Hollywood Can't Sonic

Sonic Movie

A professional animator explains why the Hollywood version of beloved video game icon Sonic the Hedgehog looks like blue cancer.

Hollywood Sonic

Hollywood's meddling with this wildly successful Japanese character is doubly stupid because, if you read Console Wars, you know that Sonic the Hedgehog has at least as much American as Japanese DNA, perhaps more.

Sonic originated from an art contest held by Sega of Japan to design their planned game's protagonist. The winning entry was an anthropomorphic hedgehog called Mister Needlemouse.

Mister Needlemouse

Who is Felix the Cat's head on Mickey Mouse's blue, pantsless body.

Felix the Cat Mickey Mouse

Sega of America took the rather more crudely drawn and aggressively named Needlemouse and applied the finishing touches that completed his metamorphosis into Sonic.

The Hollywood idiots trying to "Westernize" Sonic the Hedgehog couldn't do Western art if their salaries depended on it I wish that was just a joke. Sonic already is a product of the West. The movie studio is just making him ugly, which is all Western animators are capable of doing these days.

Art-Eater's killshot:

Pokemon numbers

Pokémon, another Japanese IP captained by a Disney-inspired cartoon mouse, is running rings around its Western forebears. Hello Kitty is right behind.

[Insert pun about cat and mouse games.]

This episode does give us a handy visual representation of Western artistic degeneration, though.

Visual Degeneration


The Freak Amendment

Bill of Rights

One defining feature of the American Left is their visceral hatred of the Second Amendment. Conservatives and libertarians accuse the gun-grabbers of wanting normal people left at the mercy of Big Brother. They're not wrong, but that's just a practical consideration. It doesn't fully explain the Left's rabid loathing of the 2A.

Here's a news item about a gun owner who resisted Maryland's tyrannical Red Flag gun confiscation policy. Under this law, your psycho ex-girlfriend, your Bangladeshi dermatologist, or your ex-hippy aunt can snitch on you for wrongthink and have the authorities strip away your Second Amendment rights. Or the cops can cut out the middleman and demote you to second-class citizenship themselves. In this case, it looks like a female relative reported the gun owner for thought crimes. They came for his guns, a struggle ensued, and the cops shot him like a dog in his own home.

That's not calculated political expediency. That's vicious enmity. If you're a gun owner to the right of Harvey Milk, it's coming to a street near you, so it's best to understand the underlying cause.

As I recently noted in this post, Liberalism is inherently tyrannical. When you reduce freedom to seeking personal preferences disconnected from the good and try to absolutize it, stories like those linked above are the inevitable fallout. Adherents of an absolute ideology necessarily regard any competing view as an infringement and zealously seek to destroy it. Liberalism is totalitarian.

Which brings us back to the Second Amendment. You may be wondering how Liberals could hate part of the Bill of Rights when the whole American Experiment is an exercise in Classical Liberalism. Therein lies the rub, because contra revisionist textbooks, the Founding Fathers were not a Deist coven. Presbyterian minister John Witherspoon and Catholic congressman Daniel Carroll, brother to the first bishop of Baltimore, are just two prominent Christians who signed the Constitution. Thanks to such Founders, some Christian DNA got mixed into the Liberal experiment.

As came to light when a friend and I were discussing the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment alone states a reciprocal duty. It is explicitly for something--the defense of the man, his family, his home, and his nation. Of all the Constitutional Amendments, only the Second is unequivocally ordered toward a good.

That's the difference between the Liberal and Christian understanding of rights in a nutshell. The former conceives of indiscriminate license unbound by any positive duty. Christian moral philosophy, on the other hand, insists that every right comes inextricably bundled with a corresponding duty. Every right exists for the pursuit of a specific good.

Once you understand that Liberalism is totalitarian, and that Liberal and Christian conceptions of rights irreconcilably diverge, it's no mystery why the modern Left despises the Second Amendment. Gun-grabbers call the 2A an illiberal artifact of an age they revile. They are correct. More than any other Amendment, the 2A stands as a constant reminder of America's original Christian character. That is why the Leftist Death Cult will stop at nothing to destroy it.


