Books

Blackwelder 2164: Must Read Rollicking Sci-Fi for 2018

Blackwelder 2164

By Christopher D.J.

NineStar Press

Blackwelder 2164 is a rollicking, sci-fi adventure, with a brilliantly drawn, lovable (and reprehensible) cast of characters. It is set in a time where warring countries on Earth have been forced to unite in the face of an alien threat. Blackwelder refers to Spencer Blackwelder, a disciplined, sharp shooting sergeant in the Allied Earth Forces.

The book starts off with a bang and keeps up a steady pace throughout. In the first chapter, the reader is dropped right in the middle of action, as Blackwelder’s squadron from the warship AES Barack has been sent to check out an abandoned alien craft. The mission does not go as planned and the stakes are life or death. In the second chapter, the reader learns that Blackwelder’s personal life has not gone to plan either, and he is grappling with a painful decision with no easy solution in sight.

By the end of the second chapter, I was already rooting for Blackwelder. He is clearly a good man and a great soldier. However, he has made choices in his personal life that have led to heartbreak and put his cherished friendships in jeopardy. He has fallen in love with one of his best friends. Due to the small detail of his friend being engaged, paired with the homophobia of his commanding officer, he feels completely trapped and miserably guilty. He decides to essentially run from his problems and requests to be transferred to a remote planet called Triton. Triton is a planet likely to be the target of a first wave of alien attacks, and the soldiers there are woefully unprepared.

Blackwelder’s request is granted and he takes up the responsibility of training soldiers on Triton.  He quickly finds out there are many more layers to this war than he had imagined.  As a top soldier on a prized warship, he was shielded from most rumors and secrets. But on Triton, he begins to see complexity to the war.  Perhaps earth wasn’t so blameless and perhaps an insurgent terrorist group posed more of a threat than he previously thought.  Moreover, a suspicious sabotage leads to a terrifying malfunction in the training arena. As the mysteries pile on, and the stakes rise and rise in the face of an alien invasion, Blackwelder meets a man (a badass, gorgeous, well-connected ambassador with a heart of gold) who helps him move on much more quickly than he thought possible. Triton is just full of surprises.

Blackwelder 2164 delivers heart stopping sci-fi space battles, government intrigue, spies, action, humor, and feels. Also, bonus sexy scenes and romance! I also appreciated that this is a story about a gay man of color, written by a gay man of color. When people write protagonists that reflect themselves, there is an easy authenticity that makes the story more absorbing. In fact, all the characters reflect respect for a diverse spectrum of cultures. And I was delighted as I kept meeting women characters who were written with love and style. A book set in the military with a male protagonist could easily fall into the trap of forgetting women soldiers exist or tokenizing them. But this book has women soldiers and they are written with character, personality, and depth. It is sad how refreshing it is to read a genre book that actually acknowledges that earth is a diverse place.

I highly recommend Blackwelder 2164 for your 2018 reading list. It's a fast, fun, intriguing read. In fact, I hope it gets a sequel. Blackwelder 2164 does end with a resolution to the first battle, so thankfully no cliff-hanger. But earth’s scheming and secrets that Blackwelder uncovered would make a fantastic act 2.

Fan Fiction and the Real Girl

As I have said in a previous blog, it has been my goal this year to read more. I have accomplished this. I have read way more than I did last year. Also next year one of my goals is to do every single homework from the Nerdette Podcast so that will require me to read a ton more. However one thing that has stuck more than anything else is fan fiction.

I can’t tell you when I started reading fan fiction, but I can tell you how I got started. I read an article on MSN about fan fiction, and they talked about how this particular work of fan fiction was even better than the work it was based off of, which was Twilight. It was called Wide Awake and imagine my surprise that it was a lot of people’s gateway drug into fan fiction. Since then I have probably read over a thousand stories. Most of them are Twilight. Occasionally I will branch off into Harry Potter or even Supernatural. But for some reason Twilight has always felt like home to me as far as fan fiction goes.

