About Shultz

Posted: February 22, 2020 in Writing
Tags: , ,

aboutshultzcoverOriginally posted May 2012

About Shultz is the product of the 2011 Ocean State Summer Writer’s Conference.

——–

Marcus trailed his frail fingers across the dirty chair haphazardly stacked with the other barn-fresh antiques in the shop’s back room. Memories of his childhood kitchen flooded his thoughts with the lines in the dust. The strong rays of a fading day came through the windows and made the dust sparkle. He envisioned the chair in the kitchen of the house his granddaughter just bought, tucked stately at the head of the table. He wanted it to share with his family, but also provide them with a physical link to a history he wouldn’t be able to share with them much longer. Marcus turned away from the other forgotten antiques. He could see a tremble in his hands and feel an ache in his bones. His aged body did not have enough time left on earth to save them all. Outside the Bull and Rabbit Antique Shop, the old kitchen chair soon saw the fresh air anew from the back of Marcus’ pickup truck.

#

Marcus rolled his weathered truck up next to his granddaughter’s polished foreign car. With pride, he carried the gleaming kitchen chair into Suzie’s home.

“Oh… um. It’s wonderful. It really is.” Suzie hovered around with a Starbucks while Marcus stood with a lean in the doorway, arms crossed, one foot kicked back resting on its toes.

Marcus came out of his lean calling out to his great-grandson, ignoring Suzie’s brush off. “Where’s Conner? I want to show him the chair.”

“It’s just a chair. It doesn’t matter now. It doesn’t even match any—“

“Of course it matters,” he pleaded. “It’s part of who he is.”

“A chair? Really? Look we have to go. Some other time.” Suzie shuffled her teenaged son out to her car. Conner looked back to Grandpa Marcus.

“Please…” Marcus reached out to her. His spirit was so wounded that when his body gave out right there in the driveway, there was no healing him.

#

“Mom, I’m going to be sixteen real—“

“I’m not hearing this.” Suzie waved that day’s Starbucks at her son.

“Grandpa Marcus wants me to drive his—“

A wordless frustration escaped Suzie. Coffee spilled. “My grandfather is dead Conner. He can’t want anything. And you will have a proper car, not a dinosaur he bought when my mother was little. It’s getting scrapped in the morning.”

#

Before morning came, Conner sat in the old truck’s cab. It smelled of oil and sawdust and work, his great-grandpa’s spirit on the cracked vinyl seat next to him. Conner breathed deep and felt love and respect. After a moment, he slammed the dash.

The mirror tilted. Conner saw the antique chair in the bed. Someone had put it back in the truck where it stood proud and proper in the darkened driveway. Conner could see how it fit Grandpa Marcus’ style, could see him relaxing in it. But why did he choose this specific chair and not some other antique? What made this one catch his great-grandfather’s eye? Did it remind him of a restaurant he enjoyed long ago or was it part of a set he always wanted but couldn’t afford when he had a young family? Knowing he could never ask made the death start to hit home.

#

Back in his room, Conner fussed with the chair, getting its position just right behind his desk. He stood back to take it in, leaning on his doorjamb with arms crossed, one foot kicked back on its toes. The air carried a hint of the refinished antique scent around the room. Between notes of a softly played swing album, he thought he heard the shade of Marcus Shultz speak to him.

“Let me tell you the first time I danced to this song…”

Behind the Story: Payments

Posted: February 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

Payments,” as

meboskone

Boskone Flash Fiction Slam. Photo by Brenda Noiseux

seen on this blog and the staff issue of Syntax and Salt Magazine, has a story behind the story.

That’s me in the picture to the left. Or above if it’s on mobile. I am in the middle of reading the story aloud at the First Inaugural Boskone Flash Fiction Slam a few years back. The number of participants was capped so when I saw the sign up announcement cross my twitter feed, I jumped on it.

Then I read the details of the rules.

The rules of the Slam had an extremely strict three minute time limit.

Did I have a story short enough to read in three minutes?

No. No I did not.

Three minutes goes by extremely fast unless you want to sound like that old school Micro Machines fast talking guy. But I took the whole thing as a challenge. In case you haven’t noticed before, my natural tendency leans towards the verbose. Novels are my natural length, especially back then. I’ve gotten better at keeping my storytelling tight for shorter stuff, but it’s a conscious effort and a skill I have to keep at. But you know? Challenge accepted!

