Category Archives: Cyberpunk

Excerpt from “The Stark Divide” by J. Scott Coatsworth

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky

Excerpt:

Colin sat on an outcropping of rock with absolutely nothing to do. It was a strange feeling, after the hectic pace of events these last twenty-four hours. The enormity of what had happened rushed in on him and threatened to crush him. He turned off his comm link, wrapped his arms around his chest, and wept unabashedly. For Hammond, for the Dressler, for his own endangered life.

The suit’s recycling systems dutifully removed the water his tears deposited within the helmet, the soft whir of the suit motor the only external sound.

After a while, he began to calm down, taking a few deep, ragged breaths. The worst was over. Jackson was in no pain, and they had escaped the wreckage of the Dressler.

Now he would witness the birth of a new world, something good come out of this otherwise unmitigated disaster. I can do this.

He turned the comm link back on.

The doc’s voice was in his ear. “—can’t seem to reach you. Are you okay? I’m coming back as quickly as I can—”

“I’m here, Doc.” Colin kept his voice steady. “Just a glitch on the comm. Don’t rush back. Just take it slow and steady.”

“Oh God, it’s so good to hear your voice, Colin.” She sounded close to losing it. “I don’t know what I would do all alone.”

“I’m okay. Just get back here so we can get this done.” He stood and stretched.

“Affirmative.” She was all business once again. “Give me about ten minutes.”

He put his hands on the seed, trying to feel the life within, wondering what it would lead to. The thing he held between his hands was destined to become a world all its own, mankind’s first interstellar ship.

What would its occupants think of the world around them? Would its strange interior be as natural to them as the Earth was to him?

He looked up at the stars as the spin of the asteroid pulled them away from the sun’s glow once again.

Where would it go, and how long would it take to get there?

It was a liminal moment in the history of mankind, the threshold of a new era, and he was here to see it.

For a moment, he forgot all about Jackson Hammond and the Dressler. He was filled with an intense longing to go along with these future star travelers, to see what was out there. It was what had fueled his passion to become a pilot, to come out here into the vast unknown. Though ultimately he’d become nothing more than a highly paid delivery boy.

There was so much more beyond where they were allowed to go.

We have such short lives in the grand scheme of things. He’d be unlikely to live long enough to see her launched into the void, let alone to see where she went and what she found there.

“I’m almost there, Captain,” Anatov called.

He acknowledged her tersely, turning back to look at Jackson’s corpse lying there in the starlight.

He just wanted to get this over with and get back to the safety and comfortable confinement of the lifeboat.

It was too big out here for one man, no matter his grand ambitions.

Buy Links:

DSP Publications (paperback): https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-stark-divide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-416-b

DSP Publications (eBook): https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-stark-divide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-415-b

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stark-Divide-Liminal-Sky-Book-ebook/dp/B074G2NJP6/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-stark-divide-j-scott-coatsworth/1126901106?ean=9781635338324

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-stark-divide

iBooks: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-stark-divide/id1266474103?mt=11&at=1l3vtqV

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35834187-the-stark-divide

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/book/the-stark-divide/

Author Bio:

Scott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.

He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

Starting in 2014, Scott has published more than 15 works, including two novels and a number of novellas and short stories.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook (personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Facebook (author page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/jscoatsworth/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

 

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Finalists in the Rainbow Awards!

FinalistSMBoth Billy’s Bones and By That Sin Fell the Angels are finalists in the Rainbow Awards this year!  My YA fantasy novel, Dreams, also made the cut!

Unfortunately, we won’t find out who won until December, and the competition is steep.  Click on the image to see the other finalists!  I’m honored to be included among them.

In other news, I’ve signed a contract with Dreamspinner Press for my college romance Screw-Ups!

I’ve also submitted a steampunk novella called The Watchwork Man for an anthology, finished round two of edits on my Christmas story (The Healing Power of Eggnog) for the Dreamspinner 2013 Advent Calendar, and I have part three of the Dreams of Fire and Gods YA trilogy (Gods) coming out on October 17th!

It’s been a busy two weeks.

The Dogs of Cyberwar

The Dogs of Cyberwar

I now find myself without a deadline for the first time since the summer began.  So I’ll need to set some new ones.  I’ve been re-reading what I’ve written for A Mote in the Eye — part two of the B.A.L.O.R. Cycle, my cyberpunk trilogy which began with The Dogs of Cyberwar.  I’ve been promising to finish that forever, but other deadlines kept interfering.  I’m liking what I’m reading, so I’m setting myself a deadline of October 31st to have at least A Mote in the Eye finished and the third section started.  The story is, in my humble opinion, just too good to let it languish unread forever.

I’m also hoping to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  I have a murder mystery in my head that takes place on Mount Washington.

