We’ve Moved!

Hello!

It’s been a while, I know.  There is a reason for that, though if it’s a good one or not you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Basically, I’m trying to get my house in order as far as marketing.  Part of this means getting a twitter account.  Another part is finally doing something that I’ve been meaning to do since I first started this experiment: moving the blog onto my own server.

And, as extra good news, the move does come with an added perk: the long delayed THIRD part of Plotting Along – “That Star Trek Movie”

So, if you’re interested, feel free to hop on over to www.jjreinemann.com to see the new improved blog: “Writing Backwards”.

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What’s In a Name? What’s NOT?! (Also: Upcoming Sale!)

First off, the boring stuff: There’s going to be another Single’s Awareness Day sale!  And this time it spans the entire weekend, because after last year’s embarrassing debacle I elected to play it safe.  So if you’re looking to find a deal on Probable Outcome or grab a free copy of The Trap, head over there now!

And now that we’re done with that…

What I am about to say may shock some of you.  Particularly readers of my books.  I know it may be hard to believe, like some kind of cruel joke, but I assure you it is the shameful truth.  And that truth is… I suck at naming characters.

…Hey, HEY!  Stop laughing and start staring in shocked silence, damn it!

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My Zombie Survival Plan

Ever since the zombie boom in fiction, just about everyone has a zombie survival plan these days. It’s even gotten to the point where certain data centers and hospitals have even added them into their official emergency procedures, justifying it with the argument that while reanimated corpses might not be an issue there could still be other disasters that might require the staff to hole up and wait for rescue.
So it probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that I actually get people asking me what my survival plan is a fair amount. After all, I’m a science fiction writer who straddles the narrow divide between hard and soft sci-fi. I get paid to come up with contingency plans for the absurd. Unfortunately my answer is always the same confession: I don’t have one.
The reason might not be what you think it is. Sure, Zombies are far from my favorite supernatural horror, but I don’t hate them by any means. There has been some excellent work, even outside the old standby of Romero, which has managed to use the shambling undead horde to great effect in terms of both horror and social commentary. They also tap into our fundamental apex predator’s fear of being eaten, which I suspect is perhaps the single biggest thing that has kept the Zombie firmly planted as such a terrifying concept.
No, the reason I don’t have a survival plan is that before I can come up with one, I have to be able to come up with a scenario in which the zombie apocalypse actually happens. And so far, I haven’t really been able to. What’s more, I’m not sure many others have either.
Let’s face it; there are plenty of zombie narratives out there these days that approach the idea more like a science fiction concept than a supernatural horror. The most common theme is zombies being created as a result of some virus rather than a necromancer for a start, and furthermore it’s a virus that with a few notable exceptions behaves in exactly the same way as a real world virus. And yet in almost all of these more “grounded” narratives, we hop straight from an initial outbreak to the post-apocalyptic swarm. There are vague references to what we missed more often than not, sure, but I’m honestly hard pressed to think of any that showed us something substantial about how civilization actually managed to fall.
Before I go on to more thoroughly analyze this of course, it’s time for a few definitions and ground rules. Zombie narratives are pretty varied these days, even now as they are starting to be phased out of vogue in favor of a new monster to terrify us.
First and most important is the fact that for the purposes of this exercise, a zombie is a non-sentient, near brainless animal. The creatures from I Am Legend, for example, are not truly Zombies in this definition. Ghouls, or perhaps vampires, sure, but they’re definitely not the kind of shambling undead that we associate with a good zombie story. Zombies aren’t tool users, they don’t know how to communicate with each other, and they don’t have the capacity to outsmart our survivors unless one of them has recently taken an extremely nasty blow to the head.
Second is that we’re assuming that the virus or other infection vector is not airborne, and cannot survive exceedingly long against a functional immune system. Another very common trope in use these days establishes that the zombie virus itself is not lethal, but the secondary infections stemming from being bitten by another human are. If the virus can pass through sneezing on someone or being bitten by a zombie mosquito apocalypse is more likely, but the possibility of survivors also rapidly diminishes to almost nil. Unless of course we’re going off of Left 4 Dead rules, where the survivors are immune and thus in no danger of being turned no matter how often they get bit, clawed at, or otherwise mauled. Which we’re not. Survival plan for that contingency is never lose track of a pipe bomb and never be on point, which would make for a much shorter article.
And the third and final requirement here is that the zombies are, in fact, made up of animate but necrotic flesh. In short, they’re dead and decomposing even as they advance on their prey.

