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I am a mighty thesaurus. Rawr!

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  • 4 weeks
    One of these things is not like the other things

    Okay, which one of you losers was it? We're not going anywhere until somebody fesses up.

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  • 6 weeks
    I published a new book, and it's free

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  • 7 weeks

    She is a cyborg, though she doesn't think of herself that way.

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  • 13 weeks
    New website!


    In preparation for the release of my new novel, hopefully this year, I've gone ahead and made a brand new original website to officially house my writing business. Check it out here.

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  • 19 weeks
    Beta Call: "Starbound"

    It's been almost two years since I first pitched the idea of an optimistic science fiction novel here. It's been almost a year since I gave a little update on that in a personal blog.

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    12 comments · 202 views

Beta Call: "Starbound" · 11:33am Oct 15th, 2019

It's been almost two years since I first pitched the idea of an optimistic science fiction novel here. It's been almost a year since I gave a little update on that in a personal blog.

Last Sunday, I finished the novel. Now, before I publish it, I'm going to need beta readers.

And even in the bridge
I won’t be lyrically adventurous
Conceptually contentious
Or racially offensious...

Before anyone says anything about the unimaginative title, yes, it is a working title. I'd like to keep the real title as a surprise.

The inspiration for "Starbound" actually came from multiple disparate sources. For one, I've been increasingly frustrated with the lack of optimistic science fiction lately. Sure, I love Westworld, I love the Expanse, I love Deus Ex, I love Blade Runner, I love both Terminator movies; I can see that dystopia makes for good stories and playing to common fears regarding emerging technologies (cybernetic augmentations, AI, automation, ...) sells well. But I still can't help but think... surely the future can't be that dark. I didn't have any specific ideas at the time, but I just had this desire that someday, I should write a positive scifi story.

For two, for a while I was planning out a smaller project, perhaps not to even publish it, just to get it off my chest. This would actually have been a fantasy story, about a young, stuck-up, novice wizardess who gets sent to their eccentric aunt in a small, out-of-the-way village to learn some humility. And if that premise reminds you of something, that's probably not a coincidence. Again, this was just an idea in the back of my head, with not much to go on, but I felt like putting my own spin on the concept.

For three, I happened to be reading books from fellow self-published authors, partially out of curiosity and partially to help each other out by sharing thoughts and tips. It just so happened that I read two scifi books back to back: one which I could best describe as "Twilight, in space" with a hot space alien instead of a hot vampire, while the other was a massive scifi epic as long as some entire series. The contrast was, of course, immense. And I couldn't help but be inspired to do something of my own.

And then came the genius spark: what if I took that fantasy concept I had... and put it into a science fiction setting? What if Friendship is Magic, but Moon base?

Then I had to settle on, for lack of a better word, a style. Something that a lot of people have pointed out about my works, both on this site, and in the field of original fiction, is that cynicism pervades everything I write. In fact, I distinctly recall someone specifically mentioning that the biting sarcasm that's dripping from my writing works much better in original fiction than in MLP, for obvious reasons.

But for this story, if I was going to write a positive science fiction story, I had to leave cynicism at the door. Well, maybe not all of it... but most of it. So it was a challenge from me to me: be yourself, but brief and nice.

I set myself a few rules to start with:
1. Remember, the kids LIKE each other!
2. No gore.
3. No swearing.
4. No-one dies, they just get real bad booboos.

I don't want to spoil anything, but... well, I did not end up perfectly following those foundational rules when figuring out the story, but I did mostly follow them. Overall, even with some of its heavier themes, "Starbound" ended up being a far lighter read than, say, my previous book. And that's probably for the best.

Then came the world building. Okay, science fiction, but what kind of science fiction? It wasn't long before I settled on hard scifi, meaning that I would want to stick to known science and technologies as closely as possible. No faster-than-light travel. No artificial gravity. Definitely no aliens.

So what do we have? I looked at existing technologies and attempted to logically extrapolate from them. It's a common wisdom that the technology of today tends to be the techology of yesterday, but better. Portable phones and connected computers have been around for decades before smart phones and the internet exploded on the consumer scene. It's always been about taking what we have currently, and making it better and practical and cheap.

This lead me to create a world with extremely advanced artificial intelligence, automation, and a blending of virtual and "real" reality. In the world of "Starbound", everyone is a cyborg, though they don't see themselves that way. Most of us already have a cell phone in our pocket virtually 24/7; it might as well be implanted, right? Advancements in medical science have made death a dubious concept; aging can easily be reverted, malfunctioning limbs or organs replaced. The virtual world bleeds into everyday reality through widespread "augmented reality" vision, either through corneal implants or good old goggles.

Then I thought, okay, that's pretty standard fare so far, nothing we haven't seen before. So the story is about a young girl who goes to the Moon to attend school. But what is a school, really? What is the purpose of school? In a world where we can make AIs as smart as people, it stands to reason that we can create AIs that function as teachers. And unlike teachers, there can be an unlimited number of AIs. Every single student could have a horde of "teachers" dedicated to them, specifically designed according to the child's strengths and weaknesses and their goals. How do we justify the cost of running schools, then? A teacher's attention must be divided between possibly dozens of children; an AI will notice if your pupil dilates or contracts if you're having trouble understanding a topic, and immediately go back and explain in a way specifically tailored to your learning style.

There's a reason that one of the most important characters in the book is, in fact, a teacher.

