R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Tag: sci-fi

In Situ is Now Available!

In SituIn Situ, a new science fiction anthology from Dagan Books that is centered around archaeology, is now available for purchase! The wait is over!

According to the publisher, In Situ is loaded with “science fiction stories featuring alien archeology, hidden mysteries, and things that are better off left buried. […] These fifteen evocative science fiction stories will take you from dusty archaeologists digging up our alien past into a distant future where we’ve become the relics. Thought-provoking and entertaining, IN SITU explores science, theology, preservation, and the art of alien finance, in a whole new way.”

My story, “Jewel of Tahn-Vinh” is a science fiction horror story about things left adrift in the depths of space that  are better left alone. There are other great stories in the anthology, and I have to say that Ken Liu’s “You’ll Always Have the Burden With You” is quite fantastic.

In Situ is available in DRM-free ePub format for only $3.99.

To get a copy for Kindle, buy it here.

And the trade paperback is also available from Amazon.

 

Repost: When Mass Effect 3 and Doctor Who Collide

This is reposted with some minor adjustments from my gaming-related blog over at Destructoid, but I thought it was worth sharing here.

The original article talks about how the interactivity offered by videogames made me feel in ways that books, TV, or movies couldn’t. There’s definitely something powerful at hand when you can take ideas from one type of media and apply them in another. Mass Effect 3 wouldn’t have affected me emotionally if they hadn’t used good characterization and storytelling techniques perfected in places like books.

When Mass Effect 3 and Doctor Who Collide

Originally posted on Destructoid 3/19/2012

I want to talk about Mass Effect 3, but don’t worry, I’m not here to talk about the ending; I haven’t gotten that far yet. Instead I want to talk about how it made me experience one of the most awesome moments in gaming ever. Better yet, it combined my love of the Mass Effect series with my love for Doctor Who. There will be spoilers for those playing through Mass Effect 3.

Mass Effect is one of my favorite series of all time. I played the original back in 2011, years after it was released. I’d heard the name of the game before that, but nothing about more about it. I picked up a deeply discounted used copy and decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did. Despite certain flaws, the game grabbed hold of me. I loved the space opera story, the meticulousness of the in-game universe and backstory, and the music. (The soundtrack deserves an article all its own).

As soon as I finished the game, I bought a copy of Mass Effect 2 and proceeded to play it through twice back to back. I enjoyed its many improvements and loved its character-oriented story. My companions became my friends, especially ones carried over from the first game: Tali and Wrex.

At first I felt like the character interactions in Mass Effect 3 were lacking compared to Mass Effect 2, and I missed seeing my old squadmates. Then I got to the Tuchanka mission and everything changed.

You go to Tuchanka to earn the krogan’s support by curing the genophage (basically a sterility plague) that’s affected their species for years now. But there’s a twist. Another species–the salarians–implores you to sabotage the genophage cure because they’re afraid that once the Reapers are defeated, the krogan will go on another bloody rampage across the galaxy like they’ve done in the past.

Since I’m playing as a Renegade, I decided to do the “evil” thing and agree to sabotage the cure. Several times during the mission I had to lie to my companions, including Wrex, about my intentions. I know it’s just a game, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.

In order to rationalize my decision, I ended up turning to Doctor Who. In that show, one of the running themes is that everything has its time; everything dies at some point. That’s what I told myself as I progressed through the mission, inching closer to the point when I’d stab Wrex and his entire species in the back.

I thought: The krogan had their time before. They devastated their world with nuclear war. They got a second chance when the salarians uplifted them. Then they blew it again with the Krogan Rebellions. It’s just their time to go now. Everything has a time.

I told myself that over and over until I reached the mission’s climax. I was in a crumbling facility with the salarian Mordin (also one of my favorite characters) seconds away from deploying the genophage cure. Mordin decided he had to make sure it deployed properly. The game presented me with a terrible choice: let Mordin go cure the genophage and potentially unleash the krogan on the galaxy again or murder him and basically doom the krogan to a slow extinction.

My resolve crumbled. Then in my mind’s eye I saw Matt Smith (the current Doctor) standing there in his coat and suspenders. His head is lowered and he’s saying, “Everything has to end sometime…” Dramatic pause. You think he’s going to go through with it, condemning an entire species to death. Then this song kicks in. The Doctor looks up with a maniac’s grin on his face, he points right at the camera and shouts, “…but not today!” Then he saves the day.

As soon as I saw that in my head, I leapt to my feet, pointed at the TV and shouted, “But not today!” My girlfriend in the next room probably thought I was crazy. It didn’t matter that I was ruining my pledge to play as a Renegade; I couldn’t bring myself to betray a friend, murder another one, and condemn a species to death on a mere possibility of a future disaster. I let Mordin go cure the genophage. And then the game ripped him away from me.

