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Posts Tagged ‘Only Superhuman’

Minor update to ONLY SUPERHUMAN Historical timeline

Today I had occasion to glance over the Only Superhuman Historical Timeline page here on my site, and I noticed it was a bit outdated in some of the details, as well as containing a significant typo in one entry (with the word “And” and several spaces inserted somehow in the middle of a word). In particular, I referred to the conflict in 2076 as the Belt War, a leftover term from early drafts that didn’t appear in the final text of OS, whereas in “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad” (Analog, June 2016) I’d renamed it the Orbit War, since it was as much between Earth and its orbital habitats as between Earth and the Asteroid belt. (The Orbit War name also appears in the historical appendix to my upcoming collection Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman). I also realized that the description I’d given of the conflict didn’t quite jibe with “Cislunar” or with the background given in the first chapter of OS. So I made some tweaks to the Timeline text to make it more cohesive. (I also updated “Belt War” to “Orbit War” on the Character Profiles page for the novel.)

Only Superhuman MMPB coverIn the course of doing this, I discovered a convergence that had never occurred to me. In Chapter 3 of OS (the first flashback chapter), when Emerald Blair’s father Richard is explaining the backstory of the Earth-Strider tensions to his young daughter, he says at one point that, as a pacifist, he couldn’t fight in “the war or the troubles that followed,” meaning the dissolution of the Strider states into chaos and internecine struggles in the years after the war. It struck me that if that period had actually been known as “the Troubles” (also the term used to refer to the Northern Ireland conflict of the 1960s-90s, a similar era of political/social strife and violence), that would provide a nice explanation for how the superpowered peacekeepers who emerged to save lives and promote order during the period came to be known as the Troubleshooters. I’d always assumed that they’d picked up that nickname before then, and there are lines referring to early Troubleshooters’ involvement in the war, but those lines are in retrospect, spoken years after the fact, so the name could be applied anachronistically. Even if some of these private vigilantes were informally called “troubleshooters” before the actual Troubles in the early 2080s (and before the Troubleshooter Corps’s founding in 2083), it could’ve been the reason the name caught on during and after them. It’s got a nice resonance, and it doesn’t overtly contradict anything in the text, so it works. Indeed, I wonder if I might have had something like this in mind when I wrote the line “the troubles that followed,” but didn’t remember it later on.

In real life, I chose the name “Troubleshooter” because I initially envisioned the characters as an elite class of problem-solvers within a larger Solar Security Bureau, before I realized the premise worked better without a central Solar System government and started over from scratch with OS. But with that backstory gone, the etymology of the name “Troubleshooter” for what were now outright superheroes became a bit more random. I kept it because I wanted to stress that my heroes were primarily problem-solvers, not just fighters. But this new insight gives the name more of an in-universe justification. And it fits neatly, because in OS I used the word “trouble” as a recurring motif in chapter titles and dialogue (including the Green Blaze’s catchphrase, “Looking for trouble? You just found her.”) I’m kind of surprised I didn’t think of it before. Whether I ever get to use it in an actual story remains to be seen, though.

Anyway, this is a reminder to be more careful about curating my website content. When I check the text of my stories to ensure they’re consistent with each other, I don’t always remember I have further material on the site. That material may not be strictly canonical, but I should remember to check it for consistency with new stories. I’m glad I caught this before the release of Among the Wild Cybers, which will hopefully bring some new readers to my site.

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AMONG THE WILD CYBERS: Putting it together

I’ve just e-mailed the corrected galleys for Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman back to the publisher, which should be the last step for me in putting the interior of the book together, though I still need to work on coming up with a first draft for the cover blurb. Anyway, it was nice to see the whole thing put together as a book, and to get a sense of what the experience of reading through it will be. I’m pretty satisfied with how it worked out.

