My favorite End o’the World Books of 2016…

I know it’s 2017, but it’s barely 2017 and seeing as how I’d (hopefully) be late for my own funeral, I figured it wasn’t too late to talk about my favorite end-of-the-world stories from 2016.

I don’t keep track of how many books I read in a year… I should probably start doing that. I’ve also never made a favorites list for those that were… well, my favorites.  I should probably start doing that too.  I should probably say something to the effect that although some/all of these may not have been published in 2016, I read them in 2016.  They are not in any kind of order – they’re all my fav’s.

The covers are linked to the book’s Amazon page and you can click on the author’s name to go to their website/amazon page.

So, here we go…

 

 

All the Elders Orphans by Melissa Dykes

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Ms. Dykes did an amazing job at making me despise or revere the characters in this book.

There were unbelievably sweet moments and absolutely horrendous ones… something one might expect in a broken world like this.

The female lead was superbly done and I appreciate how Ms. Dykes wrote her. This is a very brutal world and as much as I like to think I’d be some badass survivor, I’m not sure I could be as strong as she is.

I don’t recall there being a single spelling or grammatical error that took me out of the story – a real feat in this day and age.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to those who enjoy post-apocalypse stories.

 

Arch City Apocalypse: The Low Lying Lands Saga Volume 2 by Bob Williams

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A fantastic second book in the Low Lying Lands Saga, and I daresay that I enjoyed it better than the first. Another non-stop romp through the wasteland that was once America.

Prescott is “every man”… totally relate-able. I’d venture to guess we’ve all known a Prescott, or perhaps even been a Prescott. He’s just a great character.

The SciFi pop-culture references are one of my favorite things about these two books and Williams is a master of it here. One minute I’m terrified at what I just read, the next I’m laughing… good stuff!!!

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed story about a few folks trying to take down a seriously bad dude – I highly recommend this one.

 

Uroboros Saga Book 6 by Arthur Walker

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Once again, Arthur Walker hits it outta the park. Seriously, how does this guy do it?! I would go so far as to say that this may very well be my favorite one so far.

From the opening chapter, I knew that this was gonna be a helluva ride and I was right. There are long-wondered questions answered, but (in pure Arthur Walker fashion) more rise up. That’s a good thing because it means there’ll be more books!

One thing that really struck me in this latest book is the author’s ability to present incredibly fantastic tech as totally tangible, real, and believable. Not only tech, but things that surpass the technological and into the, well – almost magical. He has an amazing way to allow the reader take all of these wonderful concepts for granted – we don’t know how they work, we just know they do and that’s good enough.

This series ventures headlong into hard scifi and I would have no issue placing this author’s books right alongside those of Niven, Robinson, Clarke, and Pohl.  If you’d like to read some insight to the series, you can do so here in an interview back in 2015… Identity Extensive Technology and “Going Delta” – An Interview With Arthur H. Walker.

 

Making Monsters by Joe Turk

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Joe Turk describes Making Monsters as “dystopian humor with an apocalyptic chaser.” I’d say that hits the gnat right in the ass. The humor can be fairly dark, but this is story about the end of things, so that goes without saying. We get to travel along with the characters as the world is being broken right before our eyes. It’s like Doctor Strangelove meets the Cthulhu Mythos. I never once got bored reading Making Monsters and if it wasn’t for this ridiculous thing called being an adult and having to work, I would have read it in one setting.

I absolutely enjoyed the hell out of this book. There’s a cautionary tale going on here and I’m not quite sure if I should pass it off as fantasy or be scared to death that something like this might happen. Ya never know…

I enjoyed this story so much, I asked Joe if he’d write a guest post for my blog. You can read it here if you’d like… A Corporately Sponsored Apocalypse.

Oh, and did you know that Mr. Turk is currently working on an animated web-series based on Making Monsters?  No?  Well, you do now!  Check it out, it’s really great!

 

The Wizard Killer – Season 1: A Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Serial by Adam Dreece

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I very much favor “Man with No Name” stories and that is one of the reasons I’m so attracted to The Wizard Killer.

Who is this guy? Where did he come from? Where is he going, and what keeps him putting one foot in front of the other?

One of the things that really sucked me into this story was that the main character wakes up with no clear recollection of who or where he is. He’s apparently a man who harbors some kind of magical power… but he just can’t really figure out what the hell is going on.

I felt very empathetic towards the main character. He seems to react the same way I would in his situations… essentially standing there, looking around, and muttering “I’m hungry, I’m lost, I’m pissed off, and everyone keeps trying to kill me… What the hell?!?!”

It is a compelling story. I want (who am I kidding… I “have”) to know what is going on. Who is this guy and what killed the world?

I felt like I was trudging along the blasted landscape with this him, often muttering “What the yig?!” under my breath.

This is like Mad Max meets Lord of the Rings… I mean, we’ve got magic in a post-apocalyptic wasteland…. how does it get better than that!

I highly recommend this post-apocalyptic fantasy tale from Adam Dreece!

 

The Eternal Season (The Swallowed World Book 1) by Tyler Bumpus

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I’ve been wracking my brain for the past 12 hours trying to figure out just how to express how much I liked this book.

There is world building going on here the likes of which I have not seen for a long, long time. A future North American continent that has been laid waste by not only geological catastrophes and apocalyptic weather, but also by war, famine, and disease. All of these things lead to a perfect storm that literally breaks the world. The book was reminiscent of Aftermath by LeVar Burton and The Road.

Amongst all of this ruin, there is incredible technology still being used. It’s an amazing blend of a technological society living in a new dark age. There is also a hint of the evolution of human beings and a hope that something better may rise out of this broken world, although I have a sneaking suspicion that things are gonna get worse before they get better.

