Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Persian Tinderbox

A recent "vote" highlights the tenuousness of free elections in the modern world—all us who hold true liberal democracy in high regard—and gives us pause to consider what we enjoy. We may be split on election day, and have watercooler debates, but at the end of the day we're all Americans and proud of what we've achieved these past two centuries.

It is important to not forget another "experiment" in recent decades, that of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A failed experiment perhaps, but educated Iranians want and desire true "change" and freedom from repression in the guise of the pious Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It's easy to superimpose our values on one of the oldest civilizations on earth; we expect modern Iranians to blindly "like us" and be our friends in a region of the planet heavily exploited by past empires. We forget the true or perceived grievances many ordinary Iranians hold.

A common dialogue between our two cultures is gravely needed to get past the differences and our pie-in-the-sky Pollyannaism. Everyday news out of Iran does not look particularly promising, and the violence against ordinary citizens continues there unabated. Explicitly frightening is the measured takeover of public and private Iranian assets by the Revolutionary Guard, self-styled thugs whose tendrils threaten to overthrow whatever shreds of a republic exists and slowly rot Iran from within. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not be the Supreme Leader, but he shows every sign of emulating Saddam Hussein's military dictatorship. An Iranian war is already underway, and it appears to be inside its own borders. I postulate a future Iran in Ether ruled by a dynastic thug whose origins are rooted in the Revolutionary Guard. Iran is a nation of many splintered peoples, held tight by an increasingly deplorable state apparatus spiraling towards tyranny, much like Iraq once.

If you were President of the United States, what would you do?

Further Reading:

Profile: Iran's Revolutionary Guards

Iran: Where did all the votes come from?

Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanks for the laughs.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Jaunt Cast Bio, Part VI

It's been a while since I posted bios, so here's the IIA supporting cast who helped our heroes in the action:

Section Manager Grant F. “Chief” Louris. Badge number 4876842665380. Born in New York. Age 52, DOB 03.01.2092. Heads the Global Intelligence Directorate of the Washington Bureau, Section Manager of Gilmour, Mason, McKean and Constantine. Reports directly to the IIA Assistant Director Leeds. Married. 5' 11".

Special Agent Neal A. McKean. Badge number 5988284549870. Age 29, DOB 12.05.2116. Born in Michigan. Special Agent in the Global Intelligence Directorate of the Washington Bureau. Uses a fifteen-round, 9mm semi-automatic RT-01/9V pistol and IIA-version voxlink with ground-to-space connection to the Global Security Network and a standard-issue IIA holobook capable of two-way weblink with IIA HQ in D.C. Engaged. 5’ 7”.

Special Agent Lawrence W. Constantine, Jr. Badge number 5988346808433. Age 30, DOB 08.26.2114. Born in Iowa. Special Agent in the Global Intelligence Directorate of the Washington Bureau. Uses a fifteen-round, 9mm semi-automatic Glock SuperXeO pistol and IIA-version voxlink with ground-to-space connection to the Global Security Network and a standard-issue IIA holobook capable of two-way weblink with IIA HQ in D.C. Single. 6’ 3”.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! JauntWorld is two years old today!

Sunday, October 4, 2009


"The exact nature of dark energy is a matter of speculation. It is known to be very homogeneous, not very dense and is not known to interact through any of the fundamental forces other than gravity. Since it is not very dense — roughly 10−29 grams per cubic centimeter — it is hard to imagine experiments to detect it in the laboratory. Dark energy can only have such a profound impact on the universe, making up 74% of universal density, because it uniformly fills otherwise empty space. The two leading models are quintessence and the cosmological constant. Both models include the common characteristic that dark energy must have negative pressure.

"Negative pressure does not influence the gravitational interaction between masses - which remains attractive - but rather alters the overall evolution of the universe, typically resulting in the accelerating expansion of the universe despite the attraction among the masses present in the universe."

Friday, September 4, 2009

In Search of... a MacGuffin

Hitchcock employed the term "MacGuffin" as the mechanical element that crops up in any story, usually of no importance, simply driving the plot along, whereas George Lucas describes it as powerful, the audience caring about it as much as the heroes and villains.