I thought it might be worth explaining how we arrived on the story order for the collection. My first thought was to go with chronological order, because that’s my natural inclination. That order would’ve looked like this:

  • “No Dominion” (2059)
  • “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad” (2092)
  • “Aspiring to Be Angels” (2106)
  • “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” (2176)
  • “The Weight of Silence” (2202)
  • “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” (2250)
  • “Twilight’s Captives”  (2315)
  • “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” (c. 2480)

I thought it made for a decent story order, with a fairly strong starting story and a really strong closing story, and a good mix of lengths and focuses in between. I figured that if I inserted transitional passages explaining the intervening history to tie the stories together, it would give it a better flow. “No Dominion” wasn’t in continuity with the others, but as the odd one out, it seemed to make sense to put it either first or last, so including it in the chronological ordering seemed to work, however awkwardly.

But there was a glaring problem right off: That order opened with two murder mysteries, which would’ve given a wrong idea about what to expect from the rest of the stories. I was sufficiently attached to chronological order that I was willing to live with that, but my editor, Danielle McPhail, felt it was important to keep the two mysteries separate, to improve the flow. She agreed with me that “Butterfly’s Wing” was the strongest story and should go last, but she felt the next-strongest one was “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” and that it should go first (hence the name of the collection). Beyond that, she left it up to me to pick the story order, requiring only that the two mysteries be separate. I took it as a general guideline to avoid putting similar stories together.

I felt that the brand-new Emerald Blair story, “Aspiring to Be Angels,” should come second, so the audience wouldn’t have to wait too long for it. I put “Twilight’s Captives” and “No Dominion” next because I wanted to front-load the collection with stories featuring strong, impressive female leads, particularly ones I hope to revisit in future works. I put “Captives” first because that let me alternate between stories with an interstellar/alien focus and a Sol System/investigation focus.

I couldn’t follow “No Dominion” with either “Cislunar Railroad” (both mysteries) or “The Weight of Silence” (both first-person narratives), so the fifth story had to be “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide.” And I didn’t want to put “Weight” next to “Butterfly’s Wing,” because those are both two-handers about a man and a woman dealing with a crisis in space. So “Weight” had to come after “Vehicular,” making those the only two consecutive stories still in chronological order. And that left only “Cislunar” for the penultimate slot. That broke the alternating pattern between interstellar settings and Sol System settings, but I guess it’s good that the pattern isn’t too rigid.

The upshot is a collection in which no two consecutive stories are set in the same century: 2250, 2106, 2315, 2059, 2176, 2202, 2092, c. 2480. That’s a pretty good mixture. In reading through the collection for the galley edits, I found that the jumping around in the timeline didn’t bother me. After all, the stories have fairly little direct connection to one another, so a linear progression from one to the next isn’t hugely important. It does feel a little odd to see “Wild Cybers” referencing the events of “Vehicular Genocide” when that one doesn’t come along until later in the collection, but in its own way, that kind of works. Referencing something near the start of a book and only explaining it later is a fairly common storytelling device, and this particular reference isn’t crucial to the story, just a bit of backstory that can wait to be fleshed out. There’s a similar instance of that connecting two other stories, though it’s looser.

Of course, there is a historical appendix at the end to put the stories in chronological context, so readers can use that as a guide if they want to read (or re-read) the stories chronologically. The appendix is put together from the transitional passages I wrote when I expected the collection to be in chronological sequence, although I was able to restructure and expand it once I put it all together into one essay, so it actually works better that way. It does, however, assume that the reader has already read the stories.

All in all, I’m really glad that this is nearly a book. I only announced it to the world two days ago, but I’ve been working on this collection on and off for nearly a year now. I can’t wait until all of these stories are finally available to my readers in one comprehensive package.

Announcing AMONG THE WILD CYBERS — and the return of the Green Blaze!

At last, I’m able to make my first new project announcement in over a year. Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman, a story collection reprinting nearly all of my previously uncollected short fiction, will soon be published by eSpec Books. And I have even better news: the collection will also feature a new, never-before-published novelette starring Emerald Blair, the Green Blaze, in her first print appearance since Only Superhuman!

Among the Wild Cybers will be available in both print and e-book form, and will be crowdfunded by a Kickstarter campaign that eSpec will soon be launching, probably later this month. The collection, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, will include all my short fiction from my default/Only Superhuman universe, plus the bonus story “No Dominion” (“bonus” meaning it was the only one left over and I didn’t want to leave it uncollected). The title comes from the first story appearing in the collection, “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” but as it happens, the majority of the stories do feature cybers (AIs) in some capacity, though only three focus on them heavily.

