Book Review: Islands of Rage And Hope

The third book of John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising Series marks the time the series should drop the “Rising.” The Zombie infection is now officially being pushed back, and the push to make large scale vaccine for the sub crews and others is on.

Though the blurb focuses on Guantanamo Bay, the clearance of the Cuban military base is only one–and indeed a lesser–highlight of the book. The characters gained from that clearance recur throughout, and there is friction between them and the “Iwo” Marines of book 2, let alone the Wolf Squadron proper. For those who have not followed this series (and you should), it’s worth noting here that Ringo’s zombie apocalypse is considerably less anti-military than either Romero or The Walking Dead is. That’s not to say he doesn’t critique elements of the military, as in most of his works, he does with vigor. But unlike those others, Ringo’s take on the people who serve recognizes that most are more flexible and capable than the Hollywood and New York elite give them credit for. So why did the Apocalypse happen? Because someone created the perfect storm disease.

New characters like Walker get considerable time in this book, and his arc is a fascinating journey which makes what could have been an overly convenient climax in other hands believable in Ringo’s.

If I had any reservations about this volume of the series, it’s that the pacing at times felt a little off. That perhaps we spent too much time pointing out Faith’s shortcomings (Why doesn’t her sister’s get lampooned nearly as often, for example?). And that at this point, even those appear ‘cute’ rather than ‘dangerous.’ That said, the finale is a flat-out brilliant action scene, matching some of Ringo’s finest. And it both gives a glorious end to this book and points to a potential powder keg in the future.

I believe I rounded up on an earlier volume of the series, so this is probably a slight round down. It’s not perfect. But a solid, and enjoyable, entry in a unique take on zombie lore.

Superversive Human Waves out of Darkness


I have to admit, this is a rather clever way to have terrible things happen, and yet not go all morbid GrimDark. Though to be fair, Joe Abercrombie can go there and it STILL be brutal. So did Glen Cook.

Originally posted on madgeniusclub:

By now everyone here has to know that my imagination tends to the dark. Although that may be a tad understated, since even in the fluffiest, silliest thing I’ve ever written (Knights in Tarnished Armor, for those who are wondering) there’s a really broad streak of darkness under all the fluff.

So how does someone that dark get to be all Human-Wavey and superversive?

To start with I refuse to write horror. If I tried I’d either drive myself insane or go so grimdark it would make Lumley look like a wimp. Yes, that Lumley. Yes, that vampire series. This is why I Do Not Do Horror. My imagination goes there all by itself. I don’t bloody well need to wallow in it.

Instead, I deliberately aim for the lighter side of things. I focus on the characters and how they deal with whatever crapsack world my imagination decided to…

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Yes I’m Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

As I have every year for the past few. My project is a Space Opera, a sequel to my 2012 project in fact. It’s called The Procoyon Revelation.

It’s a galaxy at war, with shifting alliances, big battles, lots of intrigue, and plenty of snark, guns, and action. A touch of romance too, of course. ;) This is one of those things I am without question writing for me. I may have settled in fantasy, but classic Sci-Fi is how I discovered Speculative Fiction. And Space Operas are still some of my favorite viewing. For my money, seasons 2-4 of Babylon 5 are still the best television that’s ever been aired. Firefly not far behind. This is a cross of the more epic scale of B5 with the sensibilities of the latter.

I’ll let the reader guess what that means. ;)

“Real” books, contracts and “evil” Amazon


The stupid is strong with the USA Today as well. Here’s the deal folks: First and last. ANYONE who tries to tell you that the Publishing House is the creator of a book, and not the author, is a liar, a lunatic, an idiot, or a combination of those three.

Publishers will not defeat Amazon. Because it’s only because of the stupidity of the Publishing Houses they are competing with Amazon. Amazon is nothing but one more distributor. And if they were competent at doing the things they CLAIM to do for their authors, it would be one they could use or ignore without consequence. It isn’t because Amazon is competent and they are not.

