The Science in After Destiny: Greenberg’s Syndrome

In the book, there’s a character named Brady who is a seventeen year old kid in the body of a six year old. In part, this was just to illustrate that there’s some side effects to having a pregnancy partially out in the wastelands, but there’s an actual rare condition that has occurred that is related.

Brooke Greenberg was diagnosed with something called “Syndrome X” which meant that aged incredibly slowly. It’s a bit of a medical mystery, with only a handful of people developing it worldwide at any given time. Interestingly, their mental states also don’t age, which means it’s not a glandular problem like in some cases, but that they actually aren’t developing at the speed of other people.

I gave Brady a modified version of it. In the universe of After Destiny, there is a treatment for it, though they had a very limited supply of it and it only allowed Brady to age until the point he is now physically. I had plans to do more with it, but it didn’t fit within the context of the revised narrative and, like many other little darlings, the full explanation of Brady’s medical condition was abbreviated and largely cut back.

If you get a chance, though, do read up on Brooke Greenberg and Syndrome X. It’s fascinating and I couldn’t help but draw a little inspiration from it.

Vanished by Kat Richardson

This book starts out with Harper looking into her past in Los Angeles, which is an interesting look at her history. As it turns out, her Greywalker abilities were from her father and he killed himself after not being able to handle this whole seeing ghosts business. Also, Harper had died once before the start of the series! There are a lot of little relevations, but we don’t get to linger on them for too long.

Before going on, I want to make a note on Harper’s mother. Being in dance myself as a kid, I have seen those mothers and there is nothing I question about Harper’s mother. This is exactly how some of them were, and I wasn’t even one of the kids who went to auditions. It’s uncanny how much she reminded me of some of the women in those change rooms during competitions.

Harper is called away to London, partially because Edward1 needs someone to check on what’s going on over there and partially because Will Novak insists on being in the plot again. She’s been dreaming of him being tortured and wants to check it out. Not to mention, the ghosts keep bringing up something ominous. After a quick visit with Quinton, she’s across the ocean and getting stalked by another Greywalker named Marsden and finding out that everything has gone awful because Egyptian vampires really want Harper.

Yeah, this book gets a little weird.

Let’s start with Marsden, the other Greywalker. He’s wonderful. He’s the grizzled old man who would have been Harper’s first mentor that eventually softened her her as she realized her potential if he came around earlier in the series. He gouged out his own eyes to get rid of his ability to see the Grey, but that didn’t work and now he’s trying to make sure the Pharaohn2 doesn’t get Harper if he has to half-kill or indefinitely imprison her himself. When she eventually wins him over, he lets us all know that the reason Harper’s so good at her job is because she’s magic.

Apparently Harper is magically persuasive. Now that she knows this, she is immediately able to use this unconscious ability consciously.3

The Egyptian vampires have their own name, the astem, which appear to be magical vampires that are slower. Their whole goal in this is a little muddled for a while, but they need Harper to achieve their end goals. They work for a reference to the first book and a scene that felt like it came out of nowhere when it happened. Apparently this whole time it’s been building to this eventual plot, which I really like. I just wish it was more cohesive in the first place. Also, that the astem did or indicated in any way that they were significantly different from other vampires.

Then there’s Michael. Michael is Will Novak’s little brother and serves the purpose of guide and provider for the series, given that he’s the one who gets them all of their getaway vehicles and knows his way around the city. He’s along for this whole ride because, despite being perfectly normal, his brother has been replaced with a golem and he didn’t notice. And then Harper carves the fake Will up in front of him and Michael reacts a lot better to that than Will did to the zombie thing. I actually don’t mind the kid because I never found him too invasive and he was there just for the purposes that the plot needed him for.4

They also call Edward Ned a few times in the book, which…


Well, let’s just say I don’t take Edward, the vampire king of Seattle all that seriously anymore.

And now, Tanya complaining about Google in the Greywalker series:

WHAT DO YOU MEAN 2009?! It is not allowed to be 2009.

Okay. Step back. Let me explain why telling me what year it is in this story is such an awful idea.

