of the material. (The shared initials with “Oxygen Destroyer,” the weapon that defeated Godzilla in the 1954 original, are no doubt intentional.)

There’s also a group called the SHIVA Consortium operating out of India, led by a creepy white-haired woman named Tilda whose eyes are all black. The SHIVA research director is named BB, and he’s trying to keep a kaiju named Salunga from escaping an underground complex containing a vast pool of Red Dust. These guys apparently have Ashihara’s full research and are closer to building a working Diagonalizer, a prototype of which BB uses to temporarily crystallize the pool of Red Dust to delay Salunga’s escape.

Meanwhile, the Otaki Factory staff rebuilds Jet Jaguar into a 2-story giant with the AI Yung controlling it (and adopting its name), so now JJ has a mind and a voice, an autonomous robot rather than a piloted mecha. It also has a spear made from a future-predicting Anguirus spine, which Otaki believes will give it the edge to defeat Godzilla. But the Otaki team gets sidetracked battling a horde of giant spiders (Kumonga) at the pier. Godzilla apparently self-immolates, but its charred “corpse” turns out to be a cocoon in which it mutates into Godzilla Terrestris, a green form closer to its familiar appearance, but still with a more lizard/fish-like head, and not quite able to summon its atomic breath, instead generating a sort of energy smoke ring. But it’s not done evolving yet.

Li takes Mei to Ashihara’s London home to decipher his notes, and Mei learns that he was using Singular Points as supercalculators to predict the future, but ended up getting conflicting answers as the Points competed with each other, the “Ashihara Catastrophe.” Mei realizes this isn’t just a computational catastrophe, but a real end-of-the-world scenario as physical law breaks down — and Ashihara predicted it happening in 2030, just days away. Mei rushes to warn Li, but she’s talking with the SHIVA people, who seem less concerned about the end of the world than with completing the Diagonalizer to eliminate the Red Dust. As Mei flees a Radon attack on London, she realizes that Godzilla is a Singular Point (ohh!!) and the Catastrophe is centered around it. Dr. Li is lost in the attack due to an ill-timed act of kindness on her part.

Confusingly, this is followed with a flashback where Li and Mei discuss how to send information back in time without violating the laws of physics: by encoding it in a form that wouldn’t be recognized as information. This theory becomes real as Yun and Haberu discover that Ashihara (who observed the first Godzilla destroying a fishing village and being defeated 80 years before, then built the observatory over its skeleton) predicted the current events and encoded them in his journals using a numerical code that wouldn’t be invented until the 1990s, after the journals were written. The Jet Jaguar AI decodes dates and times correlating to specific lines in Yun’s text chats with Mei, including one they haven’t had yet — so they won’t be able to understand the message until that conversation happens in 4 days.

Mei arrives in India and meets BB’s daughter, who takes her to meet him. It becomes clear that SHIVA and Tilda have no interest in preventing the imminent Catastrophe, wishing instead to control the power of Archetype and the Diagonalizer. So BB, who turns out to be working with “freelance spy” Kai, goes rogue, stealing the Diagonalizer prototypes and sending them around the world, then fleeing SHIVA with Mei and taking her to where Ashihara found the first Singular Point — which leads to the Supercalculator (the underground complex where Salunga was captive), which Mei plans to ask how to stop the Catastrophe, as only something not of this universe can solve a problem not of this universe.

Meanwhile in Tokyo, Ifukube’s original Godzilla theme (the main title theme to the 1954 film) is heard for the first time in the series as the king of the kaiju finally Gojivolves to Godzilla Ultima, the gray form that most closely resembles the classic Godzilla design, though with more pronounced fangs, a heavy lower body reminiscent of Legendary Godzilla, and an incredibly long tail like Shin Godzilla. Godzilla Ultima finally fires its atomic breath, with multiple rings of light forming before its mouth to herald it, and it’s a devastating, laser-straight beam that does massive damage to Tokyo’s skyscrapers — not quite as cataclysmic as the corresponding scene in Shin, but more targeted, with striking animation of the damage done to the buildings as the ray burns through them. It’s also an ongoing thing as Godzilla battles other kaiju and does more and more damage to the abandoned Tokyo.

Otaki, Yun, and Haberu take Jet Jaguar to Tokyo by boat to fight Godzilla, but the JJ AI is somehow triggered to start upgrading itself over and over, until it wakes up making baby talk and swiftly re-educates itself from first principles, renaming itself Jet Jaguar PP. I think it’s just achieved its own Singularity (in the Kamen Rider Zero-One sense of an AI gaining sentience).

Mei, Pelops, and BB reach the Singular Point supercalculator and try to find the code to shut down the Red Dust and stop the kaiju, while the Otaki gang hook up the military and get the Diagonalizer that’s waiting for them to enter the code that Mei has been predicted to send in a few hours to a location currently contiguous with Godzilla’s body. The military hooks a propeller pack to JJ to send him up there while Yun awaits the code — but Pelops is having trouble finding it because of the way the future keeps branching and producing contradictory solutions. Space is warping more and more around the calculator, and around Godzilla as well. (I love how this is expressed — a soldier reports that the angles of a triangle no longer add up to 180 degrees around Godzilla.)

Pelops tries going to the past to get more time to do the calculation, as the Catastrophe starts and Mei and BB have to leave Pelops there. Yun flies up in Jet Jaguar PP to get the Diagonalizer code, dodging Godzilla’s atomic breath and ultimately landing on its back, while JJ seems to be trashed. The code doesn’t come through in time — but in cyberspace, Pelops sees a vision of Ashihara in the past, which catalyzes something they were already working on but had forgotten until the right time — a program to “make Jet Jaguar invincible.” Which means inexplicably turning it into a giant nearly Godzilla’s size. (I guess this is an homage to Godzilla vs. Megalon, in which the original JJ somehow “reprogrammed” himself into a giant.) JJPP fights Godzilla and monologues about being the descendant of Pelops II and JJ, and that thanks to the time loop, it’s not only had the Diagonalizer code all along, but is the code. It’s a Pyrrhic victory for JJ’s robot body, which Godzilla destroys, but that destruction catalyzes the Diagonalizer, which turns all the Red Dust into stable blue crystals (instead of the red crystals the partial Diagonalizers turned it into temporarily). Godzilla has vanished, and the narration from the beginning of the season repeats now that we understand it’s the incarnations of Pelops/JJ telling the story to each other. Yun and Haberu finally meet Mei face-to-face, and she’s wearing an Ouroboros/infinity t-shirt.

