Genesis Preview

Just a quick preview on the upcoming book. The title will of course be Genesis, and it follows EM-19, a major character from Sentience, as well as a new character named Nathan Lockridge, a former soldier, killed by a pandemic disease and brought back to life as a mech. Both attempt to adjust to their new life as they uncover a plot to destroy humanity.
 
Also, I have already come up with working plots for two more books in this series. The next book will not follow the story directly, but will be a collection of short stories that expand the world within the Sentience series. I have not decided on a title yet, but have already started writing characters and plot points for it, and I’m very excited about how well it is all coming together. I love building worlds within a story, and this one is showing much promise.
 
Part III to the Sentience series is also in its beginning stages. Don’t want to give away too much about that one, except to say that the series as a whole explores humanity, technology, and what it means when the two combine. Part III will continue in this vein.
 
Sentience is available for Kindle at

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00DILU43G/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1375648127&sr=8-1&pi=SL75

 
 
Still only $3.99! A free excerpt from Genesis begins right…now!
 

June 7th, 2155

My name is Nathan Lockridge. They told me to keep a journal when I got thrown in prison, said it might be the only way I would ever be remembered, some day many years from now.

It’s been almost six years since Lambda became a household name. Everyone talks about it…it changed everything. It started the war, and I was one of the few who fought in it. Of course, we were outmatched, never stood a chance. I wasn’t about to throw my life away for a stupid war that we were never going to win, so I deserted. I went back home to Arizona, and I was worried that they would find me and execute me for deserting in a time of war. 

Instead, I found that no one cared. Marauders from many nations were coming in from the south, making an armed entrance through the Mexican border. I left the war, and another one came to me. The U.S. was too busy fighting the AC in Northern Europe to really care about me too much, and the nation split after the war ended anyhow. The Navy basically had no jurisdiction or extra men to go after me any more.

Not that it matters, not when you have to become a thief to survive. I arrived home in time to see my wife look at me in disappointment…the last look she ever gave me before a group of marauders stormed the airport. She was caught in a rocket blast, while my son and I were tossed aside violently. That look will haunt me for the rest of my life…I’ll have to live with the knowledge that her last thought of me was as a traitor and a coward. Already a broken man, it did not disturb me in the least to raid the vans of some of the marauders. In time, they came to respect my skills, and recruited me for some missions. I would later come to regret ever being involved with them.

Retrovirus TL459-B “Saboteur”
By Samuel Stennis, M.D.

In 2152, WHO took interest in a new viral strain that was causing pre-pandemic levels of spread. The symptoms started small, mostly some mild lethargy and constant shortness of breath, but quickly progressed into nausea, fainting, vomiting, rapid weight loss and unfulfilling sleep, causing patients to die within ten days from malnutrition or sleep deprivation. 

Attempts to extend the lives of patients with the virus have mostly failed. Oxygen supplementation, intravenous feeding, and sedation seemed to only speed up the effects of the virus, causing the patients to wither away within 12 hours, in most cases. The only thing that seems to slow the progression of the virus once it infects a subject is an antibody injection, but the antibodies have to be meticulously prepared to fight the virus, and like the AIDS virus, it mutates rapidly to develop immunity to these injections. Autopsies revealed abnormally high levels of cortisol, and large amounts of dead neurons. This symptom was perhaps the most telling of them all: the brain was being put into overdrive.

When we saw this trend, we ordered a CT scan of several patients’ heads. All of them showed that their brains were experiencing the human analog of an overclock, being forced to perform more tasks than it was able to perform. The constant stress on the brain caused massive neuron death, indeed we were able to see large swathes of neurons dying during the test. In the end, overworking the brain forced a similar effect on the body, to the point where it destroyed itself to keep providing energy to the brain. Had the body not died first, the subject would suffer brain death.

The virus itself is unlike anything we have ever seen. It mutates itself at will, seeming to prep itself for infection of its victim before it actually enters the body. In most cases, it has little effect, but in the short time we have been studying the virus, it seems to have become better at this function, increasing the mortality rate and the speed at which it does its terrible work.

Appropriate quarantine actions have been difficult to implement in the post-war world. Nations allied with the AC have been able to install air scrubbers that kill the virus on a microscopic level, and an antibody booster seems to help prevent infection, but no cure has yet been formulated. Any nation that has the ability to do so has posted scanners at their entry points that detect infected persons. Of course, this has lead to brutal slaughters in some less civilized areas. The Pacific Coast Republic isolates the infected and provides comfort and aid until their inevitable deaths, mostly through the hands of their AC allies. However, it has been noted that anomalies have cropped up amongst AC caretakers, mostly glitches in their programming.