To Whom Shall We Go?

An important reminder that conversion is a grace, and God calls whomever He wills.

Catholic & Weeb

No, not to anime fandom. To the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Praise to Our Lord Jesus Christ and welcome to Not John Daker. May the Lord draw you into ever closer communion with Him through the people and ministry of His Church.

For all the criticism I level at the Catholic Church's current leaders on Earth, my motive is not hostility but filial love.

Imagine a princely and ancient mansion that's been handed down in your family since the clan patriarch built it by hand 2000 years ago. It stood as a rock amid the storms of all the passing ages. Now the current trustees of the estate, your Boomer parents, have mortgaged the grand old house to the hilt to pay for hideous "renovations" in imitation of the McMansions that occupy the rest of the street. Worse, they are harboring dodgy workers--some of whom came not through the door but over the wall and are making trouble in the neighborhood. A small but highly visible number of gardeners have committed the most atrocious crimes against the tenants' children. Yet your parents harbor them.

You could disown your parents, go your own way, and abandon the princely house of your fathers, washing your hands of any responsibility for the future of your patrimony. That is the way of the rootless, atomized man of the world. You would not be the first to take it.

The faithful, tradition-minded disciple of Christ gives filial correction to his wayward parents in a spirit of charity. He does not abandon his ancestral home, which the Builder has promised will stand till the end of time. Even if his parents refuse to listen, he trusts the Builder. For does not the Builder also have a vineyard which fell under unworthy management? And did He not remove those wicked managers?

The order of bishops--including the Pope--is not the head of the Catholic Church. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, which is His Body. The first fruits of the Church have already been gathered into heaven. The gates of hell cannot prevail against them.

Every day, this reality is revealed to ordinary people--even if only in part. Despite the sins--many of them grave--of her members, God calls his elect into full communion with Him, and some of those who are called answer.

Not John Daker is far from alone. Just this week, I was blessed to learn of a dear friend's ongoing reversion to the Catholic faith. His wife is carefully considering converting, following her husband and a close friend. The Holy Spirit moves whom He wills.

Are these examples anecdotal? Certainly. But they paint a picture of a noticeable undercurrent in the zeitgeist. Recent converts and those who are considering conversion have mentioned two main reasons for their attraction to Catholicism:

  1. The unchanging nature of Catholic teaching
  2. Other churches substituting politics for theology
Reason 2 offers an important lesson that some in traditionalist dissident circles can sometimes forget. Religion is not to be conflated with politics. The former pertains to man's duty toward God; the latter concerns how best to organize a society. There is overlap, but as everyone reading this should know, religion is culture codified, and politics is downstream from culture.

Praise God for the grace of conversion. Welcome to all those seeking shelter from the gathering storm within the Church's walls. And to the current hierarchy, pray for your own continued conversion that you may show those who seek solace a Church worthy of them and God.


What Slippery Slope?

library demon

The vast overreach perpetrated by the Coalition of the Fringes in their Trump-induced frenzy is beginning to make normies take notice. From William M. Briggs:
Long-time school teacher Peter Vlaming was fired for saying these words: “Don’t let her run into the wall.”
Problem is, the lunatic parents of the poor little girl Vlaming sought to protect are telling the world the little girl is a little boy. The lunatic “parents said it was unhealthy for their child to remain in Vlaming’s class.”
Anyone not homeschooling their kids is committing child abuse.

Briggs continues.
Now what should have happened was that the male neighbors—not the government, not the authorities—of the lunatic father of the little girl, should have, when they heard the father wanted to begin pretending his daughter was his son, took him for a little walk. And when they picked him up from the bottom of the steps he accidentally slipped down, they should have explained to him that Reality trumps feelings. The father could then have brought this wisdom to his idiot wife. And all would have been well.
But no. Feelings trump Reality. Feelings are what count.
It is feelings that will doom us.
The lady boss of the school where Vlaming created an “unhealthy” environment recommended to the school board to suspend Vlaming. She got her way.
That is the real story. (If you instead believe it is right and just this man Vlaming was canned for calling a girl “she”, I do not care to hear from you, especially if you say we must respect the feelings of the girl. It does the girl no good at all to go along with her parent’s fantasy.)
The battle lines for the soul of the West are not drawn between Right and Left, Capitalist and Communist, or even nationalist and globalist. The war currently in progress is being waged by those who absolutize personal preference against those who uphold the good.