Shoot for the Head

First thing to tackle is perhaps the most obvious. While fortunately most people have caught onto this, it still is very annoying how many movies, shows, and books still feature a scene of the well meaning police officer or lone man/woman with a gun continuing to pump bullets into the chest of a zombie as they advance until, finally, they’re overwhelmed.
Okay, so let’s forget for a moment the odd fact that no one in zombie movies has ever seen one. It’s a rotting corpse that’s just taken a half pound of lead to the chest cavity without flinching, and there are very few things that can survive a bullet to the head. Is it really such a mental leap to conclude that a headshot is called for?
The typical response to this oft raised point is that it’s really hard to actually make a headshot. And okay, that’s true, especially if you’ve never fired a gun. But we’re not talking shooting range distances here. Usually you’re talking ten or twenty feet tops. At that range you don’t have to be all that good at aiming to hit something the size of a watermelon, and I’ve yet to meet a single person who couldn’t figure out the theory of using a gun’s sights in about three seconds. Sure, some people would probably be paralyzed with fear and end up being munched on all the same, but in a real world scenario we’d be seeing a LOT more headless zombie corpses lying around in the street. After all, if they liked eating other zombies, wouldn’t they spend more time eating their neighbors than the survivors?

The Military Tried, But They Couldn’t Stop Them
Yeah, it’s not a zombie apocalypse until the military has been brought to its knees by the relentless horde. Expect lots of scenes of soldiers in full combat gear firing over barricades but then being overwhelmed by the horde.
The problem with this is that… well… is anyone in the military really stupid enough to fight them like this? Modern militaries are pretty good at counting, and can generally tell when they’re looking at a hopeless disparity in numbers. And in a major zombie outbreak the soldiers will generally be woefully outnumbered. Rather than simply draw a line and fill it with soldiers, they’re going to start thinking in terms of tactics. As soon as that happens, things are going to go extremely badly for the zombies.
I’m not entirely sure why, but most movies (aka the source for the majority of military knowledge for the layman) tend to greatly undersell the capabilities of military hardware and tactics. One might have thought that in today’s explosion happy climate the exact opposite would be true. As such, people often underestimate just how far machine gun technology has come since World War 2. Often machine guns aren’t actually used to mow down enemies en masse. Rather they’re an effective means of forcing the enemy to stay under cover while squads advance.
Zombies, however, do not understand the concept of cover. They move in tight groups and en masse. They are basically cannon fodder without the shock troops coming in behind them to do actual damage. Get a few SAW’s going and it doesn’t matter if you’re aiming for the head or not, you’re going to be filling the streets with Zombie goo. Admittedly there is the risk that they’ll eventually run out of ammo, which is where the other great advance of machine guns comes in:
These days, we mount them to helicopters. And I have never seen a zombie capable of taking out an apache gunship making strafing runs.
Think about it: you’ve got a horde of thousands of undead crammed into the streets below, shoulder to shoulder and barely moving at a rate that could be charitably called a shuffle. This is the very definition of a target rich environment. A single pass would disable or kill hundreds of undead, allowing them to be slaughtered in job lots with absolutely no risk to any soldiers on the ground. What’s more, the noise of the slaughter would most likely draw zombies into the kill zone.
Some cordons might still be necessary of course to keep stragglers from getting out, but the military could do a pretty good job handling that with liberal use of tanks, artillery, and landmines, which most western countries have in abundance (little known fact: the USA, despite vocally condemning the use of landmines more than once, has repeatedly refused to sign any treaty banning their use or manufacture.) The only conceivable way a zombie could take out a tank would be if a few hundred dog-piled on top of the thing and broke its suspension and it’s doubtful they would have the intelligence to figure this out. And if this were to happen… well, wonderful thing about tanks is the fact that their armor is more or less impervious to small arms fire. You know, the kind that you get from helicopter mounted machine guns.
Honestly this makes me think that we need to have more zombie outbreaks set during the time of the Revolutionary War. Modern zombies really have the deck stacked against them.

