In episode 238 of the SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester, Jack Campbell, Karen Lord, Jay Posey, Kameron Hurley, Charles E. Gannon, and Jaym Gates, discuss Military Science Fiction.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: Getting introduced to a book discovered by my now-adult son turns the tables, as he matches my enjoyment of military history, historical figures and strategy with a series that lays out all of these factors in a future 100-year war between the Alliance and the Syndics.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Captain John “Black Jack” Geary, awakened after 100-years spent in an escape pod, finds himself in mid-battle and in charge of the Fleet, fighting the same opponent as he was 100-years ago, but with a chance to turn the tide and end the long war.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Builds believable rules of warfare and technology; explains the thought process of the strategies without bogging down the pacing of the story; flawed characters, even the legendary Geary.
CONS: A series, that might not end? Never explains why the 100-year war began (perhaps later in the series?).
BOTTOM LINE: Mixing a believable set of technological rules with complex characters, The Lost Fleet: Dauntless is fast-paced military SF that my son calls “believable.”

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Announcement: “War Stories” Anthology Coming Soon to Kickstarter

Fellow SF Signal irregular Jaym Gates and I have a project that we’ve collaborated on that we’d like to share with everyone: War Stories, an anthology of military speculative fiction.

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Jack Campbell (the pen name of John G. Hemry) writes the New York Times bestselling SF series The Lost Fleet (Dauntless, Fearless,  Courageous, Valiant, Relentless, and Victorious) which has been published in the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, China, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Israel.  He also writes the follow-on series The Lost Fleet – Beyond the Frontier (Dreadnaught, Invincible, and Guardian) and the spin-off series The Lost Stars (Tarnished Knight and the upcoming Perilous Shield).  John is also the author of the Sinclair (JAG in Space) series and the Stark’s War series.  His short fiction has appeared in places as varied as the last Chicks in Chainmail anthology (Turn the Other Chick), and Analog magazine (which published his award winning stories).  His non-fiction on topics ranging from Interstellar Navigation to the Legion of Superheroes has been in (among other places) the Sequart anthology Teenagers From the Future, and anthologies on Charmed, Star Wars, and Superman.  John had the opportunity to live on Midway Island for a while during the 1960s, then later attended the US Naval Academy.  He served in a variety of jobs including gunnery officer and navigator on a destroyer, with an amphibious squadron, and at the Navy’s anti-terrorism center.  He speaks the remnants of Russian pounded into him by the perseverance of Professor Vladimir Tolstoy.  After retiring from the US Navy and settling in Maryland, John began writing.  He lives with his amazing wife (the indomitable S) and three great kids.  His daughter and two sons are diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. He can be found on Facebook and via his website at jack-campbell.com/.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: Interesting premise, poor execution, vital to understanding Halo 4.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The black ops squad Kilo-Five has a staggering revelation but there is no time to consider the implications because one of their operatives goes silent on a hostile world. As civil war erupts on Sanghelios, the UNSC Infinity prepares to undergo a test run using live targets and live munitions. And ancient evil waits to be awakened.

MY REVIEW
PROS:
Great ideas, essential to understanding what is going on in Halo 4.
CONS:
Flat characters, repetitive character descriptions, not very engaging.
BOTTOM LINE:
Recommended for Halo fans exclusively.

An hour into playing Halo 4 I found myself asking a lot of questions. Who is this Didact fellow? What is Requiem? Why are the Covenant suddenly attacking me – didn’t we have a truce at the end of Halo 3? How did the UNSC build a 6 kilometer long space ship? It’s a good thing that I play the Halo games for the shooting and not the actual storytelling. If I want to learn anything about the Halo universe I just turn to the tie-in fiction that has done such an amazing job of expanding the lore. Authors like Eric Nylund, William C. Dietz, Tobias S. Buckell, and Joseph Staten have written wonderful novels that support this monolithic franchise. Two new authors have been added to the roster, the much celebrated Greg Bear (whose Forerunner novels I have yet to dig into) and Karen S. Traviss, an author with much tie-in fiction experience. Halo: The Thursday War is the second entry in the Kilo-Five trilogy, which is itself an indirect sequel to Eric Nylund’s Halo: Ghosts of Onyx. Relating to the canon, Halo: The Thursday War takes place just prior to the events of Halo 4. So how does it stack up compared to the rest of the family?

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Mike Resnick is, according to Locus, the all-time leading award winner, living or dead, for short science fiction. He is the winner of five Hugos, a Nebula, and other major awards in the United States, France, Spain, Japan, Croatia and Poland. and has been short-listed for major awards in England, Italy and Australia. He is the author of 68 novels, over 250 stories, and 2 screenplays, and is the editor of 41 anthologies. His work has been translated into 25 languages. He is the Guest of Honor at the 2012 Worldcon and can be found online as @ResnickMike on Twitter or at www.mikeresnick.com.

Brad Torgersen is a full-time healthcare tech geek by day, and United States Army Reserve Warrant Officer on weekends. He is a Writers of the Future winner, as well as a contributing author for Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine—the latter awarding him the “AnLab” readers’ choice prize for best novelette, 2010. Presently, Torgersen is a Campbell nominee for Best New Science Fiction writer, Hugo nominee, for his novelette, “Ray of Light,” and also a Nebula nominee, for the same novelette. “Guard Dog” is the first of several collaborations with Mike Resnick. Brad can be found online at bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com.

Their collaboration in the anthology Space Battles, “Guard Dog”, is the moving tale of a Watchfleet sentinel named Chang, who leads a lonely life of extended, dream-filled sleeps in between frenetic, life-or-death battles. The Sortu had almost defeated humanity and the lives of everyone, including his wife and son, depend on men like him. Then, called to battle again, he finds himself up against the last opponent he’d ever expected…


BTS: Where’d your interest in SFF come from?

Mike Resnick: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books and Groff Conklin’s anthologies, both around 1950.

Brad Torgersen: My earliest memories of science fiction and fantasy – though I did not recognize what science fiction or fantasy were at the time – were of television programs from the late 70s and the very early 1980s.  The original Battlestar Galactica, the original Star Trek, as well as Japanese animation imports like Battle of the Planets, otherwise known in Japan as Gatchaman.  I was an eager viewer, and when I ultimately went off to see Star Wars on the big screen, I fell in love with the larger-than-life characters, other-worldly settings, and the spectacle of special effects combined with the tantalizing promise of what technology could offer.
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