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I've posted the conclusion to "The Last Ride" my latest For Your Safety Story, on Patreon. Please consider supporting me to see this and other stories 30 days before the general public.

New story posted to Patreon

I've published a new story in my For Your Safety universe, Wake Up Call, on Patreon. To see this and other works at least 30 days before the general public, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

Review: Playstation VR Headset

Last week I spent some of my mad money and took advantage of a sale Sony was offering on their PS VR system. Since I already had the PS4 stereo camera and then got a second Move controller from my friend Jim, I was able to just buy the headset for a mere $150, picking it up from Walmart, which is a steal compared to its original $400 price. After a week of fooling with it, I think I can give a decent evaluation.

Sony advertises their VR system as Plug and Play, and it is. Aside from the headset itself, it comes with a separate processor and the usual HDMI, data, and power cables. Since I already had the camera, installation was just a matter of rerouting the cable running from the PS4 to the TV into the processor, and then hooking up two separate cables from the headset to the processor. Then I just flicked it on and followed the setup instructions.

Comfort and Fit: The PS VR headset had a reputation as being one of the most comfortable ones around, and I can attest that's accurate. The forehead and back head rests are heavily padded, and the visor is easily adjustable to make room for your glasses, if you wear them like I do. It takes a bit of testing to find the optimal viewing distance so everything is clear, but that only take a few minutes.

Resolution:  Okay, it's important to note up front that the resolution for the VR system is not going to be as good as will see on a standard HDTV. Given that you're viewing thingd with two small TV screen an inch from your eyeballs, that's understandable. However, it's about as good as an old high def tube TV, so I don't think it's that bad. Everything was smooth, and the 3D effects were convincing, even given I was running it through a standard PS4 and not the Pro system. 

Controls: Using the Move controllers, I was able to play the games I was able to download effectively. There's been some comment that the Move controllers don't allow as much accuracy as dedicated VR controllers, but they seemed to work well for me, though I'll admit I have no basis for comparison.

Games: I'm still playing the freebie stuff I downloaded from my PS+ account, so I don't have much to go on yet, but some quick first impressions:

Job Simulator:  In the distant future of 2050, robots have taken over all work, so now you experience what "work" was like in a (ahem) VR simulation. I've only played the brief demo so for, but even that was pretty amusing, as I wreaked havoc in my office cubicle, drinking "addictive stimulants" (ie: coffee) deleting emails, and throwing paper airplanes at other cubes. A definite buy.

Rush of Blood:  A literal Rail Shooter, you're seated on a roller coaster, passing through a series of increasing horrifying environments as you shoot at targets ranging from plates and vases, to charging killer clowns and demonically animated pig carcasses. It's a cheesy horror carnival ride, and it plays up that aspect nicely, though the difficulty levels ramp up pretty quickly.

PS VR Worlds
: Again, I've only played the demo for this one, which was limited to a trip deep into the ocean, watching the fish go by. A passive experience, but a very soothing one.

Review: Artemis, by Andy Weir

This review was originally posted to my Patreon page  Please consider supporting me at Patreon to receive and stories at least thirty days in advance of other readers.

* * * 

Pity poor Andy Weir. After starting his artistic career writing and drawing the fantasy comedy webcomic Casey and Andy, followed by the lesser, unfinished comic Cheshire Crossing, in 2011 he began serializing The Martian on his website, mostly for his own amusement. After finishing it he self-published it on Amazon at the behest of his followers, only offering it for 99 cents because he couldn't figure out how to give it away for free.

  The rest, as they say, is history. After selling thousands of copies, The Martian was picked up by Crown Publishing for a print release, became a New York Times bestseller, and then a major film release in 2016. It was the most amazing publishing phenomenon since J.K. Rowling wrote her short little fantasy novel about a kid going to a magical English boarding school.

  Then, like Rowling, he had to figure out what to do next.

Luna's ElevenCollapse )

Fic: Community Outreach


This post was originally published on January 19th on my Patreon page. Please consider supporting me there for an advanced peek at my original fiction.

* * *

It was a pretty substantial convoy. A troop of about thirty men in camouflage green uniforms mounted atop horses, all armed with M-16’s, escorted two humvees and a pair 2 ½ ton trucks, one with a covered cargo bed, the other a tanker, obviously for the fueling the other vehicles. The trucks weren’t that surprising. Even fifteen years after The Fall you could still find humvees operating. They were built to be tough, and could run on wood alcohol in a pinch. It was the men that caught Cleo’s eye though. They were a militia of some sort, that much was obvious. But they were cleaner than your average community militia, and the uniforms were, well,
uniform. Nothing ragged, no more dirt and mud than could be expected after travelling along the old crumbling asphalt road that ran along  the northern edge of New Hope. When the convoy stopped they formed up ranks in what looked like a well practiced drill, dismounting and holding their horses as they stood at the ready, their rifles held down politely.

“I count thirty,” Phil said beside her, lowering his field glasses. “Maybe ten more in the trucks. Think we can hold them off?”

