Tag: Hard Science Fiction

Pet Human – Nannybot A3–4

PET HUMAN COVERPet Human, by Nannybot A3-4, has to be one of the oddest pieces I’ve read in a while. It’s an instruction manual for the caring and control of pet humans. See, it turns out that sometime later this century, we create the first functional AIs, which leads to the subsequent development of TIs, Technological Intelligences (read: not artificial), which propels technology forward at an incredible pace. Cut forward a few thousand years, and we’re in something of an odd situation.

Pet Human is written for an audience across space and time, and is thus comprehensible to the likes of you and me. It’s a strangely enthralling read, for an instruction manual. Between the lines of its matter-of-fact descriptions of a post-humanist universe, wherein humanity has been improved upon, but reduced to pets, lay a magnificently built world. But there’s something more to it.

While the manual has me convinced of the TIs’ good intentions, I couldn’t shake the feeling that, lurking beneath the world of “operating environments” wherein the pet humans live is something more sinister; a darkness evinced by the existence of “strays” who nip at the heels of the TIs, whose core processing forbids them from returning the aggression.

The manual is detailed, and is sprinkled with definitions for terms used by inheritors of the future. There’s some captivating postulations on physics, spirituality, and human nature contained within those definitions, and they tell a remarkable amount of story considering their odd structure.

I didn’t know what to think of Pet Human when I opened it up, but was glued to it in a way I’d have thought unlikely if you’d told me the premise of the piece before handing it to me. It is abstract in its content, but intensely concrete in its form. I can think of a number of my close friends who would really enjoy reading it, but I think everyone should take a crack at it. It’s bizarre, but fascinating.

I doubt this is the last we’ll hear from Nannybot-A3-4. I wonder what’ll get beamed down to our parent-present node next. For now, I’m going to keep wishing that immersion pools were a real thing. For now, Pet Human is available on Amazon.

Featured Author: Matthew Gladwin

Two featured authors in one day?! What is this madness? Well, this one is a competitor in the Inkshares / Geek & Sundry contest, which ends in three days. So, here’s Matthew Gladwin’s Amalgamated Memoirs of a Future Imperfect, which I hope piques your interest as much as it does mine.

About Amalgamated Memoirs of a Future Imperfect:

When our first encounter with extraterrestrial life finally occurs, and nothing goes according to plan, how can we possibly know what the repercussions will be? Reporter Lillian Chuang has a front row seat, but even she has no idea what to expect next. But as the reader will soon discover she is not alone, as NCO Paul Steiner, branch manager Rojer Hendrix, hunter band-leader Yuri, retired general Administrator Yan and Empress Joyce Regina Delecoix continue to deal with the effects of first contact thousands of years after they come to pass. Laced with critiques on society and exploring multiple themes from rebuilding a broken nation to protecting cultural identity to navigating a series of disasters, this non-linear novel will challenge your sense of perspective and keep you guessing with every page.

Q: Is this your first novel?

A: Yes, this is my first novel, but not my first work of this length. I wrote a community based fanfiction a number of years ago, and although it was only half finished before I left the community, that story was over 300,000 words and featured something like sixty main characters. When I realized I would pass 200,000 words for this book, I had to rework a few scenes and shorten some phrases or else it would have been an even larger book for a first publishing.

Q: What excites you most about your novel?

A: While I’d be thrilled to see people’s reactions on the various opinions it presents and the settings it offers, I’m especially excited about the ending. This book is hard to get ahead of at times, but if you can make it all the way through, you’ll see how it all ties together. I don’t want to spoil anything but let me just say it paves the way for a much, much larger story.

Q: How do you go about keeping track of so many different points of view? [Six points of view!]

A: Compartmentalizing information is key when you jump around with your perspectives so much. What do you know, what is trivial, what’s happened before and after. Even what’s important or not important to each character’s values. So I planned most of the events in the timeline, including the ending, even before I started writing the first page of the prologue. While separating their perspectives by time periods helped a fair bit, I wrote all six characters simultaneously so I wouldn’t get lost trying to remember information from a time period I was done with.

Q: What are some novels that are similar to yours?

