Two Submission Opportunities from Broken Eye Books

Looking for somewhere to submit your short stories? Well, the company Broken Eye Books will begin accepting submissions to two very interesting sounding anthologies starting in March. The first is entitled Ghost in the Cogs and will feature ghost stories set in a steampunk world. The second is Tomorrow’s Cthulhu and will feature stories with a blend of sci-fi, specifically transhumanist or near-future, and horror from the Cthulhu mythos.

I think these anthology topics are pretty interesting and provide solid genre mash-ups between science-fiction and fantasy. Moreover, they’re crossovers that aren’t very common, which should make for some cool reads. I’m definitely going to be trying my hand at one of these, if not both, and once the anthologies are released, I’ll be curious to see what kinds of stories other authors out there have come up with.

The submission dates for both anthologies begin on March 1st and run until April 1st. Stories should be no more than 4,000 words. Accepted authors will be compensated at 6 cents a word. You can learn more at the Broken Eye Books site, if you’re interested. And if you are, get writing!

The Rigors of Family Life: A Review of Saga Vol. IV

Saga continues entering into its fourth volume and kicking off a new story arc. The first three volumes followed Alana and Marko as they tried to escape the pursuit of freelancers and government agents sent to kill them for having an inter-species relationship that resulted in a child (Hazel, our narrator). At the start of the fourth volume they have successfully gone into hiding and are living on the planet Gardenia where Alana is making a living acting on the Open Circuit, which is the setting’s equivalent of a soap opera channel.

The family dynamic has become strained by the Alana’s work schedule and the stress of staying in hiding, which Marko risks circumventing by going out in public disguised. We also see some of the issues that were present in the marriage become a bit more glaring now that they aren’t actively on the run but settled into something of a “normal” life.

One of my favorite things about Saga is how it is a real family story at its heart. On top of that, it isn’t a perfect one. We see a marriage that is real, that has issues, and that might not hold up. And around it is a huge space fantasy world. But it’s this realism that keeps the story grounded as well as unique. We’ve seen countless epic fantasy or space opera stories about galactic warfare and the hero’s journey, but I can’t name one that dwells so deeply on family life and maintains it as a central theme. To be honest, I have a hard time thinking of similar stories that have the same amount of powerful character focus.

On top of Marko and Alana’s troubles, Prince Robot IV’s family is also drawn into the ongoing conflict, becoming targets of a revolutionary movement in the Robot Kingdom. This plot line appears to be the major shaker in the new arc, providing the driving action that will move the story forward. I won’t spoil anything specific, but this leads to an interesting alliance that I can’t wait to see play out.

Saga continues to be one of the best stories out there in any medium. The fourth volume continues to provide the quality you’d expect, and I’m excited to see how the new story arc progresses.

The Shows I’m Watch and You Should Too: 12 Monkeys

So unfortunately this week has been a little off for me. As such I’ve only managed to pull together one blog post, so I’m sorry for that, but hey, what can you do? (Well, write a half-assed apologetic sentence apparently).

Anyway, it’s a New Year and a new TV season, and Syfy has unveiled its latest actually good show. As I wrote in my last post, I am incredibly excited for their adaptation of The Expanse book series, but 12 Monkeys is also very much off to a promising start. The series is loosely based on the film by Terry Gilliam, mostly in that there is a time traveler who comes from a bleak future and is trying to stop a pandemic that wipes out most of the human race. However, from there I get the sense that the plots will diverge.

In the pilot episode James Cole (Aaron Stanford) travels back in time to kill a man based on a garbled message left by a CDC doctor named Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull). During the mission he realizes that the intel is bad, and that he should instead be looking for a group known as the Twelve Monkeys. This is essentially the reverse set-up of the film, wherein Cole chases the Army of the Twelve Monkeys only to find out that they are not behind the release of the virus at all.

I can’t say that the Twelve Monkeys organization in the show won’t end up being anymore of a trick, but it would appear that they are the real antagonists of the show. This would also make more sense given that the show has to run a lot longer than a film would and having the show named after a plot gimmick rather than a true antagonist would be pretty disappointing. While the movie was about the nature of memory and technology, I expect the show to be more of a thriller focused on Cole, Railly, and their allies fighting to stop the virus before it happens.

Stanford and Schull’s performances in their respective parts were great and really drove the pilot forward. They have good chemistry (in their weird way), and I look forward to seeing their partnership develop as Cole moves back and forth through time. I’m also very excited to see Emily Hampshire’s portrayal of the character Jennifer Goines. While she showed up briefly at the end of the pilot, I’m curious to see how her character develops. I also like the new (and gender-bending) take on the character originally played by Brad Pitt in the film.

The second episode of 12 Monkeys airs tonight, and I definitely think it’s worth checking out. The show has a ton of potential, and I’m curious to see where it goes.

The Expanse

After years of hanging their laurels on “we made Battlestar Galactica” and multiple Stargate series reruns, Syfy has been making a strong comeback over the last couple of TV seasons. It started with Defiance, but at the start of the year they also released the mini-series Ascension (which I’ve only seen the first episode so far because I’m lazy about catching up on my DV-R) and later today their TV adaptation of the sci-fi cult classic 12 Monkeys will be debuting.

However, I do love me some space opera, and I think The Expanse is the series, the trailer for which Syfy debuted yesterday, is the show I’m most interested in. It is based on a book series by the same name written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (though they used James S.A. Corey as the pen name for the series. If you haven’t heard of the book series, you may be more familiar with the title Leviathan Wakes, which is the first book.

The premise is that 200 years in the future humanity has expanded into the solar system, colonizing Mars and the asteroid belt. Tensions between the outer colonies and the Earth and Martian inhabitants is high. In the midst of this, a police officer teams up with a freighter pilot to try and find a runaway heiress. But as they search for her, they unravel a conspiracy that threatens war between the different factions.