Liberalism--even Classical Liberalism--is the slow but ultimately deadly poison that has now laid the West on its deathbed. There is no redeeming or accommodating Liberalism. Once you've atrophied your will and subjugated your intellect to your appetites, it ends with demons seizing, brainwashing, and chemically castrating your sons--backed by the full might of Big Brother.
There are lunatics and idiots ever with us. And cowards. That is not important. What is important is that now the cowards in charge of us fear the lunatics and idiots. They do not fear those who hold with Reality. And the reason our cowardly leaders fear the lunatics and idiots is that the lunatics and idiots have stronger feelings than the Realists. And feelings are what counts.
With all due respect to Dr. Briggs, he's missing some vital parts of the equation. Yes, all our former institutions--they are no longer ours--are run by cowards at best and full-throated cheerleaders for total societal degeneration by and large.

Dr. Briggs is correct that the cowards fear the lunatics more than they fear normal people. But the reason isn't that the lunatics have stronger feelings. They have stronger convictions in the rightness of their hysterical, Christianity-profaning death cult than we Christians have in Christ.

Nature abhors a vacuum, human nature is no exception, and man deprived of God will fill that vacuum with anything--even moon-barking lunacy.

There is, as always, a silver lining here. The current untenable state of affairs is staggering along largely due to the inertia of vestigial public trust in our corrupt institutions. As this story and Briggs' readers' reaction to it shows, the death cult is busily taking a sledgehammer to that fragile trust via their daily enormities. Not even the NPCs parrot "Love is love!" or give finger-wagging lectures against the slippery slope fallacy anymore. Not now that society is rocketing down the side of K2, which has also been pre-greased with Astroglide. Support for secession is at record highs.

There are three possible solutions.

  1. Normal people can make the cowards fear them more than they fear the death cult.
  2. Normal people can take back the institutions and replace the cowards.
  3. Let the converged institutions collapse under their own debauchery, and build new ones.
The problem with option 1 is that matters wouldn't have become so dire in the first place if normal people had sufficient faith to stand up for themselves and their children. Now that the death cult is the de facto state religion, there's little hope of swaying cowardly or corrupt bureaucrats.

Option 2 holds out more promise, but again, normal people will need the fortitude to break their cultural inertia and put in some real effort.

Option 3 is the most likely outcome, since the old institutions are rapidly crumbling, and we'll have to build new ones out of necessity.

It's becoming abundantly clear that whatever the future holds, it will not include Liberal democracy as we've known it. Hopefully the West's near-fatal dalliance with deposing truth in favor of compromise will serve as a lesson to future generations.

Atheism cannot stand against the zeal of the death cult. Liberalism is the handmaid of the death cult. The best action anyone can take to defeat the demonic juggernaut is to repent, turn to Jesus Christ, and ask Him for the gift of faith.

The West is on the brink of collapse because we lacked faith the size of a mustard seed.


Love of Theory...

Shrek Pepe Style

...is the root of all evil, as the otherwise quite astute Z Man demonstrates as he fails to see the epistemological corner his penchant for biological determinism paints him into.
Part of what drives the persistence of bad ideas is they seem to address a need among modern people to believe in free will. As the human sciences build the case that we are the product of our genetic coding, the need to believe we can overcome that by force of will becomes stronger. 
The once-formidable atheist crowd has reduced itself to a laughingstock due in no small part to incoherent credal statements like the above. They stumble right out of the gate by playing the same dishonest word games with free will that Lefties play with marriage and choice.

In fact, the entire free will debate springs from a semantic error. Almost everyone on both sides, even "reactionary" biological determininsts, a priori accept the Modernist conceptions of will and freedom. They never contend with free will as it was understood for centuries by the greatest foundational thinkers of the West.