That mission affected me deeply on multiple levels. I felt so much for these fictional characters that I couldn’t betray one of them. Then I was devastated when another one was taken from me. But multiple types of media are able to make you care for fictional characters, so it couldn’t just be the fact that I cared.

No, Mass Effect 3 really brought home how the interactive nature of videogames allows the player to experience feelings that TV, movies, or books can only show them. I’ve watched all six seasons of the current Doctor Who, but I’ve never had a moment where I felt like I was in the Doctor’s shoes. This Tuchanka mission did that to me. I felt like I had the weight of galaxies and entire species on my shoulders.

I feel like that kind of experience has to be unique to videogames. Movies and books have played with my emotions before, but nothing quite on this level. Rather than absorbing things passively, I had agency (within the confines of the game’s mechanics and narrative of course) and the ability to change things on a galactic scale. Mass Effect 3 was the perfect game to make me experience something like this because of how well the characters were written and presented since the first game. I doubt I would’ve felt the same way if this type of decision had been presented to me in a different game.

Five Sci-Fi & Fantasy Wallpapers

I love customizing my desktop background. I have a folder on my computer dedicated to cool wallpapers. Some of my favorites have to be sci-fi, fantasy, or abstract themed. Here’s some of the awesome ones I’ve found this weekend. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so maybe one of these will inspire a new short story, poem, or novel! Click on the pics to be taken to where you can download the full-sized versions.

sun outer space explosion wallpaper

I like this one’s yellow color palette. Plus explosions in space are cool. Ask anyone.

outer space planets wallpaper

Another space-y planet-y type wallpaper. A nice blue contrast to the yellow one up above.

outer space stars planets wallpaper

This one’s called “Rusted” and I think it fits perfectly. So there you have it: space wallpapers based roughly on the primary colors. Now onto a couple of fantasy desktop backgrounds.

fantasy woman warrior with spear wallpaper

I like this one because she’s a fantasy female warrior of some kind, but she’s wearing sensible armor, not a chainmail bikini.

fantasy art landscape wallpaper

This one caught my eye because it could be interpreted as either fantasy or sci-fi. Either way, it’s cool looking.

 

Sci-Fi Space Battles and Submarine Warfare

Want to know one of my favorite sci-fi space battle scenes of all time? Definitely in my top five is the space portion of the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Even if you’ve seen it dozens of times (and if you haven’t seen it shame on you) go watch it on YouTube real quick and get reacquainted with it.

Still awesome, right? Nothing like that CGI mess at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith. Despite the Battle of Endor being one of my all time favorite space battles, there’s one thing wrong with it: space combat will never be like that. In fact, I have a feeling space combat will be more like submarine warfare.

It’s no secret that George Lucas based a lot of his space battles off old gun camera footage from WWII aerial battles, and it shows. X-Wings and TIE Fighters behave more like airplanes than ships fighting in a vacuum. In fact it’s not until Empire Strikes Back that you actually see a ship do something “spacey”. While trying to escape from Hoth, the Millennium Falcon is being chased by a Star Destroyer and two more are moving to cut it off from the front. This is a good move…if they were on an ocean. In space you have three dimensions to work with, and finally it seems like Han realizes that. He dives the Falcon straight “down” at a 90 degree angle. Because of the Star Destroyers’ mass and inertia they’re unable to make the same maneuver in time and end up crashing into each other.

But that scene still isn’t a very “realistic” depiction of a space battle either. (Yes I know “realistic” isn’t quite the word because to this day there hasn’t been an actual space battle. Just bear with me.)

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series gets it a little better. The Galactica resembles a submarine more than anything else. Its bridge isn’t exposed on the top or front of the ship. It’s buried in the middle under layers of armor. The crew has to rely on a vast array of sensors and projections to keep track of enemy positions. Still because it’s a TV show, the space battles have to be exciting, so most of them take place at very close ranges where the Galactica and Cylon Basestars. This allows the viewer to see the two ships firing conventional kinetic weapons at each other along with barrages of missiles. Still some aspects of the combat feel more like naval vessels fighting each other than space ships.

However, given the vastness of space, it’s unlikely that two ships engaging each other would ever get close enough to establish visual contact–especially given that light can only travel so fast. If you were far enough away, any visual you’d receive would already be outdated. Therefore space combat will probably take place at great distances and based around highly sophisticated guess work.

Instead it’ll be like two submarines trying to outmaneuver and outguess each other. Submarines have to rely on sonar and other instruments to figure out where their enemies are. My guess is that space combat will be more like that. More like a chess match than two heavy brawlers punching each other in the face. Still that kind of fight doesn’t make for very entertaining movies and TV episodes, doesn’t it? So while my head knows that space battles will happen one way, my heart will still be fascinated by swooping fighters, flashing lasers, and big explosions. I think I’m going to go watch that Endor clip one more time.