I subscribe to the latter. JauntWorld, being essentially a sci-fi thriller, needs the strong MacGuffin to be the impetus for the plot to develop, and the protagonists and antagonists to struggle over.

The timebending alien jewels in Jaunt are more powerful than any technology humanity had yet developed, and of course are threaded throughout the story. How I invented these jewels are lost to the crooks and folds of my brain, but they were an early story device from the first sketches of what was then "Temporal Retrieve."

Ether needed its MacGuffin, and that is provided by the suitably mysterious property of spacetime termed "dark energy," its effects first described in 1998.

Until the MacGuffin decides to rear its head, there is no story, simple as that. Although, a kernel was recently planted for the finale....

Further Reading:


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Handling Criticism

I don't claim to be perfect—far from it. Anyone who places a work in public opens him or herself up to criticism, be it constructive or negative. I value any review of my work; it makes me a better creator. Learning from constructive criticism is part and parcel of the creation process, just as much as picking up that pen or pencil, typing on that blank page or computer screen and all the way to the final product, framed or bound.

I am just a small-time writer/artist, wanting to contribute back to this world, so I refuse to subscribe to the viewpoint that creators should be above criticism, particularly the wealthier and more famous one becomes. That doesn't mean a negative review doesn't sting. Questioning grammar, syntax and other aspects of writing construction are valid criticisms; some people just don't read the words on the page like I write them in my head. I suppose a good editor is called for in that instance, and in my case, yes, I do not have one at my disposal, which is my call (or better yet, my savings account's). I recently read a critique questioning choices I made in regards to writing Jaunt, one of which goes beyond constructive criticism to pondering my subconscious as I was writing the story. I will take that into consideration.

So I say, thank you. Thank you for strengthening my creative suit of armor. I am certain there will be more critics out there pondering my subconscious in the future as I create better, more self-satisfying stories. Because, in the end, that's what it is all about. I can please only one person in this world, and that person is me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jaunt and New 2 Shorts (+1) on Smashwords

JauntWorld has joined the burgeoning ranks of Smashwords, a new site for a multitude of ebook formats (ten, at last count). The technology is still in its infancy, and while I'm not quite satisfied with the formating issues I've faced presenting Jaunt and 2 Shorts on Smashwords, embracing the new and getting exposure is the way to go. And as an added incentive, 2 Shorts has an exclusive new weird short added to it, "Neptune Diamond," so I've retitled this collection 2 Shorts (+1) to distinguish it from its Lulu original. Price is whatever you care to pay, so check them out!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fantasy Debut

The first chapter of Jaunt is currently being featured on the Fantasy Debut blog's Discovery Showcase for first-time and self-published authors! While not a strictly fantasy blog, it gives those of us with genre fiction titles a chance to be read, and potentially, to have the word spread of our efforts. Check it out!

And thanks to Tia for showcasing Jaunt!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Korean Finger Trap

1991 saw the collapse of the USSR into its constituent republics, a victory for the Western world, or so we all thought. Nearly twenty years on and Eastern foreign policy is a nightmare of dozens of regional crises all ruled over by a spectrum of fairly friendly governments (at least capable of doing business with) to downright hostile regimes. One more Cold War relic, however, has yet to thaw: North Korea. And when it does, some year, the consequences could be dire, not just for South Korea, as everyone assumes, but China as well.

Kim Jong-il's recent, still rumored, stroke put him out of the "public" eye for a few months this past autumn and winter. While he rules as Commander-in-Chief (his late father, Kim il-Sung, is still technically President of the state) the Dear Leader can't live forever, despite his "divinity." I postulate in my JauntWorld timeline a disaster effectively removing the Kim Dynasty from power some time in the nearly distant future, a vacuum filled by the military. This would have repercussions not just politically, but economically. No country with its lid welded on as tightly as North Korea's simply goes from bad to good; a real-life lesson was the ex-USSR; we've all seen how well that's worked out. If the various cadres and parties in North Korea were to be suddenly freed from the Kims, chances are the People's Republic would be carved out into dozens of fiefdoms at the mercy of any strongman (generals, perhaps), a medieval scenario no respectable or responsible outside country would want on their foreign policy plates. China and South Korea would be flooded with refugees and old scores would be settled (post-America Vietnam, anyone?). The chances China or even Russia would intervene to "keep the peace"—as those two nations have done so brilliantly in the separatist Uighur and South Ossetia enclaves—are quite high.

