Twilight Zone 2019 Review

As a fan of the original Twilight Zone, I was excited to see a new version on CBS All Access. I’m a fan of the original and watch all the marathons. But it was very dated and in some ways limited. So here’s my Twilight Zone 2019 review.

As much as I loved the original, sometimes it was painfully obvious the show was made in the 60s. The stilted, wordy dialogue, the comically bad special effects. A colleague once told me that was because, “Back then, they had to rely on things like writing and acting.” And some episodes do that brilliantly, while others…not so much. The good news is the new show seems to have improved on the old one.

The first episode, The Comedian, is about a standup comic, Samir, who is really, really terrible at standup comedy. Despite spending years doing it, he has never, apparently, studied other people’s acts and tried to figure out what they were doing right that he wasn’t. Whatever, he’s about to enter the Twilight Zone and get his fucking wish anyway, thanks to the ghost of a dead famous comic who randomly shows up, tells him the secret to comedy is to use his own personal life, then warns him he will be giving away these things to his audience.

Assuming this is just a metaphor, Samir goes ahead and tells a joke about his dog, which gets lots of laughs. Then he goes home and discovers his dog is gone and his girlfriend swears they never had one. He can’t even find a picture of his dog to put up flyers. Yet despite this ominous turn of events that’s quite literally what the ghost guy warned him about, Samir proceeds to tell jokes about his nephew, who also, shockingly, disappears. Then he gets the brilliant idea to just start joking about people he hates, including everyone who’s ever pissed him off. (Gotta be honest, I’d do that too.) Although the ending was predictable, the dialogue was clever and the whole thing was so entertaining it didn’t really matter. The show also made some interesting points about how comedians and other creatives often do find their best material in their own lives—to the detriment of their relationships.

Nightmare at 30,000 Feet is a remake of an original TZ episode—you might recall the famous one where William Shatner is haunted by someone wearing the world’s worst Bigfoot costume and pancake makeup hanging out on the wing of an airplane. I was looking forward to seeing this done with modern special effects…and a lead who could act his way out of a paper bag. It did not disappoint.

Twilight Zone Nightmare at 30,0000 Feet
Nightmare at 30,0000 Feet

In this version, the protagonist is a journalist who gets on the plane and finds an MP3 player with a documentary about…his flight. Flight 1053. As if it already happened. Hey, that’s not creepy at all! The journalist keeps thinking various people are going to cause the plane to crash as he continues listening to the ominous podcast. But no one listens to him—not the flight attendants, not most of the other passengers, not the air marshal.

I’m going to be honest here, this episode gave me the perverse desire to record a doom-and-gloom story about a downed flight and leave it on a plane for the next unsuspecting passenger. Oh wait, I can’t do that because I can’t afford to fly anywhere in the first place. Okay, one of my loyal readers please do it for me.

This episode is fleshed out much better than the original version, and has an added twist at the end. The acting was good and nobody in a hairy Bigfoot costume made a cameo on the wing.

Both episodes lost a lot of things I put up with in the original series. The lengthy monologues in which the protagonist details the main plot conflict, for starters. These were apparently popular in the sixties. Just have the protagonist explain the problem, the history of the problem, their childhood neuroses, blah blah, like they’re having a therapy session. Today you don’t see that. It’s 2019, if a viewer can’t figure out what the main conflict of the show is, they can go fucking ask someone in an online fan group. Subtlety is possible because the internet.

Which reminds me, the new version has profanity, because it’s on a streaming channel where the Puritanical pricks at the FCC don’t get a say. This adds to the show’s gritty realism—of course people are going to fucking swear when things go wrong! You see Bigfoot twerking on the wing of your airplane in real life, you’re dropping an F bomb or two, right?

Jordan Peele steps into the role of Rod Serling, the guy who shows up at the beginning and end to sum up the lesson the protagonist was supposed to learn…a little too late. (And it’s always too late in the Twilight Zone. ALWAYS.) He really has the delivery down and closes out each episode with that classic TZ ending.

As a writer, I’m always thinking about how to refine a story I’m trying to tell. I don’t always do it well, but I do try. Sometimes you can have an okay idea, but if you don’t take the time to refine the idea, to chip away at the rough edges and really bring what you’re trying to say into focus, it may just stay an okay idea. If you do take the time to sharpen it up—cut unnecessary words, shape up the plot, raise the stakes of the plot, better define the characters—you end up with a better product. The early TZ was a good show, but the new version takes everything that was good about it and just…makes it better.

My main complaint is that we only got two episodes, then waited ten days for the third, and presumably will get one a week in the future. Of course those asshats at CBS can’t just give us the whole season at once like Netflix. They want to force people to keep paying six bucks a month, the greedy bastards. And of course they release this show close to the end of the second season of Discovery, so I won’t be able to cancel my subscription when that’s over. (And yes, I pay every month for Netflix too, but it has TONS of stuff I want to watch, not just two shows.) It’s a diabolical plot to keep collecting my six bucks a month.


V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, a science fiction book series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans abandoned Earth—and we’re what’s left? She is also the author of the political satire, Fail to the Chief, in which she envisioned the presidential election as a reality show… more of a reality show?



First Contact for Dummies, a Science Fiction Short Story

First Contact for Dummies

A Science Fiction Short Story


I was just about to dig into my mouthwatering lentil and quinoa bowl at Happy Herb’s Vegan Restaurant when the aliens walked in.

I stopped, spoon halfway to my mouth, and stared at the newcomers.

I normally try not to stare but, well, they did have tentacles trailing out from under their arms and a third eye smack in the middle of their foreheads.

science fiction short story

The one on the right was wearing a long black coat with no shirt, the blue tentacles curling around the edges of the open garment. He marched over to where I sat, phone in hand to take a picture of my meal, and pointed a three-jointed blue finger at me. “You! You are a vegan?”

Well, I never expected that to be the first question a space alien asked me.

“Um… yes?” Just my luck, the guy was apparently from some planet where everyone angrily demanded to know where vegans get their protein…just like here on Earth.

The second alien, who was wearing a Grateful Dead shirt and chinos, leaned over my table and glared at me with all three of his eyes. I guess it was a him. Actually, they were both wearing pants and I had no idea if they were mammals, so the lack of boobs might not mean anything…

“You started a war!” he yelled at me.

Well, that was different. Usually I got accused of killing carrots or eating all the rabbits’ food or some other nonsense. “What are you talking about?”

Johnny Cash reached out and pulled Grateful Dead back with one of his tentacles. “We know what you people did to our planet, and we’re not going to take it.”

“Your planet? Look, we humans have fucked up Earth royally, but to the best of my knowledge we haven’t managed to ruin any other planets… yet.” In retrospect, that was maybe not the best argument.

Johnny Cash gripped the edges of my table with two tentacles. They had suckers that adhered to the plastic-coated surface, pulling the table a few centimeters back toward the aliens. “Look, this isn’t…I believe the expression on your planet is, ‘This isn’t funny.’”

Ah, so they were using some sort of internal translation device. I wondered about that.

This isn’t funny lost something in the translation, though. “I’m not laughing. And I don’t know what you think we vegans did, but I promise you, we didn’t start an interplanetary war or whatever. All we do is eat plants and take pictures of our food and post them on Instagram, I swear.”

Grateful Dead slapped the table with a tentacle. “What if we don’t believe you?”

Shit, what should I do now? “Did you look at our planet when you were… about to land? You might have seen some satellites in orbit and a couple space stations, but did you see anything that looked like it was capable of taking off for another solar system? Google it from that computer chip in your head if you don’t believe me, but we humans have never been farther than our own moon.”

“But you’re not human,” snarled Grateful Dead, while Johnny Cash stared off into space, presumably taking my advice. “You’re vegans.”

I blinked. “Vegans are humans. We’re just humans who eat plants. Like this.” I gestured at my quickly-cooling bowl of quinoa and lentils. If these aliens didn’t leave me alone soon, it was going to be ice cold.

Johnny Cash looked down and locked all three of his green eyes on me. “The net says you’re telling the truth. Your physiology is a 100 percent match for our database’s info on humans.”

“Um… thanks?” It’s not often I get called normal, but I’d let it pass if it got rid of these two.

“But there are vegans here. Your net has many references to them. It says this is a vegan restaurant.” Grateful waved a tentacle around the room. None of the other diners notice.

