Thursday, November 27, 2014

Susan Says...

Check out Susan Gourley's blog Susan Says for some great SCIENCE FICTION and FANTASY titles with a flare of Romance.    

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dark Holiday

And, here we are again.  As the holidays and the time of thanksgiving draw nigh, we again see flames over the all-American community of Ferguson, Missouri.  Once again, a dead black youth and a police officer with a clear conscience, exhonorated by a system that seems to inevitably preside over this increasingly familiar grim scenario.

The news report had just aired when I stepped out onto a dark street in quiet Cambridge, MA, home of the American Revolution.  A small group (very small) of lily-white Harvard college students were predictably marching down the street chanting "USA, KKK - How many kids did you kill today?"  An echo of a bygone age.  An age when one man had a dream.  Today, a man who sits in the oval office tells us to not loose hope in that dream.  But, the fire and the killing seem to go on.  (I recall a black man looking on with a curious stare at the half-dozen white students apparently trying to make the rest of us a touch less complacent for one moment that night.)

Yes, we've been here before.  We always seem to end up here again.  The question is, how long 'till next time?

Other obvious questions come to mind.  What really happened?  Would the white police officer have reacted differently (even to the degree of angling his weapon a tad lower) had the suspect been white?  If a white boy had died this way (thief or no) would the predominantly white grand jury have decided differently?  Questions to which we'll never have the answers.  The witnesses always seem either to tell contradictory stories or fail to materialize altogether.  Historians will probably do the same.

The real question is, how far have we come, as a nation?  We've come a ways.  But, it's all still there, inside us.  The darkness, the fear, the hate.  Hate and distrust of those unlike us.  We've all heard the hateful slurs, the insults, the obscenities; words that go back all the way to the days of slavery. I grew up hearing those words.  In traffic disputes, in bars...wherever.  As I've grown older, I've wanted to believe it was fading.  But, it never does, does it?  Even as we deny it, scoff at it, insisting it's all behind us.  It's all still here.  It never left.  Will it, ever?

I remember Rodney King.  There, we had a camera as a witness.  The merciless beating of a man as he lay defenseless on the pavement.  A moment later, a voice over a police band...a chuckling voice of a cop delightedly making racial slurs after he'd done the deed.  The jury picking the video apart frame by frame, examining every move under a microscope, trying desperately to avoid seeing the forest for the twigs.  Jurors...white jurors anyway...just don't want to convict in cases like this.  Cops riddle a young black man with bullets as he stands in his own doorway reaching for a comb.  Acquitted cops hugging their kids and making statements to T.V. interviewers without a trace of guilt on their faces.  A video of highway patrolmen or bailiffs roughing up a white woman  makes it to the evening news, and the public is shocked and critical of the police.  A black kid gets shot to death by a white cop, and white America collectively wracks its brains to find a way to acquit the white cop.  His guilt or innocence never seems as important as feeling secure in our moral rectitude.  And, just perhaps...our superiority?

Yes, we have come a ways.  There's no denying that.  But, why do we seem to keep passing the same signposts again and again?

Happy Holidays, America.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Offbeat, Exciting sci-fi: Milo James Fowler's Yakuza Territory

Musa Publishing is proud to announce the release of Milo James Fowler's most recent science fiction novella, Yakuza Territory.

Take a moment to discover what happens when a hard boiled detective story is set in a science fiction world:

A detective with no way out. A telepath with something to prove...

World-weary detective Charlie Madison has seen more than his share of war. When he stops by the 37th precinct late one night to check on his old friend Sergeant Douglass, the place is as quiet as a morgue. The last thing he expects to find: half a dozen Russian gunmen with a score to settle.

What starts out as a vicious Alamo-style battle soon evolves into something more sinister as Madison's past comes into play. Will his ties to a branch of the Japanese mafia be a help or a hindrance? And who is the strange man in holding? Why are the Russians determined to break him out?

Struggling to survive the night, one private eye must rely on his wits to solve a mystery where he's outnumbered, outgunned, and trapped inside a police station with a soulless killing machine.