Cleo tapped her teeth nervously. They had a hundred fighters in their little community, all armed with pistols and long arms, about a quarter of them drilling regularly. Organized enough to hold off the average bandit gang, sure. Organized enough to hold off people who acted like soldiers was another question. “They’re in range of the mortars,” she noted. Which were sighted, sure, but they didn’t have the ammo to test fire them more than once a year. “Jonjon got his pet 50 cal up yet?”

“I told him to stay under cover in the church tower. Might need him for close up, if they breach the gate.”

“Agreed,” she said. “I think we might be all right. They’re a mile away, right at the sign. A far stretch to go if they charged, even mounted.” The lead truck was parked right next to it actually, a neatly painted wooden sign that warned visitors to stay right where they were until they were invited to come forward.

Cleo raised her own binoculars as she saw movement by one of the humvees. A man was coming out, followed by another uniformed soldier, this one unarmed. The first fellow was skinny, blond haired, and my dear lord wearing khaki pants, a pressed white shirt and a neat black tie. “When was the last time you saw anybody in a tie?” she asked aloud.

“Not since that last speech by the President, before the networks went off the air,” Phil said, squinting into his own binoculars again. “If that guy came all this way to tell us about the Latter Day Saints, I’m gonna make him eat his copy of the Newsletter.”

“Haven’t heard a word about Utah in the past eight years,” Cleo noted. The fellow in the shirt and tie was waving a white flag. She waved back to him, and turned to Phil and said, “We’ll meet him halfway.”

Altruism in the AftermathCollapse )
 “How much longer until our shift ends?” Judy asked, yawning widely.

 Nick blinked, raising his sunglasses to peer owlishly at the clock on cruiser’s dash. “Five more minutes,” he replied.

  Yaaaaay… ” she muttered wearily. They’d been working almost twenty-four hours, having volunteered for back to back twelve hour duty shifts, due to a bad dockyard fire diverting several other police officers from their usual patrols to handle crowd control and coordination with the fire department. “What are you going to do when we clock out?”

 “Sleep,” Nick replied flatly. “You?”

 “Ditto. I was going to soak in the tub first, but I think I’d fall asleep and drown myself.”

 “Chief Bogo would kill you if you died and left the department short pawed,” Nick noted. He pulled into the left paw turn lane at the intersection, waiting for the light to change so they could head back to Savannah Central.

 A baby blue hatchback with a wolf at the wheel pulled up to the light, in the lane to the right of their cruiser. The driver spotted a break in the traffic, then peeled out, making an illegal leftpaw turn from the middle lane and just missing their cruiser’s bumper.

They're not going to get much sleep tonight...Collapse )

FYS: Recommended Reading/Viewing


Just a few inspirations (positive and negative) that helped create the For Your Safety universe.


I, Robot (1950). Isaac Asimov. The starting point for popularization of the concept of benevolent robots, introducing Asimov’s famous “Three Laws of Robotics.” Most of the short stories within are mysteries, pointing out the flaws and loopholes of the Three Laws, which admittedly undermines their utility for the Groupmind.

Caves of Steel (1953), Isaac Asimov. On an overpopulated Earth (8 billion, a half billion less than that of 2017), humanity is stuffed into overcrowded cities and most humans suffer from severe agoraphobia. When a prominent Spacer ambassador is murdered, police detective Elijah Baley must solve the murder, with the unwanted assistance of R. Daneel Olivaw, a Spacer robot built to be indistinguishable from a human. Like most of Asimov's stories it’s a “Fair Play” mystery, with the clues laid out for the reader. Caves is followed by several sequels of decreasing quality, which eventually introduced the “Zeroth Law” of robotics, allowing robots to permit some humans to die (not to mention all those pesky alien races).

The Humanoids (1947), Jack Williamson. The other side of the robotics coin, Williamson’s Humanoids are sleek black androids with an overriding mission to make humanity happy and safe. If by “safe” you mean being locked in a padded room with soft toys, and by “happy” being lobotomized so you don’t have any negative thoughts, or any thoughts at all. A prime example of what the Groupmind is dearly trying to avoid.

Ringworld (1970), Larry Niven. If you can ignore the super science, wonky worldbuilding, and painful misogyny, the concept of the Ring, a rotating space station thousands of miles wide and the circumference of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, is a genuinely classic science fiction concept. It should be no surprise that it inspired the idea of the (smaller, but still pretty darned big) FYS Ring, a construct that merely circles around the Earth.

Voyage From Yesteryear (1982), James P. Hogan. After a devastating nuclear war, the reformed American government sends out a colony ship to Alpha Centauri to rightfully take control of the colony already there, sent before the war by the UN to insure human survival. What they find are Chironian humans raised from embryos by their benevolent robot caretakers, who politely poke holes in all of their conqueror's assumptions.

One of the first novels to examine what a Post Scarcity society might be like, while poking fun at Reagan era nationalism. Like Ringworld, some of the gender discussions are very, um, products of their time (Chironian women are mostly seen as being very approachable, to put it mildly), and I disagree severely with Chironian approach to mental health, but otherwise a good novel.