It’s pretty obvious this story was written several years before this date from the usage of technology. Putting a concrete date on it, especially a date when I was alive and can still remember fairly well, means that I know what technology was at the time. I remember what it could do and what was available. Harper being a PI and not looking up anything is an issue in 2009 because, in 2001, I was able to use Google to take someone’s forum username and turn it into their real name, home address, work address and work schedule. If you track people down and do background checks as part of your job, this is a skill you should have. And in 2009, never turning on your computer to look anything up is jarring.

Particularly when you have a kid in your party who is a student that never thinks to at least Wikipedia what a golem is. He may not have a computer on him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to bitch about the lack of internet anyway at least once.

Back to our regularly scheduled book talk.

I do love plot. Plot and characters suffering are my two favourite things. With this installment, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of both with even more on the way. While it was nice to have Harper out of her element, I like that I’m left wondering about the larger implications of what’s going on and what this is all building up to. I also really like that it’s tying back into everything else that’s going happened in previous books.

And a quick word on Harper/Quinton. I live that she’s not falling apart without him. I love that she’s calling him now and then when she’s feeling like she needs some support, but not angsting when he doesn’t call her back right away. The relationship continued to seem really healthy, and that always seems very rare in these urban fantasy novels with female protagonists. The romance isn’t even the focus of the series, which has left me very happy.

It’s also left me really wanting to know what’s next. I could not wait for Labyrinth.

  1. From book one. He’s essentially the king of the vampires in Seattle and owns a very large business, so he’s loaded. []
  2. Yes with the n. I hate that n. []
  3. Nope. Doesn’t bother me at all. Not one tiny bit. Nope. []
  4. Also so that the dead woman in the statue could check out his butt. []

The Science in After Destiny: Birth Control

When you’re in a confined space with a lot of people and population has the potential to be a problem, there needs to be some way to maintain that population without having to worry too much about human error. There’s not only the issue of having an extra mouth to feed and extra body to put resources toward, but there’s also the loss of that worker that could be vital at that moment. Not to mention the general dangers of birth and the pains of abortion, it’s generally a good idea to have more than one way of keeping pregnancy limited to only when the mother actually wants a child.

In the Janus Complex, they use male birth control options. Rather than just a condom, males get a shot to ensure they cannot impregnate anyone unintentionally. I saw the article and I wanted to implement it in the story pretty much immediately, but it had to be cut because it didn’t actually fit into the narrative.

There is a small leftover in a section where Liah is talking to another worker, who mentions that three people are off on maternity leave at the same time. The way the system in the Janus Complex currently works is that if you want to have a child, you have to apply for it. They need to approve your leave and find someone to cover for you, then the male partner will have the shot reversed for a time. Once impregnation happens and the child is deemed viable, then the male is injected again.

And, of course, maternity leave. This differs between Upstairs and Downstairs, though both offers a full year off for both parents and options to go back part time.

I wish I could have made it fit, but I just couldn’t make it work. It sounded like a tangent and ultimately it had to be cut. It’s just one of those things that exists in the universe that never really came into play enough to be talked about in the narrative.

Underground by Kat Richardson

First and foremost, Will Novak is out of the picture! YAY! You didn’t have a personality, so I’m not going to miss you now that you’re gone! Also, apparently the quickest way to make a guy dump you is to reach into a zombie and rip it apart with your bare hands in front of him. Good information for you all.

It’s about bodies that show up in the Underground, which is where Seattle’s homeless live, and those bodies belong largely to Seattle’s homeless population. As it turns out, there’s also a monster that is eating people that is not a vampire.

This story strikes me as interesting in that it’s about the homeless population of Seattle and it seems a lot less judgmental or preachy about the situation. Quinton is among the population, though has converted a forgotten room under some stairs into a bachelor1 and is there willingly because he wanted to drop off the grid. Others are there for a variety of reasons and there’s never this push for them to get a job or that they’re a scourge on society, nor is there a message that they are all these poor unfortunates that should be pitied for their situation. Everyone is a person in a rough situation and it’s nice.