But wait — there’s a post-credit tease. Kai the spy is working with others to turn the original Godzilla skeleton into Mechagodzilla (echoing the Kiryu films) — and Ashihara is with them!

Well. Godzilla Singular Point is an incredibly dense mindbender of a science fiction tale. I love how grounded it is in real physics, unprecedented in a kaiju production. I love it when I know just enough about the science to recognize that the writers understand it better than I do — as opposed to the usual thing where anyone with a passing grasp of grade-school science can easily recognize it as complete gibberish. The plot isn’t easy to follow with all the characters with mysterious hidden agendas cropping up, but I like the thoughtfulness, the energy, and the humor. The Jet Jaguar battles and the eccentric Otaki are a lot of fun. The story is driven more by plot and concepts than character, but the characters are still distinctive and appealing with subtle texture.

That makes it a massive improvement over the ponderous, pretentious, nihilistic anime movie trilogy that preceded it. Those movies were never fun. The CGI on the kaiju is vastly better done here, and the 2D animation and character design are much better than the video-gamey cel-shaded 3D of the trilogy.

It’s far from perfect, though. The physics and philosophy surrounding the Singular Point and Ashihara and transtemporal communication and all that are so intricate and complex that the bits about giant monsters attacking cities feel like a sidebar, even a distraction from the real story. By the time Godzilla finally mutates into Ultima form and starts trashing Tokyo, it feels like the story is just going through the motions of a kaiju plot. Godzilla isn’t well-integrated into the story except as a MacGuffin, a problem motivating the heroes to try to solve it. Indeed, Godzilla is more like an side effect of the real problem of the Red Dust and the Catastrophe. It feels like the creators had their own deep, complicated hard-SF story they wanted to tell and grafted Godzilla and other kaiju into it, rather than telling a story that was centrally about Godzilla. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the story they told, but sometimes it felt like the cutaways to the kaiju stuff were just getting in the way.

Not only that, but Godzilla becomes kind of static in the last couple of episodes, settling down in the ruins of Tokyo and becoming a stationary goal for the heroes to reach. It’s the one thing about Singular Point that’s reminiscent of the Godzilla Earth trilogy’s weaknesses rather than improving on them.

Also, while I like the lead characters, they’re ultimately not much more than spectators in a story about Pelops II and Jet Jaguar — two incarnations of the same AI — acting out their predestined role in preventing the Catastrophe. Maybe that’s unfair — Yun’s and Mei’s intellectual problem-solving does a lot to lay the groundwork — but the human leads’ role in the payoff is peripheral. It’s the AI that has the most complete and significant journey out of all the characters in the season.

Singular Point is reminiscent of Shin Godzilla in some ways, with its mutating kaiju and its focus on media montages and the like — although it has what Shin lacked, an emphasis on ground-level civilians and scientists dealing with the kaiju crisis rather than just government and military officials.

One thing that surprises me is the absence of Mothra from the first season, except in the end titles, which feature a bunch of classic Showa-era kaiju designs. There is a bit in the penultimate episode with a swarm of golden moths, which I thought might be a harbinger of Mothra, but it had no payoff. Perhaps they’re saving her for next season.

All in all, Singular Point may be an acquired taste, too talky and conceptually heavy for people who just want to see Godzilla smashing stuff; but it’s by a wide margin the smartest Godzilla production ever, and I daresay one of the best, despite its weaknesses. The production values are excellent, the writing impressive, the concepts extraordinary. If the series gets a second season (not confirmed as of this writing), hopefully it will be able to keep what worked and improve on its shortcomings.

The Hub in hardcopy!

Since I’m a little less broke these days, I finally did something I’ve wanted to do for years, namely to buy a few author copies of the trade paperback editions of Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy and Crimes of the Hub. Of course, I’ve had copies of the e-book editions since they came out, but since the TPBs are print-on-demand, I had to buy them, albeit at an author discount. Here’s what they look like:

Unfortunately, it seems that Hub Space was just a bit too short to qualify for spine text, as seen in the side view of my now-complete original fiction brag shelf:

So I have the satisfaction of finally having hardcopies of all my original books, but I don’t get to see all their titles lined up. Oh, well.

Anyway, since I now have the hardcopies to refer to, I’ve updated my annotations for the books with page numbers for the print edition:

Hub Space Annotations

Crimes of the Hub Annotations

By the way, when I say “complete,” I only mean up to the present. I still hope to do more Hub stories in the future, though I haven’t had time to focus on them lately. I already have an idea for a climax for the series, but I’m not sure how many more stories I want to do before I get there.

Announcing TANGENT KNIGHTS 1: CAPRICE OF FATE!

That big super-secret project I’ve been hinting about for months has finally been announced!

GraphicAudio introduces a spectacular original Super-heroic Action Series available in no other format!

In the year 2046, on the artificial-island arcology of New Avalon, Corazón “Cory” Kagami is a bright but impulsive college student who follows her passions, resisting the will of her mother, Morgan Herrera, head of a tech conglomerate responsible for astonishing breakthroughs. Morgan controls Catchfire Industries, and is effectively the ruler of New Avalon through her near-monopoly of its technology and through the numerous government officials she keeps in her pocket.

In a world where communication with parallel Tangent Earths has brought a disruptive influx of new beliefs and scientific innovation, Morgan promotes a strong defense against threats from within and beyond this world, developing advanced personal armor and weaponry for her cyborg peacekeeping team Fireforce.