By will, the determinists mean a mental faculty independent of the intellect. By free, they mean wholly unrestricted. At this point it should be clear they're attacking a straw man, but I'll explain further for the benefit of those who attended public schools.

Pre-Moderns understood the will as inextricably bound to the intellect. One might even describe the will as a state of the intellect; specifically, the intellect lacking perfect knowledge. The will is the intellect's drive to acquire the true knowledge it needs to operate. Just as the appetite moves the body toward the material goods it needs for nourishment, the will moves the mind toward intellectual goods. The will is the intellect's appetite--no more, no less.

Another key idea that gets lost in the shuffle is that knowledge implies truth. The idea of "knowing" an untruth is inherently absurd. That's why people who claim to "know" the Earth is flat are justly considered risible. The takeaway is that when the intellect has grasped some piece of true knowledge, the will can't dissent. It becomes determined in regard to that particular item of knowledge.

"But I can change my mind!" I hear the fedora-tippers whine. "What if I clearly see four lights, but a torturer coerces me into believing there are five?"

  1. The objection begs the question by assuming the Modernist concept of free will and preemptively dismissing the Classical conception, viz. the will as an intellective appetite that seeks truth.
  2. This objection actually reinforces the Anti-Modern's point. If you've been coerced, you're saying there are five lights against your will.
Of course one can change one's mind on a subject. By definition, that only happens when the will is undetermined, and only truth can determine the will. When you discard an idea you'd previously held, it's because you've received new information refuting the old idea as untrue. If you still entertain doubts, I invite you to state one untruth you willingly hold as true in the comments.

To recap, the will is an intellectual appetite that moves the mind toward knowledge it lacks until it learns the truth of the matter. At that point, the will is determined and cannot dissent. Thus, the Classical meaning of free will is undetermined will; not the utterly sovereign capacity to think and do whatever I want. The latter interpretation is a pure Modernist conceit.

By starting from the Modernist misconception of perfect free will, the biological determinists not only fail to refute the Classical understanding of limited free will, they never even manage to address it.

"But what about all the scientific studies that prove our actions are genetically predetermined?" asks the guy who fucking loves science. To which I answer: You mean actions like running scientific studies?

Statistician William M. Briggs coined the phrase "Love of theory is the root of all evil." He and his readers came up with another useful term: scidolatry. A prime example is the unprincipled exception material determinists grant to scientists who conduct studies that would otherwise rule out scientists' ability to conduct accurate studies. Unless scientists are superbeings who, unlike the human meat puppet masses, somehow do possess a non-material intellective faculty for seeking truth, their decisions to run experiments, and the way they run those experiments, are wholly controlled by the blind dictates of their genes. Without undetermined will, there's no guarantee the empirical sciences produce results that correspond to reality at all.

"But that's why they're empirical sciences. We can tell with our senses that the results conform to reality."

Not without an undetermined faculty that moves the intellect toward true sensory data, we can't.

That's the intractable problem the material determinists will never be able to get around: You can't deny free will without doing away with the intellect. The only way you can legitimately claim that human will is completely predetermined is if you also claim that everybody knows everything.

Proving once again that material determinism is silly and irrelevant.


What Principle?

Muslims praying - Christians praying

Breitbart reports on a recent poll that asked if employers should make room for Muslim employees to pray at work, then asked the same question about Christians. The results were broken down along Liberal and Conservative lines. It should come as no surprise that more Liberals favored giving Muslims prayer rooms at work, but that's not the real story.
Sixty-eight percent of Democrats say employers should grant a request for prayer space by Muslims — but only 45 percent say employers should grant a similar request by Christian employees, says a survey by Grinnell College.
In contrast to the Democrats’ 23-point anti-Christian bias, the November poll showed only a ten point gap in response from conservatives.
Thirty percent of Republicans say employers should provide a prayer space for Muslim employees and 40 percent say employers should support a similar service for Christians, according to the Grinnell College poll of roughly 500 people.
Did you catch that important detail Breitbart glossed over in their rush to declare "Dems R hypocrites"? Here's another hint.
The same poll showed a three-point pro-Christian skew among Donald Trump’s voters and a huge 20-point pro-Muslim skew among Hillary Clinton voters.
The massive bias among Clinton voters towards Muslims is a huge contrast to Trump voters’ more principled approach to religious requests on business.
Everyone who's been paying attention is aware of the Left's marriage of convenience with Islam, because the Left is an unhinged death cult that hates Christianity. Yet according to this poll, 45 percent of Democrats would let Christians pray at work, in contrast to only 40 percent of Republicans. 

