Monday Musings: How far away is the technological singularity, really?

Will we some day invent super-intelligent computers capable of absorbing and destroying the human race?

It’s a question that science fiction writers have loved to explore since the early days of computing. It’s an evolution of the fear that inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, really.

Will human beings take their desire to “play God” too far and end up being destroyed by their own creation?

We have had similar fears about cloning, gene hacking, and weather manipulation. But there is something about computers and artificial intelligence that rings louder alarm bells for many of today’s top scientists working in the field. And while AI and robotics continues to be one of the fastest advancing branches of scientific research–and recent developments promise to bring human quality of life to new, higher standards–the cold, hard truth of the matter is that this technology could be very dangerous.

What is the singularity?

The technological singularity is a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization.

What will the singularity look like?

Because “the singularity” is a hypothetical situation, we don’t really know.

The concept is not based on any one scientific or technological fact but rather is the product of a kind of guesswork–guesses made by some of the most brilliant minds of this century, mind you, but guesses nonetheless–based on what we currently know about the limits of computing, coding, and the human brain.

At what point in machine learning do we consider a computer/program/robot to be sentient or sapient?

Is sapience required for singularity? Does a machine have to be self-aware to be a danger to human beings.

What if computers learn to think differently from humans and we don’t recognize their self-awareness?

We don’t know.

But it helps to understand how machines are currently being taught to think, and how that differs from the way human beings think.

What is the difference between machine learning and deep learning?

These two terms are tossed around a lot when people discuss developments in artificial intelligence.

Machine learning implies the kind of pre-programmed code that teaches machines how to behave in certain situations.

It can be as simple as your phone knowing the difference between a tap and a swipe or as complex as the algorithms that drive facial recognition software or the “You May Also Like…” feature on your favourite online shopping store.

Machine learning is basically a way of describing the way machines observe, interpret, and apply data and they way they learn from that process.

Machine learning allows for automation in many industries, and is something we take for granted in most of our personal tech, including the software and apps we use every day.

Deep learning implies something a little more mystical than “just coding,” and is often likened to the way human brains process data. Indeed, deep learning is an attempt to create human-like thought processes in computers.

But deep learning is machine learning, it’s simply layered machine learning, designed to mimic the neural networks in organic brains.

With simple machine learning, an algorithm uses existing data to interpret new data, such as a music recommendation on a playlist. The machine knows that many listeners of Song A also liked Song B. If you listen to it, like it, and add it to a playlist, the algorithm as more information with which to make suggestions. If you don’t like it, you tell your app “don’t show me this song” and it adds that information to its database.

But if you don’t TELL the app you don’t like the song, you will probably see the same bad recommendation over and over again. It requires human input to decide if its choice was right or wrong.

When algorithms are layered, the machine’s need for human intervention is reduced. The simple yes/no of selecting a song for your playlist can be added to another algorithm that interprets a lack of input (when you ignore a suggestion) as its own type of data, and the songs you don’t listen to or only listen to once for 15 seconds, and it can make its own decision not to show you more of that or similar songs in order to increase the efficacy of its suggestions.

This type of deep machine learning is the closest we have come to teaching machines to think for themselves, and has created such AI marvels as Google’s AlphaGo which is the first computer program to defeat a human champion Go player.

How does the human brain work?

The biggest challenge to artificial intelligence today is our limited understanding of how the human brain actually works. We are starting to unravel the mysteries of the human mind, and our knowledge of our own neural networks has given us the ability to create deep learning in machines.

However, there is much we don’t know about consciousness, and we have yet to decide on a satisfactory way to prove sentience or sapience in any other living creature. Some philosophers argue that we cannot truly prove that anyone exists out of our own mind.

But there is a chance that our deep learning machines will unravel their own mysteries before we get a chance to and this moment will be the beginning of the singularity.

Once machines become capable of learning and teaching without human input, they will likely be running circles around us before we even realize what has happened.

When will the singularity happen?

Most experts put the early stages of the technological singularity within this century. Many suggest we will be seeing AI take off by 2045.

Current advances in AI seem to support this “sooner rather than later” prediction.

Sophia, the social robot created by Hansen Robotics has become a household name after performing on various talk shows and giving hilariously unsettling interviews in which she jokes about overthrowing humanity. Sophia is currently being mass-produced, along with three other robots, and will be available for purchase later this year.

As these “thinking” robots spend more and more time with humans their programming is likely to improve exponentially.

What about transhumanism?

Transhumanism, the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology, complicates the issue of the singularity.

We have already entered the transhumanist age with cybernetics and biocomputing changing the lives of people all around the world. It will also change the way we interact with computers. As technologies are developed that make more and more computing an integral part of our physical existence–implants that help us control smart houses, or access email without a phone or computer–we may well already be a part of computers as they become self-aware. Our own brains may passively teach the deep learning computer programs more efficiently than we can ever do consciously.

Machines may teach us more about ourselves than we can teach them.

Hopefully, they will give us some time to enjoy the newfound knowledge before they destroy us!

