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New Patreon fiction: “What Slender Threads”

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted a new story on my Patreon. I fell behind schedule on the conclusion of the Tangent Knights trilogy, so I tried to focus solely on that. But now I’ve finally posted a new story, “What Slender Threads,” which you can read here on the $10/mo Fiction tier:

Fiction: “What Slender Threads”

The annotations for the story are also up at the $12/mo Behind the Scenes tier:

“What Slender Threads” Annotations

I say “new,” but it’s more like “unsold.” As I mentioned on the Tangent Knights discussion page, I already had a rough idea for a trilogy I was planning to develop when GraphicAudio invited me to pitch an original trilogy or series, but I had to rework it to separate out the characters and concepts I’d already used in a prologue story I was shopping around at the time, splitting different aspects of the original premise into two separate continuities and two distinct approaches to the idea of parallel Earths. “What Slender Threads” is that story, a glimpse at my original approach, which would have been somewhat darker and more tragic than Tangent Knights turned out to be. In retrospect, I’m glad I ended up taking a different tack, because TK was enormous fun to write. But there are still aspects of “What Slender Threads” that I’m eager to share with my audience, particularly its distinctive take on the nature of parallel worlds. And people who’ve listened to Tangent Knights: Caprice of Fate might be interested to compare and contrast it with this alternative version of the concept (or vice versa).

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.

eSPEC EXCERPTS – ARACHNE’S CRIME

ARACHNE’S CRIME is on NetGalley in December for reviewers, librarians, and book vendors: https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/210157

For a sample, here’s an excerpt of the opening scenes from the eSpec Books blog.

eSpec Books

I may have already posted this one…or one similar to this, when we were funding the book, but I am giving myself a do-over now that we have a cover for the book!

I give you an excerpt from Christopher L. Bennett’s Arachne’s Crime!


FB-McP-ArachnesCrimeOne

Stephen kept his eyes on the lights in the sky, even as he lay in the mud. The more they tried to beat him down, the more he took comfort in the heights humanity could reach.

“Look up there,” he told them once he’d grown strong enough to defend himself and win the chance to be heard. “Look at what we have the potential to achieve if we use our energies together instead of wasting them against each other.”

At first, Benjamin was his only audience, gazing up with him at the points of light that swept across the heavens. Stephen spoke to inspire…

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ARACHNE’S CRIME is out today!

December 1, 2020 1 comment

Today is the day! The story more than 22 years in the making is finally released! Arachne’s Crime has just gone on sale in trade paperback and e-book editions!

Is this a dream… or a nightmare? 

The crew of the interstellar colony vessel Arachne is roused from artificial hibernation to face a horrific reality, as an alien boarding party takes them into custody to answer for the deaths of tens of thousands of sentient beings.

But there is more to their trial than meets the eye, and the threads of intrigue weave a tight web as crewmates and friends are divided between those who feel they owe restitution for the actions of the ship’s AI in their defense, and those who refuse to bow down to a judgment they see as persecution.

What future can they hope to build among aliens who see them as mass murderers… presuming they have a future at all?

Available from:

The Amazon TPB and e-book entries will probably be combined soon. Other vendors’ links will be added on the home page as they become available.

“Vein Glory” on Patreon!

This month’s original story on Patreon has gone live, coincidentally at the same time Arachne’s Crime got its cover reveal (and I’m informed the novel has just gone to press, and Kickstarter backers have received their e-book copies.) It’s the second bonus story I offered with that Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, a short SF/fantasy hybrid called “Vein Glory,” which is one of only two vampire-themed stories I’ve ever written or probably ever will. As always, it’s available to patrons at the $10/month Fiction tier or above, and the story’s annotations are also online at the $12/month Behind the Scenes tier. Here are the links:

Fiction: “Vein Glory”

“Vein Glory” Annotations

COVER REVEAL – ARACHNE’S CRIME

November 26, 2020 1 comment

Here’s the final cover!

eSpec Books

FB-McP-ArachnesCrime

Cover art and design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics

Is this a dream… or a nightmare?

The crew of the interstellar colony vessel Arachne is roused from artificial hibernation to face a horrific reality, as an alien boarding party takes them into custody to answer for the deaths of tens of thousands of sentient beings.

But there is more to their trial than meets the eye, and the threads of intrigue weave a tight web as crewmates and friends are divided between those who feel they owe restitution for the actions of the ship’s AI in their defense, and those who refuse to bow down to a judgment they see as persecution.

What future can they hope to build among aliens who see them as mass murderers… presuming they have a future at all?