At this point, the Autonomous Collective seems to be our best hope for killing this virus, if they didn’t formulate it themselves, like many seem to believe. Personally, I highly doubt that theory, but I wouldn’t help us, not after the way all of humanity attacked them. I am amazed that they even associate with humans after that, much less provide aid. It will be an irony of the most humiliating kind if such a bitter enemy turns out to be our salvation.

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Fictional Technology

In 2141, a struggling Chinese inventor was contacted by a member of the Autonomous Collective, offering a sharing of technology in the field of prosthetics. The olive branch turned out to be a windfall for the Chinese economy, opening up relations with the AC and establishing their worth as a powerful ally and a profitable business partner.

The company specializes in limb and tissue replacements, partnering with a company out of Hong Kong for more delicate parts such as eyes and vital organs.
 
Together with the AC, Shanghai Synthetics pioneered the Carbon/Cobalt Metadermal Weave, commonly known as C2 or elastics. C2 combines carbon nanotubes with a cobalt core, forming fibers that resemble muscles, and can be aligned into almost any shape with the use of magnetic nodes placed throughout the weave. This kind of prosthetic produces a moving action that mimics the workings of human muscles, and is much more precise than hydraulically-actuated limbs, yet just as strong. Making the limbs more organic in function also decreases the workload on the CPU, in turn saving power. The weave can also be used to replace muscles that have been lost on the human body, though this process is much more difficult and prone to rejection.
 
Shanghai Synthetic equipment is top-of- the-line, but slightly expensive. The prices of their parts are falling, however, due to increased orders and AC assistance in manufacturing. The emergence of Shanghai Synthetics as a major business saw prosthetics become popular amongst the Oriental population. In these countries, prosthetics are not viewed as a stigma or a replacement, but rather an upgrade, a natural progression of the human race. Using parts that are not subject to organic deterioration, humans are living longer and accomplishing feats once thought to be impossible. Voluntary replacement of limbs is not uncommon, far outpacing replacements performed for injury reasons.
 
I often find that, when writing science fiction, it’s easy to start thinking up technology and get lost on that avenue. It’s a lot of fun to think about what might be possible several years from now, imagining what we will be able to do. In a way, thinking up technology is a grown-up version of a kid’s imagination. Personally, there was always a small part of me that still imagined ways that I could learn to fly, build a powerful wrist-mounted cannon, give myself an extra pair of arms, or see in a completely different spectrum of light.

 

The literary challenge in thinking up technology, though, is making it somewhat realistic. Some authors ignore this challenge completely, which often produces technology so fantastic as to border on fantasy. That isn’t to say that some awesome results do not follow. One of the greatest allures of the Star Wars series is the lightsaber fights. Say what you want about the quality of the Prequel series, but the lightsaber battles were expertly-choreographed works of art, not just for the spectacle, but for what they represented. The two-on-one fight in Episode I represented the future struggle, that despite superior numbers, great defeat and sacrifice were ahead. Anakin’s battles against Dooku in Episode II betrayed his inexperience, not just in combat, but in control of his emotions. There were a few fights in Episode III, but the most significant was the one between Obi-Wan and Anakin. The two blades being the same color represented a fearsome, phyrric battle between two brothers. No one would win, no matter who was still standing at the end. 

Many writers, myself included, tend to take a different path: making the technology believable. It presents a less escapist form of story telling, and if done correctly, really gives you the feeling that the world in the story could be your own someday. A lot of video games take this route, as well.

 

The key thing about technology in a story, though, is that if it doesn’t serve the plot in some way, often times it comes across as superfluous. A writer can spend so much time trying to build the world around the character that he forgets to write the actual story. I have done this myself: I spent about six months writing notes for a different story on technology, conflicts, and even the characters, but when it came time to actually write the story, I had so many incoherent elements that there was just no reason to try to put a story together.  The background was more interesting than the story I was trying to write! There’s a place for this kind of creative thinking, but often times it is in the employ of a set designer for a movie or a video game.