The Twilight fandom also paved the way for a lot of people who wouldn’t normally have gotten published to actually be published. Snow Queens Ice Dragon, or as you guys know her as E.L James burst onto the scene with her 50 Shades of Gray books. This further expanded the universe for people. Say what you want about those books (I read the initial one when it was still a fan fiction), she helped show the publishing world that there are other ways to find new talent. It also helped to show the world new voices and new genres of works. I wanted to write here that gay shape shifting animals chopping wood is a new genre, but then I thought of Anita Blake. It’s totally not a new genre.

Anyway, with this post today I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite fan fictions and authors.

Debra Anastasia – Fire Down Below

Crack fiction is a type of fan fiction not a lot of people rock with. In crack fiction (crackfic) the sky can be green. Your favorites are doing everything completely out of character (ooc) everything is silly and depending on how you feel about it is enough to make you bust a gut. Debra (Ms. Anastasia if you nasty) burst on the scene with the hilarious story of Gynazole, a crackfic featuring all of our Twilight friends. Fast forward a few years and Debra Anastasia is a published author with several books under her belt, most notably the Poughkeepsie series. I lost touch with her on twitter several years ago, but recently made contact again, as I was reminiscing about Gynazole to some friends, and they informed me that she published it under the name Fire Down Below. I went ahead and purchased it, and the second book, and spent the next few days howling laughing. I was doubled over with tears in my eyes at the hilarious antics of Dove Glitch. I now keep bugging Debra to make a third book. I’m fairly certain she is going to block me on twitter any day now.

 

Twist and Shout – Supernatural Fan Fiction

Over here at Geeky Girl’s Guide to Life, all three of us are Supernatural fans. Kim was the one who encouraged me to watch, and it took some years but I finally did. Rebekah…girl, I am not even going to go there. She is a fanatic. They have both been to cons, and that is how they actually ended up meeting in person. Like I said before I typically stick to Twilight fan fiction, and I am not entirely sure what possessed me to read this one. But I am so glad I do. This fan fiction (which is a Destiel paring) took my heart out of my chest, squeezed it and put it back in. To refresh myself I re-read it a couple of days ago, and my husband found me laying face down on my desk sobbing. I don’t even know where to begin with this. Dean and Castiel are heartwarming and refreshing with true conflicts that match the age in which this store was placed (the 1960’s-80’s). Make sure you have tissues on hand if you pick this up.

The Cannabean Betrothal

So look. I struggled to add this fan fiction. It is going to sound ridiculous because I have read it multiple times. It keeps me entertained. However, I am not a huge fan of the characters. I can’t decide if it is because of Edward, the religion, or what. However, I do know that I would be remiss in not adding it. It is a well written story. The characters are well fleshed out. But “The Cannabean Way” makes me so irrationally angry. LET THESE WOMEN LIVE! Stop being a spoiled bitch because you didn’t get to have sex Edward. STOP HOLDING OUT ON INFORMATION THAT BELLA NEEDS CHARLIE. Man, I hate the Cannabean religion. It isn’t even a real religion, and I hate it. Read this story. Then message me.

The Selkie Wife

Look. Lissa Bryan did her homework. The history in this story is impeccable. This story was one of the things that helped me realize that I enjoy historical fiction. I enjoy the eventual love that Bella and Edward share. The mini stories that play out in this story are also wonderful. I didn’t know any of this history before reading this work. There is a part two to this, but it is unfinished. I have spoken with the author, and she does plan to get back into it. She just has some things going on right now. I can’t wait.

So these are just a few of the ones that enjoy. Do you read fan fiction? Are there any that you recommend? Have any of your favorite authors been published?

Reading Hard in the Paint

When I last left you, I had made a resolution of sorts. I wanted this year to be better than last year as far as reading. Last year I barely read anything I havent read 10 times over. I barely picked up any books for fun. I just didn't have it in me. I feel as if part of that was from the job from Hell I escaped from last year. In my new job I have a lot more support and responsibilities, and I am loving it, and feel more at ease at home as well. This makes it easier to sit down and relax with a book rather than wallow in pity.