Thomas Jane will be playing the lead role of the cop Josephus Miller and is paired with Steven Strait as Jim Holden, the freighter pilot. I think Jane is a great pick up for the show, as he is a fairly notable actor. Other notable casting choices include Shohreh Aghdashloo and Chad Coleman. Overall it sounds like a talented line up. And Syfy producers have been good at casting upcoming or unknown actors for other shows in the past, so I’m not worried about that.

On the show writing side, Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby, the writers behind the first Iron Man film and Children of Men put together the script for the pilot. Syfy also brought on board veteran showrunners Terry McDonough, who has worked on several shows including Breaking Bad, and Naren Shankar, who has worked on Grimm, Farscape, and multiple iterations of Star Trek.

Naturally the thing everyone seems to be taking away from the trailer is the space sex (and of course the physics of it), but outside of that, I think this show has a ton of potential. The sets, the costuming, and the atmosphere of the setting shown in the trailer are great, and it looks like the CGI aspects of the show are limited (my feeling on CGI is that if you can’t do it well with a big budget, then use it as little as possible). I think the premise is compelling and the type of thing that can translate well to the small screen.

The release date for The Expanse is unclear, but it will be out later this year, and personally I can’t wait.

The Hero Factor

A couple of months ago an article came across my news feed about a Jordanian man who was writing comic books to try and combat terrorism. Given my love of stories about the power of stories, I saved the article, but only recently did I get around to reading it.

Suleiman Bakhit, head of the Hero Factor Project, talks about his belief in the power of storytelling, particularly the use of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey archetype. He explains that terrorist recruiters use this style of myth making to encourage young people to join their ranks. In fact, Bin Laden’s life very closely followed that of Muhammad’s in the sense that both of them left wealth, retreated to a cave, and re-emerged as new leaders (though with very different views on how to lead and what was important).

Bakhit believes that giving Islamic youth the opportunity to read stories about positive role models will sway them from joining the ranks of the extremists. Instead of telling stories about the evil of the West or the glory of martyrdom, he writes stories about hope and resilience. Also, importantly, he creates a lot of powerful female characters that young girls can look up to.

Personally I found it both sad and strange that children in Arab countries didn’t have any heroic figures in literature to look up to. It sounds like the types of stories I’ve taken for granted, like Star Wars or Batman, simply don’t exist there and don’t have any equal, which makes it all the more easy for extremists to perpetuate their myths. Without other ideas to consider, young people’s world views are more easily molded.

As I’ve said in other posts, stories are one of our most impactful ways of communicating ideas. They are far more engaging to audiences, and, especially at a young age, can form the grounds of many people’s opinions. I’ve found they can even sway opinion more readily than lists of facts or simple statistics.

In our ever-changing world I think we need a whole new set of myths for a great many issues from global warming to bigotry, stories that can show us how important these topics are and potentially how to handle them. I think the work Bakhit is doing is incredibly important, and I find it hugely inspirational. The world needs more voices like his.

Short Story Sunday: Tor.com’s 2014 Best of List

For the first Short Story Sunday of this year, I’m going to share a whole list of short stories, novelettes, and novellas. This past week Tor.com released a list of its best short fiction from 2014. It features stories from some very well known authors like John Scalzi and Ken Liu.

But there are also many newcomers on the list as well. One of them, Kai Ashante Wilson, was my Spanish teacher in high school. Now his novelette and first published work “The Devil In America” is making some waves with favorable press. I may do a Short Story Sunday solely on this tale in the future…just so you’re all warned.

Anyway, why not start off your new year with a great set of new speculative fiction tales? This list should certainly give you some stuff to work through for awhile.

The Shows I’m Watching and You Should Too: Agent Carter

There was no way I was missing this show, if only for two reasons: Hayley. Atwell. But I do have to say that I had my doubts about how good it would be. Everything I heard about it was rather…loose. There would be Peggy Carter. She would chase bad guys. There would be misogyny. She would fight it. Yeah!

After watching the two hour premier episode (or first two back-to-back episodes?), I am happy to say I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to more.

Set in New York City after World War II, the show captures many fun elements of the era. The clothing, the cars, and the jazz and swing music are awesome and give a style and feel that’s distinct from the other Marvel properties. The ongoing radio drama about Captain America’s adventures (that diminishes Carter’s role in his exploits, much to her chagrin) was also a very nice touch.

Following her service in the War, Carter now works for the Strategic Scientific Reserve, a special task force pre-dating SHIELD (though I imagine SHIELD’s formation will be a major plot point…at some point). There she is treated as an inferior by most of her co-workers, though naturally she is far more capable than them. She is also the only female agent in the organization, so it seems she is only there due to her war record and has only been let it begrudgingly.

The story opens with Howard Stark’s (played again by Dominic Cooper) weapons showing up in enemy hands, which has led the government to investigate him as a traitor. He contacts Carter to help him clear his name, and so she begins working behind her organization’s back. To help Carter in her missions, Stark assigns her his butler Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy). And yes, now we know why Tony’s machine assistant is named Jarvis.

Atwell is as exceptional in a leading role as you had imagined, or at least as you should have imagined. She also gets to show off her American accent and a wider range of acting skills as she slips into a variety of disguises to further her mission. However, what really brought the show together for me was D’Arcy’s portrayal of Jarvis, Carter’s hapless but loyal aid who proves very helpful to her but who is certainly not cut out for the espionage game. Providing much of the comic relief, he balances Carter’s single-minded determination.

Agent Carter’s first season is only eight episodes long. But fear not! The show is not supposed to be a mini-series, so if it’s successful enough, further seasons can be expected. So go watch it and make it successful.