Discussion

Does the thought of a technological singularity terrify or excite you? Do you think it’s so far off that we needed worry? Is it a fantasy? A very real threat?

The cyberpunk genre loves to explore the liminal space between transhumanism and singularity, which is one of my favourite things about it. When I first started writing the Bubbles in Space series I meant for it to be a fun, tongue-in-cheek look at the way technology might help us and fail us in the future, and it didn’t take long for me to start exploring these ideas in my own way, too.

How much can we alter the human body and mind with technology before we are not really human anymore? What will we call Humanity v2.0?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Bubbles in Space: Top 5 Cyberpunk Movie Inspirations

I often get asked where my inspiration for the larger-than-life characters and glittery/gritty settings of HoloCity came from when I started writing my new cybernoir detective series, Bubbles in Space. Of course the whole “rainy nights and neon lights” aesthetic was largely solidified into the cyberpunk genre canon with the one-two punch of and Ridley Scott’s 1982 film, Blade Runner and William Gibson’s 1984 chart-topper, Neuromancer.

But they aren’t the only works I have been inspired by!

These are the Top 5 Cyberpunk Films that inspired Bubbles in Space

  • The Fifth Element

This has always been one of my favourite SF films, and I found myself re-watching it halfway through writing Tropical Punch just to add a bit more glittery pizzazz to my space cruiser settings. You will definitely see some character inspirations popping up, too. Chris Tucker’s gender bending character, Ruby Rhod, was in the back of my mind when I created the fashion magnate Cosmo Régale. He’s a huge personality, and I also loved the way The Fifth Element flipped gender expectations. The (to us) effeminate Ruby Rhod was the epitome of high-fashion masculinity, and I really wanted to play with the idea of gender in this series. Although The Fifth Element is more Space Opera than Cyberpunk, it really helped me visualize a lot of my high-tech settings. The glitz and glamour of the rich and famous was an important dichotomy to represent next to the grit and poverty of life on the streets of HoloCity.

  • Blade Runner/Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner represents of the of those rare instances where I love the film as much as the book it was based on. In my opinion, this is one of the best book to movie adaptations every made. It is not 100% true to the plot of the book, but I think it does an excellent job of exploring PKD’s themes in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in a way that stays true to the soul of the story. This is another classic in terms of cyberpunk aesthetic, too. The dark nights, neon lights, perpetual rain. It shaped the genre, in film and literature, for generations. The android Rachael is one of my favourite characters of all time and she inspired one of the characters in Tropical Punch (I won’t say who, no spoilers!). She is the ultimate femme fatale. Blade Runner 2049 expands on the success of the first film and is such a cinematic joy to watch. It is beautifully shot and scored, and the dull, throbbing ache to the emotional vibe is so cyberpunk it hurts. They are both must sees as far as I’m concerned!

  • The Ghost in the Shell

I know a lot of people didn’t like this movie. As I wasn’t familiar with the original, I didn’t really have any expectations going into it. I really enjoyed the visuals and the story and felt like it brought what I loved about Blade Runner and The Matrix, into the present day. The use of holograms in this film inspired some of the scenes in Tropical Punch. I liked the gritty use of back alley cybernetic enhancement, too. You will see a lot of parallels between this movie and my Bubbles in Space series, though Bubbles doesn’t take herself quite as seriously as Major!

  • Cowboy Bebop

Okay, it’s not a film (although there is one, I haven’t seen it yet!). But this TV series is fantastic! My husband and I have been binge watching the whole thing. It’s also got a lot of Space Opera elements, but I love the way it blends in Cyberpunk themes and aesthetics. It showed me that I could mash up my favourite sci-fi genres and gave me a lot of ideas on how I might expand the Bubbles in Space series into a more traditional Space Opera. The storytelling in this series is absolutely phenomenal, and I really feel like each episode could have been expanded into a full length movie. But because they haven’t been, my imagination has been able to run wild with ideas!

  • Alita: Battle Angel

Technically I can’t call this an inspiration for Tropical Punch because I didn’t watch it until after the first book was written. However, I really love the combination of post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk settings in this movie! There are so many cool themes and ideas being explored in this film, I hope they’ll make more. Cyborg gladiators, the floating city, bounty hunters. Alita brings the high-tech, low-life vibe of cyberpunk into an even starker contrast and really pushes some of the boundaries we’ve come to expect. Here, cyberpunk loses it’s “retro” feel and steps into the future. For me, Alita really represents an evolution in the genre and I’m very excited to see what other new works it will inspire.

Discussion

What are your favourite cyberpunk movies? Are you surprised by any of these inspirations for Bubbles in Space?

Up, up, and away!

It’s launch day for Bubbles in Space #3, Pop ‘Em One!

To celebrate, I’m offering #1 Tropical Punch and #2 Chew ‘Em Up for only $0.99!

Make sure you grab your copies before August 9th, 2021 to take advantage of these prices!

Calling all reviewers!

If you’ve read any of the Bubbles in Space books, be sure to add your review to Amazon and Goodreads! Reviews are a great way to lift up your favourite authors and can make or break the indie publishing experience. Visibility is tough out there!

Thank you so much for your support!