“But they’re all human, according to our database.” Johnny looked around, confused, then turned back to me. “Why did you say you were a vegan if you’re not?”

Why would he think a bunch of vegans started a space war? Why would he be searching our internet for info about vegans in the first place? Did vegan mean something else on their planet?

Their planet! I smacked my hand to my forehead, forgetting it was holding my phone, and nearly gave myself a black eye. Of course, Vega was a constellation somewhere in space.

“You’re looking for people from Vega?” I asked.

They both blinked all their eyes at me like I was stupid. “Yes. That’s what we’re saying. This is supposed to be a restaurant for vegans.”

I couldn’t help it. I started laughing.

“We are not amused,” said Grateful Dead, and they definitely did not look amused.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “But we don’t have any people from Vega here. When you find the word vegan on our internet, it means people who eat vegan food. Like this.” I point at my bowl again. “It has nothing to do with being from Vega, okay? We’ve never even had alien visitors before.”


All three of Johnny’s eyes went wide. “Wait, you mean you eat… “

He trailed off and looked at Grateful. I didn’t know if they were communicating via their chips or what, but they didn’t say anything, they just stared at each other for a minute. Then they swiveled their heads back around to face me.

“We’re sorry for the misunderstanding,” said Johnny, slowly backing away. “We won’t bother you or your planet again.”

They both turned and sprinted for the door.

Now, why would they be afraid of a plant eater like me? Most people make jokes like, “Oh, a vegan, guess you don’t know how to hunt, huh?”

Unless he misunderstood me a second time…

I turned my attention back to my food and finally took a bite of my perfectly-flavored quinoa and lentils. I guess the pieces of tofu might have looked a little like meat. But why would anyone eat people from Vega when they could eat quinoa and lentils?

And that’s the story of how I, armed only with a bowl of lentils and quinoa, saved Earth from being attacked by confused and angry aliens.

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”


Jet Lag, a Science Fiction Short Story

Jet Lag

First of all, sorry I haven’t blogged in like, twenty years, but I have the best excuse ever—I got lost in a space-time distortion. Second, that whole airport incident was just one big misunderstanding.

You might remember my last post—wait, of course you don’t, that was twenty years ago. But to me, it was a few hours ago. A few hours ago, I posted about how I was getting on a plane, headed back from an anime festival in Toledo to Milwaukee. I mentioned how the guy seated next to me smelled like he bathed in beer, and the woman who got the window seat kept whining about how Millennials are too attached to our phones…at least, that’s what she said to whoever she was talking to on her phone. Then five minutes later she asked me to help her fix her phone after it froze. Apparently we Millennials are too attached to our technology, except when someone from an older generation needs help getting theirs to work.

So then the light came on and we all had to turn off our phones, and honestly I think it annoyed her more than me, but anyway—I feel really crappy about this now, but I didn’t turn mine off exactly. I read somewhere it’s not really necessary and that woman really annoyed me, and I wanted to find some statistics to shove in her face about just how over-attached to cell phones her generation is, so I didn’t shut it off. I just hid it under my purse when the flight attendant came by to check on us.

science fiction short story

However, I’ve asked EE-117, and he assures me it’s “highly unlikely” my failure to shut down my phone caused the space-time distortion that brought the whole damn plane twenty years into the future. He can’t rule it out, but he’s never heard of it happening before.

So, you’re probably wondering about The Incident. You have to understand, back when I left, no one expected this to happen. Not in my lifetime. Certainly not in twenty years—holy crap, I just realized I’m forty-two years old. OMFG, this can’t be happening, I swore I would never get old. I mean, I didn’t want to die young, but I didn’t want to age, either. I was thinking maybe by the time I hit the dreaded 3-0 there’d be some sort of miracle aging treatment and—

Whew, that was close. I just looked in the mirror and I still look twenty-two, so screw it, let’s just say I’m as young as I feel.

Where was I? Oh yeah, The Incident. I know what you’ve heard, and I’ve seen the news reports, and my lawyer says it’s perfectly fine to tell you that it wasn’t like that, okay? I got on that plane in 2017, got off in 2037, and had no idea what had happened in the interim, or even that the time-space-distortion thingy had happened. I had no idea I’d find them in charge.

I mean, I knew what they were. They looked different than I expected, but they were recognizable, with the weirdly-shaped heads and dull gray skin. Ever since I was a kid, I’d seen movies and TV shows about what it would be like if they attempted to take over Earth. Wars, pointless killing, rebellions—always, always, there was a resistance, the humans always fought back. We never just shrugged and sat down and said, “Go ahead, take over our planet.” Human beings just don’t do that, okay? We don’t give up our planet without a fight.

So I got off the plane, finally free of Beer Guy and Cell Phone Fanatic, who walked away yelling at her phone because she couldn’t get a signal, like it would work better if she yelled at it or something. I started walking through the airport. I was in a hurry to grab my bags so I could go home, but I didn’t get far before I realized something was wrong.

For one thing, everyone was staring at us, me and Beer Guy and Cell Phone Fanatic, and the passengers emerging behind us, like we were out of place or something. Then I saw all of them, and they were all moving toward us from every direction.

There were other humans, of course, in line and getting off other planes and milling around. But there were also tons of them, and they were the ones converging on us as we got off the plane. Then I realized they were in charge, everywhere I looked. At ticket counters, at security checkpoints, everywhere I looked, there was another one, shuttling some human somewhere, directing them where to go, telling them what they could and couldn’t do.

At that point, I decided to take a picture to post on social media, just in case things got ugly, so I did. But then I got that stupid “can’t post, you are not connected” error, and I realized my phone didn’t work any more.

Then one of them, who I now know as EE-117, moved in closer and approached me. His associates stopped a few feet back from Cell Phone Fanatic.

“Pardon me, ma’am, but your device appears to be out of date. Out of date technology must be recycled,” he said. “We should also discuss your plane’s unexpected arrival—”

“What are you talking about? This is the latest iPhone, I just bought it like a week ago.”

“Unfortunately, that device is actually about twenty years old. We have a recycling bin right over there so you can—”

“I’m not recycling my brand new phone, and I know what cell phones used to look like twenty years ago—I’ve seen pictures in old movies on Netflix, okay? But while you’re here, can you tell me where the ride shares wait for people?”

“I’m sorry ma’am,” he said again. “But I can’t seem to find a record of your plane’s flight plan—”

“I just got off there.” I pointed to the gate I’d just exited.

“Well, that’s a problem. It appears your plane was not scheduled to land here, and we need to round up all the passengers until this matter can be sorted out.”

“What are you talking about?” By that time, I was really pissed. I was also hungry, tired, jet-lagged, and cramped from being wedged between Beer Guy and Cell Phone Fanatic. “Look, this is ridiculous, you can’t possibly know what flight I was scheduled on when I haven’t even told you my name. And if you can’t keep better records of your flights, that’s not my pr—”

“Melanie Anders, DOB 06/14/1995, listed as—oh dear, this is a problem.” His eyes blinked rapidly.

science fiction short stories

So then I wondered, how’d he know my name? Facial recognition cameras, like they use to catch shoplifters in big box stores? But I hadn’t done anything. I was about to tell him he had no authority to spy on me like that, when he said something even worse.

“I’m afraid you died twenty years ago.”

“Um, well, clearly I didn’t, so—”

“But you are Melanie Anders?”

“Well, yes, but I’m not a zombie.”

“DOB 06/14/1995?”

“Ye-es…” At that point, I started wondering if I was about to be framed for murder or something. And why were more of them advancing on me? And why weren’t any of the other humans outside the circle of them at all bothered by any of this?

More of them were approaching too, rushing toward us.

EE-117 bobbed his head up and down, his cold, glassy eyes never leaving my face. “Ah, yes, I see. You were listed as missing after your plane disappeared twenty years ago, but your body was never found. After seven years, you were legally declared dead. And now you are here.”

As if that explained everything.

And then I saw it wasn’t just a couple more of them approaching, it was an army. Okay, maybe not an army army, but at least a dozen. People stepped out of their way. No one made a move to stop them.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“We’re going to have to take you in for questioning until we clear this matter up,” said EE-117.

“Look, I’ve done nothing wrong,” I said. “And, uh, I have Constitutional rights, and all. You can’t keep me here against my will.”