The characters of this story…. wow. You’re going to run the range of emotions with them. I very much liked the fact that the main character count was kept low. I often have a hard time following who’s doing what when I’m having to follow a bunch of different characters. Kudos to Mr. Bumpus for keeping it simple and letting me get to really know a select few instead of hardly getting to know a bunch.

This story is for mature readers. There is not a lot of terrible violence spread throughout, but there is one particular part that… well, when you get there, you’ll know it.

The author graciously included a glossary, which to be honest, is worth the price of the book alone. It’s a story in and of itself. Not to mention maps and chapter art. You can tell that Mr. Bumpus put a tremendous amount of work into this story and to say I’m excited to read new books as they come out is an understatement.

Tyler wrote a guest blog for me last year. You can read it here… Birth Pangs: Interpreting Our Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare.

 

Hood: A Post-Apocalyptic Novel (American Rebirth Series Book 1) by Evan Pickering

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Wow…

This is a damned good book.

I’ve read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction… a LOT, and I have to say that this is a solid five-star story.

What did I like about it? The characters. Mr. Pickering is able to bring these characters to life. They are people that you know… hell, they might even be you! Make no mistake, I like to have some ass-kicking in my wastelands, but it is often rare that I actually end up actually caring about the characters. Mr. Pickering does a fantastic job of making the reader despise a character, yet love them at the same time (and sometimes, just the opposite). They make decisions that, when you really think about it, we might very well make in the same situation.

It is often a rare thing when I feel a book is character-driven, but the author has simply done a wonderful job at doing just that.

I highly recommend this one.

 

After Armageddon (Book of Luka Series Book 1) by Brian Dorsey

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Perhaps best known for this military SciFi series, Gateway, this is actually Brian’s second post-apocalyptic tale (his first, Hope, is available on Wattpad).

This is a brutal and interesting dark romp through the apocalypse.

A speculative take on the theological aspect of Armageddon, the story follows a rather eclectic cast of characters trying to survive the End Times and push back the demons that have laid waste to the planet.

The theological theme may sway some readers, but being someone of an open mind and a love for stories in this genre, I very much liked it. There is some harsh language and violence, but let’s face it, Armageddon ain’t gonna be all daisies and kittens.

 


 

And there you have it!  Thanks for reading and please, check out these authors and their work.

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Death Drive, Life Drive… Guest Blog from S.C. Flynn.

I remember first encountering S.C. Flynn around 2014.  He labeled himself as a “…reader and reviser of science fiction and fantasy.“.

I really had no idea that he was a writer as well.  You can imagine my surprise and rather blatant joy to learn that his first published book was going to be post-apocalyptic/dystopian in nature… YES!!!!

Not only that, but it was going to by YA as well, and truth be told,  I have come to enjoy YA literature almost more than that geared strictly towards adults… it tends to be faster paced and does a great job at keeping the reader engaged and wanting to read.  YA lit ain’t just for kids, ya know!  He asked me if I wanted to read an ARC, to which I promptly replied “Hell yes!!!”.  I really enjoyed his story and am very much looking forward to reading more in this series.  You can read my review of Children of the Different here.

So let me present S. C. Flynn – reader, reviser, and now…  a published post-apocalyptic author!


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The roots come out of the earth, fighting back against mankind’s concrete prisons. As if the soul of the world were pouring out again.

These days, a lot is rightly said about the damage done by industrialized human society to the Earth’s environment. Global warming is melting the world’s ice caps; in time, this will raise the water level such that certain coastal areas will be rendered uninhabitable. Rising temperatures in Equatorial Africa will increasingly make agriculture impossible there. These issues and others to come will probably affect the entire planet, even to the point of killing off humanity in its entirety.

We are caught in a self-perpetuating death drive.

termitewingsseparateAs great as these problems are, they are limited to the human point of view. The Earth itself is indifferent to whether or not we exist. If things continue as they are, it will eventually rid itself of humanity – or most of it – and start a new drive to life of its own. A drive back towards growth, cleanliness and diversity. Any humans left would have to make do as best they could in a game where they no longer make the rules.

Nature’s game.

The situation of a vastly reduced human population trying to survive after the collapse of technological civilization lies at the heart of post-apocalyptic fiction. Scavengers – people living off scraps of that previous civilization – are currently very popular, as are zombie-style chaos, but other reactions would also be logical. Trying to rebuild what was lost. Destroying all traces of it as evil. Or trying to forget all about technological civilization and following a new life trajectory, one that involves letting yourself be absorbed in to the Earth’s life drive:

I and the others like me are the human roots left after the Madness. We are like nature’s soul, small as we are.

termiteseparateThat might seem either utopian or dystopian, depending on your point of view. The difficulty of imagining that kind of life stems more from our total dependence on machines than from any real impossibility in living much closer to, and in tune with, nature. After all, our ancestors did so for many centuries. If enough time were to pass, or if the shift in mentality caused by the apocalypse were sufficiently great, it might be possible.

The end of technology and mass communication would mean the end of large ideologies, and various small isolated groups might experiment with different approaches to life, each one “ethical” according to its own rules. Among them, there might even be a group that works to bring back the best of technological civilization, while avoiding the errors of the past.

Literature can – and should – try to imagine these different ways of living and of being. It can help us to understand what to look forward to. And what to avoid.

‘She could feel the life pulsing, life of a kind she had never felt before. Rich but impossibly ancient. She knew that these creatures had seen every kind of being come and go. They had been there long before anything else, and they would be there long after humans were gone.’

[artwork by Eric Nyquist]


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About the Author

S. C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian.

He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him.

S. C. Flynn has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years. This path included two periods of being represented by professional literary agents, from whom he learnt a lot about writing, but who were unable to get him published.

He responded by deciding to self-publish his post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Children of the Different and, together with an American support team, aimed for a book as good as those created by the major publishers.

S. C. Flynn blogs on science fiction and fantasy at scflynn.com. He is on Twitter @scyflynn and on Facebook. Join his email newsletter list here.