This further ties into the "positivity" aspect of the book. The doomsday scenarios regarding automation and AI write themselves. It needn't be a Skynet-type nuclear armageddon; automation could very well just destroy the economy as we know it. What does it mean to "earn" something when pretty much every basic human need -- food, shelter, companionship -- can be provided virtually for free by AIs and robots? And everything that they can't provide, you can get it in virtual reality. So how do we turn this around and create a world that people would actually want to live in?

The pursuit of knowledge, science, and technological advancement, and the effects all of these have on human society and our psyche are core themes in the book. Filter it all through the personal coming-of-age journey of a young girl in a world of immortals, and you'll start to get an idea of what "Starbound" is all about.

The future isn't all sunshine and roses, but it needn't be terrible either. My goal was not to create a utopia -- just to create a realistic vision of a future that is better than what we have today, and to point out just how good we already have it here in the early 21st century.

Lofty goals for someone's second novel. I'm of course biased. That is why I need you.

Over the years I've worked with several people from Fimfiction, including work on my first novel from a few years back. The more eyes I can get on "Starbound", the better. So, if you would like an exclusive first look into my newest project, reading it before anyone else in the world, hit me up.

To give an idea of the scale of this project: the book is about 104k words long. For reference, the first Harry Potter book is about 70-something-thousand. The fourth Harry Potter book, which is the thickest one if memory serves, is around 140k. That is to say, it's overall not that long. If you read a chapter a day, you'll get through it in a few weeks. If you're a more voracious reader and it piques your interest, you might devour it in a couple of days.

I would love to publish the book sometime this year, even if that means December 31st. For that, I'll need to gather your thoughts, assess, and possibly rewrite based on feedback. Anything goes. If I must delay the book to make it better, I will.

What I'm asking: I need people to read and give honest criticism of the book. I don't (just) need you to look for simple editing mistakes like typos, or missing or duplicate words, or similar (though pointing those out is useful, naturally); I'm asking you to read and understand the book. Are the characters acting like idiots? Is there an obvious plot hole I missed? Does the book come off as preachy and off-putting? Is it boring? Exciting? Fun? So bad it's good? Are the characters likeable? Who's your favourite, if you have one, and why (not)? Do you think this is a realistic depiction of a possible future of humanity?

Is it good?

That is what I'm asking. And I'm asking you to be ruthless. If you hate it, tell me. If you love it... well, I'll appreciate hearing that as well.

At the end of the day, looking back, "Starbound" is my personal love letter to science and science fiction. That's probably the best description of it.

So, what do you say? Is any of the "old guard" still here? If all of that strikes you as interesting, drop me a message.

If you aren't up to pre-reading duties, but you're still excited about the book, just hang in there. It's happening.

Report JawJoe · 202 views ·
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Comments ( 12 )

A part of me wants to wait until the book is finalized before I enjoy it, the other wants to help you out. And I am kinda busy with work now, plus my own writing. (My own novel's been on hold for months, as I want to get some more fanfic out before too many people leave.) How about this, if too few other qualified individuals come forward, I'll pre-read and take notes for you.

I look forward to the book, but will need to wait for the final as Even If I read it now doubt I could really find many grammar things ect. Good luck.

A positive scifi set in the future uhm? It will only be believable if Trump's head is put inside a jar and he is still the president... putting tariffs on Mars imports.

It's always been about taking what we have currently, and making it better and practical and cheap.

Like new Apple products!

automation could very well just destroy the economy as we know it. What does it mean to "earn" something when pretty much every basic human need -- food, shelter, companionship -- can be provided virtually for free by AIs and robots? And everything that they can't provide, you can get it in virtual reality.

Well, people already pay to get virtual hats on certain videogames so I don't think that there would ever be a future without some sort of economy.

Aaaanyway, I can't wait to read your new novel!

I enjoyed working with you on your first novel. Hit me up if you want me in on this one as well.

If I remember right I worked on your last one with you. I've had a phone downgrade so I'll try but I might not be as active comments wise. And a bit slower reading then last time. You might still have my email kicking around otherwise pm me.

That's understandable. I hope to deliver something good, and sooner rather than later!

Someone downvoted you, but don't worry, I gave you an upvote to balance it out. :trollestia: I'm like Thanos, but not.

I remember you guys! It's been so long. I'll drop you both a message soon.

Thank you, I'll keep that in mind. I might ask for your help down the line; the more eyes I can get on the book, the better.

I'm more than willing to be a beta-reader if you'll have me

I'm up for pre-reading

Thank you. I'll drop you both a message soon.

Are you looking for every beta-reader you can get, or do you only have a limited number of slots available? On one side, the descriptions thus far make the story sound right up my alley and similar to some projects I've been working on recently, and I really want to dust off my prereading skills, such as they are, and give it a shot. On another, I've got a bunch of stuff I need to prioritize over the next month-ish, so if you can only take a finite number of beta readers it might be prudent to let someone else do so instead so as to not risk missing your target date; I should be able to have it read within a few days and start mulling it over, but I doubt I could make time to do a proper in-depth job of things and give more than basic commentary before mid/late November. I guess let me know if you want to let me help, either now or as a reserve candidate like 5139920, and if not, I'll do my best to bide patiently until it's released.

Generally, the more people I can get on this, the happier I am. However as of now I do have a fair number of "applicants" (thanks, everyone!) so I'll hold off asking for your help. I might still come back around and ask that you read it at a later point, but not on "round 1" so to speak. Thank you for offering.

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