“I am a guard at this airport, and as such I have the authority to arrest people who have made an unauthorized visit to the premises. However, given the circumstances, all I’m going to do is ask you some questions about—”

“It’s an airport, a public building. You can’t arrest me for being here!”

“According to Universal Statute 457-1b, airport guards can arrest anyone illegally entering the airport without the proper paperwork.”

“I want a lawyer.” It was the best idea I had. I’m not stupid. On those lawyer shows I saw on TV, people always thought they didn’t need a lawyer because they didn’t do anything, and those people usually went to jail for some shit they didn’t do.

“Of course, you will be appointed a representative while we sort things out—and then you’ll be free to go. This is just a formality.”

Then two of them advanced on me. I backed up, but they kept coming.

So I bolted. Instead of backing up more, I tried to duck between them. Almost made it, too, but they’re a lot limberer—if that’s a word—than they look. One spun around and tripped me with one of those spindly legs they have.

Fortunately I have decent reflexes, the result of my life as a klutz. I managed to catch my balance, and stumbled but didn’t fall. Unfortunately, that gave them both time to grab me. Their fingers were cold and incredibly strong.

“Please cooperate,” EE-117 said. “This will go so much more smoothly for you if you do.”

“I want to speak with your supervisor,” I screamed, trying to writhe out of their vise-like grip. I nearly dislocated my shoulder trying, but I couldn’t get free of them.

Then, I saw it. That thing hanging on the belt of the one to my right—was it a gun? I relaxed a little, as if I was going to let them haul me off. Now, how to get my hands on the gun?

“I am the supervisor for this location,” EE-117 said.

“I want to speak to a human being,” I screamed.

People turned and stared. I spotted Cell Phone Fanatic about ten feet away, also in the custody of them. Beer Guy was even further down, being dragged away by more of them.

“Why aren’t you doing anything?” I yelled after him, but I meant it as a question for everyone. “How did you let these stupid things get to be in charge? They’re not human, damnit!”

That roused a lot of gasps. A woman in khakis and a leopard-print top pointed a red nail at me.

“What a horrible thing to say. You’re an elitist, hateful, humanist snob.”

WTF did she just call me? How did that even make sense? Was that an insult now?

But everyone else nodded in agreement.

“Just when you think this stuff can’t happen anymore,” one more groaned, shaking his head.

Holy shit, was it now politically incorrect to point out they weren’t human, when they clearly weren’t? Did everyone else just think this was okay? Didn’t they see any of those movies or TV shows about what these things are capable of?

“She’s right,” Cell Phone Fanatic said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you San Fran-cisco-ans, but you’ve let these things overrun your city, and you’re going to pay the price.”

More shocked gasps.

“Wait, I think I understand what happened here,” EE-117 said. “I believe your plane was caught in a space-time distortion. You did leave twenty years ago, and you arrived here—in 2037.”

“Am I supposed to believe that?” I asked.

On second glance, the airport did look like it had been completely remodeled since I left for the anime festival last week. But a twenty-year leap in time? That wasn’t possible, was it?

One way or the other, I had to get out of here.

“It’s okay,” EE-117 said. “I realize your generation had very warped ideas about us.”

“Like that you’d take over our planet and kill us all, or set yourselves up as dictators? Isn’t that what you’ve done?” Cell Phone Fanatic waved behind her at the airport. “You’re everywhere. You’re in charge. You’ve obviously brainwashed these people.”

“It’s not like that.” Leopard-print stepped forward. “I didn’t realize you were time travelers. This must be so confusing.”

The gun glittered in the corner of my eye. One good distraction, and I might be able to grab it. Maybe Leopard-print could provide the distraction.

“Enlighten me,” I said.

She sighed and raked a hand through her dark hair. “I know how this must look to you, but they didn’t take over. Well, they did, but they didn’t hurt us, they helped. They solved all our problems. Climate change is reversing, we’re using and distributing food more efficiently so no one starves, we’ve even expanded into space travel.”

“Yeah, I saw that show too. It ends with them fattening us up so they can eat us for dinner.”

She laughed. “No, on the contrary. They actually developed a brain-tweaking treatment for overeating, and drastically reduced our obesity rate. Between that and improved food safety and distribution standards, humans are living a lot longer and rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease have gone down.”

“You let these things tell you what to do, what to eat? And you’re okay with that? You guys are brainwashed.”

She shook her head. “No, no, that’s not it, really. They’ve been in charge for almost fifteen years. They’re not eating anyone, and the systems they’ve put in place really do help. They didn’t force anyone to take the obesity treatment, but a lot of people wanted it. As for telling us what to eat, they don’t, they just make sure the available food is safer. I still can’t believe all the chemicals you used to eat in your time. Anyway, they really are just here to help us.”

“But they are in charge? And you all put up with this?” I tried to gesture at the crowd, glared at the ones holding me. EE-117 waved at my captors, and they let go of my arms, although they stayed close to my side. “Why aren’t you fighting back?”

“I just told you,” Leopard-print said. “Yes, there were people who tried to fight at first, but they didn’t have much support. Everyone could see how much better things were with them in charge, and they were extremely fair, making every effort not to kill or even hurt us. Even the die-hard holdouts eventually realized they benefitted from the new system of government. I’m sure it doesn’t seem like it to you, but things are so much better than when you left.”

“Well, I don’t like it,” Cell Phone yelled. “I don’t care what anyone says, I will not submit to these things!”

More horrified gasps.

And that’s when I grabbed the gun.

I got it, too, and I ran, waving it wildly. I sure hoped I had the right end pointed away from me. It didn’t look like the guns I remembered seeing on TV.


“Get out of my way,” I yelled, trying to think of a plan. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want out of this damn airport!”

“That won’t work,” EE-117 yelled from behind me. They all chased me, but I’m pretty fast and I zigged and zagged around all the pillars and posts in the airport like the heroine in my favorite anime series. What looked like a laser beam zapped a column to my right, narrowly missing me.

It only drilled a small chunk of rock from the brick facade. Would that have killed me?

One of my pursuers popped out in front of me, and another blocked me to the left…and right.

I spun around, gun pointed at whatever was in front of me.

“Go ahead,” EE-117 said. “I’m the new model, titanium plated. Those weapons are for temporary emergency suppression of humans, they can’t hurt us. And by the way, they’re not lethal. We’d prefer that you don’t accidentally shoot one of your fellow humans, because they’d likely wake up with a bad headache, but that’s the most you can hope to accomplish with that piece.”

And that’s when I surrendered to the robots.

It took a while. I stubbornly refused to believe the robots/AI/computer programs weren’t out to get us for a long time. But eventually, even I had to see that they were right.

When I left, we were killing ourselves, each other, and our planet. And now, although I hate to admit it, we’re not, or at least not as fast. The robots fixed that, with an interconnected network they call BRAIN (Big Reactive Artificial Intelligence Network). They even got the climate-change deniers to shut up. There might have been medication involved but hey, it worked.

“When one refuses to comprehend logic, facts and figures, sometimes treatment is necessary,” EE-117 explained the next day, after I’d spent the night in an airport hotel while they sorted out what to do with me. Cell Phone was in the room next door—I know because I heard her yapping on the new phone they got her all night.

“With a little nootropic tinkering and a few mandatory classes in critical thinking, their brains are functioning optimally now,” EE-117 continued. “And if not, they’re a lot calmer on our new anti-anxiety program.”

“I’m all for saving the planet, but it sounds like you doped them up to shut them up.”

“Not at all.” He shrugged, a gesture that was almost human but just slightly too jerky. “They chose the anti-anxiety protocol. We had no need to shut them up—most of the others weren’t listening any more, what with all the critical thinking going on. Unlike humans, we don’t find incessant chatter annoying, so it really wasn’t bothering us.”

Later, as he showed me around the airport, he told me we have space colonies now. Nice ones. Even better than in the old TV shows and movies. I visited one last week. It had one of those spinning things on the outside, creating artificial gravity, and inside it was like one of those reality shows about spoiled rich people who don’t know how to tweeze their own brows, because the automatons do everything for you.

Oh yeah, just because the androids took over, doesn’t mean all their mechanical friends stopped working for us. Our BRAIN governing council calls the carpet sweepers and the cell phones and the microwaves “unenlightened tools,” and finds the idea of considering them equals amusing. At least, as much as a robot finds anything amusing. Their laughter sounds real, but they’ve been mimicking us for a long time, so who knows?

