Monthly Archives: March 2013

Review: Psycho-Submersible

After getting my hands on the paper version of the RealLies anthology, I naturally began reading it. Sure, I’d had the galley proof for about a year and the Kindle version for over a month, but as one of my friends put it recently, there’s something about having a dead tree in yours hands that has been sacrificed so that you might gain knowledge. Maybe there’s a kind of ritual here. Maybe it’s just because print copies are what we grew up with. I don’t know.

Hyperaware of this mental juxtaposition between ebook and print, I opened RealLies gingerly, as if it were a comic book or graphic novel. I tried not to bend back the cover too roughly and to handle every page with care. I’d obviously checked out my story when the book first came, which is featured last, but reading through Descarta first seemed like egotism. (Besides, I know everything that happens to Reese anyway.) Instead, I thumbed over to page 1 to check out Oscar Francesco’s story, “Psycho-Submersible”.

Despite what you see on the front cover of almost every bestseller, writers are actually lousy at reviewing each other’s stories. One reason for this is the constant comparison. I’ve been criticized as being “negative” when traipsing through other people’s worlds and showing where reality’s edges have frayed, where the seams don’t quite come together. I know the rules. No work is every really finished, just abandoned.

Given my skepticism and “negative” attitude, I’d have to say that Francesco’s work, given a fair shake, will probably impress most readers. Because by the time I turned the last page and my eyes bugged out of my head, I was impressed. No easy feat.

Francesco and I seem to share the idea that Sci-fi should be accessible to a general audience. I’m not against hard Sci-fi, but I do feel that it limits the audience to geeks like me that will do the mental work to understand your quantum mechanics. Francesco writes Sci-fi the way that Bradbury wrote Sci-fi—he focuses on a single, (in this case literally) mind boggling conceit and builds a story around it. The difference is that he’s willing to take the necessary risks to make the reader believe that this isn’t his formula at all. What precisely he was doing wasn’t apparent to me until about three pages from the story’s ending. Then, at the end, he ties the story, which got pretty wild in places, up in a nice, neat knot.

I’m serious. Pretty much everything I questioned made sense at the end.

Damn, I wish I could do that.

Without spoiling too much of “Psycho –Submersible”, the Sci-fi conceit involves a form of telepathy that can be generated with a machine and then honed with practice. Francesco explores the potential consequences of unbalancing minds through the use of scientific meddling. Like many Sci-fi conceits, this might be a cautionary metaphor, in this case potentially representing a number of different forms of mental abuse, stimulation, and simulation—a terribly relevant theme right now.

To keep the story accessible, Francesco provides us with a focus character of average intelligence who is, by his own admission, an underachiever in life. This enables the reader to learn and experience each new trope with the character as opposed to being blasted with exposition. Many writers (I’ve been here too) feel they must lay all their proverbial cards on the table early in the story because editors pass over so many manuscripts without reading them thoroughly. Francesco, on the other hand, uses this perspective character tactic to bluff the reader till the end, when he lays down the winning hand.

There were a few moments when reading that made me sit back and think, Really? You’ve got this idea, and this is where you’re going with it? And why is he … if … happened? Other critical readers might experience this same issue. But to make readers question reality is part of the Francesco’s plan. There’s risk and reward here. At the end, he practically punishes you for ever doubting him.

In many ways, his story and mine are polar opposites. Perhaps my editor knows a thing or two because he polarized them by placing Francesco’s work at the beginning of Curiosity (Part I) and mine at the end of Control (Part II). I was originally just stoked to make it into print. Now, I can’t wait to see how all the stories fit together.

As my bias as a contributor prevents me from jumping on Amazon or Goodreads and dropping reviews like this, I think I’m going to post them here. If time permits, maybe I’ll say a little something about all the works in the anthology.

Kudos, Oscar. I’ll have to check out more of your work!

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Sci-Fi and Sushi: Blast from the Past


Cloud is all grown up…

Joe Erickson (@SweetJoesus) and I dug up our most notorious Final Fantasy VII fanfic from our high school days and, against the better judgment of the universe, decided to record the two of us doing the voices, musical numbers, and commentary. Joe plans to release it in a three-part podcast on, and the first piece hit the Web last night.

This presentation is free on the Web and can be downloaded on most podcast apps. I was listening to it on my iPhone this morning, and I almost drove off the side of the road. Joe and I have been friends for a very long time, and I don’t mind bragging that we are absolutely hysterical together. We should have done this a long time ago.

I would like to caution my readers, however, that this podcast is not for the faint of heart, nor is it politically correct in any way, shape, or form. The script we discovered and comedically reenacted is about 15 years old, so the views and themes expressed therein in no way coincide with our current sympathies. In a nutshell, Mel Brooks would be proud, and due to its foul language alone, this podcast would probably garner an R rating. If you follow this blog for my musings about the beauty of symbolism or my family oriented anecdotes, this podcast is probably not for you. Moreover, if you’re not a fan of Sci-fi/Fantasy and the Final Fantasy series, you probably won’t get all of the jokes (though we go into great detail explaining some of them).

Anyone still with me? Feel free to geek out with FFVII: Roadtrip (Part I) on I promise that–at the very least–you’ll laugh your head off at our reactions to our adolescent stupidity. The voices are ridiculous as well. I play Cloud, Sephiroth, Tifa, Cid, Vincent, Rude, Elena, Leonardo DiCaprio (this was written around the time Titanic came out), a white rapper, and the Midgar Zolom, amongst many others. If you ever wanted to hear me make an ass out of myself, this is your opportunity. -.-

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Reviews for RealLies Challenge!

Now that RealLies has hit Kindle, I’ve begun to see reviews of “The Wolf of Descarta” filter through to my e-mail and Twitter. While these reviews are positive and very encouraging, the biggest complaint I’ve received is that the story can’t possibly end where it does. One blogger described it as having a “Joe Abercrombie ending”. (I find this flattering.)

That Max Avalon chose to end the anthology with “The Wolf of Descarta” gives the collection a distinct theme that speaks to the concept of subjective reality and the potential consequences of living in a fish bowl universe.

But my readers are right. The story doesn’t end there.

“The Wolf of Descarta” is the first part of my novel, The Dream Box, which my publisher has optioned under what’s called a “right of first refusal” contract. If the anthology does well, there’s a real possibility of the rest of the story seeing the light of day. (Not to mention an additional chapter focusing on Renton Hayes that is absent from “The Wolf of Descarta”.)

Do you want to hear the rest of the story, dear readers? There’s a way you can help.

While I truly appreciate the positive responses I’ve received via e-mail and social media, is the proper forum for both praise and criticism. Therefore, I propose the following challenge:

If RealLies manages to accrue 25 reviews on that directly reference “The Wolf of Descarta”, I will post the next five chapters (plus Hayes’ chapter) to the Excerpt of the Week section of this blog, where they will remain until I sell the rights to the book.

Copies in various e-book formats other than Kindle are available if you order directly from TZPP. Just follow this link or click the tab at the top of this blog, and you can be reading in minutes!

For those of you who ordered the physical book, my understanding is that they are on the way. I’m still waiting for my author copies as well. Once we have some dead trees in hand, I plan to schedule a few signings/readings in Arizona. I attended the Tucson Festival of Books last weekend (as a fan), and after the phenomonal experience I had there, I’m considering looking at the venues near U of A. The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale also has my eye, but these are considerations for later.

Check back soon for a post chronicling my experiences at the aforementioned festival, where I was fortunate enough to pick the brains of authors like Patrick Rothfuss, Kevin Hearne, and Charles de Lint.

As always, I will share what I’ve learned. 🙂

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