When Cory is accidentally empowered with the most advanced armor system yet, Morgan tries to renew her bond with her daughter and train her to be a hero, a decision she may come to regret. Cory Kagami, a fan of Japanese tokusatsu action entertainment, has her own ideas about what it means to be a hero.

© & ℗ 2021 Graphic Audio, LLC. All rights reserved.

https://www.graphicaudio.net/tangent-knights-1-caprice-of-fate.html

Tangent Knights is an original series which I’ve created and written for GraphicAudio — a trilogy to start, but hopefully ongoing. Like my previous GraphicAudio releases, Only Superhuman and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, it’s a full-cast audio novel with music and sound effects. But while those were adaptations of prose novels, Tangent Knights will be available exclusively in audio form.

Tangent Knights is hard science fiction with a superhero theme, in the spirit of Only Superhuman. Aimed at a general audience (age 13-up), the series is inspired by the transforming armored heroes of Japanese live-action tokusatsu (special effects) series such as Kamen Rider, Super Sentai (the basis for Power Rangers), and Ultraman, embracing not only their distinctive approach to superhero action but their sophisticated story arcs and nuanced characterizations — yet grounding them in (relatively) plausible quantum theory and technological extrapolation, including a fresh approach to parallel-world narratives.

This project has been a life-saver for me, coming along when I was desperately in need of new work and helping to pull me out of the deep financial hole I’ve been in for the past few years. It’s also been one of the most enormously fun things I’ve ever written, as I’ve tried to capture the lively characters, wild action, zany humor, impassioned melodrama, and rich plotting of tokusatsu while keeping it grounded and plausible. It’s been enjoyable to work in a new medium, to learn how to write with sound effects and dialogue subtext cues as an alternative to narration. I’ve also been very self-indulgent, loading the books with in-jokes and homages that toku fans will hopefully recognize, as well as plenty of science fiction worldbuilding and social commentary that I hope will please fans of my previous works. I’m really proud of this one, and I hope people enjoy listening to it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Tangent Knights 1: Caprice of Fate will be released in CD and digital formats on August 3, 2021, with more to follow. You can hear an excerpt at the link above.

Watch my Shore Leave 41.6 panels!

Well, the second (and hopefully last) virtual Shore Leave weekend is over, and all the panels are viewable on Shore Leave’s YouTube channel. Here are the three I was part of:

Star Trek Adventures RPG Update

eSpec Books Presents

(Man, the screencap caught me at a bad moment there…)

What’s New in Star Trek Literature

I’m harder to see in the first panel because I hadn’t yet figured out how to frontlight myself decently at my desk. For the Sunday panels, I used the emergency flashlight in my portable car battery jumpstarter pack, resting on one of the shelves of my computer-desk hutch, with a sheet of tracing paper in front of it as a diffuser to soften the light and protect my eyes.

It was nice to see and hear from my writer friends and colleagues again, to talk about my own work and to hear what’s going on with my publishers’ upcoming projects. Hopefully some of what we talked about will lead to new projects for me in the future.

My schedule for (virtual) Shore Leave 41.6 (Updated)

UPDATE: The Trek Literature panel has been moved from 10 AM Sunday to 3 PM Sunday (Eastern Time), for the convenience of our panelists who live further west. I’ve edited accordingly.

I should’ve begun hyping this sooner, but the second virtual Shore Leave convention is being held online this weekend, July 10-11. (Hey, it’s not like you need to make travel plans.) The schedule has just gone online, and it looks like they’re organizing the Zoom panels into “rooms” corresponding to the usual panel rooms at the convention hotel, though I’m not quite sure how that will work. You can find the schedule here:

https://www.shore-leave.com/schedule/

I’m only going to be on three panels, to talk about my various works. They include (all times Eastern):

Saturday July 10, 7 PM

Star Trek Adventures RPG Update: Salon D

Jim Johnson, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Dayton Ward, Derek Tyler Attico, Scott Pearson, Christopher L. Bennett

[ Register ]

Modiphius Entertainment’s Star Trek Adventures RPG heads into its fifth year. Check in for the latest news on current and upcoming releases and Q&A with the STA project manager and several STA writers.

Sunday July 11, 11 AM

eSpec Books Presents: Tack

Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jenifer P. Rosenberg, Aaron Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Mary Fan, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Robert Greenberger, Russ Colchamiro, Christopher L. Bennett

[ Register ]

eSpec Books shows off a wealth of new titles, including the brand-new Systema Paradoxa novella series featuring a whole host of cryptid creatures rarely seen before.

Sunday July 11, 3 PM

What’s new in Star Trek Literature: Salon D

Scott Pearson, Dayton Ward, John Jackson Miller, David Mack, Kirsten Beyer, Christopher L. Bennett

[ Register ]

Authors of current and upcoming Star Trek titles discuss their work.

As for the wider convention experience, you can learn more about the options here:

See you there! (Figuratively.)

An eSpec book discount for my Twitter debut

I’ve finally decided to take my first tentative steps onto Twitter. I’ve resisted signing up in the past, both because I’ve never seen the appeal of such a bite-size way of communicating and because of the alarming stories I’ve heard about authors and celebrities being harassed off the platform. But I’ve realized I’m just not getting enough attention for my blog, my books, and my Patreon page from Facebook alone. And I’ve been reassured that the harassment incidents are the exception rather than the rule. I don’t understand much yet about how Twitter works, but I’m hoping it’ll be a new avenue to get the word out more widely. My Twitter handle is @CLBennettAuthor.

I don’t know how much I’ll use the platform going forward. I imagine I’ll use it mainly just for publicizing my blog and Patreon posts, but we’ll see. Anyway, as part of this new publicity push, eSpec Books has given me a special discount code for my social media followers. When you buy Among the Wild Cybers, Arachne’s Crime, Arachne’s Exile, The Arachne Omnibus, or Footprints in the Stars at https://especbooks.square.site, you can get 15% off by entering the coupon code BENNETT15. There’s also a 20% discount code offered exclusively to my Patreon subscribers. Hopefully that’ll encourage a few more people to sign up for my Patreon, which has membership plans as low as $1 a month.

