2021/03/08

Robot Fighters Return!

One big disadvantage that dissidents labor under is a strong individualist streak. This affinity for rugged self-reliance is often bandied about as a virtue, but in a social climate where the dominant opposition's M.O. is to isolate, polarize, and freeze targets, that virtue becomes a vice.

A few of the more adaptable figures in the counterculture have figured out that banding together to pool talents, customer bases, and information will be essential to making a cultural impact. The Geek Gab show, hosted by the esteemed Daddy Warpig and the redoubtable Dorrinal has consistently embraced that approach.

It's always a joy to drop in for a chat with my colleagues. I made one such return this past Saturday. Listen to the stream, where DW, Dorrinal, and I talk gaming and my latest mecha thriller Combat Frame XSeed: S.

Catch the Gab here:


In related news, my incredible backers have met our second stretch goal. Series 5 Combat Frame XSeed trading cards are now available on the campaign page.

That also means our third stretch goal is now funding, and XSeed fans should get a kick out of this one. Readers of the novels often ask me where they can find the CFXS short stories I've published through past campaigns and in scattered anthologies. The answer will be "All in one handy volume" when we fund the Combat Frame XSeed short story collection.

Combat Frame XSeed Short Story Collection

This highly requested compilation will include a collection shorts previously available only through Indiegogo or sundry anthologies, some of which are now hard to track down. All of them will be made available through the XSeed: SS campaign in one print and digital volume when we reach $4,000.

Here's the planned list:

  • "CY 2 Gaiden"
  • "CY 20 Interlude
  • "CY 60 Coda"
  • "Anacyclosis"
  • "F-cell Overture"
  • An all-new XSeed short story!
That's almost 200 pages of white-knuckle reading - a whole XSeed novel's worth!

But every book needs a title, and I need your help. Brainstorm names for the new XSeed collection, and post your best contender in the comments. Then head to the campaign page ad back the book!

Combat Frame XSeed: SS 313%

2021/03/05

Cults of Conduct

code

Dissident creators' invisibility to the movers and shakers in Conservative circles has hobbled right-wing advances in the culture war for decades. "Culture War" is frankly inaccurate, since a war presumes more than one side fighting. The wholesale capture of Western institutions by the Death Cult has been a cultural rout.

Conservatives' hidebound overreliance on using facts and logic against an enemy that wholly embraces rhetoric and propaganda - increasingly to the exclusion of reason - has ceded all legacy institutions to delusional fanatics.

Have a look at the code of conduct adopted adopted by one of the Cult's yearly conclaves. It's a mad tea party in a gulag. That anyone is expected to think a gathering of sane human beings could be governed by such nebulous, arbitrary, contradictory, and paranoid dictates is a humiliation ritual in itself.

Therein lies a fascinating paradox at the heart of the Death Cult. Their rejection of truth makes them quite good at infiltrating and subverting organizations. Relying entirely on emotional appeals lets them attack the Right's blind spot.

The Cult's problem is that reason is how you make sure your beliefs jibe with reality. The same fanaticism that enables their conquest also ensures their utter incompetence at running the institutions they conquer.

This is why every company, brand, club, and school co-opted by the Death Cult is rapidly reduced to a hollowed-out mockery of its former glory. A convention where Boomers with poor hygiene used to get together and talk about Heinlein has now been warped into a convocation of Thulsa Doom's snake cult. Common-sense rules about leaving an area like you found it and not letting arguments about FTL travel devolve into fistfights have given way to esoteric, amoeba-like precepts intelligible only to Cult insiders.

Functional, cohesive organizations have no need of such granular micromanaging. Here's the web site for Comiket, Japan's largest anime convention. They've got lots of Covid precautions this year, which is understandable. But what you won't find on their site is a draconian code of conduct meant to anticipate and regulate attendees' every thought. That is how a rational society with shared understandings operates.

That's the Left's blind spot. They're so laser-focused on the present that they never stop to think about the second order effects of their actions. In fact, they don't stop to think at all. Not to let Conservatives off the hook. Losing to overgrown toddlers for fifty years hardly recommends them. In terms of cultural dominance, blindness to art is worse than blindness to logic.

The blindness to art among Conservative influencers and money men is a curse the Right will have to break to have any hope of steering civilization away from the cliff. #1 bestselling author and comics creator Jon Del Arroz discussed this problem, and many other pop culture subjects, on his live stream last night.


And be sure to back my latest mecha thriller Combat Frame XSeed: SS, live now on Idiegogo. All backers get the first two S Series eBooks, plus a free XSeed short story. We're close to unlocking our trading card stretch goal, so help us hit 300% and claim your rewards now!