The Enduring Horde

Okay, so at this point the zombies have to be wondering what went wrong. Rather than ruling the earth, all they’ve succeeded in doing is given every member of the NRA the best day of their life and demonstrated exactly why full on frontal attacks on Gatling guns never took off. But there’s still a chance for them, right? After all, zombies are already dead, they don’t really need to eat drink or sleep, and there’s no way the army can get rid of all of them. If a few of them can get out of the city they can spread out to other communities, rebuild their forces, and eventually stretch the army too thin to manage it.
Well, there are two problems with that. First off is the fact that nukes would probably come into play if the Army thought it was losing containment. And you know, that doesn’t really need me pedantically explaining things to make the point. Second is the fact that zombies are, well… dead.
I know I’m not the first to make this point, but it bears repeating. Zombies are animated corpses. Their necrotic flesh is being rapidly consumed by armies of bacteria and insects intent on turning them into disgusting smelling goo. Their shelf life is rather sharply limited by this fact.
So, given that anyone with basic access to the news has already bought a gun and is on the lookout for the undead and the army is killing them by the hundreds in the cities, where are the few stragglers actually going to go? Any that make it to a city are going to be immediately gunned down, and those wandering the countryside are more likely to dissolve before they can spread the infection much further. They’d likely have difficulty reaching the next major metropolis, never mind migrating to another continent.
The conclusion is fairly simple. For the Zombie Virus to prosper, it needs a ready and massive supply of humans to spread to, and its very nature precludes it having that for very long. So long as containment is even moderately effective, the zombie menace will basically sort itself out in a week or so, at least locally. That’s not even enough time to properly starve to death. It would be a smelly, hungry week to be sure, but at the end of it you’d probably be able to walk out alive with a minimum of effort. Simply finding a multi-floor building with fire doors you can barricade and a water cooler would probably be enough, and those are hardly uncommon.
Based on all of this, again, I can only come to one conclusion: A zombie outbreak in the modern would indeed be dangerous and likely lead to a massive loss in life in several cities. But the odds of it actually wiping out our entire civilization are extremely low.