Blessed John Henry Newman once received a plea for help from Catholic employees of the Cadbury chocolate factory. The owners were devout Quakers who offered Bible studies on-site but refused to let Catholic employees hold their own Bible study group.

Newman paid a visit to the factory owners. Did he argue that religious practices had no business in the workplace and that Cadbury's workers were free to worship according to their individual consciences in the privacy of their homes? Of course not. He convinced the owners to give Catholic employees their own room in the factory to conduct Catholic Bible studies.

The "more principled approach" that Breitbart is touting here is no principle at all. It's empty and societally destructive posturing.

I've said it before, and it bears repeating. Conservatism does not stand in opposition to the Left. It is simply inconsistent Liberalism that trails a few steps behind the Left's totalitarian--i.e. consistent--Liberalism

As the Z Man astutely observed, when taking a firm moral position would thwart the Left, Conservative Inc. urges us to stand on principle, i.e. adopt an ineffectual pose. When the Left attacks an actual principle of Western law and order, Conservative Inc. insists that doing nothing is a moral imperative.

Religious liberty makes sense as a gentlemen's agreement to prevent hostilities between Christian denominations in 99% agreement on theological, moral, and social issues. It  becomes a suicide pact when applied to practitioners of incompatible, hostile faiths imported into the West by the Left for the express purpose of destroying Christendom.

Note to Breitbart: the principled answer to the poll question above is to give Christian employees prayer rooms and respect Muslim employees by repatriating them so Leftists can't use them as pawns.


Another Comparison to Galaxy's Edge

Combat Frame XSeed: CY 2 Gaiden

The Injustice Gamer compares and contrasts a few established and upcoming newpub projects, including the formidable Galaxy's Edge  and my own Combat Frame XSeed.
Galaxy's Edge does a lot of stuff very much right. They started with a bang, filling a desire with their #starwarsnotstarwars postings on twitter, and marketing that as the overall idea of the series. The money they spend on covers is large, but clearly successful, as they get emails from new readers drawn in by the covers. They've even been spotted in a few physical bookstores, something few indie books get, at least before they get signed by a publisher. Their output is about a book a month, and while that's great, all the books are by them, and start feeling the same after so many.
4HU started off a bit slower, with the first four novels being by Wandrey and Kennedy at 2 books each. And then they opened up the floodgates to other authors with anthologies. This let them get a feel for the audience early on and built the draw and talent pool available quickly. Currently, it sits at a 3 week release schedule plus some. The cover art varies a bit more, but there are only a couple I would actually replace of my choice. The cycling of other authors into the release schedule, with the novels tying together, but not directly interfering(through edicts such as only Chris and Mark actually write the 4H, and even appearances of characters from such need approval) with the other stories.

Not coincidentally, I happen to be one of the authors in the 4HU talent pool.