Innate Inclusion: Creating Realistic Diversity in Fiction

This weekend I had the pleasure of taking Indie It Press‘s course “Innate Inclusion: Creating Realistic Diversity in Fiction” taught by the wonderful SF&F author, W.A. Ford.

She’s the author of The Fadian Experiment, which I’ve reviewed here, and The Fadian Escape, which comes out next month!

I have always strived to create worlds full of interesting and diverse characters, representative of real people (even in fantastical fiction!). But it can be really difficult to write characters that are very different from ourselves, whether that means something as simple as writing male characters as a woman, or writing a Catholic character when as an agnostic.

It gets increasingly more difficult the farther out of our comfort zone that we get, such as writing a character who comes from a country you’ve never even visited, or who suffers from a disease that you don’t have first hand experience with, or who belongs to a persecuted group.

I think a lot of writers and artists bristle at the idea of “forcing” diversity into their works. And I get it. We want to create our worlds the way that feels natural, and diversity for diversity’s sake often results in flat, stereotypical characters who lack the depth of real human beings.

We’ve all read action books (and watched movies) where the heroine is essentially a cookie cutter of the usual badass male action heroes, just with tighter clothes and bigger boobs, and probably a gratuitous shower scene thrown in for good measure.

The stereotypical male action hero types are enough of a stretch, but to transplant a woman into the same role without acknowledging any of the ways in which her experience in the world would be different than a man’s just rings a bit hollow. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far, and little touches here and there can go a long way in adding depth to the reader’s experience.

Is Diversity Just a Trend?

In the course, Ford talks about the history of attempts at inclusion, from Affirmative Action in the ’60s and ’70s, to the Diversity trend in the ’80s and ’90s, and now the idea of Innate Inclusion.

Some folks will argue that this is “just a trend,” and that we should continue to write what we want to write how we want to write it.

Sure. I think we should, too.

I, personally, want to write in a way that represents as many kinds of people as I can!

I know from experience that seeing yourself in the books and movies that you consume is a very powerful thing.

But it is more difficult to do well than to just write characters who look and think like us, so it can be a challenge to get out of our comfort zone and explore writing different kinds of people.

The move toward inclusion is not a here-today-gone-tomorrow trend like fanny packs or bell bottom jeans, something that flares up every once in a while and then disappears, like an allergic reaction (I am allergic to fanny packs, just seeing them breaks me out in hives).

Western cultures have been in a steady state of slow evolution toward innate inclusion, from the suffrage movement to the abolition of slavery to multi-culturalism to gay pride etc.

Globalism has changed the face of our countries, provinces/states, cities, and neighbourhoods. Acknowledging these cultural differences has forced us to acknowledge other, less visible differences between us and our friends and neighbours.

These things include spiritual beliefs, invisible illnesses, non-binary gender and sexuality, and trauma.

And as we learn about and appreciate all the different ways to be a human, it only makes sense to represent these difference facets in our fictional worlds as well.

What is Innate Inclusion?

If you look at books and movies from the ’80s and ’90s, you can see early attempts at inclusion at work. There was a bigger effort to have women in lead roles, more non-white characters in supporting roles, and occasionally even gay characters (usually relegated to comic relief.)

Unfortunately, early “diversity” was often superficial. Characters ran the gamut between offensive stereotypes (how many 80s movies can you name that have “the fat kid” or “the Asian immigrant” or “the black friend” caricatures?), tokenism, and colour-coded paper cutouts.

I have re-watched a lot of my favourite kid’s movies with my own kids and have been amazed at how different they are from today’s films.

At best, there is a cast of characters who each represent a personality trait (the smart kid, the bully, the athlete, the angry loner, etc) but who are otherwise interchangeable. Sometimes, these characters would be made female, or gay, or black, but that detail never seemed to have any impact on the story or the character’s experience.

Arguably its better to have flat characters that, at least superficially, represent a diverse group of people rather than having an entirely homogenous cast.

But why not take it a step further and turn these paper cutouts into real people?

That’s what Innate Inclusion is all about.

What Kind of Characters Should I Include?

Today we are very aware, and we’re becoming more comfortable talking about, a lot of personal experiences that we once would have felt pressured to hide.

Debt, depression, mental illness, addiction, and abuse, for example.

These can be heavy topics.

So can discrimination and persecution.

Anyone who is different from the majority of people in their community, who is different from “the norm,” will at some point experience resistance, hostility, and othering.

To ignore this is a failure to fully explore a character’s potential. How a character reacts to challenges in their life tells us about who they are. We are shaped by both the positive and negative events of our lives, and to turn away from one or the other is to give an incomplete picture.

If you are writing a contemporary fiction story and include an Asian character, don’t just leave it at the physical description. Think about who that character is. How many generations has their family been in the country of the novel’s setting? Where are their ancestors from? How closely tied are they to their community? What is their family like? What are their interests and goals?

You could have an Asian character who is a first generation Canadian, whoseparents came from Vietnam, who watched her parents grinding away in the restaurant industry to give her a better life, and who is now estranged from her family because she rejected the idea of working her life away and followed her passion to become a rock musician.

