Why You Should Read … The War on Normal People

Yes, I realize this is somewhat of a weird post. After all, Jungle came out just two weeks ago. If anything, I should be pushing you to read that.

And, well, I still am. Today’s post doesn’t really take away from that. The title I’m recommending today, for instance, is non-fiction. As opposed to Jungle, which is fiction. It does, however, discuss some issues that Jungle explores and even addresses, elements that were underlying themes even in Colony.

But before we get too into that, what is Why You Should Read …? Pretty simple, actually. It’s a recommendation post. Something I’ve always been a big proponent of, both on this site and in person, is that people should read more. Read as much as possible. It’s a vital part of being a good writer yourself, exposing yourself to other ideas and approaches. Even outside of writing, it’s good for the mind to introduce yourself to new concepts, ideas, or perspectives that you may not have thought about.

So, with offering that mindset I also have to live it, and one thing I enjoy doing a lot of when I’m not working is reading. Usually Sci-Fi or Fantasy (you can learn from those too) or the occasional non-fiction book when I get curious about something. Occasionally, I’ll come across a book that I think is worth recommending for one reason or another, and so I’ll bring it up and do one of these posts on it.

Now, before we move on, I want to make something clear: I get nothing out of recommending this book. No compensation, no ad revenue, no under-the-table wads of dollar bills or public/private recognition. I found this book, read it, and decided there was something in it worth gaining that made it worth recommending. I don’t get any compensation from talking about this book.

The only exception being if you, as a wanderer of the web, wend your way over to my books page and buy one of my own titles. But that’s one of my own books, and not in any way affiliated with the title I’ll be discussing today. If you grab one of those, you’re just grabbing one of those. If you go out of your way to pick up a copy of The War on Normal people, I don’t see a penny, because that’s not the point of these posts. There’s no compensation anywhere for me talking about why you should read it.

That said, I’ve talked enough about what this post is. How about we dive right in and talk about why I believe you should read The War on Normal People, by Andrew Yang.

Oh, and no worries about spoilers. This isn’t the type of book to have a spoiler warning.

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The Shifting Tide of Employment – Follow Up

Hey there readers! Sorry for the lateness of this post. I just wanted to get a bit more work done on Axtara: Banking and Finance before I had a work shift tonight. But speaking of work, remember that post I made about two weeks ago about how employment as we know it is soon going to shift completely as increasing automation quickly overtakes everything? The one where I pointed out it’s already happening and only accelerating, and we need to figure out how we’re going to adapt to it?

If you don’t, or haven’t read it, than you really should. Not just because it’ll give some needed context to this post, but because it may bring to light some things you didn’t know or realize and should probably be thinking about. It was called The Shifting Tide of Employment – The Sci-Fi Future is Already Here. It produced a lot of talk in comments here and on other sites where it was linked, because most people don’t realize how swiftly this change is moving. It’s not “when will it come” because it’s already here. Which is kind of the point of the post, along with a note that in my personal opinion, as a culture and a society we are not prepared in the slightest for the magnitude of change this will bring.

And then yesterday, things shifted again. In my first post, or at least in one of the comments, I compared the coming of automation to be an avalanche that’s already started. We can’t stop it, but we need to figure out how we’re going to weather it. It can be a good thing, or a bad thing, but we need to make those decision now, not later. A video someone mentioned in the comments (and I’ll link it again in this post for good measure) compares us to horses looking at the car and wondering if it’ll ever replace us.

Yes. The answer is yes. And this week, we moved a step closer. Take a look at this video from Boston Dynamics:

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The Shifting Tide of Employment – The Sci-Fi Future is Already Here

Alright, I’m gonna preface this with the note that I hadn’t planned on writing this post today, but employment and job-related issues are on my mind since my part time job is, well, no longer any-time. Which means financially, I’m about to hit … well, I wouldn’t call it a speed bump. How about a guardrail? Or just the ditch?

Basically, I really appreciate those book sales, Kindle Unlimited reads, and Patreon Supporters right now. In the meantime, I’m digging around for similar part-time work or gigs and selling off a few unneeded items.

That’s all I’ll say on the matter, but it has put the context of this post in mind. Which has been one I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. Because, well, what was Science Fiction a decade ago is right now becoming Science Fact (or already is), and in some cases I worry too many aren’t noticing.

All right, I’ll back up. What really sparked the genesis of this post was a post I read about six-seven months ago on someone else’s site that was, though I don’t remember the exact title,  basically “Automation is a Paper Tiger.” This article, from a fellow Sci-Fi author, mind you, was basically a giant opinion piece against automation (and in this context, we mean the broad-scale rollout of AIs and robots to replace most human workers).

If you’re thinking ahead and wondering “Hey, what happens to all those workers?” you’re on the right track. But let me get back to that.

This was, the article writer declared, impossible. Not only was it decades, maybe centuries away, it was a pipe dream. Companies will always need human employees, and robots couldn’t possibly do a job that a human did. They offered examples of jobs they (and commentators) believed were impossible for a machine to take over, like trucking (18-wheeler shipping). They were adamant that it was all just fearmonging, that no one had any cause to be worried about their job disappearing, it was all hearsay, etc etc.

I believe they were wrong. Actually, no, they are wrong. Why? Well, for starters, some of the very jobs they offered as examples of jobs that couldn’t be replaced by robots? Well …

Yeah, they’re already being replaced.

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Being a Better Writer: Building a Brand and Establishing Your Audience

Afternoon readers! I know it’s a bit late today. Sorry! I had an appointment that split my morning.