Silver Empire recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign for a universe called Heroes Unleashed, with interesting ideas that are somewhere between the two. What was termed Wave I will have 5 authors doing novels(likely series if successful). Morgon Newquist(school of arts and war) created this world with short stories in two anthologies(Paragons and HA! HA! HA!), and the others involved include some others I've reviewed here: JD Cowan(Grey Cat Blues, Knights of the End), Kai Wai Cheah(No Gods Only Daimons, Hammer of the Witches), Jon Mollison(Sudden Rescue, Adventure Constant), and Richard W. Watts, with whom I am unfamiliar.
Bradford C. Walker and Brian Niemeier both have run Indiegogo campaigns(Brian's is still live [Ed. The first campaign is over, but stay tuned for the next one.]), related to their #AGundamForUS work, and both have some good ideas. Now, if both do well, they will eventually face the challenge of putting out new material and keeping a fresh feel to their stories, which is where I think Galaxy's Edge has begun to fall flat, so this is no mean feat. My advice would be to do a contained series, maybe 6 books, at first, and perhaps invite other authors after, either for shorter arcs or standalone novels. Yeah, this is a throwback to the books they are somewhat imitating, but it did work then, and should work again, if they find authors that get what they're doing.
While it's highly encouraging that a no-nonsense critic like the IJ likes the ideas that inform Combat Frame XSeed, I'm the first to admit that it's the execution of  those ideas which make or break a novel. Fortunately for my readers, advance reviews from CFXS Indiegogo backers have been pouring in, and the clear consensus is that this book is my best. I've actually asked multiple prominent reviewers who'd intended to post reviews immediately after finishing CFXS to kindly wait until next month's official launch. I greatly appreciate their patience and assure them of more quality installments to come.

Speaking of which, I endorse the Injustice Gamer's advice to authors about keeping series contained. Now, Galaxy's Edge is following that template by doing "seasons" comprising a connected story arc each. Nine books is rather long for me, though. Instead, Combat Frame XSeed is currently planned as a standalone series of four to five novels with a short story set between each book. Next month's launch will help me decide the best way to follow up.

No matter what happens, you're gonna have fun, guaranteed.


Smrt Stories

the Ankaran Sarcophagus

My earlier post on SJWs cannibalizing the once-mighty White Wolf Publishing occasioned a friend to recommend the 2004 video game *deep breath* Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.

Having lacked a PC capable of running the game back then, I missed it the first time around. I wasn't the only one, either. Troika, VtMB's developer, cut a deal with games juggernaut Valve Corp to use the latter's shiny new Source engine.

Troika thought that bringing the first Source game to market would lead to breakout sales.We'll never know if they were right. Valve insisted that VtMB not be released until after the highly anticipated sequel to their own flagship game Half-Life. Even though Troika's game was finished first, they couldn't release it until after the launch of HL2, which ended up being massively delayed. [Editor's note: I've since been informed that Valve did not in fact order Troika to delay VtMB's release. The game really failed because of serious scope creep and Activision forcing Troika to launch while the game was still incomplete. It actually launched on the same day as HL2, which was the final kiss of death.]

VtMB lost out on being the first Source game, lost momentum, and tanked. Its failure killed Troika, which is a shame, since it's quite good. The music and the writing--particularly the dialogue--approach the apex of the video game medium. The one misfiring piston is the actual game play. There is simply no mechanical justification for building this kind of RPG on an FPS twitch shooter engine. Using Source was a pure marketing gamble that cost Troika the farm.

Happily, gamers have since come to appreciate VtMB's flawed beauty, and the game has become a cult classic.

But I'm not here to write a review. This post concerns a recurring theme in contemporary fiction that both #PulpRev and superversive folks may have noticed. I brought up Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines because this theme runs through its main plot, as well as the plots of books like The Da Vinci Code. I'm referring to the species of smug, biggest-brain-in-the-room demytholigizing that I call Smrt storytelling.

Thanks to the accelerating erosion of the West's Christian foundations, the converged entertainment industry can't tell a good vs evil story anymore. See the mewling sub-pagans who denounce Tolkien for depicting orcs as morally inferior to elves.

Generating catharsis by appealing to the audience's shared sense of right and wrong is right out when you hold your audience's morals in contempt. Post-Christian storytellers must endeavor to scratch a different fundamental human itch. No, I don't mean smut. Lust certainly has a profitable track record, and you can bet it'll show up as window dressing, but it's a poor substitute for good triumphing over evil. The best postmodern alternative to justice is pride, and a Smrt Story is the favored vehicle for massaging the audience's ego.

Your boilerplate Smrt Story follows the basic mystery template with a key twist: The answer to the mystery involves debunking a central tenet--or perceived central tenet--of Christianity. I call such propaganda "Smrt" instead of "smart" because the author's theological knowledge is usually so deficient that the "dogma" he's debunking is a nonsensical straw man. But his ignorance sets a vicious frame wherein Christians may be lured into defending one error to refute another. Think of all the Dan Brown critics who argued that it didn't matter if Christ survived the crucifixion.