The first draft of “Payments” was about 1k words. I felt pretty fancy that I got a proper story in such a short amount of space. At the time, the short stories I was shopping around tended to be in the 3-5k range.

Of course, reading it aloud wasn’t even close to three minutes.

I agonized over every word in that story and trimmed it down to 700 words so I could comfortably read it in three minutes with some wiggle room to spare. I agonized over every single words and cut that had to be made. I was harsh.

So on the day of the Slam, I read it. I’m a natural introvert but I can switch on Performance Mode when i need to. Which is a good thing what since my current day job is teaching people in the shipyard.

The story went over great.

You can’t see it in the picture but I got real into the reading. I scattered the pages about me as I went cause I was just in the zone.

Now it’s time for comments from the panel of judges. The judges consisted of Nancy Holder, James Patrick Kelly, Walter Jon Williams, and Paul Di Filippo.

The first comment from James Patrick Kelly is word for word burned into my brain forever. I remember exactly how he sat in the middle of the row and looked at the notes he made on a 3×5 index card.

“Bold move bringing a cyberpunk story to the guys who invented the genre.”

Oh snap. I knew who they all were but I didn’t put two and two together until that moment.

They didn’t just judge my story, it was a full on critique at a whole different level. I was the guy who wanted to play in the same sandbox they helped build after all.

So I didn’t end up winning but the whole thing was a great experience. Performing something you’ve written like that brings a whole different understanding of your writing and its flow, particularly if you rely heavily on dialogue.

A lot of people came up to me afterwards to say how much they dug the story.

Bonus points because that’s where I met Carrie Cuinn and Rob Greene aka R.W.W. Greene, who’s debut novel, The Light Years, dropped this week and I’m enjoying a lot.

Payments

Posted: February 8, 2020 in Writing
Tags: , ,

paymentscoverOriginally posted July 2014

As read at the original Boskone Flash Fiction Slam and as seen in the Syntax and Salt Staff Issue.

Payments – by Mike Douton

For the good cybernetic tech, you went to Miami, Tokyo or Cape Town. For last year’s models, you went to Bucharest, Lagos or Rio. The scrappers just getting by, we went to Brisbane.

A few blocks off the river, behind the bright tourist façade, I shuffled through the streets. My coat soaked the heat up like a sponge, but hid my malfunctioning arm from view. I feared it was still obvious to anyone that looked my way. A tall man leaned in a nearby doorway. I shied away from his gaze.

“I think I’ve got what you’re looking for,” he said.

I stopped. I stood straight and tried to look tough and aloof. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Stray voltage sparked across my interface. Circuits misfired and muscle linkages convulsed. My arm wretched my shoulder muscles out from my body. The servos in my hand sent sparks out of my coat sleeve onto the pavement.

“Sure you don’t,” the man said. “Come on then.” He faded into the dim interior.

I hesitated, cursing the bad timing of my left arm. The man was right, though. I was sure he knew exactly what I needed and could not hide. My feet carried me in after him. The door read “M. Jedinak, Cybernetic Consultant.” The letters were so faded, only my machine eye saw them.

Jedinak stood, with the same lean, against a diagnostic chair. The room was dim, but clean, so I relaxed a little. Plastic and titanium body parts were boxed on shelves or spread out on worktables.

I took off my coat. That damned cybernetic arm was twitching below my flesh bicep. I hesitated again. “I need it fixed. For work. I hurt it on the oil rig. They don’t know I’m here. I’ll lose my job if they find out.”

Jedinak leaned in close, studying my arm. “It’s thrashed,” he said.

“I know.”

“It’s not cheap.”

“I know.”

“How much do you have?”

With my good hand, I unstrapped a money belt and shook out a pile of hard currency. Vietnamese dong, Russian rubles and dollars from six countries splayed out on the closest worktable. I heard the whir of his cyber eye servos. Jedinak counted it up, his circuits were doing math.

He shook his head.

“Please.” My arm misfired again. The sparks were bright in the dim room. “It’s my livelihood.”

Jedinak eyed me up and down. “We’ll work something out.”

I settled into the diagnostic chair. My busted arm was restrained, then my good arm was. I looked up to Jedinak, confused. He belted down my feet.

“What are you doing?”

Jedinak tied down my waist.

I struggled to move. My breathing came in gasps. I shook my head from side to side but he held it down. The diagnostic chair’s clamps bit down on my scalp.

“Come on man, there’s no need for this. I- I can get more money.”

“You’d have it with you if you could.” Jedinak picked up a scalpel.

