Month: January 2015

More Reviews of “Red Queen: the Substrate Wars”

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

More reviews of Red Queen: The Substrate Wars.

From Amazon, a random reader says:

5.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent!, January 30, 2015
By A. Shibley (Philadelphia)
Verified Purchase

I bought this Kindle book on a whim after seeing it on Instapundit. It was really a fun read! Too often, independent books like this are poorly edited, clumsily written, and hardly thought out. This is not one of those books. Indeed, I recently read a “big name” series (not Hunger Games) that was objectively less well-written and entertaining. Looking forward to the next one.

Also from Amazon:

5.0 out of 5 stars
A good read which is hard to put down, January 28, 2015
By John Stephens (Guerneville, CA USA)
Verified Purchase

I really enjoyed this book; I read it on vacation and I didn’t want to stop reading it. There were a couple of sections where the dialog was a bit stilted and it was reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon in being somewhat didactic, but that’s just nit-picking – it had engaging characters and the plot moved along quickly. I liked the emerging universe he created and feel that the stage has been well set for a good series. I actually thought Samantha was going to be a government agent but happy to be disappointed 😉

I look forward to book number 2!

Like didactic is a bad thing! And “stilted dialog?” — argh! 😉

Book blogger Christina DeVries (whose native language is Norwegian, so bear that in mind) has a review at Geek Heaven:

4 stars out of 5
This is a science fiction thriller set in the US in the not too distant future. The country is run by a Unity Party, combining the worst of both the Democrats and the Republicans. The Bill of Rights is being ignored and people are being monitored by the government. Terrorist attacks results in more restrictions on people’s freedom and privacy.

The story follows a group of young people who are tired of their countries censor, stagnant economy and no jobs for young educated people. And when one of their favored professors suddenly disappears after being contacted by Homeland Security who suspects that he’s staying in touch with a former student who now runs a rebel group.

These young students discovers a new kind of technology that could ever free mankind or be the ultimate weapon to control or destroy us if it falls into the wrong hands. What are they to do with it? And they have to work fast before Homeland Security arrests them all and get their hands on the technology. Who can they trust? How do they know that they’re not being watched already?


I was very intrigued by the synopsis when I was contacted about this book and it did not disappoint me. It was fast-paced and exciting. The characters were really well made but I would have loved to have gotten to know them a little bit better. In the beginning of the story some of the writing could get a bit too technical for my taste, but it definitely picked up and got easier to follow as the story progressed.

I can’t say that I’ve read anything quite like this before so I went into this with a very open mind and was definitely pleasantly surprised!

I’m really looking forward to seeing where this series goes and I definitely recommend this if you like political thrillers and science fiction.

Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral

Phall-o-meter, Intersex Society of North America

Phall-o-meter, Intersex Society of North America

From the beyond-the-Onion department:

CUNY’s Graduate Center now believes the use of gendered salutations like “Mr.” and “Mrs.” might offend some students. What’s more, administrators think federal non-discrimination law requires the university to prevent its faculty from inadvertently giving offense. Therefore, professors have been instructed to wipe the contentious words from their memories and cease using them in any and all forms of communication.

Full Reason story here.

Some young reviewers of Red Queen: The Substrate Wars think it portrays some unlikely future thought-control state. It’s actually about RIGHT NOW in many universities, which is why it bugs me I can’t get a conventional publisher to look at it in less than a year.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


Scientific Revolutions and “Red Queen: the Substrate Wars”

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

These two reviews illustrate a conflict that anyone writing science fiction needs to deal with.

The primary driver of any good story is the characters and how they handle problems. What makes science fiction different is that these problems will be related to new science and technology; while in fantasy, any magical system with consistent rules will do, in science fiction the technologies should be at least possible, preferably plausible extensions of what is known. That is how science fiction predicted 200% of the innovations of the past decades (we are all still waiting for flying cars, for example!)

There’s a trap here, though. Pop culture is now saturated with science fictional technologies that were once novel ideas: time travel, wormholes, warp drive, runaway nanotechnology, powered armor, etc. Where once a single idea of this kind could make a book exciting, they are now routine. And a whole subgenre of space opera simply transfers naval warfare into space, with a few new features but old stories.

