Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Rules of Supervillainy audiobook on sale for $5 for one week only


THE RULES OF SUPERVILLAINY is on sale for a week on Audible.com. For $4.95, you can get a copy of the adventures of Gary Karkofsky's first adventure in the Supervillainy Saga. The sale ends on February 25th, 2018. https://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/The-Rules-of-Supervillainy-Audiobook/B016X128EK

Gary Karkofsky is an ordinary guy with an ordinary life living in an extraordinary world. Supervillains, heroes, and monsters are a common part of the world he inhabits. Yet, after the death of his hometown's resident superhero, he gains the amazing gift of the late champion's magical cloak. Deciding he prefers to be rich rather than good, Gary embarks on a career as Merciless: The Supervillain Without Mercy. 

But is he evil enough to be a villain in America's most crime-ridden city? Gary soon finds himself surrounded by a host of the worst of Falconcrest City's toughest criminals. Supported by his long-suffering wife, his ex-girlfriend turned professional henchwoman, and a has-been evil mastermind, Gary may end up being not the hero they want but the villain they need.

©2015 C. T. Phipps (P)2015 Amber Cove Publishing and C.T. Phipps. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

THE TOURNAMENT OF SUPERVILLAINY is done


I'm pleased to say I have completed work on THE TOURNAMENT OF SUPERVILLAINY, the fifth book in the SUPERVILLAINY SAGA, following the adventures of Gary Karkofksy a.k.a. Merciless: The Supervillain without MercyTM.

Being a supervillain was all Gary ever wanted to be but the constant beatings, moral ambiguity, and the fact he now has a young daughter to look after have caused him to reconsider his career path. As he debates making a jump to the "other side", Gary finds himself recruited by Death to serve as her champion in a multiversal tournament for the ultimate prize: anything you could desire! 

Gary and a oddball collection of champions from a variety of universes must prevent the prize from falling into the hands of the genocidal space wizard Entropicus! He also must discover just where his heart really lies when his two closest loves reveal shocking secrets.

Guest starring Jane Doe from I Was a Teenage Weredeer, Agent G from Agent G: Infiltrator, and Cassius Mass from Lucifer's Star.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Justice League (2017) review


    Unfortunately, due to my wife breaking her leg, I wasn't able to see the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie in it's initial movie release. This is because I'm generally more of a DC rather than Marvel man. As much as the Marvel movies tend to be more my style (humor, light-hearted, and consistent), the iconic characters of the DCU are my jam. Sadly, most of us have been disappointed with the offerings since Man of Steel. Why is this? Well, the simple answer is the one we know: it's warmed over Marvel comics.

    Warner Brothers desperately wants their own Marvel Cinematic Universe and you can tell it's an attempt to be like them. There's also the fact Zach Snyder either was told to make "movies identical to Watchmen in tone" or he just naturally prefers that take on the subject. As such, the two Superman movies felt like Batman movies and somehow a movie set in WORLD WAR ONE ended up being the most lighthearted of the three. The Suicide Squad movie was generally better because of the humor but you could tell it was originally darker.

There's more of you?
    So, what about Justice League? I went into the movie with average expectations of, "Am I going to be entertained?" It generally exceeded these expectations but I'm going to admit it wasn't by much. This is probably because I'm actually not a huge fan of the big blockbuster-esque team up movies which Warner Brothers is copying (I didn't think the Avengers was all that great). I'm more a fan of movies which focus tightly on characters and their characterization. This movie, simply put, doesn't have enough room to do that.

    The premise is a pretty paint by the numbers video game plot. There's three Mother Boxes on Earth wanted by Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and the Justice League needs to assemble to get them before our villain invariably does. This is a really-really lazy plot and uncomfortably too close to The Avengers, so the derivativeness of the plot is doubly problematic. It's not only derivative of The Avengers but it's also the same plot of the new 52 Justice League origin where "Darkseid invaders, the JLA stops him." That wouldn't be a problem if not for the fact the new 52 Justice League origin is ALREADY a movie and wasn't great. In fact, I hated Justice League: War.