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Filed under Christmas, Cyberpunk, Drama, Fantasy, gay, Historical, Mystery, NaNoWriMo, Romance, SciFi, Victorian, Writing, Young Adult

Excerpt from “A Mote in the Eye” (the sequel to “The Dogs of Cyberwar”)

Here’s an excerpt from my cyberpunk novella A Mote in the Eye, the sequel to The Dogs of Cyberwar.  As I mentioned a few days ago, this is part two and I’m hoping to finish both this and part three in the next month or so.

In this scene, Logan (Connor‘s father) has put Connor in charge of a group of hackers who call themselves the Fianna, after a mythological band of Irish warriors.  (Logan, we’ve discovered, has a bizarre quirk:  he makes everyone who works closely with him take on Irish code names.)  Their goal is to take down B.A.L.O.R., the Artificial Intelligence which monitors the FreeCorp network and destroys anything — or anyone — it considers a threat.    Connor has done some reconnaissance and discovered a backdoor into the network, but he doesn’t like the idea of putting this group of people at risk.

The Fianna had their own small cafeteria off to one side of the “Link Room,” as Finn and his people referred to the computer area.  It was small and almost cozy, with a table just big enough for the ten people in the original group, comfortable padded chairs and warm lighting.  After Connor’s run, he dressed and everybody (including Luis) gathered around the table for real beer and poutine, a French-Canadian dish that was basically potato fries covered in cheese and gravy.  This was more of a Quebec favorite than something common to Vancouver, but Finn had been told that Connor loved it.  It bothered Connor a little to learn that Finn had been briefed in such detail about him, but he let it slide.  It really wasn’t surprising.  And after all, he did love poutine.

“So,” Finn began, after they were all settled, “once we’re inside, what’s our plan of attack?”

Connor wasn’t really sure he liked the idea of a team of people tailing along after him.  It would make it that much harder to stay off B.A.L.O.R.’s radar.  There was also no reason for them to risk their lives, if he could do the job by himself.  “No offense, but I’m used to working alone.”

The expressions on the faces around the table told him immediately that this wasn’t going to fly.  Finn glanced around at his team and then raised his hand.  The air in front of it immediately lit up with a holographic image of a keypad and he tapped out a code with his fingers, each “key” lighting up as he tapped it.  The keypad disappeared and suddenly the room was full of people.  Or rather, holograms of people.  There was a young man sitting in the chair to Connor’s left, which had been empty a second ago, and all of the other “empty” chairs now held ghostly occupants.  They were three-dimensional and moving the way real people did—one was eating from an invisible plate; another was simply grinning and looking around at the others, as if following their conversation; the one nearest Connor was leaning forward, typing something into an invisible keyboard.  One of these holographic ghosts was standing, leaning against the wall and watching the other’s in the room with a cocky expression.  Connor suspected this was because he and Luis were taking up two of the chairs at the table, which would normally be unoccupied.

The only reason three chairs had been available, instead of two, was that Daireann was standing and leaning against the same wall as the hologram.  With the two so near each other, it was impossible to miss the resemblance between them.

“These are the other members of the Fianna,” Finn said quietly.

“That one next to you,” added Goll, in his Québécois accent, “was Aengus.”  He nodded toward the other two sitting at the table.  “Umaill.  And Oisin.  All dead.”

Daireann smiled sadly at the young man standing beside her, reaching out a hand as if to brush his hair out of his eyes, though she couldn’t actually touch him.  “And this is my kid brother, Lughaid.  Louis, outside of here.  He’s still alive.”  She pulled her hand away.  “If you can call it that.”

“B.A.L.O.R. burned them all,” Finn said.  “Lughaid’s still in a coma, but the others all died pretty quickly after their brains were destroyed.”  He waved a hand and the holograms faded away.

Caitlin leaned back in her chair, stretching out her long legs into the chair just vacated by Umaill’s hologram.  She was a rough-looking woman, her head shaved and her bare arms covered in tattoos.  “We owe that fucker.  If Finn thinks you’re good enough to lead us in, well that’s fine.  You seem to know your shit.  But none of us is gonna sit by on the sidelines while you take B.A.L.O.R. down.  We all want a piece of it.”

Connor suppressed a sigh.  “I’m sure you’re all good at what you do, but a large group would leave a bigger digital footprint—”

“We’re all in this together,” Finn interrupted, looking him directly in the eye.  “I’m happy to step aside and let you take charge, but we’re your team.  Unless Logan says otherwise.”

For a moment, Connor considered going to his father and demanding that the Fianna be taken off the assignment.  But that would make enemies of them.  If he was ever going to escape from Logan’s grasp, he couldn’t afford to alienate the only group of people in NuadaTech who might potentially be allies.

“All right,” he agreed.  “We’ll do it together.  But we need a plan.”

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Back to Work on “The Dogs of Cyberwar”!