Emerald Blair, "Green Blaze"

Copyright Christopher L. Bennett

The new Green Blaze story, “Aspiring to Be Angels,” is an 8000-word novelette depicting a key moment in Emerald Blair’s Troubleshooter apprenticeship. I know, I know – prequels. Not as exciting as a sequel would be. But Emry’s superhero training was a part of her backstory that I didn’t manage to include in OS’s flashback chapters; I tried to include it, but I ended up skipping over it for the sake of the novel’s flow. “Aspiring” allows me to fill that gap, and to explore the process by which Emerald Blair became the Green Blaze. Doing a prequel also allows me to bring back Emerald’s mentor Arkady Nazarbayev and delve further into his hero-sidekick relationship with Emry.

In some ways, though, “Aspiring to Be Angels” is more a horror story than a superhero story. It’s not gory or anything, but it’s more dark, bizarre, and creepy than my usual work. It’s something of an homage to the anime Serial Experiments Lain. But don’t worry, it’s also an integral part of Emerald Blair’s journey, true to her character and her world. And I’m hoping it’s just the beginning of her continued adventures, in one form or another.

Another story in the collection, “The Weight of Silence,” might as well be new for most readers, since the online magazine where it appeared, Alternative Coordinates, ceased to exist less than a year after the story’s publication. AC did have a printable PDF edition, as I recall, so there may be a few print copies of “The Weight of Silence” out there somewhere, but I doubt there are very many. So it’s been effectively a “lost” story for nearly seven years, and I’m glad it will finally be available again.

This will also be the print debut for two of my stories that have previously appeared only online, “No Dominion” and “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing.” Both stories are still available online as of this writing (see links on my Homepage and Original Fiction pages), but between them, “Aspiring to Be Angels,” and “The Weight of Silence,” half of the stories in Among the Wild Cybers are appearing in print for the first or nearly the first time. Which means, hopefully, that “Dominion,” “Caress,” and “Weight” will finally get added to my Internet Speculative Fiction Database author page. Apparently their editors don’t pay much attention to online publications, although they do list my Star Trek e-novellas.

I’d originally expected that the stories in Among the Wild Cybers would appear in chronological order, but Danielle and I decided instead to arrange them for the best reading experience, so no two adjacent stories would be too much alike. Here’s the tentative order, with original publication dates:

  • “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Dec 2000)
  • “Aspiring to Be Angels”                     (new)
  • “Twilight’s Captives”                         (Analog, Jan/Feb 2017)
  • “No Dominion”                                   (DayBreak Magazine, June 2010)
  • “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide”     (Analog, Nov 1998)
  • “The Weight of Silence”                     (Alternative Coordinates, Spring 2010)
  • “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad”    (Analog, June 2016)
  • “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing”   (Buzzy Mag, Nov 2014)

There will, however, be an appendix providing a chronological ordering of the stories and an overview of the future history they occupy – including a few new bits of history and worldbuilding that haven’t appeared in print before. In writing that material, I even thought of a way to tweak a part of that history so that a couple of stories have a stronger connection than they did originally.

Between them, Only Superhuman and Among the Wild Cybers will contain the entire published OS continuity to date. If you also buy Hub Space, you’ll have all my published original fiction so far except for “Abductive Reasoning,” which came out too recently to be included in ATWC (which didn’t have room for it anyway). But that’s all right – having a story still uncollected gives me an incentive to keep writing more so I can build a second collection. Hopefully this time it won’t take 20 years to do it.

I’ll provide the link to the Kickstarter page once it’s available. Keep an eye out for updates on publication date, cover art, etc. I’m so glad I can finally post news about this book!

Holiday book sale! Now with new items in stock!