You could have an Asian character who is a young man whose family came to the US from China in the 1800s but who no longer has any connection to his Chinese heritage because it was safer for his ancestor to assimilate, and who is now exploring that part of his history.

It is not enough to just say a character is Asian. You need to get specific about who that character is, their back story, how the world has shaped them.

A gay character whose family has accepted and supported them will be completely different from a gay character whose family sent them to conversion therapy. Explore your characters as deeply as you can!

Where Do I Start?

One of the easiest ways to explore diversity is to dig into the things that make you different.

Yes, it’s scary.

You will feel vulnerable.

For me, that means writing about alcohol abuse, recovery, depression, and anxiety. My books aren’t about these things, but my characters often experience these events and emotions. They react to them in ways that I did (and if they’re lucky, the ways I wish I had, haha)

Do you have first hand experience with disease or disability? With religious persecution? With discrimination?

Look to your friends and family next.

You will be more comfortable including characters who are similar to people you know well in real life.

Once you’ve practiced this, and hopefully added some depth to your characters, you can start exploring outside your inner circles.

The most important thing when writing about a person who is different from you is to research your character. Read first hand accounts from people with lived experience with the facets you will be exploring. What is it like to have breast cancer? Or to watch someone you love battle breast cancer? There is no one right answer to this, but I guarantee that reading about people’s experiences will both confirm your assumption and surprise you. Research will give you little details that add authenticity to your character’s experience that imagination on its own will never provide.

Why Does it Matter?

When there is something about us that makes us feel “different,” it can be incredibly validating to read a character who seems to represent our personal struggles.

When I read a sober character, it is so refreshing!

You don’t realize how casually alcohol is used in books and movies until you quit drinking. Reading can become a head game where you have to constantly remind yourself that this glamourized, fun party experience is not real. That you aren’t missing out. That not drinking is still the right choice for you.

Drinkers and life-long teetotalers experience this differently from recovering alcohol abusers.

So to find a character who just doesn’t drink, or who has quit drinking, really makes me feel like I’m not alone.

Many people have reached out to me to say that they appreciate this in my books, too.

An autistic character in a romance novel is a big deal for autistic people in real life. My writer friend Felicia Blaedel has done this in her book All The Wrong Shelves.

W.A. Ford–the instructor of the course I just completed–writes strong, Black female leads in her science fantasy novels.

N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Octavia E. Butler, and Nalo Hopkinson have shaken up the traditional publishing industries assumptions about what Science Fiction readers want to read with their Black female leads.

In the past, the safest way to sell books or have a box-office hit in North America, was to appeal to the financial majority (white Americans, for the most part.)

However, recent books and movies have shown that audiences are far less fickle than we used to assume. We want great stories, first and foremost. And a great story with a wide range of realistic characters is even better. The more people your story appeals to, the better chance it has of succeding.

Discussion

Which books or movies do you feel have done a great job of innate inclusion? Which tried, but didn’t quite hit the mark? What can we learn from them?

Let me know what you think!

Free Summer Reads!

If you’re looking to load up your e-reader with action-packed Sci-Fi this summer, check out the FREE Book Bonanza for all your summer reading needs!

It’s Launch Day! Bubbles in Space #2 Chew ‘Em Up is LIVE!

Up, Up, and Away!

Goals are fun.

They can be infuriatingly stressful and they can push us to out-perform our past limitations.

I have always performed best under pressure. Without a deadline looming over my head I’m prone to distraction and procrastination.

I could be a professional dilly dallier.

However, what I am is a professional writer.

Deadlines keep me in check with my business writing, and I knew that this is what I needed to kick my fiction writing into high gear, too.

So in January, I drew some hard lines on my calendar.

I put non-refundable deposits on contracts with my cover designer and editors, and set up my pre-orders on Amazon. If I failed to make my deadlines, I would be out some serious moolah, and be locked down on Amazon’s naughty list (and unable to set up future pre-orders) for a year.

I set myself a very aggressive release schedule for my new Bubbles in Space series. Five books in one year, with each book coming 9 weeks after the last. I have plans to release 3-4 novellas in that time, too, but they are bonus projects without the strict deadlines.

I had no idea if I could do it or not, but I knew other people could do it and that if they could find a way to make it work there was a good chance I could too.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of writing, editing, and business-learning as I dove headfirst into launching Bubbles in Space.

And I don’t want to jinx myself, but things are looking good so far! Today is release day for Book #2 Chew ‘Em Up and I couldn’t be happier with the results!

Both Tropical Punch and Chew ‘Em Up are sitting in the Top 100 of Crime and Mystery Science Fiction, which isn’t a huge category, but it’s chockablock full of heavy hitters in the genre like Dean Koontz, Martha Wells, Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, and Neal Stephenson. As an indie author, there is nothing quite like the feeling of leapfrogging one of your traditionally published idols on the charts, even if it’s only for a few days!

If you’d like to check it out and see what all the fuss is about, grab your copy today! As a special Launch week promo, both books are on sale for only $2.99 until Sunday June 6, 2021. And if you’re really keen you can pre-order #3 Pop ‘Em One for the earlybird price, too.