Originally posted on madgeniusclub:

I’m neck deep in final edits for Duty from Ashes, the second book in the Honor & Duty series written under the pen name Sam Schall. Because of that, my brain has been steeped in space marines, bad guys and things that go boom and not necessarily at night. As a result, I forgot that it is Tuesday and my day to blog. Fortunately — I think — the demon kitten oh-so-helpfully got me up. After extricating my hand from his claws and staggering into the kitchen in search of coffee, I started scanning my usual sources for topics for today’s post. Oh my, did I find some.

Let’s start with this article from USA Today. I knew from reading the headline that it was probably something that would have my blood pressure rising. After all, how else would I react to “Real books can defeat Amazon and e-books”?


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Fisking the Deseret News’ anti-CCW article


Why is it that nine out of ten times I see an appeal to ‘common sense,’ it is neither ‘common’ nor ‘sensible’?

Common sense is not what your ideology says you should believe. That is Groupthink. Do yourself a favor, and think for yourself. You’ll arrive at wisdom–which is quite uncommon–far more often.

Originally posted on Monster Hunter Nation:

So my local paper ran a really dumb anti-CCW editorial. It was so riddled with nonsense, distortions, and falsehoods that it was just begging for a fisking. As usual, the original is in italics and my comments are in bold.

In our opinion: Utah gun law that canceled USU speech is an embarrassment

The only embarrassment here is the dreck that passes for writing at the Deseret News now.

The inability of Utah State University to impose reasonable protections for a speaker who had received death threats is more than just an embarrassment to the state. It is alarming.

No. It isn’t, and we’ll get to why later. This is typical breathless editorial speak, used by the willfully manipulative to sway the useful idiots. When you start breaking down the actual facts it is neither alarming nor embarrassing. It is Utah following the rule of law as opposed to…

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I Am Neither GrimDark Nor PollyAnna

While reading the ever-amusing Ace of Spades Book Thread, I followed a link to this article, where it seems that some have had their fill of Sci-Fi Dystopias.

This does not surprise me, as I suspect Dystopias grew popular in science fiction for the same reason that GrimDark rose to rule Fantasy. (A fact the author of the above article misses completely.) That is, that anti-heroes have grown from a once legitimate literary device to complement the hero/villain structure, to turn all of writing into a gray ammoral world where the only difference between protagonist and antagonist is who the primary point of view indicates we should root for. A fact Sarah A Hoyt commented on in her Human Wave manifesto (indicating this is no new concern):

5 – You shall not commit grey goo. Grey goo, in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off is not entertaining. (Unless it is to see how the book bounces off the far wall, and that has limited entertainment. Also, I’m not flinging my kindle.)

I am pleased to see those who hailed the arrival of these ‘ambivalent heroes’ now finally come to the ground we have held for most of a decade. I find it amusing that of all people to blame for no longer envisioning big futures, ASU’s president picked Neal Stephenson. Whose Anathem was probably his biggest and most optimistic future, set well after the more dystopic cyberpunks that made him famous. And even his retro-futures, Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle provide optimistic glimpses of science, finance, and the progress of society. There are MUCH better targets to aim this charge at than Neal Stephenson. Also, at this point, I remind you of my posts on dystopic Sci-Fi’s mystic cousin, Grimdark fantasy here:, and here: Blatant pessimism, moral ambiguity for ambiguity’s sake, and no attempt to even FIGHT for a better world does not make for an entertaining story. Not fantasy, not sci-fi. And the prevalence of this nonsense is a large part of the reason for Mysteries being the big genre fiction for profit today. At least in those, there is closure, resolution, and a knowledge that justice has been done.

I don’t like them, by and large. As they are too formulaic, and the contrivances of the genre do nothing for me. However, their elevation at a time that Speculative Fiction is screaming ‘Diversity” and “realistic characters,” and hemorrhaging readership all the while, probably hints at a problem in the mindset. A problem that runs through the love of Dystopias, antiheroes, and an unwillingness to embrace a true heroic journey. You see, if you’re committed to moral relativity, there can’t be heroes. Everyone is just a different point of view. We can’t accept that some things are legitimately beyond the pale. A mystery gets around this by having a protagonist who is only judging the ‘facts.’ But what speculative fiction writers have to realize is that sympathetic aspects to a culture, or a villain, don’t make them heroic, as such. Just like flaws in the hero don’t make for anti-heroes, as such. A hero seeks to overcome their vices via their best qualities (and often they have the vices of their virtues). A villain makes a virtue of his vices. A hero admits there is darkness and accepts a measure of (gasp) hypocrisy in any moral creature is unavoidable. A villain spreads his arms like Don John and says, “At least I am plain dealing!”