December 3, 2017 2 comments

Okay, guys — it’s holiday shopping season, and I really need to make some money, so hopefully we can help each other. So I’m offering autographed copies of my books for sale once again. I recently acquired new copies of some of my back titles for my signing events last month, but I didn’t sell enough to break even. But that does allow me to offer some titles here that I didn’t have before. Plus I can now offer my most recent book, Patterns of Interference, and I’m marking down Only Superhuman for the sale. And I’m offering some stray single copies that I’ve been holding onto for a rainy day. Everything must go!

You can buy these books from me through PayPal (via the “Send Money” tag with payments to clbennett@fuse.net, or simply use the PayPal button to the right of this post) for the prices listed below.  Please use the PayPal “instructions to merchant” option (or e-mail me) to let me know which book(s) you’re ordering, provide your shipping address, and let me know if you want the book(s) inscribed to anyone in particular (or not autographed at all, as the case may be).

Even if you don’t want a book, you can still make a donation to me through PayPal. Every little bit would be a big help to me right now.

Here are the books I have available, their quantities, and the price per copy (in US dollars):

Mass-market paperbacks: $8

  • Star Trek: TOS — The Face of the Unknown (5 copies)
  • ST: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel (4 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic (5 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code (5 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference (9 copies)
  • ST: Department of Temporal Investigations — Forgotten History (5 copies)
  • ST: DTI — Watching the Clock (1 copy)
  • ST: Ex Machina (1 copy)
  • ST: TNG: The Buried Age (1 copy)
  • ST:TNG: Greater Than the Sum (1 copy)
  • ST: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea (1 copy)
  • X-Men: Watchers on the Walls (1 copy)

Hardcovers: $20 (20% off!)

  • Only Superhuman (25 24 copies)

Trade paperbacks: $16

  • Star Trek: Mirror Universe — Shards and Shadows (6 copies)
  • ST: Myriad Universes — Infinity’s Prism (2 copies)
  • ST: Mere Anarchy (2 copies)
  • ST: The Next Generation — The Sky’s the Limit (2 copies)

Trade paperbacks: $14

  • ST: Deep Space Nine — Prophecy and Change (1 copy)
  • ST: Voyager — Distant Shores (2 copies)

I’ll try to keep this list updated with regard to availability, but if you have doubts (particularly with the single copies), query first. For buyers in the US, add $2.50 postage per book for MMPBs, or $4.00 postage for trades/hardcovers.  For buyers outside the US, pay the book price and I’ll bill you for postage separately once I determine the amount.

If you have a PayPal account of your own, please pay through that instead of a credit card.  PayPal charges a fee for credit card use, so if you do use a credit card, I have to ask for an additional $0.25 per mass-market paperback or an additional $0.50 per trade paperback or hardcover.

Thanks in advance for your patronage!

Michigan trip followup

November 5, 2017 3 comments

Well, I’ve been back from my visit to the Detroit area for a couple of days. I had a pretty uneventful drive both ways, taking about 6 hours each way, what with stops for rest breaks, lunch, and fuel. (I had half a tank when I started, and I realize in retrospect that if I’d waited to fill up until it was low, I could probably have made the round trip with just one refill. But I didn’t.) The only problem is that my GPS shut down on me a couple of times, including while I was in the middle of Detroit rush hour traffic. That’s the second trip I’ve had where that happened — I wonder what the problem is. My smartphone is a few years old now, so maybe planned obsolescence is starting to kick in. Anyway, I don’t really need GPS for most of the trip, since it’s just straight up and down I-75. It was just the last leg getting to Huntington Woods, and getting from there back to 75 South, that I still need a reminder for.

So I had a nice little visit with family, and the book signing at the Huntington Woods Public Library was on Wednesday evening. It was a much smaller group than I’d hoped for. Apparently the World Series was in its seventh game that night or something, although I wouldn’t think there’d be that much overlap between my audience and sports fans. But whatever the reason, there were only about a half-dozen or so people there. So we all sat around one round table and had a nice little chat about writing and Star Trek and stuff for 90 minutes. I gave away most of my giveaway copies of Patterns of Interference, but I only sold one book. I was hoping for more financially, but otherwise I can’t complain. I guess I shouldn’t have expected a huge group (although the library reserved a really big meeting hall for me).