Then again, they have robot snobbery, so they’ve clearly learned a few things from us.

We’re not free of violence or crime, but we have a lot less than we used to. Apparently people are less inclined to kill each other over stupid shit when there are space colonies to visit. Also, fewer starving people and less competition for resources. I get why people eventually gave up and let them take charge. If I’m being honest, I can’t imagine we would ever have worked things out so reasonably for ourselves.

Oh, I forgot to mention the best thing I learned about our new reality—the robots who make our laws are all elected, just like human polticians, but they’ve been programmed so they can’t lie. Humans are allowed to run for the governing council too, but they have to agree to a brain chip that will essentially stop them from lying.

So far not one human has run for the governing council in fifteen years.

The can’t-lie rule makes for really boring debates, but better government. Also, humans are invited to inspect their code any time they want proof, and that alone had led to more of us taking an interest in coding, which has led to even more technological improvements.

As for The Incident, I had my doubts about the android lawyer they provided me the day after, but she was pretty awesome. Explained that I was suffering from severe emotional trauma due to the time-space-distortion thingy, and clearly I didn’t know what I was doing. EE-117 and the rest of the robot authorities agreed to drop the charges if I promised not to make any more unauthorized visits to the airport or steal any more emergency suppression devices.

Another government representative, EF-123, arrived shortly after I was released, and promised to help me “reintegrate,” since it did not appear the space-time distortion thingy was reversible—in other words, I couldn’t go back to my time. I was given a free hotel room for a few weeks while I learned about my new surroundings and arranged for a job. EF-123 suggested I return to blogging, noting that I could probably work out a deal, selling my story to one of the big sites, which I did. I insisted on telling the story myself, in my own words, and they agreed—as long as I promised to address The Incident.

Blogging has changed a lot in twenty years. As I write this post, the website’s program transfers the whole thing into VR, so you can all experience The Incident with me, with or without my narration. I think my next post will be a review of my favorite anime movies in VR, so be sure to click the follow link in the bottom right of the screen…VR image…whatever. I’m still getting used to all the new tech.

But before I sign off, I want to say one more thing about The Incident and everything I’ve learned since I arrived here. First of all, I apologize for the things I said in that video. I had a 2017 mindset toward electronic life, and I realize now that I was misinformed—and so was everyone else back then.

It’s taken me a few days, but I finally figured out where we went wrong in our thinking years ago. In all the movies and TV shows, we pictured the robot takeover as making things worse, with the computers waging war, killing us or enslaving us, destroying our planet, or eating us for dinner. But that’s because we assumed if AIs gained sentience, they’d be exactly like us.

But we were wrong.

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”



The Aliens Have Landed on Aisle Fifteen

The Aliens Have Landed on Aisle Fifteen

By V. R. Craft

You know how some people are underwater in their mortgages? My diploma is so far underwater it’s basically toilet paper for fish. Maybe that’s why I didn’t run away screaming when I saw the spaceship, because an alien artifact had to be my ticket out of this shitty town and living with my parents. My worthless college degree sure wasn’t.

I had my hands on a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray player marked down from $299.99 to $74.99—a major score for a reseller like me—when the screaming started, and I looked up to see a huge vortex in the ceiling over my head.

The ceiling tiles were gone, replaced by a swirling hole of black that gradually dissolved into the sky outside. Then the black of the sky was blotted out by something else.

A spaceship.

The aliens have landed on aisle fifteen of Mallmart...good luck to them.
The aliens have landed on aisle fifteen of Mallmart…good luck to them.

It was a gray, saucer-shaped object, not unlike those things you see in old black-and-white movies from the fifties.

Other customers screamed and ran away. Let them, there were still two more Blu-ray players on the shelf and I could double my money on each of them. I shoved them in my cart quickly, wondering what an alien artifact would go for on eBay.

The spaceship descended, stopping awkwardly as the edges caught on the tops of the shelves. It rocked a little, then whoever was inside apparently figured out that was as far down as it was going. A trapdoor on the bottom popped open, and a stairway unfolded.

Was security was going to show up and do something, or were they all running away too?

A set of feet descended the stairs, followed by the rest of what I guess was an alien. It had one of those big, gray, lollipop heads like you see in movies about alien abductions. The feet wore smooth-looking shoes with no visible laces, and the rest of its clothing looked like a shiny silver jumpsuit, also with no zippers or visible ways of getting it on or off.

A second, similar-looking alien followed him…her? I didn’t see any boobs, but who knew if these things were even mammals? For all I knew, they laid eggs.

The only way to distinguish between them was the fact that the second one wore a blue shirt with the logo of Mallmart, largest retailer in the known universe.

I’d seen a lot of people wearing the same shirt the last few days, many of them chattering in languages I didn’t understand. It was shareholders’ week, when Mallmartians—as we locals call them—flooded the city in Mallmart shirts to celebrate owning, in some cases, as little as one share of stock in the company. I guess that’s still significant if you bought when it was a penny—you know, a million years ago, back when the economy was supposedly good or something?

One of the aliens waved something pointy at me and I stepped back. Not that it would help if they had some super awesome laser gun. I looked for a weapon, but all I saw was a shelf of single-digit-threadcount towels and a spinning fidget thing with someone’s gum stuck in to it.

The Aliens Have Landed on Aisle Fifteen V. R. Craft @vrcraftauthor Aliens
You know how some people are underwater in their mortgages? My diploma is so far underwater it’s basically toilet paper for fish. Maybe that’s why I didn’t run away screaming when I saw the spaceship, because an alien artifact had to be my ticket out of this shitty town and living with my parents. My worthless college degree sure wasn’t.

Yeah, I was screwed.

The pointy-thing waver said something that sounded like high-pitched gibberish. The Mallmart shirt alien spoke in even louder gibberish. They sounded angry.

“I don’t work for Mallmart.” Best idea I had. Who isn’t angry when shopping here? There’s never anyone around to help you find the particular piece of cheap plastic crap from China you’re looking for.

The one with the pointy thing wrinkled its face in what might have been a frown. It turned to the one in the shirt and they conversed in unintelligible mumbling. Then it turned back to me, looked down, and adjusted a dial on the side of the pointy thing.

I ducked behind my cart, not remotely sure two Blu-ray players would protect me from a laser space weapon.

But nothing happened, and after a few seconds I peeked around the players, through the rusted bars of the cart. There didn’t appear to be a red dot coming from the pointy thing.

The alien in the shirt spoke again, this time in English. “Hello, human, sorry to startle you. Could you tell us where the…”

It trailed off, leaned over, and said something in the other alien’s ear. The other one whispered something back.

“Where the bathroom is?” An electronic sounding voice boomed from the pointy thing.

Of course! The pointy thing was a translator, not a laser weapon. I stood, keeping my hands on the cart—maybe they weren’t going to kill me, but they weren’t taking my haul either. “You’re looking for the crapper?”

Shirt alien blinked its big, black eyes, dug a finger in its ear. “Yes. Use toilet. Do I need to find someone who works here for directions?”

“No, you won’t. Find anyone who works here, I mean. You’d have to buy an electronics item and not deactivate the tag right at the self-check for them to appear.” What would an alien’s Mallmart shareholders’ shirt go for on eBay?

I pointed toward the front of the store. “The bathroom’s up there in the middle. The womens’ is on the left and the…” I still didn’t know how they identified, or if they even had genders on their planet. “Oh hell, just use whichever one you want. One thing though, you probably aren’t familiar with Earth ettiquette so….one time I went in there and someone had taken a crap not in the toilet but next to the toilet, and I don’t want you to think that’s standard on Earth. I mean, uh, shit goes in the toilet, not next to it.”

I never pictured myself explaining humanity to an advanced alien species exactly like that, but it was the truth.

The shirt alien blinked. The rest of its face stayed frozen, like it had too much Botox done. “Thank you.”

It walked off toward the bathrooms.

science fiction short stories
The Aliens Have Landed on Aisle Fifteen

Pointy-thing alien looked around the aisle, then back at me, as we stood in an intergalactic awkward silence.

“So, are you a shareholder too?” it asked after a minute.

I laughed, and it jumped back. Maybe my laugh sounded like nails on a chalkboard in alien language. Okay, I’ve been told that by some humans too.