The Future Drift…Guest Blog from Drew Avera

It’s been at least a couple of years since I first met Drew Avera (real quick – his last name is pronounced “averee”… yeah, I know… I screwed it up too).  I’d read a few of his books (in fact, a couple of them were some of the earliest ebooks I had downloaded) and then ended up running into him on Facebook and Twitter.  We’ve often conversed about various story ideas and I’d pick his brain about his indie-author career.

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Drew’s been writing for a while now and has quite a library of stories.  It’s pretty crazy to see this much work come from someone with a full-time military career.  Drew is a Navy Veteran and that is one of the things that drew (Ha!) me to him.  One of the things that amazed me about him is the fact that he wrote his first book on an iPhone… yes, an iPhone.  How cool is that!

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Drew has recently been involved with some amazing anthologies… in fact, I remember when he just had a few books under his belt  – looking at his Amazon page today, it’s amazing to see how his library of work has grown.

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Let’s let Drew talk about his time at sea and how those experiences may well qualify him to crew a deep space starship one day…


One Hundred Days…

That’s the roundabout number of days it takes me to start shutting down on a deployment. It’s at this point when everyone around me starts getting on my nerves, the feeling of being a sardine packed tightly into a can makes me feel claustrophobic, and mild depression starts setting in. One-hundred days. It is a threshold learned over the course of four combat deployments on US Navy ships and it is part of the reason I write science fiction.

It is Memorial Day, at least right now it is, as my fingers strike the keys of my keyboard. A bit of laziness causes a typo, but it isn’t pure laziness, it is the exhaustion of almost two-hundred days of not being home. I’ve had eighteen days off out of the last two-hundred and only two or three more scheduled out of the next forty days. To say my “cycle” is a little off is an understatement, but I’m actually used to this lifestyle in a way a sick child is used to the needles injecting into his/her arm every day. It hurts, but you know it hurts, and then you just don’t care that it hurts.

I sleep in a coffin, six feet long, three feet wide, and three feet high. It’s open on one side, though the blue fabric curtain offers something like privacy. It’s low-tech in a high-tech world. I’m drifting on a war vessel capable of destruction the world hopes to never see and I am so numb to it that I barely recognize it for what it is. It’s the future exposed in the modern world. The confinement, the isolation, the stress, all of it will carry forward into the future drift as humanity expands its reach to the stars. We learn and we adapt to our surroundings. Sometimes it hurts, but eventually the pain of it dissolves, or we grow numb to it. This is how mankind will be taught to traverse their way into the unknown.

Deployments have extended, my own is no exception, the blow of knowing you will not be home on time tears a hole in your soul. The patchwork of moving past such heartache is the same as the numbing agent of making it one more day, followed by the next, and the next, and the next. Eventually, the days all stream together into an incoherent mass, indistinguishable from one another. It makes you feel a bit crazy to lose the concept of time, but eventually you are grateful for it, to not have the mark of individual days weighing on you like a burden you can never drop. It is a skill, in and of itself. Mostly, it is a learned trait that will be necessary to take us beyond our solar system, where the light of Sol is only present as a pinprick of light on the monitor feed of a generational spaceship.

The future drift is coming. Space exploration is becoming a privatized industry as governments fall out of competition and let the common man take over. I think it is better this way. Governments only serve to get in the way of expansionism, to use politics to say why we can’t do something. Instead, we will figure out how we can do it and then break those barriers down as we carry ourselves further into the expanse. Mars will be our neighbor, followed soon by the moons of the outer gas planets. Before long, the solar system will not contain us, though we will still be contained. The point when everyone starts getting on each other’s nerves, the feeling of being a sardine packed tightly into a can making them feel claustrophobic, and mild depression starts setting in. and then we will do it all over again, relearn new traits to deal with the pain, the isolation, the subjugation of captivity in the vacuum of space.

There’s a part of my soul that wishes to experience this, but I know I would hate it, and love it, and hate it. We romanticize what it would be like to explore the universe. We experience it in short duration as we watch television and movies depicting the dreams of mankind on a screen, the adventure laced with drama unfolding before our eyes. Those depictions leave out the innumerable moments of mere existence that carried the crew to the uncharted worlds they discover. Were they frozen in time, sleeping away relentless years without stirring, or were they awake for the ride, trapped in their own coffins to sleep away their lonely nights after a long days work? And what happens to day and night when the light of stars is too dim to distinguish one from the other? Will mankind care or will it become the numbed pain of learned association, the mind dealing with existence in a way that disassociates the person from reality, if only for a short while?

The future drifts, requiring us to learn what is necessary to take the next leap forward. Space exploration will not be abridged, shortened to eliminate the dull moments; the ones that make you feel alone in a sea of people, the ones where you miss home. The guarantee of adventure is as weak as the guarantee of immortality. Some lives may pass with nary a moment of exhilaration as other lives are bent and molded by new worlds, the challenge of adaptation forbearing in a way we can only imagine with weary eyes before we drift to sleep at night.

I’ve thought about it as I’ve been lulled to sleep by the gentle crash of waves against the ship. What would it be like to be anywhere but where I am now? What if I could change time and put myself in the future, in the drift of space, carried forward by momentum gained years prior? That is how we will explore, on the thrust of the generations who went before us. Can I count myself as that generation, or am I part of the world of forgotten scientific advancement? Are our achievements capable of being measured because they are important now? Or will the future nullify all we know in order to accommodate new sciences that will fit into their view of the universe? It’s hard not to want to know the answers, but what if they are disheartening? What if we never reach towards the stars? Is it a bigger crime than being forgotten by the sands of time?