Yeah, that doesn’t commend him much. This isn’t to say villains can’t be redeemed (over time), or that heroes won’t fall. This isn’t to say people can’t die trying to change the world, and the villains maybe even win. It means that we accept that morality exists outside of who wins or loses. And that the true hero may calculate the odds, but that doesn’t mean they refuse to do the right thing because of them. Or for comparison, let me leave with this:

A hero: The Iron Code of Druss the Legend: Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into the pursuit of evil.

An Antihero: Jayne Cobb from Firefly: “Like my Daddy used to say, ‘If you can’t do the smart thing. Do the right thing.”

A Villain: “Kneel Before Zod!”

The One Thing I Believed Could Kill the Marvel Universe

Was trying to revisit the “Civil War” storyline. It seems they’re going to do it:

For those not in the know, the Marvel Civil War was fought over the registration of all “mutants.” Tony Stark comes up with the plan, and Steve Rogers (Captain America) opposes it. The comics end with Rogers dead and Stark looking like a grade A Jackwagon as the registration plan blows up when, of course, the wrong people get the list and use it to target heroes. (Because really, who would imagine the Government would do that?)

There was no reason to do this in the comics, other than the age-old adage that the one thing that sells to kids is a HUGE fight. “Who’s better, Superman or Spiderman?” Well, they can’t answer that, because DC vs Marvel. But they can try to answer who the top dog in the Avengers is. So fights sell to the younger generation.

Of course, to those who start caring about the storyline, it made no sense then, and no sense now. The idea that Mr “Privatize World Peace” Tony Stark, aka Biggest Comic Book Libertarian not named Bruce Wayne, would support government registration of heroes is nonsense. We already know in the movie universe he doesn’t trust the Government, because Iron Man 2 was all about NOT selling his suits to have them used in combat. So the idea that he’s less libertarian in the movies is dubious. One could argue that Mr “America Right or Wrong” Cap would be the one to support said legislation. Except, of course, that in the movie universe, that means HYDRA is the one getting the list.

Oh, that’ll end well. And we really believe Stark would go along with this? Because he’s not aware of HYDRA at the controls? Oh wait, we’ve seen that Stark Industries has former SHIELD working for it. So we know he is. Yeah, the Civil War, as it was done in the comics–which was bad then–is worse in the movie universe.

The only thing I can guess is they’re using the “Civil War” tagline for marketing to Marvel Fans, and in truth, it’s Hydra trying to out all the heroes. This would work. Maybe some of the less aware “heroes” would go in on it even. But I don’t buy the Rogers/Stark faceoff. And if that’s where they go, I probably stay home.

The ten worst writing tips I’ve received


I like this list MUCH better than I do any list of things TO do. I can’t agree more on the utter uselessness of joining established critique groups. In my experience, you get one person saying, “You describe too much,” another ‘You didn’t describe enough,” and then they spend an hour arguing over that. Find people you trust, and show them your work. The exception proving the rule is Scribophile. If you can afford that site, it’s very useful to join.

Beyond that, there is much useful crushing of canards in this article. Heartily endorsed.

Originally posted on Suffolk Scribblings:

Danger Bad Advice Ahead

The problem with writing advice is that every writer is different. This leads to lots of advice being passed around, often with the type of reverence reserved for holy scripture, that may be of limited use, or at worst, incredibly harmful to a new writer. Following on from my Ten Most Valuable Writing Tips I’ve Received, I thought I’d share the ten worst. Again, this very subjective. I’m sure there will be one or two tips listed here that some of you swear by (or according to number 3, by which some of you swear). The best advice a writer can receive is to go with what works for you. The following definitely didn’t work for me.

Write what you know

This is an incredibly frustrating piece of advice. We have been blessed with a wonderful imagination yet when starting out as a writer you’re told to stick to what you know. How many wonderful…

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