For more info on the offered books, see my Original Fiction page.

A good week, but I can’t talk about it

Some good things have been happening with writing projects these past few days, although I can’t go into specifics. I got a comfortably large check from the publisher of the big project that I hope will be announced soon, and there’s still one more installment to follow in another 2-3 months, so I should now be financially set through early next year at least. I’m happy with how promptly this publisher pays.

Meanwhile, a feeler I put out a while back to a different publisher unexpectedly bore fruit this week, when their editor reached out to ask about my interest in some upcoming projects they’re developing. As it happens, they have one thing in the works that’s a good fit for me, and they’ve asked me to work up a couple of pitch ideas for them. It means I’ll have to split my focus from my current project over the next few weeks, which should slow me down a bit, but I have enough of a cushion before my deadline that I should be able to pull it off. If they accept one of my pitches, that will be the next thing I tackle once the current project is done, and should keep me busy for the rest of the year. If not, I may get another chance with them in the future. It could be a pretty interesting project, and quite a change of pace from my current one. About the only thing they have in common is that I can’t say what they are.

Well, except that they aren’t Star Trek. I’ve been thinking for a long time that I needed to diversify my publishing connections beyond Trek and Gallery (formerly Pocket) Books, so I wouldn’t be in such a fix at the times the Trek work slows down for whatever reason. I’m glad that I’m finally managing to do that, with my Arachne duology from eSpec, my current secret project, and this new opportunity that’s just come along.

I guess the one good thing writing-wise that I can talk about in specific terms is that Star Trek: The Original Series — Living Memory has now been out for ten days and is getting mostly very good reviews so far, from what I’ve seen. Oh, and Analog‘s book reviewer, the late Don Sakers, covered Arachne’s Exile in his final review column and called it “a fun, exciting read.” So that’s bittersweet. (Here’s the link, but it’s a “current issue” link, so it should only work until the next issue comes out.)

One other good thing is that the Brood X cicadas seem to be gone already, a week or two ahead of predictions. So I should be able to resume normal outdoor activities at last, which means I can start taking more walks and get back into shape.

All in all, then, a fairly good week. Let’s hope it lasts…

New fiction on Patreon: “The Monsters We Make”

First off, a belated apology to my Patreon subscribers for not posting a Fiction entry for May. When I started my Patreon page, I hoped I’d be able to post something new in the Fiction tier on a monthly basis, but I’ve been very busy with The Big Exciting Project I Still Can’t Talk About, and that will still be ongoing for a couple of months more. I may have to dial back to every other month for new fiction, at least for a while.

However, I do have a new story out this week, along with its annotations. It’s not entirely new, since some of the Kickstarter backers for the Arachne duology got a look at it as an extra bonus when they increased their pledges. But this is technically its first publication. It’s called “The Monsters We Make,” and it’s the latest of my efforts to devise a plausible, hard science fiction approach to a usually fanciful genre — in this case,  kaiju/giant monsters. Did I pull it off convincingly? Well, that’s for my readers to decide. But due to its genre, it’s certainly the most dystopian thing I’ve ever written. Might make an interesting change of pace for my readers.

The story can be read at the $10/month Fiction level here:

“The Monsters We Make”

And the annotations are available at the $12/mo Behind the Scenes tier here:

“The Monsters We Make” annotations

This is good timing, come to think of it, since we’re now just days away from the global release of Netflix’s anime series Godzilla Singular Point. Naturally, I’ll be reviewing that series here on Written Worlds, as part of my ongoing (and free) Godzilla/kaiju review series. I could pretend I timed it this way intentionally, but it’s pure coincidence and I only just realized it as I wrote this post.

STAR TREK: LIVING MEMORY is out today!

Today is the official on-sale date for Star Trek: The Original Series: Living Memory. This is the fifth installment in my ongoing post-Star Trek: The Motion Picture continuity which began way back with my first novel Ex Machina, and the second in as many years, after a long hiatus. It’s the second novel (the third work overall, after Mere Anarchy: The Darkness Drops Again and The Higher Frontier) to cover the pre-Wrath of Khan period when Spock commanded the Enterprise and Chekov served on the Reliant, and the first one set entirely in that period.

Star Trek: The Original Series — Living Memory

TOS_Living_Memory_coverAn all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure!

While attempting to settle in as commandant of Starfleet Academy, Admiral James T. Kirk must suddenly contend with the controversial, turbulent integration of an alien warrior caste into the student body—and quickly becomes embroiled in conflict when the Academy controversy escalates to murder. Meanwhile, Captain Spock of the USS Enterprise and Commander Pavel Chekov of the USS Reliant are investigating a series of powerful cosmic storms seemingly targeting Federation worlds—unstoppable outbursts emitting from the very fabric of space. Endeavoring to predict where the lethal storms will strike next, Spock and Chekov make the shocking discovery that the answer lies in Commander Nyota Uhura’s past—one that she no longer remembers….

™, ®, & © 2021 CBS Studios, Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Available from:

I’ve updated my TOS Motion Picture Era page with general discussion and a link to the annotations:

https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/home-page/star-trek-fiction/tos-ex-machina/#LivingMemory

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My first outing of cicada season

Some weeks back, after I got vaccinated, I got a call from my dermatologist to schedule my yearly checkup, which I missed last year due to the lack of a vaccine at the time. I was aware that the time they suggested would be during the once-every-17-years emergence season of the Brood X cicada swarm, but I was in the first flush of post-vaccine eagerness to get out into the world, and maybe a bit embarrassed to admit my phobia, so I accepted the appointment and figured I could just reschedule later if I felt it necessary.