Maybe, I just think about it too much. As the future drifts, so do I, upon the sea that countless generations sailed. There is a brotherhood of the sea, where men like me missed their families too. Perhaps they dared to dream of a future like I do, or perhaps they longed for the seas to dry and negate the need for ships that drive wedges between them and their families. Both are hopeful and hopeless, a duality, like a double-edged sword you are cut either way. Instead, I won’t think about the pain of the cut, but on the hopefulness of the future, drifting further away while being close enough I deceive myself in thinking I can touch it, to taste it, to smell its existence.

We will be among the stars again, because it is the stars from which we were born. Perhaps not our bodies, but in our dreams; born for more than the universe as we know it, but as we want it to be, and more.


Drew Avera, author of The Dead Planet Series, is a science fiction author and active duty Navy veteran. He lives in Virginia with his wife and children. You can learn more about Drew by visiting his website at www.drewavera.wordpress.com

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Please take a moment to check out Drew’s Amazon page.

I want to thank Drew for writing this guest post for my blog.   Thanks, Drew!

Oh, did I mention that Drew has recently been absorbed into The Collective and chosen to be a Scribe for The God Machine?

No?

Huh…

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You can find Drew at the following locations when he’s not tethered to an omnipotent machine or sailing the seas…

Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

A Corporately Sponsored Apocalypse – Guest Blog by Joe Turk…

I’m often contacted by authors who ask if I wouldn’t mind reading their work and posting a review.  I try not to make a habit of this as it makes me uncomfortable, so my answer is usually “I’m sorry, but no.”

But once in a while, one will come along and my gut tells me to do it.  Such is the case with Joe Turk and his book, Making Monsters.  Joe seemed a bit apprehensive about asking me to take a look at it as he worried it wasn’t something that fit perfectly into my preferred genre.  After taking a quick glance at a sample on Amazon, I found that it looked incredibly interesting and Joe seemed like a very talented fella.  In fact, I was so impressed with his writing, artwork, his quick wit and personality, that I asked if he’d write a guest blog.

I’m really glad he said yes.

I’m a big fan of knowing the why’s and wherefore’s of apocalypse tales.  Joe does an amazing job of painting a picture (Ha!) of a world that reminded me of Dr. Strangelove meets the Lovecraftian Mythos.  The thing is… he is using real-world events – things that are actually going on right now, that may very well result in a very, very unhappy ending.

So, with no further ado, here’s Joe Turk…


 

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Dystopian humor with an apocalyptic chaser…

Since the start of things, doomsayers have walked dirt paths, ringing bells and warning all within shouting range about the end of days. Over time, these harbingers of doom became part of our literary and cinematic history. I can’t think of an apocalyptic story that doesn’t have a character sounding an alarm and warning everyone to prepare for disaster. So when I sat down to write a predictive tale about the last days of man on earth, I knew I wasn’t writing a new story. This made ask, why bother writing it all? Does the world need another cautionary tale? There are enough novels about the apocalypse. Why don’t I just order a pizza and level up my warlock?

And then my house started shaking again. Stuff would fall off the walls and I could hear the wood structure above my ceiling popping and creaking. Here’s the thing, we have ‘manmade’ earthquakes where I live. Before 2008, we had two or three a year. (Magnitude 3.0 or bigger) Then we became ground zero for hydraulic fracking. Two years later, in 2010, we had 45 quakes. Last year we had 857. Yes, from two or three per year, to 857 earthquakes in a single year.

So everything is rattling around and I’m sitting on the couch thinking, somebody should really do something about this. This is craziest thing I’ve ever experienced. There’s a group of people sitting around a conference table, orchestrating manmade-natural disasters for profit. If this were a movie, there’d be an arch villain behind an ornate desk, tenting his fingers and counting his gold coins. Except this isn’t a movie. This is really happening.

I was getting very upset about my house getting twisted apart by people I can only assume are trying to break some kind of record for wealth collection. So I started writing down ways I might find and murder those at the top of the responsibility ladder. At first, I had no plans to publish anything. It was anger management therapy. A vent for my earthquake related anxieties. I had to purge the rage so I didn’t end up like Ted Kaczynski, eating wild berries and taping matchsticks together. But the earthquakes kept happening. At this point, I started restructuring my murder notes into a story and researching details about other environmental disasters.

K8Es2LBOThis fiery sinkhole was created almost fifty years ago by a Russian drill rig in Turkmenistan. The ground collapsed and methane gases started escaping. They lit the hole on fire, thinking it’d burn off the gas in a few days. It’s still burning. You can see it on google maps right now.

 

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This is a 750 yard long crack in the ground that opened up overnight in Wyoming last October. They do a lot of fracking out there in Wyoming. It’s hard not to think this spontaneous canyon is related to the practice of exploding chemicals beneath the ground.

The more nonfiction I read, the more I believe in the possibility, or inevitability, that we will create bigger and more catastrophic disasters as our technology advances. If you believe in the butterfly effect, it’s easy to think we’ve already set off a chain reaction of catastrophes that will eventually make the newly named ‘Anthropocene era’ the shortest, and perhaps last, era on the planet earth.

For reasons I probably shouldn’t detail publicly, this idea pleases me. If I’m honest, I root for the disasters in disaster movies. I watch the hero disassembling the nuclear bomb and quietly pull for it to explode. Sure, the practical, homeowner side of me wants the earthquakes to stop. I’m pro-environment. Let’s save the world! But I’m also pro-apocalypse. And the irresponsible kid in me that loves apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories wants to see the spectacle promised by the collapse of a civilization thought too big to fail. Who knows, it might be a good thing. Maybe a reboot is the catharsis the species needs. If nothing else, it’ll provide answers to the questions posed by artists, musicians, and writers for centuries now: will human beings stay civilized if our infrastructure collapses and people are forced out of their automated, daily routines? Or will the sophistication peel off as we return to a more animalistic nature. How will we behave if the buildings come down and we have to live off the land again?  The apocalypse and post-apocalypse promise to teach us something about ourselves.

Until that day, I’ll be over here yelling about environmental catastrophes and ringing my doomsday bell. Forgive me if I do this with an excited smile on my face.