Maybe checking in on Sergeant Douglass late that night hadn’t been the best idea. I should have paid more attention to the warning signs right off; things weren’t exactly business as usual at the precinct. The pencil-necked clerk wasn’t at his post, and an eerie quiet held the foyer as still as a morgue. No cops, uniformed or otherwise, to be seen. In a city that never slept, one expected its law enforcement personnel to share the same god-awful insomnia—graveyard shift or no.

The vacant front desk didn’t sway me from my course, though. Little glitches out of the ordinary seldom did. I’d trained myself over the years to file them away, but not focus on them too much. As a detective, it was easy to get distracted by particulars while going after the big picture. Besides, I was suspicious by nature. I questioned everything as a matter of course. But as far as I knew, everybody on duty was partying in back, throwing Douglass a well-deserved soirĂ©e after his recent ordeal and return to the land of the visible.

I paused at the unlocked door leading into the bullpen—an open-concept area with clusters of desks for everybody ranked lower than lieutenant. Access into the station’s inner workings wasn’t usually so free and easy. As I quietly stepped inside, I knew without a doubt something was amiss.

The whole room lay empty except for five guys standing in the middle with assault weapons slung over their shoulders—AK-12s and SIG MPXs by the looks of them. Not what your average citizens usually carried around concealed on their person.

“Hey.” I saluted the first one to notice me. “Am I late to the party?”

He glared my way, and I couldn’t help feeling like I was back in high school; once again, I’d forgotten the beer. They weren’t in uniform—unless black nubuck jackets and jeans counted, not to mention the scruffy stubble, slick hair, and stocky frames. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the look of your standard-issue thug for hire these days.

“Charlie—get down!”

I would have recognized that Scottish brogue anywhere. I’d already assembled a good enough picture of the situation to know it was in my best interest to hit the floor a split second before the deafening staccato of weapons fire and a hail of bullets headed my way. The rounds blasted straight through computer monitors and potted plants on desks; sparks flew upward along with shards of clay and clouds of potting soil. Chairs disintegrated as I cringed behind a solid steel desk and drew the snubnosed Smith & Wesson from my shoulder holster.

“Sarge, you all right?” I barely heard myself over the stampede of slugs plowing into the steel that sheltered me. The rounds were making some serious dents, but none had punctured through—yet. It was only a matter of time. I wouldn’t be able to stay put for long.


Getting to know the man behind the book:

1. When did you start seriously pursuing writing as a career?

I've been writing since I was a kid, but I started submitting my work for publication in the summer of 2009. I'd always thought I would pursue publication at some point -- probably after I retired from teaching or turned 40. My first story was published in January 2010, and I've had another 96 accepted for publication since then. I won't turn 40 for a couple more years, and I'm still teaching full-time. Doesn't look like I'll be retiring anytime soon!


2. How did you create the character Charlie Madison?

When I was a kid, I learned to type on an old-school manual typewriter. That's where I learned to write, too. My first novels were messy, full of typos and plot holes. But they were fun. And at age 15, that's what it was all about for me. Private eye Charlie Madison was one of the first characters I created, based on Box 13 and Dixon Hill, and The Double Murder was his big debut. By the end of it, I had over a hundred pages of snappy banter, mob hits, double-crossing dames, car chases, and even some alligators on leashes. It was a horrible parody, and I knew it.


Halfway through 2011, I came up with the first Charlie Madison story I'd written in decades:  Girl of Great Price. It wasn't anything like his original case, but he was the same quick-witted, intrepid detective I'd known before. I transplanted him into a more serious and gritty "future noir" sci-fi setting, and once I'd envisioned that world, I knew I'd be back. Immaterial Evidence soon followed, and Yakuza Territory will be available from Musa Publishing on November 7th.

3. Are you working on more Charlie Madison stories?

I'm outlining the follow-up to Yakuza Territory, and it's going to be full of assassinations, kidnappings, killer robots, and maybe even a mad scientist. The working title is The Gifted Ones, and it follows the origins of the mysterious suprahumans who have appeared in all three Charlie Madison detective stories so far.


 Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. When he's not grading papers, he's imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. He is an active SFWA member, and his work has appeared in more than 90 publications, including AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Shimmer, and the Wastelands 2 anthology.

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