Category Archives: Blog

Cooperworld by Jason R Ward

I recently wrote a long short story called Cooperworld. Or a short novella. Whatever. It is 17,000 words. If you have a shiny new kindle or tablet, here is something to put on it. My gift to you. Except you have to pay a few pennies, so it is also a gift to me. It is science fiction, but it is more philosophical than a lot of my stuff.

Cooperworld

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 3.25.49 PMThis is a 17,000 word short story. Which is quite a long short story, I’ll grant you.

Here is the blurb:

In the near future, AI research is strictly controlled by paranoid governments. When a renowned Artificial Intelligence expert illegally decides to create digital life in an simulated universe, he doesn’t at first realise the implications of what he has done. Implications not just for him, but for everyone.
In this short story, journalist and writer Jason R. Ward has a light-hearted but fairly philosophical look at what constitutes consciousness and has a good hard look at how we perceive reality.

For US customers:

For UK customers:

Welcome to the year 2016!

Happy new year to all my Scifiward readers! Welcome to 2016!

A sad loss in 2015 but always a nice message.

A sad loss in 2015 but always a nice message.

As I get older each annual digit change seems to come more quickly and feels more like something from science fiction. I guess I grew up watching things like Space 1999, Escape from New York (set in 1997), 2001, 2010, Blade Runner (2019), Back to the Future 2 (a couple of months ago). Even in the Buck Rogers (TV show) he set out in 1987. So quite a lot of things that seemed futuristic and painfully distant in my young brain should have now happened. Some have, most haven’t. I am writing this on a ridiculously thin laptop and beaming my pointless observations to the world, which is pretty damned impressive. I am doing this from the planet Earth however, so that sucks.

I am not one for resolutions as I have grown bored of disappointing myself, but regular readers should notice some changes this year. I write non-fiction as my profession and the dream is to slowly get rid of the ‘non’ and write more of what I enjoy. One thing I also enjoy is writing shallow sarcastic comments on my websites, so expect to see more of that too.

Whatever your dreams are for this futuristic age we live in, I hope they come true. As the late and lamented Leonard Nimoy said in some show or other – Live long and prosper – and try to have a little fun. (This latter sentiment was edited out for characterisation reasons.) Happy 2016.

Merry Christmas from Scifi Ward!

scifisantaMerry Christmas Scifi fans! I think, by and large, it has been a pretty damn good year for the genre. I hope your stocking was filled with science fiction goodness. I know mine was.

I have written a new short story called Cooperworld, which I am pretty excited about. I will shamelessly promote it when I have the energy and am less full of Christmas meat, but if you need something for a new tablet, check it out.

I will keep this short as I am going to binge some more. Be happy scifi fans, and merry christmas! Cheers.

Play Dungeons and Dragons in VR!

Listen to the Dungeon Master!

Listen to the Dungeon Master!

From 10 years old and throughout the most of my teens I played Dungeons and Dragons. Because it was awesome. You get a load of friends round and you go on adventures. The fact that it was spoken, and that the story existed in the collective imagination of those present, made it special. Plus there are really cool dice and little action figures.

As an individual who has a pathetic psychologic need to have his views and stories heard by others, I was frequently a dungeon master (DMs rule). You are in control of the story. You can buy pre-scripted modules, but cool kid as I was, I used like writing my own dungeons and adventures from scratch. You create stories and plots and incidences. You get to draw intricate maps on graph paper. And finally you have people play through your story live. It was great and possibly influenced my developing brain to the point where I now write and just make shit up for a career.

1d20 where have you been for the last 20 years?

1d20 where have you been for the last 20 years?

People still play Dungeons and Dragons but it has largely fallen out of favour as you can interactively fight orcs and role-play on the interweb these days. Games like World of Warcraft kind of recreate the ‘get together with your coolest friends and smite some goblins’ vibe but it isn’t quite the same. Your imagination is peaked by computer games as you explore, but the story isn’t in the mind of the group of friends chatting round a table. You are walking through someone else’s imagination. (Not that I don’t love computer games as well.)