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So there he is… Joe Turk.  Remember his name – I bet you’ll be hearing more of it in the coming years.  You can find him on Amazon , Twitter, Goodreads, and DeviantArt.

I highly recommend his book, Making Monsters.  It is, in his own words, “More like dystopian humor with an apocalyptic chaser.

Before we go, I’d like to showcase some his artwork.  Joe is an incredible artist and his style is amazing!  He posts his artwork on DeviantArt and Twitter, often showing the varying stages, from concept to final product.  Awesome stuff!

This painting is about being tethered to multiple, sometimes incompatible, personalities. “Knots” — Oil on canvas…

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“The Complainer”…

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This painting is about pretending to be something you’re not and ending up with something you didn’t want…

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BIRTH PANGS: Interpreting Our Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare… a guest blog by Tyler Bumpus

I came across Tyler Bumpus early this past winter of 2016 (February, more specifically) when I read the first book in his Swallowed World post-apocalypse series, The Eternal Season.  I was enthralled… I was amazed… this was one seriously kick-ass PA story.  You can read my review here.

There have been two postapoc stories that have captured my attention this year – this is one of ’em.

I recently asked Tyler if he’d like to write a guest blog for me.  I was pleasantly surprised when he said yes.  Writers are often very busy and I feel very lucky when there are those who take their precious time to write for my blog.

So, without further ado… here is Tyler and his thoughts on  the interpretation of our post-apocalyptic nightmares…

 


 

BIRTH PANGS: INTERPRETING OUR POST-APOCALYPTIC NIGHTMARE…
by Tyler Bumpus

Now stop me if you’ve heard this one:

The world as we know it is gone. Poof. It was nuclear bombs. It was a virus. It was a meteor. Or the living dead, or aliens, or damned dirty apes, or maybe just the slow decay of time. The cause is mostly irrelevant. What matters is that thousands of years of civilization have been scrubbed; the human race left scrounging through the wreckage of its former splendor.

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Property Andrew Hefter

Whether or not you’re a fan of this kind of story, you know the trademarks—sprawling wastelands, derelict cities, haggard survivors driven to brutality or madness, clinging to their last threads of decency. We’re at the point that it all approaches cliché…sometimes even self-parody.

So what’s the fascination with seeing our cozy way of life rubbed out? Precisely what is the value of post-apocalyptic fiction?

(Aside from all those epic wastelander beards.)

The easy way out is to simply label them ‘cautionary tales.’ They warn us about the danger of nuclear proliferation; of biological warfare; of the cruel instincts inherent in human nature. What-have-you. This is, of course, too pat an answer. It doesn’t begin to explain the sheer creativity, the unpredictability, or the thematic complexity the best post-apocalyptic tales have to offer.

‘Morbid curiosity’ is another popular answer. Deep down most of us are sickos, right? We love a catastrophe. Watch us scour the news for the gruesome bits; crowd the barricades at a crime scene; rubberneck on the freeway for that glimpse of gore. It’s our roots. Survival of the fittest. At heart we are beasts yearning to drop the civilized act; return to the simplicity of a world governed by brute survival and the letting of blood. Apocalyptic tales feed those basest urges…

Tickles the cynic in me, but I call bullshit.

Death and ruin are fascinating, of course, but only because of what they mean for us. A species emerging from the chaos of the primordial world with—inexplicably—higher awareness than most life on earth. What use are such faculties to a mere beast? Intellect makes sense: helps us think up all kinds of ingenious ways to beat back our Darwinian competition. But passion? Aesthetics? Conscience? Hunger for meaning? These seem like serious handicaps for an apex predator.

So, surely the human being is a fluke. A clumsy faceplant on the evolutionary stage. A loopy life form suffering delusions of grandeur as it slowly destroys itself. And that’s what post-apocalyptic fiction is all about.

Phew. Glad that’s settled. Goodnight!

But that hunger for meaning…

The idealist says the world is pregnant with meaning. The nihilist says meaning doesn’t exist. I’ll leave that discussion to them because, frankly, it’s less interesting than the simple fact that most of us crave it. And why? There’s no evidence for any particular motive in nature. In earth’s history, what creature before man has hoped to discover meaning? Furthermore, when none is readily available, what creature has dared fashion its own?

If you’re still with me, what I’m babbling on about is the underlying function of mythmaking and storytelling. To entertain, sure. To inspire, to arouse, to enlighten, to transport. But all of these are half-assed ways of saying that storytelling is a concerted effort to imbue existence with meaning. A feedback loop between dreams and stark reality which helps enrich and elevate our outlook and—perhaps more importantly—our actions.

In less hoity-toity terms: the power of stories lies not in their absolute truth, but in their ability to push us to stop gazing vacantly into the abyss. To forge our own truths.

We need fresh myths like we need fresh air.

Wonderful! How uplifting! But where the hell do post-apocalyptic tales fit into this picture? I mean, we’re talking about stories that shatter our cultures, level our cities, rub our faces in the wreckage of human progress. Huge bummers, right?

Hardly. Our best post-apocalyptic stories are some of the most brutally honest, bravest, most optimistic goddamn stories we have. That’s right: optimistic. What other genre of storytelling imagines that amid the chaos and carnage of hell on earth, the human spirit might somehow abide—even transform?

The apocalypse gets a bad rap. It brings to mind fire and brimstone, damnation and extinction. But what about self-discovery? The word apocalypse itself is derived from the Greek apokaluptein, meaning ‘to uncover.’ To reveal. A metamorphosis through deeper insight. This contrast between the word’s roots and its cataclysmic associations is telling: Pain and terror are the gateway to new life.

The birth pangs of a new world.

If this all sounds terribly dramatic, that’s because it is. It’s an enduring motif throughout world religions and mythologies—Gilgamesh, Hesiod, Ragnarok, the Maha Yuga, the Book of Revelation, etc, etc, ETC. Mythically speaking, the apocalypse is less an ending than a traumatic new beginning.

