Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Remember this anthology? Well, it's now available as a print edition for $14.99. (The ebook is still cheaper, but I know quite a few of you out there want print.

So, if you've been holding off because e-readers are scary - or because you want the amazing cover art in physical form - go check it out on Amazon right now.

And while you're there, go look for your copy of Transpecial. (I seem to have at least one fan in Germany - okay, who are you? Fess up ;)).

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Plague of Harleys

...and I don't mean the motorcycle.

Last week I was at AwesomeCon DC and there were a lot of costumes.

The most popular costume: A Dalek. (Including some adorable princess Daleks. I don't know how else to describe them).

The second most popular: Harley Quinn.

I did ask Batman to do something about the plague of Harleys and his response, "But they're all cute."

That got me thinking. Why were a dozen women dressed up as a relatively obscure Gotham villain who's best known as the Joker's love interest?

Then I started thinking about comic book villainesses in general. If you ask a non-comics reader for a female villain, they're likely to respond "Catwoman."

Gotta love the kitty cat. So, what do we know about Catwoman? She's a thief and she's in love with Batman.


So, the most recognizable female villain in comics is best known for a romantic relationship with the hero. Oh, but that's just Catwoman, right? And she's really in a grey area - she's a gentlewoman thief, not the crazed killers seen so often in comic books. Hrm. How about some more comic book villainesses.

Star Sapphire - Hal Jordan's possessed ex-girlfriend.
Poison Ivy - best known for trying to seduce Batman...and anyone else who gets in her way.
Black Cat - basically a Catwoman rip-off who's often found in Spider-Man's bed when he's not married to Mary Jane.
Talia al Ghul - in love with Batman.
Elektra - a fierce mercenary and assassin, oh, and in love with Daredevil.
Maxima - who will do anything to get in Superman's pants - in fact it's her entire motivation for being a villain.
Bliss - a Wildstorm villainess who uses her empathic abilities to seduce and destroy.
Rose Tattoo - I'm not even going where they went with her.
Typhoid Mary - ex hooker, romantically linked to Daredevil.
Moonstone - dated Hawkeye for a while.
Madame Hydra - briefly married to Wolverine.
Emma Frost - another one who uses her sexuality as a weapon.

Oops. It seems our villainesses have a habit of falling in love with our heroes. Except for a couple who  are trying to seduce everyone. Heck, in the X-Men movie we stop the action so Mystique can disguise herself as Jean Grey and try to get into Wolverine's sleeping bag. And even those who don't have a sexual dimension to them. There have to be exceptions, right?

Well, there's Cheetah - Wonder Woman's nemesis. And there's Titania, a She-Hulk villain, although their relationship more closely resembles a pro wrestling feud. Lady Deathstrike just kills people, pretty much. Amanda Waller was fat and ugly until they rebooted the universe. And Granny Goodness is a creepy old lady.

So, yeah. But what is with the hero and villainess falling in love? (You don't see the reverse).

Truth. Most comics are written by men for men. Most women in comic books fall into two categories - mother figures and lovers. Evil women still tend to fall into those two categories (Granny Goodness and Amanda Waller can both be seen as twisted mother figures). The villainess is not there just to be evil - she's also there to be sexual. Sensual. Her sexuality is either directed towards the hero (Catwoman, Elektra) or the audience (Poison Ivy, Emma Frost). She's meant to be desirable and unattainable (as are many superheroines).

Here's the thing. Women who go to cons and dress up take a risk. They take the risk of being seen as desirable by men who go to cons - some of whom don't have much self restraint, I'm afraid to say. A woman who dresses as Catwoman or Poison Ivy is saying that she's got sexuality and isn't afraid to use it...on you. I'm not saying male comic book fans are slathering beasts for the most part. But sexual harassment at cons is a real problem.

Harley Quinn? She's only got eyes for Mistah J. All of her sexuality is directed to another villain. (In fact, two of the Harleys were with Jokers - and one of the Jokers may not even have been a man. Not sure...) Harley is "sexually bound" in the same way as Sue Richards (unimaginable without Reed) is. Do women feel safer dressing up as a character who is so thoroughly taken that she almost has no identity without the love interest? If so, that's rather sad, because I'd rather see women feel safest dressing up as a character who is safe because she is empowered and in control, and has a strong identity that doesn't rely on her cup size or the scantiness of her outfit.

I don't know, but there were a dozen Harleys, three Cheetahs...and only the one Catwoman. It might say something.

I also do know that here's a challenge for people writing in traditional supers - let's see more villainesses who don't turn into weak women when faced by their nemesis *and* who don't use sexuality as a weapon. Let's see more who know they are women, sure, and aren't afraid to be women, but who have their own agenda and their own empowerment. Where are the female counterparts to Magneto, to Lex Luthor, to Doctor Doom?

Let's see them.

Friday, April 26, 2013


And it's live! You can get your copy from Musa's web site at the below link. It should also be on Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon (hopefully by the end of the day, but they seem to be being slow today).

If you download the iOS Musa app you will get store credit. Sadly, there's no Android version yet.

Go ahead. Check it out. It's right here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Transpecial: Neural Webs

One of the things I've always been fascinated with is the interaction between man and machine. Particularly, I have an interest in direct neural interfaces and the promise they have for advanced prosthetics...and even for every day activities.

Every day we come one step closer.

In the world of Transpecial, Earth fitted their GIs with neural "webs" - artificial nervous systems that allowed them to interface with their weapons and also enhanced their reaction time and strength. Neural webs have also been used to allow people born on Mars or Luna to function in Earth's higher gravity. It's now been discovered that they make the ultimate piloting interface.

