Down with the Ship (an Unlucky Seven short)

[AUTHOR’S NOTE] This is a short set in the Unlucky Seven universe (or Uni7erse as was recently suggested to me). If you like what you read here and you’re not familiar with the source material, check the links on the sidebar to buy/borrow Unlucky Seven and the Obligatory Sequel. You won’t regret it!

“Do we really have to unpack this now?” Zoey asked, her ice katana smoothly carving the head from the shoulders of one of Kurt’s ninja-bots, “We’re a bit busy at the moment, aren’t we?”

“Well, yeah,” Justin said, blasting another ninja-bot in the chest with a fireball, “But, you’ve been kind of aloof lately. The only time we get to see each other is when we’re out on patrol together and I’m usually too nervous to say anything.”

“And the middle of a fight is your idea of a good time to talk about things?” Zoey asked, parrying another black blade with a resounding clang of her sword, “You couldn’t have brought this up on the two hour stakeout waiting for these guys to show?”

“No,” Justin said, blasting the head of the robot whose sword was currently locked with hers, “Had to be now.”

“This is a little clichéd for you, isn’t it?” Zoey said, kicking aside the ninja he had just disabled and moving forward to engage with the next one, “I mean, this so tropey. The whole ‘let’s talk about our relationship while we’re fighting bad guys’ thing.”

“Maybe,” Justin said, throwing another fireball and hitting his target, “I dunno, I just feel, like, more open to discussion right now. Less anxious. Full of adrenaline.”

Her blade suddenly thrust in front of his face, blocking a potential deathblow.

“Maybe pay attention to the fighty part,” she said as he thrust both hands forward causing the midsection of the ninja who had just tried to split him in two to be violently ejected from existence, “That adrenaline will still be there when it’s over.”

The two of them finished creatively destroying the mostly inept yet still very real and dangerous robot ninjas which had appeared at the back entrance of an unsuspecting office building in an industrial complex far from the city. They were given the assignment because it was their night for patrol anyway.

They sat in the back of the black panel van they borrowed from Phalanx (on the condition that neither of them cause it to explode) eating some post-fight cheeseburgers, their legs dangling from the tailgate. It had been quiet since Zoey suggested they shut up and fight. Justin finally broke the silence.

“I think a discussion about this is warranted,” he said.

She sighed.

“I’m not sure if I’m really ready for this discussion,” she said, “I’m not even sure there’s anything to discuss.”

“I just want to know where I stand,” he said, “We haven’t really addressed any of this. It’s kinda nebulous and I want to put a bit of definition on it.”

“I think that’s kinda my problem with talking about it,” she said, “I have feelings here and I want to open up to you but I… I’m afraid that all you’ll end up doing is trying to define me again.”

“What do you mean?” Justin asked, taking a bite of his burger.

“I mean,” she said, pausing and sighing, unsure of her words, “Like the whole manic pixie dream girl thing. I was seriously upset by that because it felt like you were just treating me as another character in your ‘narrative’. You assigned a trope to me. It felt like a blind judgment based on the situation and, honestly, made me feel like less of a person in your eyes and more like some kind of shell that you were looking to fill with what you wanted me to be in order to preserve a storyline.”

She set her burger down on its wrapper and hopped down from the back of the van. She paced, trying to let the words come to her while not outright insulting him with what she wanted to get across. After a moment, she turned to him and spoke.

“I see what you do and I understand it. You built a narrative structure around our personal situation because you saw how well it worked for the group’s situation as a whole. You’re able to see what’s going to happen because, you’re right, things progress in a linear fashion and continue to be predictable. You use your pop-culture knowledge to call out all these things and make fun of them. It makes you feel more secure because you are familiar with the structure and can laugh about its nature.

“We are different, you and I. This is not something that you can assign a narrative to as if it was some kind of romantic action-comedy. I am a person; not an idea, not a situation. Our relationship – whatever it may be – isn’t a plot hook and I am very afraid that if I openly share my feelings with you, you’re not going to take them seriously. You’re only going to look for ways to plug them in to whatever device works for you before you categorize it and turn it into another narrative because that is what makes you feel safe from any potential emotional damage. You can prepare better because you think you can see what is coming.”

Justin sat, continuing to eat his meal, with wide eyes. They looked desperate, she thought. She had broken through something in his brain and she knew it. She hesitated to think that she was fixing him because that would be playing right into another one of his tropes. The other side of her brain was telling her that the tropes didn’t matter and what she was doing was important to a person she cared about.

He didn’t reply. He stared, silently, waiting for her next words.

“We don’t even really know each other,” she said, turning away from his gaze, “I mean, we’re basically co-workers. Like, we know each other to the extent of basic details but we’ve never really had time to talk about anything. Moving forward quickly – defining something – would only be feeding into that narrative thing.”

“I want to get to know you,” Justin said, “I like you a lot.”

“You find me attractive,” Zoey countered, “You like the surface. You appreciate the aesthetic. That’s good for a start. We’ve kissed, we’ve had some moments, but we’ve really never talked about anything that wasn’t immediately pressing. Like, we’ve had discussions about everything but our real selves and I feel like we need to explore that before we put any kind of label on it.”

“You kissed me, though,” Justin said, “That meant something, right?”

“You’re cute,” Zoey said, shrugging, “I’m not denying that I am also attracted to you, but, we’re adults. Just because we shared a kiss doesn’t mean we’re in some kind of exclusive relationship. From what Lisa tells me, you were reading way too far into that. It was a very emotional moment when that happened. We both needed to feel good about something right at that second. I gave us that something. It wasn’t the declaration of undying love that you think it was.”

“Really?” Justin scoffed, “That’s how she told you I felt about it?”

“Is that a lie?” Zoey said, raising an eyebrow.

Justin looked down. She could almost see the exact spot she had placed the pin in his mind to start his deflation.

“I was confused,” Justin said, “And emotional. And, really, girls don’t typically take an interest in me. They especially don’t suddenly kiss me.”

“Get over yourself,” she said, dismissing him with a hand wave, “You need to stop playing this role you think has been assigned to you. You don’t necessarily need to stop looking at the narrative, as long as it applies, but you need to stop looking at people as characters. Yourself included.

“You have yourself pinned as this chubby ugly nerd who is mad at the world because no one appreciates you. You don’t realize that you are so much more than the stereotype you’ve shoe-horned yourself into. Just like I’m not the manic pixie dream girl, you are not the depressive ogre nightmare man. Realize that you are attractive, you are smart, and you have a bigger part to play in the world than just the ‘character’ you think you need to be.”

“So,” Justin said, looking up, “You do like me?”

“Yes, you moron,” Zoey said, laughing, “Yes, I do. I want to get to know you better so that I can find out if I like you for more than just being attractive. I think you should really get to know me better, too, to make sure I’m not just another pretty face.”

“I know you’re not just another pretty face,” Justin said, “But yeah, I would like to find out for sure.”

“So, there’s your label, if you still need it,” Zoey said, “’Tentatively dating’. Yeah, still a little nebulous, like you said, but that’s good. The less you can associate anything to do with us to a plot hitch or a trope, the better. I don’t like being put into a mold. Stay away from that and we’ll see what happens from here.”