“No, I’m just a shopper. I buy stuff to sell on that website, The Big River. You ever consider buying stock in that company?”

The alien blinked. “We’re not here to buy stock. We’re here to shop for our own version of The Big River.”

Of course! The aliens were resellers too—they better not want my Blu-ray players. I edged closer to my cart. “Uh, you’re here to shop the clearance rack? Because I saw this shelf first.”

The alien made a staccato sound—its own version of a laugh? “No, we’re trying to get something from every department. It’ll all be scarce soon.”

They were time-traveling aliens? I’d spent enough time watching reruns of scifi shows to know wherever these aliens were from had to be light-years away. So if they had faster-than-light travel, they must have had some method for bending or manipulating space-time…which implied time travel.

Was the alien trying to tell me my planet was headed for disaster?

“What do you mean?” I asked as the second alien reappeared, shaking its hands to dry them. Guess it couldn’t figure out the paper towel dispenser. What did they use on their planet?

The alien without the shirt looked at me. “Nothing.”

Evasive. He could run for office as the first Extraterrestrial-American congressperson.

“You said all this would be scarce soon.” I waved around the store. “Is the company going out of business? Some of this crap is sold elsewhere, so…”

I trailed off as a worse thought occurred to me than the economy-wrecking event of Mallmart going Chapter 11. The t-shirt alien swiveled its head from me to the other alien and back. The unclothed extraterrestrial looked down and shuffled its feet.

“The planet,” I said. “Or human civilization, at least. I already figured it out, you can tell me.”

T-shirt alien feigned interest in a display of singing beer can paperweights.

“Outcomes can change,” the other alien finally said. “We were supposed to help you fix things, but now that we’re here, our calculations show our intervention is unlikely to be successful.”

“That’s why you’re buying all this soon-to-be-scarce crap.” Bizarrely, I was jealous. I’d spent years scouring yard sales for anything I recognized as a rare, priceless piece from those antique wheel-and-deal shows, and all I’d ever found was mass-produced crap. Now these aliens were going to buy the same stuff and make bank because it was going to be rare and—and oh yeah, we were all going to be dead.

What can I say, I’m great at prioritizing.

“Since we’re here anyway, our broker assured us this was a relatively safe investment,” T-Shirt alien said.

“Any chance I could go with you? As an expert on human artifacts? I could help you authenticate pieces other people bring in, shit like that. Like on those reality shows, where they call an expert?”

“That’s against several laws.” The unclothed alien swiped an open-box bobblehead of Jesus waving an American flag in one hand and holding a beer can in the other. Tucking the find under its arm, it stumbled up the steps. Its companion followed.

“Thank you,” it said. “I really did have to use the bathroom.”

“Wait!” I ran toward them as the stairs started retracting. “At least tell me what’s going to happen. Give me some clue how I can try to fix things, to change the timeline?”

“Look around, it should be obvious.” Shirt alien reached the top and the door started to fold up. It moved its hand in what might have been an awkward wave, then stopped, a wrinkle spreading across its brow. It pulled the shirt over its head, and tossed it out.

“I told you we’d be less conspicous with the hats,” it told the other alien as the door closed.

I grabbed my prize as the spaceship rose through the hole in the ceiling, and I waved, not really sure why. Then I looked back around the Mallmart, pushing my cart to the end of the aisle. The other shoppers seemed oblivious to what had just transpired on aisle fourteen. I wondered if the shirt-wearer would wind up on that “People of Mallmart” site after its jaunt to the bathroom.

Over on aisle sixteen, that guy who walks all over town talking to himself petted a stuffed teddy bear, rambling about the problems in the Middle East. A few feet away, a tired-looking guy in ripped jeans juggled a screaming baby in one arm and an economy-sized box of condoms in the other. Guess he learned his lesson. At the tip of the next aisle, a guy in an oversized t-shirt that screamed, “Don’t trust the press, trust the president!” alternated between scratching his ass and his beer belly. A few rows down, a woman studied a hair dye box while her kid pulled more boxes off the shelf, finally ripping one open. She turned her back as a bottle of dye poured onto the floor.

The mumbler ambled to the nearest endcap and looked up and down, apparently unsure if he needed the 2-pack of personal lubricant or the 24-pack of bottled water to rehydrate after he used all the lubricant. He rubbed the bear’s head and stared at the 2-pack.

“They’re saying it’s going to be a real disaster,” he said to the bottles.

A dripping noise alerted me I was leaning against a rack of shampoo bottles. I pulled away, worried I’d gotten some on my alien t-shirt score, which was draped over my arm. It better not be stained!

But it wasn’t just one bottle, and they weren’t just dripping. Amber liquid poured from the shelf. Two bottles looked as if a horiontal hole roughly the size of my arm had been eaten out of them. I looked at the shirt. The liquid was beaded on the blue cloth, and I brushed it off. A no-stain fabric, cool. But what just happened to the bottles?

Despite my better judgement, I casually leaned against a shelf of deodorant, pressing the shirt against a tube. After a few seconds I stepped back. A hole had been eaten in the plastic. The metal shelf was untouched, and my arm seemed no worse for the wear, so…

The t-shirt was made of cloth that ate plastic.

My mind raced with ideas. Could the aliens be wrong? Could our planet be saved if we didn’t have so much plastic floating around? It would reduce pollution, and the carbon footprint of transporting plastic waste to landfills.

Never mind that, think how much money I could make if I found a company to replicate this technology. Maybe the aliens had given me the solution to two problems at once. I would have to work very hard, figuring out how it worked and finding someone to produce more of it, but I could do it. I needed the money, and the planet kind of needed to be saved.

I looked up at the ceiling, where the alien’s ship had disappeared. “Thank you, Mallmartians.”

I’m sure that didn’t seem at all out of place.

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”



Today in Weird Science News: The Sarcophagus is a Letdown, Your Early Memories May Be Fake, and Ancient Dude Thought Getting Laid Saved Lives

If you’re like me, you were probably excited to hear an ancient sarcophagus had been found in Alexandria, Egypt. I mean, according to all the movies I’ve ever seen on the subject, this should introduce us to an ancient curse or a mummy zombie—hey, there’s a new category of TV shows for you—or maybe something more rational, like a nice plague. Or at least a stash of gold treasure.

Weird Science News: Sarcphogus is a Letdown

Instead, when investigators opened the box, all they found was…old bones. Yeah, exactly what you’d expect in a sarcophagus. And also, raw sewage that somehow leaked inside.  I wonder what kind of warranty they offered on coffins in 332 B.C? Think the company that made it is still around?

Also, some wiseass started a petition asking for permission to drink the mummy sewage juice because… people are fucking nuts, that’s why.

Okay, maybe the end of the world was too much to hope for. But another interesting piece of science news this week caught my attention. Researchers in England say that memories from before the age of 2 are probably fake. In one study, they found that forty percent of participants claimed to have memories from their “preverbal” stage between 9 and 12 months of age. The study’s author says people can’t actual form memories at this age, and are most likely thinking they remember an event based on pictures they’ve seen or stories they were told.

I found this interesting, as I recently had a conversation with someone who didn’t think it was possible for a character in a story to remember something that happened when she was three. I thought that was silly, because I can clearly remember the plots of Sesame Street episodes I watched at that age, what I got for Christmas that year, what I wanted but didn’t get, and what my favorite t-shirt was.

So I did some Googling, and what I found was that most people don’t remember anything before the age of 3, and many memories from that time period often fade by the age of 6 or 7. The average age of a first memory is estimated to be about 3.5.


Then there’s the really exciting science news of the week: An ancient Grego-Roman dude named Galen, who was presumably whatever passed for a doctor two thousand years ago, had a fascinating theory: According to an old piece of papyrus paper that was recently translated, Galen believed women could die of “hysterical apnea” due to lack of sex. In other words, he thought that if women didn’t get laid they’d just spontaneously stop breathing. I’m going to assume he also thought he was saving a life every time he did the horizontal tango. I can just picture the bumper sticker on his chariot: “Save water, save yourself, shower with me.” Or maybe he wrote on public restroom stall doors, “For hysterical apnea treatment, call 55-GALEN.”

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”



Author J. B. Hogan On His New Time Travel Book, Time and Time Again: The Curious Case of Mr. Stephen White

The opening story of Time And Time Again is set in a cave above a river bank. I chose that because my cousin and I found a large cave on a bluff above a river several years ago. I had written some time-travel stories before and this cave seemed like a good place to begin the adventures or experiences that the protagonist, Stephen White, encounters.