However, there are downsides. The Martians believe that the webbed soldiers have been brainwashed and conditioned to shoot "anything not in an Earthforce uniform." While this may be true, it's unlikely to be a result of the web. As a result, though, neural webs are illegal on Mars. People fitted with one are not permitted to immigrate - or even to land on the planet. Webbed veterans find themselves unable to find employment even on Earth. Humans will always have their prejudices, and people with superior physical capability? They're going to be victims of them. Something to think about, perhaps, before we start going that route by any means.

On the other hand, it is very likely that some kind of enhanced humans will be with us, be it through technological or genetic means. Very soon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Transpecial: Haniyar

The third major character in Transpecial is the ky'iin neuter Haniyar.

Ict (the third gender pronoun I and my editor chose to use for this book) is an experienced career diplomat who has dealt with aliens before...in a somewhat limited fashion. Ict also happens to be the "nephew" of the task force commander. Ky'iin don't have the same worries about nepotism that we do.

Haniyar's background is kept somewhat quiet in the book. Ict has a brother and two sisters (not mentioned), and his brother has fathered two clutches. Ict's not that much younger than his aunt - this can happen often enough in humans, after all.

Ict is a good person. In many ways, ict is less complicated than Warren and even Suza. Ict has devoted his life to maintaining peace between the ky'iin and their neighbors. Now, ict faces the challenge of dealing with an alien race both similar to and hauntingly different from the ky'iin. An alien race that apparently fired on them unprovoked.

Ict's biggest concern is to establish whether the aliens have "myoran" or "true wisdom" - the factor that to the ky'iin distinguishes true sentients from animals. Myoran is the ability to transcend one's biology, overcome one's prejudices, to create art, and to seek knowledge for the sake of it - all qualities we tend to consider to be the height of being "human."

I've said before, although not in this blog, that any alien race's name for itself would, if run through the Star Trek universal translator, end up as "human." For convenience, we would probably use world of origin - or simply not translate that name. Ky'iin and human are the same word...and that might be something worth remembering if we ever do come into contact with aliens.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Transpecial: Reclaiming

It's a throwaway mention, but on several occasions something called "Reclaiming" is brought up in Transpecial.

A while back I started a novel about the second Great Depression and America turning into a theocracy. Then...the Great Recession started and I decided nobody would want to read it right now, so I put it on a shelf. However, this novel was always meant to be in the same future history sequence as Transpecial.

At the risk of going into politics, America is often torn between religious and secular influences. Sometimes within the same person. We call ourselves "One Nation Under God" and argue about what the separation of church and state means. We fight about "moral" issues such as abortion and gay marriage. At the time I started the shelved novel, "Austerity," I was genuinely afraid that we were going to go the Jesusland route.

Since then, my feelings on the matter have changed. I'm a lot more hopeful for the future of America as a democratic and diverse society than I was, but not quite enough to remove those references from Transpecial. Besides, every future history is an alternate reality. None of us are ever going to get everything right.

Still, the idea of "Reclaiming," of Christian values being forced on the rest of us, is still something some people fear and others long for. It's likely to stay that way for a while. At least at the level of arguments in bars and on the internet.

Fortunately, arguments in bars and on the internet can be fun.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Transpecial: Ky'iin Genders

Recently, somebody discovered a microbe with no less than seven sexes, with apparently random determination of which sex each offspring would be. (Some day I'm going to use something like that).

I've always had a fascination with gender variance, gender roles, and the different methods organisms use to determine sex. The ky'iin have three genders, but one plays no role in reproduction. How could such a mechanism have evolved?

It might seem at first that the ly'iin - the neuters - play no role in reproduction. However, they do play an important role in parenting. The ky'iin are oviparous - egg layers. In their traditional structure, the female lays the eggs and walks away, leaving the clutch in the care of their father. He is, traditionally, assisted by his neuter sibling or siblings, usually - but not always - his clutchmate(s). The females, in the mean time, defend the clan and hunt. So the gender left free from the "demands" of reproduction is not the neuter - it's the female. This has something to do with ky'iin sex hormones - in their species it is not the equivalent of testosterone that builds size and strength but the equivalent of estrogen. Additionally, the heat cycles of the ky'iin female are violent, akin to a male elephant in mustht. Modern ky'iin females take ovulation suppressors - essentially hormonal birth control - unless intending to reproduce.

Likely, then, the third gender evolved as a balancing factor...and they play important roles in parenting, handle most cultivation of crops (the ky'iin have never domesticated animals) and also act as a buffer between the passive males and the violent females. They stabilize ky'iin society. Most ky'iin animals also have a third gender that plays some role in survival.

It is this last role - mediating between the fertile genders - that led, with civilization, to the idea that a neuter is the most appropriate diplomat.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Transpecial: Warren Taylor

Transpecial has three major characters. Suza was, perhaps, the easy one - or perhaps not.

Warren Taylor is old and cynical. He was in Earth intelligence during the Mars War, but retired afterwards. Since then, he's been an anthropological researcher, that being what his original training was in.

He's a tough guy, but more than a little xenophobic. Humanity comes first for him, all else second, and he struggles to keep from thinking people from Earth are better than those from her colonies. Oh, and he has relationship problems. His wife dumped him and took off to Ganymede to do research. He still isn't over her. He's an older character and, thus, a deeper and more complex one.

Warren is a foil to Suza - age and experience as opposed to youth and talent. He's also somebody who understands the military and has entirely too much experience with war. He doesn't want to return to being the ruthless man he was back then.

Warren is often accompanied by Leroy Martin, a young American linguist who represents, as much as possible, the ordinary person - somewhat naive, even a little ignorant, and perhaps too inclined to lean on religion. The two of them are meant to be aspects of humanity. How well do they work? I'll let you be the judge of that.