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Faith of Our Fathers: The Utterly Mad Genius of Phillip K Dick

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First featured in Harlan Ellison’s groundbreaking sci-fi anthology Dangerous Visions– all the way back from 1967 (years before I was even born), Faith of Our Fathers is a maddeningly brilliant short story that showcases Phillip K Dick’s abilities to tell both an intriguing tale while warping one’s sense of reality- it’s like taking a literary drug and hallucinating on every page, leaving the reader bewildered and subjected to withdrawal symptoms long after they read it.

Who was Phillip K Dick you say? Ever heard of the movies Blade Runner (and its awesome sequel) or Total Recall? How about Spielberg’s Minority Report or the TV show Man in the High Castle? Each of these shows were based on his stories. PKD died from a series of strokes back in 1982, just as he was on the verge of mainstream recognition when the Blade Runner movie was about to be released- sadly it wasn’t a box office hit, and who knows how he might have taken it.

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PKD had a reputation as an acid writer, science fiction’s own version of Hunter S Thompson. In his most prolific years, he would take massive doses of amphetamines and lock himself in a room to bang out sixty pages a day in order to make deadlines. It’s even possible that PKD may have been mentally ill, for he experienced hallucinations and paranoia in key periods of his life and these affected his works very deeply. If the best writers are tortured geniuses, then PKD exemplifies this. Dick was always living at or near poverty, for being a full time sci-fi writer in those days meant a literal hand to mouth existence. He had dreams of mainstream literary success, but it all came to naught when his unpublished manuscripts were returned to him in 1963. After that, he wrote for pennies, because sci-fi was too niche for the likes of serious money.

Mostly, he wrote of themes centered on the perception of reality- a metaphysical question on whether one’s senses were truly telling them that what they could see, hear, or feel. Dick believed that one’s reality is based on perception; altering one’s senses will change the universe. In a way, each of his fictional protagonists would go on a quest to try and find the heart of the matter as to what they were experiencing. To PKD, everything one sees or interacts with may just be illusions or hidden beneath something else, this even includes the entire world. What you think is real can change at any moment.

Faith of Our Fathers starts out innocently enough as just another alternate universe story, in which a typical government functionary in a world where the communists won the Cold War- and are busy conquering everybody- is stopped by a street peddler, a disabled war veteran who forces him to buy a seemingly innocuous herbal remedy. What follows afterwards is not one, not two, but rather three upending  plot twists and ends up becoming so convoluted that I began to question my own sanity after finishing it.

PKD’s hallmarks of illusion and the warping of reality is on full display here, as the protagonist suddenly realizes the drug he took was in fact an anti-drug, an antidote to the hallucinogens he was already being exposed to from drinking the city’s spiked water supply that everyone consumes. This leads him to a meeting with the all-powerful Communist Party leader, who is at first suspected to be an alien, but is later exposed as God. In the hands of a lesser writer, this could have been worked to become as just a straight-forward story about the perils of a world being taken over by an oppressive economic and political system, but PKD didn’t stop there, he kept pushing it past the ordinary limit by introducing what could have been an extraterrestrial element before finally flipping the story on its head a third time by making the alien into the lord of all creation.

Its these kinds of mind-bending twists that PKD specialized in, and I believe this is why he is considered to be one of the all-time great sci-fi writers. Much of his work is being reprinted and digitized, so any serious fan of the genre should check them out.

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Piranha Solution Trivia

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1. The name Stilicho Jones was taken from Cirocco Jones, the protagonist of John Varley’s seminal sci-fi novel Titan

2. Stilicho is also named after Flavius Stilicho, one of Rome’s last great generals, who was desperately trying to keep the empire from being conquered by the barbarians at their gates.

3. Karl Rossum is named after Karel Capek, the novelist/playwright who helped (along with his brother) invent the term “robot” in his 1921 play RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which is also the name of his company in the novel.

4. Errol Flux is obviously based on Elon Musk (duh!)

5. ACE Corp is a play on ACME Corporation, the company that Wile E. Coyote frequently buys products from in his never ending attempt to catch the Roadrunner in Looney Tunes. The main difference being is that ACE Corp products actually work.

6. Mars First is based on Mars One.

7. PETR (People for the Ethical Treatment of Robots) is based on PETA.

8. ACE Corp’s transporter rocket is based on the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System.

9. Silas Balsamic was supposed to be named Silas Florescent, but the name was way too silly.

10. There was supposed to be a subplot involving aerial blimps on Mars, but after consulting with space enthusiasts, it was proven that the Martian atmospheric pressure was too thin for use of practical airship designs, so the idea was abandoned.

11. The smartglass devices are based on a more advanced version of Google Glass.

12. The skinsuits everyone wears are based on the MIT Biosuit. It is a skintight suit that uses mechanical counterpressure to enable the wearer to survive in low-pressure environments.