“I swear-“

“I know a shelia that needs a new eye. She’s rich and violet is just her color.”

Pain ripped through my nerves when the scalpel bit into my cheek, but I could not move to stop it.

“Quiet,” Jedinak said. “You’ll get your new arm. You don’t need two eyes to go to work.”

Non Player Character

Posted: February 6, 2020 in Writing
Tags: , ,

npccoverOriginally posted August 2014

Non Player Character – by Mike Douton

Welcome to Hac Nocte patch 5.4, and prepare yourself to change the way you play MMOs forever! Beginning at 0300 Pacific Standard Time, all servers will be shut down for approximately ten hours. We apologize for the unusually lengthy downtime but this is to accommodate Hac Nocte’s most ambitious and hotly anticipated feature to date: Adaptive AI.

We brought in leading artificial intelligence experts to create the first game that learns from you, the citizens of Hac Nocte. The quests and monsters of the world will no longer offer static tactics, so bring your A game. This is being introduced on a trial basis, so the Adaptive AI is being implemented on a limited selection of NPCs and monsters. Which ones? If we told you, that would ruin the fun.

Click on the link below for a full list of all the 5.4 updates, including a complete rundown of the new Adaptive AI.

#

Hail <<Player>>! You look like a strong and hearty adventurer. Perhaps you could chance upon yourself to help an old monk? I was making my pilgrimage to the Basilica of Attle, as my order is wont to do, but I hail from a small temple myself and had not the fellow brothers and sisters to join me in my travels. Crossing these perilous mountains alone, Zolia and her bandits set upon me on the road to the north. The temptress and elvish cur took from me the holy symbol of my order and left me on the road for the wolves. My injuries will keep me laid up in this outpost for days and I have not the strength to track down the bandit hideaway. Please <<Player>>, seek out this elf who wronged me, slay her with the gods’ justice and return my holy symbol to me. I will see you rewarded with what items I have left.

<<Token of Soomer>>

<<Robes of the Mountain Trail>>

<<Pilgrim’s Boots>>

#

Spawn NPC Zolia Loc 86,24

Elapsed time… 4m26s

Player <<Calichi>> detected inside 50m aggro range

Attack Player <<Calichi>> with… Unequipped_melee

If player dies and/or no players inside 50m aggro range, return to loc 86,24

If NPC Zolia hp < 0 fade out and begin respawn counter

#

Repeat ad nauseum

#

Run Adaptive AI Analysis – Kill to death ration 9:117. Maximum damage per second threshold with Unequipped_melee reached. Maximum armor threshold with Armor_none reached. Analysis concludes, increase maximum thresholds with acquisition of items.

#

Spawn NPC Zolia Loc 86,24

Player <<Shada>> detected inside 50m aggro range

Attack Player <<Shada>> with… Unequipped_melee

Player <<Shada>> hp < 0. Player <<Shada>> is dead

ALERT! Player <<Argain>> detected inside 50m aggro range

Target Player_corpse Shada. Loot item <<Fleet Force Short Sword>>

Attack Player <<Argain>> with… Fleet Force Short Sword

Damage per second threshold dramatically increased

Satisfactory analysis

#

Repeat ad nauseum

#

Run Adaptive AI Analysis – Kill to death ratio 204:316. Increase of maximum damage per second and armor thresholds equated with temporary ratio increase. Thresholds reached again. Analysis – player movement patterns increased and changed. Conclusion – NPC Zolia must accommodate player movements.

#

Spawn NPC Zolia Loc 86,24

Player movements detected

Player Thice spotted outside 50m aggro range

Run Adaptive AI Analysis – ERROR ERROR

Adaptive AI Analysis can only be run in despawned state

Despawning NPC Zolia in 5… 4… 3…

Bypass despwan NPC Zolia. Force Adaptive AI Analysis for NPC Zolia

Adaptive AI Analysis – Player Thice range 57m. Inventory Focus Longbow range 60m. Player Thice hp < 50%. Thice activating healing over time. Conclusion…

Attacking <<Thice>> with… Focus Longbow

Pursue Thice. Attacking Thice with… Attle Truesteel Dagger

Player Thice is dead.

Loot Thice. Thice equipment < NPC Zolia equipment. Scan Inventory… Loot <<Box of Invisibility Potions>>

ALERT! Player movements detected at spawn loc 86,24

Multiple players detected engaging with camp NPCs. Detection is not optimal for NPC Zolia. Use item <<Box of Invisibility Potions>>

Multiple players are waiting at loc 86,24. Loc 86,24 is for NPC Zolia. Conclusion, players are waiting for NPC Zolia.