Now, I fully expected to find it necessary. This is the fourth Brood X emergence of my lifetime, though the third I’ve been old enough to remember. The first of those, in 1987, was toward the end of my first year of college, and it was awful for a lifelong entomophobe like me. I particularly resented the cicadas for preventing me from getting closer to a woman I thought I had a chance with romantically, since she was untroubled by them and happy to hang around outside while I was desperate to get indoors as soon as possible. The second time, in 2004, was not long after I moved to my current apartment (yes, I’m still here, since the right opportunity to move elsewhere has never quite come together), and I managed to weather it fairly well by staying mostly indoors and only going out in the mornings before the cicadas became active. I was hoping to repeat that this time, but my dermatologist’s appointment was at 2 PM.

So I figured I’d just reschedule when they called to confirm the appointment. But when they did call, it was an automated “please press one” sort of system, and it was while I was watching a show, so I was distracted. So to avoid having to think about it, I just confirmed the appointment before I could stop myself. (Never ask me to make an important decision on the spur of the moment. I usually choose badly.)

I was thus pretty worried about what I might have to face out in the world today, but I decided I just had to weather it. I’ve spent the past year sheltering indoors as much as possible, and I figured I needed to get some practice at facing my fears and getting out into the world again, reminding myself that cicadas are just a nuisance, not a threat.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so bad. There were a few dead cicadas on the hallway floor of my apartment building, but I wasn’t swarmed by them in the parking lot on the way to my car (just a couple took off from the sidewalk ahead of me), nor in the lot of the medical building (or on the moderately long freeway trip between them). Maybe the rain earlier in the day had delayed their emergence.

So it all went pretty smoothly, to my relief. But once I got back, I decided to stop in at the local pharmacy to see if the prescription from my dermatologist had come in yet. Before I got out of the car, I noticed that there were dozens of cicadas swarming around the parking lot. Either that was a busier area for them, or they’d finally come out in greater force. So I just put my seatbelt back on and drove away without getting out of the car, figuring maybe I could come back in the morning or use the drive-thru or something. (They still haven’t called to confirm the prescription anyway, so I don’t know what’s up there. It’s for a minor irritation, so I don’t even really need it.)

I almost made it back into the building unaccosted, but one cicada flew headlong into me as I had my keys in the lock, coming right between me and the door and bumping into me. My tote bag took the hit, but still, there went my perfect record of avoidance. (Why do they just fly right into people like that? Can’t they see where they’re going?)

But overall, the trip was far less stressful than I feared. I’m not sure it really counts as facing my fears, since I chickened out of going into a visibly cicada-heavy zone, but at least I took the chance of going out in the first place, and it turned out not to be so bad. Although I’m still planning to minimize my trips outdoors until the cicadas are gone.

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The SPIDER-MAN omnibus is out!

Today is the release date for the e-book edition of Marvel Classic Novels – Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours Omnibus, reprinting my 2008 novel Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder along with Jim Butcher’s The Darkest Hours and Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Down These Mean Streets.

Collecting three classic fan-favorite Spider-Man novels together for the first time in a brand-new omnibus edition.

THE DARKEST HOURS by Jim Butcher

When Black Cat foils Spider-Man’s attempts to stop the Rhino rampaging through Times Square, she informs him the Rhino is just a distraction. The real threat comes from a group of Ancients, members of the same race as the being called Morlun, seeking revenge for Spider-Man defeating them years before. Spidey must rely on Black Cat if there’s any hope of stopping them again, before they can steal his life force.

DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS by Keith R.A. DeCandido

A mysterious drug known as Triple X has been giving users super-powers as well as rendering them mentally and physically unstable. Only by teaming up with a police force that hates him can Spider-Man find the source behind this lethal drug and protect people from those using it. But one of Spider-Man’s most fearsome enemies may be behind it all as part of a greater scheme to bring down the city.

DROWNED IN THUNDER by Christopher L. Bennett

The ongoing conflict between Spider-Man and his longtime outspoken nemesis, crusading newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson, reaches a whole new level when JJJ exploits several mysterious attacks on Manhattan island in his propaganda war against the web-slinger.

As expected, the omnibus contains the three novels in the order listed on the blurb, which is the correct chronological story order, though Keith’s novel was published first. The three books are standalone tales, but they all take place around the same period in the comics’ run, and mine makes brief allusions to the other two.

The trade paperback edition of the omnibus is still a few weeks away; it will be released on June 1st. Here’s the ordering info:

Buy from:

Also, it turns out that the audiobook edition of my other Marvel novel, X-Men: Watchers on the Walls, published by Dreamscape Media and read by Frankie Corzo, has been available digitally since April 26, and will be released on CD June 11.

WatchersAudioCvr

Buy from:

I’m glad to have both my Marvel novels back in release, one way or another. Of course, GraphicAudio’s full-cast audiobook of Drowned in Thunder is also available in a Dreamscape re-release; see my Marvel Fiction page for links.

Face front, true believers!

Braving the store

I’m just back from another post-vaccination venture. I was out of a few grocery items, including sliced bread, since on my last pickup order, they substituted a smaller size than I wanted. I didn’t need enough to justify a whole pickup trip, and I was getting a little tired of not being in control of substitution choices, so I decided I’d make a quick in-person trip inside the store, for the first time in over a year.

It wasn’t as quick as I would’ve liked, though, since they’ve rearranged some things, and I’ve gotten rusty anyway. I had a hard time finding where they kept the mayonnaise now. Otherwise, though, it went pretty smoothly, aside from being fairly crowded. Most people were masked, at least; the one unmasked person I noticed was a guy who stood in the middle of the aisle and didn’t make way for me when I said “Excuse me.” Go figure.

I see that they’re phasing out disposable plastic bags in favor of reusable bags, due to a recent law banning the former. I guess that explains why I’ve stopped seeing those ubiquitous plastic bags in my pickup orders; now I get a more robust, theoretically reusable kind of plastic bag, though they’ve been piling up in my closet until my last grocery trip before this one, where I unloaded a bunch of them into the recycling bin inside the store foyer. The self-checkout thingy offered me the option to buy several reusable bags, but I was in too much of a hurry to figure out how that worked.

Honestly, I prefer the convenience of pickup — not having to negotiate crowds and search for items I don’t know where to find is a plus. The ideal would be to use that as my default and only make occasional side trips for things I didn’t get on pickup. But sooner or later, they’re going to reinstate the extra pickup fee that they’ve waived due to the pandemic, and at that point, I’ll probably have to go back to shopping the old-fashioned way.