13. The interplanetary spacecraft that bring the transporter ships to Mars are based on NERVA (Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application) drive designs.  NASA had plans for a Mars mission in 1978 and would have utilized this highly efficient and reliable drive on their Saturn V rockets had the project not been canceled in favor of the Space Shuttle.

14. Much of the research for the novel was taken from the Atomic Rockets web-blog. This site is a highly useful resource for sci-fi authors who want to add more realism to their works.

The sequel to this book is now out on pre-order!

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Glooming

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Spoilers Ahead!

Since I’m a writer who writes without a plan, I made a lot of changes from my original concept on writing Book 1 of the Wrath of the Old Gods series. If you haven’t read The Glooming yet, you might not want to read any of these entries!

 

  1. Patrick Gyle’s original name was Blake Rockatansky and vice versa– yes, I was in sort of my Mad Max mode when I made up the name for him. I ultimately changed it to make it a little less convoluted. Patrick Gyle was supposed to be the leader of the black ops team in the museum, but I switched their names at the last minute.

 

  1. Patrick Gyle was supposed to die in Chapter 1- yes, I had originally planned for poor old Gyle to get killed at the end of the first chapter. But later on as I kept writing, I realized I needed to have a character in that region who would act as a focal point to the story so I kept bringing him back for another chapter hoping to kill him off at the end. But then it just snowballed until he made it to the end of the book! He just wouldn’t die!

 

  1. The chapters regarding the racism was written as tongue in cheek- yes, there were some complaints about some of the very nasty racists in a few of the chapters, but I had never planned on intentionally making a big deal out of it. I wrote those chapters with an eye for comedy, albeit more black comedy than slapstick!

 

  1. Ilya was supposed to end up in Sweden and find Thor’s hammer- yes, at one point I actually wrote a chapter that Ilya had escaped from Baba Yaga’s hut and into the snow stormed lands of Sweden, right near the base of the mountain where the giants attacked the UN research team. I decided against that plotline simply because it seemed to turn a post-apocalyptic novel into a superhero book.

 

  1. The Mexican drug lord was supposed to die- yes, the Aztec demons were supposed to tear his guts out at the end of the chapter. I don’t know why I decided to make it look like an ambiguous end for him with the possibility that he might still be alive, but it all worked out since he does return in Book 3!

 

  1. The original cover artwork of the book looked like this:

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Yes, that’s right … asteroids!

 

  1. Larry was supposed to be a nice guy- yes, I had originally planned for Larry and Tara to be sort of a older man, younger teen team that would end up fighting evil skinwalkers in the southwest. The end result sure turned out differently!

 

  1. The main villain of the book was supposed to be Tlaloc, the Aztec Rain God- yes, you can clearly sense the rains in New York when Valerie stumbles upon the Aztec cult in Manhattan. But in the end, I just couldn’t find a plausible way to bring all the characters together for a final battle in Mexico.

 

  1. All the characters were supposed to meet each other just before the climax- yes, I had originally planned for like a gathering of superheroes like The Fellowship of the Ring or Marvel’s The Avengers, but there was just no way any of them could have plausibly ended up meeting up in such a short time.

 

  1. The whole book was written in less than 8 weeks- yes, when I am inspired I could write quite a lot of words in a short time. My original plan was to publish the book sometime in early 2016, around March, but it ended up going live in December of 2015.

 

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of trivia, Book 3 of Wrath of the Old Gods will be going live soon!

It’s Not Just Any Apocalypse, It’s a Pagan One!

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I wrote this up as a complete stand-alone novel so one doesn’t need to read the other books in the Wrath of the Old Gods series in order to understand it. So unless I get a multi-million dollar publishing contract that says otherwise, the e-book version will remain free. I’ve included a number of Easter eggs that readers of the entire series will notice since some of the characters depicted in this book will appear in the other books as well. The storyline is also tighter, since there’s only one protagonist, unlike the main books, which have multiple main characters.

All in all, I had a great time writing it, took me only two weeks to finish it too. I seem to write faster when I put a book together in first person than when I do something in third person. I hope you all enjoy it. The sequel (which will be Book 2.5 in the overall series) will be written soon and will probably be released sometime this year.

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There will be a Glooming this Christmas…

 

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My newest novel is completed and will be available on pre-order on Amazon in a few days with the official release date on December 18th. I am switching genres slightly, this time it’s the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic books and I pulled out all the stops. At over 120,000 words this is the longest manuscript I have ever completed. Multiple main characters, lots of action and touches on everything from war, horror, politics, mythology, religion, immigration, gods, demons and what it means to be human. I hope it can find an audience so I can finish writing the rest.