Combat Frame XSeed: SS 258

2021/03/04

Toys in the Attic

The Eyes in the Walls - David V. Stewart

It's high time we had another tale of high strangeness on this blog. Today's hackle-raising account comes courtesy of author David V. Stewart.

This sort of thing actually inspired one of my books - Eyes in the Walls.

At my old house one time the attic light came on by itself, and I had to go up there with a .357 and check every corner of the massive thing.

When we moved in we found a weird Rube Goldberg machine hidden in a corner of the attic, along with a pile of beer cans.

Needless to say when that light was on my imagination went wild.

It was nothing in the attic.

It turns out the pull switch on my light was stuck, then got unstuck because of a temperature change or something, which made it click on. 

At least that's the working theory.

What did we imagine?

Well we imagined that somebody was living secretly in the attic. We had a big pull down trapdoor in the garage. We saw the light leaking out around the edges and freaked out.

Why would someone be in our attic?

What if it was the kid who used to live here?

The kid who built the Rube Goldberg machine in a hidden corner, who stacked up beer cans in the crawl space.

There was a post in the garage where his mom and dad measured him each year. They stopped at year 10.

But we knew the person we bought the house from had lived there 30 years. she got a divorce at some point because the deed was changed - we always figured that was when the measuring stopped, the divorce.

But what if it was something else?

What if the kid went missing?

what if something else happened and he snuck back in to live in his old house, but kept it a secret from his mom.

Maybe his parents tried to kill him.

Maybe there was something really really wrong with him...

We also found these little sculptures of shotgun shells glued together to make funny geometric shapes, like something out of a Lovecraft story. when the previous owner moved out she left all these things behind and never searched the attic or crawl spaces.

Anyway all these weird possibilities went through my mind as I stalked over the rafters with a maglite in one hand in my Colt Python in the other.

Sometimes I would hear the exhaust fan kick on in the attic. I thought it was automatic...

Maybe the kid was getting too warm.

Maybe they were places that I never found.

Anyway the idea ultimately inspired this book, but the ending is not what you think!

What do you think was behind the strangeness in David's attic? Post your theories in the comments, read David's book for his answer, and be sure to check in on the Combat Frame XSeed: SS campaign. We've added some hot-ticket perks, and round 3 of polling to pick our Series 5 trading cards is underway!

Vote for your favorite mech, claim your sweet perks, and support indie science fiction!

XSeed: SS 248

2021/03/03

No Seuss for You

No Seuss

Conservatives catch a lot of flak for their failure to conserve pretty much anything. Now we can add Dr. Seuss books to the rapidly lengthening list.

Predictably, the mainstream media are rushing to the book burning with jugs of kerosene and bags of marshmallows. Just as typically, their Conservative media camp followers are ineffectually wringing their hands.

What you won't see much of from either crowd of journalists is a look behind the scenes at the deeper causes and implications of the story. That's not surprising, since the whole journalistic profession has devolved into a good cop-bad cop gaslighting operation.

Going largely unremarked upon amid the triumphant gloating and impotent outrage is the little detail that the outfit which owns the rights to Dr. Seuss' catalog made the decision to stop publishing the six forbidden books last year. They specifically waited until the beloved author's birthday to announce his books' banning.

You have heard it said, "Don't give money to people who hate you." An important addendum is don't leave your life's work in the hands of people who hate you.

This advice is especially important for writers. Authors are already notorious for having high time preference. Few spare a thought for what will become of their work after they shuffle off this mortal coil. Let Dr. Seuss' fate serve as a warning. Make sure you've got a will, and look into setting up a trust to handle your IPs postmortem. You want your kids to reap the benefits of your legacy, not some faceless megacorp.

That brings us to the second unexamined angle of the Seuss censorship story. The outfit that controls Seuss' books is being called a foundation, the implication being that they're some kind of charity. In reality, they're owned by Simon & Schuster-Penguin-Random House.

Let that be another warning to authors against signing with oldpub. Perhaps before this debacle, writers could be forgiven for seeking a big book deal because the need for validation exceeded their business acumen. Now, signing with oldpub means asking a publisher that hates you to pillage your literary legacy and your children's inheritance.

The actions of Simon Penguin's House should also sound a wake-up call to those who still think woke capital has a profit motive. The Death Cult understands what Conservatives obstinately refuse to: that they who control art control the culture.

He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing.

Keep control of your work. The tools and knowledge to write your own stories and reach your target audience are at your fingertips. Find like-minded creators who can help you hone your skills, and support each other.