He looks more like Magog than Steppenwolf.
    I don't want to harp on what the movie is not but the big issue here is that DC comics has an array of countless villains who would have served as excellent villains to get the Justice League to team up against: 1. Vandal Savage. 2. Ra's Al Ghul. 3. White Martians. 4. Brainiac. 5. Darkseid. I'll come back to Darkseid in a bit but Steppenwolf is a doubly weird choice because he's been turned into a Generic Doomsday Villain (see TV tropes) and that's not something DC has any shortage of either (Mongul, Despero, Krona, Imperiax, the Anti-Monitor, and probably others I'm forgetting).

    The problem with Steppenwolf being the main bad guy is that its not just that he's a supporting character in the New Gods and not Darkseid himself (who would have been a real crowd-pleaser) but that the evil New Gods AREN'T generic villains. Steppenwolf has a lot of personality as a flamboyant alien super-hunter--just like all of the Apokolips bad guys do. They're cartoonish bad guys but they're certainly entertaining and have broad loud characters which translate well to the silver screen. If you're going to invade the Earth then use Desaad, Kalibak, Granny Goodness, and Darkseid. Hell, the Furies too. I mean, in what universe does a bad guy have an army of colorful female supersoldiers and you DON'T use them?

Gal Gadot looks like she's having fun.
    Yeah, I've heard the argument they don't want to blow Darkseid too soon but it seems like saving money when you are having your house foreclosed on. Either way, it means the majority of the story is on the heroes rather than the villains. Unfortunately, we don't have the build-up we needed for this movie and it doesn't follow up the events of Dawn of Justice very well. We introduce Cyborg, Aquaman, and the Flash with three sets of separate origins as well as throw in the resurrection of Superman. In short, the movie is a hot mess with no time to breathe and only a few truly good scenes.

    That doesn't mean it's not entertaining, though. I never expected Aquaman (Jason Momoa) to be as hilarious or entertaining as he is. The Flash (Ezra Miller) is a bit too similar to the show version but adds a Spiderman-esque dorkability to the story. Gal Godot's Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck's Batman both do a tremendous job and have tremendous onscreen chemistry. There's also a lot of unexpected moments in the film like J.K. Simmon's Commissioner Gordon and the touching scenes with Amy Adams' Lois Lane and Henry Cavil's Superman.

Old Bruce is a fascinating idea. It needs its own movie.
    Weirdly, my favorite part of the movie is Ben Affleck's performance as "Old Batman." Which is something that is very evident on screen. Normally, older superheroes are never portrayed as losing their edge with Sean Connery and Roger Moore playing the role well past their sell date. Here, it's very clear Ben Affleck is the senior member of the group and doesn't have his usual Bat-invincibility going for him even above and beyond the fact he's a mere mortal in a team of gods. I would be very interested in having that explored more in the story but think they kind of need to cast a Nightwing to compliment the character on that.

    The only character I feel like was a complete failure was Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) who suffers from the fact the original comic book Cyborg has a very ableist origin. Yes, it's bad to have 90% of your body destroyed but it's good to be able to walk around and enjoy life too. The fact he's another brooding character in a sea of them is also troubling. John Stewart as a Green Lantern would have worked better, I think. Probably still played by Ray Fisher who is certainly capable enough for the role. I admit to also being a bit perplexed by the fact we have the Flash on television as well as in the movies.

    In conclusion, it's not bad. It's not great but it's certainly entertaining and I hope they make an expanded addition with additional footage. This isn't the movie I wanted but I think they've reached the point where I'm happy to see the blockbusters every time they come out, even if it's only once.

7.5/10

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER is now available on audiobook!


I have a special announcement for everyone who loves my books, the best book by me since THE RULES OF SUPERVILLAINY is now available. The adventures of Jane Doe, not-so-teen detective is now available! https://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/I-Was-a-Teenage-Weredeer-Audiobook/B079Q644JN
 
Jane Doe is a weredeer, the least-threatening shapechanger species in the world. Blessed with the ability to turn furry at will and psychically read objects, Jane has done her best to live a normal life working as a waitress at the Deerlightful Diner. She has big dreams of escaping life in the supernatural-filled town of Bright Falls, Michigan, and her 18th birthday promises the beginning of her teenage dreams coming true.