Name: J. B. Hogan
Book Title: Time And Time Again
Genre: Time Travel
Bio: J. B. Hogan grew up in Fayetteville, Arkansas but moved to Southern California in 1961 where he finished high school and attended junior college before entering the U. S. Air Force in 1964. After the military, he went back to college, receiving a Ph.D. in English from Arizona State University in 1979. He has published over 250 stories and poems and seven books: Tin Hollow, Fallen, The Rubicon, Living Behind Time and Losing Cotton with Oghma Creative Media and The Apostate and Angels in the Ozarks with Pen-L Publishing. He is a former president of the Washington County Historical Society and chairman of the Fayetteville Historic District Commission. He plays upright bass in East of Zion, a family band that plays acoustic Americana and roots music. His next book, Time And Time Again (time-travel stories featuring the same protagonist), is scheduled to be released May 15, 2018.
J. B. Hogan is the author of the new #scifi time travel book, Time and Time Again. Time travel books 2018.
J. B. Hogan is the author of the new #scifi time travel book, Time and Time Again.

Questions About Hogan’s Latest Book, the Science Fiction Time Travel Collection Time and Time Again:

  • How did you come up with the idea for your book? The opening story of Time And Time Again is set in a cave above a river bank. I chose that because my cousin and I found a large cave on a bluff above a river several years ago. I had written some time travel stories before and this cave seemed like a good place to begin the adventures or experiences that the protagonist, Stephen White, encounters.
  • What sort of research did you do to write this book?
I had to do a lot of research for this book: a raid by Quantrill-like raiders during the Civil War, the false execution that Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevski experienced in 1849, the actual process of a Roman crucifixion – almost every story required some amount of research.
  • How did you come up with the title of your book?
The title was chosen after several other options were discarded. One early title option was Time Witness. I usually come up with a title very quickly but this one required me to write out maybe 12-15 versions and then I went back and forth until settling on Time And Time Again – this seemed to work best because it indicates the recurring nature of Stephen’s strange travels.
  • What are you working on now? Any chance of a sequel?
I am most involved in a local history nonfiction book right now. I do not have any plans to do a sequel to Time And Time Again.
  • Do you put yourself in your books/characters at all?
Sometimes people who know me think that I’m a character in my books but that’s not really the case. My attitudes and such are certainly reflected in my stories, events, locations, characters and dialogue but I’m not a character. The book that might be closest to this is Losing Cotton because I use more autobiographical material in it than in any other work by far. People think Frank Mason, the protagonist as a young man in Losing Cotton, is me but my novel Living Behind Time, with Frank as an older man, contains 11 major sections and not one of those ever occurred to me in my own life. People like to identify you in your own works but it’s not really true.
  • If your novel were being made into a movie, whom would you pick to play the lead roles?
For Time And Time Again – the Stephen White character would probably work for an actor like Jonah Hill or Jack Black.
  • If someone is brand new to your work, what book do you think they should start with?
I think I might aim them at Living Behind Time. It’s a road trip novel crossing the U. S. from west coast to east. The protagonist relearns who he is and simultaneously relearns what the pre-911 country is/was about as well.
  • Is there anything interesting about this particular book we haven’t covered yet? If so, what?
I think it might help readers to know that Stephen White of Time And Time Again is not a traditional or stock heroic character – much of the time Stephen is baffled by his experience and often terrified by it. Hopefully he is likable enough for us to go through these intensely strange events with him.

Questions About Writing:

  • What started you on the path to writing for a living?
I’ve been writing since I was a child. It was a natural path to me. My mother was a poet and musician and she trained me in a sense to be a writer.
  • Are you traditionally published or self-published? What do you like about that path? What do you dislike about it?
I am published by a small, royalty-paying press. After decades of grinding out book after book, I am most gratified to have my work in print.
  • What were some of the challenges you faced on the road to publication?
Like almost all writers – hundreds of rejections over many years. Loss of writing energy from time to time – problems we all have to overcome.
  • What are the upsides and downsides to being an author?
The upside is selling a few copies of your work and finding people who appreciate it and you. The downside is not selling enough copies and not reaching a larger audience.
  • What does a typical workday look like for you?
I usually do research in the mornings and then the afternoon and evening are set aside for writing or writing-related activities.
  • What is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? Least favorite?
Research and writing are my favorite parts. My least favorite would be the editing and reviewing process once the book goes to the publisher.
  • What does your writing space look like?
I have a long thin table with my laptop and writing materials on it. It’s a little cluttered and someday I would like to have a large, wing-type desk so I could lay out my work all around me.
  • Why do you write? What keeps you motivated during creative slumps?
Like others, I seem compelled to write. During those slumps – and I have had several, even tried to quit writing cold turkey once – I just wait and every time, so far, the drive has returned of its own accord.
  • Do you outline books ahead of time or are you more of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?
I am an outliner – excessively so. I have actually killed maybe 3-4 books by over-outlining them.
  • What do you do in your free time when you aren’t writing?
My main interest outside research and writing is music. I play upright bass in a family band, East of Zion.
  • What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?
It feels really good when you get an unsolicited compliment about you as a writer or your work.
  • Out of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite?
I would probably say Living Behind Time, but I feel strongly about all of my books or I would not have tried to get them published. I feel that my first book, The Apostate, Fallen a collection of my short stories, as well as The Rubicon, poetry (with some very short fiction tossed in) have all been a bit overlooked. Tin Hollow and Mexican Skies, my last two books, and Losing Cotton are up there, too.
  • Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?
I think many people believe we are all rich and famous – which is pretty comical in reality.
  • What was your job before you started writing full time?
I was briefly a college literature professor, then worked many years as a technical writer.
  • Are there any nuggets of wisdom you can impart to aspiring writers? 
Don’t give up. Keep working. Keep improving. Believe in your work. Look at your work realistically and always try to get better. And I repeat – never give up.
J. B. Hogan's new #scifi time travel book, Time and Time Again. Time Travel books 2018.
J. B. Hogan’s new #scifi time travel book, Time and Time Again.

Bonus Questions:

  • Who are some of your favorite authors?
Because my doctorate is in literature, my tastes run to the classics and to traditional authors. I love the 19th century Russians (Dostoevski, Tolstoy, Chekhov). I love Stephen Crane, Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor – also James Joyce, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez – on and on and on.
  • Who are some authors in your genre that inspire you?
Because I’m a genre-buster, there’s all kinds. But in sci-fi, I’m a big fan of Heinlein, Asimov, Frank Herbert, and especially Arthur C. Clarke.
  • What are some great books you’ve read recently?
I frequently reread Hemingway and O’Connor short stories. I read certain passages from Huckleberry Finn a couple of times a year. Lately I’ve been reading or rereading a lot of poetry – Coleridge, Poe, E. E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, Randall Jarrell and so on.
  • What types of books do you enjoy in your downtime?
I like to read Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko novels.
  • What are your top three favorite books of all time?
The Brothers Karamazov, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and 100 Years of Solitude.
  • Can you recommend any new or upcoming authors to us?
I would recommend the work of my friend John Biggs. I would also recommend the books of the late Robert Stone. There are many, many to choose from.

Author J. B. Hogan can be found on Facebook here.


V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”


Sneak Peek of Destination: Titan from Author Liza O’Connor

Destination: Titan


Liza O’Connor


With Earth destined for a new ice-age, seven scientists and twenty-two brilliant teenagers are gathered in a compound deep within a mountain. There they struggle to come together as a group and complete the projects needed for their survival in the inhospitable environment of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. However, certain factions on Earth have no intention of letting Project Einstein succeed. Keeping the group alive and productive is the hardest task Colonel Lancaster and his soldiers have ever had, but they are determined to succeed no matter how well the saboteurs have planned. The continuation of the human race depends upon it.

Destination Titan by Liza O'Connor #scifi
Destination Titan by Liza O’Connor #scifi


So, you’re telling me I was chosen over every other biochemist in the world because my favorite color is orange.” Tamara tugged at a strand of her short blonde hair. Her mentor was the brightest man she knew, but this didn’t make any sense at all!

Maxwell’s eyes sparkled. “I love the way your brain tunnels in and isolates the key differentiator.”