How I Learned to Get Over Myself and Learn to Love Quantum Physics

There have been a lot of advances in theoretical physics since the end of the 19th century when the first examples of what I would consider “modern” time travel stories were being produced by Mark Twain and H.G. Wells. One of the best of those in my opinion is the multiple worlds theory of quantum physics, largely because it finally offers us a chance to break away from the constraints of the paradox that have plagued science fiction for so long.
In the universe of the Shadows of Time series, there are no temporal paradoxes to contend with. This is because it is flat out impossible for them to exist. The main characters exist within a 11 dimensional omniverse where all possible outcomes of their time travel are accounted for. Now, as individuals who exist outside of the normal flow of any single universe, they do have the ability to flit in and out of several different universes as they see fit. But it is beyond their power to create anything truly new. The law of conservation of energy dictates that their ability is inherently finite.
Furthermore, the Guardians themselves are not unique. The very nature of the setting demands that there be innumerable copies of them all running around simultaneously, operating in near ignorance of each other simply because of the fact that as many versions of them as there are, there are far more possible destinations for them to be shunted to. And while there may occasionally be things that look like paradoxes where they are reacting to something done by themselves in the future, they’re actually the result of other iterations of them taking action. So not only is there no paradox, but oftentimes they’re left stymied by the fact that these other iterations made different choices than they would given the same circumstances.
I’ll admit that when I first decided to go this route for my books, I was hesitant. While the idea of being able to write in a universe free of the decrepit specter of temporal paradoxes was appealing, it seemed at first that the omniverse posed just as many problems. There seemed to be an inherent nihilism to the concept that I found to be abhorrent. After all, with constant reminders that there were near infinite other copies of my protagonists making different choices and living (or dying) under different circumstances, what incentive would my readers have to care about what happened to the one group I chose to follow? Furthermore, how would I address the concern of dual occupancy? After all, with so many near identical Guardians operating with impunity, surely it was inevitable that eventually two or two million sets of them would decide to go to the same universe.
So my initial response to the problem was to cheat, and basically try to fudge the logic a bit by elevating the Guardians as being somehow special. In the early drafts of Shadows of Time the Guardians were unique because there could only ever be one set of them at any given time. All the other iterations that existed were simply held in reserve so they could be rotated in as needed when one of them ended up dying . I don’t think it was an entirely bad concept. In fact I adapted it into another unrelated project later. But it still ended up causing too many problems for me. Every time I asserted this in the book, a little demon in the back of my head would pipe up and ask “So, does that mean that whenever they make a choice, there are an infinite number of universes where they simply vanish all of a sudden? And doesn’t that also mean that the starting point of the universe would have to be defined as the point where they became Guardians?” and so on.
I ignored the demon for a long time until I suddenly one day had an epiphany. There’s a reason that time travel remains such an appealing concept for us, even after it’s been demonstrated that a practical application will likely forever be out of our reach. It speaks to feelings everyone has experienced at some point in their life: guilt and regret. It offers a chance to go back, to correct our past mistakes, and basically just have things turn out the way we wanted them to. A key part of the human experience is the eventual coming to terms with the fact that ultimately there’s no way for us to do that.
Time travel offers us a way to cheat that. Now, I’ll admit, highlighting this is one thing that the paradox approach has done rather well. It dangles time travel in front of our noses, always whisking it away at the last second because our past is just that. The problem is that this really doesn’t work for an ongoing series where I have characters repeatedly going back to different eras.
By embracing the problems of the omniverse I found they stopped being problems and started being stylistic elements. In the face of that pseudo-nihilist existence, there really is no way for the characters to fool themselves into thinking they can make their own lot better by meddling in their own past. They can tweak history all they want, but at the end of the day they still have to go home to live with the choices that they made. The ultimate promise of time travel then is revealed to have been a cheat all along.
Now some might call me on this by pointing out that in some cases this is exactly the same kind of message that writers seek to convey through the paradox mechanic. However I still maintain that there is a difference. The conventional paradox story always at some point presents the audience with something that is wholly nonsensical and tries to pass this off as complexity. In this way it is very similar to some philosophers I’ve known who, when losing an argument, have attempted to undermine their opponents position by claiming that the concepts they are quite eloquently explaining are simply too far beyond human comprehension for anyone to understand.
The omniverse, however, does not have this problem. Furthermore, by placing several existing paradox stories within an omniverse, many of the problems with said stories can be resolved, and in some cases even made more interesting by the shift.
I present as an example one of the single worst offenders in recent history: Star Trek Voyager. During her seven year stint as the Flying Dutchman of starships, Voyager was responsible for the absolute worst time travel plots that the Star Trek franchise has ever seen. What’s even worse is that the writers seemed to be aware of it, often having the characters point out all the plot holes they were creating only to have another character chuckle and say in a sage voice that time travel is supposed to be complicated.
To which I say: bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit.
Let’s consider one of the worst of the bunch: the episode Time and Again. In this episode Kes, the resident quasi-Q (every starship seems to have one in the 24th century) detects the death of an entire planet. When Voyager goes to investigates Janeway and Tuvok are accidentally sent back to the same planet a few days before the cataclysm that will ultimately destroy every person on its surface occurs. Horror of horrors! Since they have nothing better to do, the two decide their best bet is to prevent the explosion from happening. This seems rather easy, as they’ve traced it back to a particular power generating MacGuffin which is apparently known to wipe out planetary populations when someone sneezes on the controls. That seems to be a bit of a design flaw to me, but I bet it’s got a great carbon footprint.
Meanwhile in the future, the rest of Voyager’s crew is working on trying to figure out how to get Janeway and Tuvok back. They come up with a system involving some kind of wormhole (though they wrap it in newer sounding tech talk) and start opening up portals everywhere just a few seconds too late to catch them. At the climax of the episode, Janeway is inside the power plant trying to stop a terrorist group from sneezing the wrong way and ending the world. A bunch of people, including Tuvok, are dead because she was trying her hardest to keep them out of this place. Only she suddenly discovers that the terrorist group is not, in fact, genocidal. They know full well that blowing up the power plant would end the world. Then the wormhole opens up behind her and starts moving in a menacing fashion towards a conduit. This being Star Trek, the conduit is apparently lined with C-4 and absolutely vital to the safe and non-explosive operation of the entire facility.
Janeway suddenly realizes that it was the rescue attempt of her crew that caused the explosion in the first place, not this bunch of loonies. She adopts her best “Captain face” and fires on the wormhole, blowing up the device on the other end and probably killing most of her command staff. This doesn’t matter though, because suddenly a bright white light sweeps over everyone and everything, and we cut back to Voyager going on her merry way. Kes wakes up again, then calls the bridge and declares that everyone’s fine. Which has got to be really, really annoying to everyone up there who is now probably thinking that Kes has been growing some really good space-weed in her hydroponic garden. The episode ends on a message of… what, exactly?
I know this is a little low, but this episode is a perfect example of all that is wrong with time travel stories these days. If Voyager was the cause of the explosion and had no reason to visit the planet in the first place (which, by the way, it didn’t) then the explosion never should have happened, and Kes never should have woken up in a cold sweat. That kind of absurdity should be reasons to can the script right there. And yet the episode revels in it. In fact, there really isn’t anything else this episode is about. There’s no attempt at a greater message, no attempt at any kind of commentary on humanity, society, or bad science fiction tropes. Even the somewhat interesting premise of eco-terrorists accidentally ending the world because they’re just as reckless as the people they’re trying to stop is nullified in the end because, what do you know, they’re arguably the only sane ones here. All there is to the episode is forty five minutes of self-indulgence where the writer tries to brag to the audience about how clever they are by being able to warp their minds like that. Sadly, even that falls flat.
Now let’s apply the omniverse model. In this version, the planet is destroyed by something (like, say, someone coming in sick and sneezing on a glowy thing or two toilets being flushed at exactly the same time) and Voyager comes to investigate. They get caught up in the after effects, Janeway and Tuvok get sucked in, etc. Finally, at the end of the story, Janeway fires on the rift and closes it, killing most of her command crew in the process. Yay, we’ve reduced the senior staff to a hologram who is still about a season away from becoming awesome and Harry Kim.
Of course, the problem is that Janeway has now basically ensured that the universe she now occupies will never become the one where her Voyager is currently in orbit and Harry Kim is wondering how he’s going to break it to the crew that he’s the captain now without causing a mass scramble to the escape pods. Are you honestly going to tell me that she isn’t making more of a sacrifice here? That the conflict isn’t more interesting, more worth exploration, than the original anemic version? You could even tack a happy ending on it by having Voyager show up in orbit, perhaps end on a close-up of the other Janeway watching this new universe’s version of her and her crew and shedding a “single tear™” of joy before turning away and setting out to build a new life for herself on this world she has saved. Or take it a step further, have her sent even further back in time, and have Voyager arrive after she’s lived a long full life on the planet’s surface. Sure, it’s still a bad episode. But at least now it’s one that features some form of lasting character development.
And really I can’t think of anything that could do a better job selling this idea than that. Adopting the multiverse brings consequences back into the equation. It requires the characters live with their choices, however they turned out, rather than wiping them away in order to return to the status quo. And why wouldn’t we want that? Choices should always matter in a story, otherwise you might as well just drop the whole thing.