Unfortunately, her birthday is ruined by the sudden murder of her best friend's sister in an apparent occult killing. Oh, and her brother is the primary suspect. Allying with an eccentric FBI agent, the local crime lord, and a snarky werecrow, Jane has her work cut out for her in turning her big day around.

Thankfully, she's game.

Set in the same world as Straight Outta Fangton.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Audiobook Reviewer award nominations!


Hey, I've been nominated for multiple audiobook awards this year. I'm very pleased to get the acknowledgement for my work and am so proud of the material done by my narrators. Thank you so very much.
https://audiobookreviewer.com/abr-listeners-award/abr-listeners-choice-awards-2018-finalists-announced/

PLEASE VOTE FOR ME IN THESE CATEGORIES:

HORROR - THE TOWER OF ZHAAL
 https://audiobookreviewer.com/abr-listeners-award/horror-2018-voting/

 It has been a year since John Henry Booth's exile from New America and the fall of the Black Cathedral. Cursed with a slow transformation into a monster, he has begun a doomed relationship with fellow escapee Mercury Halsey as they seek some way to arrest his transformation.

Dubious hope arrives in the form of the University, the deranged scientists and cultists descended from the staff of Miskatonic University. Except, their offer of help comes at a price. Having sold themselves to ancient aliens called the Yith, they wish John and Mercury to join a group of rogues in hunting down a wayward member of their faculty: a man who intends to release the last of the sleeping Great Old Ones on an already ravaged planet. If they're telling the truth, John and Mercury will be heroes. If.

The Tower of Zhaal is the second novel of the Cthulhu Armageddon series, a post-apocalypse continuation of H.P. Lovecraft's popular Cthulhu Mythos.


Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless: The Supervillain without Mercy™ returns in the fourth volume of the popular Supervillainy Saga. Having discovered the world's greatest superhero slain by his doppelganger from another reality, Merciful: The Supervillain with Mercy™, and the arrogant President Omega, Gary dedicates himself to overthrowing both. 

Unfortunately, this is harder than it looks since Merciful has all of Gary's genre savviness while President Omega has the entire brainwashed United States military behind him. In the end, though, there can be only one ruler of the world and two of these three feuding villains will have to go.

PARANORMAL - STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON

Peter Stone is a poor black vampire who is wondering where his nightclub, mansion, and sports car is. Instead, he is working a minimum wage job during the night shift as being a vampire isn’t all that impressive in a world where they’ve come out to mortals.

Exiled from the rich and powerful undead in New Detroit, he is forced to go back when someone dumps a newly-transformed vampire in the bathroom of his gas station’s store. This gets him fangs-deep in a plot of vampire hunters, supernatural revolutionaries, and a millennium-old French knight determined to wipe out the supernatural.

Sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to get out of the coffin.



.
THRILLER - AGENT G: INFILTRATOR

“Black Technology has made murder a billion dollar industry.”

The International Refugee Society has twenty-six cybernetically enhanced “Letters,” and for the right price, they’ll eliminate anyone. They’ve given up their families and their memories for ten years of service with the promise of a life of luxury awaiting them.

Agent G is one of these “Letters,” but clues to his past are starting to emerge while he’s on a dangerous mission to infiltrate the Society’s most dangerous competitor. In the midst of all the violence, subterfuge, and deceit, he’ll need to keep his wits about him and trust sparingly. After all if an organization will kill for money, what would they do to keep the truth hidden?


SCI-FI - LUCIFER'S STAR
https://audiobookreviewer.com/abr-listeners-award/science-fiction-2018-voting/ 

Cassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Interstellar Commonwealth. It was only after that he realized the side he'd been fighting for was the wrong one. Now a semi-functional navigator on an interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland.