A: Obviously, it has some similarities with the wildly popular “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin in that it has multiple narrators, but its essence is more similar to “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell because of the multiple time period aspect. The scale is a bit different though, as the ending will point out.

Featured Author: Evan Graham

Hello, friend of the written word. Today, The Warbler features Evan Graham, whose book, Tantalus Depths, is an entrant in the Inkshares / Geek & Sundry contest, which is set to wrap up at the end of this week. This book sounds like a video game I want to play. Go ahead and check it out, as well as some of the other entrants Evan listed below.


About Tantalus Depths

Mary Ketch and the crew of The Diamelen signed on to a simple survey mission to the distant planet Tantalus 13. The trip was little more than a formality; a government-mandated check-in to ensure that the artificially intelligent, self-constructing SCARAB base was functioning correctly as it lay the foundation to a new mining colony. What they found was much less mundane.

Mysteries abound on Tantalus. The mining base SCARAB is building looks like a luxury hotel. A solid sheet of pure platinum seems to cover Tantalus 13 from pole to pole just under the surface. Strangest of all, however, is the realization that Tantalus 13 may not be a planet at all, but an ancient alien construct of unknown origin and purpose.

Driven to learn more about this celestial relic from before the rise of human civilization, the crew of The Diamelen begin to explore the depths of Tantalus in search of answers. However, SCARAB seems determined to keep Tantalus 13’s secrets, and it isn’t about to let its own programming get in the way of pursuing its own agendas.


Q: What part of your novel’s world excites you most?

A: This story takes place in the very early stages of humanity’s development of an interstellar society. They’ve only colonized a few worlds, faster-than-light travel is possible but still takes months, and artificial gravity doesn’t exist yet. We’ve yet to contact other lifeforms anywhere. Basically, we’re in the frontier stage of space exploration. There’s an endless void of nothing out there, and this is humanity’s first experience finding something to show that we’re not alone. And it’s something big. There’s this sense of the wonder of discovery, but it’s tempered with the dread of the unknown. There’s something I like about the idea that, as curious as we are about what lies out there in the stars, maybe there are discoveries to be made out there that we really just wouldn’t be able to handle.

Q: What (if any) are some novels that are similar to yours?

A: I drew a lot of inspiration from the novel of 2001: A Space Odyssey, especially in the characterization of my resident rogue AI, SCARAB. I also took a lot of notes from Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot when it came time to defining what ethical laws robots follow in this universe (hint: SCARAB still ends up breaking those laws). Mary Ketch, the central character, owes a great deal to Ellen Ripley of the Alien franchise. The thrills of exploring an ancient deserted alien world sprang from my love of stories like Rendezvous with Rama and The Forbidden Planet. I took a little bit of everything from everywhere, and put it together in a story that somehow still works.

Q: How did you find out about the contest, and what are some of the other books that appeal to you in the contest?

A: Unfortunately, I found out about the contest about halfway through it, so I got off to a pretty late start. I’m a big fan of what they do at Geek and Sundry, and I follow a lot of their programs very regularly. I visited their home page one day, saw the banner for a hard sci-fi novel contest and though “Hey, I have one of those. I could enter!” So I did.

I’m excited about And the Sky Let Go by Victoria Hennings. It offers a unique take on the post-apocalyptic genre we’re all familiar with and promises a look beyond the end. I like the idea of the world ending but humans being too stubborn to end with it, regardless of the issues that entails.

Beyond the Horizon by M. V. Salerno explores those themes as well, but to an even greater extreme. Starting a book by diving down the throat of a black hole is one of the gutsiest things I’ve seen in a while, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from there!

Featured Author: Richard Slay

Today’s author, Richard Slay, has one of the most exciting book summaries I’ve read in a long while. If The Upture delivers on these promises, this will undoubtedly be one of my top books of the year—whenever it’s released.

Cover_art_finalAbout The Upture:

With its cities flooding and its military in retreat, the ordinary people of near-future America look content to stay at home, working menial jobs made tolerable by masking them in virtual-reality fantasies. One of those is Walt Hrka, Army drone operator turned plumber. But his former commander, the terminally ill Colonel Lasker, has hatched a plan to put America back on top, by staging the Second Coming of Christ on the Internet where everyone believes anything.