Isn’t it Time We Stopped Using Paradoxes?

(NOTE: I wrote this article a few years ago, so some of the references may be a bit old.)

                As a writer of fiction which involves time travel as one of its core elements, I have had more than my fair share of questions from friends and readers regarding the question of paradoxes.  Usually I make a habit of avoiding blanket statements as to my own authorial intent or future plans for anything I write, as I have a disturbing habit of proving myself wrong more often than not.  On the question of paradoxes, though, I have no problem in making my opinions clear.  I don’t use them.  Nor do I ever plan to.  Ever.

                To some this may seem vaguely heretical.  Paradoxes and time travel have been linked so closely over the years that it’s practically become an essential part of the genre.  Everyone who dabbles in time travel has had their take on it.  Some even argue that fiction about time travel is really all about paradoxes.  To these kind of people, the omission of such a vital part of the narrative is a mistake comparable to forgetting to include a protagonist: it simply isn’t done.  Even TV shows like Doctor Who, which is ostensibly about a protagonist who does nothing BUT meddle around in history, have had their token episodes warning of the dangers of unleashing a paradox on the world by some small mistake or change made by one of the well meaning protagonists.  These kind of stories seem to establish that, while it may not be something we’re constantly presented with, the paradox is a constantly looming threat that may strike at any moment.