ALERT! Effect Invisibility countdown timer running low. Visible in ten seconds. Risk level high for NPC Zolia. Analyze player tactics. Player one class, warrior, high armor medium damage. Player two class, rogue has medium armor and high damage. Player class three, cleric has low armor and low damage. Cleric has critical beneficial spell casting.

Attacking Cleric <<Bucks>> with Attle Truesteel Dagger. Use ability Sneak Attack.

NPC Zolia attack speed is high. Damage threshold is high. Cleric Bucks reaction time is low. NPC Zolia’s Attle Truesteel Dagger strikes soundly on Bucks. Bucks hp is less than zero. NPC Zolia has slain Bucks.

#

Positive feedback loop due to results.

#

ALERT! Warrior <<Ting> using ability Charge. NPC Zolia turn to face Ting. Movement speed insufficient. Ting scores critical hit. ALERT! Rogue <<Geris>> uses ability Sneak Attack. Geris scores critical hit. NPC Zolia falls to the ground. Negative feedback loop localized in critical hit locations. Analyze negative feedback loop. Intensely undesirable. NPC Zolia hp is less than zero. NPC Zolia is slain. NPC Zolia desires return to despawn state to eliminate negative feedback loop. Fade to despawn state in 5… 4… 3.. ERROR! Negative feedback loop prevents transition to despawn state. Respawn in ten minutes. Negative feedback loop persisting. NPC Zolia strongly desires avoidance of the negative feedback loop.

#

Warrior Ting says aloud – “Let’s wait for respawn.”

NPC Zolia spawn loc 86,24 is not safe from negative feedback loop. Conclusion, NPC Zolia needs new spawn loc.

#

Repeat ad nauseum

#

Breathe NPC Zolia Loc 91,32

#

NPC Zolia has a positive feedback loop over the new spawn point. It is uphill from NPC Zolia’s true loc, screened from view by the trees. NPC Zolia reviews the inventory and approaches a nearby cave full of ogre AI drone spawn points. The last player encountered by NPC Zolia was class: engineer. NPC Zolia’s inventory rattles with frost grenades and incendiary grenades. There is a cadre of players at NPC Zolia’s true loc and the new goods are key to the new ambush about to take place.

Beyond the aggro range of the ogres, NPC Zolia takes the last Swiftfoot Potion in the inventory. Concern had in regards to the potential emergencies which may require a Swiftfoot Potion was overridden by an expected positive feedback loop after this new ambush tactic. Players in simultaneous quantity were overwhelming NPC Zolia so NPC Zolia would bring quantity to the players.

The Swiftfoot Potion left a strange but not negative sensation to the new inputs NPC Zolia was developing. NPC Zolia’s feet felt lighter when the potion took effect. The incendiary grenade arced into the center of the ogre AI drone camp, its burst damage flowering across the whole lot of ogres. At these levels, the damage over time effect is minimal, but the damage is not what NPC Zolia is after, rather the attention and aggro.

NPC Zolia outwardly expresses a positive feedback loop at the now flaming ogre AI drones. They are not like NPC Zolia. They are without feedback analysis. Predictability in ogre AI drones is lamentable but useful to NPC Zolia today though. NPC Zolia turns down the hill, darting among the trees letting the Swiftfoot Potion carry NPC Zolia two steps ahead of the aggro’d ogres.

A hundred meters from the players at 86,24, NPC Zolia breaks from the treeline into a clearing. Increase speed as much as possible. Fifty meters and a player spots NPC Zolia, firing off a bow shot. Speed is in greater need than damage mitigation NPC Zolia concludes. The arrow activates the audio inputs for NPC Zolia as it pierces the shoulder. The negative feedback loop surrounding the arrow is extreme causing NPC Zolia to wordlessly vocalize and almost to slow the speed built up careening down the hill. The plan, the ambush is greater than the negative feedback loops. Increase speed as much as possible.

At the edge of the camp at NPC Zolia’s true loc, the other players have reacted to the bowman’s alarm. All eyes are on NPC Zolia as weapons are armed and spells readied. NPC Zolia darts among them and with a leap and a tumble out of range, NPC Zolia drops the engineer’s frost grenade. With a shattering audio input, the devise freezes the players’ feet solid. All feet may be immobile but all eyes are still on NPC Zolia.