The latest action-packed book in my epic mech saga is funding right now. Claim sweet perks, get a FREE short story, and help unlock an all-new set of combat frame trading cards at 300%.

Back the campaign now:

2021/03/02

How to Popcorn

popcorn

Regular readers will be aware that I worked for a local movie theater chain in my dissolute youth. During my time there, I learned how to make professional-grade popcorn whose addictiveness one friend equated to crack.

At least I think that's what he said. His mouth was full of popcorn at the time.

Popcorn enjoyers may be flummoxed by their inability to make movie theater quality popcorn at home. It can be done, and by popular demand, I will now tell you the secret.

Step 1: Get the right hardware

What you're looking for is a hand-crank stove top kettle. I use this one.

Pro tip: Electric stoves work best. This is because the commercial-grade kettles movie theaters use are electrically heated. A trick we'll see later is knowing when to turn off the heat. What you want is for the heat level to decrease gradually as the seed finishes popping, and that effect is harder to achieve with gas ranges.

Step 2: Get the right salt.

All popcorn salt is not created equal. By far the best I've found is Flavacol butte-flavored seasoned salt by Gold Medal. It's the same kind the better theaters use. Accept no substitutions!

Step 3: Get the right oil.

The main reason most homemade and microwave popcorn falls short of movie theater perfection is incorrect choice of popping oil. Vegetable oil is the worst. Avoid it. Butter is OK but dries out too fast. Olive oil is nice, just watch out for the low smoke point. Bacon grease is good for a hipster flair. But there can be only one popping oil to rule them all ...

I speak, naturally, of coconut oil.

It's got a decent smoke point. It's solid at room temperature, and its subtly sweet flavor profile complements popcorn better than any other fat on the planet. Like everything in creation, coconut oil has its own hierarchy:

  • Refined coconut oil: Good and smooth, but a little bland
  • Virgin coconut oil: even smoother with a subtle sweet note that elevates popcorn to the next level. This is the minimum requirement for theater quality popcorn.
  • Flavored virgin coconut oil: Take the excellence of virgin coconut oil, and add natural colors and butter flavor. This is how you turn great popcorn into buttery golden crack.
Step 4: The seed

Believe it or not, the choice of seed doesn't matter that much. Just buy whatever yellow popcorn your store has. I prefer Jolly Time, but corn is pretty much corn.

Step 5: The prep 

Get a sealable container that holds 1/2 cup of seed with some wiggle room. Fill to just below the top with seed.

glad

Step 6: Add your salt to the seed in the cup. 

The ideal ratio is said to be 1 tsp salt per cup of seed. I like my salt, so I do a whole tsp per 1/2 cup. Close the plastic container's lid & shake to coat the outside of every seed w/ salt.

Popcorn turns inside out when it pops, so this step actually seasons each kernel from the inside. Far more efficient and effective than sprinkling salt on top of popcorn after popping.

Step 7: Put your popper on the burner. 

Add your oil to the kettle WHILE COLD. Do not preheat the kettle. Adding any kind of fat to a hot cooking vessel is asking for a grease fire.

The amt. of oil is up to you. I'd use at least a tbsp.

Set the heat to about 4.5 & melt the oil.

Step 8: Add the seed and salt mixture. 

Make sure to fully lock down the popper's lid once the seed is in.

Slowly & steadily turn the crank. I give the popper a couple good horizontal shakes for good measure

Step 9: Continue to crank throughout the popping process. 

When the kernels start to pop steadily, turn off the heat on an electric stove, or turn a gas burner to low. You're gonna let the carryover heat finish the job.

Step 10: When the pops slow to about 1 every 3 seconds, remove the kettle from the heat & pour popcorn into a bowl. 

Serve.

If you did it right, you will not need additional salt or butter. Adding salt & butter after popping is for amateurs.

Advanced tips:

  1. The second batch made in the same popper - provided it hasn't been washed yet - is always superior to the first.
  2. To make the best popcorn in the universe, make your first batch following the steps above, but double the oil. Then, without cleaning out the kettle, immediately pop a second batch with the normal amount of oil. Mix both batches. You're welcome.

WARNING: Once you try the double-oil batch/normal oil batch mix, there is no going back. You will be helplessly addicted for life. Embrace it!

And back Combat Frame XSeed: SS on Indiegogo! My entire mech epic is available at a bargain through the campaign, so get your thrilling mech books to read while you much on theater quality popcorn.

Back it now!

Combat Frame XSeed: SS - Brian Niemeier