                Unfortunately the problem is that it’s usually crap. 

                Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there has never been a good paradox story written.  I’ll admit that I did get a sort of guilty pleasure out of watching the most recent Doctor Who paradox episode, wherein the Doctor’s companion Rose Tyler destroys the universe by saving her father.  It made little to no sense in the grand scheme of things, but it did allow for some great character moments and some absolutely brilliant acting on the part of the show’s leads.  But the sad fact is that these are the exception rather than the rule.

                The first problem with paradox stories these days is that, when it comes down to it, they’re basically just a slight retooling of the old trick where the main character wakes up at the end of the story only to realize that it was all a dream.  Every great story centers around conflict, which drives the main characters to action and eventually ends up changing them or the world around them.  And yet the standard fare of paradoxes these days seems to take pride in flaunting that old tradition by completely nullifying any change that occurs.  It’s the cheapest of tricks, and is generally the first thing that any writer is told to avoid.  I suspect that the reason they keep doing it is that a lot of writers have tricked themselves into believing that this is in fact making some kind of profound philosophical statement, and that their readers (or viewers) will be walking away from the experience shaking their head and thinking deep thoughts.

                Which brings me to my second problem with paradoxes as a plot device.  They’re not profound.  Not at all. 

                I think part of the problem is that the very idea of paradoxes were first raised by philosophers before being co-opted by science fiction writers.  Writers, myself included in most cases, are usually laymen playing at being experts.  They learn just enough about the subject their writing about to establish a veneer of credibility.  But when it comes down to it no wholly sane person really expects a diagram from a Star Trek technical manual to work in real life.      But philosophers, well, they’re experts in paradoxes.  They get paid to sit around and make sense of circular logic and complex ideas.  And so, automatically, they get more attention when they say that something bears consideration.

                The problem is that most of these philosophers were raising these paradoxes as reasons for why the time travel stories being presented to them were patently ludicrous.  Their inclusion in so much of time travel fiction wasn’t so much a move towards verisimilitude as it was putting up a huge flag saying “THIS NARRATIVE IS IMPOSSIBLE!”  And in trying to make the stories work anyway, they only ended up creating a whole lot of confusion.  Ultimately it seems this confusion was mistaken for some kind of greater meaning.  And, being writers, most of the group simply decided to run with it.

                Which brings me to the third and final point I’ll raise as to why temporal paradoxes simply don’t work for me.  As a matter of course, the audience is requested to simply sit back and accept that what they see in front of them is possible in the odd sort of hyper-reality that fiction operates in.  For the most part I would say that suspension of disbelief is a good thing.  No one can every get every detail right in fiction, and if they spend too much time trying to get the minutiae nailed down the narrative usually ends up suffering for it. 

                The problem comes in when you consider that the very label of paradox highlights it as an impossible thing.  To fully suspend your disbelief regarding a paradox, you essentially need to stop thinking.  And while that does work very well for some forms of entertainment, in science fiction this is equivalent to suicide.  Sci-Fi has always been a genre relying very heavily on allegory.  When done right it casts familiar human characters into a vastly different set of trials and tribulations in an often unfamiliar setting, and thus works to strip away the influence of the real world to more fully explore who we are.  And you simply cannot interpret this allegory if you are being requested to not think about it.

                Many writers have tried to counter this problem by giving complex explanations of how paradoxes aren’t supposed to happen, but cause a great deal of damage if they do.  Thus, they explain, it’s vital that you try to stop these paradoxes whenever they rear their ugly head.  And they inevitably do, creating millions of new paradoxes without even a second thought.  I’ve yet to hear one good explanation from one of these writers as to how you deal with the problems of conservation of mass or energy when you’ve got molecules existing in two places at the same time.  What’s even more infuriating is the fact that they all tend to use the same explanations anyway, leaving the audience with nothing they haven’t seen a hundred times before.