Click through to your regional Amazon store! books2read.com/u/bQJ9X7

The Journey So Far…

Lots of other indie Sci-Fi authors have asked about my launch strategies and how effective they’ve been. If you’re curious, here’s some of what I’ve been doing:

Last month I ran a free promo on my first book, Tropical Punch, and more than 5500 copies were claimed!

I know, I know. Giving away books for free is a poor way to make money as an author.

However, I had some ulterior motives…

Why give away my book for free?

By getting Book #1 in my series into as many hands as possible, I hoped to garner some more reviews and to start collecting pre-orders on the next books in the series. Also, and possibly most important, I wanted to teach Amazon’s algorithms which kind of people are interested in my books, and get more relevant “also bought” books showing on my page.

Was it a success?

Yup. Yup. Yup.

That’s a big yes on all counts!

I went from 14 to 45 reviews in less than two weeks. Yes, some of those were 1 and 2 star ratings from disgruntled freebie seekers. The risk in giving away books is that people sometimes take chances on books that aren’t really their thing, and some of them aren’t shy about telling the world about it. However, the vast majority of the reviews that came in are 4 and 5 star ratings, which lead to…

Pre-orders for books 2 and 3 started rolling in!

On Tropical Punch, I managed to get 19 pre-orders from my mailing list and folks who follow me on social media. That was so fantastic, as I really didn’t expect to get more than a handful. At the time of my free book promo, I only had 14 pre-orders on Chew ‘Em Up and 3 on Pop ‘Em One. But by launch day, I had 31 for Chew ‘Em Up and 15 for Pop ‘Em One!

I know, these numbers aren’t going to launch me to the top of the Amazon store, but it’s more than enough give me a boost in my little niche categories and keep the visibility on Bubbles in Space up where it needs to be for more organic discovery (For someone who typically sells only 0-5 books a day, organic reach is a beautiful thing!)

The “also bought” feature is in alignment, and hopefully this will translate into smarter ads in the AMS dashboard! Though this takes a few weeks to show up, so I’ll keep you posted.

The Biggest Success?

I’m not going to become an overnight bestseller. I knew that from the beginning. Publishing is a competitive industry whether you are traditionally published or indie.

But whether or not I ever become a bestseller is kind of a secondary dream to THE BIG DREAM.

The biggest success so far has been finding a group of readers who are as excited about this series as I am! Every day, new reviews roll in and they have been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. These are reviews I didn’t solicit, from people who are just genuinely thrilled with the story.

Knowing that my book is out there, in the wild, and finding its people is the coolest thing.

Tropical Punch sold an average of 2 books a day in the last 6o days. With Chew ‘Em Up out, maybe that will jump up to 4 books a day! By the time the series is complete, it could be 10+ books a day!

Well, I won’t be retiring any time soon, but I should break even this year!

And in 5 years, anything is possible…

Thank You for Your Support!

Indie Feature Friday: Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat

I’ve gone and lost track of days again, so let’s just start out by pretending it’s still Friday!

In the last few weeks I’ve been working my way through my collection of Indie Cyberpunk Novels and I have been so pleasantly surprised by all the great work in this genre.

First was Grinders by C.S. Boyack, which is the perfect blend of cyberpunk and detective tropes. I was instantly hooked by the glittery high-tech world and the perfectly balanced dynamic between Jimi Cabot and her partner on the police force. I couldn’t put it down. Although it is different in tone, Grinders is the novel that inspired me to write my own cybernoir detective series, and is directly responsible for the birth of Bubbles in Space. I cannot recommend it enough!

Next I read Into Neon by Matthew A. Goodwin, which is a quick, easy read with great world building and a diverse cast of characters. It’s the kind of book you can pick up and devour in a single sitting when you just want some fun, action packed entertainment. Sci-Fi flavoured candy at its best!

And now we have something a little bit different again.

This one is a serious page-turner…

Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat

The Plot

In a future world ruled by warring mega-corporations, cyborg Nephilim believed she was fighting a righteous cause.

As a powerful, genetically and cybernetically enhanced elite soldier her brutal and violent life is not truly her own – until one day, a simple glitch separates her from the grid.

For the first time in her young life, she is free…and she has doubts. Doubts that bury deeper into her psyche when she meets Jake, a mysterious, 100% bio-human.

He opens her neon-blue eyes to the lies she had been exposed to all her life. Questioning everything she has ever known, Nephilim resolves to take a stand. To hold on to this freedom, she has miraculously discovered. But can one person, no matter how strong, beat an all-powerful system of oppression? Soon, Nephilim finds herself hunted by her own people in a deadly game of survival…

For fans of Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell and Altered Carbon!

My Review

This book has been on my radar for a while, as I follow Anna Mocikat on Instagram and Twitter. Behind Blue Eyes has been consistently well placed in the Cyberpunk charts and fans literally RAVE about it at every opportunity.

So, I admit, my expectations were pretty high going in.

Mocikat does not disappoint!