Okay, I’ve finally finished the edits on Book Two of my YA trilogy Dreams of Fire and Gods and it was submitted to my publisher at 1am this morning.

Now I’m going to take a little break from fantasy and try to finish the Dogs of Cyberwar serial.  More than one person has been asking me to do that and it has been ten months since the first book came out.  Not really a long time in traditional publishing, but practically forever in eBook publishing!

My original plan was for Dogs to be a trilogy of novellas, under 20k words each.  (The first was about 17k words.)  I planned on releasing it as a serial, with each one coming out maybe six months after the last.  But that turned out to be a bad idea.  As my publisher explained at a workshop last March, the only way serials really work in the eBook market is if the parts are released very quickly — say one to two months apart.  So it’s far better to write the entire thing before submitting it, so the publisher can space it out accordingly and put a “Coming Soon!” image of the next cover up.

So the plan has changed a bit.  I’m hoping to finish parts 2 and 3 this fall and submit them.  I can’t guarantee what my publisher will do with them, but we’ve discussed releasing all three parts as one eBook.  Perhaps parts 2 and 3 will also be released as novellas — I’m not sure.

Part two (called A Mote in the Eye) is actually one-third to one-half done, depending upon what its final length turns out to be.  I’ll be putting an excerpt up on my blog later this week, once I’ve gone over it to refresh my memory about where I’ve left off.

One final note:  I don’t yet know the name for the trilogy, even though I should have a title for it by now.  The Dogs of Cyberwar (referring to the security force Connor and Luis have to fight in the first novella) is just the name for part one.  Part two is A Mote in the Eye (referring to Connor going up against B.A.L.O.R., who is named after a giant in Celtic mythology with a single giant eye that destroyed everything it looked upon).  I’m not sure about the title for part three yet.

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“Saturn in Retrograde” has been accepted for publication!

This is the fastest I’ve ever received an acceptance of a submission: 6 days!  But it probably has more to do with deadline pressure than my brilliant writing:  Dreamspinner wants the anthology to be released in early June.

I’m very excited about it!  Not only did Saturn in Retrograde turn out to be something I’m rather proud of, but a release in June keeps me in the public eye.  It’s bad to go more than a year between releases, if you’re trying to build up a readership (or at least I’ve read that the “magic number” in the publishing world is a new release in not more than a year and a half, if you don’t want people to forget about you).  And although I did have a release in December (The Dogs of Cyberwar), and it garnered some nice reviews, it didn’t sell particularly well.  Seiðman will possibly be released this year, but I’m not sure yet.  So a new release in June is good.

In the meantime, I’ve been struggling with Shinosuke again, my re-telling of a 17th-century samurai love story.  I’ve written about five thousand words in the past two weeks, which is hardly a great pace.  It’s been pretty awful, in fact.  I was blaming the slow progress in the first week on having my attention focused on getting Saturn in Retrograde out the door, but I don’t have much to blame the slow progress of the past week on.  I have a handle on the manners of the period, now.  At least, enough so that I don’t have to worry about it constantly.  And I like the story.  But for some reason, it’s hard to write it.

I guess the only thing is to keep plugging away at it.

In other news, Dreamspinner Press is hosting a workshop for its writers in New York City this week and I’ll be there!  I’ll be hopping on board a train with my friend, Claire Curtis (who needs to be there for moral support — travel gives me panic attacks), Thursday, at 9:17am in that wretched time of day some more optimistic people like to call “morning” and returning Sunday night.  No doubt, I will achieve some kind of writerly enlightenment somewhere in the middle.

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Cyberpunk: Looking Back Into the Future

I recently finished reading Walter Jon Williams’ excellent cyberpunk novel, Hardwired, and was dismayed to realize that it had been published in 1986 — just two years after William Gibson’s seminal novel, Neuromancer.  In fact, an online search for cyberpunk novels turns up very few works in this genre more recent than ten years ago.  Sales on my new release, The Dogs of Cyberwar, have been rather sluggish, compared to my earlier publications (though I’ve received some wonderful comments from readers), and I think this is why:  it’s a sub-genre that’s more or less played out.

This is too bad, because I really love cyberpunk, and judging from the reader comments I’ve received, there is still an audience out there for it.  But perhaps not a large audience.  Even a list of cyberpunk-themed films on the great website Cyberpunk Review shows, in my opinion, that there have been few really brilliant films made in this genre in the past decade.  Good ones, yes, but even the good ones aren’t really contributing much to the mythos.

What exactly the mythos is, is of course debatable.   I generally look for various elements, such as a near-future dystopian society, in which corporations have taken over the government and the people have become disenfranchised — meaning, in a nutshell, that they’ve lost any say they might have had in the government (which some might say has already happened in real life).  Computers have become omnipresent and, in many ways, a drug.  (Which, again, many people would say has already happened.)  At the same time, computers and other technology are being used to enhance the human mind and body, and these enhancements are what enables our hero or heroine to fight back against the corporations.