He was quiet. She was sure that this was going to take him a while to process. From the look on his face, she had hit every nail directly on the head, but it was clear he wasn’t ready for this. It was clear that he would have never been ready for this.

“Yeah,” he said, finally, nodding, “Yeah, I guess we’ll see.”

She put her head on his shoulder as she dug in to finish her burger. He leaned into her as well. There was a soft hiss as his cheek met her ice hair. It subsided after a moment.

“Are you saying you ship us?” Justin asked.

“Shut up,” Zoey said, a smile crossing her face.

“You totally ship us,” Justin said.

The pale, cold skin of her cheeks turned red, out of sight from Justin. She was very thankful for that last part.

They stared out into the parking lot of the industrial park. It was filled with the evidence of the preceding battle.

“A fight, cheeseburgers in the back of a van, and cleaning up dead robot parts,” Justin said, “Hell of a first date.”

Diamonds Are For Never (an Unlucky Seven short)

[AUTHOR’S NOTE] This is a short set in the Unlucky Seven universe (or Uni7erse as was recently suggested to me). If you like what you read here and you’re not familiar with the source material, check the links on the sidebar to buy/borrow Unlucky Seven and the Obligatory Sequel. You won’t regret it!

“Ok,” said Phalanx with a sigh, “What seems to be the problem?”

Budda was lying flat across both of the metal gurneys in the medical cave formerly known as dead robot storage. Phalanx had pushed them together to accommodate the width of the giant rock man and was quite unsure as to why someone with no internal organs and the ability to regenerate by eating rocks had asked for a check-up.

“Well,” Budda started, “I need you to check my strata.”

Phalanx paused.

“Your strata?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Budda said, “Y’know, the layers where I’ve been regenerating. There’s those stripes of coal and grey stone that came in after I started eating the cave walls to regenerate my torso. Now there are some cool black scar kinda things all over me because I ate coal after that big fight with the robot ninjas.”

“Ok,” Phalanx said, lingering on that word, “Seems like you already know what’s in your strata. What do you need me for? I’m not much of a geologist.”

“I didn’t figure that,” Budda said, “But you do know chemistry. I tried an experiment and I need you to help me determine the results.”

“What exactly do you need me to do?” Phalanx asked with a sigh.

“Ok, well, let me tell you my idea first,” Budda began, “So, I was thinking that I regenerate rock I’ve lost with any rock I consume, right? I just have to chew it up and it gets excreted or whatever into my strata.”

“Established,” Phalanx said, “Go on.”

“So, I had this thought that I would walk to, like, Africa,” Budda said.

He followed up with nothing. Phalanx stared at him, waiting for some kind of indication as to where this whole thing was going.

“Walk,” Phalanx said,” To Africa.”

“Yeah,” Budda offered after being prodded, “Walk to Africa. I mean, I could do it. I don’t need to breathe and I’m pretty sure my body would be ok handling pressure at the bottom of the ocean because, you know, I’m made of rocks. I could make it if I tried.”

“Do you realize how long it would take you to walk to Africa?” Phalanx asked, “Underwater?”

“Two years, three months, six days, and six hours at an average walking speed of 3.5 miles an hour,” Budda spouted.

Behind his sunglasses, Phalanx’s eyes bugged out of his head.

“I googled it,” Budda said.

“So you want to spend two and a half years walking to Africa along the bottom of the ocean,” Phalanx said, “Please explain.”

“I’m going to walk to Africa,” Budda said, “Find a diamond mine, damage myself piece by piece, and eat diamonds until my entire bodily structure is solid diamond.”

“Eat diamonds,” Phalanx said, “You’re going to walk to Africa and eat diamonds.”

“Yep,” Budda said, “It’ll make me practically indestructible.”

“I don’t even know if you can eat diamonds,” Phalanx said, “Did you… Is that why I’m here? You ate a diamond and you want me to see what it did to you?”

“Exactly,” Budda said, “I used some of my sweet government hush money to buy a two-carat diamond ring off the internet. When it finally came in, I made a little gash in my chest and I ate it. I wanted you to see if there was any trace of the diamond in the spot I’m regenerating.”

“You ate a diamond,” Phalanx said plainly.

“A two-carat diamond,” Budda said, “Not really as big as I thought it would be, but whatever. This was just an experiment.”

“You ate something like a ten-thousand dollar precious stone,” Phalanx said, “As part of experimenting with your powers.”

“You keep saying these things like somehow you’re going to surprise me with what I did,” Budda said, “Yes. Whatever you are thinking, I totally did it so that I could see if it was worth my time to do the bigger thing.”

“Walking to Africa,” Phalanx said, his jaw continuing to remain slack with incredulity.

“Yes,” Budda shouted, “Walking to freaking Africa, finding a diamond mine, and slowly piecing myself together a newer and far less destructible body. In case you didn’t notice, I was ripped in half by your big bald Project friend in my last big one on one and I was only recently chipped away at by robot ninjas. Just because I can’t feel pain doesn’t mean I can’t take damage.

“I would be a better asset to the team if I could regenerate myself with sturdier stone. I’m not really sure why I ate so much coal on that note, but it seems to hold up a little better when it’s part of my body. What I’m saying though is that if I got into a diamond mine, I would be able to just eat everything in sight and be a giant diamond man instead of the rock guy who gets blown up or disfigured during every fight.”

“I understand your reservations,” Phalanx said, “Trust me. I’m usually the expendable one, too, because I can’t really die. I don’t care about loss of life or limb because there will be more of me. In fact, I don’t think you’ve actually talked to the original Phalanx that showed himself to the group since very near the beginning. We’re very careful about retaining our local source. I do have some issues with this plan, though, if you can be reasoned with.”

“Sure,” Budda said with a sigh.

“Ok, for one,” Phalanx said, “Walking to Africa is ridiculous. I know you have this whimsical Little Mermaid kind of idea of what that will be like but, seriously, it’s dark down there and you still need light to see. There isn’t a light source that would last long enough at the depths you’re talking about. You would have no idea where you were or what you were stepping toward. If you really wanted to do it and didn’t want it to take two years or more, I could get in touch with one of my contacts and we could ship you over in a crate or something.”

“Hm,” Budda said, “That actually sounds like a better idea.”

“No kidding,” Phalanx said, “Second thing: did you do any research at all on diamond mines beyond watching, say, Snow White?”

“Well, it’s a mine, right?” Budda said, “Like this one. I can hide out in a tunnel and dig on my own and stuff. I’m sure I’ll find enough big stones to eat.

Phalanx sighed.

“You need to look into this stuff, man,” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose above his sunglasses, “Most diamond mines are giant pits in the ground – strip mines, not tunnels. Not a place you’re going to be able to hide. Not to mention they’re usually pretty secure.”

“I’d go in at night,” Budda said, “Sneak in.”

“You are an eight-foot tall rock man,” Phalanx pled, “I don’t know why anyone has to constantly remind you of this.”