Unless you have actually played D&D you are unlikely to understand. Sorry if that sounds patronising but it is true.

Sit around a virtual table and have adventures!

Sit around a virtual table and have adventures!

As there are less people playing Dungeons and Dragons, it can be hard to find a game. Well, now there is a passable solution. You can play D&D using virtual reality! I’m not talking a Skyrim-type experience. I’m talking the sitting around a virtual table and talking experience. I guess you could Skype these days, but then only one person gets to play with the dice and you don’t get character sheets littering the table and the little figures moving through a dungeon and… ah whatever.

Basically a company called AltspaceVR designed a VR Skype kind of idea. Behind intelligent engineer types, quite a few grew up playing D&D and tried to recreate it. It worked brilliantly and they have the full backing of the Wizards of the Coast. That is the company that owns Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering by the way, not a Cornish cult or anything.

For this post I just meant to just write – hey cool! You can play D&D in VR – look at this video. But I went on a bit. Sorry. Happy memories. Here is the video…

Jar Jar Awakens

Evil Jar Jar

Evil Jar Jar

With Star Wars The Force Awakens on the near horizon, the web is abuzz with Star Wars theories and rumours. But there is a recent one that has been surprisingly popular and is absolutely brilliant – Jar Jar Binks, the most hated Star Wars character of all time, may actually have been a Sith Lord and was behind everything.

The rumour started when a poster on Reddit called Lumpawarroo put forward a theory that Jar Jar Binks was actually a trained Force user and his whole bumbling, annoying idiot persona was just a front. A bit like when we were first introduced to Yoda.

He then goes on to provide a lot of evidence that is actually pretty damn convincing and if true, makes Jar Jar one of the best characters ever. The theory addresses things like the annoying battle scene where Jar Jar seemingly stumbles around but coincidentally only takes out droids – a lot of droids. People got annoyed (myself included) because that level of luck made the whole thing stupid and detracted from the film. But as Lumpawarroo pointed out – Obi Wan said in ‘A New Hope’ that in his experience there is no such thing as luck. Obi Wan wouldn’t lie.

There is a lot more evidence and even film footage to back it up, including some clips of Jar Jar actually doing force powered stuff. Check out the page here, it is genius.

As the internet is a thing of wonder, this theory immediately spawned a website called Darth Jar Jar.

As if that wasn’t enough, someone has taken the ‘Jar Jar Binks is a Sith’ theme and spliced it into the new trailer called Jar Jar Awakens. It too is a work of genius. Have a look and enjoy you will.

 

 

 

The Wonder by James Devo

The Wonder Blood Red-AdvertI just finished this book on a long train journey, which is a perfect place to read it. The Wonder by James Devo is the sort of book you should, and probably will, read in big chunks. A primary reason for this is that it is pretty damned exciting and it is therefore annoyingly hard to find a spot to pause and do things necessary sustain your existence. Another reason is that it has a pretty large cast, and there is a tiny risk you will become confused with some of them. I say ‘tiny’ because the characters are strong and memorable and if I can remember who is who then most people should. Also a train feels pretty steampunk (especially in Thailand where I live and trains are old), so barring a handy nearby steam fair it was a good setting to read uninterrupted. But before I get ahead of myself, I had better mention what the book is about.

The Wonder is set in a fantasy/steampunk kind of world and it is a very believable and well thought-out one. People travel using huge vessels that glide along artificial ice. Ancient technologies abide, alongside new adapted versions of old school tech. Warriors fight with swords and magically enhanced guns, while science types create strange and wonderful new ways of killing people en masse. There are elves fighting giant steam powered robot/mechanoids and mind-controlled soldiers that self immolate when cornered. There are… a ton of pretty cool things. I really enjoyed the world that was created and it never becomes too much info to take on. I’ve read fantasy and scifi books where you can be halfway into it and still aren’t quite sure what the balls is happening. Then there are others that info-dump at the start and prove tedious. That doesn’t happen here, you learn in mid-action.