When millions of trustworthy Christians are electrocuted at their VR terminals and then resurrected online, Hrka joins a bizarre alliance with everyone from Chinese tech merchants to the Swiss Guard, in a desperate struggle moving across the paralyzed continent. The Book of Revelation is being duplicated by American superweapons and the new army of network-possessing angels, step by step until all nations surrender to their will. Hrka carries out a leftover plan to storm America’s remaining nuclear missile base and prevent its missiles from being hijacked for Armageddon.

Q: What part of your world is most exciting to you?

A: The most exciting thing about the world I’m writing about in The Upture is that by and large, it has the solutions for its problems, but those solutions are violently resisted by those whose wealth and egos are invested in the status quo. People would rather rule in Hell, and call it Heaven, than share power in a sustainable world.

Q: Why did you choose to fund with Inkshares?

A: I had joined Inkshares last year, but when I saw the Geek & Sundry contest, as a regular consumer of its media, I recognized the opportunity to make use of a story I had already been working on. I really needed the help getting this idea out there, which was not possible with conventional self-publishing.

Q: What books out there are similar to yours?

A: I prefer satires based on near-future technology. The earliest Neal Stephenson novels, especially The Big U and Zodiac, and the old Stephen Robinette novel Stargate, use a humorous narrative of violent adventure, but they’re all triggered by crises of institutions and public unable to defend themselves from technological change. I wish I could go even further into the absurd, like Mark Laidlaw’s brutal Dad’s Nuke.

Featured Author: E.S. Evan

Phew. After a hectic few weeks preparing for a move, then moving, and filling a house to the brim with boxes of books, I’m ready to get back to featuring books. Today’s featured author, E.S. Evan, takes us into paleontological digs and murder. I want to read Pirates of Montana! Follow along with E.S. and the book on Twitter and Facebook.

piratesofmontanaAbout Pirates of Montana:

The Pirates of Montana is the coming of age story of Molly Tanner, a 15-year-old woman who travels to Montana, USA to learn about the intricacies of finding, excavating, and preparing dinosaur specimens for academia to study and to captivate the masses. This trip is an amazing opportunity for Molly: she will work closely with one of the world’s most famous paleontologists, learn the ins–and-outs of dinosaur hunting from his team of specialists and graduate students, all the while making connections and friendships that will last a lifetime. For a dinosaur lover like Molly, this is a dream come true.

While she is there she becomes entangled in a paleontological dig that will expose a creature that the world has never seen before, at least in modern memory. However, as more people learn about this impressive and potentially lucrative find, Molly, her friends, and her newfound colleagues will have front row seats to a world of governmental intrigue, Native American mythology and folklore, and murder. To survive Molly and her friends will have to rapidly adapt if they want to get out of this in once piece!

Q: What part of your world excites you the most?

A: This novel is the fictionalization of my own teen-hood, so many of the incidents in the novel are based on true stories. That has been fun to reminisce and write about. However, I’d have to say that the nerd in me LOVES the hard science writing. I’ve specifically woven science fact into the story in an effort to help novices reading the book understand dinosaur paleontology, geology, and biology. I’m not talking about what you’ve seen on the Discovery Channel. This is the nitty gritty, TMI, in your face paleontology. Prepare yourselves…for nerdiness…

Because this is science fiction, I’ve also invented some technology to help paleontologists and geologists with their jobs, but this tech is inspired from real machines and they could exist in the near future. They SHOULD exist. Someone should invent these items and make a ton of money on their patents. Like yesterday.

Q: Why did you choose to fund with Inkshares?

A: I’ve always been drawn to the idea of self-publishing a book. In fact, it was my 2016 New Years Resolution to write a book and publish it. I guess I’m making that happen! Fist-bump!

Inkshares is such a cool platform to drum up funding interest and produce a cool product. I love supporting crowdfunding projects, from helping a friend with medical bills to fun projects like a new TV show. The most recent (besides Inkshares!) my family supported was Con Man by Alan Tudyk. Inkshares is a neat way to self publish, as once you hit your funding goal, you just do what you enjoy best – write!