Speaking of Quinton, guess who’s ship just became canon!2 I am a little iffy on the timing, but I’m a lot happier with this relationship because he’s much more on her level with the magic stuff. he can’t do any of it, but he can come up with logic about it based on his own experiences and he’s not going to absolutely refuse it. They can talk and communicate about the important things going on in their lives, which makes this a far more healthy relationship.

The eventual monster is not vampires, though the vampires are still very much a presence in the book. Instead it’s something a little more local. There’s a nice use of Native American mythology in the story as well as Native characters. I have no idea how accurate any of it is, but I do wonder if Harper will continue to use feathers in her arsenal in the future. That one seemed incredibly useful.

And then the story gave me a year. Don’t say 2005. Harper just got a flip phone.3 She doesn’t appear to know what the internet is, despite it being her job to be an information broker of sorts. It just can’t be 2005. If it were, I’d be seriously questioning why she doesn’t at the very least google4 the name “JJ Purlis” before asking her boyfriend about his top secret past and taking it completely at face value. Is it because you want to [insert cheesy sex euphemism here] with him?

Come to think of it, Harper hasn’t done a single background check on a boyfriend yet. The woman, who works as a PI and apparently has a history of rough boyfriends, not at least looking up something to make sure her potential mates don’t have a violent crime history or personal attachment to a previous case she worked on at the very least strikes me as weird. Then again, I have googled my friends’ dates to make sure they aren’t crazy before they go out with them. If I continue to assume this takes place in a world before Google,5 I can kind of forgive it.

Guess who isn’t there for the climax this time! That’s right, no calling in Carlos! Instead she nearly gets a Dazinger killed, but you knew he wouldn’t die.6 She handles this one pretty much on her own, which was exactly what I wanted to see.

  1. That may or may not have a washroom, I legitimately don’t remember []
  2. Mine. It’s my ship. []
  3. I assume it’s a flip phone. []
  4. Or Yahoo! []
  5. And assume that 2005 was a typo []
  6. If he did, she couldn’t call up Mara to constantly ask about magical stuff! []

The Science in After Destiny: Underground Plants

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t use a lot of science in my stories. When I do use it, I tend to pick and choose between various elements and skim over the rest, usually to keep the text from dragging like crazy while I’m writing. I might have been great at math and science while I was in school, but even I found most of the classes pretty dull.1 That means After Destiny doesn’t have much in the way of long explanations for some of the elements in it.

It also means I definitely made some of the science up and based it off of old propaganda films I remembered from high school or that binge of them I watched a decade ago back when I first wrote the story.

It doesn’t, however, mean that some genuine science didn’t slip in there. I took them to a different place, but they do exist.

The first of these things is the farm downstairs that is entirely underground. While there is mention of these plants being engineered to have different nutrients and tastes to them,2 I added in an interesting bit of research. See, apparently you can grow plants under different coloured lights to create different effects.

It’s cool, right? You grow plants under a different colour and you get a different effect on the plant. Blue will allow plants to grow and red lets them flower, all based on the spectrum the chlorophyll can take in and process. Over the years, the plant leaves may change colour to adjust to their environment.3 Give science a few generations with this technology and who knows what it could eventually be used for.

Well, besides using various spectra to help create a genetically-enhanced, protein-rich apple that tastes like bacon.

Of course, this is not interesting to the people on the Janus Complex, so they don’t really mention it. Those who even understand how it works.4 It was an explanation I couldn’t work into the story and, in the end, it wasn’t that important to leave in. The food was strange colours and there were strange lights on the ceiling to help the genetically modified plants grow. Downstairs was more important as a setting and the food as a background element that the explanation for the lights and the science behind any of it seemed unnecessary.

One of the many darlings I ended up killing. And that’s not the only one.

  1. Although that’s true of most of my classes back in high school. []
  2. And that would imply that, reasonably, they were also engineered to survive in the climate created in their underground farm []
  3. This was from another article on the process, but I can’t seem to find it now. []
  4. Admit it, you don’t really remember how plants feed themselves anymore. My mother plants a garden every year and she couldn’t tell you about the inner workings of her plants. She can tell you which ones are jerks, though. []

Poltergeist by Kat Richardson

This one was so much better than the last one. There was a focus to the whole thing and not nearly as much of this things happening because they needed to happen. There was a much better balance struck between the case and everything else happening in Harper’s personal life. It’s also nice to know that she does have friends, though at this point, I wondered if those were one off characters.