In the last post I gave a list of the books I have either checked out from the public library, have a request in for also at the libray, or was currently reading. Here is that list:

  • I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi
  • Hamilton by Ron Chernow
  • In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney (thanks Nerdette!)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R Carey
  • Books 1 and 2 of the Archived Series by Victoria Schwab

The ones that are purple I have read. I am currently writing my thoughts on them, but those posts will take some time, as I have a lot of thoughts. I am trying to write them while I am on my lunch at work, but I go to lunch and want to just stare into space for an hour. Since the post I have also added some new books to my list. Shall we?

  • Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen
  • Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
  • Rivers by Michael Farris Smith (My local library did not have this in ebook form, so I actually had to jaunt to the library.)

I've also checked out two book on activities to do with toddlers. I am not going to list those here unless you absolutely want to know what they are. I find them funny however. When I was in high school, I was in vocational for one semester to get a certification to teach at a daycare center. I ended up dropping the class because the teacher was a horrible racist pig of a woman. The final straw in her class had to do with these notebooks. You had to find activities to do with different age groups of children. The notebook had to be formatted a certain way. I got a D on mine. When I compared it to a (white) friend, mine was superior and even the friend noticed. The friend encouraged me to ask the teacher why she had scored me so poorly compared to her. When I gave her the books, she gave me some weird reason, I forget at this point. I got angry. It was rare I got angry in school. I launched both of those books across the room and told her what she could do with herself. I ended up filing a complaint with the school. It didn't do a whole lot of good as I graduated from high school over 10 years ago and the woman retired just two years ago. Oh, memories.

Anyway, I am still reading, still chugging along, and I hope you are as well. Are you reading anything? Do you have any suggestions for my reading list?

New year, same old me

I don't honestly make resolutions. I have enough to feel bad about in life, why should I make up changes I am never going to fulfill?

 

This year? This year is different. I made two resolutions.

  1. Find out what Cardi B's real name is
  2. Read more.

Growing up, I was never without a book. Typically I would have 4 or 5 around the house. I am one of those unique people that can pick the story up, no matter how many books I am reading, and remember what is going on.

 

Lately with smart phones and my attention span not being what it is, I haven't been reading. At all. I will read books to my daughter, but it isn't the same thing. I also want her to grow up realizing that television is not the end all be all and you can get lost in a book.

So I have made it my mission to read more. I didn't put a specific number up, because honestly I do not know what is feasible. I've read one book this month, and I am about 90% finished with another. I hope to detail them in the blog and talk about what I like and what I do not.

This is where you come in (and hopefully you want to come in). I need book recommendations. I am pretty much open to anything. I've been checking out e-books from my local library. These are what I have read or have on hold so far:

  • I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi
  • Hamilton by Ron Chernow
  • In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney (thanks Nerdette!)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R Carey
  • Books 1 and 2 of the Archived Series by Victoria Schwab

 

Not a bad starter list eh? I hope you will help me as I try to get back in the swing of loving to read and actually doing it, instead of using Facebook all day. In the comments, please list some books you enjoyed reading, or are looking forward to reading this year.

 

Cardi B's real name is Belcalis Almanzar.

Pride and Precedence

I may have went to college to hone my skills as a writer, but being an English major means, there is a lot of literature classes that will be assigned to your future semesters. Reviewing and breaking down works of fiction done by others is a major part of the writing process. It is examples of why things work or don’t. The only real choice I had to make to make in my literature courses was to take British literature or American literature course. I went with British, because I was a massive Jane Austen fan.

Oddly, in none of my college or high school courses was I ever required to read any of her novels. That is extremely shocking, I know. I have to wonder if this is the reason why I chose Mansfield Park as my favorite. It was my first exposure, knowingly, and even more shocking, it was the movie at that. My fellow lit alums are probably scandalized by that confession, and understandably so. I say knowingly, because I had been watching the film version of Emma, repeatedly, before Mansfield Park graced the screens. The difference is that my twelve year-old mind never connected with the writer Jane Austen or that Emma was actually hers when I was watching it.