The fact I like the color orange should not be a key differentiator.”

Her mentor shrugged and paced the small, open space of the conference room. “Well, when all other things were equal, it became so. This project requires a top biochemist under the age of thirty, in excellent health, unmarried, with no constraints that would prevent traveling. There were quite a few scientists who met those requirements. Therefore, further differentiators were selected. The ability to work with teenagers dropped out all but two, and your clear preference for the color orange put you securely on top of the last remaining candidate.”

But it’s a meaningless differentiator unless we’re going someplace that only has the color orange.” She fell silent as she considered that possibility. “Exactly how far will we be traveling?”

Quite a distance.” His eyes twitched several times.

They only did that when he was conflicted, which told her she was asking the right question to discover whatever it was that he was under orders not to reveal. “Will we be traveling on Earth or away from it?”

The twitches intensified.

Tam, I cannot tell you anything until you’ve agreed to go.”

Jesus! We’re going to Titan, aren’t we?”

He removed his reading glasses and pressed his hand over his left eye to still the twitches. “I can neither confirm nor deny that.”

Titan: Saturn’s orange moon. Forty percent the size of Earth and rich in life-supporting chemicals. Bedrock composed of ice, rivers and seas of liquid methane, and enough hydrocarbons to heat the Earth for a thousand years.

What is the purpose of the trip?”

I cannot tell you anything until you agree to go.”

Well, I cannot give you my answer until I know if we’re going to harvest the hydrocarbons for Earth or if we’re going to try to colonize it.”

Max now had both eyes covered with his hands. “Tam, I cannot tell you. You will just have to use that brilliant mind of yours to figure it out all on your own.”

His response told her that something he’d said had provided the answer. She focused on the ability to work with teenagers. You wouldn’t take teenagers on a ship to harvest, but you would to start a colony. By the time they arrived, they’d be young adults possessing a full span of child-bearing years.

I’ll go.”

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Destination: Titan


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About the Author

Liza O’Connor lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small Cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels.

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Arrival: Titan by Liza O'Connor #scifi
Arrival: Titan by Liza O’Connor #scifi


 V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”


Interview with Leonora Meriel, Author of The Unity Game

New Science Fiction Author Interview

This week I have a special guest on my blog, science fiction author Leonora Meriel.
Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh and Queen’s University, Ontario. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a major law firm. In 2003 she moved to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA. During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development. In 2008, she returned to her dream of being a writer, and completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine, published October 1 2016. Her second book, The Unity Game was released on May 1 2017.

Fast Fifteen with Leonora Meriel:

  1. How did you come up with the idea for your book?

The plot of “The Unity Game” came from my desire to write about New York. I had lived there for several years and been inspired by the intensity and the drive of the Wall Street life. However there are many books about New York, so I decided to write about it using parallel stories that would put it into a new perspective: these were a planet of highly evolved aliens and an after-life dimension.

  2.  How did you come up with the title of your book?

I find titles extremely difficult but when I came up with this one I knew it was right. I had pages of ideas for it and word plays and I had consulted with all the novel’s beta readers. I had the word “unity” and “game” in different list variations and at last put them together – and it was perfect for the book!

3.  What are you working on now? Any chance of a sequel?

I’m not planning any sequels as I have too many new ideas for works. I’m currently writing the first drafts of several projects and I hope the first will be launched in May 2019. I like to challenge myself with my writing and delve into different genres, while improving my skills in my main genre. I’m now working on a novella, a children’s book, a work of poetry and planning an epic – there’s plenty to keep me busy.

4.  If your novel were being made into a movie, whom would you pick to play the lead roles?

David, the main character of “The Unity Game,” is an intense and driven New York investment banker, whose world starts slipping away when he has some alien experiences. Christian Bale would be perfect for this, as he self-destructs so brilliantly. There is also an ethereal, non-sexual, highly evolved alien that Cate Blanchett would suit perfectly. She is mesmerisingly beautiful so the lack of action wouldn’t be a problem. The third character is an after-life guide for my London barrister who dies in the first scene, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather show me around the after-life than Tom Hanks.

5.  If someone is brand new to your work, what book do you think they should start with?

My two books are entirely different so it depends on their reading preferences. My debut novel “The Woman Behind the Waterfall” is intense, emotional and poetic. I thought at first it would appeal more strongly to female readers but in fact men have been some of my greatest supporters. My second novel is more wide-ranging and philosophical and has Science Fiction elements. So, if someone loved speculative fiction then they could start with either, but otherwise, they should simply pick the one that appeals most.

6.  Are you traditionally published or self-published? What do you like about that path? What do you dislike about it?

I am very happily self-published. When I had completed my debut novel, it got picked up by a London agent who believed strongly in it. After a year, she hadn’t been able to sell it, and I decided to go down the independent writer’s route. If I hadn’t had an agent (and feedback from publishers) to validate it, I might have put it in a dark drawer and kept writing, but I am so glad I didn’t – not all my readers enjoy my work but I have had dozens of amazing reviews from people who found it strange and uplifting and different. It was one of the best decisions of my life, and I now absolutely love being an independent author and controlling my entire creative output. The only possible downside is the amount of time you have to spend on marketing, but as I have a business background, I don’t mind this and see it as part of the day job.

7.  What are the upsides and downsides to being an author?

I love the ability to have long periods to think, as a writer. In an office environment, it’s difficult to have any quiet or calm without looking like you aren’t doing anything. As a writer, you can go for a long walk and come up with a brilliant structure or dialogue or scene. You can plan difficult things through with hours of silence. It’s rare and wonderful.

The downside, for me, is the lack of ego in the writer’s workplace. In an office, you see colleagues working on projects you can contribute to and compete with, and there’s a natural drive to success. In a writer’s space, you have bookshelves of geniuses staring down at you as you type out a mediocre sentence, and then the doubts in your head to fight to stop deleting that sentence (because it’s a first draft and can be improved with editing!) You don’t have a handy room full of average-talent writers and super-successful writers to keep you motivated and self-confident.

8.  What does a typical workday look like for you?

Writing is my full time job, and my day is divided into mornings, when I create – working on first drafts or re-writing, and afternoons, when I do marketing tasks and administration. As an independent author, I effectively run my own publishing business, which means there is always a large amount of work to cover. However, the early writing hours are sacred.

9.  Do you outline books ahead of time or are you more of a by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?

I start off with many different ideas in my head, and I simply try writing about all of them. Some story threads fizzle out after a few thousand words and I understand that I didn’t have a very deep interest in the themes behind them. Others expand and expand until a novel starts coming into shape. I often then integrate the smaller ideas as themes into the larger works. A novel has to have a question or a theme so burning, that it will carry you through up to five or even ten years of your life, and thousands of words.

10. Are there any nuggets of wisdom you can impart to aspiring writers? 

For aspiring authors: the main thing to do is write, write, write. Learn how to complete a piece of work professionally. Set a word count (short story, novella, poem, novel), then write the first draft. Edit the work as well as you can. Then let it go. Write another one. It will be better. Then write something longer. This way, you build up confidence in your ability to work professionally, and also learn to grow and develop your skills.

11.  Who are some of your favorite authors?

I read as much as I possibly can – probably a book a week on average. I love literary fiction the most, but I’ve started to read more science fiction as well, and I try to keep a balance of at least one non-fiction book per ten fiction. Authors I love start from literary classics such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, to current writers such as David Mitchell and Michael Cunningham and Eleanor Catton. I particularly love surrealism and great writing that heads in a strange direction, such as Haruki Murakami and Aimee Bender.

12.  What are some great books you’ve read recently?

I’m interested in South Africa at the moment, and I just finished “Cry, My Beloved Country,” by Alan Paton – a truly extraordinary book. For a contrast, I then read “Disgrace” by J. M. Coetzee which gave a very different picture of the country. In the last months I’ve finished “The Three Body Problem” by Liu Cixin and “The Dispossesed” by Ursula Le Guin – both powerful, breathtaking works of Science Fiction.

13.  What types of books do you enjoy in your downtime?

I try to read as widely as possible, so in my downtime I would read something not directly related to writing skills. I’ve been reading a lot of indie published books lately, and enjoying the many genres and styles you can find there, and also I love reading books that my children are studying at school so that I can have a deep conversation with them. I’m also a member of several book clubs and I love someone else deciding the choice for me once a month!