“Just because I’m big doesn’t mean I can’t be stealthy,” Budda argued.

“Well, no I guess it doesn’t,” Phalanx conceded, “But, seriously, breaking into a diamond mine is not going to be a walk in the park.”

“Look, I appreciate your concern about my master plan,” Budda said, “But, it’s not even going to matter if you don’t help me test my theory. So, can you like sand off a bit of this portion here and see if it contains anything of that diamond I ate earlier?”

Phalanx stared at him, certain that he was serious about all of this. Budda looked back at him, his pupil-less onyx eyes pleading for help. Phalanx sighed.

“Fine, whatever,” Phalanx said, “Let me go get some tools.”

Budda’s stone face contorted into a disturbing expression of joy.


The next day, after the small dust sample Phalanx had sanded from the area where Budda assumed his diamond regeneration would take place had been analyzed, Phalanx called for the rock man. They met again in the medical bay and Phalanx remained impressed that the wheeled gurneys were able to handle the weight of his “patient”.

Phalanx handed Budda sheaf of papers.

“This is the chemical analysis of your surface stone,” Phalanx said, “Feel free to look through it at your leisure.”

“What about the diamond?” Budda asked, anxiously.

“Sorry,” Phalanx said, “Lots of carbon, but none of it dense enough to even come close to diamond.”

“But,” Budda said, stammering in disappointment, “But I ate it.”

“It’s the hardest bulk material known to man,” Phalanx said, “Your powers would be a lot more serious if you could actually digest it. Or, whatever it is that happens in there.”

“It’s not fair,” Budda said, “It’s not logical. Coal is carbon, diamonds are carbon, I can eat coal, therefore…”

“It’s not about fair,” Phalanx said, “It’s about science. Maybe your body just can’t deal with the density difference. I know I’m kinda the expert on super abilities around here but I’ve never dealt with a rock person who regenerates by eating other rocks. I can’t really give you an explanation to why, but…”

He stopped abruptly and tilted his head at Budda.

“What?” Budda asked.

“Open your mouth,” Phalanx said.

Budda did as he asked. Phalanx grabbed a pair of tweezers and approached his rocky maw full of jagged white pieces of what looked like quartz imitating teeth. He gently reached in with the tweezers, plucked something caught between two of the shards and dropped it into his other hand. He immediately went to one of the lab tables, removed his sunglasses, and gazed through a jeweler’s loupe at first, then placed it under a microscope.

After a moment, Phalanx started to laugh.

“What?” Budda asked, “What is it?”

“Budda,” Phalanx said, turning around, his fist clenched around what had been taken from Budda’s mouth, “Let me just say that I still believe that you wouldn’t be able to actually eat a diamond. As a matter of fact, whatever restoration furnace you must have burning inside of you probably wouldn’t be able to reincorporate it into your body. That said, this was stuck in your teeth.”

Opening his hand, Phalanx produced the two-carat stone Budda had wrenched from the ring he had purchased online.

“So that’s why it didn’t work,” Budda said, reaching for it.

Phalanx closed his hand and drew it back.

“Before you take it and inevitably try to eat it again, there’s one thing you should know,” Phalanx said.

“What?” Budda sighed.

“This is a cubic zirconia,” Phalanx said.

“Seriously?” Budda shouted, “No, it’s not. How do you know?”

“Really?” Phalanx asked in return, “You asked me to shave off part of your body and put it under a microscope, I hand you a ream of paper that is the full mineralogical and biological work-up of your crunchy outer shell, and you’re going to doubt me on telling the clear difference between a diamond and not-a-diamond?”

“Dude, I dropped like fifty grand on that ring,” Budda said, “There’s no way that’s not a diamond.”

“Well, in fact,” Phalanx said, “Having only recently qualified myself to you, I can definitively tell you it is very much not a diamond and communicate to you the principal of caveat emptor as well as the idea that the internet is not always an honest place.”

“I sniped some guy for that ring,” Budda said, his voice half sad, half furious, “It came with certification and stuff. I ripped the gem right out of the setting like it wasn’t a thing. Now I’m out fifty-k and I can’t even resell the damn thing because I tried to eat it.”

“There, there, big guy,” Phalanx said, patting him on the shoulder, “You know, Cubic Zirconia is pretty tough. Almost as tough as diamond. You want to take a taste?”

Budda sighed, taking the gem from Phalanx’s hand. He held it gingerly between two of his massive fingertips.

“Do you know anything about Cubic Zirconia mines?” Budda asked.

“Let’s cross that bridge if we come to it,” Phalanx said.

The Fandom Menace

There’s this theory going around the internet – isn’t there always a theory going around the internet? – and it’s been around for a while. Of course, I am just now picking up on it, along with many other people, due to the uptick in a certain fandom based on an upcoming, highly-anticipated, and amazing-looking sequel.

I’m going to talk about it, but only as part of the overall point of this entry. Promise you won’t go away because of the certain name you see below and I swear I’ll make the rest of this article worth your while.




The big theory is that Jar Jar Binks is a Sith Lord – the real Phantom Menace titular to Episode I.

Lest you think this is some laughable fan theory made up to grant significance to what is viewed as one of the worst Star Wars characters of all time, I compel you to look at the evidence for yourself.

I’ll wait here while you check it out. You really should before we go any further.

Welcome to mind blow land. I’m not going to present the entire theory here, that’s why I posted the link. Please, seriously, click through and check it out. It’s important to the next few paragraphs but I suppose not the entire article as a whole.

Now, some of you may view this with a skeptic’s eye, as I originally did. Some of you may even say, “Lucas isn’t that smart,” but I would persuade you to think of your qualifier for that. Most of you feel betrayed by Lucas BECAUSE of Jar Jar Binks and his stupidity. But what if – WHAT IF – all of this was true and Jar Jar’s presence was justified by making him the most powerful Sith Lord in the universe? How would George Lucas look to you then? How would you feel knowing that the buyer’s remorse you felt for your midnight Phantom Menace tickets resulted in what could have been the most amazing reveal in all of film history?

None of us would have seen it coming. If I could wax hypothetical on the theory for just another paragraph or three, I would like to posit some quick ways this would have changed everything about the prequels. For the better. Maybe for the amazing.

Count Dooku was the shoehorn replacement for Darth Jar Jar in spots. I think the reveal would have happened at the end of Attack of the Clones. Instead of battling Count Dooku, the Jedi would have had an epic lightsaber battle with Darth Jar Jar who would instantly drop the stupid Gungan accent and suddenly be quite smooth and intellectual. He and Anakin would have some words with “Little Ani’s” heart being broken after realizing his childhood friend was a Sith Lord all along. They fight, Jar Jar gains the upper hand – maybe even says some words to convince Anakin to come to the Dark Side – and he is the one who cuts off Anakin’s arm. Then we get the Yoda vs. Jar Jar fight which would have been an epic achievement in CGI (maybe, probably, maybe not?).