The world of post-apocalyptic fiction, then, is our spiritual crucible. There is no comfy middle ground here. This place boils away all pretenses, lays bare the human soul in all of its genius and its malady. These stories challenge our self-image. They destroy all the old myths we comfort ourselves with. Strip away our frills, our affectations. Strip us to the bone.

And return us to that primordial chaos from which we first rose.

It’s a terrifying proposition, to be sure. But if nature tells us one thing, it’s that life stagnates in comfort and thrives in risk. In this wasteland, mankind is at last emancipated from tradition, from dogma, from all excuses for our behavior. Each human being is now custodian of their own humanity…and accountable for their own cruelty. The tired old myths are buried. A new human saga begins.

And that, to my mind, is the true value of post-apocalyptic fiction. The dawn of an unpredictable new mythology re-purposed from forgotten fragments of the old; startling new frontiers full of mortal danger and the lingering hope that we may yet rediscover the spark that first ignited our race.

Plus those beards are pretty damn epic.


tylersmall

When he’s not writing or scavenging, you can often find Tyler roaming the wastes at the following coordinates…

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So, what exactly is the Wasteland?… Guest blog by Carrie Bailey

I was recently contacted by author Carrie Bailey, asking me if she could write a guest post on my blog.  Naturally, my reply was “Absolutely!”.

Carrie is self described as a “Writer. Artist. Coffee drinker. Minimalist. Global nomad. Professional information gatherer. Lover of logic. Conversationalist.

I know her as an author of post-apocalyptic fiction and an excellent example of witty banter on Twitter.  Her current book, The Ishim Underground is the story of a young man and a wild boy trying to find a place to hide in what was once New Zealand, 500 years after the apocalypse.

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Here is Carrie’s take on the Wasteland and what that word might actually mean…

 

Wasteland.

1. Barren or uncultivated land <a desert wasteland>

2. A ugly often devastated or barely inhabitable place or area

3. Something (as a way of life) that is spiritually and emotionally arid and unsatisfying
That’s what Merriam-Webster has to contribute to the world’s collective understanding of the term that post apocalyptic writers can’t resist.

To me, it appears the dictionary lacks a depth of understanding of wastelands. In my post apocalyptic series, wasteland refers to a specific region of both jungle and desert. The people on the other end of island call it a waste, a hopeless place full of hopeless people, whereas the inhabitants love their home as much any post apocalyptic writer loves typing the word: wasteland. Do it again. Wasteland.

Feels good for something barren, ugly and arid, but why is that?

 

THE WASTE OF DEFINITIONS

We can easily apply definition three to a Walmart or television or my favorite pub in Wellington, New Zealand, which was strewn with motionless old men and barren beer-soaked wood paneling. These sorts of horrors drain all spiritual and emotional essence from the strongest of us almost instantly. The metaphor certainly can’t reveal how it inspires us.

I suspect the second definition of wasteland is rooted in and popularized by the early imaginings of worldwide nuclear destruction. Ugly is so harsh. Many of the best twentieth century post apocalyptic authors may have been misguided about how a wasteland could be created and how long it would last.

When the camera crews entered the abandoned buildings twenty-five years after the incident at Chernobyl, they found healthy trees and a habitat where deer and other animals thrived undisturbed by human activity. And just as the deepest fears of environmentalists failed to manifest in Pripyat, Ukraine, nuclear power plants and weapons lost their awe-inspiring terror as a catalyst in fiction.

[Insert climate change discussion here]

Whatever we imagine causing environmental destruction, desert and wasteland are not interchangeable terms. A desert may be a wasteland, but a wasteland does not have to be a desert. So, it doesn’t explain why a wasteland is so bad, but feels so good to write about.

The first definition, deconstructed logically, may be inferred to suggest that a wasteland is either bad farmland OR land that has not yet been farmed. That would be awesome if contradictory. Applying “OR” as an operator for Boolean logic, it means it must be bad unfarmed land.

Thinking too deeply, it’s clear the dictionary provides no firm vision of what is a waste and what is not. A desert may not be barren while jungles can be torturous to cultivate. And while there is room in metaphor for me to justify calling a jungle a waste, none of it explains why we love to fantasize about wastelands.

Where does this term come from?

EMPTY ETYMOLOGY

A brief search of the internet about the origin of the term does not help as much as it should unless you want to buy Wasteland: A History for a solid 35.00 USD, which does have some intriguing chapters on the human experience of wastelands. I skimmed the google docs sample.

Unfortunately, like most resources, it skips identifying the early uses of the term and separates waste from land then to their respective origins in English. As waste refers to useless and ruined things, this method of understanding wastelands supports the vision of a wasteland as impossible to cultivate. Empty. Barren. A wasteland is empty and barren, because empty and barren things are a waste.

Should we stop searching for answers now that we are hopelessly lost in a semantic wasteland? No, to find who coined the term waste + land, we have to dig. And we find many references to wastelands being cultivated.

T. S. Elliot wrote The Waste Land – using two separate words – in 1925.

However, if we stick to the English usage of wasteland as a combined term of two separate words, we find multiple early uses surrounding Bengal, British imperialism and the Wasteland Rules of 1838. Apparently, the first applications of the term wasteland have to do with cultivating tea. Assam tea. Along the Assam River. And indirectly denying indigenous inhabitants access to the land by creating biased laws.

And as this region is rather tropical, green, prone to monsoons and one of the most densely populated regions of the world, it can be argued that the original wasteland is the opposite of how we envision a wasteland today.

A wasteland was land that invaders believed was being wasted, because no one was using it. And they prized it highly enough to write laws staking their claim to it.

While the first wasteland may have been morally arid rather than physically barren, it appears the readers and writers of post apocalyptic fiction were right.