There’s a risk in introducing a truly paradigm-shattering idea: only a small and shrinking market of readers will follow the author into a fictional world that says familiar scientific rules are broken. So in “Red Queen” I have a new technology based on revolutionary new physics that appears to allow violation of some rules all of us educated in physics hold dear, like conservation of energy. Even the fictional developer of the technology has trouble accepting that, even though these violations only happen in very unusual circumstances, and may well be accounted for by as-yet-unknown effects elsewhere in the universe. Which is reminiscent of Einstein’s reaction to quantum entanglement–“this appears to be right but I don’t like it so it must not be the last word.”

This is how it feels when old paradigms are broken by a new theory backed up by experiment: this explains what we have seen better than the old theory, but “it can’t be right, it makes me uncomfortable.” Darwin’s work for biologists, quantum theory for physicists, Copernican heliocentrism for astronomers: all had to wait for a generation of believers in the old theory to die off.

So half your readers will willingly suspend disbelief and follow along, and the other half will stay bound to their reality and have the nagging feeling their hard science fiction story just turned into a fantasy. It’s far less risky, but in the end less interesting, to stick with a known science-fictional technology like hyperspace or warp drive, with a few differentiating features to make it “yours.” The readers are prepped for it. But maybe there is now so much science fiction already written that truly new ideas are hard to come by, and we are left with character and plot as the drivers of interest.

The idea for the physics breakthrough in “Red Queen” is actually thirty years old, coming from long BS sessions with friends at MIT. That there has been little testable progress in string theory and unified field theories since that time is a problem — something is being missed, with dark energy, dark matter, and Mach’s principle all pointing at a failure to see something. The physics in the book is just one way things might go, and the truth when it is found is likely to be similarly surprising.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Classic style Hard Sci-Fi January 26, 2015
By Donald W. Campbell
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

A great read in old-style hard science fiction. The social/economic predictions are an easy extrapolation from where we are now. (very short term future) The ‘science’ part of the fiction is; Imagine a cellular automation is the basis and under-pinning of our universe, and the laws of physics represent ‘rules’ of emergent behavior of this automata. (This is a current theory, the author postulates it is true.) Imagine Quantum computers really work. (A 90% probably true, not a long shot)

Now, accepting these two, let us speculate a ‘fiction’. Aforementioned quantum computer is capable of interacting directly with the underlying cellular automata, bypassing the emergent ruleset and subsituting its own. If we accept this ‘fiction’, the remainder of the book is a logical extrapolation of reality as it exists.

(Hopefully this description hasn’t created any real spoilers for future readers.)

4.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent novel, full of interesting plot points, January 25, 2015
By Dave
Verified Purchase

Excellent novel, full of interesting plot points. This novel intrigues. While it’s not plausible, at least by any known science, it is thought-provoking, and that is often the more interesting form of fiction: what if something were possible? What would it imply.

In this novel we are presented with a calamitous terrorist attack and the attendant overreach of various governments. Concomitant with that a group of rogue scientists discover a way to move immediately to another planet via that obvious trope of science fiction, the wormhole.

But, but, but! you say. “Wormholes are fake!” Well, sure, they very well may be. But so what? If you are able to suspend your narrative disbelief and enjoy the plot for what it is, an interesting thought experiment occurs: in a panopticon society, in which your every move is tracked, how do you rebel agains the authority of the state?

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

For more on science fiction and pop culture:

Science Fiction Fandom and SJW Warfare
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
“Game of Thrones” and the Problem of PowerThe Lessons of Walter White
“Blue Valentine”
“Mad Men”
The Morality of Glamour
“Mockingjay” Propaganda Posters
“Big Bang Theory” — Aspergers and Emotional/Social Intelligence
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor

Review by Chris Pavesic of “Red Queen: the Substrate Wars”

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Book blogger Chris Pavesic has written a kind review of Red Queen: The Substrate Wars:

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars begins with a quotation from Robert Heinlein’s 1950’s novella, The Man Who Sold the Moon: “There is nothing in this world so permanent as a temporary emergency.” This idea sets the tone of Kinnison’s novel and permeates all of the events within his fictional world.

The novel is set in a not-too-distant future world with events that mirror our own society: Readers will recognize similarities in events like the AIDS epidemic, the creation of agencies like Homeland Security, and how some people use online games like World of Warcraft and other social media to create connections and send messages in “the real world.” The differences between our world and the story world of Red Queen: The Substrate Wars lies in how much personal freedom has been reduced and how far technology has developed. As it states in the book blurb, the technology being created could either save the world or destroy it; the stakes are no longer just personal freedom versus governmental control. The characters are actually fighting their governments for the right for the human race to exist.