Christopher L. Bennett

Christopher L. Bennett is a lifelong resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, with a B.S. in Physics…

View original post 188 more words

Quick movie review: Netflix’s ANON (spoilers)

I recently re-upped my Netflix account, and I watched a movie last night that was interesting but frustrating. Anon (2018) is written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the writer/director of the classic Gattaca and the writer of The Truman Show. It’s a sci-fi noir detective movie set in a future with a ubiquitous information/surveillance environment, where everyone in linked into an augmented reality network with constant heads-up data about the people and things around them projected into their eyes, and where their own first-person visual records can be shared with others or accessed by law enforcement.

The early part of the movie is the most interesting, as the worldbuilding is deftly established through the work of Detective Sal Freiland (Clive Owen), who easily “solves” crime after crime just by watching the eyewitness records of their perpetrators and victims, until he comes upon the rarity of a murder whose perpetrator went unseen. In a brilliant twist, the killer hacked the victim’s eyes so he saw himself through his killer’s POV, and thus recorded no image of the killer’s face, as well as being too disoriented to defend himself.

Sal’s investigation connects to a mysterious woman (Amanda Seyfried) with no accessible ID, a ghost in the system who turns out to be a hacker called “Anon” who helps people erase their subjective records of their misdeeds, and whose clients are getting murdered one by one. Sal and the other cops think she’s the killer, but naturally not all is as it seems. There’s some cool Ghost in the Shell-style stuff as the hacker-killer stymies Sal’s pursuit, at one point trying to kill him by making him hallucinate a stationary subway car so that he almost steps into the path of an oncoming train.

Unfortunately, once my intrigue in the technological futurism wore off, I began to realize the film was a gross failure of futurism in other ways. The cast is overwhelmingly white, with people of color relegated exclusively to minor supporting roles or bit parts. It’s also overwhelmingly male, with Seyfried as the only major female character (literally credited as “The Girl”), aside from Sonya Walger in a small, incidental role as Sal’s ex-wife. Other female characters, and Seyfried to a large extent, are only there to be sex objects. Anon sleeps with Sal midway through the film for no evident reason other than that it’s expected that the grizzled male lead will get to sleep with the hot female lead young enough to be his daughter. Indeed, the plot establishes that she slept with all her murdered clients, though why she does so is unclear; it’s just an excuse to give the real killer a jealousy motive. (I was actually hoping Anon would turn out to be the killer, just to give her more agency in the story.) The film fails the Bechdel Test; the only interaction between two women is a lesbian sex scene where they’re both killed.

Anon‘s futurism is lacking in other ways too. This is a world where people take ubiquitous augmented reality and the ability to see through others’ eyes for granted, so it must be a generation or more in the future, yet the New York City skyline is no different than it is today (except for the parts filmed in Toronto), the cars are intelligent but not self-driving, and attitudes toward same-sex relationships are no different from today. The cars and fashions are vintage, and Sal chain-smokes like a ’40s noir lead. Now, blending retro style with a futuristic setting isn’t intrinsically objectionable; it worked for Max Headroom and Batman: The Animated Series. But embracing a noir style is one thing; perpetuating the gender and racial norms of an earlier era is another. The social regressiveness cancelled out the imaginative futurism and dragged me out of the story.

It’s also very easy to guess who the real killer is, due to there being only one credible suspect. Anon’s introduction is too coincidental, with Sal passing by her in the street in the first scene and noting her lack of ID; he never would’ve caught onto her otherwise, so that’s contrived. And there’s a part that seems to break the logic of the world in order to get Sal away from the cops after he’s been framed for a murder, with little explanation of how he avoided being tracked for so long.

The film tries to say something about the right to privacy in a world of universal information, and about the dangers of a world where people’s very senses can be hacked, but it’s ultimately too superficial. These ideas have been explored better in prose fiction by the likes of David Brin and Alastair Reynolds, and in works like Ghost in the Shell. And I’m sick of seeing science fiction premises damaged by the American feature film industry’s backwardness about gender and racial inclusion — this being one of the most extreme examples I’ve seen in a long time. There’s half of a good worldbuilding exercise in Anon, but this movie about a world where everything and everyone is seen is ultimately dragged down by its lack of vision and perspective about whose viewpoints are worth showing.

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What would SFTV have been like in the STAR TREK universe?

One of the characters in my novel Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock was Clare Raymond, the 20th-century housewife from TNG’s “The Neutral Zone,” and while working on scenes involving her thoughts and recollections, I got to wondering what mass-media science fiction would’ve been like in a universe where there was no Star Trek TV series in the ’60s. I vacillated between positing a reality that simply lacked such a series altogether and inventing a substitute series that could go in its place and fill the same role. (I was tempted to use Astro Quest from the CSI episode “A Space Oddity”. Galaxy Quest wouldn’t have worked, since it was supposedly made in the ’80s.) I ended up going the former route, but I didn’t really develop it in detail.