This would be a much clearer influence for Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side than Palpatine blah-blahing some old story about Darth Plagueis the Wise and his ability to resurrect and retain life. Hell, Jar Jar himself could have been Darth Plagueis the Wise. My personal theory is that Jar Jar may have even been Jedi Master Saifo-Dias who supposedly ordered the Clone Army from Kamino. I’m probably wrong there, but, if Jar Jar is a missing and high-ranking Force adept on either side of the coin (or both), he could fill many holes that exist in the legends by being that “unseen” character.

Either way, Anakin’s betrayal by Jar Jar at the end of Attack of the Clones would have been brutal but his old, innocent friend seducing him to the Dark Side would have been much more interesting. Jar Jar always approved of the love between Padme and Anakin. He would be very understanding and accepting (and greedy) regarding their prophecy fulfilling children. I couldn’t even imagine the after-effects of the whole ordeal. Would they have killed Jar Jar by the end of Revenge of the Sith or would he have escaped, leaving us to wonder where he was during the events of the Rebellion? We’ll never know.

We will never know. That is the most important takeaway from this theory – we will never and can never know what exactly Lucas had in mind. Even if he confesses – which I would advise him to do immediately – that the Darth Jar Jar theory is real, we will never get to see those movies. We will never get to hear that story. Why? Because we all dropped the ball. Hard.

The reason I made you promise to stay with me at the beginning of the post was that mentioning the name Jar Jar Binks is nearly guaranteed to shut people off immediately. You think of his stupid face, his bumbling, and his meesa-yousa bullshit and you immediately want to change the channel. We ALL hated Jar Jar. We hated him so hard and so publically that articles were written about it. Hate mail was sent to Lucas because of it. The pressure of the fanbase purely hating on this character made Lucas change his plans, as evidenced in tweets and interviews.

We killed Darth Jar Jar with the unbridled hate of the collective internet before Lucas had a chance to perpetrate the end of his scheme. We were tainted by the “Greedo shot first” incident and thought he was completely off his rocker. Jar Jar put us all over the edge and made us lose faith. Lucas became a joke and, ultimately, sold to Disney because he knew that no one would ever trust him to make a good Star Wars movie again. That’s not to say that The Force Awakens doesn’t look amazing, but I digress.

Fandom banded together and pressured a creator so hard that he ditched an entire master plan for fear that people would boycott any movie which would assign an important role to a character as conceivably ridiculous as Jar Jar. I remember before Attack of the Clones came out, there were rumors that Jar Jar would become a Jedi or something like that and I remember pounding my fist on a bar and cursing Lucas’ name if he made it true. Little did I know that almost fifteen years later I would be sitting here looking back at that me as part of the problem.

The same sort of thing happened to J.K. Rowling when info leaked that, after the Battle of Hogwarts and the defeat of Voldemort, Harry would become a squib due to the loss of his connection to the Dark Lord. Fans and forums went apeshit and caused J.K. to bow to pressure and “fix” the ending.

That’s really where all this talk was going.

Fandom has a huge influence on the way modern creators craft a story. This is a pure and important fact and, perhaps, a peril of being a storyteller in the internet era. The power of internet fandom can topple dynasties in hours if they disagree with something happening on a given show or in a movie or in a book series. Fandom can become militant. Fandom can tear down worlds. Fandom can hold stories for ransom.

As a storyteller and a universe builder, my question is this – Is this the right thing to do? Should an author/filmmaker/showrunner bow immediately to the pressure of the fans? How does this compromise story elements? How much should this change the overall plot or goal?

I am not speaking out about fandom in general as I am part of it. I have written (in my head if not in word files hidden deep within my vault) the way I thought Lost and Harry Potter should have ended. I am vocal about how I think things should progress in shows (which ultimately don’t materialize). I have my own ideas of how things should go if I would write them. I am deep in the fandom of certain things but I have learned in my old age to trust in the writers for the most part. Not that they are always right, but as fandom, we should respect that it is their story to tell.

There have been moments during reading/watching where I have angrily shaken my fist or been outwardly vocal or even cried due to a plot turn or a character death or a stupidly implausible whatever. There have been characters in things that I really wanted to die who make it all the way to the end and vice versa. That is part of the emotion of the narrative.

Nothing can ever satisfy everyone within a fandom. There will always be some hate for certain characters/events/situations/places but in the end, the creator of that story should stand firm and not bow to the demands of the fandom. The fandom should respect the source material, even if it’s not created yet.

On the other side, some fan service is ok, but never at the expense of the narrative. Bowing to fan pressure to the narrative is the reason Jango Fett was the source of the Clone Army – because people just couldn’t get enough of Boba that there just HAD to be a way to shoe-horn in someone in Mandelorian armor flying Slave I and generally being an overall badass. I know I keep going with the Star Wars references but the way the fandom influenced the prequels is, in my opinion, why they were so awful. Lucas put out the Phantom Menace and we all (myself included) hated it. We railed so hard against it that he took all of our suggestions into account when proceeding to Episodes II and III and those turned out to be garbage to the point of being completely disavowed by sections of general nerdity.

If you need a more contemporary example, think about the phrase “if Daryl dies, we riot,” and tell me that doesn’t influence a certain group of showrunners.

As an author, I have to tell you – trust us. We have a plan. Even if you don’t think we do, we totally do. We have this stuff lined up. We know the direction things need to go. We have already decided who lives and who dies and we’re very sorry if that somehow puts out your favorite character but that is the story we are telling. Sometimes these things are unavoidable. By all means, if a character is killed off, you can always push for a prequel. Or an alternate universe. But, let that character stay dead if the author says they’re dead. There are enough Jean Greys out there.

And, if you don’t like the way things are going, be cool and wait it out. Let things unfold without the backlash. If we had, we would have Darth Jar Jar. And it would have been amazing.

Have an opinion on this topic? Feel free to voice it in the comments. I’m interested in fandom’s opinion on this. Also, if you’re interested in joining the Unlucky Seven fandom, let me know. I want one so bad.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Mutli-versal League of Jerks (an Unlucky Seven short)

[AUTHOR’S NOTE] This is a short set in the Unlucky Seven universe (or Uni7erse as was recently suggested to me). If you like what you read here and you’re not familiar with the source material, check the links on the sidebar to buy/borrow Unlucky Seven and the Obligatory Sequel. You won’t regret it!
[AUTHOR’S NOTE PART II] Sorry about the formatting. WordPress doesn’t like tabs and needs carriage returns to make this look less like a giant run-on sentence.

Justin slept on the couch in front of LENNY’s main screen.

He was sitting, slouched, his head back and his mouth open, snoring. A video game controller dangled in his hand, slipping ever so slowly toward its inevitable fall to the stone floor of the main chamber as his unconscious grip grew lighter.

On the screen, a wizard stood in the middle of a town. The character’s idle dialogue had been chastising the sleeping gamer every two minutes for around forty-five minutes now. Justin couldn’t even hear it and continued snoring.

The others had all gone to bed earlier. Justin had seized the opportunity to take over the screen for gaming purposes but didn’t last long before slipping into an exhausted and unprompted sleep.

His nose twitched with the smell of smoke. Strange for a person with smoke for hair – he smelled smoke all the time and had become mostly nose-deaf to it. This was different somehow; enough to cause him to snort loudly and wake up. The controller clattered to the ground as he sat up.