This time around, Harper is trying dealing with an experiment at a local university where they have accidentally made a poltergeist that is now killing people in the group that created it. It’s an interesting concept and there is an actual mystery in it because she is trying to figure out who did it without using a lot of physical evidence because the murder weapon is a ghost made by the group that leaves no trace.

You know what helps this book a lot? There is only one case. The jumping back and forth was what made the last book such a mess, and there’s none of that now. It read more like a mystery than the last one and I was actually trying to figure out who did it by the end of the book.1

What doesn’t help is the thing I don’t like about mystery novels. There are always sections of it where the protagonist steps back and thinks through the facts, putting together the clues in a way that makes sense. These monologues need to happen, but they always throw me in a story and I find myself tuning out despite these arguably being the most important parts. They always feel like recaps and I’ve just read that in full detail several pages ago. Why didn’t you tell me this then, even though you had absolutely no reason to put it together until right now?2

The magic of the series is getting explained to a bit of a strange degree, though. There’s always something that makes me nervous about doing that because there’s too much opportunity to write yourself into a corner and have to completely break your own rules about your universe in order to make the story continue to work.3

I also wonder if calling Carlos is going to be a thing. She calls the Dazingers as soon as she needs a magical problem solved, but is she going to need Carlos for every climax? I get that she deals in ghosts, but is the necromancer going to be necessary all of the time? I might be more okay with it if the description didn’t always talk about how intimidating he felt,4 but I kind of want to see Harper actually take a climax n her own.

Lastly, let’s talk about Will Novak. He is bland. He is female love interest bland. They seem to be together entirely for the [insert cheesy sex euphemism here] and nothing else. He doesn’t know about her world and doesn’t want to. This is not a good foundation for a relationship. At this point, I’m kind of shipping Harper/Quinton just because they seem to be a better match.

  1. I was also right, which was awesome. []
  2. This is probably the reason I’ve never really gotten into murder mysteries or cop shows for very long. []
  3. Being on the sixth book now, this does not happen. The whole thing works out really nicely. []
  4. Admittedly necessary []

Greywalker by Kat Richardson

So I have started to binge-read all of the Greywalker series by Kat Richardson based on a friend’s recommendation of the series. I am now on book 5 of it, so I figured I’d go back and go through my thoughts of the previous books as I keep going.

Fair warning, there’s not going to be a lot of recap in these so much as my thoughts about books and elements of the book. If you wanted to know more about what actually happens in them, I do suggest reading them. Or, you know, finding someone who reviews in a much more standard fashion.

The first book in the series has Harper Blaine, our heroine, dying and coming back changed. Now she can see into the Grey and not only can she spot a ghost, they can see her. Also there’s vampires, which is much more important to one of the cases at hand.

This was messy. It’s the first book in the series and there’s a lot to set up, but it’s really messy. Harper is working on two cases that I knew would eventually tie into one another because I have read a novel before, but that connection doesn’t happen until the last 10% of the novel. Up until then, it feels like there’s two separate cases, one of which ends up with its very own romantic subplot spin off that isn’t even related to the case.

The three plots running through this were: Trying to find an old antique for a mysterious client, finding a runaway college student that turns out to be a vampire, and a romance with Will Novak. Besides Will Novak being the least important,1 I’m not sure which takes precedent in this book. The vampire plot line has more to do with the long term arc, but the antique is also given a lot of weight. Like, much more weight than necessary, despite its involvement in the conclusion.

Most of the events are presented as things that happened as opposed to things that lead into one another as well. Because there are two completely separate cases tied together by individual characters, there’s a lot of jumping back and forth between all the plots and there’s never any real parallel between them. One doesn’t present a lead for the other, and there are some scenes that seem to just come out of nowhere, happen, then never get touched on again.2

Harper’s newfound abilities with the Grey are all right. She is pointed to a witch who can help her understand what’s happening to her by a medical doctor, because you know medical doctors are totally into explaining things away with witchcraft, and she doesn’t go through a long process of denying it, which is good. She is frustrated by it frequently, but that doesn’t stop her from believing it’s happening, which is a nice change from some other stories where the protagonist will deny it until they are forced to accept it.