We ignore the Kim succession plan at our own peril.

Update, 04/09: He's appeared in public, and he's not looking too hot.

Further Reading:

Who Will Succeed North Korea's Kim Jong-il?

Profile: Kim Jong-il

North Korean Leader Appears In Public

Friday, March 20, 2009


The world today sometimes seems eerily eager to be the prologue for the fictional world of tomorrow. Russia's recent "August War" in Georgia and President Medvedev's pronouncements of military rearmament are clear signs that the Bear is desperate to show it still has teeth, albeit in need of serious dental work. This does not mean, though, that Russia has ceased to be a threat or to become the one they are presented as in Jaunt. The "Confederation of Independent States" were borne out of internal collapse and external strife, mainly economic, political and environmental. Seen in the light of the world's economic recession—the burst bubble of credit and profligate greed—the dire circumstances in the JauntWorld backstory don't seem to be all that unreasonable, or unfathomable.

Further Reading:

Russia Announces Rearmament Plan

Advancing, Blindly

Poor Little Rich Kids

Russian Military Rearmament Plan Pits Politics Against Economics

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

IPTP Agent Maya Is Ready For Action!

Over at IPTP Agent Maya, the long-awaited first two adventures of Agent Maya are now for sale! Go on over and check them out!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Armchair Interviews Reviews Jaunt!

Online book review site Armchair Interviews has provided the second review of Jaunt!

"Special Agent James Gilmour is on a mission unlike any other. He must travel through space and time to prevent the enemy from creating a super weapon and destroying all of humanity following the discovery of three caches of jewels with mystical powers. The jewels, discovered in Asia in an area where an extraterrestrial crash occurred during a previous world war, have the unusual ability to alter time.

Gilmour, the main character, is a courageous and dedicated agent who overcomes his distrust of his assignment to travel through time in an effort to save the world. His brave and stoic nature is portrayed through his words and actions throughout the storyline.

Although the idea behind the story is intriguing, I found this book very difficult to get involved in. Although I am an avid sci-fi fan, the fact that this story’s plot revolves around different nations here on earth, rather than different planets throughout the universe, made it somewhat difficult to believe as science fiction. The story is placed a meager 200 years in the future, at which time humanity has many advanced technologies and even the newly discovered capability of time travel, yet Russia is leading a confederation against the rest of the world.

With the exception of Agent Gilmore, I struggled with character believability in this novel. The characters seemed to have similar traits, and I did not feel that they stood out with their own distinguishing personalities. There were many different characters throughout the story and at times it became difficult to remember which individual played which role.

The author, Erik Kreffel, lives in Indiana. His website has interesting information about Ether, the upcoming sequel to Jaunt, and link to order the e-book.

Armchair Interviews says: Perhaps as much drama/fiction as sci-fi."

Check out armchairinterviews.com!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

JauntWorld, Year 2

JauntWorld begins year 2 in 2009! With all the turmoil in my personal life, I'm looking forward to finishing the first draft of Ether and finally releasing the first two Agent Maya books after much delay (not due to writing, mind, just scheduling time to fit them in). The crucial last act of Ether is still to be committed to paper (or hard drive) but the impetus is there!

A further project I have begun is the gathering and editing of a book honoring my father's artwork and illustrations, tentatively titled Kreffel: A Life in Gags, that I will be self-publishing through Lulu.com in the future, with all proceeds benefitting charity. This volume (one of a projected work of volumes, more likely) will be all his black and white comic strips, panels, magazine and editorial work created in the nearly four decades of his career, starting from late high school, his years in the US Army, Indiana Bell Yellow Pages advertising and his final decades in freelancing. This is a monumental task, as he was extremely prolific, and scanning all this linework in is a job unto itself! It's a labor of love, though, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy 2009!