His eyes opened to smoke billowing around him. He panicked, stood up quickly, and started looking for its source. He checked himself over first to make sure that this wasn’t some kind of superpower malfunction. As far as he could tell, this was something external. His eyes darted around looking for flames and found nothing but the cloud of smoke itself that was largely obscuring his sight of anything.

Suddenly, the smoke moved away and became humanoid in form, standing a few feet away from him. With a quick burst of flames, the smoke solidified and Justin was face to face with a slightly familiar looking figure.

The person he looked at wore a black leather trench coat with red leather flames rising up from the bottom. His boots and pants matched the theme. On his chest was some sort of body armor with a stylized flaming skull on the chest. He wore a respirator decorated to match and a pair of heavy-duty welding goggles. His hair was a pillar of white and grey smoke. It became very clear to him quickly.

He was stunned for a moment as the person removed his identity-obscuring disguise revealing a face identical to his save for a few noticeable scars and a full beard rather than Justin’s typical goatee.

“Hello, Firestarter,” said Justin’s duplicate, smirking.

Justin’s face suddenly and almost violently clenched.

“Oh, shit,” Justin said, sighing, putting his hand up to his brow, “Please don’t tell me you’re me from the future. Please. We totally have enough problems here without having to deal with a time-travel story arc.”

“Story arc?” said the other Justin, “What do you mean?”

“What do you mean, ‘what do I mean?’” Justin asked, “You’re me. You should know exactly what I mean, right? Like, me from the future should totally remember this discussion happening. Not only that, me from the future should absolutely understand what I’m saying when I say I want to avoid a time travel story arc. You should hate them as much as I do. They’re unnecessary to a narrative. Most of the time it’s just showing off alternate costumes and alluding to things that have happened in the years since the time period the displaced character left. Seeing as you have a cool alternate costume, some scars that I don’t have, and a rockin’-ass beard, you’re really hitting on all the tropes. So tell me, Future-Boy, who’s President of the United States in 1985?”

“What the,” said the other Justin, shaking his head in confusion, “1985?”

“It’s a reference joke,” Justin said, “Please tell me that I still have my wits in the future.”

“Hang on a minute,” said the other Justin, “I’m not from the future.”

“Oh, God,” Justin said, “It’s even worse. You’re alternate dimension me.”

“Well, really,” said the other Justin, “I could argue that YOU are alternate dimension me seeing as I’m the one who traveled here from my home dimension to find you.”

“Wait, let me guess,” Justin said, “There’s some kind of inter-dimensional crisis and you’re running around collecting all the alternate dimension us-es to face some kind of gigantic threat the likes of which our worlds have never seen.”

Other Justin looked intently at his surroundings.

“Have I been to this one before?” Other Justin asked.

“Are you serious, dude?” Justin said, slapping himself in the forehead, then looking pleadingly at his well-equipped doppelganger, “Come on. This is a prank or something. Bad dream, right? I’m still passed out on the couch in the middle of playing video games.”

“Well, you were,” said other Justin, “I woke you up. Trust me, this is real.”

“No it’s not,” argued Justin, “Because there aren’t other dimension and crap like that. That stuff is all in the comics.”

“So are people with smoke for hair who can throw fireballs,” other Justin said, “What’s your point?”

Justin took a moment to think about it and sighed.

“I guess you’re right,” Justin said, sitting down on the couch, “This life has officially become a comic book hellscape. All of my dreams of having super powers and all of the nightmares of the tropes to go with it. Next thing you know we’ll be fighting mole people or planet-eating purple cosmic titans or some crap like that.”

“You didn’t meet the mole people yet?” asked other Justin.

Justin looked up at him from the couch, his face contorted in an expression usually reserved for people with bamboo shoots under their fingernails.

“Kidding, dude,” said other Justin, “Only kidding.”

Justin hung his head low and cradled his face in his hands.

“You’re the first of us I’ve talked to,” said other Justin, “The Firestarter of Earth-Two.”

“Earth-Two?” asked Justin, shifting his head slightly to look at him between the fingers covering his face, “Why are we Earth-Two? This is the only Earth I’ve ever known, so this is Earth-One or Earth-Prime or something else that sounds like the main Earth from a DC Crisis comic.”

“You’re Earth-Two,” said other Justin, “Because you’re the second Earth I came to.”

“So, you’re just blatantly colonizing us as ‘Two’ because you’re the first alternate dimension person to set foot here?” Justin asked, “No, that’s not right. This is Earth-One if anything.”

“Dude, look,” other Justin said, “It was really hard and dangerous to get here. Can’t I just call you the Firestarter of Earth-Two for the sake of setting us apart?”

“Why are you calling me Firestarter at all?” Justin asked.

“Well, that’s my superhero name,” said other Justin, “You’re the me from Earth-Two.”

“I never called myself that,” Justin said, insulted, “Firestarter? Really? Did you name yourself after the Stephen King book or the Prodigy song? How am I so lame on your Earth?”

“You never thought of calling yourself Firestarter?” asked other Justin.

Justin stared forward quietly for a moment before responding.


“Dude, you totally did,” said other Justin.

There was another moment.

“Ok, I did,” said Justin, “But I trashed it because I wanted to think of something that wasn’t already the title of two identifiable pop-culture properties. Can you please not call me ‘Earth-Two Firestarter’ or whatever, though? I’m not in love with either the superhero name or the colonization of my home dimension.”

“Fine,” said other Justin, sounding slightly frustrated, “Look, we need to talk business.”

“You’re forming a superteam,” Justin recapped, “Some interdimensional team of Justins to try to eliminate a huge reality-destroying threat.”

“Something like that, yeah,” said other Justin with an exasperated huff.

“Nope,” said Justin.

Other Justin stared at him, an incredulous look on his face.
“Nope?” he asked.

“Nope,” Justin stated plainly.

“You haven’t even heard about the danger we’re facing,” other Justin said, “This threat could destroy the multi-verse!”

“Multi-verse,” Justin scoffed, “Listen to yourself, man. You sound like a monthly one-sheet promo. Is the cover cool? Are we standing back-to-back facing the bad guy or is there an entire army of alternate costumed us-es standing behind us facing the camera and looking angry?”

“Be serious here, man,” said other Justin, “Like the term or not, the multi-verse is a real thing as witnessed by the fact that I am here. Also, it’s some pretty dire straits and we are the only ones who can help to save it.”

“By what?” Justin asked, “All throwing fireballs at the same place at the same time? Everyone going into our crazy super-saiyan state and mega-blasting a bad guy? Everyone turns into smoke and gives the supreme alien intelligence lung cancer? Why did they only send you? Did the rest of the team wuss out or something?”

“If you must know,” other Justin said, holding his wrist up to show Justin a device of blinking lights and buttons which very much bore Kurt’s signature kludge, “This device creates a crack in the fabric between realities which is too small for anyone to get through unless they can change into…”

“You know what?” Justin interrupted, “Forget I asked. Too much explanation of the how and the why is going to take all the comedy right out of this situation.”