Q: What are some novels that are similar to yours?

A: I’ve looked around A LOT for a novel like mine, and I haven’t seen any. However that doesn’t mean there isn’t one! Maybe people are worried that young people (and adults! I’m not biased about who this book is aimed at) won’t like hard science. I call shenanigans on that—I read and loved Jurassic Park at age 10, and I didn’t have a newfangled computer thingy to help me figure out all those big words. I had a dictionary, a school library, and gumption. And I walked to and from school in the snow, uphill!

In terms of hard science fiction, Jurassic Park and The Lost World by Michael Crichton and Contact by Carl Sagan come to mind as most similar in style, and the first two, of course, have dinosaurs in them. But, I know of only two novels that have detailed scenes with people actually digging for fossils. I could be wrong, but these books have amazing descriptions of paleontologists in action: Jurassic Park, and The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn. In fact, one of the characters in The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn was based on me when I was in college. I’m still not 100 percent sure I agree with how I was fictionalized, but she did pay me in cheeseburgers for the privilege, and I was a hungry student at the time, so it is what it is.


Featured Author: Erin Butler

With the end of the Geek and Sundry Hard Science contest on Inkshares a few weeks away, there’s still time to feature more entrants! Today we feature Erin Butler’s Farm Boy.

Temporary cover for Farm Boy

Temporary cover for Farm Boy

About Farm Boy:

Farm Boy is the story of… hm. This is a bit awkward, really. The many final days of a clone, or clones. Finding the right pronouns is a bit tricky: normally I’d describe it as having multiple protagonists, but it is the same person who has been cloned and is force-grown inside an institution built for that purpose. As events outside the institution occur, how many would directly affect the life of the people being fought over, and to what end?

I was raised on a farm myself, and as such I considered not just where my food came from but also what the life of the animals was like. To me, there was The Bargain: we looked after them as best we could, and in exchange we controled their lives, including the ending of it for our use. From there changing the use of the farm animals from food to life extention was an easy step. There are moral, ethical, and political questions around it, of course; but I think once it’s feasible then politics may be the only thing that prevents it.

Q: What part of your novel’s world excites you most?

A: The mostly invisible pressures that must be getting applied to the ‘teachers’ of the institution, I think. There would be layers and layers of people arguing over the fate of the ‘students’ outside the walls, and the people running it would hear about most of them, while still having their own ideas of the place where they work. Having a mandate of “Make the clones’ lives as nice as possible” while knowing what their ultimate use is – and keeping it from them – would be incredibly difficult. I like those stakes a lot.

Q: Why did you choose to fund with Inkshares?

A: It struck me as a fascinating way to (at the very least) get your ideas written down. Giving myself a deadline is very handy, and it also gives me an audience to write for, which helps me maintain a consistent voice: I’m writing for the people who are either funding my book or just following along. They are generous enough to trust me with the story, so I want to produce the best possible work for them.

I am laughing at myself, though, because of all the ideas I’ve got for books this one is probably the least accessible, so the most likely to be a commercial failure. And here I am at a crowdfunding site.

Q: What are some novels that are similar to yours?

A:  Unsurprisingly movies and television tend to come to mind with people I’ve talked to this about – The Island, or Blade Runner, or the new Battlestar Galactica series. I can dream to compare Farm Boy to any of Phil K. Dick’s stuff, can’t I? Maybe in a couple decades and a couple dozen more books… But I think it’s as much about more about personal and social isolation, so perhaps THX 1138 or Logan’s Run might be a closer match. I actually would have loved to have seen more of Battlestar Galactica from the Cylon’s perspective, but maybe that’s just me.

Individual readers are going to bring whatever perspective they have, naturally: that’s The Bargain for anyone who creates anything. Once the story’s out of my hands, I’m done. There’s nothing I can say or do to change how a reader interprets it. And I’m really looking forward to hearing what other people think I’m saying.