 

But when you’re thinking up technology for a story, it has to say something, as well. We live in the age of gadgets, but not all of them impact our life in a meaningful way. Having a bunch of meaningless gadgets in the story doesn’t make it a story, it makes it an encyclopedia. Some people enjoy reading encyclopedias, so there’s nothing wrong with that, either. But if you create a fictional  technology that gives that character an arm where he had none before, no one wants to read about a guy who goes back to his normal life making burgers at McDonald’s…not when they’re expecting an earth-shaking plot. But if you found that your phone was a brand-new creature of its own, one that learned based on what you said or what you searched for on the internet, would you treat it differently?

 

It is a challenge, but when done well, tells the story in a way that it couldn’t have been told otherwise. That’s what most authors are aiming for: an original tale that no one else has seen yet. What will the future hold? The author hopes you’re as anxious to hear as he is to tell you what it could be.

The Villain

Born: September 4, 2091

Nationality: South Africa

Eye Color: Brown

Hair Color: Black

Leader of Sanctus Humana, the man known as Base is a charming, charismatic specimen of a human being. Despite being 58 years old, Base is toned and has all the enthusiasm of a young man.  

Born to the concubine of an unknown warlord, for the first 8 years of his life, Base and his mother struggled to survive from day to day. When he lost his mother and his right leg in an attack on his small town, he was taken in by an amnesty group and offered asylum in the United States. Base refused a robotic prosthetic, opting instead for a metal leg, stating that he would rather save the robotics for people who really needed them.

Base cited his experience with the amnesty group as the best thing that ever happened to him. Though the U.S. was already poorer than it had ever been, Base still looked at the nation as a land of opportunity, and gained fame through his road to recovery. He was quick to share his wealth, and grew to become a highly respected man nationwide. It was out of this fame that he founded Sanctus Humana, claiming that the simplest path for the nation to recover was hard work and charity, the things that made him what he was. 

Base’s popularity declined somewhat after he made remarks about certain prosthetic companies. He witnessed them replacing limbs and organs that were in working order, and sought to draw attention to these money-grubbing practices. The companies responded by slandering his name, and bombing some of their own factories with intent to blame it on Base. The easily swayed U.S. responded wildly: some followed in their mold, bombing more factories, and some defended Base, claiming he was innocent. In the end, the companies attacked his citizenship, revealing his status as an illegal immigrant, forcing him to leave the country. 

This proved to be a windfall for Sanctus Humana. Though less powerful financially, Sanctus grew to a global organization, albeit one totally out of Base’s control. He works feverishly to align the organization, focusing them again on hard work and charity.

 
A protagonist has a rigid job to perform in any story. Often times, he or she becomes a tool of explanation, especially in a written story, explaining the world of the narrative so that the reader knows what goes on and why. In turn, the protagonist becomes a reactionary character, an every man just making it up and understanding things as they go along…someone that the reader, knowing nothing about the story going into it, could identify with. He has to fill a niche that can be restricting.

 

The villain, on the other hand, can be anything, absolutely anything. The villain is foreign, unknown, and cannot be trusted, but must be scrutinized. The villain seeks to make things different or keep them exactly the same, and exploring their reasons for doing so can present the most challenging, and yet rewarding part of creating a story. Some authors do not flush out their villains, which I think is a shame.

 

There have been some great villains in all sorts of stories that break this mold, though.  One of my favorites is Magneto, a villain from the X-Men comics. He started as a typical enough villain, but as more and more stories were written involving him, you got a clear picture of who he was: a Holocaust victim, determined never to let anyone determine his fate, or the fate of those around him. This drives him, and in turn, drives the stories that revolve around him. You can understand the reasons behind the things he does, even when he does terrible things. The villain shows you where the problem is, something that even the protagonist cannot do.

 

I hate to waste opportunities, and a villain is a big one. A good villain should make you wonder if he is indeed the villain. He is human, or at least sentient, and thus has a life of his own with all the wonderful and terrible things that go along with it. He has been joyful, brokenhearted, and for whatever reason, broken fundamentally until he does wrong. Weak villains exist, but strong villains are much more common. Eventually, you ask the question: “What breaks a strong man and turns him into something terrible?” When you answer that question for your story, you discover the truth about fiction: it uses an imaginary world to tell you something about your real world.

 

What does a villain tell you about your real world? It tells you that most people don’t set out to create chaos simply for the fun of it. Anyone who strives to do something big, be it a great or terrible thing, is just as human as the rest of us, seeing something that needs to change, or perhaps something that needs defending. The villain reminds you that the world is bigger than we recognize. He lets you see a different point of view and challenges you to do it differently, then asks if you’re up to the challenge.