A wasteland is in its conception a place of opportunity. A wasted land. A blank canvas of soil and air. Miles of possibility. A place to cultivate life, agriculturally or metaphorically.

And that’s the allure of the wasteland whether it’s a desert or a jungle, they are the acres that stimulate the imagination and inspire.

 

Guest post by Carrie Bailey, author of the immortal coffee novels.  You can find her on Twitter, Amazon, and her website.

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J.D. Goff – From Zombies to Generational Ark Ships…

I don’t recall exactly when I first met J.D. Goff on Twitter, but I’d venture to guess it’s been over a year ago now. At the time, he was writing a story on his WordPress site entitled Promised Land Abandonded (PLA).

PLA is a zombie story and some of you may already know that I don’t read or watch much in the zombie genre. When I do, it’s gotta be something that really catches my eye. PLA did just that. One of the most fantastic stories (zombie or not) that I’ve come across – and it was free! I couldn’t believe that it was just there for the reading on his blog!

A week or so ago, J.D. asked if I would read an ARC of a print book that he was having published on Amazon called Hope 239. “Of course!” I said.  I don’t think I got but a few paragraphs in before I was off to Amazon to purchase the Kindle version.

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Come to find out, it involved one of my absolute favorite themes in science fiction – the story of a “generational ark”. A ship designed to carry mankind (or the remnants of) so far out into space, that generations would come and go before it arrived at its destination. Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss comes immediately to mind. The ill-fated Canadian produced television show, The Starlost does as well (don’t let the negativity associated with The Starlost deter you from either it or Hope 239 – the story of The Starlost is absolutely glorious science fiction, even if the production values of the show weren’t).

Hope 239 takes place just as the Hope (the ship) has reached its destination. Generations have passed and the immense number of “villages” that make up the ship have no idea that they are indeed on a spaceship. There is a crew, however, that does. The crew is multi-generational as well and relies completely on the ship’s computer to perform day-to-day operations. It’s when the veritable “monkey wrench” gets thrown that things start getting exciting.

The story had me guessing and wondering on a fairly constant basis.  I found myself saying, “What the hell is going on?!” – in a good way. The suspense is palpable. If life did not get in the way, I would have read this in one sitting. It was difficult to put down and I’d constantly think about when I’d be able to get back to it.  I found myself taking a peek at my smartphone’s Kindle app at the most inappropriate times.

Mr. Goff has done a wonderful thing with his first published work and presented a world that has the possibility of creating many, many future stories. I still have questions and I anxiously await to find out the answers!

 

You can find Mr. Goff on Twitter, Amazon, and WordPress

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An interview with Arthur H. Walker – Identity Extensive Technology and “Going Delta”…

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EC: Welcome to the Wastes, Arthur! Hey, real quick before we get started… I understand you like to “poke pixels into proper shape”.  I’m a bit of a video game nerd, could you tell me about the game developer thing?

AW: A friend I’ve known for 25 years, asked me to help him build games. He loves games, but isn’t super creative. I design, write, and render, while my friend writes the code. I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to try indie dev at all, but when a friend like that asks me for a favor, I don’t say no. 🙂  I’ve grown to like it since our first game.  And, of course, I wanted to do a post-apocalyptic RPG after that.  I’ve had to reach out to all sorts of skills, and the indie dev community.  There are lots of great people there.

 

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EC: I recently finished the first book in your Uroboros Saga series and compared it to Bladerunner. First off, I gotta say that it has been an extremely long time since I’ve read a book that’s grabbed me by the throat and not let go from the first page.  Secondly, there’s a whole lot more going on than what I had initially thought. I was intrigued by the “idea of technology that extends and expands the modern notion of identity, and the sort of dystopia that such technology could create.”

AW: In the books I refer to it identity extensive technologies. It is what I expect will eventually arise from current cognitive technologies like IBM’s Watson.

 

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EC: Identity extensive technologies? Oh man, you gotta talk to me like I’m four years old sometimes. What exactly is that?

AW: In the present day, it is very limited, and amount to services that are not fully autonomous just yet. Amazon and Google can merely suggest products and web sites based on your previous search and buying habits. Facebook can push advertising you might like, based on information you’ve provided. Pandora comes a little closer, playing music for you based on your previous choices, automatically. I use an extreme example in my books.

A nanotechnological replica, with an imprinted neural construct that acts essentially the same way as your brain. It is a machine that looks and thinks like you, with implied legal (a thing I don’t touch on) ability to act as you. It could buy things it knows you like, enter into contractual agreements, and contribute to your works and desires, autonomously.  Basically, a technological redundancy for a person, acting as they would act. There are cognitive technologies (IBM’s Watson) and data holds (the Internet) that could give rise to such in the future.

 

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Automating human agency is one of the darkest and most dangerous things, done incorrectly. Apocalyptic in the extreme. Instead of a wasteland of burnt buildings and radioactive zombies, you’d have an intellectual wasteland, and a cognitive disparity in the population. People who could afford the technology, employing it ethically or otherwise, would have extreme advantages over others. I could write a book, while I was editing, while I was illustrating the cover, two books ahead, outpacing other independent authors. This, provided the technology worked flawlessly. And, it didn’t assume identity markers outside my own (constituting a separate being with its own desires). 

 

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 In my books, replicas do just this, “going delta” and becoming their own distinct folks, with varying consequences. Some of the Deltas are murderous psychopaths, while others are staunch protectors of humanity. I see machines of this type as reaching polarizing conclusions about morality, but not necessarily the “rise of the machines” scenario that Hollywood constantly puts on display. Still, Deltas would not possess the same anthropological imperatives as humans, so they’d likely reach slightly different conclusions.