LUCIFER'S STAR is the first novel of the Lucifer's Star series, a dark science fiction space opera set in a world of aliens, war, politics, and slavery.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Altered Carbon (2018) review


    Altered Carbon is one of my all-time favorite cyberpunk novels and is probably one of the few which I rank up with Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and Blade Runner. It's a sci-fi noir with blackmail, sex, murder, and an antihero protagonist who verges on being completely psychotic but never quite crosses the line into villain (at least until the second or third book). So, I was incredibly exited about the announcement of a series being made by Netflix. Netflix, like HBO, is one of the few networks I know who could do a proper R-rated genre story.

    I was also excited about the cast members of Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, Suicide Squad) and James Purefoy (Rome, The Following, Solomon Kane) being among the cast. Dichen Lachmen (Agents of SHIELD), Michael Eklund (Wynonna Earp) Hayley Law (Riverdale), and Will Yun Lee (Sleeping Dogs) also add a huge benefit to the show's star power even though those are mostly things only geeks like me would like. I didn't know Martha Higareda before this show but her role as Detective Ortega makes me want to see her in anything else she does.

Nice bits from the book.
    The premise of the books and the show is the future has successfully conquered death. Sort of. There's no guarantee it's "you" who is reincarnated but your memories and personalities can be stored on discs called Stacks.  If you die without your Stack being destroyed then you can be put in a new body and some rich people have their consciousness backed up every 48 hours. Takeshi Kovacs is an anarchist-inclined criminal and former supersoldier who, after being "killed", finds himself awakened two centuries later by the absurdly rich Laurens Bancroft who puts him to solving the ultimate case: who "killed" him and make it look like a suicide.

    So, was it good? Yeah, sort of. No, let me be fair, it's really-really good. However, it's a good which isn't as good as the novel because it goes off the rails toward the end due to the fact they want to streamline the story as well as improve it in places. This isn't always a bad thing as I consider Blade Runner to be far better than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Here, however, all of the changes basically seem to be designed to make the story more personal when it didn't really need to be personal at all. Its changes can be likened to changing the Maltese Falcon to having Gutman turn out to be Sam Spade's long lost brother and making sure the villains get locked up at the end. You can do it well but it's a bit contrived, to say the least. It isn't a spoiler that fans of the books will find Takeshi Kovacs much-much closer to the events of the setting than he is in the books and this is annoying single time it happens.

Martha Higareda is gorgeous and tough at once.
    For example, in the show continuity, Takeshi is an Envoy in the service of the Quellist Revolution. Quellcrist Falconer is his lover and his sister is Reileen Kawahara, who is also a member of the revolution. Quellcrist Falconcer is the inventor of sleeving technology and believes it's innately evil so that people should only have one life. If you're a fan of the book, you'll know where all of this is deeply wrong and throws a lot of later canon deeply out of whack. Particularly of note, in the third book, Takeshi is searching for the stack of his one true love and she's permanently killed in the opening seconds of the show.

    Generally, though, this is very much in the spirit of the books and is all about the class struggle and misuse of technology by the super rich. In the future, most of humanity lives in squallor and while Methuselah (those who are centuries old) engage in their most depraved fantasies. Deprived of any fear of death or judgement by the apparent immortality which Stacks provide, they have all seemingly become evil psychopaths. That's a bit blunter than the books where Laurens Bancroft is a dirty old lecher but not the monstrous deviant he is in the show but hammers on the themes of the book--which is money is a trap that all of society has fallen into.

Miriam is a bit disappointing.
    The show has a lot of excellent world-building, sets, and character development that unfolds in mostly believable ways. I bought the Takeshi Kovacs/Kristine Ortega romance better in the show than I did in the book. Indeed, so much that I want to see more of it despite how against the books themes it would be. There's a bunch of great action sequences spread throughout the story and they're both vicious as well as bloody. You really come to buy Takeshi as the most badass man alive while never completely entering the world of Arnold and Stallone.

    There's a couple of weak links in the show like Kristin Lehman who has the unenviable task of trying to portray the World's Most Beautiful and Desirable WomanTM. That's a heavy task in itself but is also coupled with the fact she's supposed to be a genius and incredibly dangerous but never rises above petty in her scenes. There's also a few unnecessary subplots which seemed designed to make us care about characters right before they're killed. The series also seems very skeptical of Sleeving technology, which is weird since the books aren't even though it is very off-kilter technology (and amounts to mental cloning writ large).