The one other thing of note I did on my trip was to visit the Cranbrook Institute of Science, a natural history museum that’s part of the larger Cranbrook Educational Complex, itself a historic landmark. Alas, I couldn’t afford the extra fee for the chocolate exhibit they’re currently showing, but the rest of the museum was interesting, particularly the geological specimens. I quite liked this iridescent fossil shell in the lobby, which came out really nicely in my photo, with a fiery glow seemingly from within:

Cranbrook fossil shell

And here’s an item from the geology exhibit that’s close to my heart:

Beryl, var. Emerald(I think I once briefly considered using Beryl as Emerald Blair’s middle name. I figured it was too on the nose.)

They had a section on meteorites too, including a really nice Don Davis painting of the Tunguska event, which can also be seen here. There was also a replica T. rex skeleton that you can get really close to — I’m not sure I’ve ever really gotten a sense of just how big they were. That would’ve been scary. There was also a Michigan-centric section about Ice Ages and glaciers carving the landscape, and an anthropology section with items from various world cultures all displayed together. That section had a video presentation using that so-called “hologram” technology that projects what looks like a freestanding, translucent flat image in open space. I ducked down to the side to take a closer look at how it works, and it’s quite simple — there’s a horizontal video screen in the ceiling and a glass plate at a 45-degree angle reflecting it (basically a beam splitter), so that the reflection looks like it’s floating upright in the air behind the glass. They set it up so that the “holographic” characters (of course this has nothing to do with actual holography) appeared to be occupying the 3D physical display behind the glass, with the hostess standing on the carpet and a little towheaded kid right out of ’60s sitcom central casting sitting on a chest and listening to her lecture about human diversity. Since they were both in the same plane, the perspective of the illusion held up well as I moved from side to side, as long as I didn’t move far enough to see how flat their images really were. The bench in front of the display was not so wide as to spoil the illusion for kids sitting on the ends. But this is me we’re talking about — when I see an illusion, I want to see how it’s made. I was always more interested in knowing the magician’s point of view than the spectator’s.

As I mentioned, the drive home on Friday was pretty uneventful, but one weird thing happened: I got 4-5 spam calls on my smartphone within just a few hours, an astonishing number. Most of them I just rejected because I was driving at the time, but there was one that went to voicemail that was an incredibly inept scam, an obviously synthesized voice speaking in hilariously ungrammatical English about how I had to pay my overdue IRS bill or something or I would get arrested “by the cops.” I wonder why there were so many calls on that day alone.

So now I’m back home, caught up on my missed TV shows, and trying to get back to work. I’m doing copyedits for a project I should be able to announce soon, and expecting copyedits for another project I hope I can announce before much longer. Plus I just got a phone call reminding me that Election Day is on Tuesday, so I should remember to research the candidates and issues before then. (I’ve been getting a ton of election fliers in the mail, but I prefer to get my info from independent sources.)

And of course, I’ll be at Erlanger’s LibraryCon this Saturday, November 11, from 11-4. This should be a bigger event, so hopefully there will be more folks around to buy my books.

Books By the Banks 2017 followup

October 29, 2017 1 comment

This year’s Books By the Banks event went fairly well. There was a reception for the authors Friday night, and though I’m not very good at such large-scale social gatherings, I managed to get something out of it. I noticed that the name of one of the guest, Mark Dawidziak, sounded familiar, so I looked him up on my phone browser and found that he was the author of The Columbo Phile, a behind-the-scenes companion and episode guide to the Peter Falk series, which I’ve had a copy of since about the time it came out in 1989, or at least not long thereafter. So I sought him out and brought that up, and he was quite pleased to hear I had a copy, since it’s apparently fairly hard to find (it’s long out of print and owners don’t like to part with their copies). He said he was actually a bit relieved that he never got a chance to do a revised edition or sequel about the ABC revival of Columbo, because the story of the original series was a tale of success, while the story of the revival… not so much. (It started out pretty good in its first couple of years, but had a long, slow decline after that. It did manage to do one last good one at the end, though not good enough to let them do one more movie and finish the series with an even 70 installments.) Anyway, he suggested I bring it in the next day so he could autograph it, which I did and he did.