Featured Author: Ronald Valle

Let’s get back to some great books you should be checking out in the Inkshares / Geek & Sundry contest. Today, Ron Valle‘s We Clocked the T-RexIt looks to be like the end-game speculation of Jurassic Park; fascinating, creepy, and not your standard hard sci-fi.

wcttr_coverAbout We Clocked the T-Rex:

It’s the near-future and the dark forces of secret science and big money are preparing to engineer the world’s First De-Extinction Event. With her life’s work, countless species, and modern civilization on the line, Vee Whelan aims to stop them – but what’s so evil about a scientific miracle?

We Clocked the T-Rex is a paranoid speculative adventure that takes the scientific gene editing and cloning techniques at our disposal today and asks, can’t we use these to make right all that we’ve made wrong about the natural world?

Q: What part of your novel’s world excites you most?

A: For this novel I am trying to create an image of an Earth 30-50 years down the line where global climate change has largely gone un-responded to. I am mostly taking the warnings of today’s climatologists and oceanographers and making them the reality of this fictional future, hopefully in such a way that readers will stop and dwell on whether or not they are comfortable with that becoming a nonfictional future. But more important to me is investing this warmer, wetter, less-wild world with a mythic quality, something like how Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness made the Congo more than a geographic location on a map by turning it into something that invaded the psyche, something that as a consequence of its existence altered what it meant to be human in it. Today, human beings make up roughly a third of all terrestrial vertebrate biomass on the Earth. Our livestock – pigs, cows, etc. – make up almost the entire remaining two thirds. All the wild vertebrates, from the alligators to the rabbits, make up less than 5%. In the world of my novel, that fact has a deep impact on how people think, feel, perceive, and act. I think we’re feeling the impact of it now, though we can still choose to pretend it isn’t there.

Q: Why did you choose to fund with Inkshares?

A: This is the first novel I’ve ever set out to write so I’m pretty new to the game (I’ve mostly been a short story writer since receiving my BFA in Creative Writing). I have yet to attempt peddling anything through the traditional means of agents and big/small publishers and can’t speak to the pros/cons of that system. The Geek and Sundry contest is what exposed me to Inkshares and what really got me to commit was the idea of gaining any kind of readership. Writing is lonely as all shit, and I’m always wracked with doubt over whether or not any one will even read, let alone empathize with, the things I’m putting so much thought and effort into. I figured, at the very least, Inkshares will help me answer that question. And it has in a very self-affirming way! Knowing that people are eating what you’re serving and asking for seconds puts a lot of juice back in the ol’ creative batteries, and reinvests me in being the best writer I can be. And receiving feedback from so many different people during the creative process whittles the story into the best story it can be.

Q: What are some novels that are similar to yours?

A: Paul Kingsnorth recently (in the last few years) put out a novel called The Wake (which was also, encouragingly, crowdfunded) that has been a real inspiration for this project. The main character of We Clocked the T-Rex, Vee, is struggling with the same anger, fear of change, and self-doubt that the protagonist of that novel was.

When writing I think that I am most influenced by the tones of other novels. Even though this book is founded on these ethical questions about our relationship with/responsibility for other living things I still want it to be a goddamn ripping yarn. I mean, it’s still about making dinosaurs. I love novels about high-seas adventure, like the Horatio Hornblower novels or anything about the Polar explorers, so there’s a peril-on-the-open-sea element as Vee and her research vessel the Pangolin journey into the center of the Pacific Trash Vortex. I really love the manic, paranoid, treacherous plot-knots of Thomas Pynchon’s novels, like his most recent Bleeding Edge, so my story features a dark plot called the First De-Extinction Event that drives characters mad in their pursuit of unraveling it. This novel is filled with dueling spies, out-of-their-depth heroes, far-flung locales, impending doom, young lovers, sea monsters, and a dinosaur or two. Basically everything I ever thought made a book worth opening.