He needs to get to work on Sleeping Dogs 2, stat.
    There's copious amounts of nudity in this series, mostly but not exclusively female, and it is sometimes extremely appealing while other times not. It's a noir story with the exploitation of women as one of the themes so it's appropriate. Still, I would have preferred more use of it during the "sexy" scenes with Miriam, Kovacs, and Ortega than just thrown out randomly left and right.

    In conclusion, I very much enjoyed Altered Carbon the series but it didn't hold itself together for all ten episodes. The show is entertaining but tried too much to make it entwined with Takeshi's personal life and past when it was perfectly serviceable as a murder mystery he's roped into. In any case, I recommend it to all cyberpunk fans but note it's not perfect.

8/10

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Exclusive Interview with Michael R. Fletcher

 Hey folks,
 

This is a great opportunity for the United Federation of Charles as we got a chance to interview one of our favorite cyberpunk authors. Michael R. Fletcher is one of the best indie authors currently available and writing some of the darkest fiction out there. 

One of these is Ghosts of Tomorrow, which is the story about a near-future humanity that has successfully managed to crack A.I (sort of). They can't create genuine A.I but can copy human brains into computers called Scans. Unfortunately, the process kills the individual host and the demand for their commercial value results in a huge spike in human trafficking. What follows is a bloody battle between cartels, cyborgs, deranged transhumanist billionaires, and special agents.



It's a great book and we get to discuss some of its elements here and what's coming up next.

1. So, Michael, what drew you to the dark and edgier style of fantasy and sci-fi? Some people have said you write some of the most grimdark of grimdark works.

I grew up reading dark fantasy. Michael Moorcock’s Stormbringer books were absolutely critical in shaping my understanding of fantasy. The doomed hero. The anti-hero. The oh-shit-there-is-no-hero.

I never gave darkness (or grimdarkness) much thought. When I get an idea for a story, I chase the story, do my best to tell it like it happens in my head. It just so happens that (so far) the themes driving my books have been kinda dark.  It’s coincidence! I could write something bright and fluffy! Maybe I will! After I finish the next two dark fantasy novels.

2. Could you tell us about your works?


Uh... No! Ok. Fine. Ummmm... Here’s a quick glimpse at each book...

Ghosts of Tomorrow: Near future science fiction with a dash of dystopia. Due to the failure of AI, we scan minds (a destructive process) to be used as computers. One young autistic girl is scanned unleashing her full and devastating potential.

Beyond Redemption: In a land where belief defines reality and the insane are capable of twisting the world with their delusions, one man thinks he can make his own god. Three reprobates kidnap the boy/god, thinking to hold him for ransom, and things go badly for everyone.

The Mirror’s Truth
(sequel to BR): Talking about this one will give things away I’d rather not. So if you read and enjoy Beyond Redemption, you’re probably gonna like this one too. Though rumour has it the sequel might be a tad darker, a touch more insane.

Swarm and Steel: Set in the same world as Beyond Redemption, this is an unrelated standalone novel. A cannibal and a corpse set out to destroy an evil religion and destroy Swarm, the hell it created.

3. My favorite of your books is GHOSTS OF TOMORROW, what inspired this dystopian sci-fi cartels with ninja cowboy cyborgs and autistic AI universe?


Many years ago a group of my friends decided to rent a car (with an unlimited mileage deal) and drive to Mexico. We drove from London, Ontario to Matamoros in Mexico. In three days we put over six thousand miles on our rental car, dipped our feet in the gulf of Mexico, got drunk, bought ponchos and sombreros, and made it back home in time for class on Monday.

Matamoros is a long way (on so many levels) from the small Southern Ontario towns I grew up in. I remember seeing streets comprised almost entirely of what appeared to be dentistries. That visual stuck with me for years.