Another thing I meant to do on this trip was something very, very long overdue: mailing the last two autographed Star Trek novels that I sold last year but never got around to sending out, due to my reluctance to go into the post office and my lack of a working printer to print out postage labels for home pickup. Those aren’t issues anymore, so I’m finally ready to mail those books out at last. However, when I got to the post office, the parking lot was full, which meant it would’ve been quite busy inside, and I wasn’t comfortable doing both that and a grocery trip on the same day. Even with vaccines and masks, it’s best to avoid spending too much time in crowded indoor places. So I had to give the post office a miss today. I’ll try again tomorrow, hopefully at a less busy time. I’m really sorry to my buyers for the absurdly long wait, but it’s almost over now. (Andrew S., if you read this, please confirm you still have the same address as last year.)

Categories: My Fiction, Star Trek Tags: ,

My first post-vaccine outing

Yesterday was two weeks since my second COVID-19 vaccine shot, so I’m protected now (at least as much as anyone can be, in conjunction with continued distancing, masks, etc.). Yesterday was rainy, so I waited until today to make my first foray. I decided to start out small and just dropped into Clifton Natural Foods, in hopes of finding some things I haven’t been able to get at the regular grocery store. I didn’t find the vegetarian Italian sausage I was hoping for, but I got some other stuff, including some cookies to give some variety to my dessert options, and some pumpkin butter (a fruit spread like apple butter). I had a nice little chat with a store staffer about how satisfying it was to be able to go places and feel some peace of mind again. This is the first time in 6 months that I’ve been inside a store, and only the second time in the past 12 months (third if you count the post office).

I thought about going to the library too, but I didn’t want to overdo it my first time out. I have a post office trip planned soon, so I can go then, since the two are just a couple of blocks apart.

Speaking of the library, it just now occurred to me that I can resume borrowing DVDs again. So I’ve just put in holds on the most recent season of Doctor Who, which I haven’t managed to see since I don’t have cable TV anymore. I think this was the first time I’ve used the library’s new online catalog format for requesting items, which was instituted within the past year. However, it seems that at some point I already set it to default to my preferred branch as my pickup location, so I don’t have to set it every time. I guess I did that months ago when the new system went online, but forgot about it since it’s been so long since I needed to use it.

Speaking of things returning to a semblance of normality, this is the first time in months that I’ve gone for a drive without bringing my emergency jump-starter power pack with me. (I keep it in my apartment instead of in the car so that I don’t forget to top up the charge every three months as recommended. Although I don’t think I’ve ever managed to go that long between jumpstarts since I got it.) I didn’t need it, but I should try to stay in the habit of bringing it with me just in case.

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Vac-scene two

Well, this past Thursday was the day of my second COVID vaccination appointment. After the first one three weeks ago, my main side effect was my upper arm being quite sore for about a day. The only other effect was that when I undressed for bed that night, I started to shiver uncontrollably until I got in my nightclothes and under the covers, even though I didn’t actually feel cold. I guess that’s what the information sheet called “chills.” But it was only for the first night.

So anyway, I was expecting another painful injection and a worse reaction afterward, though I wasn’t sure how mild or severe it might be. Still, it would be worth it to feel more or less safe again, and to do my part to keep others safe.

I’d been hoping I might take advantage of the decent weather and walk to the hospital this time, but I’d somewhat strained my hip the day before while cleaning the bathroom, so I wasn’t up to it. I made the same drive as last time, but had a bit of trouble getting into a parking space in the garage, since I’m out of practice at it. I kind of held up one or two cars behind me before giving up on that space. Then I found an open space right at the top of the ramp, so I could drive straight into it, which was nice. (Although it proved tricky when I left. To get out required going down the reverse of the way I came up, and I couldn’t turn 180 degrees from where I was, so I had to go up another level or two to find enough open space to turn around.)

For some reason, the vaccination center at the hospital was far less busy than it was the last time. I would’ve thought that all those people getting their first shot the same day as me would’ve been scheduled for their second shot the same day as me also. I hope that doesn’t mean a lot of them skipped out on their second doses, since it won’t last long that way. But I was able to get my shot pretty much immediately after checking in, and the check-in process was easier because I could hand them my vaccine card. I was expecting the shot to hurt again, but instead I barely felt it; indeed, I wasn’t entirely convinced I’d even gotten it. Maybe the nurse this time had a gentler touch, or maybe it was because I made more of an effort to relax my muscles first. Or maybe it was because I’d taken ibuprofen for my hip pain.

On my way out of the clinic, I overheard a couple of hospital staffers chatting about how the Pfizer vaccine had milder side effects than the Moderna one, which was nice to hear as a Pfizer recipient. And that turned out to be entirely true. Not only did I have much less arm pain this time (though just enough kicked in by that evening to reassure me that I had indeed gotten the shot), but I haven’t had any side effects beyond a mild fatigue and a slight dry-ish cough. I was afraid I might lose a day or two of work on the novel I’m writing, but I’ve managed to keep going after all.

So now I’m starting to think about things to do in two weeks’ time once I’m fully vaccinated and can feel safer going into buildings, as long as I stay masked and distanced for others’ benefit. The library will be one of my first stops. I may also drop into the natural-foods store for some groceries I haven’t had in a while. I’m not sure about going to the supermarket, which would have more people in it, but I might stop in for a quick visit, probably to a more distant store than my usual pickup location, in search of items they don’t have in stock there.

I read a day or two ago that it might be necessary to get annual booster shots, but that’s okay; we do that for flu shots anyway, and it makes sense with new variants likely to keep cropping up. The essential thing, as always, is to educate and encourage more people to get vaccinated. Although, sadly, that’s easier said than done in the current climate of ignorance. But at least there’s hope for things to get better now.