Mansfield Park was an adaption of another of Ms. Austen’s work onto the big screen. The character of Fanny Price just spoke to me. I related to her character in so many ways and still do. I fortunately didn’t have to be removed from my family and sent away to live with my cousins as a friend slash servant because my social status blurred the lines between propriety and family responsibility. I just grew up in a normal household with my normal family, so I had that going for me. Fanny’s situation aside still left this strong willed girl, whose head was filled with imagination. Unfortunately, she still had to be aware of her limitations. She was still expected to play by the rules of society. Society didn’t give her a whole lot of options, but she still had choices. Ignoring the whole “I’m in love with my cousin, Edmund!” thing, Fanny was in love with someone she was not supposed to ever consider because of her social status. She accepted that her love could never be, but she still held on to a tiny sliver of hope. This was more than most women in her time allowed themselves.

Fanny new her place and played by the rules. It didn’t mean that she didn’t look for loop holes or judged and chose by the consequences. Fanny’s uncle had such a high opinion of her when she grew to the age of marriage that he decided to have a coming out ball for her. Fanny may have been in love with Edmund, but she firmly didn’t want to be handed over to some man by her uncle like he was handing over the title to a car. She stuck to her beliefs regardless if that meant she would be forced to go back to poverty.

Fanny does get tempted to fall for the easy choice. She gets an offer of marriage from a man, a charming one at that, who represents everything that she doesn’t believe in. But does Mr. Crawford ever try to woo the poor girl. If I am honest I got a little wooed myself. Even with all of this, she does finally make the right decision in choosing her own beliefs and feelings. She knew she could never love him regardless of the type of man he was, but mainly due to her heart belonging to another. I think she would have chosen a life on her own than to ever settle making me respect her that much more.

This is why Mansfield Park struck such a cord within me. I have always felt like a girl that is aware of her place in the world, but is not willing to sacrifice that which truly makes me who I am in order to satisfy others. My love and devotion for Mansfield Park is understood and accepted, but for other Jane Austen fans, I usually get this response in return, “So Pride and Prejudice is a close second, then.” I am not saying that this is all true of the fandom, but Pride and Prejudice is usually expected to the favorite. If it isn’t, then the acceptance of a close personal bond with one of the other novels, with the exception of Northanger Abbey. That novel is usually considered a four letter word among the Austenites. Not that it is bad, just clearly not a favorite for Austen to have written let alone to read it. When I tell people that I actually prefer another of the novels above the beloved Pride and Prejudice as a second favorite, I get odds looks of disbelief. Even in such a fandom of unified enjoyment and respect, there is a hierarchy.

Persuasion is actually my second favorite, because I am a hopeless romantic and love the story in this novel. Stating this, however, does not diminish my love and feelings for Pride and Prejudice. For her time, Elizabeth Bennett was pretty radical. She was comfortable enough to not follow the social order and beat her own drum. Her sarcasm and wit is enough for any kind of inspiration. I just have my own loves and ways of loving when it comes to Jane Austen. You would not believe how many retellings and Jane Austen inspired novels I have read over the years because that is how much I love it.

For my fellow Austenites, I want to say this. It is okay to love any of the other five novels more than Elizabeth Bennett’s and Mr. Darcy’s romance. It’s okay. Hell, it’s even okay to love Northanger Abbey more. Honestly, if it wasn’t treated like a dirty secret, and I had gotten my hands on it when I was twelve, I probably would have been in love with it just as much as I love Mansfield Park.

Pride and Prejudice is a wonderful novel that is fun and provoking, but Austen was a great writer in general. This carried over to her other novels which were just as good. It wasn’t her first novel nor her last. The woman had a talent that I personally envy. I can only hope that I can write at least one thing as amazing as anything she has.

These are my preferences in order.

Mansfield Park

Persuasion

Pride and Prejudice

Emma

Sense and Sensibility

Northanger Abbey

I must also take a moment to point out that while not all film adaptions are perfect representations of these novels, there are some decent ones.

I recommend the recent BBC adaptation of Emma. I fully believe that this is the best interpretation of any of her novels that has ever been made. They do take liberties at times, but I believe Jane Austen would have approved.

The 90’s BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth is always a favorite, but if you want something a little shorter. The last version with Keira Knightley and Michael Macfadyen is a pretty decent condensed version.

Also I think the 1999 version of Mansfield Park is fantastic.