There are, as I’ve said, a number of variations and different themes to be explored.  But what seems to be the problem with the genre right now is that there isn’t much exploration going on.  Authors and filmmakers in the 70s, 80s and 90s appear to have done all the exploring, and now we’re mostly seeing rehashes of by-now-familiar themes.

To be honest, The Dogs of Cyberwar isn’t innovative, except in having gay protagonists.  I’m hardly the first to do this, of course.  Madeleine Urban’s wonderful triptych of futuristic m/m short stories, Far From Home, touches upon cyberpunk themes, and S.A. Garcia recently released Divine Devine’s Love Song.  I’m sure there are many more.  But not too many — I still have difficulty tracking down cyberpunk with gay protagonists.  So I’m happy to contribute to the number of stories out there.

But the point remains that if writers of cyberpunk stories don’t want to see the genre increasingly marginalized, we should delve a little deeper into what it has to say.  And there is still a wealth of opportunity for commenting upon the way our privacy is rapidly dwindling to nothing, the eroding of personal freedoms and rights in the wake of 9/11 (Cory Doctorow’s Hugo-nominated YA novel, Little Brother, explored this theme very well), how social media and the Internet simultaneously free us to communicate in the face of government bans and opens us up to monitoring by the same government.

These are important issues, and there is still much to be said.

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An excerpt from “The Dogs of Cyberwar”, coming out November 30th!

This is an excerpt from the beginning of my new novella, The Dogs of Cyberwar, which is being released on November 30th.  The excerpt is rated PG for language:

Connor felt the bile rise in his throat and swallowed hard.

“Well, so much for getting into the gang,” Varela said calmly as he turned off the plasma sword and slipped it back into its scabbard, then allowed his trench coat to hide it once more.

“Jesus Christ!” Connor gasped, unable to think of anything else. He was completely covered in human blood.  There was a corpse at his feet, and the murderer was standing just a few feet away.

“You’re supposed to say ‘thank you’,” Varela stated as he came around to Connor’s side of the desk and bent over Big Nose’s body.

Connor wasn’t really in the mood to chat with Varela, but he didn’t want to provoke him either. “Uh… thank you.”

For some reason, Varela was wrestling with Big Nose’s boots, trying to get them off. Connor thought maybe the man wanted to keep them for himself, but when he did succeed in yanking them off, Varela simply tossed them aside. Then he pulled the pants off. “These managed not to get too much blood on them,” he said, as he stood up again. “They were around his ankles, when he went down. His underwear was, too, but I don’t think he changed them very often.”

Connor screwed up his nose at that. “What do you need his pants for?”

“To wipe you off. Turn around.”

He obeyed, and Varela rubbed the torn jeans along his back and ass, trying to clean the blood off. Connor might have objected to the man rubbing his hindquarters, but he was so businesslike about it that it didn’t really feel like he was making a pass. The jeans were filthy and not very absorbent, so Connor was still streaked with drying blood when Varela finished.

“You’ll probably want to shower off somewhere.”

That meant a trip to the gym or a hotel, which always made Connor nervous, since those places tracked identification. His digital ID was fake, but it could still leave a trail.  The fact that he still had wet blood on his skin also meant he had to stand around naked for a while longer in front of this guy if he didn’t want it soaking into his clothes.

“My name is Luis,” Varela said, tossing the pants away and extending his hand. Up close, Luis Varela was a strikingly handsome Latino, with smooth coppery skin and jet-black hair cut short but still long enough to show some curl. His heavily lidded eyes had irises so dark they appeared black.

Connor looked at the hand in surprise for a moment before taking it and replying, “Connor.”

“I have a proposition for you, Connor,” Luis said conversationally, as if he weren’t speaking to a naked man covered in the blood of the corpse at their feet.

Connor wondered if this man was entirely sane. It wasn’t fair to fault him for being an expert fighter. That was a skill anyone living on the streets of Seattle would envy. Obviously, this guy had done a lot of killing, judging from the almost-offhand manner in which he’d done it and the calm way he behaved afterward. But despite the fact that he’d saved Connor from being raped, Connor had to wonder just how trigger happy he really was.

When Luis saw Connor eyeing him warily, he amended, “A business proposition, that is. It seems to me you’re pretty vulnerable when you’re jacked in.”

“I guess so.”

It was actually one of the biggest problems with being a netrunner if he didn’t have a corporate safe house to operate from. Since he was generally trying to steal or destroy data from rival corporations, their security forces were constantly trying to track his location and stop him from operating—permanently. Connor was a freelancer, meaning that he hopped from location to location, doing odd jobs for different companies while trying to stay one step ahead of security.

“So how would you like a bodyguard?”

To buy the novella, go here!

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