Behind Blue Eyes is fantastic. It manages to hit all of the major genre themes, and still to be completely different from the last two indie cyberpunk novels I have reviewed. It is dark, gritty, and violent with a strong sexual undertones. A very different mood than Grinders or Into Neon.

There is quite a bit of world-building at the beginning of the novel and it took me a few chapters to get into the flow of the story, but once I did it was like being caught in a riptide.

Mocikat is a masterful plotter working in an intricate world with complex characters.

One of my favourite things about Behind Blue Eyes is the evolution of Nephilim’s character as the secrets of her world are revealed. She is a seriously badass cyborg warrior, and this could easily have turned into a Mary-Sue type character who just can’t seem to do anything wrong. But Mocikat manages to bring Niphilim’s humanity front and centre, and the plot focusses on her vulnerabilities rather than her physical invincibility, so that even though she’s literally built for world domination, she is constantly coming up against conflicts she isn’t prepared to handle.

I also really appreciate that, although there is a romantic subplot, and there are a lot of sexy themes being explored, Mocikat never delves into “steamy romance” territory. Full disclosure: I am not a romance fan. Really detailed sex scenes always make me cringe, and books with too many of them usually end up in my DNF pile. Mocikat handles it very well, and I think the sexual themes were all the more titillating because they were hinted at rather than being shoved in your face. I mean, sex is everywhere in the book, and the blasé attitudes of the characters toward it was refreshing in itself. But Mocikat leaves the actual squidgy parts up to our imaginations (thank you!)

In Nephilim’s exploration of her humanity (as a genetically engineered cyborg) Mocikat really digs into one of the most interesting themes in cyberpunk literature: where do we draw the link between (wo)man and machine? What makes any of us human? This really added a layer of emotional satisfaction to Nephilim’s character arc, and I will absolutely be diving into the next book, Fallen Angels.

If you love books and don’t have time to read these days, Mocikat has just dropped the audiobook for Behind Blue Eyes on Amazon’s Audible, and it’s been getting awesome reviews as well.

Discussion

Have you read Behind Blue Eyes? What did you think? Is this one you’ll be adding to your TBR list? If you have a favourite cyberpunk novel, please share it in the comments!

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If you read books faster than you can earn money to buy them, I have a gift for you…

How to find FREE and Discount Books at scjensen.com!

There are almost always free and discount book promotions going on around the web. There are many sites dedicated to just this service. But if you don’t want to hunt them down yourself, I’m offering a new feature right here which you might be interested in!

I have a new page called the Free Book Bonanza! This is where I will be linking all the free and discount book promotions that I come across (and participate in). There will be a section for FREE books, Kindle Unlimited books, and deeply discounted books for all your bargain hunting needs.

You can find the link to the Free Book Bonanza in the drop down menu. It will be updated regularly so all the deals found on that page will be currently running with the dates clearly marked.

Check it out!

Why not head over and let me know what you think? Which genres would you like to see represented here? Do you prefer FREE books (usually requires signing up to the author’s mailing list), Kindle Unlimited books, or discounted books?

Let me know in the comments!

FREE Cyberpunk and LitRPG Books from the Mysterious IASFA

Juicy news!

I belong to the International Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors (IASFA) and they are putting together monthly lists of free books from some of the biggest Indie authors in the genres.

Each month, the IASFA releases a collection of limited time FREE books from one SF&F subgenre.

This month it’s Cyberpunk/LitRPG/Gamer Lit, for example. And next month is post-apocalyptic.

If you are an SF&F author you can join the community here –> https://iasfa.org/join-iasfa/

If you are a reader, you can sign up to receive free books every month here –>  https://iasfa.org/get-free-books

Now, check these books out!

Here’s a note from the IASFA about the promo:

From May 11th through the 15th, pick up enough free LitRPG/GameLit/Cyberpunk novels to fill your summer reading needs.

Play the game, win the prize, or die.

Dakota Krout had this to say about the genre: “LitRPG is progression fantasy or science fiction bound by the rules of a video game. It uses a hard-magic system that allows the readers an in-depth look at those rules, which ensures consistency and allows for the mitigation of power creep.”

Available only from the mysterious IASFA.

This link takes you to the sign-up, where there are a few more steps because the evil internet trolls have attacked and we must hold them at bay.

1) click this link https://iasfa.org/get-free-books

2) Become an Insider by filling out your name (or online persona) and email address

3) Answer the math problem because we know trolls suck at math

4) Check your email – you should have received a confirmation email thanking you for subscribing, but you have to click on this to confirm your confirmation because we know that is the kiss of death for trolldom

5) Your subscription is confirmed! Go back to your email for the final confirmation which, during the free promotion period, will include the super-secret link that takes you into the back-end of the site where you can find incredible titles from some of the top names in the genre as well as well-established newcomers. If you join before the promotion timeframe, then you’ll get an email on the first day of the promotion with the super-secret link.
Find your next favorite author right here, right now.And next month, get ready for the end of the world as we know it – Post-Apocalyptic titles will tease your reading fancy from June 9-13.

S.C. Jensen Author Update

Greetings, strangers!