It is nice that the story takes place in a real time and place, though. Seattle feels vivid and like it probably really is.3 I do wonder if that’s hammered in a little too much because she drinks coffee as her only beverage ever,4 but after a while I figured it was a character trait. Harper also uses a pager and has no cell phone, so you know this story probably happens in the early to mid-nineties, which I can still kind of remember.

Overall, it was on the low end of okay. The biggest problem was that it was messy and the twist at the end seemed like it was pulled out of nowhere despite the fact that I know there was build up to it throughout the novel. Everything just felt so disjointed that I couldn’t really put the pieces of the story together until I thought of them as entirely separate stories.

  1. Because I don’t care []
  2. Until much later. Like, other books later. []
  3. For some reason I’ve never been. It’s not even that far away, so I don’t know why. []
  4. A thing I have never encountered before, but I do know the stereotype about Seattle and their coffee []

Out of Print

I recently went digging to try and find a book I could only vaguely remember from my younger days. I was a teenager and the book was actually in the teens section of the library instead of the adult Sci Fi/Fantasy sections I’d come to frequent back then. I was only just delving into the teens section after reading every Star Wars novel they had and was disappointed by the YA selection of related materials, but I found another book to tide me over at the time.

It was the second book in the series, I remember. Six books total. There were these boys who had crashed on a deserted island, their plane totaled and they soon found they weren’t alone. There was a mad science lab there and strange creatures1 and the boys splitting up was always a bad idea. One of them went rouge, I think. I can’t quite remember all the details. The cover might have been kind of yellow.

I do remember a scene in which a character rather graphically tries to treat an arrow wound to another character. Something about pushing it in and cutting off the shaft of it that I remember more as the feeling I got from reading it than what actually happened.2

I think I’ve finally found that old series. My library only had three or four of the books. They were missing volumes 1, 3 and possibly 4, so imagine how excited I was to finally get a lead on this series that I could remember no specific details from after so many years!3 It’s a series called Escape from Lost Island by Clay Coleman. And now that I’m an adult with my own money to spend, I can finally get the books and read the whole damn thing after all these years!

One problem. It appears to be out of print.

I have tried Amazon and it returned several results that look like they probably are not in actual possession of the book. There appears to be no one who has turned the series into a digital copy so that I can legally download it from anywhere. The internet has not given me a lead yet as to where I can find these books.4

Even now as I make plans to start hunting through used book stores to try and track the books down, I can’t help thinking that this is a problem that’s been mostly eliminated in modern publishing. Almost every book that comes out these days are immediately digitized and put on the ebook stores. There’s print on demand options for books if you can get your print rights back after the publisher decides not to print your book anymore.5 Out of print is becoming a thing that doesn’t exist anymore.

Until this, I’d forgotten how difficult it is to find a book that’s out of print. It’s just something that I forgot could even happen. I am having trouble even tracking down the author on social media. Maybe he’s the same guy that wrote the book on diving, but I really don’t know.

I, for one, am really glad that this isn’t going to be a problem going forward. I like being able to dig up books from my past and rereading them to see if they are like I remember them. In the mean time, though, I am looking up every used book store in the lower mainland and going to try and find these books now that I remember what they are.6

  1. Might have been zombies. Might have been mutants. I can’t quite remember []
  2. I suspect this was what led me to enjoy some of the gorier scenes in novels in the future and why they occasionally come up in my own. []
  3. Seriously, every “Boys plane crash on deserted island novel” search turns up Lord of the Flies []
  4. Not even the… less than legal options are of any help on this one []
  5. And, if all else fails, the pirates will probably have it stashed away somewhere []
  6. At least I think I do. I’m going to be so sad if I track them down and I’m wrong. []

But Which Darlings? – World Building Edition

By this point, I think everyone’s familiar with the Quiller-Couch1 advice of “Kill your darlings.” It doesn’t matter how much you love that passage or that word, you need to get rid of it to make your story better. Unless you have a good reason to keep something, you should probably cut it.