Baiting Christians into tilting at windmills isn't the main point of a Smrt Story. The Smrt author works his evil spell by taking the reader aside and whispering, "Look at all those rubes stumbling around in their superstitious fog. I can tell you're not like them. You can handle the truth, and here it is..."

Here's how the trick works. The Smrt author presents himself as a sort of Gnostic oracle who's got the dirt on some formerly sacred Western tradition. He doesn't break the fourth wall and make these claims overtly. Instead he establishes his credentials by portraying the skeptics attacking the fable as cool, informed characters the reader wants to emulate. At the same time, those who cling to traditional Western beliefs are mocked as credulous--often violent--dupes. The Smrt author carefully frames the window of allowable debate in his world to exclude any compelling arguments for the defense.

Skilled Smrt authors will introduce some last-minute ambiguity to allow the rubes some wiggle room. This conceit is just a sugar to coat the poison pill. It's usually presented as an afterthought, and often for a laugh. The story's main impression remains: The reader has joined the cool kids who know the truth behind the fairy tales.

Being based in falsehood, the Smrt story never satisfies as deeply as heroic tales of heroes triumphing over villains. But when you've traded your birthright for an unwarranted sense of smug superiority, giving the audience a transitory thrill is the best you can hope for.


The Sixth Four Horsemen

Best selling author and indie publisher Chris Kennedy has an exciting announcement for readers of the enormously popular Four Horsemen anthology series. I know many of you enjoy the action-packed Mil SF of Mr. Kennedy and his co-authors, so my readers should find the following announcement of particular interest.

6th Four Horsemen

That's right, Chris has been gracious enough to extend me an invitation to write a short story for the next Four Horsemen anthology. He's expressed confidence that my own Mil SF writing will appeal to Four Horsemen fans. Combat Frame XSeed may have something to do with his generous decision.

It's an honor to be working with Chris and all the iconic authors on that list. You can be certain I'm putting everything I've got into my contribution. Being selected for the latest installment of a best selling anthology is humbling, and I'm grateful to Chris. At the end of the day, though, all of the Hope Is Not a Strategy contributors are there to make sure readers have fun, and that's exactly what I mean to do.

Hope Is Not a Strategy should be out near the end of the first quarter of 2019. Until then, check out the most recent Four Horsemen release,  Luck Is Not a Factor.

Chris Kennedy & Mark Wandrey Luck Is Not a Factor


Preview of Combat Frame XSeed: Coalition Year 40

Please enjoy this excerpt from the second novel in my upcoming mecha/Mil-SF saga, Combat Frame XSeed: Coalition Year 40. Book one launches in January, and book 2 will follow in March.