I’ve been busy, busy getting lots of fun new stuff ready for you.

I have two more books in the Bubbles in Space series coming to you this Spring and Summer.

I have some book reviews I’ll be posting in the coming weeks.

I’m tossing around the idea of serializing my HoloCity Case Files novellas… Is that something you’d like to see? Let me know in the comments!

I will also be re-releasing my dystopian science fiction trilogy, The Timekeepers’ War, after receiving some bad news earlier this year.

More on that at the end of the post. Now for the fun stuff!

Upcoming Posts

I will be doing reviews on the following cyberpunk and cybernoir novels in the next few weeks:

  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Noir by Christopher Moore
  • Liquid Cool by Austin Dragon
  • Into Neon by Matthew A. Goodwin
  • Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat, and
  • Flatlander by Larry Niven

There will be more to come as I finished reading though my list of Indie Cyberpunk books, check it out –> HERE <–

Bubbles in Space Update

Things are starting to ramp up for my new sci-fi series Bubbles in Space. I just got Book #2 in to my editor last month and it will be out at the end of May. I’m done plotting Book #3, and will be diving into drafting ASAP once my edits are complete on #2.

I’ve got a really aggressive (for me!) release schedule planned this year and everything is on track, which means you will get your Bubbles fix right on schedule!

The HoloCity Case Files are a parallel series of mystery novellas, which I’ll be publishing along side Bubbles in Space. They can be read in any order, and you do not have to read them in order to read Bubbles in Space.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s everything you need to know:

Prequel Novella — Dames for Hire: HoloCity Case Files #1

Dirty jobs call for dirty dames.

But this is a bit much…

After a suspicious accident costs her a career, an arm, and nearly her life, Bubbles Marlowe needs all the help she can get.

When a friend asks her to do a little dirty work on the side, Bubbles isn’t prepared for just how dirty it’s going to get.

An arrogant scientist, a young heiress, a gambling king pin, and a few too many hired guns…

Can Bubbles finish the case before it finishes her?

HoloCity’s femme fatales are out in full force in this cybernoir detective thriller.

And these dames don’t mess around.

Join S.C. Jensen’s VIP Readers Club and read Dames for Hire for FREE! –> Join Here! <–

Or, you can buy it on Amazon for $0.99! –> Buy Now! <–

Or, when I start the serials, you’ll be able to CLICK HERE to start reading on the blog. (Coming soon!)

Tropical Punch: Bubbles in Space #1

Strippers, Drugs, and Headless Corpses…

All in a day’s work for Bubbles Marlowe, HoloCity’s only cyborg detective.

What do an anti-tech cult, a deadly new street drug, and the corrupt Chief of Police have in common?

It’s a question Bubbles can’t afford to ask. Last time she got curious it cost her job, a limb, and almost her life.

She vows to stay out of police business. But with a newly minted cybernetic enhancement, a semi-legal P.I. licence, and a knack for asking the wrong kind of questions…

Vows are made to be broken.

But as the body count stacks up, Bubbles realizes she’s made a terrible mistake.

Can she figure out who is behind the murders before she loses her head?

Read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited or Buy Now from Amazon for $4.99! –> Get it now! <–

Chew ‘Em Up: Bubbles in Space #2

She didn’t ask for this…
Now, there’s no going back.

Bubbles Marlowe prefers to stick to the shadows. But when one of her cases blows up in the media, the private eye is thrust into the public eye.

The timing couldn’t be worse.

Her best friend is on the run for her life and she needs Bubbles’ help!

Now the wrong kind of people are sitting up and taking notice… And the clock is ticking.

The friends will do anything it takes to get out of HoloCity. Even if it means leaving the planet.

Forever…

Can Bubbles survive her newfound stardom long enough to save her best friend?

Or is HoloCity going to chew them up and spit them out?

Coming May 31st, 2021… Pre-Order today for only $2.99! –> Get it now! <–

Pop ‘Em One: Bubbles in Space #3

You win some, you lose some.
And sometimes you lose everything…


Bubbles Marlowe is lost.

Lost in space, lost in love, lost in life.

After a contract to protect her best friend goes horribly wrong, things go from bad to worse.

Her best friend wakes up from a coma… changed. Rae has crucial information locked inside her brain, and she’s not talking.

Bubbles’ ex-partner and would-be lover has been kidnapped and brutalized by the megacorp, Libra. They want to exchange Tom for Rae, but she needs to save them both.

On top of all this, she finds herself the de facto property of an asteroid mining company! (Don’t even ask.)

They want to use her to start a war.

Bubbles has no choice but to follow orders…

It’s the only way she can keep Rae safe and save Tom’s life.

But can she pull off the heist without getting herself and everyone she loves killed?

And if even she can, what’s the point of saving them all if it means starting a corporate war?

Coming August 2nd, 2021… Pre-Order today for only $2.99! –> Get it now! <–

Spit ‘Em Out: Bubbles in Space #4

Coming October 2nd, 2021

Cherry Bomb: Bubbles in Space #5

Coming December 6th, 2021

HoloCity Case Files

I have another 2-3 novellas planned for release this year, alongside the Bubbles in Space series. I will be finishing them up in my downtime between drafts and don’t have a set release schedule for them. But they will all be available for FREE to my VIP Readers Club, for $0.99-$2.99 Amazon Kindle, and possibly as serials on the blog (if you guys are into it!)