 

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Cognitive technologies have real world commercial applications, but not for the average consumer just yet. I’d like to be able to take a picture of my closet, send it to a service that could examine my purchasing habits and buy me clothes at an appropriate interval, based collected biometric data, without me having to lift a finger. It would be eerie at first. Especially if the service was dead on, mostly buying stuff I liked, with the few regretful purchases I inevitably would have made anyway.

I wonder how society would grapple with such technology. Also, how it would treat redundant identity systems that go “delta”, and so forth.

 

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Arthur H. Walker likes to write about identity extensive technologies, fiscal/economic collapse, Intelligent Agents and A.I.s, Compliance Implants, and genetic engineering. You can find him on twitter at https://twitter.com/ArthurHWalker.

An interview with Brian Dorsey – Draxius Lost

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EC:  Welcome back Brian!  First off, for those who may not have read Gateway yet, can you give us a brief synopsis?

BD:  Gateway is a military space opera that examines how our perspectives on the truth, and to some degree our reality, are formed by the civilization and culture in which we are raised. The protagonist, Major Tyler Stone, is a highly decorated officer in the Humani Elite Guard. Despite frustrations with the class-oriented nature of his society, puffed-up political officers, and abuses of the commoners at the hands of the elite, Tyler believes in the value of his society and its rules. All of this is challenged, however, when a series of events forces him to look at his society through the eyes of his enemy—in this case, a beautiful Terillian Scout Ranger named Mori Skye. What follows is a roller-coaster ride of deception, action, and revelation as Stone must determine if honor is more important than duty.

 

EC:  I understand that you spent some time in the Navy.  I would imagine that you draw from this experience in order to write so effectively.  Can you tell us about something outside of your military service that influences your writing?

BD:  I did spend a little time in the Navy…23 years. 😉   Although I did draw a lot from my military experience, I also draw from my academic background. I have B.S. degrees in History and Radiation Physics from Oregon State University and a Master of Social Science from Syracuse University. Although that sounds like an odd combo, the Radiation Physics and my military experience with nuclear power give me insight into the tech using in military scifi and my history and social science background were invaluable in world-building.

 

EC:  There seems to be a fine line between Military Science Fiction and Space Opera.  How would you classify your writing?

BD:  I would classify it as both.  In my opinion, I think it has the dramatic and epic elements that space opera fans can identify with while at the same time I definitely don’t shy away from the military/combat elements of the story—the lead and almost all supporting characters are in the military so it would be hard not to focus on that element.  Maybe military space opera would be the best descriptor.  Some readers have, however, stated they enjoyed the character development and interaction as much the action and military aspects of the story.


 

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EC:  You have a novella that was just published this week, Draxius Lost, which is a prequel of sorts involving one of the main characters.  Could you tell us a little about it? 

BD:  Draxius Lost, and a follow-up novella Draxius Redeemed (which I hope to have released before the end of this year), follows Captain Emily Martin from the Gateway main series as a young lieutenant learning how to be a leader. When a mission goes bad, she is thrust into command and must deal with old enemies, some new ones, and her own demons to save herself and her men.

 

EC:  Emily Martin has become quite a popular character, is this why you decided to make her the subject of Draxius Lost? 

BD:  The short answer is yes. When I started Gateway, my plan was for her to be an important, but secondary character.  Over the process of writing Gateway, however, she kind of took on a life of her own…at times I think the character was actually telling me what she was going to do next, as if I didn’t have a choice. In fact, she basically shares the stage with Tyler Stone as the main characters in the upcoming second book in the main Gateway series, which is titled Saint and will be out this fall. She quickly became my favorite character to write and I received a lot of positive feedback about her, so it made sense to dig deeper into her character.

 

EC:  Can we expect to see more side stories based on other characters in the Gateway universe? 

BD:  There is a bit of a plan forming. It is still tentative, but I actually spoke with my publisher about increasing the novellas supporting the Gateway Universe. Following Draxius Lost will be Draxius Redeemed which will close out the storyline of Martin’s first mission in command. After that, I think I’ll go after the story of the wolf clan from Gateway.

 

EC:  One last question, if Gateway were to be made into a movie, who would you like to see play the character of Emily Martin? 

BD:  That’s a tough one, and one I’ve thought about a little. Right now, I’m thinking either Gina Carano or Rachel Nichols.

Who’s my favorite writer? Glad you asked…

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 When I was in Junior High (’82-’83), I found a book in the school library called The Long  Afternoon of Earth by Brian Aldiss.  I thought it was absolutely fascinating!  It was an abridged  version of Hothouse, but I wouldn’t learn that until many years later.

 Flash forward to sometime in the mid-90’s and I had been trying to remember the title, but it  escaped me.  I remembered the author though.  I’d ask in various used book stores whenever I  moved somewhere new (I never spent more than 2 years in any one place from 1988 to 2002).    All I could remember was that the cover was kind of green, it took place very far in the future and  the Earth had stopped rotating on its axis.  There were gigantic, mile-long spiders that had spun webs from the Earth’s surface to the moon.  Humans had devolved into these three-foot-tall little monkey-dudes.  That’s it, that’s all I could remember.

Around 1997, I was in a used bookstore in Coeur d’Alene, ID, asking the owner if he’d heard of such a thing and naturally he didn’t have a clue.  I turned around to leave and (swear to God – if I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’) noticed the spine of a book on the scifi shelf about 10 feet away.  I walked toward it like a freaking cat stalking a robin and sure-as-shit, there it was.  People talk about miracles.  That, my friend, was a miracle.  The odds of that happening were nil.  I bought it and still have it.  I found a copy of Hothouse a short time afterwards in a used bookstore in El Cajon, CA.

I had decided that Aldiss was my favorite author when I first read that book in the early 80’s and I’ve considered him such ever since.  The adventure of finding that book really clinched the deal and holds some pretty special meaning for me.  I’ve read about a dozen of his stories and have seven or eight of his books on the shelf.

So, yeah… if you were to ask me who my favorite author is, it’s Brian Aldiss.

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