So the reception went well enough, but I got a pretty painful foot cramp and had to leave early. I think it was standing on the hardwood floors for so long that did it, and probably the fact that I didn’t stretch my legs before I went out. Walking back to the downtown parking garage helped work out the cramp, but I had frigid weather and heavy rain to contend with, and I was in a light jacket with no umbrella, not having anticipated those conditions. It was most unpleasant, particularly after having an unseasonably warm autumn. And then I found out the garage had raised its rates since I was last there. And then I had to drive home in the dark and the rain, which I hate. I made it home in one piece, though.

At least I got a decent night’s sleep and was reasonably awake for the festival on Saturday. I was seated near one author I know from past events, mystery writer and Sherlock Holmes expert Dan Andriacco, and we talked some about my recent revisit of the Basil Rathbone Holmes films. I was seated between a detective-story writer, Rock Neelly, and a writer of sports-themed political thrillers, Dennis Hetzel — no other sci-fi people there, apparently, and not a lot of adult fiction overall represented this year.

As for me, Joseph-Beth Bookseller had provided a number of copies of Rise of the Federation books 2-5 and The Face of the Unknown, but unfortunately no Only Superhuman, so the only non-Star Trek items I had to offer were my postcard/fliers for Hub Space. (Hopefully I’ll have something else non-Trek to offer next year. Stay tuned.) While I got to listen to the authors on either side of me giving their rehearsed pitches over and over, I had to contend with the usual thing of trying to explain to the mostly non-SF-fan crowd that: no, I don’t write for the show; no, the books are not made into episodes; no, I’m not the person who writes all the books; no, the producers don’t tell us what to write; and, yes, books based on Star Trek are a thing that exist. Plus the occasional person who addressed me only to say that they weren’t into Star Trek, though at least most of them were apologetic about it. But there was one person who said he came to the event just to see me, which was flattering.

The most successful seller among my available Trek books was The Face of the Unknown. It soon became evident that it’s easier to sell a standalone than series books, especially when the first book in the series wasn’t available. I eventually modified my completely unrehearsed pitch to say that the books could stand reasonably well on their own since they filled in any necessary information about what came before. Anyway, the best seller among the ROTF books was Uncertain Logic, which is possibly due to its distinctive cover (or I like to think so, since the cover design was my idea). Eventually I was down to one copy each of those two. When I got up to stretch my legs with about an hour and a half to go, I noticed that behind me was a corralled-off space with boxes holding extra books, so I replenished my supply of those two books — and then I didn’t sell any more. Oh, well. At leat a lot of people took Hub Space fliers, so hopefully I’ll see a spike in sales there. (As in, some sales.)

So that’s one more BBtB down for me, and the first of my three close-packed events. In a couple of days, I’ll be heading up to Huntington Woods, Michigan for the library signing on Wednesday at 7 PM. There should definitely be Only Superhuman copies for sale there. And a new wrinkle: I’ll be giving away copies of Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference.

Now I just hope I can get through the next few days without catching a cold from walking in the rain and attending a crowded convention…

Book signings: Now there are three!

Looks like I’ve been neglecting my blog again these past few weeks. I’ve been struggling with a new project I hope to talk about soon, something I haven’t done before and am trying to learn the ropes for. But I want to remind folks that I’ll be one of the guests at Books by the Banks at Cincinnati’s Duke Energy Convention Center this Saturday, October 28, from 10 AM – 4 PM. Also, next Wednesday, November 1 at 7-9 PM, I’ll be signing books at the Huntington Woods Public Library just outside of Detroit, Michigan.

But that’s not the end of it! Just today, I accepted an invitation to yet another signing at LibraryCon, an SF/fantasy-themed library event in Erlanger, Kentucky. It’ll be Saturday, November 11 (Veteran’s Day) at the Erlanger branch of the Kenton County Public Library, located on 401 Kenton Lands Road, Erlanger, KY 41018. That’s just a couple of miles east of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. I gather it’ll be a mostly outdoor event unless it rains.

So it looks like I’ve got a busy few weeks ahead of me! And lots of chances for people to come meet me and buy my books.