Categories: Uncategorized

Now on Patreon: “The Science of Sacrifice”

This month’s Fiction entry on my Patreon page is “The Science of Sacrifice,” a newly revised version of an unsold story set in Thayara, the same fantasy universe as last month’s reprint, “The Melody Lingers.” It’s actually the first of the two Thayara stories I wrote in 2009-10, and takes place about a generation before “Melody,” laying some foundations for its concepts.

Yet while “Melody” focused entirely on the human cultures of Thayara for simplicity, “Science” is set in a more cosmopolitan city where multiple sapient species interact (since it was written as a “pilot” for the universe), so it has a rather different flavor. As a supplement for subscribers to the Behind the Scenes tier, I’ve published edited excerpts from my Thayara worldbuilding notes, including discussion about the various species and a map of the planet (which is an alternate-history Earth whose evolution was shaped differently by the magic-like phenomenon called Wyrd).

The story is here on my $10/month Fiction tier:

Fiction: “The Science of Sacrifice”

The notes are on the $12 Behind the Scenes tier:

Thayara worldbuilding notes and “Science of Sacrifice” discussion

Meanwhile, my Patreon reviews of the Logan’s Run TV series conclude next week, after which I’ll start reviewing season 3 of the 1988 syndicated Superboy TV series, retooled and retitled The Adventures of Superboy, and vastly improved from the first two seasons.

Running pretty smoothly

Well, I’ve now managed to go as many as 10 days between car rides without my battery dying, which is an encouraging sign. I went out for another drive around the neighborhood two days ago to make sure it stayed charged. That may not have been necessary, as I had to go get groceries today anyway, but I didn’t want to take chances.

Anyway, I’m pleased with how much better the car seems to be running since I got maintenance. I haven’t had any problems with the acceleration being sluggish; that’s usually just a problem in cold weather, but the car seems to respond better even than it used to in warm weather, I think. On my drive, I even went up a hill that the car always used to have trouble accelerating on, at least in the first few years after I started driving it (I haven’t needed to go up that hill much in recent years), but the car had no trouble with it. So whatever maintenance and fluid changes the folks at the garage did really seemed to help.

There was a sign on the apartment building’s door the other day warning us not to keep any valuables in our cars due to a rash of break-ins that had the local police overwhelmed. I never keep any valuables in the car anyway, but I was still concerned. When I hit the key fob to unlock the car the other day, the horn beeped three times. I think that means that the alarm had previously been triggered, but the car still seemed to be locked and intact and nothing was missing. I’d guess maybe someone set off the alarm and it scared them off, though I don’t recall hearing it. Or maybe they just realized my car is so decrepit-looking that it’s unlikely to have anything in it worth taking.

As for my COVID vaccination, I’m about halfway between shots now. After my last shot, my upper arm got pretty sore within a few hours and stayed sore for about a day, but then got better. The only other side effect I had was a weird one — when I undressed for bed that night, I started to shiver, even though I didn’t feel cold. It didn’t stop until I was in my nightclothes and under the covers. But I was fine in the morning, and I haven’t had any other symptoms beyond maybe a slight ooginess for a day or two. We’ll see how much worse it is after my second shot.

One side effect I didn’t expect was that I got a bill for the vaccination. Evidently it’s not free if you get it at the hospital. But it’s not an exorbitant fee, and it’s worth it.

Categories: Uncategorized

Pfizers on stun!

I’m halfway there! I just got back from the hospital, where I got my first COVID-19 vaccination shot. It’s the Pfizer vaccine, which means I’ll have to go back in 3 weeks for the second dose.

I was naturally nervous about this, not only since I hate getting shots, but since this was the first time in 5 months and only the third time since the first lockdown that I’ve been inside a building other than my residence — and the other two times were brief, a stop in at the post office and a quicker stop at the pharmacy. (Plus I hovered in the doorway of the garage office when I got car repairs last month.) This is the longest time I’ve spent around other people in nearly a year, so I was feeling pretty skittish, even with universal mask-wearing and all the hospital safety precautions. (I’m an introvert with social anxiety anyway. A pandemic requiring social distancing just exacerbates my inherent fears and reflexes.)

The check-in procedure was pretty streamlined. There were signs saying to have my ID ready to confirm my age, but the receptionist didn’t even check it, just asked for my birthdate (although I am in their system from prior visits, so maybe that’s why). I just had to e-sign my name three times and then I was given a ticket and went back to the vaccine clinic, and I only had to wait a couple of minutes for my turn. There was a helpful sign taped up telling me that I’d be getting the Pfizer vaccine, which answered my main question. On the one hand, I would’ve liked to get the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine so I’d be immunized faster, but on the other hand, I’d be neurotically worried that there was a mixup and I got just half of one of the two-shot vaccines instead. But I’m sure they keep careful track of all the doses. My vaccine card had a sticker put on with the lot number of the injection.

Well, anyway, it’s a muscular injection, which means it stung badly for a few seconds, but it passed soon. My main trouble was remembering which pocket I’d stuck the little ticket in, and then finding my jacket sleeve to put it back on afterward. I had to wait around in the waiting area for 15 minutes in case of an adverse reaction, your usual post-vaccination procedure, but I felt fine. The injection site isn’t even sore anymore (at least, not so far), and I’m feeling no symptoms yet. Of course, the flu-like side effects tend to come after the second shot, but they pass after a day or two and they’re just the result of the immune system gearing up its defenses. I guess I’ll see in 3 weeks whether I have that kind of reaction.

The main problem I had is that I still haven’t figured out how to consistently keep my glasses from fogging up when wearing one of the disposable surgical masks I use. I ended up just putting my glasses away and getting by without them (only in the hospital, of course, not in the car), so it’s fortunate I didn’t need to read any signage.