The Vorkosigan Saga (1986 to 2016), Lois McMaster-Bujold. Bujold’s beloved and long-running space opera may not have much to do with the core concepts of FYS (AI’s and humanoid robots don’t exist for starters) but the humanism, rationality, and cleverness of the characters inform my own writing quite a bit.


The Prisoner (1967-68). Patrick Mcgoohan's brilliant, paranoid, and psychedelic short series about the titular Prisoner, a former British intelligence agent held against his will in The Village, a pleasant seaside resort that he will learn to enjoy and he most certainly will not ever escape. Almost everything about the Ring, from the faux pleasant surroundings, the constant surveillance, to the cheerful creepiness of the morphs is at least partly inspired by this series.

Person of Interest (2011-16). What starts out as a “Victim of the Week” mystery series with a mild sci-fi premise, morphs over the course of five seasons into a clever cyberpunk thriller about a war between a benevolent AI called The Machine, it’s creator and allies, and the forces of Samaritan, another AI who wishes to conquer humanity as much as The Machine wants to save it. While I started writing the first FYS story well before I was aware of the show, much of its core concepts about ubiquitous surveillance and the creation of a powerful AI run in parallel to FYS.


Transhuman Space (2002), Steve Jackson Games. This  massive RPG setting, filled with super bioscience and ubiquitous artificial intelligences, inspired some of FYS’ Post-Scarcity sensibilities, and the dangers of constant surveillance. It also provides the name of FYS’ morphs, though not all of THS’s are necessarily Furry.


Freefall (1998-Current), Mark Stanley. Stanley’s massive, long running serio-comic follows the adventures of Sam, a squid-like alien living on the human colony world of Jean, and Florence, an uplifted Red Wolf working as the engineer on Sam’s ship. In between Sam’s thieving antics and Florence’s deadpan reactions is a remarkable hard science fiction story about the nature of robotic AI’s and free will.

A Miracle of Science (2002-07), Jon Kilgannon and Mark Sachs. In a world where becoming a mad scientist is recognized as a legitimate mental illness (Science Related Memetic Disorder), police detective Benjamin Prester and Martian agent Caprice Quivillion must team up to stop Dr. Virgil Haas from unleashing a robot takeover of the Solar System, while also saving Haas and Prester from their own demons.

A strong influence on FYS, Mars is both a planet and a massive distributed AI, existing in the minds of all Martian robots and humans, and remaining remarkably benevolent.

FYS:: Here Comes Santa Claus

This post was originally published December 24th, 2017 at my Patreon page. Please consider supporting me at Patreon in order see this and other stories at least 30 days ahead of my public readership.

 * *

Twas the night before Christmas,

And all through Ring,

Not a creature was stirring.

Except for some Things.

The suspicion had started about a month after Tiff and her family had been Awakened on the Ring, and moved into the house that she and her husband Abbad had designed. Aside from it being the largest space she’d ever been able to live in, not a McMansion but comfortable instead of cramped, she’d been able to put in things she’d only dreamed of. A kitchen big enough for two people to work in without bumping into each other. A porch where she could sun herself (and not have to wear a breath mask). A proper work room for all of her projects (and thank the Groupmind that each of her kids had a morph minder now to keep them out of Mom’s Stuff.) A living room with a working fireplace…

She’d been sure the Groupmind was going to put it’s big electronic foot down at that last one. Burning wood and kicking carbon into the atmosphere? Governments around the world had demanded that fireplaces be filled and closed permanently, in a desperate attempt to try and stop the inevitable. The fact that she could have one again in her house was something she couldn’t have dreamed of before.

“Seriously, you’re letting this happen?” Tiff had asked her morph.

“On the Ring it’s a much less serious problem,” Squirbo, her raccoonmorph, had replied. “The local weather is temperate throughout its structure, except where the Roof is set to block enough of the ambient light to lower the local temperature, so even people who want to use it won’t do so very often. Even then most will make do these days with holographic displays and electric heaters instead of risking a real fire in their home. The amount of carbon released is merely a fraction of what it might have been on Earth in the Bad Old Days.”

“Thanks,” Tiff said, smiling. She looked at the floorplan Squirbo had helped draw up on her display. “The chimney is kinda… wide though, isn’t it?”

“Well, I’m not an architect, Miss Tiff,” the little morph replied.

The Reason for the SeasonCollapse )
 “Zoo Adam-121 Zoo Adam-12!” Clawhauser’s anxious voice came over the radio, “ Predator gone savage, female adult tiger. Address 312 Amazon Drive, Rainforest District! One bunny reported eaten !”

“Acknowledged, Central!” Judy called back. “Zoo Adam-12 enroute, ETA three minutes!” She hit the accelerator and the cruiser zoomed through traffic, siren blaring.

Sorry, this one is a bit (ahem) tastelessCollapse )

New Patreon Story

 A new Patreon exclusive story Community Outreach is available to read. Please consider contributing to my Patreon to view it.

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