The boy hurried up the slope, scrambling over fallen logs and mossy boulders. The thinning, pine-seasoned air didn’t slow him. He’d long since gotten used to high altitude, even though he was only six.
He mostly thought of himself as the boy, because that was what the Captain usually called him. Sometimes, though, the Captain called him Tom. The boy never dared call the stern, graying man anything but Captain. He didn’t know if the Captain was his father, though in the secret corners of his heart he doubted it.
Still, the Captain was the only grownup the boy had ever known, as far as he could remember. The shaggy-haired but always clean-shaven man gave the boy much of what fathers in books always gave: shelter, instruction, food—a bowl of plain rice porridge for breakfast and rice with beans in the evening, with whatever meat the boy could catch for himself.
It was a hunt for the latter that had set the boy on his current path. He’d sighted a young rabbit behind the cabin and had given chase. The animal led him up and up the mountain, until the trees ended and the bald peak loomed above.
A quick search—the boy could take in many details at a glance—showed no sign of the rabbit. He abandoned the hunt and continued upward, drawn by the lofty spectacle of the peak.
Minutes later, the boy reached the top. He stood on the summit as chill winds whipped his sturdy homemade clothes and looked out over the plains stretching from the foothills. A pair of vast shadowed circles punched into the uniform green and yellow grid below marked two of the places where the Socs had started the Long Winter and the Starving Years by throwing rocks at the earth.
Socs aren’t human. He heard the Captain’s low yet iron-hard voice as if the old man stood behind him, but he resisted the urge to look over his shoulder. They’re insects that swarm over the earth and make it like their colonies. You can’t reason with them. Never forget.
Alone on his windswept perch, a new thought occurred to the boy. The Socs had killed many people while turning what had been called Colorado in the FMAS—and the United States before that—into North American Mountain Region 7. What if two of those murdered people, or the millions of dead from around the world, had been his parents?
The boy reflexively fought the urge to cry, but hot moisture stung his cheeks. The icy wind blowing off the farm grids below scoured his tears away.
Catching sight of an angular rock’s shadow gave the boy a start. He’d woken up that morning to find the Captain gone and a note with his cold porridge saying only: “Back at noon.” The shadow said he had only ten minutes to reach the cabin before the Captain returned. The boy was not forbidden to explore the wooded hills unsupervised; quite the opposite. But he knew the note’s double meaning from hard experience.
The boy barreled down the mountain, scratching his limbs and face on sharp branches and nearly falling twice. Only the certain knowledge that no one would come for him if he broke a leg or his back kept him on his feet.
At last he reached the almost invisible cleft in a grassy hillside that led into the small, bowl-shaped valley where the cabin stood. The boy ran, threading his way between the pines as his lungs sucked in cool air and forced it out hot. He half-stumbled up front steps made from cut logs, and his heart froze when he saw the Captain standing two meters inside the door with his left hand behind his back.
The boy started to speak. “I’m—”
With a horizontal motion of his right hand, the Captain signaled him to silence. The boy heard mewling, much like the sounds his prey made before the kill, coming from two sources inside the cabin.
You’re lonely here,” the Captain said. “I know that loneliness well.” His left hand emerged from behind his back, holding a black puppy by the scruff of the neck. The little dog whined pitifully.
Of course, the Captain was right. The boy’s yearning for the companionship he’d never known almost made him rush to the dog despite himself. Hope welled in his heart, but he knew enough to question it. “For me?”
If,” the Captain said. He finished by pulling a gray .38 caliber revolver from the side pocket of his brown felt coat.
Terror rooted the boy to the steps, but the Captain inclined his head toward the dog. “For him,” the old man said. He nodded to his left. “Or for her.”
The boy crept up the last step and through the cabin door. A blond woman in a blue jumpsuit sat tied to a stout oak chair. The cloth gag in her mouth muffled her pleas.
The Captain held out the gun, grip-first.
Do I have to?” asked the boy.
No,” the Captain said. “You always have a choice—between action and inaction, strength and weakness; fighting and surrender. And as always, those you care for will pay the price if you choose wrong.”
The boy took the gun. It felt heavy in his small hands, but not unfamiliar. The woman’s mewling turned to frantic squeals.
I’ve never killed a person,” said the boy.
She’s not a person,” the Captain said. “She’s a Soc.”
The boy stared down the gun’s sights at his target. She looked like a person, with her wide blue eyes and tear-streaked face. He remembered crying on the mountaintop. Because he was alone. Because of Socs like her.
He exhaled and pressed the trigger. The gun thundered, and the woman’s head snapped back. He smelled blood. The Captain took the gun and handed him the dog. Its plump furry body snuggled into the crook of his arm, but the connection was gone. The boy felt nothing.
The Captain stooped down and spoke to the boy. “The way you are now—the thinking without feeling when you kill animals and burn them; when you killed that Soc—you must not be that way with the dog. Soon you’ll be sent among normal people, and you mustn’t be that way with most of them.”
I understand,” said the boy. “I think.”
The Captain scratched behind the dog’s ear. “To him, and to most people, you will be Tom—Thomas Dormio. To the Socs, you will be Arthur Wake.”
Arthur nodded. The puppy squirmed in his arms, and Tom hugged it to his chest. Its tiny heart beat beside his, and the connection returned.