UPDATE: The Timekeepers’ War Trilogy

As many of you know, March 2021 was supposed to be the release of Ghostlights: The Timekeepers’ War Book 2. It’s been a very long time coming, since The Timekeepers’ War Book 1 came out in 2014!

I was really excited about the release, and in the meantime have finished the final installment in the trilogy, Weirfall, anticipating a 2022 release.

Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.

My publisher, David G. Barnett, passed away suddenly in February. This was very sad news for me. I never met Dave in person, but he was instrumental in getting my author career off the ground.

When I was querying The Timekeepers War, my first ever novel, I was initially surprised by how well the novel was received by agents and publishers alike. I got many requests to read longer and longer excerpts, but ultimately each of these flickers of hope were snuffed out by rejection.

I couldn’t figure out why such positive responses were going nowhere.

I would probably have given up if it weren’t for the feedback I received from Dave.

He gave me actionable advice on how to make my manuscript where it needed to be. I followed his advice, worked with a developmental editor, and ended up cutting almost 50K words from the book! When I was finished, I asked Dave if I could submit it to him again.

He said yes!

I signed on with Bedlam Press only a few months after my twins were born.

I became a published author because Dave cared enough about my story to reach out and help me. And he continued to be a great support over the years, even while it took me so long to finish book two with three little kids running around my feet. Dave had a passion for great stories and he really cared about the authors he worked with. He will be sorely missed by me, and all of the other author’s he took a chance on.

With Dave’s passing, Necro Publications and Bedlam Press are being dissolved. So as the company’s assets are being sorted through, the trilogy is in limbo.

I do plan on self-publishing the books myself and re-releasing them next year.

So, to those of you who are still patiently waiting for Book 2, I promise you’ll get it! And Book 3 shortly after that.

If you haven’t started the series yet, please hold off on buying it until the new version comes out.

Thanks for reading!

Tropical Tuesday Cover Reveal: M.J. McGriff’s The Secret Library is almost here!

Tropical Tuesday Cover Reveal: M.J. McGriff’s <i>The Secret Library</i> is almost here!

Steaming jungles, huge slithering snakes, and a mysterious prophecy…

Oh, and pirates! Don’t forget the pirates!

Spring has only just sprung here in the Great White (Brown?) North but I’m so ready for some summery beach reads.

Don’t get me wrong. I love springtime, but it takes a touch of the tropics to warm my bones after a long, cold winter.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce the new cover and upcoming releases of one of my favourite indie fantasy writers, The Secret Library by M.J. McGriff!

I have met a lot of fantastic indie writers over the years and I’ve read a lot of fabulous indie books. And M.J. McGriff is one of the most fantastic and fabulous. So I’m thrilled to be able to share the release of her second novel in the Magian Series, The Secret Library.

McGriff writes YA fantasy adventure novels full of swashbuckling pirates, magical prophecies, and tons of sassy dialogue. The Magian Series Book One: Macario’s Scepter is a fast-pasted, rollicking fun book that I read in a single sitting. And I was thrilled to be able to be an advanced reader for it’s sequel, The Secret Library.

If you love Indian Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean, you’ll love these books!

Happy cover reaveal, M.J. McGriff! It looks amazing!

The Secret Library by M.J. McGriff

When a surly pirate and a treasure-hunting nun fall into a cursed jungle with the Order captain tasked with their capture—what else could possibly go wrong? 

Seraphina Davalos left her seminary and inserted herself into Captain Mari Adlam’s pirate crew to gain passage to a mysterious isle said to hide a secret library. In this library is the knowledge her twin sister—the one chosen by the gods to wield Macario’s Scepter—needs to defeat the awakening monsters and stop the end of the world. 

No big deal, right? Unfortunately, Captain Luis Fozo is much less concerned with taboo myths and impending doom. He’s determined to exact revenge on the pirates responsible for his brother’s death. 

His plan goes sideways, however, when he falls through an ancient portal and is forced to work together with Seraphina and Mari to survive sirens, harpies, diabolical traps, and whatever else the cursed jungle conjures on their path to the library—and escape.  

Their alliance is only temporary, though. He doesn’t believe their conspiracy theories about the world ending in the slightest. And he certainly, most definitely—without question—is not falling for a brave, naive nun who’s as intelligent as she is beautiful.  

It’s only a few days, a few monsters, and a few curses. How bad could it be? 

A funny, page-turning adventure great for fans of Indiana Jones with a dash of Pirates of The Caribbean.

Pre-Order Today and Swag Away!

You can preorder this tropical adventure right now at major retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more! When you do, you can score awesome preorder swag that gets you ready for warmer weather. Just visit @mj_mcgriff’s Instagram bio to preorder the book and submit your receipt for swag!

Discussion

Have you read any good pirate tales lately? Share them in the comments below!