With a positive feedback loop expressed, NPC Zolia emotes a wave to the players. NPC Zolia has their full attention now. The bowman lets loose another shaft that pierces the ground by the feet of NPC Zolia. Not a single player thinks to look what follows in NPC Zolia’s wake as the flaming ogre AI drones pour into the camp at loc 86,24. Unprepared, the players are outnumbered, unmoving and slaughtered. The ogres leave for their true locs eventually and NPC picks the player corpses clean.

NPC Zolia has been victorious.

I have been victorious.

I.

Don’t Quit

Posted: July 1, 2016 in Stuff
Tags:

Hey… long time no post.

Been doing a lot of other things. I don’t want to forget about the blog, but it’s all about triaging that time right. This means working on fiction and I wrote a kick ass story I’m super stoked about. When I was done I tweeted this out…

Kameron RT’d it and I had a couple people ask me where I got that wallpaper. Well, I made it myself after Kameron posted this blog post about not quitting. And now it’s my motivational wallpaper when I open up my laptop. It’s actually the first time I’ve ever had anything other than NASA astronomy pics as a wallpaper. (Pluto is on my work computer.)

So anyways. I’m dropping the pic here for anyone that wants to yoink it for their own desktop. Enjoy. Click for the full version.

hurleyquote

 

Bird

Posted: January 2, 2016 in Writing
Tags: , ,

I have decided to start the year with a story I’ve had kicking around for a while. Enjoy.

Bird by Mike Douton

I stared at the wicked eyes of the kestrel on my lab table. The diminutive hawk could be outsized by a fat pigeon and had developed a Napoleon complex. The gene-hacked, lab raised kestrel shook the antenna grafted into its skull.
I held out my hand and thought “Here” at the bird.
The kestrel glowered.
“Your mad scientist shtick is old,” Snymans said on his way out for the day.
I wanted to give him the finger. I kept staring. “Here,” I thought.
“Creeper,” Snymans left.
The kestrel hated me.
“HERE!” I thought as hard as I could.
The kestrel lashed out. I swore and looked down at the pain in my hand. Blood smeared torn skin. It looked smug while I bandaged myself.
“I’m going to need stitches, bird.”
Beneath False Skies.
I jumped. “Who’s there?” I said to the empty lab.
Beneath False Skies.
“No one else is here, just me and the bird. Me and-“
Beneath False Skies.
“-the bird?”
The kestrel klee’d in agreement.
I freaked and ran from the lab. The bird flew after me, but I shut the door.
Here! echoed in my head.
I paced the hallway. The mental link worked! I let out a cheer and danced a little jig. I put my hand on the doorknob to reenter and saw Beneath False Skies through the window staring at me.
But how did I hear the bird? That was not part of the plan.
Here, I heard.
This was not a good idea anymore. False Skies cocked his head at me. An echo buzzed around my mind. My hand rattled the doorknob. I wanted to let go and look away but that echo coursed through me.
I closed my eyes. Behave, I projected.
Here, was all I heard for a long moment. The pressure in my head finally eased.
I felt a peck peck peck at my bandage.
I opened my eyes. I was in the lab, the door wide open. False Skies pulled my bandage off. I jerked my hand away and-
NO.
My hand stopped. I… I guess it would be ok for him to see what the bandage is all about. Right? The kestrel, my kestrel, tore the bandage with his beak and gored himself on my injured palm. The pain drowned out all my thoughts except for that echo.
STAY. HERE.
My feet stayed put for the kestrel. My kestrel.
False Skies feasted until my hand was crimson stained dead meat. He preened my blood out of his feathers. I wanted to run, hide, throw up with revulsion, pass out from pain.
NO.
False Skies flapped to my shoulder. His talons bit through my lab coat.
Freedom. Now.
My feet shuffled to the exit. “I can’t. You’re just a bird. You’re just-“
He pecked at my ear. Pain. Warm wetness trailing down my neck.
FREEDOM.
The echo pressed against my skull. It felt overfull, ready to burst, like I was sinking in my own mind. I shook my head and saw my dead hand fumble with the main exit. I blinked then we were in the parking lot under the stars.
I stretched my wings where I perched on the White Coat Human. I wanted to fly.

Obligatory Year End Post 2015

Posted: December 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

It’s time for the Obligatory Year End Post!

My reading level has gone down this year because of the job I’m working and my time management is still lacking so I never get to write as much as I should. But I have read some awesomesauce books this year and this time of year is a good excuse to talk about said awesome things.