At some point I imagined a future where neuro-science became as easy and popular as dentistry. I imagines streets lined with back-alley neuro-surgeries where people could wander in off the street to have their personalities modded. Strangely, none of that made it into the final version of the book.

4. Would you say Ghosts of Tomorrow is cyberpunk?


Ghosts very much started as me trying to write Snow Crash, so yeah, it’s gotta be cyberpunk of some flavour. These days the genre seems to have fallen into disfavour, though I find that strange as we move ever closer to living that reality.

5. Some people have asked whether it makes sense Scans can't be copied (at least until someone cracks the technology). Do you think there's fair criticism and audiences just have to suspend their disbelief or do you think there's a good reason its impossible?

Some people? Who? Point the bastards out! Wait. Was it you?  I think that’s a fair criticism. I’m not a scientist or a computer engineer or a neurologist, or even terribly well-educated. Mostly I dream things up and run with ‘em.

For the story I wanted to tell to work, I needed creating Scans to be imperfect, and copying Scans to be difficult. I wanted there to be some degradation with each new generation. Lokner2.0 just wouldn’t have been the same character had be been a perfect copy of the original man.

6. One of the themes is the horror of being a Scan trapped in a metal body but later we find out they have virtual environments to live "normal" lives. Is this a thing which can keep them from going insane or is it a poor substitute?

Virtual reality was intended to be their escape. In fact, in the very first version of the book, way back in 2008, there was an epilogue where we saw a glimpse of planet earth millions of years in the future, devoid of life, covered in machines dedicated to running the VR systems housing hundreds of billions of souls all living in various virtual environments. I had some weird plan for writing a sequel taking place in that future. The scene got cut and my  plans for a sequel sidelined by other novels.

7. The trade in Scans seems like a thinly disguised metaphor for human trafficking. Would you agree with that and if so, why make them the villains?


Thinly… Whaaaaa?  Actually, I’m not sure it’s disguised at all. I tend to stay away from good-guys and bad-guys. All the characters are doing what they think is right. The Scans aren’t villains. Abdul (Scan) worked with Griffin (human) to stop the brain-trade, to shut down black market crèches. Archaeidae (dude on the sweet cover) starts out as a Mafia assassin and later dedicated himself to trying to protect 88. Mark Lokner comes off as the villain, but even he is trying to build a better future based on his reading of a failing reality.

8. Do you consider the Scans to be the people they were created from (perhaps through quantum information) or are they just copies or does it not matter?


I consider them people, though, in the context of the novel, they are imperfect copies of the original. So they aren’t the people they were, but they aren’t mindless robots either. They are a breed of artificial intelligence based on humanity.  The story takes place early on in the evolution of scanning technology. I see no reason why the technology wouldn’t improve.

9. Will we be seeing a sequel?


My plan was always for this to be a trilogy. The sudden and wholly unexpected sale of Beyond Redemption to Harper Voyager back in 2014 sidelined everything and focussed me on other novels. I have a couple of new series I’m working on, but once I have the first books finished, and after I’ve written the last Manifest Delusions novel, I’d like to get started on the Ghosts sequel. I see a war between 88 and the rest of humanity. I see Archaeidae’s growth continuing as he learns the true cost and horror of death.

I see betrayal.

10. Do you have any recommendation of other grimdark authors?


My faves: Jeff Salyards, Brian Staveley (SkullSworn is amazing), Anna Smith-Spark, Mark Lawrence, and D.G Valdron (go find The Mermaid’s Tale, it’s amazing). There are more, but I gotta go to work soon.

11. How would you define grimdark?


Whiskey and grilled cheese. I dunno. I don’t give genres much thought. I write the book, someone else decides what it is. Does the beer taste like warm horse piss? If yes, you’re probably in a grimdark world.

12. What's your next book?


I have two books on the go. I just received feedback from my agent on City of Sacrifice, a weird blend of African and Central American influences, and am rewriting/editing based on her suggestions. She’s currently reading The Obsidian Path, which is loosely based on a decade-long Stormbringer (Chaosium) campaign I ran back in the 90s. Not sure which will see the light of day first.

Thanks Michael!