It is hard to discuss the novel without giving away huge spoilers. (Of course I have this problem with most of the novels I review!) I really enjoyed the chapters with the ALife Simulations. The narrative of these chapters focused on the evolutionary development of the artificial life forms. It traces them from the very start of their existence, focusing on the entire species rather than one character, and each ALife section relates in some way to the actions taken by the main characters in the novel.

My favorite character in the novel is Professor Walter Wilson. Kinnison creates a very interesting character. Wilson is a homosexual male who grew up in a world that initially did not tolerate this lifestyle, although the level of acceptance evolved, and even flourished, over time. He survived the AIDS epidemic, although his lover did not. Infected, Wilson has to take what he terms a “daily wonder pill” to prevent the progression of the disease. Because of this loss, he never developed another close, romantic relationship. Instead, he threw himself into his work. He flourished in the academic world, even winning a protest against University regulations in the past when a security officer removed a poster with an image of a gun from his office door. Wilson also had a positive impact on his students, who maintained contact with him even after they left the University.

The twist with this character comes with the reduction of personal freedoms in The Red Queen society. At the start of the novel, Wilson has come under fire from the University officials because he commented on a biological difference between the genders. Any statement that points out a difference between people is considered offensive and subject to censure. This, however, is not as simple as it appears on the surface. The censure may be retaliation for the protest he won in the past, it may be an issue because his former students have become leaders in the resistance against The Red Queen governments, or it may have something to do with the ALife simulation project Wilson is running. The University’s actions do encourage Wilson’s former and current students to rally behind him. It is not really a “call to arms;” rather, it is the situation that starts a chain of events and it is fascinating as a reader to watch each domino fall into place.

I did enjoy this novel and look forward to the second book in the trilogy!

Interview with Serenity Sheild

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

[An interview prepared for Serenity Sheild’s book blog]

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?

I wrote terrible stories in grade school, journaled in high school, and took writing courses at MIT and Harvard. When I left MIT, I was interested in trying to write and spent time with a writer’s group, one of whom is now a bestselling author – Sue Miller, of The Good Mother and other novels. But I was not good enough to break in at that time (I was 22!) so I went on to careers in computer science and business. I’ve returned to writing after early retirement.

Is being an Author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen? The best and worst thing about it?

If you’re going to write novels, you’re going to be isolated a lot; you can’t be task-switching every ten minutes and hanging out with friends every night. So you spend long hours in your head and interruptions are resented. The best thing, I suppose, is that you get to single-handedly create—no one can stop you, no one (except possibly an editor!) is going to derail the flow of what you and your characters have to say.

What was the very first thing you ever wrote?

Hah! Probably a two-page science fiction story about a boy going into a cave and discovering aliens at the center of the Earth. I knew it was bad even at the time!

 What made you create (your book)? How did it come to you?

I had done well with two books about attachment theory and relationships: Bad Boyfriends: Using Attachment Theory to Avoid Mr. (or Ms.) Wrong and Make You a Better Partner and Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner. I had not tried to write long-form fiction in 20+ years, but a long discussion online with a group of science fiction writers and fans convinced me to take up the challenge of writing a story about and for younger people which had some of the technological optimism of old-school science fiction, blended with the diversity and sensibility of today. Part of the problem with YA fiction is the depressive tone taken by many authors, as if every story should focus on Major Issues like global warming and environmental catastrophe. A breakthrough like Hunger Games happened because publishers saw it was a story with a strong young woman as hero — which is true and a big part of its appeal. But it became a phenomenon because it is also a story about today’s politics, with the elite urban disdain for rural and lower-class people and the oppressive micromanagement of an ever-increasing and manipulative government. I wanted to more directly address the same urge for freedom.

Who is your literary hero?

Hmm, I don’t have just one. But I grew up reading Robert Heinlein’s juveniles, so-called because they were designed to be relatively simple and feature young people growing into adulthood and doing great things. When he wrote more complex and adult stories, his publisher refused them – starting with Starship Troopers, still considered a classic. In later years as he became too commercially successful to be told what to do by editors, he got self-indulgent and his work was less focused.