                Once upon a time, long ago, the idea of a paradox was a new and challenging concept.  It offered writers a chance to experiment with a new kind of story, one where the ability of man to truly control his destiny was constantly being challenged, and all our heroes humbled.  But that time has passed.  And every time I see a writer spit out another repackaged paradox story I can’t help but feel like we are becoming more and more creatively bankrupt.  It’s time we put it to rest.  Fortunately, despite the common misconception, there is more to the concept of time travel than how we can kick physics in the groin and steal it’s lunch money.  In my next installment, I’ll explain to the few readers still interested at this point how I choose to do it.

PSA and a quick update

Just wanted to warn everyone who may have visited the main series site at http://www.shadowsoftime.info that the page was apparently hacked a couple of days ago and had some malware installed. It doesn’t appear to have been anything serious and the problem’s already fixed, but you may want to run a quick scan of your computer just in case. I apologize for any inconvenience there – I try to run a clean site. You may still be getting alerts from Google for a few days though if you do decide to drop in until it’s reviewed by their staff. Visitors to this blog don’t need to worry about anything, as it’s hosted on the wordpress servers instead of mine. Why? Well, because theirs run the program faster and I’m impatient. Plus it’s handy for situations like this.

In other news the final proofs for Probable Outcome should be arriving by the end of the day – which hopefully means that you can start placing orders by the end of the week. Watch this space for possible discount offers for anyone wanting to get an early copy.

Well, I have a blog now.

Hello internet. 

So I suppose I can check off yet another one of those things that people tell me I’m supposed to do to market myself.  Blogging.  Yay.  Now I get to actually do even more stuff that isn’t really writing that people aren’t going to read.

So I suppose I should probably go into some details about what this blog is actually going to be about.  Well, it should come as no surprise to anyone who is even remotely aware of who I am that, yes, it’s self promotion.  That’s what 90% of blogging is really, and I don’t see any point in denying that.  But I don’t think that necessarily means that I can’t have a bit of fun with it too while desperately trying to convince you to buy Shadows of Time books.

Which leads me into the next bit I’m going to talk about.  As everyone who as sent me e-mails in the past year since I released Probable Outcome on Kindle will no doubt be pleased to hear, I have finally relented and releasing a copy of the book in print format.  And even better, the book should be released within a week or so.  Because I procrastinate a lot when it comes to doing this kind of stuff, and because I hate finding out that the next book I’m looking forward to is actually a full year away (I’m looking at you David Weber, George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan… oh, wait, Wheel of Time is finished now.  Never mind.) at least as much as you do.

Unfortunately, as often happens, I currently find myself having hit a bit of a snag.  See, when I woke up this morning, I was determined that I was going to get this thing done.  I’d proofed all 800 some pages of the book, had some greatly improved cover art, redone the blurb on the back, and had a marketing strategy in place.  It was time to bring it all together.  Which is exactly what I did, which is why right now someone is reviewing all of it to make sure it’s printable.

Unfortunately they have no idea whatsoever that I just five minutes ago found a typo on the back cover.  There’s a word I’d like to use to describe my reaction to that, but I’d like to avoid getting cross listed with search results for adult content on the first blog post.

So yeah, not really my finest moment.  But rather appropriate.  The original Kindle release of the book was plagued with errors (as many of you who picked it up know) due to my constantly switching between computers running different versions of Word.  Half of what was supposed to be italicized wasn’t (which is really important when the use of italics are meant to indicate when someone is talking through a cranial mounted transceiver as opposed to out loud where everyone can hear what they’re saying) and words tended to relocate themselves almost at random.  Some even appeared several places at once.

The result of this is that I have now had to completely re-read my monster of a novel at least a dozen times by now just to confirm that nothing got missed.  Generally this takes about a month, during which my output of new content for the upcoming SOT3 slows to a trickle.  All of a sudden George R. R. Martin looks to be moving absurdly fast from where I’m standing.

So to summarize: I’ve got a blog, Probable Outcome will be coming out very soon, and tomorrow I am likely to make a proof-reader feel extremely frustrated when he signs off on what should be the final proof only to have me immediately veto it in favor of a version where the only change is that there is one more P on the back cover. 

Spell check, kids.  It saves lives.