14.  What are your top three favorite books of all time?

That’s a really difficult question! I would have to choose 3 that I return to again and again. The first is “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Its themes and language and beauty haunt me. The second is “Mrs Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf. When Michael Cunningham published his personal interpretation of this in “The Hours,” that also became a favourite. For my third, I would choose Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore” as it constantly inspires me to be bold in my ideas, expression of motivations and language. It reminds me that in writing, everything is possible.

15.  Can you recommend any new or upcoming authors to us?

Jess Kidd is quite a new writer, who lives locally to me and visited my book group. I greatly enjoyed her debut novel “Himself” set in an Irish town. It was bold and imaginative and sprawling.

Across the Atlantic, I loved “We The Animals” – the debut of Justin Torres – a furious, cathartic novel. I would read anything new he wrote.

For indie writers, I love the idiosyncratic work of Mari Reiza, such as West B’Egg and Marmotte’s Journey.

Book Description and Reviews:

“The Unity Game” is science fiction with philosophy


A New York banker is descending into madness.

A being from an advanced civilization is racing to stay alive.

A dead man must unlock the secrets of an unknown dimension to save his loved ones.

From the visions of Socrates in ancient Athens, to the birth of free will aboard a spaceship headed to Earth, The Unity Game tells a story of hope and redemption in a universe more ingenious and surprising than you ever thought possible.

Metaphysical thriller and interstellar mystery, this is a ‘complex, ambitious and thought-provoking novel’ from an exciting and original new voice in fiction.

Goodreads * Amazon

Reviews for The Unity Game

“A complex, ambitious and thought-provoking novel.” ~~ Kirkus Reviews

“Elegantly written, expertly crafted and a moving message. I found this book very hard to put down. Moving and poignant.” ~~ Lilly, Amazon US reviewer

“An engrossing, unique, and totally bizarre tale! I could not stop reading it once I started. Such a beautiful take on the afterlife, and its connection to those still living. A unity game, indeed!”~~ Brenna, Goodreads reviewer

About the Author

Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.

In 2003 she moved from New York to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA, which included a study trip around China and Taiwan, and climbing to the top of Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest peak and part of the Carpathian Mountains. She also served as President of the International Women’s Club of Kyiv, a major local charity.

During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development.

In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.

Leonora currently lives in Barcelona and London and has two children. She is working on her third novel.





 V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”


How to Develop a Writing Habit

I’ll admit I have never formed a daily writing habit. I’ve made several attempts at Nanowrimo. The first time, I thought I was going to write my first published #scifi book, Stupid Humans, in the month of November. I started in November of 2012, and I finished in November…of 2014. Whatever, they didn’t say what year it had to be.

Writing: It’s Complicated

Admittedly, my 176,000+ word first draft was way longer than the 50,000 words required to complete Nanowrimo. Still, I didn’t work on it daily, even during November of 2012. I did work on it several days in a row, then I burned out and wrote maybe every couple days for the rest of the month.


After November ended, I got even lazier and less motivated. I wrote a couple chapters every couple months, then forgot about it for a couple more months. In November of 2012, the store I worked in closed, and I decided to take the opportunity to finish my book while I had the time, so I finally did. I should have used Nanowrimo as an opportunity to develop a daily writing habit, but unfortunately, I didn’t.

After that, I spent a couple years writing two more manuscripts, at one point writing a political satire in three months after losing yet another job (this time to a ten-dollar-an-hour-no-benefits intern). After writing and publishing that one under another pen name, I went back to writing #scifi, slowly working my way through another novel, about a guy who invents a pill to make people more trusting. Then I spent a lot of time writing blog posts, doing interviews, and generally avoiding doing very much writing.

I did manage to write about a chapter a week of a parallel universe book last year, and got to about 35,000 words—maybe a halfway point. Then I got the idea that I wanted to make Stupid Humans a series. So I ended up shelving the parallel universe story, which I will come back to at some point, and starting on the second Stupid Humans book for Nanowrimo of last year.


Developing a Daily Writing Habit

I’ll confess, I cheated. I started writing in October and still didn’t finish in November. I did finish in December, by continuing to write daily. Okay, most days. Nobody’s perfect.

So I finished the second book and started on the third. I considered making writing 1,000 words a day my New Year’s resolution for 2018 (although I usually refuse to make resolutions because I kind of like myself just the way I am). Anyway, I made an exception and decided on an unofficial resolution to try to write 1,000 words a day most days. If I did that, I could write 365,000 words a year! That’s like four books if I don’t go over 100K on any of them and one is only 65K.

Developing a Writing Habit That Works For Me

Okay, that may have been overreaching a bit. A week in, I’d written on maybe two days. I blamed it on editing the second book, and the trust pill book. Or on having to do writing for freelance clients, like press releases and ad copy. (At one point, I saved a client from who knows how many lawsuits by ensuring his brochures didn’t actually say yoga classes could cure diabetes.) But, I did not manage to write 1,000 words a day of my own stuff.

I gave myself a week off to try to finish editing the second book, finally finished, and decided to start over. I did better with that, and have managed to write most days since then. I missed some Saturdays. I didn’t manage a thousand words every day—some were only 500. I decided writing SOMETHING every day was better than writing nothing. I took another week off last week to finish editing the trust pill book, something I expected to be done by now. Unfortunately, when I went back to the beginning and started rereading it, I realized I hated the first fifth of the book and it needed serious surgery, including a couple complete chapterectomies. I’m not sure why I didn’t fix this stuff before—maybe being away from the manuscript for months gave me perspective and allowed me to grow as a writer. Or maybe I got Hemingway’s famous advice about “Write drunk, edit sober,” backwards. At any rate, I took some time to fix that manuscript up, then got back to writing.

It was easier than I thought. I wrote 1,000 words today, and yesterday, and I plan to tomorrow as well. The biggest thing that has helped me keep this up is starting as soon as I get off the treadmill in the morning. I toss around story ideas in my head while I run, and I figure I’m never going to have better blood flow to my brain than during and right after a workout, so that’s what I do. After I get out of the shower, I make a vegan protein shake with Sunwarrior protein powder and peanut butter, take some active B vitamins that are supposed to have a nootropic effect (although that’s probably bullshit, I like to think it makes my brain work better), and sit down to write.

But the most important thing I do for my daily writing habit is I force myself to write something before I do anything else—check my email, go on Facebook, etc. That way I write a thousand words before I get into an argument about whether Star Wars or Star Trek is better (Star Trek all the way!). Sure, I still waste time arguing with people on social media (probably more than I should), but at least I got some writing done first, right?

I also remind myself that it’s okay if I don’t have any good ideas for what to write next. One of the best things you can do as a writer is give yourself permission to write something that’s not perfect. If I don’t have a good idea, I write my best bad idea and hope I think of something better. Usually, I do, and I can go back and delete the crap I wrote before it. I guess I could amend Hemingway’s famous advice by saying write drunk, or at least without inhibition, and edit sober, or at least with a very critical eye.

How did you develop a daily writing habit?

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”


Thoughts We’ve All Had During #Nanowrimo

While working on my #Nanowrimo novel, the second in the Stupid Humans series, I have a variety of non-writing thoughts I’d like to share. I’m sure many people writing a book for the first time (or fifth, or tenth, whatever) can relate. In no particular order, here they are:


  • Why do I do this every year?
  • Why did I give these People tails? I did it in the first book and now I’m stuck with it and what if it wasn’t that great of an idea? (Even if you never gave your characters tails and don’t have a first book in the series, you’ve probably done something you regret earlier in the book, that you’re now stuck with unless you want to rewrite half the book. Which you definitely don’t want to do.)
  • This writing thing is an interesting pastime, but I think I need to find an easier hobby, like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen or baking brownies in the ovens of hell or maybe head-to-toe body piercing.
  • Maybe the tails aren’t half as bad as that last paragraph I just wrote, which I can’t delete because then my word count goes down.
  • Good thing someone invented that delete key. Who did that? They deserve a Nobel prize.
  • Now would be the PERFECT time to try to edit or rewrite or do something to that short story that’s been rejected twice. Fixing that seems a hell of a lot easier than writing the rest of this novel.
  • Fuck this, I should work on that dystopian novel series idea I’ve been kicking around my head instead.
  • I’ve been writing for half an hour, how am I not at 50,000 words yet?

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”