Featured Author: Landon Trine

Happy Monday, dear readers! The featured author series continues, this time with Landon Trine, author of First on Mars, another entrant in the Geek and Sundry hard sci-fi contest. This book sounds awesome; I highly recommend checking it out. Landon can be found on the web on Twitter (@landontrine) and Facebook.

book_cover2About First on Mars:

A diverse group of seven NASA astronauts are chosen for the first crewed expedition to the red planet: Kurt, Norbite, Kara, Rin, Aditya, Anesh, and Akshara. For some unknown reason, Aditya tries to sabotage the ship and then kills himself, leaving a trail of frightening implications with no time to investigate. China has launched its own mission to Mars in an attempt to claim territory and other countries are not far behind. Events back on Earth and on Mars complicate and raise the stakes of their mission. The team needs to work together to survive the unforgiving surface of Mars, but a lack of honesty threatens to tear them apart.

In addition to the obvious space travel enabling technology this book touches on AI, life extension, bio-tech, nano-tech, augmented reality, robots, 3D printing, and other probable near-future advances. The general idea is optimistic, although of course a lot of stuff goes wrong.


Q: What part of your novel’s world excites you most?

A: The part that excites me the most is thinking about how the actual colonization of Mars might take place in the near future. A lot of science fiction either takes it for granted that Mars is colonized or just looks at one human Mars mission in which something goes wrong. I think there are a lot of potential stories between these two scenarios.

Q: Why did you choose to fund with Inkshares?

A: I love the idea of crowdfunding as a way of replacing or complementing the traditional barriers to entry. I also understand the benefit of having a publisher and Inkshares marries crowdfunding with a book publisher. I’m also really impressed with the community already at Inkshares. There are a lot of really interesting authors and books.

Q: What (if any) are some novels that are similar to yours?

A: I like to think that my story is completely original, but that’s not really true of any story. If I had to pick two novels that inspire First on Mars, I’d pick Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, and The Martian by Andy Weir. My story falls somewhere in between the two with the addition of recently discovered science and political situations.


Featured Author: John Carter

Today’s featured author is John Carter, who can be found on Facebook and at TheWorldsofJohnCarter.com. His book, The Army of the Man, makes use of one of the most intriguing parasites around today, Toxoplasma gondii. I can’t wait to read this book.

ArmyCoverAbout The Army of the Man:


The arms race spirals out of control as the world’s super powers push the limits of science to obtain superiority. Science fiction becomes fact with the breakthrough of the Sekhmet Serum. The dawn of the super soldier is on the horizon thanks to a common parasite: Toxoplasma gondii.


Eric Lawson, a fervent protester and opponent of the United States government, is broke. With graduation at hand, he faces an uncertain future. When approached by a representative of “The Man,” he’s offered a chance to fulfill his lifelong dream of changing the world.

After being injected with the Sekhmet Serum, Eric embarks on an epic journey of the body and the mind. He learns that “The Man” is much more than he was led to believe. Things born from the shadows rarely come into the light. Eric will have to question everything he believes and sacrifice more than he can imagine to escape and stop the Army of the Man.

Q: What part of your novel’s world excites you most?

A: I think what excites me the most about my novel is the science behind the parasite Toxoplasma gondii and the possibilities that might exist if we could harness the innovative behaviors of this microscopic organism for our own purposes, good or evil. My novel takes place in only the near future, so for the most part the feel of what it would be like to be alive alongside the main character, Eric Lawson, would be similar to what we are living today. The exception is that medical science has advanced to a point where we have found a way to manipulate human behavior using the unique characteristics of this unique parasite. But is that power being used for the good of humanity? The owners of this technology claim to want to change the world, but what exactly is their end goal? These are the questions Eric will have to resolve as he finds his place in The Army of the Man.

Q: Why did you choose to fund with Inkshares?

A: To be honest, I only recently discovered the existence of Inkshares. I have self-published 7 middle grade sci-fi, adventure novels, as well as published a children’s picture book through a small local publishing company. I had some ideas for an adult sci-fi novel based of Toxoplasma gondii, and had discussed them with a friend. Not long after, my friend came across the announcement for the Hard Science Contest on Inkshares sponsored by Geek and Sundry. She thought my book idea would be a perfect fit, so here I am! I’ve been in that cycle of writing query letters, sending to individual agents, being rejected and starting over again. I have spent plenty of time waiting for essentially one person to love your book and decide to back it. I am intrigued by the idea of allowing readers and fellow authors to come together and decide on funding a book’s publishing, giving the power to the masses instead of one person at an agency.