But the subject recently came up in a thread on the TrekBBS,  and I got into a more in-depth analysis of the subject, which I want to repost here.

The thing is, Star Trek had such a major influence on popular culture that it’s hard to imagine how different the media landscape would be without it. Star Trek did a lot to make science fiction a more respectable genre in the mass media. It pioneered or popularized many aspects of the modern fandom experience — conventions, fanzines, even slash fiction. The success of ST in syndicated reruns proved that reruns were more viable than broadcasters had thought and led to a rise in rerun use and a decrease in season lengths. Later on, TNG’s breakthrough success in first-run syndication paved the way for the syndication boom of the ’90s.

So without Star Trek, there might never have been a Xena or a Babylon 5. Not to mention all the shows that have spawned directly from Trek veterans like Michael Piller, Ron Moore, Ira Steven Behr, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Rene Echevarria, and so on. There’s no telling if they would’ve ever gone into SFTV if not for ST. If it hadn’t existed in the ’60s, then SFTV and first-run syndication in the ’90s, ’00s, and ’10s would be a lot sparser. Heck, without B5 breaking new ground in serialized storytelling, we might not have as many of the heavily arc-driven shows we have today, in SF or otherwise. It’s a ripple effect.

Without ST, sci-fi would probably have maintained a reputation as kid stuff, since the most successful exemplars of the genre in TV would’ve been Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space. I think my conjecture in Watching the Clock that the bionic shows would still exist is pretty sound, since they were based on a novel and weren’t really seen as hardcore sci-fi; series producer Harve Bennett wasn’t an SF-oriented type and wasn’t very familiar with Star Trek prior to being pegged to produce the movies, so his ’70s career wouldn’t have been affected much by the absence of ST. Ditto for Bionic Woman creator Kenneth Johnson, who went on to do The Incredible Hulk, V, and Alien Nation. If Roddenberry hadn’t made his mark in SFTV, maybe we’d look back on Johnson as the man who proved that science fiction could be an adult genre, though that proof would’ve come along much later. And we might’ve still gotten Earthbound genre shows like The X-Files and Buffy.

And would there even have been a Star Wars without Star Trek? In the Trek Nation documentary, George Lucas says he’d attended some Trek conventions before creating Star Wars, and he says ST helped pave the way for SW by proving that sci-fi could be successful — and that it could be produced impressively on a tight budget. So without ST, with mass-media American science fiction in the ’70s lacking that one massive success story, would any movie studio have been willing to take a chance on Lucas’s idea to do a Flash Gordon pastiche as a big-budget movie? If they had, it probably wouldn’t have been called Star Wars, a name that I’ve read Lucas chose because it evoked Star Trek. And it might’ve been a much smaller, lower-budget film, and there would’ve been less of a pre-existing genre fanbase for it. And its effects might not have been as sophisticated, since the FX studios for Star Trek pioneered new techniques on that show. Without Star Wars as we know it, there wouldn’t have been an ILM, let alone a Pixar. Sci-fi and fantasy wouldn’t have become the giants in the motion picture industry that they are in our world; the films and franchises that would never have been made are too numerous to list. Nor would there have been a Battlestar Galactica or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century or Jason of Star Command. And without Donald Bellisario cutting his genre teeth on Galactica, there might never have been a Quantum Leap.

So probably the biggest SF fan community would be for Doctor Who, and maybe Blake’s 7 would have a big following too. England would most likely be seen as the vanguard of science fiction in popular culture, though SF would be seen as a genre characterized by cheap production values, and thus would have trouble gaining more than a niche fanbase in the US.

And what about all the people inspired to become scientists and engineers because of Star Trek? If that show had never existed, then modern technology might be less advanced in some respects. There might not have been as much incentive driving people to invent flip phones or pad-style computers. Which might explain why some aspects of technology do seem to have advanced more gradually in the Trek universe itself, although its 20th century clearly had much more impressive progress in crewed spaceflight and genetic engineering than ours.

So all in all, as utopian as Star Trek‘s 22nd through 24th centuries are, it looks like their 20th and early 21st centuries would’ve been rather deprived where mass entertainment was concerned. Maybe that’s why ST’s characters are mainly fans of detective fiction and Westerns and gothic romances and the like — maybe science fiction never really caught on outside its particular niche audience.

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