I went through a very extensive high fantasy phase in my reading in high school,2 followed by a space-related science fiction one. If there’s one area where people like to throw this advice right out the window, it’s with world building in these two genres. In order to get their point across, these authors often feel the need to explain everything about their universe so that the reader can understand.

Now, there should be a lot more world building in these sorts of stories. You have to. There’s a whole world you’re plunging the reader into that they are going to need to understand in order to follow along with the story. There’s a lot they need to know, and there’s a lot you need to get across. I’m just suggesting that maybe it’s not all relevant information.

For example, I distinctly remember a fantasy story that explained that they had a system to empty chamber pots so that they weren’t dumped out the window and into the streets. At no point in the story did a character ever use a chamber pot. I don’t think they even had to urinate once in the entire narrative. They didn’t even spend much time in towns or cities where this would be relevant information and, say, they would want to stay in the middle of the road to avoid unfortunate accidents.

Universe elements are like everything else in the story. Feel free to include them all you want in the first draft, but when you’re editing, really think about whether or not that information is actually doing anything for the story. I know how tempting it is to include every single thing about the universe and how it all feels important so that the readers know exactly what they’re dealing with in terms of the universe, but it’s probably not all necessary.

When you’re looking over those parts of your story, keep the same thing in mind as you have with the rest of the story:3 Is this actually important to the narrative? Does it further the plot? Does it add to the characters? Does it help the ambiance? Does this element ever come back into play again later?4 If it doesn’t, make it do one of those things somehow. If not, consider cutting it to help keep the story moving at a good pace.

I know I’ve had to do a lot of it with After Destiny. I’ll tell you about some of the world building-related cuts from that later.

  1. Or Faulkner. Or Wilde. Or any number of other people this quote is attributed to. I really don’t know anymore. []
  2. And Game of Thrones recently []
  3. Or the thing I always think of when I’m rewriting/editing. []
  4. Yes, red herrings are a thing, but I don’t tend to use them as often as I should. []

I Tried Ingress

There’s a game on the Play Store called Ingress. It’s an augmented reality game that allows you to pick a faction and play a very large game of Capture All The Flags. There are portals all over the place and it’s your job to help your team control all of them. The more in your team’s colours, the more territory they control and the better.

It’s interesting in how it does require you to actually physically move to locations in order to perform actions. You are supposed to go and capture portals at physical locations that are set around some kind of landmark1 and once you’re there, you can actually act upon it.2 I can see it as a neat way to explore a new city.

I wish they’d done more with the narrative, though. There’s an intro telling you that the two factions are trying to control the portals because of Exotic Matter and Shapers and you can either be Enlightened or Resistance3. Green or blue. They really didn’t do much with the narrative from what I could tell, given that after that intro I had one other media file after a week of playing and that was it to enforce the story. Everything else was all about the game play,4 which left me a little disappointed because that felt like a lot of wasted potential.

But that wasn’t my ultimate issue with Ingress.

The real problem I had with it5 is that it completely drains my battery. It is, by far, the heaviest app I have ever had on my phone. With it requiring that your screen be on the whole time and it using data to constantly update your location, it just sucked the life out of my phone. I played mostly on my way to work in the morning and in the hour it took from stepping out the front door to sitting down at my desk in the office, I went from 100% to 18%. That was an hour.

It’s okay as a game. I probably would have continued it casually if it wasn’t such a drain, but when I’m out and in places where I would play it,6 I usually need my phone as, well, a phone. I can’t have it die on me because just one app.

  1. No matter how minor the landmark []
  2. My phone kept jumping me to random spots so I didn’t actually have to go to a lot of them to do anything []
  3. I was Enlightened []
  4. Why not make the fact that you’re on a phone part of the game play? Introduce the paranoia element of the enemy being everywhere and set it in the real world to make the experience more immersive? []
  5. And why I’ve uninstalled it []
  6. Waiting for something, killing time until the next thing I have to do, generally on transit []