“This isn’t supposed to be funny,” said other Justin, “I risked my life crossing dimensions to come here and get your help.”

“Look, I love a good alternate reality story as much as anyone else,” said Justin, “And I really do love all of the alternate costumes. And yes, yours looks super bad-ass and cool and I’d love to know where you got some of those scars. And I’d also like to know why you don’t seem to see the narrative the same way I do and why you don’t understand reference humor. But, at the same time… nope. Nope to all. Don’t want anything to do with it.”

“Why not?” plead other Justin.

“I have my own corner of the apparent multi-verse to take care of,” Justin said, “If there is really a multi-verse out there, go pick up the next couple of dudes down the line. To be honest, I’m kinda sick of all the action and could use a break. I’ve been through a lot since the accident and all and I really haven’t had any time to let that stuff sink in. Plus, I kinda have this thing with Zoey going on and I don’t really want to die before I see that through. Do you have a Zoey in your reality?”

“Zoey?” asked other Justin.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Justin said, “Yeah, I’m out. I don’t want to disappear on some adventure I might not come back from right now. I’d really rather sit here and veg out and pray there aren’t any robot ninja attacks in the near future.”

“You’re going to put your head in the sand and play video games because you’re lazy,” said other Justin.

“Yep,” said Justin, “Not having it, not going, good luck. Get the guy the next universe over. You can colonize that one Earth-Three. Think of how cool that will be.”

“Do you have no responsibility in this dimension?” other Justin asked, “These scars you’re so fond of? I earned them. I fought to def…”

“Yeah,” Justin interrupted, “Not really interested anymore. They’re an aesthetic thing and they kinda look cool with the whole get up but if you’re going to sit there and tell me about your scars to try and gain some sympathetic leg up on me so I come with you, you’ve got another thing coming. Blah, blah, whine, whine, all my friends are dead and these scars represent them or some gung-ho garbage like that. It’s all very pedestrian as far as alt universe stuff goes. It actually goes further to prove that yours is Earth-Two because all the people on Earth-Prime or whatever are the ones who are all still alive. This story should be about me falling into your bizzaro world and trying work my way back to where things are normal.”

“You know,” other Justin said after a minute, “I don’t remember being this much of an asshole.”

“Oh, if you don’t think you are now, you probably were before,” said Justin, “I’m sure your tragic backstory made you hardened and jaded. Maybe your Earth-Two is the gritty reboot we’ll get when things finally wear out here. Until then, happy hunting out in the multi-verse. I hope you find a bunch more us-es to rally to your cause and I hope they all have scars as cool as you.”

Justin picked up his controller and continued playing his game from where he had left off before falling asleep.

The other Justin sat watching for a moment, quietly.

Justin huffed and paused.

“Dude, seriously,” Justin said, “You’re really bringing the room down here. Can you just go find Earth-Three or –Four us and see if he’s interested instead?”

“The multi-verse needs you,” other Justin muttered.

“If the multi-verse is as big as the comics says it is,” Justin said, “Then there is a lot of me to go around. I’m sure one or two of us will gladly join your cause. Go mope on their couches. I’m trying to forget that I have to sort my life out here.”

“Whatever,” other Justin said with a sigh, “Why bother.”

“That’s the spirit,” said Justin, “Let the whole multi-verse perish in flames because you came to me first; the lazy one with his head in the sand, right?”

“Man,” other Justin said, “I’m a real dick.”

“You certainly are,” Justin said, “Have fun storming the castle.”

Other Justin stood and, after pressing a button on his wrist device, turned into smoke and vanished through a microscopic crack in the universe.

The Firestarter of Earth-Two continued playing video games for another fifteen minutes before passing out again.

All-New, All-Different

While I fail to see the problem with the recent rash of changes Marvel has completed over the last year or more, you need look no further than the comments sections of just about any post on the internet announcing one of them to realize that there are some very vocal people out there who don’t really care for what’s going on.

It starts with a cry that these are marketing ploys; something akin to the Death of Superman in the sense that it won’t last too long and was only done to drum up new sales. I fail to see the problem from this angle as it’s the prerogative of a company to be successful. If that success means changing something, even briefly, to become more profitable, then that’s probably something the company should do. It’s just good business.

It continues with a cry that these marketing ploys are “pandering” to a more diverse audience to broaden Marvel’s readers. I also fail to see the problem here, aside from the use of the word “pandering”. Again, a successful business targets a broad base of consumers. Why be exclusionary? From a strict business standpoint, the more people you have reading your books the better.

After these two logical arguments have been presented as to the business of running a major comic label, detractors will continue their line of objection by stating that the changes to the characters in the story makes Marvel’s integrity questionable at best. That replacing beloved characters like Steve Rogers or Bruce Banner or the Odinson with equivalents such as Sam Wilson or Amadeus Cho or Jane Foster, respectively, does some sort of massive disservice to the story and the community at large.

Of course, the logical argument to this is that, if one actually reads the comics involved, then one would see that the replacements and changes are all integral to the story. Story is the important part, after all, and it wasn’t as if Steve or Bruce or even the Odin-born Thor were removed inexplicably from the Marvel Universe. They continue to exist. They continue to affect the ever-unfolding fabric of the Marvel Universe because they couldn’t just be brushed aside. Their story goes on though they might not get quite as much of the spotlight as they once did.

“Oh,” say the commenters, “But, we don’t want the all-new, all-different. We want more of the same.”

To these particular dissenters, I reply: Why? Steve Rogers has been around forever and, when he died briefly not too long ago, Bucky picked up the shield until Steve returned. There was even a period where Steve was just Captain Steve Rogers, letting Bucky continue with the Captain America moniker for a while longer. Not quite as many were upset with this. Steve’s story went on, Bucky’s story went on. The story allowed for this to happen.

We know why, though, don’t we? We know why the Sam Wilson handoff – even though it was perfectly in line with details of the story – didn’t pass as quietly. It had nothing to do with integrating mechanical wings into the stars-and-bars motif, either.

It’s the same reason that so much controversy was generated when a woman picked up the fallen Mjolnir after Thor Odinson was rendered unworthy. It’s also the same reason people are going insane that a Korean man (who has been a staple in the Marvel Universe for longer than most “fans” probably know) is slated to replace Bruce Banner.

It’s the same reason that Miles Morales freaked so many people out back in 2011.

When I was a kid, I grew up reading comics. My first love was the X-Men (followed shortly by Batman, but that is another blog entry).

I loved the X-Men because it was a team of people with crazy powers. All the characters had such different voices and looks. It was vibrant and different and some people looked practically inhuman (not a cross-reference). It was way different than watching reruns of Challenge of the Super Friends because not everyone was running around in a mask. They showed the X-Men at play as well as at work. There were actual inter-character relationships working there. It was intricate and engaging and not just good guys/bad guys because you had characters like Wolverine – the consummate anti-hero – and Magneto – the guy who was bad but not really but really but not really. You know what I mean.