The eponymous ‘Wonder’ is what underpins everything in Devo’s world. It is basically like magic, except that it is a substance. It can be used for weapons or making entire cities work. (A bit like Uranium but without all the cancer.) I’m being simplistic though, it is actually a quite well thought out magic system with different types of wonder doing different functions, which is quite a refreshing take on these sorts of things. Red wonder powers everyday stuff like lights, transport, and handheld weaponry. Green affects the mind and the flesh. Blue is powerful and rare and does all sort of powerful and mystical stuff.

As I said earlier, the characters are great and varied. From gentleman adventurers to psychopaths – and those are the heroes – I found the people in the story great fun and occasionally slightly disturbing. Often at the same time. There were moments when there almost started to be a couple too many but it is handled well, the characters are great, and they all have a function and satisfying story arc. And I love a good arc. Also, Devo isn’t averse to killing a couple off every now and then, so you never feel too overwhelmed. Backstories, and most information, are told as the story goes on and they are normally a welcome pause in the action – although quite a few get pretty exciting themselves.

I feel I should stop here as I have gone on a bit. I tend to stick to straight fantasy or straight science fiction and rarely veer off into cyber/steam/diesel/bio/spunk- punk genres. (Ok, I made the last one up, but it sounds like a fun sub-genre.) I get sent a lot of things to review and normally stick to what I know. But I’m glad I gave The Wonder a go as it was truly great read. A rip-roaring one, even. To summarise all the above – I liked The Wonder a lot and you probably will too. Give it a go.

The Wonder: Book 1 – Blood Red by James Devo will be out on the 21st November, swiftly followed by Book 2 – Deep Blue. Keep an eye out.

Here is the trailer:

 

 

Every Doctor Who story from best to worst

13 Doctor Who actors

13 Doctor Who actors

I saw this on io9 and just had to share. Doctor Who can be ridiculously hit and miss at times but no matter how much it misses, it remains a much loved TV show across the world. Probably because when it is a hit, it is just superb. Or maybe because so many of us grew up watching it. Or it’s just fun. Whatever.

Someone at the superb io9 site has rated every single episode and ranked it in order. Which is a superb achievement and I feel obliged to share the link. I know what I will be watching for the next few days. Enjoy:

Every Doctor Who episode from best to worst

Bryan Singer to direct 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 leagues under the sea

20,000 leagues under the sea

A new film version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has been talked about for a while. I’m a bit shocked they haven’t ‘reimagined’ a gritty version for TV already, let alone spent a wad of cash on a CGI-filled summer spectacular action flick. Well, it looks like it might finally happen with Bryan Singer at the helm. (Like my nautical-speak there?)

This should be a good thing as Singer is generally pretty decent. The news came out on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 7.50.18 pm

I remember watching the James Mason version from the 50s when I was a kid and I loved it. I also reread the book by Jules Verne recently, so I am something of a fan. I am a bit curious about how they will do it. Will they stick to the original novel where Nemo is an Indian and is a kind of terrorist/scientist/angry-man-of-the-sea? He’s an awesome character in 20,000 Leagues and Mysterious Island.

Personally, I think they should keep it in the period of the book. I nearly always think that though as I I like the settings of Scifi classics and don’t see the need for modern updates (apart from budgetary needs I guess). I’m looking at you, War of the Worlds.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is one of the books I can’t believe hasn’t been redone. I think Jules Verne and HG Wells need to be looked at again (Hollywood I’m talking to you). Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships would be good too (official sequel to Time Machine and absolutely brilliant). Actually I could list books that need doing for pages. If any major Hollywood studios want suggestions my email is Scifiward@gmail.com. My fee is surprisingly cheap.