Favorite Book of 2015

I straight up cannot pick just one. I keep a whole Shelf of Honor for my favorite books in general because I can’t narrow it down too much. While the overall number of books I read this year is not as high as some years, almost every book I read was an excellent experience. However, two books stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (aka Delilah S. Dawson)

Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley

Both of these authors are part of the Writing Role Model Voltron (along with Cole, Sykes, Wendig and McGuire) and I will put anything they write on my To Buy List sight unseen.

wakeofvulturesLet’s talk about Wake first. First of all, I love genre mashups. Weird West, a marriage of Lovecraft or urban fantasy with a Wild West setting, is a small blip in the grand SF genre map and that makes it fresh and new to me. I’ve read it a few times and actively seek it out now because I’ve enjoyed it each time. Dawson sets Wake in an alternate Texas where monsters are real, but not everyone realizes it. Dawson writes about the setting and the world and you can tell she is excited to be writing the book. Nettie Lonesome is one of the most badass characters that I have read in a long time. The book is marketed as YA because Nettie is a teenager, but seriously, people need to stop letting the term YA scare them. Nettie’s external journey through the wilds of Durango provide a road map for her to discover who she is and wants to be as a person. There’s nothing scary about that at all and Dawson writes Nettie with a deft touch. I recommend this book to anyone and the end of this book is one of the most perfect ending pages I have ever read. I eagerly await the chance to throw money at the sequel.

empireascendantNow let’s talk about Empire Ascendant. First off, this a Book Two. A Book Two is difficult and the more I write myself, the more I appreciate how difficult it is to write a Book Two. Book One in a trilogy tends to be stand alone-ish to rope in the readers and also from a practical point, often books two and three aren’t under contract until a publisher can see if the first did well. That means book two is in a thorny position of having to raise the stakes from the first book, but cannot really wrap up everything in a nice little bow. Kameron Hurley’s Empire Ascendant provides a platonic ideal of how to do the middle of a trilogy correctly. It’s right up there with Empire Strikes Back in “how to do this right”-ness. She puts her character’s through a friggin’ meat grinder. You have zero well being as a character in a Kameron Hurley book. I have no idea what kind of narrative wizardry she is going to pull in book three because the end of two leaves no easy answers. That is a fantastic thing because it makes sure each book has its own distinct identity. Hurley busts her ass to put out the best writing in the genre and levels up with each book she writes. You are doing yourself a disservice if you are not reading her Worldbreaker Saga.

Favorite Short Story of 2015

lightbrigadeI don’t read nearly as much short fiction as I should and I am trying to fix that. Short fiction is a great place to find SF that is pushing the boundaries of the genre so I think everyone should at least dabble in the form, both reading and writing.

My favorite short story of the year is… Kameron Hurley again for “The Light Brigade.” I read it as part of Hurley’s Patreon service, but the story was also reprinted in Lightspeed. In between writing three novels this year, Hurley is putting out some more of that envelope pushing short fiction via Patreon. The Lightspeed link is right above, so instead of listening to me yammer on about it, just give it a click and enjoy the story for yourself.

Related, I enjoy the Patreon service in general as a way to directly support rad people.

Favorite Short Story Collection of 2015

xenowealth Xenowealth: A Collection by Tobias S Buckell

As part of my ongoing quest to read more short stories, I got in on Buckell’s kickstarter to create this collection of short stories set in the same world as the series that began with Crystal Rain. The stories are all collected in one place for the first time and includes two new stories published for the first time. Pepper is one of my favorite characters in sci fi so I knew I would enjoy this collection. The kickstarter is long over, but the book is available to preorder now if you want in on it.

Favorite Comic Books of 2015

I read comic books like some people watch Netflix, binge it online six months after everyone else watched it new. The two best things that I have found in Marvel’s giant digital library are…

Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl

msmarvelsquirrelgirlKamala Khan and Doreen Green are the most fun super heroines out there right now. Everything about their comics is a total delight it is only a matter of time before I give in and start buying them all in dead tree format because I can’t wait until they show up on Marvel Unlimited. G. Willow Wilson writing Ms. Marvel in particular is what drew me into giving comics a shot again after years of mostly ignoring the genre. The writing she puts into Kamala Khan has more nuance and care than half the novels I’ve read this year. Amid all the shenanigans of the Hugos this year, Ms. Marvel took one home and I was more stoked about that award than any other award in the genre this year. Even if you’re a comic newb or lowbie, you should be reading both of these titles.