Q: What are some novels that are similar to yours?

A: I believe my novel will feel more similar to classic superhero comic books and sci-fi rags from the 40s and 50s than any novel I have ever read. Between the twisted true to science technology of the Sekhmet Serum, to its uncontrollable side effects that must be dealt with, to the conspiracy theory that makes it impossible to trust your gut on anyone, this will truly be a one-of-a-kind novel.

Featured Author: Peter Ravlich

With the Inkshares/Geek & Sundry contest into its second week, it’s time to continue the featured author series! This time, Peter Ravlich’s Phase Three, which touches on some classic science fiction themes while addressing some very real elements of our lives today as consumers. Peter Ravlich can be found on twitter (@PeterRavlich) and on inklings.co.nz.

Cover-PhaseThree-Draft2About Phase Three:

The world has an addiction. Augmenting reality – augmenting ourselves – averted a looming energy crisis, but it has become something more than that. “Overnight equality,” promises the slogan, and what’s a decade or two between advertisers?

We redefined what it means to be human, then bought our own bullshit retail.

But the physical world still exists, however much we stare into the infinite. People yet remain, living outside the reality bubbles we create. And so do the consequences of our inattention.

Three individuals, each a casualty of flawed implementation, face intimate, inconsequential decisions in pursuit of their goals. Then there’s Gordon, who simply wants to escape his past without being killed.

And their actions could unravel the world. Or save it.

Q: What part of your novel’s world excites you most?

A: Most of my science-fiction – like the stories I grew up with – begins with a hypothetical question, a what-if?

For the short story that became Phase Three, I wanted to explore the implications of wholesale virtual and augmented realities for those who define themselves by a connection to the land, particularly indigenous people. When readers asked me to develop the story into a novel, I was faced with a new array of questions. I had to consider social and scientific approaches to the energy crisis, and how different emergent technologies might interact and converge to counter current trends, where increased energy-efficiency hasn’t been correlated with lower energy consumption.

That was an exciting backdrop – to me – and might make for an engaging essay. But stories live or die on their characters, and the most exciting part of my world – and of the writing process – is when a character starts to really inhabit that world, and manages to surprise you. Three of my four main characters did so almost immediately, while a fourth snuck up on me slowly, then stabbed me in the kidneys. In a good way.

Q: Why did you choose to fund with Inkshares?

A: I got back into “serious” fiction writing when Nika Harper’s WordPlay videos were out on Geek & Sundry, and was part of the forum community that built up around them. I used Nika’s prompts as mini-deadlines, and they were instrumental in building up a professional writing routine. So I owe a large debt of gratitude to Geek & Sundry… and I guess now I’d like something more from them? Let me start that again:

So I obviously came to Inkshares via the G&S competition, but the business model is exactly the right kind of disruptive, reshaping the niche between traditional and independent publishing models and empowering readers themselves. Three days in, Inkshares’ secret weapon seems to be their proactive and passionate user-base, which has levels of engagement and community I haven’t seen since the peak of Usenet. I don’t know if my campaign will succeed on Inkshares, but I’m already thankful for the experience, which has been unreservedly positive and inspiring.

Q: What are some novels that are similar to Phase Three?

A: Much as I love Asimov and the elegance of his work, I can’t put Phase Three beside Foundation and keep a straight face – similar themes are explored, but we have vastly different styles.

I’ve got to be careful here (to avoid any implied spoilers) so I’ll dodge the question, instead: I’d like to think of my science fiction as a freaky hybrid of Philip K Dick and Hugh Howey, with a dash of Ben Elton’s irreverent humour. Phase Three is something of a hybrid, actually, because my four protagonists have really different points of view and it colours their individual narratives – one character’s tone, for example, is more reflective, closer to Murakami or Mitchell, while another’s is raw, reactive and haunted.

Now that I’ve compared Phase Three to the all-time greats and exponentially increased expectations, I should probably get back to the draft… But I am genuinely blown away by the ongoing response from Inkshares readers and authors both, and look forward to sending Phase Three out into the world.