Evan Connell is another master of literary fiction whose work is less known than it should be. Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge are perfect, lapidary novels capturing a husband and wife in Kansas City in the 1930s and 40s. Heartbreaking portraits composed of a series of small scenes, each one adding a tiny bit to your understanding until you are overcome by the power of it — and all without major drama. Restrained, refined, repressed. Two of the top ten American novels.

How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?

None directly. There are fragments of my own background and personality mixed up with other people I have known, but once set they tend to take on a life of their own beyond those starting ingredients.

Describe your main character in six words.

Grad student waiting for a challenge.

Describe the world you’ve created in six words.

Soft fascist thought control state, overturned.

What scene was your favorite to write?

The fictional version of an incident where a professor put up a “Firefly” poster and was cited by campus authorities for creating a threatening environment. Which actually happened. I enjoyed gently mocking Star Trek and Firefly.

 What scene was the hardest for you to write?

One must have villains, and one of mine is the boyfriend of my main female character, Samantha. He’s a narcissistic, rich schmuck, and in the scene where she breaks up with him in a restaurant, he is abusive. It was intense to write feeling how she must be feeling.

 What are you working on now?

The next book in the series. Our rebels take on the governments of the world and bring peace, harmony, and plenty to all. No, really! Until the next book, anyway.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?

I work out every day at a gym, lifting weights and doing cardio. I really enjoy that and come up with some great ideas while on the Stairmaster. 

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Jeb Kinnison’s Amazon author page

“It Described His Behaviors With Such Eerie Perfection”

Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner

Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner

A new review of Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner: on Amazon keeps the uniform 5-star rating going:

5.0 out of 5 stars, January 17, 2015
By Dara

I’ve been (it turns out) with an avoidant/dismissive for around 10 years — this book brought me peace because it described his behaviors with such eerie perfection. I was able to understand why our relations had always been tumultuous and why it was okay to leave.

Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

Amazon Warrior

Amazon Warrior

The culture war continues between Social Justice Warriors (who want to elevate politics over story in science fiction) and everyone else (writers and fans who come from all political perspectives but see true diversity as a product of merit, not correctness.)

I came into this battle late and I lack the scars of many of the writers who’ve manned the barricades, but it’s obvious where my sympathies lie: freedom of speech, freedom to write a good story wherever it leads, freedom to have characters of any and all cultures and colors, including white and privileged, so long as the story is compelling and the writing is good. Applying a political correctness screen to fiction gets us bad fiction and bad politics. And just as certain elitists tend to see any business that is profitable as suspect and in need of more government supervision, science fiction elitists would try to screen out science fiction that is “too entertaining” or too accessible to the less refined. Joy, you see, is to be found only in the tiniest of nuances, the finest of emotions that can only be expressed by a truly literary author. It is the joy of feeling yourself superior to all those unwashed who cannot see what you see. And if it doesn’t confirm the latest and most advanced progressive ideology, it’s dangerous and only perpetuates racism and sexism…

Many have written good pieces on the topic, so I’ll just point out a few:

James May: “The Death of Science Fiction”

Larry Correia: “Why I Don’t Like Social Justice Warriors”

Sarah Hoyt: “In the World of the Red Queen” (has she read my book?? 🙂 )

“Dave of Cydonia”: “Why Social Justice Warriors Suck, Part 2”

Peter Darbyshire: “War is Coming to Sci-Fi and Fantasy Fandom” (a good overview of recent controversies)

Jeb Kinnison (me!):
#Gamergate Explained
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again

On the latest skirmish, “Sad Puppies 3” by Brad Torgerson — another effort to leaven the Hugo Award nominations with non-PC candidates, I wrote elsewhere:

Controversy! I’m on the side of good story-telling and mind-expanding entertainment no matter what the political perspective or level of accessibility. I guess I have to start paying attention… to quote Brad:

“I’ll say it again: the Hugos (and the Nebulas too) have lost cachet, because at the same time SF/F has exploded popularly — with larger-than-life, exciting, entertaining franchises and products — the voting body of ‘fandom’ have tended to go in the opposite direction: niche, academic, overtly to the Left in ideology and flavor, and ultimately lacking what might best be called visceral, gut-level, swashbuckling fun. The kind of child-like enjoyment that comes easily and naturally when you don’t have to crawl so far into your brain (or your navel) that you lose sight of the forest for the trees.”