Breaking Ground & Being a “Real Writer”

I’m having a very surreal moment right now. I’m breaking ground on my 2nd novel of 2011–my 3rd one all time. I just finished the outline for The Price of Loyalty after the end of a marathon day today. You’ll see what I mean when I get to the word count section. This is the longest outline I’ve ever written, so hopefully it’ll be easy to fill in the cracks when it comes to the actual writing part.

Let me break down the surreal part. I consider myself a writer, but in my head there’s a tiny voice that sometimes tries to tell me that I’m faking it. I’m not a real writer. I’m just someone who wishes they were a writer. When that voice kicks in the acceptances, the rejections, the completed stories, and even the two completed* novels don’t count for shit. It’s kind of annoying actually. I hate when that voice pops up. Well it’s kind of happening right now, but this time it’s a little more incredulous instead of discouraging. It can’t believe that I’m starting another book, never mind the fact that I just finished one a month or so ago. Writing yet another book is something real writers do. Okay, maybe it still is just discouraging.

Screw it! I’m writing another book. In a few months I’ll finish the rough draft, and then maybe that little voice will shut the hell up.

*By completed I mean I’ve finished one to the point where it’s suitable for submission. Its sequel has a complete rough draft but hasn’t had any edits or revisions. It’s kind of pointless to start really revising that one because it can’t really be sold on its own.

Here’s my statistics for this mentally exhausting day.

Project: The Price of Loyalty (outline)

Deadline: N/A (was supposed to be 6/1)

Word count: 7,964

 

Space Opera Writing Updates

In all the excitement of writing my post about the definition of steampunk, I forgot to put up my writing updates. I’ve put the rough draft of Terraviathan aside for the time being. The Exile’s Violin needs to be published first before Terraviathan can be considered. I have plenty of time to work on edits, though I hope somebody picks up the book soon.

I started working on the outline of my science fiction, space opera novel The Price of Loyalty again. I’d first started it a couple of years ago when I was taking a break from The Exile’s Violin. I actually have a completed outline and several completed chapters, but they’re not up to my current standards. They feel very rough and unpolished, not what I’m capable of now. I decided to completely rework the outline and start over. So that’s where I’m at now.

Even though I define the novel as space opera, I’d like to think it’s not going to be generic space opera. Or at least it’ll be space opera with some nuances. Definitely not like this novel described (in jest) on Paul McAuley’s blog.

Project: The Price of Loyalty outline

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1 for the outline)

Word count: 12,477 since 4/4

 

Small Problem–What to Do Next?

I just finished putting the finishing touches on the rough draft of my sci-fi/steampunk novel Terraviathan. I had a 7 page document full of all the names I needed to implement into manuscript. I just finished doing that. Man my hands hurt from typing ctrl+b to unbold all my placeholder names.

Of course now that I finished, I realize I have a small problem. Terraviathan is a sequel. While I tried to make it as standalone-y as possible, it helps a lot if you’ve read The Exile’s Violin. And this is where things get complicated. The Exile’s Violin is unpublished. It won’t stay that way forever, but I don’t think I’d be able to get this book accepted anywhere without TEV getting accepted first. Now if a publisher does show interest in TEV, I can tell them I have a sequel ready to go, but until that happens, Terraviathan is forced to sit on the sidelines.

So what do I do next? I have outlines for two more novels ready to go. Remember The Swarm? Yeah, I have that one. I also have an outline for a novel set in the same universe as “Runner.” It’s called The Price of Loyalty and it’s straight up sci-fi/borderline space opera. I want to work on it, but my brain’s a little worn out right now. So here’s what I think I’m going to do. I’m going to write some short stories for a couple of weeks; there are publications and anthologies out there I want to submit to. Then when I’ve had a little bit of time to decompress, I’ll start work on The Price of Loyalty. The funny thing is, I already have 6 chapters finished. I’ll probably rewrite most of them, but it won’t be like starting from absolute scratch.

I also have a vague, vague idea for a 3rd book in the TEV/Terraviathan universe set after Terraviathan. That’s always on the table. I also started thinking about a spin-off standalone novel featuring some of the characters from Terraviathan. It’d be more military oriented. That could be fun too. The possibilities are endless!

I’m interested to know what other writers do once they finish working on a novel? It’s in that phase where it needs to sit and marinate before any revisions are made. What do you work on next? Dive right into another novel? Short stories? Or do you just take some time off from writing altogether? I want to know.

Current Project: None!

Deadline: None!

Word count: 0

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