So anyway, after my second shot in 3 weeks, it’ll take about another 2 weeks for full immunity to kick in. So I should be set by the end of April — which is pretty much just in time for the Brood X cicadas to come out of their 17-year slumber and swarm by the gazillions, which means I’m still going to be stuck indoors all summer anyway, because I also have an insect phobia. There’s irony for you. Well… as I recall, they’re only active at certain times of day, so I think going out in the mornings is okay. Still, ugh. Every time the cicadas swarm, I hope that by 17 years later I’ll have moved someplace where they don’t swarm, or at least be able to take a long summer vacation out of town. But here I still am in Cincinnati for the fourth Brood X outbreak of my lifetime, though only the third I will have been old enough to remember.

Speaking of being among other people, my aunt had her 93rd birthday the other day, and various family members and friends thereof got together on a Zoom party to celebrate. It’s a shame Zoom doesn’t have an option for providing cake or pizza, but at least I got to see a few familiar faces. It’s the first time I’ve been on a Zoom call with family instead of fellow writers for a convention panel. Hopefully it won’t be the last.

I’m happy for my aunt and uncle, since they’re fully vaccinated now, so this past weekend they were able to hold their nearly one-year-old great-grandchild for the first time. There is hope of things inching back toward normal, as long as enough people behave intelligently by using masks and social distancing, avoiding large indoor gatherings, and getting vaccinated as soon as feasible. I know that achieving that is going to be an uphill battle against the forces of selfishness and stupidity, which are still ascendant in too much of the country and the world. But I’m doing my part, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. People deserve to be able to hug their great-grandchildren. (Where available.)

Categories: Uncategorized

STAR TREK: LIVING MEMORY cover art!

I saw that the cover art for Star Trek: The Original Series — Living Memory started to show up on the Trek news sites the other day, but it wasn’t up on Amazon yet, and I wasn’t sure if the version that was posted was the final draft, so I held off posting it here until I was sure. I forgot to check regularly, but I confirmed today that the final version is out, so here it is:

Star Trek Living Memory cover

I was hoping that Uhura would be featured on the cover, since part of the reason I wrote this book was because I felt I was overdue to give her a focus story. It also makes sense to feature Captain Spock, since this is my first book where he’s in that role throughout. Plus we’ve got Reliant photobombing the cover en passant, as it’s making a return appearance after The Higher Frontier (gotta get Chekov in there somehow, plus I like writing Captain Terrell).

Here’s the description again:

An all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure!

While attempting to settle in as commandant of Starfleet Academy, Admiral James T. Kirk must suddenly contend with the controversial, turbulent integration of an alien warrior caste into the student body—and quickly becomes embroiled in conflict when the Academy controversy escalates to murder. Meanwhile, Captain Spock of the USS Enterprise and Commander Pavel Chekov of the USS Reliant are investigating a series of powerful cosmic storms seemingly targeting Federation worlds—unstoppable outbursts emitting from the very fabric of space. Endeavoring to predict where the lethal storms will strike next, Spock and Chekov make the shocking discovery that the answer lies in Commander Nyota Uhura’s past—one that she no longer remembers….

™, ®, & © 2021 CBS Studios, Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Preorder links are here:

Living Memory will be released on June 15, less than three months from now. Getting closer!

Assorted updates on life

Well, the garage may not have been able to identify and fix the parasitic draw on my car battery, but so far, replacing the battery seems to have helped. I’ve now managed to go up to a week between drives without the battery running out, though I’m trying to make sure I go for a drive at least that often, even if it’s just to dump my recyclables or something. I did that yesterday, then to “exercise” the car and recharge the battery, I drove a few miles to Burnet Woods and strolled around the duck pond for a few minutes, to recharge my battery. The weather was only moderately comfortable, the sky was gloomy, and it’s still a bit early in the year for the woods to look all that great, but I didn’t want to be there when it was crowded anyway. Even outdoors, I prefer to keep as far from other people as possible. So I only hung around a few minutes, but it was nice to get a change of scenery, literally.

It turns out I’m now in an eligible age group to get a COVID vaccine under Ohio policy. I haven’t been in a great hurry, since I figure I’m such a hermit that I’m at low risk, both to myself and to others, so I’m willing to wait my turn until people in greater need get theirs. Still, it’s important to get vaccinated, and it would certainly give me peace of mind, so I’ve started to look into how to go about it. I’ll just have to overcome my timidity about getting shots — and about registering for websites. (At least when I get a shot, I don’t have to go through the hassle of coming up with a password first.)

I had an extended COVID anxiety dream night before last — the kind that’s initially just a normal, old-habits dream of being out in the world, until some recent-memory circuit kicks in and you remember that there’s a pandemic on and you’re outside without a mask. But this was a particularly major instance, because in my dream, I’d taken the bus without a mask and didn’t remember the pandemic until just after I got off in the heart of downtown. So that was quite a lot of potential exposure. To make matters worse, I then ended up being stuck at a fair-sized social gathering indoors where nobody was masked, and it went on quite some time while I tried feebly to keep my face covered with a handkerchief. Then I realized that what people were talking about there was boring and pointless and there was no good reason for me to be there at all, certainly not for such a long time. It was like every source of COVID anxiety at once. I was very relieved when I woke up and realized it was just a dream.

Meanwhile, I just got my taxes done. I was hoping I could go back to my usual tax preparer after missing two years with her, because I tried to do my own taxes two years ago (which turned out poorly) and then last year I took advantage of the 3-month extension to file, and my preparer only works during the regular tax season. But it turns out that this year she’s dealing with a health issue and wasn’t available. I hope she’s okay. Anyway, I ended up with the same fellow who did my taxes last year, and according to him, I was given too low a health insurance subsidy last year, and thus I get a substantial tax credit and owe a lot less than I otherwise would have. Which I initially thought was very good news, although in retrospect it’s kind of bad news, because it means I spent too much last year when I was more broke than I am now. I needed the savings then more than I need them now. Still, it is a relief. Though with my income improving this year, it looks like my taxes will be significantly higher next year.

Nothing much to report on the writing front. I’m working on a Star Trek Adventures project prior to getting back to work on the big new thing that I’ve been hinting at for months and still can’t openly talk about. The work is going more slowly than I’d like, but I’ve got plenty of time. Hopefully I can say more soon.

Categories: Uncategorized
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