No, I didn’t really have all these feelings when I was a kid because I didn’t know how to define them. As an adult, I can tell you about this with much more articulation. I liked the X-Men because they were all different.

The X-Men were all outcasts from society; sometimes because of their powers but, more often than not, because of their appearance. I related to them because I was in a similar predicament, growing up a different color from most of the kids around me. I was a pariah, I was looked at differently, and I always hoped I would find out someday that I was a mutant. Aside from Wolverine, my favorites were Beast and Nightcrawler because, out of the lineup at the time, they were the least human in appearance. Also because Beast was super smart and Nightcrawler could teleport (a power I coveted highly).

As I got older and the comic progressed, somewhere in my early teens, I related to the two of them even further. Nightcrawler had a crisis of faith and became a Catholic priest for a time (something that, until I was like 12, I had possibly considered) and later, Beast continuing to mutate into something more feline, getting further away from his humanity.

My point (before this backstory drags on any further) is that I loved the X-Men because they took in anyone. They gave a home to people who were dealing with some serious issues. I related to that because, as a weird, intelligent, brown kid in a white neighborhood, I never really felt like I fit in. It’s why I continued to read comics. It’s why I wanted to write. I realized because of the X-Men that there might be a hero out there who was like me.

Marvel expanding its universe to be inclusive is possibly the best thing they could have ever done. Introducing characters like Miles Morales and Kamala Khan… Elevating characters like Sam Wilson, Carol Danvers, Jane Foster, Amadeus Cho, and even Laura Kinney (that’s X-23 to you noobs)… This is what we need. The little kid reading three-month old issues of X-Men Classic about Wolverine and Storm (mainly) taking on the Brood – one of the first comics I ever owned – is cheering for the kids who are picking up the books now and finding heroes to whom they can directly relate – showing them that they can be super, too.

Purists will brush off this entire blog entry. I wonder, honestly, through the veil of anonymity that is the internet, why they call themselves “purists”.

A true comic book purist accepts canon as gospel. What the company says goes. If they say Steve Rogers had his serum stripped from him, then he has. If they say Bucky didn’t want to pick up the shield again, then he does not. If they say that Sam Wilson was next in line for the throne, then bow to your new king and STFU. A comic book purist would accept the changes and be excited about the directions the story will take from this point on.

Instead, these “purists” seem to be more concerned with the color of Sam’s skin and what it means that a strong Black character is holding the shield and bearing the mantle of Captain America. They get upset about the rumors that Peter Parker wants to retire from crime fighting to run his new company (which, admittedly, was built by Doc Ock as “Superior” Peter) and hand the role over to Miles Morales, a half-Black-half-Puerto Rican kid who has proven himself an amazing (not reference humor) Spider-Man in another universe. The rumor is that Banner will do the same (or be otherwise depowered), leaving room for Amadeus Cho to put on the purple pants of destiny.

“NO!” they scream, “You’re taking away our heroes for the sake of colorwashing the cast! You can’t just make all that history disappear!”

Colorwashing, by the way, is a despicable term. If you use this, please unfriend me and never come here again.

No one is taking anyone away. They are staying. No legacies have been eliminated. No timelines have been changed (well, unless you’re Spidey, then who knows). Their stories go on. And, as far as them not wanting to see action anymore, can you blame them? How many times has Peter Parker skirted death, caused the death of loved ones, cause property damage… how many more happy returns can there be? If someone else is capable, can’t he put down the power and the responsibility and let it be taken up by someone a little younger? Someone who has more of the drive? Hasn’t Peter deserved a little bit of the reward for all that risk over the years? Steve Rogers has been fighting for America since World War II. Can’t he have a little break where he’s not freaking dead?

Don’t even get me started on Banner…

The “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Universe, in my opinion, is shaping up to be fantastic. People will hate it. We know why. It is nice, however, to see one of the big comic labels recognizing that diversity is important. Not only does it allow the kid that I was see someone more like me being a superhero, but those kids like me will also read stories that are more relatable to their own lives.

DC has miles to go before they can even think of catching up. In fact, if DC did something similar now, THAT would be the real disingenuous pandering marketing ploy.

Keep making mine Marvel. Marvel, please keep making Marvel ours.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Fear Fear the Walking Dead

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: There are spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead in here. If you haven’t watched up to Episode Three and you’re sensitive to those kind of things, come back later when you decide that it really doesn’t matter how badly I spoil this suckfest for you.]

Watching Fear the Walking Dead reminds me why I wrote the Unlucky Seven books they way that I did.

Too often in fiction, the writers create a world in which something crazy or unbelievable happens for which there is, apparently, no precedent. This is a common trope but one that I think needs to be called out. It’s a particularly frustrating one to deal with for the consumer of the product if those consumers are already familiar with the subject matter.

When I say no precedent, I mean that characters in the given story have no idea of previously written fiction about the subject matter.

You see it all the time in comic books; an origin story where people decide to become costumed heroes as if the concept never ever existed anywhere. They have adventures like the same sort of adventures never happened in anything they’ve ever read before. The major comic book universes exist in a reality where superhero fiction was never a thing.

I wrote Unlucky Seven in a universe where everyone understand exactly what is happening to them based on the proliferation of superhero fiction.

What I will call the Clueless Universe trope is far too prevalent in fiction and can be especially frustrating when applied to specific genres.

That said, let’s talk about how this makes Fear the Walking Dead borderline unwatchable.

After watching last night’s episode three with some of my friends (a tradition carried over from the parent show if for no other reason than continuity) I realized something: we have not shut up and watched through any of these episodes. We are screaming at the screen constantly because of the overwhelming level of ostrich syndrome exhibited by the show’s characters. Specifically, last night, the small family holding up in the suburbs waiting for daddy to get home.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Yes, I care so little about this show that I don’t bother to keep up with names.]

Their heads are so far in the sand that, even though they have power and cable at a relatively undisturbed house in the suburbs far from any of the horrors of downtown LA, they refuse to turn on a television or a radio to gain any valuable information instead relying on asking each other “what’s going on?” in an unending circle of stupidity – as if one of them is going to suddenly gain some divine knowledge on the situation as they sit around and play Monopoly like it’s family game night and not the dawn of the zombie apocalypse.

They peer through the blinds, make stupid mistakes like shining flashlights outside during a rolling brownout, convince themselves that their neighbor – who has dead eyes and is growling and pawing through their backyard fence to get at their tasty bits – is just sick and in no way harmful. Even though she has been at the back fence all night, reaching longingly toward the house full of delicious live human flesh, they continue to give her the benefit of the doubt the entire time. This after dealing with at least two different walkers previously in the same day.

While I appreciate the writer’s attempts to show people struggling to deal with the beginnings of a worldwide crisis, the gullibility level placed on these protagonists is simply staggering. The only conclusion we can draw is that it falls into the previously mentioned trope: the world of The Walking Dead must have had absolutely no zombie fiction to look back on to help aid with the survival or even outright prevention of the zombie apocalypse.