Now, I’ll admit I was tempted to do a bit on horror, since it is Halloween in two days (trick or treaters, huzzah!) but since this is the last topic on Topic List XI … I kind of wanted to clear it off. Besides, this is a topic I’ve avoided for years, and with good reasons that now aren’t quite as valid anymore.

That might have sounded a little confusing for some of you, so let me clarify. Since I published my first book and started writing Being a Better Writer, over five years ago now, I’ve had folks ask me about this topic. “How do you go about setting up a brand?” “How do you find an audience?” Etc etc. And you know what?

I couldn’t answer them! How could I? I had one book out! I didn’t have a brand at that point. I had a single published book that was making me snack money. There was no “audience” at that point which I could call my own. There were “people who liked my book,” “people who didn’t like my book,” and “people that had never read my book or heard of me.”

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Being a Better Writer: Cover Art

Hello readers! Welcome back to a Monday edition of Being a Better Writer! I know, it’s almost sad that I have to celebrate the posting of a Monday-centric series on a Monday, but my other job lately has been nuts. As in, I could write an entire post about how it’s an example of the dumpster fire that corporate America has created/become. I sort of want to, for my sanity as well, because … well, that’s a tale for another time. Or day.

Thankfully, things with this job are going pretty awesome. How so? Well, you might have missed it if these posts are the only ones you ever check out, but Shadow of an Empire (the snazzy cover you saw in the featured image) is available for pre-order! That’s right! It comes out June 1st, and joins my slowly-but-ever-expanding roster of adventures. If you’ve been reading Being a Better Writer but haven’t checked out any of my books yet, this is the point where I tell you that you definitely should. You’ll get to see all of the topics, elements, etc, that I talk about in these BaBW posts on display in some awesome fiction.

Also, if you haven’t, this week’s News Post is pretty packed-full of cool news and updates. Price drops, Reddit AMAs … check it out!

Okay, news and stuff out of the way! Let’s talk about a really tricky, often dividing topic among authors and writers: Book covers.

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Hunt: Showdown is like a 1890s Monster Hunter International Game

I’ve been a fan of Crytek’s video game offerings every since they burst onto the scene in 2004 with the ambitious and impressive Far Cry, a game that boasted impressive AI and vast, colorful maps famous for giving the player a wealth of options and choices, as well as a graphical fidelity that pushed modern systems to their limit—both things that would become a staple of their games moving forward. Selling off the Far Cry license to another publisher, Crytek then went on to create 2007’s Crysis, a game that built upon the foundation of designs laid in Far Cry while simultaneously spawning the meme “But will it run Crysis?” due to the game’s incredibly demanding system requirements. But despite those astronomical requirements—so high that computing groups around the world, from NASA to China, began using the game as a benchmark for testing the newest and most powerful computers—Crysis was an impressive game at its core, boasting advanced AI, physics, a draw distance most games couldn’t even match a tenth of, and open gameplay brought about by player abilities that led to a wide range of playstyles and tactics.

Then it all went downhill. Emboldened by the sales of Crysis, Crytek got ahead of itself. Determined to bring their titles to console, the studio slimmed down the sequels to Crysis, creating games that didn’t so much push the envelope as they did constrict it. Dropping the linear maps, advanced AI, and most of the gameplay options led to games that could release on the vastly weaker hardware of consoles … but also that weren’t nearly as fun to play. Crytek, counting on the graphical fidelity of their engine to sell engine licenses as well as games, also woke the sleeping giant of Epic. As Epic’s Unreal Engine began making serious strides to both price itself competitively and catch up with Crytek’s own CryEngine, Crytek found that they’d overreached themselves, and faced cutbacks, closing of projects, and other issues. And, for a time, the studio became fairly silent.

Now, having spent the last few years relatively silent save for market deals and behind-the-scenes operations that really aren’t so exciting to the general public, Crytek is back, and they’re finally letting their new project see the light of day. The dismal, dark, moody light of day that steeps Hunt: Showdown from top to bottom.

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Review: Seven-Point Star – A Solid Early Work Despite Some Missteps

Woof! This has been a long time coming. And for that, I owe G.S. Taylor an apology. This review was due a while ago, but with the bronchitis knocking everything back, getting this review out and onto the screen has taken far, far longer than expected. But better late than never, and now at last you, my readers, finally have a chance to take a look at my thoughts on Seven-Point Star, Taylor’s first novel.

So let’s get one thing out of the way first: Seven-Point Star is a fairly solid appearance from a new author, with plenty of strong points to it. If you’re looking for the short, 100% blind, spoiler-free review, that’s it. Seven is a fairly strong first work that, especially at the price, is worth picking up and reading through, especially if you’re the kind of reader that admires the particular strengths it does put on display … or if you just enjoy quick alternate history/fantasy reads.

What are those strengths, you might ask? Well, for the spoiler-free summary, here you go—I found the protagonist to be strongly written, mostly in her perspective and unstable teenage vantage point, and the world itself—what we’re given anyway—is almost like a Sci-Fi-Crystal Fantasy fairy tale in the way it comes across. Both these elements stay pretty solid through the course of Seven-Point Star, and if you’re looking for something that delivers those, well, Seven-Point Star will satisfy your thirst … though you will notice weaknesses that run counter to those strengths. In my personal opinion, however, the strengths are just enough to make up for the weaknesses and carry the title on above average. So you’re still going to get a decent read provided you appreciate the strengths for what they are.

Right, with the short, spoiler-free summary out of the way, let’s get a bit more loose with how much this review gives away—without giving away too much, but I will have to reveal a few general concepts as we dive into the book. Hit the jump for spoiler-town!

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