Is this a world without George Romero? Was there no original Night of the Living Dead? No sequels? No remakes? None of the basic knowledge of zombies that someone could have some kind of clue as to what the “walkers” actually are when the shit starts tenuously dripping into the fan and is poised to hit full on? I mean, the only kid with any inkling as to what was happening made a shiv to defend himself. A SHIV. SERIOUSLY. Get a nice one of your mom’s kitchen knives at least, dude. You should know better than to rely on something so makeshift in the beginning. Save those shiv-making skills for when you’re in a Woodbury- or Terminus-type situation.

I’m ok with the characters being reticent to take a “human” life (or whatever) but come on. You know what Mrs. Tran became. You know she’s not reaching through the crack in your fence to try to give you a hug. Not to mention the fact that you just iced another neighbor in your living room after he looked up from his dog chow with a not-so-right look on his face. The writing isn’t just on the wall as to what is going on in this world, it is blazing fire, three-hundred stories tall. People are turning into zombies. Zombies die when you get them in the head. They are not friendly no matter who they might have been before they died. Get with it quickly or get eaten.

Would any of us act differently? Yes. Mostly because we have shows like The Walking Dead and other, older, more revered reference material to look to for assistance. Would we put our head in the sand? Sure, some of us would. I don’t think that we would be having family game night after watching our neighbor across the street get eaten on top of a deflated bouncy castle. These characters are so helplessly written (except for the barber-dad who we have termed Latin Carol) that they seem even more improbable than the cast of the main show in the way they escape and kick ass. They are a gross caricature of those who would be in the vicinity of Ground Zero should the outbreak ever occur. I am not as prepared as some of the people I know should “shit go down”, but I like to think I would be able to handle myself at least slightly better than these chumps.

I honestly have a hope that every character on that show gets bit or eaten because their ignorance demands it. They are not Rick, Michonne, Daryl, Carol, or any of the others who have had to make the really hard choices. They are not survivors. They are zombie food. I know, I should give them time to develop that hard outer shell our usual gang has but, to be honest, I don’t care enough about this group of ignoramii to want to watch them make the transformation.

I will continue to watch this show because of the connection it has to the main show. I just think that, after five previous seasons of zombie ass-kicking, it is a little too late to go back to the well and see how people reacted to the start of the thing. A prequel involving one or more of the main characters of The Walking Dead would have been much more interesting (Michonne’s backstory, anyone?). Showing us strangers who would rather pretend the world isn’t crumbling around them rather than adapting to it is not the kind of thing I was looking for in a spinoff.

They drove to the hospital. In LA. In the middle of a full-scale riot. With zombies. And they drove right by like “NOPE” like it wasn’t a thing. Like, “whoa, hey, look at those cops unload on that old lady in a hospital gown. Glad their cruisers aren’t blocking the road. Glad there aren’t thousands of residents trying to barge their way into the ER for treatment. Nope, an LA hospital in a zombie riot is just a breeze to drive through. Wave and say what’s up.

Not to mention their flatbed truck was left parked and pristine in the middle of the street right next to where people were chucking molotovs into other random cars. Fancy that.


Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Obligatory Sequel (I wrote another book)

The sequel is complete.

In fact, it’s currently on sale here if you’re interested.

If you’re a new reader to the Unlucky Seven universe, let me welcome you and congratulate you on your good taste (or bad taste, as it may be). You have my personal thanks for buying/borrowing my stuff. I hope you enjoy and leave positive feedback on Amazon. Only positive, though. If you didn’t like the book, just pretend you never read it and go about your business. Or write me some hate mail. I’m honestly waiting with baited breath for hate mail.

Yeah, I wrote a second book. This one didn’t take me quite as long to complete. The first Unlucky Seven book took forever. Ten years to distill down to what is now available for reading. The Obligatory Sequel, from pen to published, took one year, one month, and one day from the release of the first book.

Honestly, I never thought I could write another complete book in such a short amount of time. Until the first Unlucky Seven was published, I had never ever actually finished a novel that I had started. There are notebooks full of prior attempts; tons of word files untouched for God knows how long with a few scatter-brained chapters thrown together and abandoned due to loss of interest or lack of motivation or both. I always wanted to be a writer but, to be honest, I never thought I would be able to finish a book properly. Now, here I stand – two titles to my name. I feel slightly accomplished.

The first one was much more difficult to write. It was always the plan to have U7 be a series of books. Beginnings are always the most difficult part of the writing process. Now that the world was built (at least, a large enough portion on which the characters could roam), I had a bit more room to breathe. I didn’t have to describe familiar settings (like the cave or Lisa’s front porch) or familiar characters. I could say, “Phalanx and Budda were in the cave” and readers of the first book can simply plug in the particular playset and action figures they devised while reading the long-winded descriptions in the first book. It’s freeing.

This is also why The Obligatory Sequel is shorter in the page count. In the interest of full disclosure, while designing my cover, I had a mini panic attack regarding the thickness of the sequel’s spine. I was freaking out that it wasn’t as long as the first and convinced myself that I would be looked at as a hack because I couldn’t keep up with the amount of words or pages of my first effort. It took some prodding from people I know to help me realize that regardless of page count, the story is solid and reads solid. I guess page count is an overrated statistic. People are more likely to pick up a nominally sized book rather than something that looks like a War and Peace style epic.

It may have taken less time and there may be a smaller page count/word count, but, please do not think this was an easy process. At times it was absolute agony. I blew up entire chapters and started from scratch after they were finished. I changed my outline in its entirety no less than three times. I had cheerleaders pushing for me to get through it. I set myself up for my own deadline because I kept telling people that I would have the sequel available at the next Steel City Con in August. Between those cheerleaders and my burgeoning fanbase, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I pushed hard to get this done and I turned in a damn good product, in my opinion. I am kinda proud of myself. I really do hope you enjoy it.

What’s next? I have some other projects I’m collaborating on with my editor/writing partner and I’m going to be devoting time to that before I really get around to writing the (tentatively titled) Inevitable Trilogy – U7 book three. I have a few ideas and, if you read the sequel, you’ll know that there was a big reveal in the end which will most definitely be addressed as soon as possible (I really really want to write her really bad).

Also, some interest has been shown in an Unlucky Seven prequel. It would focus on Agent Williams and his role in the early days of the Project during World War II. It would require a lot of research just because I don’t want the history to be wrong. Also, it might not be as much of a comedy (given the stoicism of the main character). When I started writing U7 and came up with Project XIII, I realized that XIII wouldn’t be an arbitrary number. There were twelve other incarnations of the Project leading up to it. I had a timeline somewhere. I had background. I wonder if there would be any additional interest in all that coming to light.

I ask you, U7 fans: What would you rather see first? The Inevitable Trilogy or Tales from the Project? Seriously, let me know, because I’ll start writing whichever one soon.

I’m not promising a deadline this time, though.

Again, thank you all for your support. Tell your friends about U7. Spread the word. You are in on the ground level of a fandom. You’ll get hipster cred for liking this before it was cool. Remember, too, there’s still a prize for the first U7 cosplay who comes to me at Con!

Speaking of, make sure to hit me up at Steel City Con August 7, 8, and 9! Come and get your print copies! Autographs! Pics! High fives!

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—